Shady Grove Ch. 11
Quinn realized the disruptive fornicator wasn’t any one woman, but many. Claire Winston, Alice Mayhew, Madeleine Embers, Quinn McMurphy, and…and…oh no…not…Crystal?
Quinn launched upright and stared down hard on a face she still could barely make out in the dark. She swung her open hand hard, not landing a direct hit, but enough for the slap to echo. She scrambled backward, fearing retaliation, but Gerald didn’t move. “Oh, Gerald,” she said, already in tears. As if Gerald read her mind, said, “I’m sorry, Miss Quinn. I thought you knew.”
Quinn gasped, horrified. “You thought I knew?”
“Yes. Why else would you come out here with me?”
Quinn shook her face like a dazed boxer. “Because…because…because I liked you, Gerald!”
She sensed him rise onto his elbows, which caused her to lean back further. “You do?”
“I did!” Quinn cried. “But how could you? Do you know how old she is? You’ll go to prison for—.”
“Don’t say who! You know who! Crystal. She’s only—”
“Crystal?” Gerald exclaimed in disbelief. It was the first time Quinn heard any emotion in his voice. “I would never—”
“I heard it with my own ears! Building seven! Apartment three-B!” Quinn shouted, suddenly realizing she didn’t actually know what she had heard.
It didn’t take Gerald long to piece together what was happening. “Wendy, Crystal’s mom…how do I say this? She’s been making emergency service calls ever since her husband passed.”
“Bullshit! Crystal’s mom works nights at Safeway!”
“Not on Mondays and Thursdays,” Gerald said calmly, adding, “and she has every third weekend off.”
Aside from Quinn’s quiet weeping, she and Gerald sat in silence, each picking at pine needles. “So, technically, you’re the disruptive fornicator. Not me, or Wendy, or Madeleine, or…” Gerald’s silence confirmed it. “How many of us have there been? Actually, I don’t want to know.”
Gerald apologized again, repeating that he thought Quinn must’ve heard about him, and asked him out for that reason. Quinn had already hinted at how she felt about him and couldn’t take it back. “You don’t have to walk with me,” Gerald said quietly, “but I’d like to make sure you get home safely.” To his surprise, Quinn came closer and lay down with her head on his chest. “I’ve never been in the grove at night,” Gerald said. “Very magical place.” He felt Quinn nodding.
After a long pause, Quinn said, “I suppose you’re not a one-woman kind of guy, then.”
“I don’t know,” Gerald said sincerely. “No one’s ever asked.” Quinn almost asked, but didn’t. “So, am I part of some club now? Like, are all the others going to know?” Gerald said he had never talked to any woman at Shady Grove about any other, until tonight. Quinn stroked Gerald’s torso lightly, saying, “And suppose…I ever need…or want…”
Gerald tried to hold his laughter, but it found its way out. “You can make service calls anytime. Twenty-four-seven, three-sixty-five.”
“Even on Thanksgiving?” she said, giggling at the thought.
“Even Thanksgiving.” When her giggles subsided, he said, “But…what about Clint?”
Quinn sighed. “What about him? He stood me up. At a fucking T&A meeting.”
Combing Quinn’s hair, Gerald said, “He was late. He came looking for you but you had left. His car got stolen when he was out at the storage facility. He ran all the way back. That has to be five…six miles.”
“How do you know that? You left before I did.”
“I came back. Stacking chairs and cleaning up is part of my job.”
Quinn sighed dismissively. “But why hasn’t he said anything since then? Or answer my texts?”
“He heard the rumors. Folks saw you holding a seat for him. When he didn’t show, and then…you know…Madeleine. He thought you heard the rumors too.”
“How do you know this, Gerald?”
“I know everything. How do you think I evade a whole team of amateur spies?”
After a long, slow walk from the grove, Gerald and Quinn were crossing the courtyard hand-in-hand when they heard a scream. Knowing it wasn’t from pleasure, Quinn froze, then turned to Gerald.
“Madeleine?” he said, recognizing her tone.
Quinn gasped, and screamed, “Abby!”
Abigail awakes the next day, and everything is white. “Max? Max Silverman?” she says to her tennis partner, dressed in white.
“Good morning, Ms. Dupont. I’m Dr. Winslow.” The doctor tapped the name tag on his white coat with a pen. “Can you read this?”
“Doctor Winslow,” Abigail said.
“Good. Welcome to Falk Memorial Hospital, Ms. Dupont. You’ve had a minor heart attack. Fortunately, you’ll recover just fine, thanks to your friends.” Abigail gazed back, confused, suddenly realizing someone was holding her hand. Madeleine sat bedside with her chin resting in her other hand. “I’ll give the two of you a few minutes to talk,” Dr. Winslow said, before leaving the room.
“Why are you smirking?” Abigail asked her friend. “I had a heart attack, for Pete’s sake.” Madeleine’s soft, inquiring gaze was enough to trigger a memory: a red satin “F,” a cashmere sweater, a needle and thread. “Oh, Maddy. I’m sorry. I’m so, so—” she said, weeping.
“No need to cry, Abby,” Madeleine said with surprise. She looked over her shoulder to make sure they were alone, and leaned in. “If you were too embarrassed to buy a dildo, I would’ve gotten one for you.”
Now Abigail wore a look of surprise. She’d forgotten about that. “Oh, no…no no no…I didn’t…I only…” She doesn’t know about the sweater! Abigail thought. “Okay, I guess I can’t deny it,” she said, looking away, feeling Madeleine’s laughter vibrate through the bed. Finally, she asked, “The doctors said 'friends.' I only have one…”
“You’re very lucky, Abby. I called for an ambulance, and suddenly…Gerald and Quinn were beside me. After waiting a few minutes, Gerald picked you up and carried you, while Quinn ran for her car. You wouldn’t believe how that girl drives.”
“Gerald? And Quinn?” Abigail said, perplexed. “Oh. Ohhh.”