From Marty Vee:
This is an excerpt from a novella I’m working on. I suggest starting at Day 1:
But just in case, here’s a recap:
Billie is quarantined with her least favorite person, Edgar, because she was serving him papers at his ex-wife’s request. Billie has been sleeping on a terribly uncomfortable sofa, but the night before Edgar took the sofa and let her sleep in his bed.
I wake up to sunlight burning golden through Edgar’s bedroom window. It’s really bright, it must be mid to late morning. I can hear him talking on the other side of the door, but not loud enough to understand what he’s saying. There’s another voice too. I assume he’s on the phone.
On sleep stiffened limbs I go into his bathroom to do the necessaries. My toothbrush is in the other bathroom but there’s mouthwash in the medicine cabinet. I don’t snoop through his things or anything but from what I can tell, there isn’t anything interesting in there.
I notice the manila folder I brought over in the trash by the toilet. Tossing the papers doesn’t make the problem go away, buddy. He still owes Sofia alimony. Apparently, he’s very behind.
I put my bra back on then my hoodie before exiting his room. I leave my tshirt atop his bed—which I made—I’ll grab it later when I get laundry going.
In the living room I see his blanket and pillow on the floor. Did he skip sleeping on the sofa all together; the hardwood floor was the preferable choice?
He hasn’t noticed me yet, he’s in the kitchen sharing a laugh with whoever is on the phone. I can see him leaning his hip against the counter taking a drink from a coffee mug with one hand and holding his phone with the other. Do I get my cup of coffee or wait for him to get off the phone? I can smell it. It’s kinda ruining my ability to think.
“You’re up,” he says to me. He sounds surprised.
“I am.” I answer.
“Oh!” I hear a mature woman’s voice from his phone. “So your mystery guest is a woman.” Then louder she calls, “Young lady, come meet me.”
“Mom,” he chastises, “it’s not like that. This was poor timing.” His attention shifts to me as I walk towards him. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Why wouldn’t I want to meet your mom?”
“So true, why wouldn’t she want to meet me?” I can see her face on the screen he’s holding. He got her coloring and eyes. They are beautiful. She is beautiful. If his skin ages as well as his mother’s has, he’ll be in good shape.
“Call me Daniela,” she interrupts me. Pointing to the screen her finger appearing large in the foreground perspective, she says, “I know you. You’re the reporter from his old network.”
I nod. “Billie Sanchez, pleasure to meet you, Daniela.” I’m giving her my hundred-watt smile. I like moms. But also, I can feel Edgar’s tension and I kinda love it. Is he concerned that I will get along with his mom or that I won’t?
“Ed, why are you being so secretive about having such a beautiful woman at your house?” She asks him.
“Because it’s not like that, I told you, it was poor timing.”
“Beautiful? Well, thank you.” Looking from the screen, I say to his profile, “Did you hear that, I’ve been upgraded from ‘not unattractive’?”
“What?” His mom asks.
“Nothing,” he answers dryly.
I grin back at his phone. “Inside joke.”
In the preview screen I can see him fighting a smile. “Mom, I’m going to hang up.”
“I’ve hardly spoken to her,” she admonishes.
“That’s fine. I love you. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Can I speak to Billie tomorrow?”
Heaving a heavy sigh, Daniela says to me, “Terrible timing or not, I’m glad you’re there. I would hate for Ed to be alone right now.”
Ugh. Moms never stop mom-ing. Fricken sweetheart. “He’s not terrible company.”
His dry response makes me turn my head to him. “Wow. High praise.”
My smile is still turned on to its full potential when he looks my way. He swallows and looks away quickly.
One of his mom’s eyebrows is raised when I look back to her.
I hardly have time to say a polite goodbye before he hits the red button and ends the call.
We don’t shift away from each other right away. His bicep is close to mine but not touching. I watch the toes on his right foot curl and release, curl and release. His nails are trim and clean. Feet aren’t my favorite body part on anyone but as far male feet they aren’t bad.
“So that was your mom,” I say taking a step towards the island. Leaning against it, I face him.
“What’s up with your dad?”
“He was in the other room, we talked before you came out.”
“You’re mom seems great.”
His eyes become hazy, like he’s thinking. “You two would get along.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You’re both no bullshit kind of women.”
My eyebrows lift. “I’ve never been so flattered to be compared to someone’s mom.”
He shrugs and walks away, his coffee mug in hand.
It’s been super quiet the last couple of days. My place isn’t very loud, it’s just me that lives there, but I usually turn on music or an audio book during the course of the day.
