She couldn’t lift her spirits. She only thought nobody expected her when she was away with her friends or at work. She almost was obsessed. She could well imagine the scene: she shut the door of the apartment before heading to the sofa where her boyfriend will be sitting. And she tried to include Mark. It didn’t really work. And now she had to do something about it.
In front of her computer, she was biting her lower lip, thinking about what she should do. Her hands trembled while thinking of the words she would have to use. She didn’t want to be mean. She was scared, that’s all. But would he understand the message? She didn’t know yet. Mark was a good person – as she kept repeating to herself – but not necessary the guy she wanted. They had a great time during those few weeks. She finally realized she really did feel something for him and it was pity. She only hoped he understood without taking it personal. She took the phone and tried to reach him, but his voicemail automatically latched. His cell phone had to be closed. She focused again on the files standing on the corner of her desk.
At the end of the day, she again tried to join Mark on his cell phone. Oh no… Not the voicemail again… Visiting someone without warning him before wasn’t her type, but she should fix that situation before becoming completely crazy. She took the subway and went back home to take her car. When she arrived at his place, she recognized his car in the parking lot. She frowned, a lot of questions in mind. Why his cell phone was closed when he was home? She went up the aisle and got ready to ring when a tenant stormed out the building, leaving the door open. She mumbled a thank you while rushing inside. She went rapidly towards the stairs.
Along the dark corridor once upstairs, she stopped suddenly at the door. She was petrified with fear. Why? A nervous pressure had formed in her stomach, suddenly paralyzed her. Calm down. This is not the first time you dump a guy so a bit of control! Come on and knocked on the door, damn! She raised her hand and knocked three discrete taps and then waits. She listened and could hear the muffled sound of voices, followed by rapid steps to the door.
“I’m coming!” Mark threw on the other side of the door.
Mark opened the door with a quick movement and gasped when he saw her. He had tousled hair and was wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist. Wow… He’s completely naked… She raised her eyebrows, uncomfortable.
“Hi…” he stammered. “That… How are you…?”
“Am I bothering you?”
He looked down at the spectacle he offered to the young woman’s eyes. He laughed, a little nervous and his face red. He passed a nervous hand through his hair while looking away. Clara realized it. He avoided her gaze. She heard a woman’s voice who was asking him who was at the door. The young woman recognized the voice and felt the anger rising in her. Enraged, Clara drove Mark out of her way with a sudden movement and entered the apartment. Knowing the place since she has been there a few times before, she went directly into the bedroom where Mary was. Her friend hastened to cover her naked body with a shirt that was lying beside her, her face redder than Mark’s.
“Clara, I… I can explain everything,” he calmly said behind her.
“It’s not worth it,” the young woman cut, barely controlling her tears. “I have a pretty good idea of what’s happening here.”
The blood pounded in her temples. Pain gained her entire skull. It was ironic that her boyfriend was seeing another woman while she was about to dump him. She now had a good reason to do so without remorse. She didn’t deserve this, she thought. But her best friend… She could not believe it. She now understood why Mary had told her to dump him. Because she wanted him for herself. Since when they were seeing each other? And did she really wanted to know it? She gazed directly at Mary before living the apartment. From a quick step, she walked to her car. She barely felt the tears running down her cheeks. She didn’t care to have surprised Mark with another woman. Which was hurting the most was Mary’s betrayal. The worst of all, according to her.
Aware of her wet cheeks, she wiped them with the back of her hand while she was inside her car. Her hands trembled on the steering wheel. She should calm down before hitting the road. It wasn’t the time to have an accident! Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths, visualizing a peaceful and sunny beach. The beating of her heart slowed down a bit. The decreased pressure on her chest and pulsation in her head subsided somewhat. Without wasting a second, she set off to come back home. She was still reeling from what she saw. She seemed in a catatonic state. She stared at the road with a glance showing no sign of life. She went to her apartment she mechanically locked once inside. She closed her eyes, but she didn’t control anything now that she was out of sight. Her legs let her fall to the ground, gliding slowly along the door while tears rolled down her cheeks again. She barely heard the ringing of her cell phone in her purse. But everything seemed to come far away. She ended up dragging herself to the sofa where she curled up, clutching a pillow against her chest. She remained like that for a while, looking in front of her without gazing at anything.
