Perion slipped into the darkened apartment, hoping her arrival would be an unnoticed event. She tiptoed into the kitchen to get something to drink before attempting to go into the bedroom. When Perion flicked on the light, she saw Debi sitting at the kitchen table. Her presence startled Perion, and she had to stifle a cry of surprise.
Debi noticed the black button-down shirt right away. It was one that she had never seen Perion wear before. She could tell it was a man’s shirt, but she didn’t think it belonged to Blaine. If it had been Blaine’s, it would have fallen to Perion’s knees. It was oversized, but the man it belonged to was a lot shorter than Blaine. The shirt looked as if it might fit Lein.
Although she wanted to ask Perion about the shirt directly, she decided to play it cool. “Where you been,” Debi asked casually, tearing into a huge chunk of cheesecake.
Perion opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water. She didn’t face Debi when she said, “At work, practicing a new routine.”
“Oh? Really,” she mumbled between bites. “Must have been some routine. You’re all sweaty and shit.”
She sat down at the table and opened her water. She took a couple of sips from the bottle to soothe her dry throat, and to get the taste of Lein out of her mouth. “Yeah, it was a real work out, all right. Did Blaine say anything?”
Debi detected a strong scent of musky cologne. Again, it wasn’t cologne that Blaine would wear. It was more like Lein. Still playing it cool, she shrugged her shoulders. “Nope, not that I know of. He went to bed real early. Said he was wiped out.”
Perion nodded, and then drank more water. “Good, I didn’t want anybody to worry about me.”
Debi polished off her treat, and said nonchalantly, “Well, nobody did.”
“Good,” she said again, sipping the water constantly.
“Peri, what’s up with you? You’re acting kinda wired,” Debi observed, hoping Perion would take the hint and talk to her.
Her eyes widened. ”Wired? I don’t know why you would say such a thing. I’m acting perfectly normal.”
Again, Debi shrugged. “You’re just acting wired, kind of like you’ve robbed a bank or something.”
She laughed nervously. “Debi, you’re cracked.”
Debi also noticed something amiss. She didn’t realize what it was until she saw Perion’s left hand wrapped around the water bottle.
She quickly noticed that her friend was visually scrutinizing her. “What,” she asked, “do I have a booger on my nose?”
“Nope, but you don’t have on your engagement ring. It’s the first time I’ve seen you without it since you got engaged.”
Absently, Perion’s eyes glanced down at her finger. Sure enough, there was no ring to be found on the third finger of her left hand. She realized that she had left it at Lein’s. She knew she’d had it when they left the club together. There was no way she could go back to Lein’s to retrieve the ring, no way at all, not unless she wanted to end up in his bed again. She’d have to get it back some way and get it back soon.
“Um, I left it at work. I’ll get it tomorrow. If Blaine notices, he’ll freak.”
Debi decided to try one more time to draw her out. “Perion, are you sure nothing else is up?”
“Yes,” she said shortly, finishing off the water.
Perion stood to throw the empty bottle away. Soon, she would retreat to her bedroom, and Debi’s chance to talk to her friend would be over. If she didn’t speak up, she feared she wouldn’t get another opportunity. There was more to Perion’s story and missing engagement ring than her simple explanation.
“Perion, were you with Lein tonight,” Debi asked.
She couldn’t turn around to face her friend. If she did, Debi would see the lie in her eyes. “No, Debi. Don’t be ridiculous,” she said softly. “Why would I be with Lein? I have to go to bed now.”
Before Debi could say another word, Perion slipped into the bedroom. She went straight for the bathroom and stripped out of the shirt. She rolled it up into a tight ball and stuffed it beneath a pile of clothes in the hamper. She could smell Lein all over her. She knew she needed to take a shower. If she were to get in bed without showering, Blaine would definitely smell the musky odor of Lein’s cologne.
She stripped down and climbed into the shower. As she began scrubbing away Lein’s scent, her mind drifted back to her night with him. Her hands passed over areas of her body that Lein had touched with his own hands, lips, and tongue. She could not drive the images or sensations away. She actually didn’t want to do that. She had wanted him; she still wanted him, even though she had left him. It seemed like a stupid move, but she felt as if she had to protect herself. She was afraid, because she had never had such intense feelings rushing through her. She had no idea what would happen when she saw Lein the next day. She wanted to stop thinking about him, but nothing, including the pounding water, would drive the thoughts out of her head.
After her shower, she slipped into her most demure nightgown, and then got into bed. Her movements awakened Blaine.
“Late night, huh,” Blaine asked sleepily.
“Yeah, but I’m home. You can go back to sleep.”
The next morning, Blaine was up and out of bed before Perion rolled over once. It was then that he noticed her missing ring. He woke her to ask her about it. She was still a little groggy and out of sorts, and at first, didn’t understand what he wanted.
“Where’s your ring,” he asked her again.
“Oh,” she said sleepily, “I left it at Le-” she stammered, “at the club last night. I’ll get it after rehearsal.”
She closed her eyes again. Blaine had heard her clearly, but he hoped for both their sakes that her words were a Freudian slip instead of a confession.