A Backward GlanceChapter 15
I created a monster. Or opened the floodgates, or something.
We spent the rest of Friday and most of Saturday in bed. Sunday we got dressed and waited for Frank to come home. Mostly.
Frank walked in the back door just before suppertime. Ruby got up from the table where we'd had sex a few hours earlier, went over to her husband, and put her arms around his neck. "Hello, darling. We missed you." I watched her kiss him.
He dropped his briefcase and kissed her back. I had to look away. My heart was hammering in my chest. I knew before, in my mind, what we were doing to Frank, but now I felt it, inside. I watched him smiling, telling her about his trip, watched her smile back.
I was a bastard. A rat. A slug, a worm, a maggot. Only a couple times in my life, I think, that I felt lower than I did that day in the chiropractor's house when I was fifteen.
He smiled at me next. I thought maybe I was gonna puke. His smile disappeared.
"You're so pale," he said. "You're white as a sheet. Are you still not feeling well?"
Ruby, just behind him, hanging on to his arm, her chin on his shoulder, said, "Don't let him tell you he's fine. He spent most of the weekend in bed. I kept him company when he was awake, but he slept a lot. Poor boy."
What a two-faced bitch. Yeah, she mighta had guts, but mostly she didn't fuckin' care.
"Maybe we should call a doctor," Frank said.
I shook my head. "I'll be fine."
He put his hand on my forehead. "You don't seem to have a fever. Do you feel sick to your stomach?"
"Have you been eating?"
Yeah, I'd been eating. On Saturday, I showed Ruby a few things you could do with food that I learned from Marly, and then she wanted to do those things over and over. There wasn't any chocolate in the house, but most of those games work just as well with other things .except for the melting part .so yeah, I'd had fruit and cheese and chunks of cold cuts from Ruby's mouth, from her body but I couldn't really say that
"I've been making Wendell snacks, things that he can eat a little at a time, when he feels like it," she said.
Frank's forehead wrinkled up. "I think if you're not feeling better tomorrow morning, we should take you to see the doctor."
I shook my head. "No .I'll be fine."..
Secrets are hell. I think I was just starting to feel easy with Frank, a little, and now that was gone.
I wasn't very worried that he was gonna find out. As much as I wanted to believe that Frank wouldn't care if he knew, deep down I knew that he would; but there was no reason for him to ever know. We didn't have sex in Frank's bedroom. There weren't any signs; Ruby made me be careful not to put any marks on her body. Nobody knew except me and Ruby, and we weren't gonna tell. So it wasn't that.
It wasn't that I had to tell him lies, either, there was nothing that I had to remember to say or not say, not really. And there were other things I didn't tell Frank. So it wasn't the secret itself that was the problem. It was just knowing that I had one. A bad one. It was just knowing, myself, what I'd done...
Frank went out to the car to get his luggage.
Ruby hissed, "Don't you turn into a chicken shit now."
"I don't like this."
"Too bad." And Frank came back in the house with his suitcase.
Ruby hung on him the rest of the night. It made me sick to watch her. She whispered something in his ear once, and he glanced over at me before he said, "Uh, I think maybe we should wait until later."
I was sitting on my bed later, after we all went upstairs, when Ruby came in my room. I could hear the water running in the bathroom.
The front of her dress was open. She reached for my fly.
"What are you doing?" I said.
"We've got just a few minutes," she said. She had me outta there and ready to go before you could say Jack Robinson. You might think I wouldn't wanna have anything to do with her, not now that I knew what she was but I knew what she was before. It just didn't have anything to do with me then. Her character wasn't the part of her that made me hot, anyway. And after the weekend, she knew just exactly what would work the best.
"I can't do this," I said, and then realized how stupid that sounded; she had me in her hand, I obviously was gonna do it. "I can't keep doing this to Frank."
"Yes, you can. Don't get any stupid ideas." She pushed me back on the bed and climbed on top of me. "You're going to keep your mouth shut, and do what we both want, and we'll all get along fine."
We didn't talk then for a few minutes, not long. It was quick. The water was still running when she raised her head, and blew a stray strand of hair outta her face.
"Maybe I don't want to," I said.
"You're fooling yourself. Of course you want to." She smiled. "You're ready to go again, aren't you? God, I love teenagers." She kissed me. "You're not going to get stubborn. And you're not going to say anything to Frank, 'cause you know I was lying when I said he wouldn't care. He'd care a lot."
"Maybe I'll just leave."
She shook her head and nibbled on end of my nose. "No, Wendell, that would be stupid. 'Cause if you left, I'd have to tell Frank, and then the police, how you raped me."
"Now we understand each other. I can see in your eyes that you're afraid I'm going to own you for the rest of your life," she grinned, "but don't worry. I'll be bored with you in a couple of weeks. A couple of busy weeks, and then you'll be free." She tried to kiss me again, but I pushed her away.
She got up, and straightened her clothes. "You don't need to look at me like that. You started this, you know. You're the one who didn't want any more games." She frowned. "You're being silly. It's not like you don't like sex. It'll be fine. We'll enjoy ourselves for a while, and then we can both move on to something else."
She went out. I heard the water shut off down the hall.
Rape. She was gonna say I raped her. She'd say I did it, and I'd say I didn't, and who would they believe? And I'd end up in prison. This time, I really thought I was gonna puke.
I buttoned up my pants and went down the stairs and outside. The breeze cleared her perfume outta my nose, settled my stomach. I sat down in the grass by the back fence, and tried to think what to do..
When I was a kid, I used to curse myself for being so damn stupid. I used to think if I was smarter, things woulda been different, things wouldn'ta been so messed up. I thought smart people could make their lives go the way they wanted them to.
I remember thinking that if I'd been smarter, I coulda figured out what to do about my old man before he killed my mother, that I shoulda been able to see that coming, that I shoulda been able to do something.
When things went wrong, I thought it was because I was too goddamn stupid to make them go right.
Now that I'm older, now that I've got kids of my own, I've watched Charles do the same thing. I guess kids just do that. They always think there shoulda been something they coulda done, even though they're just little kids. Even though there's nothing they coulda done at all.
When I was fifteen, I thought the reason I was in the mess with Ruby was because I was too stupid to see what was happening, to stupid to understand what she was after, too stupid to know what I should do ....
At breakfast, I told Frank I felt lots better.
He said, "You still don't look so hot."
"I'm gonna be fine."
Ruby said, "I'll take good care of him today."
I don't know if I had a funny look on my face after she said that; but Frank looked from me to Ruby and back again. "I thought you two didn't get along."
"We worked that all out." Ruby poured me another glass of juice and put it by my plate. "Didn't we, Wendell?"
I looked down at my plate, I guess I waited a minute too long before I said, "Sure." I'm not a very good liar, even when I wanna be. And I didn't wanna be now.
I figure that's when Frank started to wonder what was up. When he was home, he didn't smile as much, he didn't talk as much, but he watched me and Ruby a lot. I don't think he had any idea what was going on, but I think he knew there was something.
Ruby was the loving wife when he was home. When he was gone, she was hell on wheels. Wouldn't leave me alone. I didn't like her, I hated her for a while, I think, but when she'd corner me, and kiss me, and touch me .I don't know, it was like my brain just turned off, you know? Like my dick took over. And my dick liked Ruby.I was disappointed I didn't get either of the jobs I applied for. I coulda used the money, and I woulda been at work when Frank was at work, not home with Ruby.
I started to look over my shoulder a lot. I never knew when or where Ruby'd want something. It was a helluva long week ..