Two's a Crowd Ch. 07byangiquesophie©
The next tennis evening I told Erica what had happened: first, the evening with Myriam (and Estelle?!) and then the afternoon meeting with her mother and aunt. Erica was silent for a moment. Then she said she had a hard time believing the personality split. I told her there was a lot of literature on that subject. And how the shrink had assured me it might be true.
"But doesn't that make it just too easy, Bruce?" she asked. "Fucking around on a free ticket? No guilt, no blame?"
"Easy?" I pondered. "Well, tearing up a few thousand bucks of lingerie couldn't have been easy on her budget. Quite an investment just to mislead me, don't you think?"
"True," she said -- and we went out to play a rather distracted set of tennis. I don't think I convinced her about Myriam.
A month went by. At times I contacted a few escort services around the country. Silly, of course, but I had to do something. The whole thing might be a hoax. Yet deep down I was still convinced that Myriam was not a hoax person. The change in her had been too sudden and too radical to be faked. Sure, my hurting balls said to torch the bitch. But my brain knew I could not take the risk of abandoning the desperate girl she had also been. I had this nagging doubt and it prevented me from just walking away.
Of course there also was my incurable heart.
That's when I went to see the dentist. Erica recommended him. Her flashing teeth convinced me.
Dentists are money machines. They also are the inventors of the Great White American Smile. But there is one other thing they never get enough credit for -- they are the reason why many people get in touch with magazines they would otherwise never read. Glossy magazines for interior decorating. National Geographics. And of course -- society gossip.
This particular dentist seemed to have stacks of the latter, and not even ancient ones. I took the one on top, opened it and saw Myriam. Not Estelle, no -- Myriam. She wore her reserved smile, her tightest bun. And a very conservative Chanel suit.
Her delicate hand was entwined with the rather stubby fingers of a John Enthwistle III, would-be junior Senator for the tiny state of Rhode Island. He smiled proudly at her. He should be proud, if only for selling his bald and pudgy self to this stunning woman.
Myriam stood at least three inches taller.
There were a lot of pictures. The captions told me they had been taken at a garden party near Boston, thrown by a wealthy local tycoon. I didn't know John Enthwistle the Turd, but I understood he was running for Senator. I also understood that the lovely Myriam Collins of Boston was his soon-to-be fiancée.
I groaned. I saw the couple in two other shots. They were not as prominent as in the first picture, but it was clear that John thought the world of her.
I gathered that my pretty wasp had buzzed back to her nest. It was enough information for me to let go of a few romantic notions. Estelle, it seemed, wasn't the only gold digger living inside that body.
By then I was pretty certain that Erica was right. It did not make me a happy man. It made me a numb man who hardly needed anesthesia when his turn with the dentist came up. As the whining drill did its good work, I stared in the bright lights and thought my saddest thoughts.
Had it all been a lie, the whole intricate story? And if so -- why? Had Estelle won? Had she taken over control? I hated to even think of Estelle, let alone consider her a person. And if she had won, why wasn't she in the picture? Why Myriam The Prude?
There were other thoughts behind the obvious -- they were guilty thoughts. Had my treatment of Myriam driven her into the arms of the ball-breaking bitch? Had I pushed her over the edge? Had I caused the slut to win? If so, again, why was she holding the Turd's hand and not Estelle?
And why was I thinking these crazy things anyway?
Having a tooth filled is not the ideal moment for clear thoughts. So after my last rinse, I walked to Bryant's Park, just to sit and wait 'til the numbness of jaw and brain receded. The jaw won. But my brain cleared up too, after a while -- at least a bit.
It cleared enough to let me think a very dark thought: was poor John the next clown? Had I been Myriam's "starter husband"? A poor sucker to discard when something better came along?
It hurt me to even think like that of the woman I still loved. Besides, why would she conjure up such a Machiavellian plot? I mean, she herself came from rich stock. So my thoughts shifted at once to another explanation. Had Estelle used Myriam to catch the Turd? Just to find another stable platform to launch her illicit fuck-fests, as she had once with me? Had Myriam been an innocent pawn after all?
My thoughts were so feverish that I did not even mind that I had just accepted the split personality theory. Or had I? Even if Estelle had used Myriam and did it with poor John the Turd again, Estelle could just as well be the real Myriam, couldn't she? Myriam with a mask. Or Estelle with a mask, rather.
