From Marty Vee:
This is a RomCom novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:
But I’ll recap anyway:
Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed. On Day 10 she asked the National Guard if she could grab provisions from her house and come back to Edgar’s. Then a video was circulated on Day 12 that confirms she is at Edgar’s house and his ex-wife turns the narrative very negatively against them on social-media. On Day 13, Billie asked Edgar to go to her home with her and he decided not to. So sad.
I hope you enjoy it!
It’s been almost twenty-four hours without Edgar. I wonder if you can go through with-drawls for a person. It would explain the physical ache in my chest and the way my skin feels empty. I have Amy Winehouse playing very loudly—I’ve skipped Valerie twice already, it’s too upbeat. The playlist ends and I start it over. There’s something about her heartbreaking self-destruction that appeals to my mood.
I keep catching myself staring into nothing, my brain lingering on moments with Edgar. There’s no way to change the past couple of days, so I wish I would stop looking for the places I went wrong. I need to stop thinking about what would have been correct.
It’s too much to hope that he’s still watching my videos. But I hope he sees the one that posted this morning. I could kiss Val for making that happen so quickly. I wouldn’t because there’s a pandemic and, even though I want to be friendly with her, I don’t want to be that friendly. But I appreciate her.
I was nervous when I sent the file, but her response was positive.
Libby and my mom both texted me to say they were proud. My dad actually called me to tell me that I had giant balls. “I don’t know how you walk with those big ol’ nuts.”
Deadpan, I answered, “Thanks, Dad. That was very weird.”
When Sofia called, I got to put my giant balls to the test. After a fortifying breath, and ensuring the phone call was being recorded, I answered, “Hello.”
“Yeah, Hello.” The disdain in her voice matched mine.
“I don’t want to talk to you—”
“Should’ve been a slut with someone else’s husband, then.” She interrupted me as I was saying, “and I’m recording this conversation.”
“Ex-husband.” I corrected.
“Why would you do this to me? I trusted you!”
“I didn’t do anything to you. You told me a lie and I acted out of ignorance.”
“You’re little innocent act isn’t going to work. I see who you really are.”
“Who am I?”
An almost animal-like roar came through the line. “You’re a lying bitch! If you get anywhere near Edgar I’ll beat the shit out of you! Your whore mother won’t recognize you.”
It took a few seconds to process that this was a person I once considered a friend. Not a close friend, but a friend. All of her aggression was kept under a carefully orchestrated veil and now that it had been lifted I could look into the pit. It was dark and filled with dangerous creatures. Am I that terrible a judge of character? I hurt for Edgar all over again. How could he trust his own judgment after this woman?
I shook my head, I would not let her provoke me. This wasn’t a conversation, this was an attack. I considered the best way to show my strength. “Okay, do not call me again.”
“That’s all you have to say to me?!”
“You know what, no. I never want anything to do with you again. But if being with Edgar means never being rid of you, I’ll take him. He’s worth it. I want him more than I never want to see you. I know you won’t listen, but don’t contact me again—”
“I don’t know why you think you can take him from me!” Her voice raised in volume and octave. I ripped the phone away from my ear.
“I’m hanging up.” I didn’t wait for her response before ending the phone call. I double-checked that the phone call recorded correctly and saved it to my computer. She continued calling. One missed call after another. Then she filled my voicemail. I saved all of those to my computer too. The text messages came next.
I turned my phone off.
I started researching restraining orders. It obviously hasn’t been perfectly successful for Edgar, but I need to do something.
Sofia is just one of the reasons I’m avoiding social media.
I’m also not ready to see if everyone is still railing against me or has changed perspectives. I don’t blame them. I’ve been just as guilty of flash outrage and believing lies. But I feel betrayed and I can’t forgive yet.
The opening beat of Back to Black begins tapping out of my speakers and the darkness surrounding my heart grows heavier; more oppressive. I hit the space bar on my keyboard to silence the song. But the weight is still there.
I remind myself that I have people who love me and even though I feel alone, I’m not. But good God, I feel alone.
My eyes and nose sting.
I take a deep breath and pull up the video I filmed last night, hoping it’ll redirect my thoughts. It’s a high-risk move, it will either work or send me spiraling. I stare at my makeup-less face on the screen. The redness of my eyes and my swollen skin. It’s not flattering but seeing it makes me feel strong. I look determined. I look like someone who can handle a dangerously volatile ex-wife. I hit the triangle hovering over my face and it begins playing.
“Hello, I’m Billie Sanchez and I have become the subject of vehement dislike on the Internet. Which under normal circumstances would be difficult but as that is the only form of socialization right now… it feels a little worse.
“I’m a local public figure and this is not my first time being blasted publicly. I’ve had my qualifications for my job called under question. I’ve been called terrible names because I don’t smile as much as people want me to. I’ve had my appearance ripped to shreds. But this is the first time that my personal life has taken the spotlight.
“I am not proud of the way I acted. I betrayed trust and let someone I’d like to remain close to down.”
On screen, I swallow and I remember it was because my throat was tightening but there’s no evidence of that on film.
“It’s not enough but to that person I’d like to make a public apology.”
In the recording, I stand straighter and square my shoulders. “Edgar, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I let someone else tell me who you were before I didn’t get to know you for myself. I repeated lies said about you and I’m embarrassed that I let them shape my opinions. I’m sorry I would have given into a bully instead of standing up for myself and you. You deserve to be treated better than that.
