THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH
By Cappuccino Girl
Disclaimer: I'm merely taking Boomtown and its characters out for a play. They aren't mine. Collin, however, is the author's own creation.
Notes: The majority of this was written while listening to Patty Loveless' 1996 album. As result, I felt it was only right that this story should bare the same name. Enormous thanks go out to my incredible beta readers, Amber and Jessica, who helped clean up this saga.
Summary: She wants to know if this is where affairs end. Do they end as quietly as they start, with all the drama and none of the allure?
ON THIS SUNDAY AFTERNOON, Andrea is laying under an avocado tree, enjoying the soft breeze and the latest Amy Hassinger novel. Under her deck chair, two dogs vie for shade. She is forty-four and the editor for LA Magazine. For the past six years, her life has resembled an impossible ideal: A job most people can only dream of, the perfect five bedroom house with a pool -- all decorated by an interior designer friend of hers-- and Collin, her dark haired, blue-eyed husband who somehow manages to keep nine to six hours while working as an executive for Showtime Television. When she was young, she was convinced that there was no way that one could have it all, yet as she laid awake at 5 AM on the night of their first wedding anniversary, she realized that she did.
The dogs had come later. She'd been away visiting her mother in San Francisco who was undergoing open-heart surgery and Collin was unable to join her. He'd told her how terrible he felt and she'd sat out on the deck with her packed bags saying, "Sometimes you can't abandon your life, even if you want to." Those words had haunted him while she was gone, while she didn't call for three days and he left unheard messages on her cell phone. He thought she was running from him, from the perfection he tried so hard to create for her.
On the Saturday as he was coming back from the gym, he walked past the glass front of a convenience store ads plastered across the left window. "Six Irish Setter puppies looking for loving owners to share their lives." He'd written down the number on the palm of his hand and the next day he'd collected Jordan and Carly, the only two remaining of the litter. He'd taken them home in a carton and put a ticking clock next to their beds and stayed up with them while they whined for their mother.
In San Francisco, Andrea became a forty year old orphan. She phoned her husband the next day.
"I'll come immediately," he said, "but I have to drive."
"Can't you be sensible and catch a plane?"
"I can't explain. I have to drive. Trust me."
And she did. Andrea waited at the house with a neighbor who was dancing a fine line between awareness and senility, but made everything better with her kind expression and constant offerings of herbal teas.
Collin pulled up the drive to what was his mother-in-law's fancy home and, putting a puppy under each arm, greeted his grieving wife.
"Puppies? Why did you do that?" Andrea asked later that night while he held her in his arms.
"I wanted it to be perfect. I thought that you'd be back in a few days time and that we'd spend this weekend playing with the dogs in the garden and then, when they're older, you could take them with you when you go for a run down to the park like you always do. We could watch them grow up." He ran his hand through her hair. "I suppose this all seems horribly wrong now, doesn't it?"
She shook her head. "No. No, it doesn't. It's just… Life has a way of turning everything stable upside down and shaking it about like a cocktail waiter."
Collin kissed her, and together, they watched the puppies sleep at their feet.
Andrea had always been more of a cat person.
SHE WAS FOUR YEARS OUT OF COLLEGE and desperate to prove herself, tired of charming her way through life. It was the second week of March when she woke up one morning, dressed in her best dark gray Ralph Lauren suit, put on eyeliner as well as her usual bluish-gray eye-shadow and then drove down to the District Attorney's office at precisely 7 miles above the legal speed limit in order to meet a Mr. David McNorris. She thought nothing of the meeting, yet it was significant. This was her first major story. She, Andrea Little, was writing a profile on the new deputy DA. It would be good, this profile. In fact, it would be spectacular. She was certain that this would her big career breakthrough. Everyone would read this profile and say: this woman can write and we want her for our paper. She would be headhunted, and once in her new office, all of the established colleagues would be envious of her talents. Her life would be changed forever.