I felt a bout of sickness. After vomiting into a discarded bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, I left the sweet patch of green grass and went home to heave some more into my toilet bowl.
I called in sick and went to bed.
I have friends who have friends of friends.
One of them gave me an invitation card to an official reception at the Enthwistle estate near Providence, Rhode Island. It was held to announce John Enthwistle III's engagement to the lovely Ms. Myriam Collins of well-known Boston stock.
I went there. Don't ask me why. Call me every pathetic name in the Book of Wimps, or just call me stupid -- but I went there. And Erica went with me.
It took her two bagel-sessions to discover that she could not talk me out of it. She caved in and bought the most expensive cocktail dress my credit card had ever paid for. Between her daring outfit and my tuxedo we could have ran off a James Bond movie set.
I felt both shaken and stirred when we handed our car keys to the valet and walked into the opulent lair of the infamous Turd. He -- or rather his father -- had spared no costs. Nor had he overlooked any opportunity to make us feel like crushed ants. From the shining Italian marble right down to the simplest prawn snack, everything smelled of money -- and Estelle.
The happy couple was nowhere to be seen.
Mingling with the snobby crowd wasn't easy. Erica's hospitable cleavage and toned legs had quite an inviting effect on a few dozen males, but their spouses felt differently. Zero tolerance today, as far as they were concerned.
We ended up sipping champagne and chatting with two rather nerdy types. Their silk Armani suits must have cost a fortune, but they looked as if they had slept in them. I wondered what drew the Coen brothers to a party like this. But of course they were just two run-of-the-mill IT-billionaires from far away Silicon Valley. And they basked like tickled puppies in Erica's glow.
As the afternoon wore on, the rapidly refreshed champagne loosened up tongues. It even tore down a few walls here and there. Erica had a ball. An evil strain in her gay mind made her flirt with the horny as well as the innocent. She just teased their quickly rising testosterone-levels -- then let them down with cruel elegance.
At times I punished her. I refused to bail her out in time when her victims turned predators. There was a certain satisfaction in not rescuing her before she had been groped at least a few times.
But what I really did was scan the area for Myriam.
She arrived around six, shining like the genuine Boston Myriam Collins. Her dress was a symphony of subdued elegance. It flowed and flowed all over her tall body to hide almost every sexy feature. Even her acquired bust was far less prominent than the last time I saw it.
Nevertheless, she looked dazzling.
After having been announced, she and her toad glided off the curved stairway to meet the stunned commoners they had invited. That is to say -- Myriam glided. The beaming troll at her side was just a stumbling shadow.
Well -- at least in my eyes he was.
I succeeded in hiding myself from the golden couple by using a marble column and a wide shouldered gorilla. My eyes however, followed their every move.
Applause sounded in polite welcome. A gray-haired man showered them with a festive speech. I realized he was the famous John the Second. His shifting gaze went up and down his son's latest acquisition. He almost gobbled her up.
John the elder was a slick speechmaker. In the best of traditions his jolly good fun glossed over his underlying emotions -- which were mostly lecherous greed. I saw at one glance that the old goat was more than just a naughty, flirting father-in-law. I realized with shock that he had already seen everything the flowing dress hid from us. To be more achingly precise: John the Elder had already fucked his future daughter in law. He had done so maybe more often than his son and intended to do so for quite a time to come.
It was all in his eyes -- and in the language of his body.
It made me wonder about the rest of the audience. I saw smugness, nudging elbows and secretive smiles. And I knew she had entertained some of them as well. The rest -- with the eager glow and boyish anticipation -- just had to wait, I supposed. For tonight, maybe? Or later -- don't be impatient, guys.
I touched Erica's bare shoulder. She turned to me, her face at once concerned.
"Let's go," I whispered. "You were right -- this was not a good idea after all."
"What's wrong?" she answered.
"Can't you see? She fucks them all already. She's the fucking house whore."
"Oh, come on, Bruce, surely..."
I cut her off and took her elbow. Then I steered her around the column and down the crowded hall. Cheers and applause sprang up behind us. The old goat had ended his speech with a toast. I looked around and saw the crowd spreading out. The couple had left the stairs to mingle, I guess. We had almost reached the exit, when a clear voice rang over the murmurs.