Why it was happening to her? What she had done to deserve this?
The same question kept coming back to her mind. If Mary was interested in Mark, she could simply have to tell her. Tell her the truth instead of lying to her as she had done. Friends are not supposed to backstab themselves like this. Clara could not believe it. Her best friend since college… How could she have done it? She could not understand why.
Lost in her thoughts, she could hear again the ringing of her cell phone and knocks at the door. Everything seemed to come so far away. A key turned in the lock, letting Edward in. he threw an uneasy glance around him, his cell phone in hand. His eyes fell on the wreck which now lay on the sofa in front of him. He closed the door and pressed the button to hang up his phone. He approached her, looking sad. He knelt beside her and gently stroked her hair, whispering:
“Lucky me you gave me a copy of your key.”
“Get out, please.”
“No. Not until I receive some explanation. What happened to hurt you so much?”
She shook her head without looking at him.
“Get out, please.”
“No way. That’s what friends are for, you know.”
Hearing those words, she began to cry. He had recoiled, baffled by her reaction. The ringing of Clara’s cell phone startled him. He took her purse and rummaged inside when the ringing stopped. He glanced at the screen and smiled.
“Mary just called you. You want to call her back?”
“Absolutely not!” the young woman cried, sitting up.
Edward pressed the button to display the list of missed calls. He whistled, noting Mary had tried to reach her at least a dozen times in almost a half hour. Looking at Clara, he dropped the phone when it rang again in his hand. Clara could see that Mary was trying again to reach her. She grabbed her cell phone and simply closed it. Then she threw it on the coffee table in front of the sofa.
“Then,” the young man began, “I believe I deserve an explanation.”
She began to cry. He hastened to take her in his arms to comfort her as best he could. She leaned against his shoulder while her sobs became uncontrollable. Still not included in the drama that happened, he still tried to calm her. His own cell phone began to ring. He opened the flip to take a glance at the screen. Mary tried to join him. He closed his phone and turned his attention to Clara. Her sobs had eased somewhat, but the tears were still flowing down her cheeks. He didn’t understand what had happened – except for the very obvious part that she refused to talk to Mary – and he dared not to ask any questions. She probably wouldn’t answer it, anyway. She eventually recovered slowly. She wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked her, uncertain.
She shook her head. He was about to ask her the question that tormented him since his arrival, but she asked him:
“What are you doing here?”
“I was around and I decided to come in to say hello.”
“Can you now tell me what’s going on?”
The young woman sighed and looked away. She took a Kleenex and wiped her eyes before looking at him.
“The short version or the long story?”
“I wanted to dump Mark and I caught him in bed with Mary.”
Edward raised his eyebrows, visibly surprised.
“With Mary? Wow… That explains why you don’t want to talk to her. What she did is disgusting… But… yet it doesn’t seem like her.”
“She’s a bitch.”
“Come on! You were dumping him anyway.”
“I know, but it’s not something that friends do to each other.”
Her friend nodded. She was right on this point. He looked at his watch before getting up. He told her they were both leaving for a drink so she can forget the whole thing for a while. The young woman shook her head, wincing.
“I don’t want to go out.”
“So what? I wasn’t asking for your opinion. You need to get drunk and I’m here for that.”
He took her hand and led her outside the apartment. He hailed a taxi to take them to the small pub where they loved to go after a hard day at work. He ordered two tequilas while entering the pub, guiding her to a table.
“Enjoy it: my pub account is empty,” he said, smiling proudly.
Edward came here so often in the pub with clients that the pub’s boss only wrote down all amounts for all his drinks at each visit. He would then return to pay the bill. Being a loyal customer, he could have almost anything without paying immediately. They emptied their glasses quickly and ordered two more. After emptying it as quickly, Clara sighed deeply before asking to her friend:
“What is wrong with me?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t find my prince charming. I must be my own problem, then.”
“Of course not! You don’t find it because you’re not searching at the right place. It’s that simple.”
“I’m not even trying.”
“Forget about him, Clara. He was a moron.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t care about him, but I don’t understand why I can’t find the right one.”
“Forget about him,” Edward said before taking a sip of his beer.