I have his laptop open on my lap. I’m trying to address an email from my producer asking me to put a little more effort into my appearance for my videos. I’m trying to think of a polite way to say, “Go fuck yourself.” I’ve seen how Edgar looks when he does his videos; his hair styled but otherwise casual. I’m already putting in more effort on my appearance than he is. Maybe his producers are just more laid back than mine. Seething anger is curling tight in my stomach.
Fucking double standards.
I need a distraction.
His music is on his desk top so I click it open. Right away I find a playlist called Dance! I’m going to have to know what this playlist consists of. What does Edgar dance to? And what does he look like when he dances? Because I’m still apprehensive to give him any credit for anything, I’d like him to be bad at it. But like looking good naked, I assume he’s a good dancer. I love to dance even though I’m not spectacular at it. Like, I have rhythm but I still kinda look funny. It’s fine, I still love it.
I’m reading through the song titles. They’re… surprising; like on brand surprising. I turn to watch how he reacts as I click on Scissor Sisters’ I Don’t Feel Like Dancing. He’s rounding the kitchen island, bowl in hand but when the music starts his step falters. His eyes meet mine.
“So, you’re going to have to explain something to me,” I say.
He sighs. “I bet.”
“Like,” I’ve been fighting back this question for a couple of days now but there’s no resisting it anymore, “Why do you own a Hufflepuff tshirt and Golden Girls puzzle?” Then gesturing to the computer on my lap I add, “Why is your Dance! Playlist full of Scissor Sisters and Spice Girls and Taylor Swift?”
“There’s some Daft Punk in there.”
“Yeah, that really saved your bacon.”
He snorts and gives me an apprehensive smile. “I have this friend, she and I became close a couple of years ago… We were both going through a divorce—not that that’s relevant but… whatever.”
Oh shit! I know about this friend; Kitty or something. Sofia was convinced that Edgar and this woman were sleeping together and she blamed their marriage ending on the infidelity. How had I forgotten that he’s a cheating asshole? Fucking prick.
“She thinks it’s funny to get me gifts that are ridiculous, but also something I might have admitted to liking at some point. It’s annoying but it is funny.” He sits at his end of the sofa, a bowl of cottage cheese and tomatoes in one hand and spoon in the other. He waves the spoon towards the computer. “She made the playlists.”
“Are you two a thing?”
He makes eye contact with me before answering, “No.”
But can I take his word for it?
“Were you ever?”
He squints in thought. “It got a little weird, but no.”
“It’s not what either of us wanted. It wasn’t us that made it weird…”
“What does that mean?”
He doesn’t look totally comfortable with the conversation. I should let him off the hook. I swear I was about to but then he answers me. “There were rumors spread that made things uncomfortable between us for a little while.” He looks down at the food in his hand.
Rumors? Does he mean that they were not having an affair while he was married to Sofia? “So you and Kitty were never an item?”
His head jerks up to look at me, his eyebrows drawn together.
Shit. He didn’t say her name in this conversation. I shouldn’t know it. Busted.
His brown eyes look sorrowful; an old wound reopened. My stomach sinks; not because I’ve been caught snooping but because I can see his pain. I can’t turn off my empathy, even for an adulterer.
“You’ve heard the rumors, then.”
We’re silent. Even Scissor Sisters stop singing. I hit the space bar before then next song can start its happy tune.
He surprises me when he says, “You know how someone accusing you of cheating is a warning sign that they’re the ones cheating?”
“Yeah…” I answer. I’ve been on the receiving end of that glaring indication.
“There’s a lot of truth to that.”
Was he claiming Sofia was the unfaithful one? I just can’t see it. She was so destroyed when their relationship ended. She ended up changing jobs because she couldn’t stand working where she once worked with him.
“I know you like her,” he started, “I get it; she’s charming, charismatic. She makes you feel like you know her. But some people are different than they seem.”
“So you’re saying she’s some master manipulator?”
“You could say that.”
I really cannot with this guy. “Was she just being manipulative when she was crying in the bathroom at work?”
He closes his eyes like I’ve slapped him.
“Or what about when she changed jobs because she was too upset to work where you two had worked together.”
He snorts! I cannot believe it? Seriously, what’s funny about that?
“That’s what she told you?” There’s an edge in his voice I haven’t heard before. “That’s fuckin’ rich.”
“Is it?” I match his venom with my own.
His eyes no longer look wounded, they look sharp capable of cutting. “Billie, she still lives in our old house. Why would it be too difficult to work with our old memories but not live with them?”