"Bruce?" it said. "Is that you, Bruce?"
Looking over your shoulder has been a doomed concept for ages.
Ask Orpheus when he came to collect his love from the underworld. Ask the wife of Lot, fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah. The first would never see his wife again, the second changed into a pillar of salt.
So of course I turned and looked back.
What I saw was the Myriam I met at the graduation party -- thirteen years ago. Her face was pink with excitement. Her eyes had the wide-open innocence of a new beginning. They easily bridged the stinking quagmire of our recent years and connected with the open wound in my soul.
"Bruce," she said.
I stood and stared -- waiting for the dizziness to clear. I didn't even know which name to use. Not long ago I believed that at least Myriam was untainted -- or could be. Right now, I remembered her mother's words. This woman I married might not just be an innocent at all, anymore -- she might be the deceiving puppet of her other self.
I could see what an asset she must be to the Enthwistle Empire. By day she'd play the clean, high-class beauty to dazzle the world of corporaria. And by night she would become the dirty whoring tigress to close deals after the cameras went home.
Putrid Relations indeed.
"Myriam," I said.
"Such a surprise to see you here," she chimed. "And such a pity to see you leave already."
"Well," I wavered -- then I found some safe footing again. "I guess all in all it was a mistake for me to come here and taint the excitement of your new start. Poor taste, really. But, by the way, congratulations and meet my friend Erica. Erica, Myriam -- I presume?"
At that last remark a tiny cloud spread in the gray expanse of her eyes. Then she graciously took Erica's fingers and gave them a butterfly handshake.
"Pleased to meet you, Erica."
"Is that you, Myriam?" I asked. She turned back to me with a hurt frown.
"Of course, this is me," she said. "How could you think it's not?"
I grinned. It felt forced.
"How, indeed. I suppose your urge to be someone else has, ehm...evaporated since our last encounter. Let me wish you all the best, sweetheart. With a little effort, I might even learn to mean it."
At that moment I should have dutifully turned into a pillar of salt. I should have watched her recede into the underworld and be content with it. But I loved her and love didn't make me blind or soft in the head -- it made me angry.
She had ripped something out of my heart and I wanted it back. Something had been stolen and tucked away deep behind those incredible, lying eyes.
It was mine -- it was me.
I had to have it back.
Which of course was not a plan -- or even the primitive bones of a plan. It was just the stubborn, childish reflex of a man not prepared to cut his losses -- even after two years. At last I knew why I had never given up on Myriam. She had something that was so very utterly mine that it was effectively me -- she had my heart. W ho can live on without a heart?
She had taken it away -- maybe as Estelle, maybe as Myriam; maybe as a removed personality or as a cheating whore. I didn't care who did it. It was mine. I could not let go of it.
All this happened in the single second needed for her lashes to make one slow sweep over her soul-searching eyes.
"You still love me, Bruce," she whispered. And she smiled. "I have dreamt that you would be here today. I was that friend of the friend who happened to have the invitation. And see -- here you are. There can only be one reason for that, Bruce. You love me. I don't care one bit for this man, this Enthwistle -- he is Estelle's moneybag. So, just grab my hand and run off with me. Now!"
I felt the breathless presence of Erica behind me. I also felt the numb pain in my chest caused by my holding my breath. Then reality returned -- and with it the gushing of fresh air into my lungs. It sobered me up.
"Yes," I said. "I still love you, Myriam -- or whoever you choose to be today. But I know that this love hasn't been mine for a long time. You stole it from me. You grabbed it and hid it behind your lying eyes. Myriam -- this is no longer about me loving you. It is about you stealing my love and refusing to give it back."
I rambled and I knew it. I also knew that I was right at the core of things. This was about my love, and she had it. She wielded it over me, turning it into a curse. I knew things between us could only be over if she returned it. And set me free.
"Give it back, Myriam," I said. "Set me free."
The eyes before me turned into a battlefield of colors, lights and shadows. It was a disturbing sight. She gasped. Her hand went to her throat. "I," she croaked. "I can't...I..." Within seconds, the conflicting emotions spread out over her face, playing havoc on her mouth and eyebrows. A slow trickle of sweat crept down her brow. At last she stood shaking and trembling in front of me.