“But I don’t care about him! It has nothing to do with Mark. That’s it!”
She felt that her mouth was pasty because of alcohol. Anger rose again when she was Mary entering the pub. She drained her beer all at once, looking away. She tried to calm down, but she was boiling with rage. How dare she come here after what she had done? Her friend was watching her from the corner of his eye, waiting for a reaction. He seemed ready to intervene if the situation degenerated.
Clara was so anxious to jump at her throat! Why had she come here? She wouldn’t talk to her. But Mary went to join them anyway. She gave a little nod in Edward’s direction and smiled weakly at Clara. The young woman took her empty glass and got up to change table.
“Please…” Mary moaned with begging eyes.
The young woman didn’t answer. She went directly to the bar, settle herself there, controlling her urge to hit her.
“You’re not going to ignore me the rest of your life!”
“Mary,” Edward said, touching her shoulder, “this is not the time.”
“If I were you,” Mary added, “I wanted to know why.”
“And if I were you,” Clara replied with a serious tone, “I got out of here before I’ll tear your eyes out.”
Edward and Mary had recoiled when they saw the gleam of fury in her eyes. Clara was far from joking. She was ready to strike her if she dared approach or even touch her. She even came to hope Mary take a step forward to give her the opportunity to punch her in the face. She felt such a rage! The bartender hastened to pour her another glass of beer so as not to upset her even more. The young woman’s friends went away for a moment to discuss. Then Mary went out of the pub without saying anything. Edward sat on the stool beside her. They were silent for a long time, each one immersed inside their thoughts. Now Clara wanted to get drunk to forget everything. It wasn’t the best thing to do, but she surely would find a little comfort. The more she tried to understand what had happened, she wasn’t sure of anything. She drank until her legs refused to support her weight any longer. Unfortunately, it happened a little faster than she expected. She wanted to go to the bathroom and her knees buckled. She collapsed on the floor and then laughed. Edward asked the bartender to find them a taxi.
She sniffed, looking out by the taxi’s window. The fog of alcohol remembered one thing from several years ago. Mary didn’t know she knew about that. Clara kept it as a secret all this time. When they were in college they had attended a concert on the football field. There was a lot of alcohol that evening. Clara has been dumped a few hours earlier. While attempting to locate her friend in the crowd, Clara caught her kissing her ex-boyfriend. Clara didn’t believe it was important to warn Mary that she knew. And now, Mary had done it again.
Without being in love with Mark, the friendship was something sacred to her. Why Mary had done it once again? Did she hope not getting caught? Clara didn’t know what her friend had thought before doing it. How long this little trick has been going? Too bad that alcohol didn’t completely prevent her from thinking. The taxi stopped in front of her building. She paid and went unsteadily. Turning away from the taxi, she lost her balance. She tried to regain her footing, but she couldn’t do it. Arms caught her before she collapsed on the sidewalk.
“Are you okay?” her benefactor asked.
She shook her head, pushing her hair over her face. She could vaguely distinguish his features through her hair and alcohol vapors.
She looked up at him and smiled. The man smiled back and asked again if everything was okay, just to be sure.
“Yeah. Thank you.”
“Are you sure?”
She shook her head again to reassure him. She frowned when she heard her name. She turned and saw Thomas. He came in her direction. The stranger released her shoulders to run away like a rabbit. The young woman threw herself into Thomas’s arms. He hardly dared to touch her.
“Who was that guy?”
She shrugged, smiling stupidly.
“How many drinks have you taken?”
“Oh… Enough to forget how many.”
He put his arms around her shoulders to ensure a proper balance and told her he was accompanied her home. The young woman didn’t argue. She leaned over him and pointed her building. Very slowly, they walked up the driveway to the front door. They went to her apartment and she invited him in. He shook his head and declined her offer. She asked him why he didn’t want to and he replied:
“You don’t seem to go very well and you need to rest.”
“Rest! Please... I don’t want to be alone.”
She took his hand and brought him inside. She locked the door behind him. When she turned to him, he looked at her strangely. She smiled at him.
“It’s a reflex when I’m home.”
“You… You need to talk to someone?”
“I need to understand.”
She went to the sofa where she let herself fall heavily. Thomas joined her, asking what was wrong. She told him about Mark and her discovery. Alcohol made sure she stopped crying, but there was still a hint of anger in her voice.
“I really can’t understand men!”
“Women are not easier. A real mystery!”
“Why Mark didn’t talk to me first?”
“Maybe he was afraid of the answer.”
“I didn’t listen to what she wanted to say.”
“A few weeks… Oh, I think.”
“And you haven’t got a clue about what was going on?”
“No! I avoided him a bit… I didn’t know she decided to…”
A tear slid down her cheek and her lower lip began to tremble. She didn’t want to cry in front of him. What would he think of her? It was so stupid not to have seen it before. She should have suspected something. Mary was suddenly less available. She didn’t seem to be hunting anymore. It wasn’t really normal. Clara wiped her cheek with the back of her hand and looked up at him. He seemed sorry to see her like that. He weakly smiled.
“She hid it pretty well.”
“You don’t have to blame you for this.”
“I’m so stupid…! I should have suspected something, but… She had changed and I saw nothing.”
“Don’t blame them either.”
She sighed deeply. She wouldn’t think about this whole thing. It made her too angry. Thomas wiped a tear with his thumb from her cheek. She turned to him and kissed him. He was a little surprised, but he didn’t push her back. She was surprised herself. She tasted his lips hungrily. She felt his hands wander over her body slowly. She felt he didn’t dare touching her. Things became a little more serious when they tipped over on the sofa. She could feel he desired her. She unbuttoned cleverly the shirt he was wearing. When she attacked his belt, he regained consciousness. He grabbed her hands before she could manage.
She pulled her knees under her chin without insisting. He leapt to his feet, buttoning his shirt back.
“I… I’m sorry, but I can’t…”
She shook her head without looking at him.
“Okay,” she said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“It doesn’t matter. That’s the effect I’ve got over men…”
“Don’t say that!”
She sighed deeply and finally decided to look up at him. He ran a hand through his hair, looking for something to say to her to cheer her up. He repeated she should say things like that because it wasn’t true. She grinned, throwing her head back.
“Do you know many men who are pushing a drunken woman back?”
“I said it wasn’t because of you.”
“I’m getting used of being rejected, Thomas. I’ll survive.”
“You’re drunk! It would be like I’m taking advantage of you. And I can’t do that. You deserve better… much better than that…”
He almost ran to the door to manage the handle. After a few seconds of unsuccessful maneuvers, he realized he just had to unlock it. Clara stood a moment on the sofa. She always wondered what was wrong with her. Could she be that ugly? She burst into tears. Her stomach took this opportunity to bring her back to reality. Having not eaten much during the day, it hadn’t appreciated she had ingested alcohol instead of food. She quickly run to the bathroom to vomit.
Dressed in her bathrobe, she drank her coffee quietly watching the rain falling against the window. She felt very alone. She was mentally resuming the last few months. The greatest failure represented her love life. She came to believe there was no one for her. Her prince charming didn’t exist. Some people never met great love. She was unfortunately falling into that category. She had to face the facts: she would finish her life alone.
According to her cell phone, Mary had tried to reach her all week. Probably because she wanted to explain herself. But the young woman didn’t want to hear anything. It was very easy to understand what she had done. Mary could have been frank about it. Simply told her she wanted to sleep with Mark instead of playing behind her back that way. And Mark wasn’t better either. She was still curious to know what had happened so he slept with her best friend. She shook her head to clear her mind.
She got up to pour another cup of coffee. She wondered how Thomas was doing. She wasn’t mad at him because he didn’t like her. Even if he could have enjoyed it, he didn’t. Physically he was very attractive. His ex-girlfriend was a complete idiot for letting him slip away. He was cute, charming and kind. Always well dressed. He was still very shy. He was easily nervous or anxious. He set foot in his mouth when trying to explain something.
To be frank, she believed he had much more potential than Mark. But Thomas wasn’t interested. Men could be so complicated! She should seek for women instead… It would surely be less catastrophic. It was a shame not to have slept with him. At least she would have good memories.
Bored, she lit her computer. She went to the dating site, determined to destroy her profile. First, she erased almost all received messages through recent days. She noticed her status was online. A small pop-up told her BBOY had just connected. It has been awhile they hadn’t discussed. A small smile on her face, she greeted him kindly. She continued to read her messages and destroy the doubtful ones, wondering if BBOY would answer her. Would he like to speak to her? Concentrated on reading and destroying her messages, she heard a little beep and saw something flashing at the bottom of the screen.
“GOOD MORNING TO YOU TOO.”
“DID YOU FOUND SOMEONE INTERESTING?”
She waited quietly for his answer. Was he going to be honest or just plain lie about what he was doing? On Internet, it was very easy to lie. She didn’t know him a lot, after all.
“MAYBE BUT I’M NOT REALLY SURE. AND YOU?”
“I’M MOVING ON.”
“OVERDOSE OF UNPLEASANT DATES.”
“DON’T DISCOURAGE YOURSELF LIKE THAT! SURELY THERE’S A MAN FOR YOU SOMEWHERE. THE THING IS NOT TO SEEK AND YOU COULD BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED.”
“I DON’T BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS ANYMORE.”
She leaned back on her chair, taking a long sip of coffee. She didn’t look like a victim because she no longer believed in anything. She had enough of it. Men, it really wasn’t her thing. She sighed, putting her mug on the desk. She really believed what she had answered him. Nothing to do about what Mary had done.
“YOU SHOULDN’T DESPERATE.”
“I’M SESIGNED. THAT’S DIFFERENT.”
BBOY seemed sorry she renounces to her quest to find a life partner. But she refused to reconsider her decision. It was useless to look for someone that didn’t exist. She was just enjoying life and stop worrying about that. She was focusing on her career.
“HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WOMEN?”
“YES, BUT SHE SHOULDN’T BE THINNER THAN ME!”
“I’LL KEEP MY EYES OPEN FOR YOU!”
She thought about the question again. A woman… Was it the reason why her brother was gay? He hadn’t perhaps found what he wanted in women. She never asked him, but she would do it next time she’ll see him. There has been a while she hadn’t heard from him, either. BBOY’s answer took her out of her thoughts.
“WHICH HAIR COLOR WOULD YOU LIKE BETTER?”
She thought about it for a moment.
“NO. DID YOU ALREADY live with your girlfriend?”
“HOW DID YOU SURVIVE THROUGH PMS?”
It was a very thoughtful question. She knew how she felt when she had her PMS, but for someone who didn’t have those, it was something else. She suddenly wouldn’t think about it. She doubted he could understand her point of view. But he insisted a little longer.
“A MAN SOMEWHERE IS MADE FOR YOU.”
She sighted deeply. No, she no longer believed it. It was pure lie to promise people they’ll meet their soul mate. Dating sites, speed dating, agencies… It was a legal way to get rich on misfortune’s poor unmarried people who imagine something good could happen to them. She sighed again before answering no. A simple denial she didn’t want to explain again.
“LOVE CAN COME AT ANY TIME.”
“NOT FOR ME.”
Her eyes still focusing on the screen, she jumped when her phone rang. Who could be calling her on a Saturday morning? Her mother hadn’t understood the message and continued to harass her? She walked toward the phone, suspicious. A quick glance told her Mary was calling her again. She took the phone, pressed the button to answer and then pressed the other button to hang up without saying anything. She was still unable to talk to her. She would rather talk with Edward, or even her mother… She still didn’t understand why her best friend had done that to her. She never would have done something like that to her. She returned to settle at her computer. BBOY hadn’t yet responded. What could he say to convince her? It wouldn’t happen to make her change her mind on this subject.
Small knocks were struck frantically at the door, followed by a voice.
“Clara!” Mary said. “Open the door, please!”
The young woman closed her eyes, breathing deeply to calm herself.
“I can explain everything to you if you open to me…!”
“No. Leave me alone.”
“I give you ten seconds to leave the building.”
“Are you still angry?”
With an abrupt gesture, Clara opened the door.
“I hope you are kidding!”
Mary stood straight in front of her friend, her eyes red and puffy with tears. She put her cell phone in her purse while mumbling words that made no sense. She took a step forward, but she soon realized she would be unable to pass the threshold of the door without giving up her life. Clara told her she had exactly ten seconds to leave.
“If not, what are you going to do?”
“I already have something in mind.”
Mary stepped back.
“I just want to explain.”
“What give you the idea that I want to know what happened?”
“Oh… I have assumed you…”
“I know very well what you did. The rest doesn’t interest me. I caught you and this is sufficient as an explanation for me.”
“But you don’t understand why.”
Looking around her, the young woman motioned for Mary to enter. Then she told her she only has thirty seconds left before she must leave. Mary took a deep breath.
“I’m in love with Mark.”
Clara gasped. Did she just mention something about loving someone? It sounded so strange coming from her.
“I fell in love when you… when you introduced him to us…”
“And why didn’t you say anything until today?”
“I was afraid you make fun of me.”
The young woman took deep breaths to calm her again. She asked how long their relationship lasted. Mary had a long moment of hesitation. Then she confessed she met him while walking on the street. They talked a little while and she had tried to seduce him. He rejected her because he was seeing her best friend. Even if he didn’t know if it could become serious, he wouldn’t make this mistake. Mary burst into tears when she confessed of lying to Mark. She had told him Clara was still seeing other men. And he had believed her…
“Don’t blame him,” Mary sobbed. “It’s my fault…”
“Why did you tell him that?”
“I haven’t thought about it… And he wouldn’t because of you…”
Unable to contain herself anymore, Clara exploded with rage.
“You bitch! He thinks I’m a slut because of you! I’m so far from being like you!”
Mary began to sob. She buried her face in her hands while Clara kept insulting her, holding herself not to hit her. It wasn’t because she didn’t want it! She imagined her perfectly throwing her fist on her face…
“I’m sorry…” Mary mumbled.
“And don’t tell me you’re sorry, damn! Did you felt sorry when you were sleeping with him?”
Clara felt tears of rage rolled down her cheeks. She was convinced Mary wanted to play the victim for not taking the blame.
“You’re sorry because I caught you.”
“I didn’t want…”
“But you did it anyway! Again!”
“What are you talking about?”
“The concert in college, do you remember? My boyfriend had just dumped me for another girl. The other girl, it was you. Wasn’t it?”
Mary winced while looking away.
“I saw you both.”
After all those years, she still believed I didn’t know. I’m not as stupid as she thinks. She waited a few seconds so Mary could digest what she had learned. Clara folded her arms across her chest, carefully analyzing Mary. She was pleased the news affected her.
“But it goes way back…” Mary moaned.
“It’s still not the first time you’re backstabbing me. I can’t stand it anymore, got it?”
“I… I can tell you everything when you’re a little quieter.”
“There are plenty of things you seem to ignore about me. If you could wait a little longer, all that wouldn’t happen.”
“I went to his apartment to dump him.”
Mary’s sobs became quieter, noting she had been screwed. Her attitude and all the judgments involving the people around her had always annoyed Clara. But since she was her best friend, she had kept her mouth shut. Not anymore. According to Mary, if you didn’t have the same lifestyle – alcohol, night out in bars, countless one-night-stand – you were considered as nobody. Mary criticized Clara when she decided to change.
“I have tolerated your judgments and your criticisms for too long. The door is behind you. Don’t even come back here again.”
“You can’t do that!”
“We’re too different and that was the case in the beginning of our friendship.”
“Clara! I don’t want you to judge me. That’s it!”
“What about you? You judge everyone around you!”
“Get out, please.”
Mary began to cry, but Clara remained with the same idea. She may have dramatized when she mentioned their friendship. The words hadn’t been well chosen, she must say. But the facts were the same: they were far too different from each other to share the slightest interest. Mary understood the message anyway. She tried to control her sobs as she headed for the door. I had to do it. I had no choice. Clara locked the door when Mary was out. In her thoughts, she walked to the window. A small beep from her computer reminded her of her conversation with BBOY. She slowly returned in front of her computer.
“ARE YOU STILL THERE?”
“SORRY. I’VE BEEN INVADED, BUT THE INVADER HAS BEEN DEFEATED.”
“YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT?”
She fought for a moment before bursting into tears. She hid her face in her hands, sobbing. When she was a little calmer, she said goodbye to BBOY and began to cry like a little girl. She still had the impression of having screw up her life.