I finally turned my phone back on, and there were like fifty-seven missed calls, but only one voicemail.
“Hey, darling. I can’t pick you up at the airport. I’m really swamped at work. I know you understand. I can’t wait to see you. I’m not sure what’s wrong with your phone, but it keeps going straight to voice mail. We might want to call the phone company and have them check it. I love you. I’ll see you soon.”
I hung up and sighed. “He’s workin’ so we have to take a cab.”
“Did ya even talk to him at all when you were in California?”
“The only time I spoke to him was after we arrived.”
She winced. “Ya better think of some reason why ya didn’t answer his calls.”
“I was thinkin’ of tellin’ him that my cell phone got wet. I had to leave it off to dry the battery in a bag of rice. Then I forgot about it.”
“That’s good, but what about the hotel phones?”
“I didn’t have his number.”
“You’ve been married for ten years. You’d think it was etched in your memory.”
“At one time, it was. Now my phone is my address book. It tells me birthdays, anniversaries, phone numbers, addresses, my calendar, directions on how to get somewhere, an’ a bunch of other things as well. Without my phone, I’m lost.”
“That might work. I still think he’s gonna question why ya didn’t call him in ten days.”
“Nine. I called him the first night, but then I could get another couple of days outta that too, so seven.”
“I think you’re reachin’.”
“No. He doesn’t call me every night when he’s outta town.”
“Okay, but seven days is a whole week that he didn’t hear from you. That’s a long time if ya think about it.”
I clicked my front tooth with my fingernail. “I was busy havin’ fun with my sister. I didn’t think of the landline because of my anger over my cell phone.”
“He’s gonna love that answer,” she said, sarcastically.
She was right. He would hate to hear that I had fun with Tania. In his mind, there would be guys swarming around us. “The only thin’ I can think of right now is how Corey must’ve felt when he woke up an’ saw that I was gone, cleaned out the beach house of my things, an’ just left without a goodbye.”
“You are your worst enemy. Ya know that, right? Just keep tellin’ yourself he knew this was gonna end. He agreed, an’ said it was fine with him. Maybe he did it for the fantasy as well so why would he care?”
“I just think he would…”
“Did he say he cared? Did he ask ya not to go?”
“There, ya have your answer. Think about your husband.”
Unfortunately, she had a point. He would’ve said something if he had changed his mind and didn’t want me to leave. He would’ve hinted or something about making our arrangement more permanent and yet… he didn’t say anything.
Maybe he didn’t think of me the same way? Maybe he thought of me as a first-class ho-bum who he got to spend some time with? I don’t know why, but something inside me told me I knew better than that. The way he looked into my eyes with such care wasn’t just for a piece of ass. He cared. I knew at least that much.
The cab dropped Tania off first then took me home. When I got home, I walked into my big, empty house and looked around before taking the bags upstairs to unpack.
There was a lot of laundry I needed to do. Not only mine, but I had a pile of Mike’s to do as well. I caught a whiff of my clothes and realized I had to wipe out the smell of Corey’s cologne. I wanted to save one of them just so I could smell him, but that was risky if Mike found it.
I found it odd there weren’t any takeout wrappers or pizza boxes anywhere. It was hard to believe Mike cooked while I was gone. Usually, if I didn’t feel up to cooking it was pizza night. Then again, who was I to question where my husband was after spending so much time with Corey?
Tania was right. I was my worst enemy.
I changed and started a load of laundry and called work. Once hearing about how things went horribly wrong there, I knew I had my work cut out for me tomorrow. While the laundry was going, I started dinner. I wanted to make something special since I totally ignored him while I was gone. Rifling through the kitchen, I noticed there wasn’t much to choose from, so decided on a special salad.
I diced the vegetables on the cutting board. My mind wandered back to the hotel pool. It made me smile.
“…so, what was it that made you come to California for your vacation?” He rested on my raft with his arms folded. He kicked his feet gently as he lightly caressed my side with his finger.
“It was my sister’s idea. She talked about how beautiful the sand on the beach was; white grain sand, she kept sayin’. I wanted somethin’ different than the beaches around us. They truly don’t compare. She was right about that.”
“The–” I stopped short. I was about to tell him about a beach not too far from my house. I shook my head. “Somewhere towards the end, but from the end a little more towards the middle an’ then around the corner over that way, an’ that was where our closest beach was. Not too far, but not too close either, an’ nothing remotely as beautiful as this.”
He chuckled. “…always so secretive, my Alicia. Tell me something. I want to know about you. The person you are.”
I felt bad. Here he was spending all this time with a woman he wanted to know who wouldn’t let him in. I had to give him something about me. If for nothing else, something he could remember with fondness long after I was gone.
“Okay, I got a memory for ya.”
“I’m all ears.”
“When I was in high school, I was in drama class. I finally had the big part in the play of Cinderella as the fairy godmother.”
“The fairy godmother?”