She made her presence known to the tiny woman who was at reception and took a seat in the waiting area. The air-conditioning failed to stop her palms from sweating, and they slowly began to stick to the leather sofa. She moved them onto her knees to dry.
She looked up and saw an extraordinary figure before her. She stood up and stuck out her hand. "Yes. Hi. You're David McNorris I presume?"
"I'm here to-"
"Write the profile. I know. My secretary informed me of everything."
"Let's go to my office and discuss your plans."
She followed him into a large room with piles of legal books, a big oak desk and four bottles of vodka and Jack Daniels concealed in the bottom drawer.
"I know you're busy," she began.
"I have an hour free for you in my schedule right now."
"Then I'll get right to those general fact type things, if it's okay with you. I have an ice-breaker question written down somewhere." She flipped through her notepad, occasionally running her hand through her hair in a half nervous, half flirtatious action. He found her oddly compelling to watch. "There." He noticed how she cringed when she read what she had written. "Give me a run down of your average day."
"Am I on the record?" he asked, pointing to her little silver dictaphone.
"All the time, but I'm selective." She smiled, "Also, while I think of it, we'll need some pictures of you at home."
THREE WEEKS LATER, on the hottest April day in twenty years, Marian opened her house to two young photographers and Andrea, who had impulsively decided to join them even though she would be of no use. They took shots of David in his office at home, of him and Marian in the lounge, of David in the garden, and two extra ones just in case. Marian, the perfect hostess, made dinner for her husband and their guests once the work was finished. When the last drop of wine was poured out of the bottle and dinner long eaten, the group gradually began to disperse.
They were sitting out by the pool, David and Andrea, listening to the flies being zapped by the electric blue light.
"We used to have one of these," she said as she removed her sandals. "I remember my dad bought it when I was a junior in high school, and there was this one girl, Susan, and she was all into animal protection and new age stuff, and I had this pool party for my birthday, and she had this total fit when the thing nuked the bugs. All my other friends laughed at her. You know, I don't think we ever spoke after that."
"She can't really have liked you if she ignored you because of bug deterrents."
"I don't think anyone really liked me in high school."
"No," she laughed and it was infectious. "The opposite."
"I liked girls like you."
"You and all the other boys."
He kicked a pebble into the pool and leaned back onto the wooden recliner. It was dark outside and the sky was clear. The muffled noise of Marion talking with the two photographers seeped through the living room window.
After a while, David said, "I don't think it's fair."
Andrea spun her head around, confused and startled at once. He smirked a little at her reaction. "What?" she asked.
"Because you're the reporter, you get to ask all the questions."
"That's how it works."
"Lawyers cross examine too. We should reverse roles."
"Why should I?"
David sat up so that he was facing her, his eyes meeting hers for the first time. "Born?"
She could tell that he was serious now, yet still unpredictable and it gave her a pleasant adrenalin surge. With false confidence, she began to offer information. "Los Angeles."
"Batchelor's degree in journalism from Berkley."
Andrea stopped, suddenly aware of how they had drifted closer. His hand now rested on her chair. She stared at it, wondered how it got there, and whether it could be viewed as compromising should Marion chose to come outside. She purposefully picked it up and moved it aside so that she could pass.
The unease remained in spire of her efforts. Pacing along the edge of the pool, she pulled her hair tie out, then came back to put on her shoes. David watched her intently as she fussed with the buckles.
"Why do you want to know?" she asked.
"Because all the guys liked you."
She pulled herself up and made a move towards the patio door. "I'm going to see if your wife needs any help."
"Are you one of those anal neat freaks they have on daytime TV?"
She turned and rolled her eyes at him. "No. But I do have a way of wielding the duster that will make your head spin."
SHE CALLED HIS OFFICE for follow-up questions because she liked the unexpected humor her work brought with it. She thought it was the way she was required to invade people's lives in order to get 'the story' which made it so laughable at times. David added further to her enjoyment because he knew how to play her questions. He would try to tease an entirely different meaning out of them and she'd laugh, gently, and shield her eyes with her hand from the sunlight that poured through his office window.
