As Martha ponders her affair with Zach, she is reminded, once again, of the last days of her marriage…and what she had done to try to salvage it. Excerpted from Interior Designs.
Later that day, after most of our tasks had been checked off the list, I leaned back in my chair, closing my eyes and mulling over the thoughts that had been tumbling around in my head for most of the day. Ever since Zach’s call I’d been a bit off my game. I couldn’t concentrate: I kept remembering the last time we’d seen each other, and how everything had ended between us. It had just fizzled out. Nothing major had happened: no fights, no disagreements, and no drama. Just “the end.”
Had there been any hints in our last encounter, or had he just stopped calling with no warning?
Now that I recalled that part of it, I began to feel like I’d been unceremoniously dumped. I didn’t want to go there again, so why had I agreed to the lunch? Had I hoped that we would begin again? Or that he might somehow explain what had happened—or not happened—between us?
It had been several months ago, so my mind skipped back there, searching for clues.
Not really discovering anything that would explain it all, I thought that maybe I should call him and offer some excuse for why we couldn’t meet. Yes, that’s what I should do. I couldn’t even imagine opening myself up to him again, even though our “relationship” back then had always been understood as a “no strings” affair.
Perhaps that wasn’t possible for me, though. Maybe I was old-fashioned and always had this feeling that something more would develop, despite whatever label we’d placed on what was between us.
How had I turned into such an insecure creature? All through my marriage, at least until the very end, I’d believed that I could hold onto anyone I wanted. Despite all the evidence of Hal’s betrayals and continuing involvement with Amber, I’d kept coming up for air and striking out. Nobody was going to intimidate me or crush my world into smithereens.
Sometimes I felt awash with rage, while other times the guilt overwhelmed me. Looking back, I couldn’t believe that I’d used blackmail and all kinds of dirty tricks to keep my man. I’d been watching too many old movies, or maybe even reading too many love stories. The ones in which “love wins out in the end.”
Who believes that crap anymore? Not I, that’s for sure.
How far had I been willing to go to keep Hal in my life? And when Miranda was no longer useful—when she had turned on me, too, what had I done next?
A few months after my first meeting with Miranda, I’d called her again. From a pay phone, as usual, so there wouldn’t be any trace on any of my phone lines. Yes, she’d delivered the information I’d wanted, but it hadn’t been enough. Hal kept going to the beach house, while claiming to be on business trips; he hadn’t even been that careful in covering his tracks. Carl, the man who was in charge of the maintenance there, had succumbed to my charms when I asked him to keep track for me.
When Miranda answered the phone, I spoke quickly. “I need more dirt. You’ve told me about the underworld business clients, and you’ve told me Amber’s sordid history; none of that is working. You’ve got to give me more. Did Amber and Hal use drugs? Were they dealing?”
I listened as she confirmed my suspicions about the drug use; I reminded her that I needed hard evidence.
We agreed to meet downtown again. Miranda didn’t seem all that worried about being able to produce what I needed. So why did I feel so anxious?
A few days later, she appeared at our meeting with a file. She handed it over as soon as I came through the door. Then she turned on me and snarled: “That’s it. That’s all I have, and I’m done.”
Startled by her reaction, I just stared. I asked: “What’s wrong? Has something happened?”
She shook her head fiercely, but added: “Some of the drug dealers have been giving me a hard time. It’s like they are suspicious of me now. What have you said or done to make that happen?”
I denied stirring up notice from the dealers, of course, but I realized that my questions, and even some of the calls I’d made, could have elicited some kind of action on their part.
When I left that day, I kept glancing over my shoulder, wondering who was watching me.