Her hands reached out. Words struggled to get past her lips. There was the word "save" and the word "please." Then her knees buckled and gave.
My hands were a fraction late to catch her as she fainted. She dropped to the front porch, bouncing and shaking in a frenetic seizure. Erica cried out. I fell to my knees, holding her, but not knowing what to do. A man in a tux rushed beside me.
"I am a doctor -- please let me..."
In a daze, I retreated, allowing the doctor to do what needed to be done.
Just minutes later, an ambulance arrived. In moments they had put her on a stretcher and into the car. The sirens still rang in my ears when I at last noticed the group of yelling men in front of me.
Their faces were angry, anonymous masks -- until I recognized John the Second and his Turd. They seemed to want things from me.
"...done to her, asshole?" That was the Turd.
"Who the fuck are you anyway, bastard? Who invited you?" That was the father, flecks of foam on his lips.
I rose and wanted to walk away. But the old fucker signaled and one of the guards grabbed me by the shoulder. When I tried to shake him off, a second one came to help. They trudged me into the house and into an office, where they dumped me into a chair.
The Enthwistles sure hated it when someone fooled with their properties, I guess.
The old guy sat on the edge of a desk. "What did you do to her?" he asked.
I just stared until a big fist hit my upper arm. There was a giant at each side of my chair. "Nothing," I said. It got me another push. "We just talked."
There was no need to tell the assholes anything. But the comparison of my slender frame to the rampant growth of muscle all around me made me decide otherwise.
"I am her ex-husband. I came to congratulate her. I was just leaving when she had her seizure."
I saw the wheels turn in the Enthwistle skulls -- the father's considerably faster than the son's.
"You crashed this party to gloat?" the father said.
"I was invited," I said. I produced the card, knowing my name wasn't on it. I counted they wouldn't look.
"Why would she invite you -- her ex?"
"I don't know," I said -- at that instant it was the most brilliant answer I could find. It brought a nice flush of annoyance to dad's face. "Sir," I went on. "My ex-wife never showed any inclination to these kinds of seizures. They looked serious to me and I would be quite concerned if I were you. I really don't understand how you could care about her and still be here."
This seemed at last to force some introspection into the minds of the insensitive assholes. Both father and son rose from their seats and called for their car. Just minutes later I was alone in the office. The gorillas had been left without instructions, I presume. They did not interfere when I rose to leave.
I found Erica at the entrance. She had already retrieved our car. I kissed her and gave her my apologies for dragging her into a farce like this. She was quite serious.
"You have to go see her, Bruce. I never knew how much you really cared for her. She was so intense -- it stunned me, the two of you. You really need to know how she is."
The innocent pebbles of the driveway screeched under the onslaught of my tires.
"Yes," I mumbled when the entrance to the posh mansion dropped from my mirror. "I'm stupid, I know, but I must."
The hospital wasn't very impressed by my claim of being Myriam's ex-husband. I guess my chances of seeing her were also diminished by the fact that she lay in a wing donated by the Enthwistle Foundation. So how Erica did it, I shall never know, but she talked us past the nurses' station.
There was no Enthwistle to be seen in the first class ward.
Securing Myriam and isolating her from possible trespassers seemed to be all they were concerned about. I guess they had talked to the doctors. They must have heard she'd be all right. Then they posted a guard at her door and left.
The bodyguard was a smoker. As soon as his masters were gone, he slipped out to have a drag. That was when we slipped in and discovered that all our scheming was for nothing. They had obviously drugged Myriam. She seemed in a deep sleep at the center of a huge and very white bed. I whispered her name and gently shook her -- to no avail.
But when we finally turned to leave, there was a moan from the bed. Her eyes were open. "Bruce," she croaked.
I turned and went to my knees beside her -- my face close to hers. "I am here," I said -- touched by the simplicity of our words.
"I am Myriam, Bruce -- your Myriam. Please believe me. I'll die if you stop believing me. I am Myriam and I guard your love. It is hard, very hard to keep it from her. But it is safe...with me."
Her voice was weak -- it was hardly more than breathing.
I softly stroked her hair. It laid spread on the white pillow. I reached forward and kissed her cheek.