"Aren't these questions a little personal?" David clutched the top of his head with his hand and leaned back in his creaking leather chair.
"This is supposed to be a profile, in fact a 'personal profile', so I don't think I'm out of line here," she retorted.
"But my wife? What has Marian got to do with me?"
"Oh Jesus. Do you really want that on my dictaphone?"
"I'll take the heat."
"I have no doubt about that."
She twirled the eraser end of her pencil around in her mouth and gave him an appraising stare. "This isn't something for law review, it's a profile on the person, and in this case that would be you."
"It's all about me then."
"Don't let it get to your head. I have enough incriminating evidence here to put you in jail for a month." Andrea stood up and went to get her purse and just as she pulled it from the hook on the coat rack, she felt a hand pull her around.
David kissed her.
She didn't resist.
SHE USED TO BELIEVE that moments like this happened in slow motion, as though there was a way to pause them, to reverse them. It is as though one knows they will happen, and maybe intrinsically we all do, but there is no way to stop them. Somehow (and she wishes she could recall the details), she found herself naked on the bed in her excessively glamorous apartment. The room was ice-cold and David stood up and pulled the balcony door open, a hot gust of air hitting them both in the face. He reached for the bottle of Bacardi, which sat on the window ledge, and poured himself half a glass. Then, without moving from where he had initially planted his feet, he stared into the neighbor's garden while he drained the alcohol.
It was the first time she had explored the thought that he might be a personification of her worst fears, a psychological mirror image of her father. It disgusted her that she might even consider such a thought, but as he stood there, emptying the last drops of the first glass and refilling it, she could not deny the obvious. She'd sworn so many times that she would never end up with someone who was an alcoholic, and as a result she had gone through a list of every other quasi-dangerous type who came her way: drug pusher, biker, bodyguard, fire fighter, FBI agent, and most recently Martin, who had a frighteningly large collection of Russian porn in a cabinet in his spare bedroom.
David made his way back into bed, leaving the window open so that they could hear the noise of the city; the distant sirens and the soft shifting of gravel as the guard dogs across the road paced the fence.
"You're writing a story," he said, groping around in the dark for her breasts. When his fingers touched her smooth skin, she laughed softly. He was amazed every time by how the sound of that laugh made him want to do the most frivolous thing imaginable. She'd laugh and he might say, "I'm going to toss in my job and buy us a beach house (or you could buy us a beach house) and we'll never leave except to get sunscreen and food." He liked the way the back of her hair swished over her shoulder blades, how she didn't yell at him over domestic affairs because there were none.
"I am writing a story, a story about you," she whispered, unexpectedly at ease again.
MARIAN HAD TAKEN an unexpected yet rather convenient liking to Andrea, and David, being the type to take advantage of such things, invited her and the two photographers over for dinner to celebrate the publication of the four-page article.
The five sat around the dinner table, Andrea and Marian discovering a shared a love of Moroccan artwork while they picked their way through the remainders of their Thai noodles. The two women laughed at how David had made a pile of water chestnuts at the edge of his plate. Julian, one of the two photographers, backed him up, saying, "I'm only eating them because I'm a guest here."
Marian smiled, a little embarrassed. "You know, I once went for this horrendous meal while I was taking my teacher training. They served pasta and the sauce was so bad, and there I was, really hungry, but unable to control this gag-reflex." She covered her mouth delicately with her hand to suppress her playful laughter, and at that moment, Andrea could see precisely why David was in love with this woman. It was her understated mannerisms that made her so compelling.
David hadn't noticed them. He was far too fixated on Andrea gesturing with her chopsticks as she told of her own horror-dinners. There were many. There were the glitzy soirees with her parents at each other's throats, during which she tried desperately to find them individual conversational partners so that they wouldn't have to cross paths. There were awful interview luncheons with various B-list celebrities, and (and these she did not share) drunken black-tie sorority affairs where she never fit in because she didn't touch a drop of alcohol.
When the laughter around the table had died down, Marian headed for the kitchen to let the ice cream thaw out a little, and Julian set to teasing the cat with a flyaway strand he had pulled from his jeans. Andrea made her way down the hallway to locate the restroom in order to remove an eyelash which she was convinced was still stuck in her eye. She'd barely gone past the door which lead to the kitchen, when she felt a yank on her wrist. Her socks slid terribly on the tiled floor, and there was no way for her to resist.
"God, I've been waiting all evening for this," David breathed into her ear.
"We can't do this," she whispered as he tugged her into the music room. "Your wife is in the house. She's in the kitchen."
"You have no sense of decency or danger, do you?"
He kissed her hard, shoved her against the piano. Andrea stood there, mildly stunned and resenting her enjoyment in the risk. "Danger lets you know you're still alive," he said.
"As does your kissing me."
"Should we try it again?"
Andrea leaned forward and touched his lips. Just as David's fingers were moving up her top, she heard voices coming from the hallway and quickly recoiled. She shoved him into the corner behind the door and put her hand over his mouth. Both listened intently. Once the noise had died down, she removed her hand.
"What was that about?"
"We're going to get caught."
"She was just pointing Chloe to the restroom."
"Your wife." Andrea paused and took a step away him. "I should go back. You wait here a moment." She ran her hand down his chest before slipping out of the room.
SHE HADN'T SEEN DAVID in six years, and then as if out of nowhere (as such encounters inevitably occur), he was standing in front of her in the queue at the Bread & Circus. They didn't know where to begin, what they could possibly say to each other, so they stood in silence staring over one another's shoulders while the cashier scanned in bagels and vegetables. David appeared the same as always, except his eyes weren't glazed over like they used to be. Andrea looked a little older, a little blonder, and she wore glasses now and dressed in longer floral skirts. He handed over his credit card to pay without breaking eye contact with Andrea, and asked, "Are you married?"
She smiled. "Yes," and twisted the wedding band around her finger. "Five years."
David signed the receipt and handed it back to the cashier. He hadn't packed his things so they all laid in a heap at the end of the checkout. Andrea's batch was being scanned in, so they stood at the end of the conveyor-belt and packed their bags together.
"And what about you?" she asked, handing him a carton of strawberries which had made its way into her pile. "You seeing anyone?"
"Not so much seeing as…"
She smiled, fondly remembering being in love with such a stereotypical bad boy. "You haven't changed, have you?"
"I haven't touched a drop since you threw me out."
Andrea handed over two ten dollar bills to the cashier, all the while giving David an appraising stare. "I thought people didn't change." She took the three dollars, looped the bags around her middle and index fingers and wandered out of the store in silence. David walked beside her. Eventually she pointed with her car-key towards a navy blue SUV saying, "Anyway, this is mine. It's been good to see you again, even if it was at a grocery store."
He nodded and she tossed her bags into the trunk. After a minute, he touched her shoulder hoping that he might think of the perfect thing to tell her in parting. Nothing came. "Maybe I'll catch you again sometime."
She smacked the trunk lid down. "Maybe."
He walked away.
SHE SAT ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER in her fancy apartment which couldn't buy her happiness but let her be unhappy in aesthetically pleasing surroundings and examined the tips of her hair. The sunlight was beginning to glimmer through the glass door. Neither of them had slept that night. Andrea's robe was draped over her shoulders, untied at her waist. The room smelled of last night's dinner. She knew the conversation that would ensue like she knew the route to work. It happened without thinking and every time she wanted to beg for him to change his mind, but she didn't. Andrea didn't plead. Sometimes she'd wear pretty silk tops for persuasion, but she was far too proud to plead.
"I can go in late to work today," he said.
Andrea looked straight at him, startled. She smiled but couldn't hide the growing sickness in her stomach.
David disposed of yesterdays coffee filter, and refilled it. "I thought you'd be pleased."
"I am," she tried to assure him.
