Authors: Nikki McWatters
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
Did I feel sorry for him for what those girls had done? Filming him? Using his body as a sex aid or toy of humiliation? No, not really. He’d done the same to them. They were just kids. He was the irresponsible thirty-one year old man. If you get involved in some sick three way sex party with girls and fall asleep and they keep going…well, I don’t know that you can or should call it rape. Oh, I know. If the genders were reversed and it was a drunk woman and two teenage boys….yeah, I know and if you are to be strictly into equal rights, then Chris’s prosecution team are doing the right thing. To be honest, I wanted to see that girl get locked up. I wanted her to disappear.
But the law isn’t black and white. There is so much grey. The age of consent is sixteen years, right? But there is a grey area. If two consenting fifteen year olds have sex it is highly unlikely that they will be charged. Police use discretion in such cases. It was tricky.
The truth is that women have been subject to rape and sexual humiliation and discrimination for as long as humans have walked the planet. Sometimes, somewhere, a matriarchal society will flourish for a while, but the truth is until very, very recently, we were slaves, second-rate citizens and we ‘belonged’ to our menfolk. Old habits die hard and we live with the hangover of centuries of abuse. So I don’t think these matters can be judged on the same set of principles. Women should be afforded a greater consideration, taking the historical and social systemic culture of rape and abuse into context.
It was just like that goddamn assault complaint that we were facing alongside Olive for her attack on that horrible girl, Taylor Mersky. I couldn’t even begin to think how that would turn out. Chris said that if they charged her, he was one hundred percent sure, Olive would get off with a warning and an undertaking to get more counselling. The Mersky girl is a bully and while I don’t condone Olive’s retaliation, I knew it was born of great hatred and pain and frustration. Chris didn’t think the cops would go so far as to actually charge Olive, just give her a good talking to.
I could feel the fingers of post-natal depression massaging my brain, kneading it into a mush of emptiness and fear. It happened when I was alone in the house, when everything was silent. The doctor was very vigilant and asked me to call at the first sign of depression after reading about the history of post-partum depression in my medical file. I was staying stoic, scoffing lots of Fish Oil tablets and trying to fit in some yoga and meditation. I did not want medication. My one experience of that had been far more terrifying than the depression itself. The doctor explained that I’d been put on something that just didn’t work for me and should have explored some other meds.
But I was doing well, I thought, to be doing as well as I was, all things considered.
I took the old flowers out of brown water they were soaking in and wrinkled my nose at the stench of rotting stems. We’d been lousy with flowers ever since Harry was born. They just kept coming. Many of them were from readers who sent me messages of comfort during what ‘must be a difficult time’. They weren’t wrong about that. But I was forever clearing away dying, drooping, dripping sludgy flowers.
I hadn’t written a word for weeks and wandered around in a distracted and soup-like ennui, unable to concentrate on anything other than my own misery.
I was just stacking the dishwasher, when I heard the Aston Martin crunch up the drive-way. My belly flooded with relief and I smiled to myself. We were getting back to normal. I was a wife and mother, pottering about the house, getting a surge of adrenalin when her man got home safely. Of course I still loved Chris. I was just profoundly disappointed that he’d done something I didn’t think he was capable of.
I didn’t hear the garage door and looked out over the sink to see the glow from the headlights evaporate into darkness. He’d decided to leave the car out. That was unusual when he took the Aston, but I figured he’d been with his legal team late and had just been in a hurry to get inside and share his big news.
I decided to pretend that I hadn’t heard, so that he could think he was the first to share his good news. I washed my hands and dried them on the tea-towel.
The front door slammed with an explosive thud and I jumped and winced, thinking of the baby.
I heard the keys land on the hall stand and went out to greet him.
Straight away I could see he’d been drinking.
‘Chris? Did you just drive the Aston? After drinking?’
He looked like a wild man. His hair was a mess and the neat business shirt and tie he’d worn to the courthouse were now a dishevelled mess about his body. Shirt untucked, tie poking out of his pocket and the jacket was on the floor where he’d dropped it in the foyer.
‘I’m not staying,’ he mumbled, walking past me with a slight wobble. ‘Just getting some things.’
‘Stop!’ I yelled and turned, following him. ‘What are you saying? What are you doing? And why in God’s name are you drink-driving? What’s going on? I know it’s going to trial. I saw the news.’
‘Who are you?’ he said turning around and growling at me.
There was such anger and something else in his eyes, something I had never seen before, and for a second it looked like hatred. I stopped, feeling like his eyes had hit me hard in the solar plexus.
‘I’m your wife? What sort of question is that?’
‘You are not Megan. Where’s Megan?’ he said, his voice, shaking. ‘Does Megan even exist?’
‘Stop it, Chris,’ I demanded. ‘You’re frightening me. The kids are asleep.’
I reached out for his hand.
‘Come and sit on the couch and talk to me,’ I said, starting to really panic that something huge had happened.
