Slumber of the innocent!
Leo’s head was still tipped back against the cushion. His mouth hung open, exposing those brilliant fake teeth.
Jen glanced at him and whispered, “Jesus, I wonder if he’s…”
“No, no, his eyes are twitching,” I said. “He’s dreaming.”
Not that I would have traded with Leo. But in certain respects he had a leg up. The guilt file, for instance. What could Leo feel guilty about? Sleeping away the day? Forgetting to take his pills? Whereas my own file had this latest immense addition. Adultery. Philandery. Whatever you wanted to call it.
Jen didn’t love me and I didn’t love her. That was the problem with Doris. The complexity. The mess of love, sex and money. The mismatch in the beauty department. Her renunciation of millions. The doubters on all sides with their endless question: What is she doing with him?
Jen and I crept down the hall, back to the castle door. She looked like she had just run up a couple flights of stairs. “Thanks for that,” she said, pecking at one of my cheeks. She pulled at my shirt to straighten it out.
“Tomorrow?” she said.
My expression must have been unusually blank.
“The day and the hour,” she said. “Leo.”
“Of course. Same time? That works?”
“Same time,” she said as she closed the door.
I didn’t go directly home. I drove west on Pierce Butler. East on University. To the Capitol. Back to Pennsylvania.
Jen Litely. What was I thinking? How long before she told her best pal, who told her best pal, who dumped the news in an email she accidentally sent to half the free world? What remained private anymore? What ever had?
The afternoon light faded. I parked outside our Frogtown cottage. Our hovel. Forget about the carved Cupids fluttering in the dining room. Adios to the marble counters, to the Zero King side-by-side, to the carpets hand-knotted by Pakistani children. The money was gone, the house was gone, we were again the bottom feeders we had been before.
Doris sat at the kitchen table, a glass of wine in her hand.
“You okay, baby?” she said. “You don’t look so good.”
“I think I’m coming down with something.”
I didn’t trust myself. I might end up confessing before she suspected a thing.
“What you been doing?” I asked.
“Called about getting my old job back.”
“Oh no, sugar, you don’t…”
“It’s not the worst. Making people pay what they owe.”
She gave me a look. Maybe I just thought she gave me a look.
“I feel terrible,” I said, which was true. I felt terrible. A sickness of the conscience.
Then again… There was no denying… Hmm. How to put it? Jen, the yogi, knew tricks that had never before occurred to me as physically possible.
“I think I should take a shower and get in bed.”
Doris pressed a hand to my forehead. “You feel hot.”
I thought I caught her sniffing at me, trying to identify a scent. Jen’s perfume. Stray pheromones.
“I don’t fell well at all,” I said.
As soon as I tugged the covers up to my chin, I heard a thumping in the basement.
I pulled the pillow over my head.
Tomorrow: Of course you almost always get caught.