JJ’s look of confusion migrated into a different kind of understanding as I felt as if the rug was just pulled out from under me. In a shaky voice, I asked, “Charlie what are you doing here?”
She laughed and walked over to sit down in my lounge chair by my side of the bed. I instantly regretted giving her access to my building and a key to my apartment. She only used it before when I broke down and asked her to come and I just realized I haven’t needed her at all lately.
“You appear to be avoiding my texts. I sent birthday wishes and when I didn’t hear from you I wanted to check up on you and make sure you were okay.” Charlie evaded my stare preferring to watch JJ as she talked. She didn’t sound the least bit concerned, instead, her amusement at my situation seemed to lighten her mood. “If you would have answered your phone and told me that you were getting your internal itch scratched elsewhere, I would have given you a little more time to get rid of him before I came over and gave you your, ah, present.”
JJ stirred beside me in the bed uneasy. “Nina, I think I’ll give you both some time.” He started to get out of the bed looking a little shaken up and I felt my world collapsing around me. No, they collided. The worlds I had wanted to keep apart had exploded together and my happiness shattered. I only needed to look into JJ’s eyes to see it.
“JJ wait.” He hesitated before leaving the bed naked but it was evident Charlie wasn’t going to leave. Not caring anymore if she saw him naked he wanted to get out of my presence as fast as he could.
Glancing over at Charlie, she licked her lips and watched him pull up his pants like a lioness watching her prey. “I agree with your taste in men. Which bar did you pick him up at?”
I cringed at the fact she knew my secrets. “It isn’t what you think.”
JJ picked up his shirt and walked out of the room but I couldn’t let him leave like this. I got up pulling at the bathrobe wedged under where Charlie sat and it only made her laugh. “You stay here.” It came out forceful, and she just gave me a look of innocence that was foreign on her face.
“JJ wait.” He was in the kitchen putting on his shoes by the time I caught up with him.
“I... I should let the two of you... ah...” he didn’t finish unable to figure out what to say.
“Let me explain.” He looked hurt even though he shouldn’t.
“Don’t worry. You told me about Charlie.” He spewed out the name as if it was sour and I let out a breath of frustration. I didn’t want to tell him about her. I hoped I wouldn’t need to but should have known my bliss with him wouldn’t last long.
“Don’t leave like this. Please.” He seemed upset and I didn’t know how to make it right but I wanted to try anyway.
He finished with his shoes and got to the door but hesitated, needing to ask a question first, “Why did you lie to me and tell me Charlie was a man?”
I diverted my eyes knowing my lie of admission was still a lie, “I never lied to you. I addressed her as Charlie. You just assumed that she was a he.”
“And you never corrected me. That to me is lying.” The hurt dripped off him and I knew nothing I said tonight was going to make it better. He had only been honest with me and I couldn’t return the favor. Instead of feebly trying to make it better, I watched as he opened the door and left. He didn’t turn back around. He didn’t say goodbye. He just left.
Damn it. Why now? Why when I thought I was finally getting my shit together? I let out a little laugh. Wasn’t it why he pursued me? Because I was stable? Because I had a life of purpose and meaning? Well, I had him floored. I was just as lost as him. Struggling to make some understanding of the shit storm that was my life.
Maybe I should let things lie? I was never very good for him. If I continued with him, I may drag him down in my world of self-loathing right when he had just climbed out himself.
Time to face the music. I turned around and headed back into the bedroom to find Charlie leering at me. She enjoyed barging into my life and disturbing it. Only she could take pride in fucking things up this bad.
“You miss me, baby?” I swallowed but didn’t acknowledge her question unable to answer it. With JJ gone, she may be the only thing I had left. “Who was that? You don’t usually bring them home from the bars. You usually go to their place. Are you slipping?” She knew the lengths I went to when she wasn’t there to help me.
“I didn’t pick him up at the bars.”
“Mmm-hmm. You think you are ready for a relationship? How long have you two been seeing each other?”
Selfishly I didn’t want to say. He was a different part of my world than Charlie and I just wanted to keep them apart. It was too late for that though, so I gave in, “Just a little while.”
“It's okay baby. I’m not jealous. By the looks of your body, you aren’t getting from him what you get from me anyway.”
“Charlie...” She heard the hesitation in my voice.
“Now, now. Don’t tell me you don’t need me anymore. I know you, Nina. I know the real you. I know what you need and how to give it to you. Does that JJ guy know how to fix you like I do?” She didn’t wait for an answer, “No, he doesn’t. What would he say if I invited him to join us for a night together?” I looked up at her with apprehension. “Aww baby, don’t be so worried. He looked like he might be into a night of sharing.”
The thought of it unnerved me more than I wanted to admit. Would JJ want the two of us together? Was what we shared just sex, and now he would only want me for the thrill of what he had once upon a time? “No Charlie, he wouldn’t. He--”
She interrupted me as she stood up and took off her jacket. “Then he shouldn’t be with you. Don’t you want to be with someone that understands you? That knows what you need and how to deliver?” My stomach sank with the knowledge I was in a tough predicament either way. If he wanted to join I would be forced to watch him with her, or worse yet, he would know what it was that Charlie did for me that I couldn’t live without.
Taking off her top, she slid her bra off and traipsed over to me, and whispered in my ear. “Take off your bathrobe baby. I brought my supplies. Let me make you forget all the bad stuff going on as only I can.”
She left my bedroom as I slid out of my bathrobe. Naked and holding on to the footboard of my bed, I cringed but obediently waited for her return figuring the light into my dark life had been snuffed out.