He placed two green mugs on the surface and located the soymilk in the fridge. It was two days past its expiration date, so he proceeded to let it slosh unceremoniously down the sink.
"It's not about going to work late, or being able to go out to dinner together, or you making up another lie when she calls your cell phone." She paused for a moment and gazed out of the window. "I stood in the line at the supermarket yesterday and I saw your wife and she was looking at me, like she knew I was the home wrecker, and I wanted to go over there and tell her something to make her feel better, you know. And sometimes I see her in the morning when I go to get my coffee, and I get this urge to drop my act for a moment."
"The world's a stage and all of us merely players."
"Fuck you, David," she spat, jumping off the counter-top and storming off into the bathroom, a stream of red silk robe billowing behind her.
"I don't know about you, but I like the game," he called.
She turned on the faucet, the bathroom filling with a cloud of steam, and sat down on the toilet lid.
"You forgot the milk," he said poking his head around the door and shoving a mug of coffee into her hand.
"When you went on your guilt-ridden grocery shopping trip, you forgot the milk."
Andrea's mug clanked down onto the edge of the bathtub. "What is wrong with you?" she scowled.
"Right back at you. But I've seen this before. Hormones."
"Were you born without a capacity for guilt?"
"What am I guilty of?"
Her jaw dropped noticeably, and David gawked back at her, equally baffled.
"I don't know why women get so caught up in this fidelity shit," he remarked.
David wandered carelessly back out of the bathroom. Andrea stomped after him. "That's what it essentially is," he went on, "some bullshit technique of the law or the church or whateverthefuck to make us suppress our feelings toward others."
"Don't you value your wife?" she exclaimed.
"I value you," he said, opening the refrigerator. Andrea peered at him over the door. "I've valued all the women I've been with, excluding that screaming old…" his voice trailed off as he realized that this might be revealing slightly too much information.
He closed the door, holding yogurt in one hand and a banana in the other. Andrea stood still and stared at him while he prepared his breakfast, meticulously slicing his banana and dropping it into the yogurt, then sprinkling granola over it.
Eventually, she composed herself enough to say coldly, "I'm like the others, aren't I? What are their names? Tasha and Kaitlyn and Britney. Or do you work your way through the alphabet and now you've run out so you started at 'A' again?"
David shoved a spoon of breakfast into his mouth and gave her the same glance you would give a thirteen year old when they ask if they may go out to a party on a school night. "Your bath," he stated matter-of-factly.
"Your bath. The water's still running."
Andrea ran off down the hallway, cussing as she went. When she fell into the room, the towel on the floor was sodden with hot water that cascaded over the sides of the bathtub. David abandoned his food, and together they mopped up the flood in silence. The next day was Halloween.
SHE WAS WORKING LATE at the magazine that night and had eaten with her colleagues while they pieced together the articles for November. At mid-day she had phoned Collin, apologizing for abandoning him for another evening, and he'd assured her that it was fine and that he understood. As hard as she tried to suppress it, her conscience was uneasy and eventually, at 8.30, she said that they'd call it a day.
Andrea pulled up the drive to find a red sports car blocking her parking space. Confused, she left her car standing halfway through the gate and made her way in through the back door. The dogs greeted her quietly, wagging their tails but without barking. She petted them absentmindedly, noticing the remains of dinner that were still sitting in pots on the stove. After having deposited her briefcase beside the living room couch, she carried on up the stairs, shedding her shoes and shawl as she went.
"Collin?" she called. There was no answer.
In the back of her mind, she knew what she would find. It would now be her turn to feel the disgust which Marian must have felt those years ago. 'What goes around, comes around,' her grandmother used to crow with sadistic delight. Andrea delayed her steps as she walked towards the bedroom. The door was closed. Unusual. Hesitantly pushing down on the handle, she opened the door and placed one foot inside. It was dark, and she found herself forced to flip on the light. Casting her gaze around the room, she noticed that it was empty. Still anxious, she managed to settle down enough to put her shawl over the back of the bed and, pulling a holey pair of jeans and a slate-blue sweater out of the closet, proceeded to change. Having hung her suit up again, she put her hair into a messy twist and traipsed around the upstairs hallway.
Still silence. Carly had joined her, weaving between her legs in a desperate ploy for attention, but Andrea was in no mind to appease the dog. The office was empty, so was the library and two guest bedrooms. Wandering downstairs and collapsing onto the couch, it occurred to her that, excluding the two dogs, she was the only one in the house.
She leaned over the back of the couch to the drinks table and poured herself a large glass of lukewarm tonic water. As she swished the fizzy liquid around in its glass, she remembered Marian, and how, no matter how hard she would like to erase what she had done to somebody who might still have been her friend, it continued to hang over her, an eternal damnation. She believed that women who had never been cheated upon, and also women who had never reduced themselves so much as to be 'the other woman' would not instantly conclude that a strange car and no visible guests downstairs implied a naked other in the bedroom. It disgusted her and made her itch her wrists in discomfort.
As she took another sip of her drink, she heard a key in the front door and the two dogs shot up.
"In here," she called.
Collin strode into the living room, sporting a faded baseball cap which didn't suit him. He pulled it off his head and leaned forward to kiss his wife. "I didn't think you'd be back until way after ten."
"Neither did I, but I managed to talk my way out of yet another late night." She took the cap from him and dropped it onto the arm of the sofa.
"If I would have known, I wouldn't have told Allison that she could park her car there."
"Allison," Andrea sighed. She felt completely stupid. Of course she knew that Allison from down the road drove a red convertible.
"She decided to repaint her garage and she doesn't have a drive as you know, and the new people who're moving in next door need the parking space on either side of the road. I saw her as I was walking the dogs a few hours ago and said she could park in our drive if she wanted because you weren't supposed to be back until late," he explained.
Andrea sighed. "No, I wasn't, was I?" She placed both of her elbows on her legs, and rested her head on the palms of her hands.
Collin sat down next to her on the couch and watched her in silence for a moment before saying, "Are you okay? You look a little drained."
She looked up at him, "Yes, I'm fine. It's just been a long day."
"You want some dinner?"
Andrea shook her head.
"No. I'm okay."
"Should we take the dogs for a walk around the block and then go to bed?"
Their agreement was understood, and Andrea went to fetch the leashes from their hook bellow the telephone while Collin found Andrea her sneakers. They both met one another at the door and exchanged goods; she putting on her shoes and he fixing the collars and leashes onto the dogs. She stopped tying her shoelaces and looked up at him for a moment. "Where were you when I got home?" she asked. "You were out and I expected you to be here. Got kind of worried."
Collin paused, his eyes darting back and forth. Both dogs were pulling hard on their leashes, desperate to go. "You know, running a few errands and things."
Andrea nodded, and opened the door for him. Together, they walked out of the house in silence and down the well-lit road.
SHE REMEMBERS HER ANGER when a panic stricken David had crashed her apartment in fear that he might have killed someone in a drunken haze. She remembers dialing a familiar number the next day and how the click of the receiver had echoed when Marian slammed the phone down. She never spoke to Marian again. It is possible that if the two were to meet today that Marian would blank her. It would be perfectly justified. Andrea wishes she had an explanation for how writing a simple profile escalated into the cliché of a seedy affair. She wishes that she could regret her actions at that time, but she doesn't.
Across from her, Collin pulls himself up out of the pool and reaches for a towel. She watches him carefully. He has changed, she decides. He seems more relaxed now than he did six months ago. He was very agitated then, the slightest question putting him on edge. Frequently, she had contemplated asking him whether he was nervous about the cut backs at work or whether there was something else. She could ask him now. It would be easy and not out of place for her to remark upon his visibly calm state of mind.
She smiles at him from her place in the shade. "Good swim?"
He nods and rubs himself down with the towel.
Andrea goes back to her book.
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