I don’t have a response. I didn’t know that. I don’t know what to make of that.
If what he’s saying is true, then it threatens my entire idea of Edgar. Much of my opinion of him is based on the knowledge I received from Sofia but if that isn’t true… I really don’t know what to make of this. I try to find evidence to support my opinion of him that I collected independently of her. But I don’t have a lot of material there. I’m usually pretty efficient at avoiding him.
“Why did you go for the Junior Reporter position if you knew you weren’t going to keep it?”
His eyes blink at my subject change.
He takes in a deep breath, seeming to consider my question. It shouldn’t be a difficult to answer. How full of shit is this guy?
“I wanted to stay but after I filed for divorce my work started getting fucked with.”
“What?! You’re lying—”
“I am not.” His voice is firm, deeper than usual.
“You’re saying Sofia sabotaged your work?”
“Yes, and more than that.”
He turned to face me, his leg bending on the cushion between us. “She did more than that. Before I got all of my stuff out of the house, she poured bleach on my clothes and took a saw to the supports of our old couch so that it broke in half when we were moving it.”
I feel my eyes widen, they might fall out of my head. I don’t want this to be true. “No way.”
“What do you think happened to the air mattress, then?”
“Nooo…” I say this mostly to myself like I’m realizing a plot twist in a movie.
“Yup. I haven’t used it since I moved it out of the house.”
“She sliced up your air mattress?”
“I’m more pissed about the couch and clothes, but if you’re hung up on the air mattress… she fucked with other shit too.”
“It’s just so petty.” I’m still not totally convinced but if I’m honest the man I’ve been living with for the last few days doesn’t resemble the man Sofia painted. He isn’t temperamental or mean or inconsiderate.
“But what about the papers she had me serve you the other day?”
He lifts his eyebrows and shakes his head. “Those weren’t papers.”
“You’re not behind on alimony?”
“I don’t pay alimony, I was going to have to but then she destroyed all my shit.”
“So what was in the envelope?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“I really do.”
He studies me as if he’s weighing if he can trust me. He doesn’t look sure about saying what he says next, “Pictures.”
“Her and some guy.”
My mouth drops open. “You’re lying.”
“They’re in the trash in my bathroom if you need proof.” It sounds like a challenge.
Do I need proof? I might. This is just too unreal for me to believe. I stand and go into his room.
The envelope is still in the trash. I open the flap and pull out the contents. To say the picture on top is explicit is a wild understatement.
“Oh Jesus,” I exclaim and close my eyes.
“Satisfied?” I hear him from the doorway.
Shoving the photos back into the envelope, I ask, “Why would she have me deliver these? Why not just email them to you?”
“I filed a restraining order. It’s been years of this shit.”
“Why not drop them off herself? I’m sure having me bring them is a violation of that order.”
He nodded. “I don’t know, but I think it’s because I would have to name you in the police report. I tried to file the report online, but it wants your name. I won’t pull you into our bullshit. That’s why she chose you.”
Chose me? Like me specifically? Like he’s protective me; that she knew he’d protect me. I don’t understand.
“File it. I don’t stand for this nonsense. You didn’t pull me into this, she did. She shouldn’t get away with it.” I hold the envelope out for him to take, like I did a few days before. “You can’t throw them away, they’re evidence.”
Edgar let me have his bed again tonight. It’s such a relief. Another good night sleep is more than I deserve, after today’s bombshell it’s even harder to understand his hospitality.
I’m still reeling from the realization that everything I thought about him was greatly skewed by a very untrustworthy person. I’m running through Edgar and my interactions; our jobs put us at the same events often. We see each other at press releases and news conferences. There are conventions that we both cover. There have been awards we were both nominated for, some I received some he did. There was, of course earlier this year—before award ceremonies were canceled—that he won Junior Reporter of the Year and he sent me a drink at the bar.
The gloating was grossly unnecessary.
I sent it back.
So not all of my opinions are based on Sofia’s stories.
I have a hard time changing my opinions once I make them. I trust myself. I’m not all wrong about him. I can’t be. I have to admit, if only to myself, I have been a terrible reporter on the subject of Edgar. Where was my due diligence?
His bedroom feels like a different place than it did yesterday or even a few hours ago. He feels like a different person. Someone I’m shaping with my own impressions. Am I so susceptible to someone else’s influence?
It’s more difficult to fall asleep tonight than it was last night.
From Marty Vee:
Thank you for reading! If you are enjoying the story, please share it with a friend. Here’s Day 6 if you’d like to continue: