Another installment of The Night Series.
“Masochist: a person who derives pleasure from one’s own pain or humiliation.” Yes, I checked the definition before leaving work. It’s always good to accurately describe yourself.
The weather’s turned gloomy. Gray skies all day, a damp chill confirming that summer is truly gone.
I’m walking to Remingtons, wondering for about the 500th time why. This “why” was preceded by the “why did Tansy text me an invite for this evening?” That “why” was followed by “why am I even considering the invitation,” which was followed by: “why not?” That “why” was solely generated by curiosity, which is probably inherent to my particular form of masochism.
When I arrive, a hefty bouncer-looking type is sitting outside on a stool holding a clipboard. “Name?”
He makes a check with his pen. “Go in.”
This is a big deal then? A private party? My stomach drops. Is this an engagement party? I’m facing a no-win dilemma: stay and hopefully fade into the background or go. Actually when I think about it, that’s not much of a dilemma. “Go” is the right answer.
But Tansy sees me and bears down. Her expression’s smug and yells: “Danger, Will Robinson!”
“So glad to see you. Sit here.” She leads me to a table almost in the center of the room. Dominic sits a table over; he nods and smiles.
A colleague of Dominic’s pours me a beer from the pitcher in the center of the table.
“Clare, right?” he asks. “I’m Phil. Don’t know if you remember me.”
I smile. We exchange small talk about each other’s jobs. About twenty minutes later, Tansy raps a spoon on the lip of her glass.
“Welcome to my friends. I have some fantastic news. Actually, Dominic and I have some news we want to share,” she begins.
I look at Dominic. He’s frowning as if he has no idea what she’s talking about. I feel like a whole baked potato has grown in my stomach. Who knew that feeling would be foreshadowing?
Tansy glances around the room. I swear when she looks at me, she’s oozing poison.
She grins and pats her abdomen. “There’s about to be a new Rossi come March.”
New Rossi? March? The color drains from my face. Everyone around me cheers and claps their hands. I shift my gaze to Dominic who is staring open-mouthed at the future mother of his child conceived in May? June? When he and I were first dating? Stupidly I think: but Tansy was drinking beer last week.
I feel Phil’s eyes on me. Others glance at me. I sit there a moment longer, feeling as if my mind is blank and yet swirling with thoughts. I jump up, nearly knocking my chair over. It would have fallen if not for Phil’s quick reflexes.
“You okay?” he asks.
I shake my head and try to grab my purse strap from the back of the chair twice, before he lifts it up and hands it to me.
“Thanks,” I mutter, escaping. I don’t care about making a scene although it was once the last thing I would have ever done. I’ve nothing left to lose. Tansy just stole my dignity. I let her.
I hit the sidewalk, humiliated. Trembling fingers grab my phone. I try to jab in a text and then just hit dial.
“Damien? Where are you?”
The door to Remington’s bursts open behind me. “Clare!” Dominic yells.
I lean against the red brick wall.
“Clare, what’s going on? Where are you?” Damien asks.
“Outside of Remington’s. Never mind. I don’t know why I called.” I punch end call.
Dominic grabs my wrist to stop me from continuing down the street. I shove him. Fury driven tears cascade. “Don’t touch me.”
“Let me explain.”
“You can explain? You and her? Even when we were together?”
He tries to take my arm, but I block his hand with my forearm.
“It’s not the way it looks.”
My mouth drops open and I swear my tears instantly stop falling. “No? Fantastic! So, Tansy and you were not having sex when you and I were together. You never cheated on me. You and Tansy are not about to have a child.”
“I . . . .” His voice trails off. “It wasn’t really cheating.”
I fold my arms and wait.
“Tansy and I have always been friends with benefits.”
No wonder he never tried to initiate sex with me. He had full-service Tansy.
Something makes me glance over my shoulder at the picture window of Remington’s where a dozen faces stare out at us. Drama. I hate this.
“I probably don’t need to hear anymore.” I start walking again, head up, shoulders straight.
“But I love you,” he says.
I laugh. It doesn’t sound much like a laugh. It’s derisive. It’s contemptuous. And I didn’t even know I had that sound in me.
“You don’t know the meaning of the word. The way you put a guilt trip on me when I didn’t deserve it, and you were hiding all of this?” Blind anger. It grips me, hides in the fist made by my right hand, and the pacifist me dives for cover as I punch Dominic in the jaw. The effing pain! I could swear every bone in my hand disintegrates. It doesn’t faze him, but I am suffering.
Again, he reaches for me, trying to check my hand.
A motorcycle roars up.
“What in the hell did you do to her?” Damien asks, moving between Dominic and me.
“I don’t need saving,” I yell.
A second later, I say, extremely softly, pain enervating. “I think I need a doctor.”