“I want to be the kind of person who isn’t afraid of doing the right thing, even if that means admitting when I’m wrong. I hope you can forgive me.”
My expression hardens. “As for the accusations towards me, that I’m duplicitous and fake. I would like to ask everyone making that assumption to take the time to get to know me. Consider, that sometimes information comes from an unreliable source. To the people who do know me, make up your mind for yourself. I can tell you from first-hand experience, making amends after the fact is not a comfortable position to be in.
“Lastly, I would like to address the claims that I broke up a marriage, but that statement is so wildly false I can’t even begin to point out its flaws and I wouldn’t want to air business that isn’t mine. So, unfortunately, I need to accept that I can’t correct this without sharing confidences. You’ll just have to take my word for it or the word of someone else. I’m powerless to your decision.”
“But,” I angled the phone so that it included the screen of my computer which is filled with screen-shots of text messages from Sofia. I had to blackout her name, but most of them are the corresponding texts she had already shared. Only this time without her side of the conversation retracted. On the mild side she says things like, “I can’t believe I married him. Worst. Decision. Ever.” She calls him names and then the texts turn nasty towards me.
I finish the thought I’d started before displaying the conversation, “this is an attack on my character and I won’t take it lying down.”
After a bland sign-off, the video ends.
Watching it, I wish I had put my apology to Edgar at the end. He’s the audience I really want to reach but it’s done now. Once again, I should have thought before I acted.
I’m not sure how long I stare into space, my thoughts untethered balloons floating away from me.
My heart skips a beat or two at the three chimes of my doorbell. My first thought is Sofia. She must have sneaked through the city and is in a deranged fit on my front porch. Then I remember how she enlisted me to pull off her scheme and my imagination conjures up a large angry man.
I’m not answering that door.
But how would Sofia know I’m home? She must think that I’m still at Edgar’s… I never did confirm that.
There are three soft taps on the door and a voice calls through, “Billie, it’s me.”
My jaw is somewhere on the carpeted floor between my feet.
Then he says, “Please open the door.”
My senses have become unreliable sources. “Edgar?”
Billie,” my name is almost a sigh. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah!” I cry. I climb over the back of the sofa instead of walking around it; too eager to see him than be embarrassed. I flip the deadbolt and the lock and swing the door open.
There he is. Right there.
A late Spring sunset casts golden light off of his black hair. He’s wearing jeans and a dark gray jacket unzipped over a white tshirt. His knuckles are white around the handle of a large suitcase. There’s relief in his expression but also uncertainty.
“What are you doing here? How are you here?” My mouth hangs open, loving the sight of him and not believing it.
“I’m sorry. I should’ve left with you yesterday. As soon as you pulled out of the driveway—” he ran his hand through his hair.
I can almost feel it between my fingers.
“I realized I’m an idiot.”
A slow smile grows on my lips and I watch one grow on his as he continues, “I called Sergeant Brown from the number in my phone and left a message with his assistant—is that what you call ‘em? I don’t know the army term for it. And when he called me back I… begged. Just groveled to let me come to you.”
I sigh a breathy laugh, hanging on every single one word. I may still be in shock at the actual sight of him.
“I even convinced him to watch your post from this morning.” He shrugs. “The Sergeant is a self-proclaimed romantic and gave me clearance.”
“I can’t believe this.”
We just stand there staring at each other like giddy fools.
“I can’t go back home, so…” He shrugs one shoulder.
I have a tent you can put up in the backyard.”
We go back to smiling at each other, breathing the same air. Existing in the same spot.
After a couple of breaths he says, “I really want to hold you, but I should wash my hands.”
I giggle, “Yeah.” I step back to let him in. He hefts the large suitcase with him. “So, like, three-quarters of that thing is food, isn’t it?”
“Only half, I used some restraint.”
We both laugh like it’s the funniest thing we’ve ever heard. Our joy making everything brighter.
He turns on the kitchen sink and lathers his hands with soap.
“So, how’d you get my address?” I ask trying to engage my mind in more than watching his skin rubbing against his skin.
The look he gives me through his eyelashes is so adorably bashful, it might actually stop my heart. “I got a pencil and shadowed the next post-it in the pad.”
“Like Nancy Drew?”
“I guess so.” He dries his hands on the towel hanging under the sink.
Turning, he faces me. I’m leaning one hip against the adjacent counter. He looks so good in my kitchen.
My face is lit up to its full wattage. I don’t even try to tone it down.
His fingers trail my jaw and his thumbs trace my lips. I grip his wrists and stare up into his large brown eyes. He presses his forehead to mine. My eyes close, I want to capture time.
I would extend this moment and spend the rest of my life in it.
I’m so busy trying to memorize the feel of him—warm and solid and here—that when he whispers, my eyes startle open.
“You said that if you were going to keep fucking up you wanted it to be because you’re brave.” His chest rises with a breath. “I want to be brave like you.”
Somehow, my smile grows. Any bigger and it won’t fit on my face.
“I love you too.” I watch him speak the words, as well as hear them.
That’s it. The last I can take before wrapping my arms around his neck and pressing my mouth to his.
From Marty Vee:
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