“I was chunky in high school so I was perfect for the part. The night of the big openin’, they hoisted me up in the air. I was flyin’ around. The rope got stuck an’ all they could do was fly me over the audience. The audience waited for somethin’ to happen, an’ everyone watched me.”
“It wasn’t time for your cue?”
“Not yet. I broke out in my Bibbity-bobbity-boo song so it wasn’t obvious that it was a prop mess up. The rope caught the back of my dress. It was high up on my back. Everyone saw my granny panties under my pantyhose an’ laughed hysterically.”
He chuckled. “…while you were singing?”
“Yes. I didn’t know why they were laughing. I kept singin’ until they could lower me. When they did, I realized my dress was up around my neck an’ pulled it down.”
“Were you embarrassed?”
“Of course, I was, but I stayed in character. I made a comment about how Fairy Godmother Cleaners were famous for static cling, which got the audience roarin’ an’ clappin’.”
He laughed. “Oh, I would’ve loved to see that!”
“It wasn’t all that. I got high reviews. After that, it was put in the show an’ happened the same way for the three days we were open. They even gave me some outrageous granny panties to wear to make it funnier. Every day, I made a new statement about it, adlibbin’ as I went along.”
“Granny panties must’ve been a sight to see. So, did the director give you kudos?”
“Kinda… He told me he was happy that I thought about the show instead of my embarrassment, an’ he wished others thought the same way. Instead of them panickin’, they should do the same. That’s not why I did it. I did it to save myself from embarrassment. I just made it look like it was part of the show.”
“What did he mean?”
“There are always things that go wrong in a production. It could be faulty costumin’, or ya forget your lines or the props aren’t right, or they aren’t produced durin’ their cue. Doors don’t open sometimes. I mean there are so many things that go wrong.”
“That would suck if you’re supposed to walk through a door and it won’t open.”
“Been there. Usually, when things go wrong, people try to forget it an’ just move on with their line. Well, I ad-libbed if it was obvious to the audience.”
“If the door didn’t open I was like, Well, I guess I didn’t push it hard enough… but one time the door wouldn’t open no matter how many times I tried. I put my shoulder into it an’ damn near broke my arm. I made snide comments about doors. I didn’t have any other choice. My character had to get in the house. They were now screamin’ my cue. I walked around the door, opened the window, an’ entered the scene an’ said, Somethin’ wrong with y’alls door. Y’all might wanna get that fixed. It might stop folks from usin’ the window. The audience laughed.”
He chuckled. “Ah. I guess you’re right.”
“What about you? You ever do any actin’ or anythin’?”
He blushed. “I did some singing. I was in choir in school.”
“Oh? What happened?”
“I was a senior in high school. I partied the night before and was still pretty drunk when I got a call from my teacher. I totally forget about the concert. I told him I had a flat. I was on my way in. I hung up, got dressed, and went in. I was still drunk off my ass.”
“Uh-oh. I see this endin’ badly.”
“Yeah, uh-oh is right. I made it in time and got in position. I didn’t think I was that drunk. I was in the best mood; all giddy and happy and cracking everyone up. Then the lights hit me and it got hot. I tried to nonchalantly fan myself, but it just kept getting hotter and hotter and the more it got hotter, the more my stomach was tossing and flipping.”
“Oh no. Tell me ya didn’t.”
“Oh, I did!” He laughed. “I stood, slowly teetering back and forth. I was on the top row in the back. I tried to turn around and almost fell. Well, when I started to fall I grabbed the people beside me, and they grabbed two people, and they grabbed two who… domino effect. We all toppled over backward off the bleachers. I crawled out from under the pile, stood up, and finished the song. After that, I turned and puked, but at least I finished the set. We were done. I was able to get out of there.”
I cringed, laughing hysterically. “Ew, so what happened? Did ya get in trouble?”
“Yeah, got kicked out of the choir and had in-house detention for a month. My weekends were shot. I had to spend Saturdays and Sundays in school doing odd jobs to make up for ruining the concert. I was in the papers so I wouldn’t say I ruined it... just made it a little less boring!”
“Oh, my. You were a bad boy, weren’t ya?”
He wiggled his brows. “Yep and you’re not complaining so you must like us, bad boys.”
“Oh, I like what ya do an’ you’ve been a perfect angel; nothin’ to complain about!”
“Oh really?” He leaned up.
I thought he was going to kiss me. He kissed me while pulling me off of the raft. That water was so cold. I went under. I surfaced coughing and spitting. “You’re an ass! I’m gonna get ya back!”
He floated closer with an evil sneer. “Promises, promises… be careful. I might get you again.” He drifted closer.
“Now Corey…” I backpedaled away from him.
“Yes, Alicia?” He moved towards me.
“I don’t like that look in your eyes. You’re plannin’ somethin’ mean.”
“Me? Mean?” He grinned. “Why do you think that?”
I turned, swimming away from him, but he caught me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me tight. His hands snaked up my back as he undid my bathing suit. It was then that he…