Chris’s mother had not been coping well with the media attention and had been in and out of hospital with chest pains. My first fear was that something terrible had happened to her. But as I saw the broken, raw heart-break in Chris’s eyes when he looked at me, into me, I began to understand. I’d been in denial, blocking the possibility of that ancient sin creeping into the light. But it was delusional of me. It was bound to rear its monstrous head.
Chris and I sat on the couch next to one another, turned inwards, to face each other. I held his hand but he pulled away and looked down at my hand.
‘That little delicate hand of yours, Megan,’ he whispered sharply. ‘I’ve held your hand since we were kids and walked beside you.’
‘I love you, Chris,’ I said pre-emptively. ‘I do love you. So much.’
And I hung my head and began to cry.
who that girl was!’ he shouted, making me jump.
Chris never shouted and it felt like a verbal assault on my body. Like a blast of hot explosive anger.
who her father was. You knew him so bloody well because you’d been
him while I was at home, so proud of you, so in love with you…’
And Chris began to weep in big waves of wet guttural sobs. His heart had broken and I’d done that to him. I tried to hold him, tears streaming down my cheeks but he pushed me away.
‘This is too big, Meg,’ he said haltingly, through hacking noises. ‘All through this horrible ordeal, you’ve known and you’ve let me suffer and bear all this guilt and shame and self-loathing. I wanted to kill myself! And all the while you were the same, only you never said. It would have been the perfect time for a
! Staying silent was….that was evil. That was just truly evil.’
‘I know. I know.’ I blabbered. ‘I should have…as soon as I recognised the name. Chris honey, it was just before that first hearing. I’d just had Harry. I was hormonal and in shock and ashamed and afraid. I didn’t want you to hate me,’ I cried, my heart hurting in my chest, my throat tightening around my pointless, empty words. ‘When I found out you’d been with those teenage girls and I was so big and fat and ugly and old, I thought you mustn’t love me anymore, that you didn’t find me attractive anymore and I……’ I hung my head, letting my hair fall into my wet face. ‘…and I couldn’t risk telling you about my horrible secret because you might despise me even more…’
We both sobbed, alone, separate, self contained, two units on the couch, in abject agony.
‘Don’t you see?’ Chris said, looking up at me, wiping his snotty face with his sleeve. ‘That would have saved us. If you’d told me while I was pouring out my confession to you, I could have born it more and so could you. We could have helped and forgiven and shared and been sorry and just merged our remorse and our guilt and cancelled them out…cancelled them out with each other’s horribleness…’
I nodded. I knew he was right. I knew that would have been the right thing to do. But I was weak. It was my weakness that had gotten me entangled with Tom O’Neil in the first place and it was my weakness that was killing us both, right there, in those shattered moments on our new couch in the big, gulping, gaping Cathedral-ceilinged living room.
When Chris had fallen from grace and been human and tripped over some terrible temptation, I had tried to absolve my own shame by pointing the finger and focusing on his unimaginable crime, knowing that nothing in his trusting, loving head could have imagined that I was just as guilty, if not more so, because I had not been drug-addled and I had been with Tom three times. I had not been caught and had not been forced to confess and if this damn business had not cropped up and split the secret wide open, I probably would have taken it to the grave with me.
‘I love you, Chris and I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ I moaned and rocked into my knees, head down.
‘Why?’ he finally said, sniffing back a great wad of mucous. ‘Why? We were so young, so in love, so happy?’
I shook my head. How could I explain it? There was no justification. There were no excuses.
‘It was after Olive. I was ….well….you remember, I was very depressed and lost. I was nineteen and away from my family.’
‘And this time I was thirty-one and away from my family and depressed and lost but it doesn’t excuse what I did!’ Chris said in a low, hard voice. ‘Nothing excuses what you did either!’
‘He was older and kind of father-like but not….like that…just someone I saw as strong and important who could …I don’t know!’
‘That’s a bullshit excuse! How could you do that to me? Go out, leave the baby and do that while we sat at home, just counting the minutes until you returned so we could bask in your loveliness…’
Chris had silent tears cascading over his reddened cheeks. I reached out to touch them. He flinched but let me continue.
‘I was young, you’d proposed and we were planning to get married. We had this baby and I was a kid and we’d committed to this big life together,’ I spoke, licking my own tears out of the corners of my mouth. ‘I’d never known another man. Another boy. There’d only ever been you and I was reading Mr Darcy at Uni and Lady Chatterley’s Lover and I was wondering if I was missing out on some glorious adventure. I was scared.’
‘But we were having a glorious adventure. And wasn’t it a glorious one?’ he said, staring deeply into my eyes, searching, questioning.
‘Maybe because my Dad died and I didn’t know him, I was …he was filling those shoes. But it was nothing…in the grand scheme of things it was a stumble, that’s all.’
We looked at one another. Both of our faces swollen with the physical manifestation of the emotions we were feeling. They were leaking out all over the place.
I leaned forward and kissed him. He let me and shut his eyes and after a few moments, he responded. We kissed and it became hungry. Wild. As if we were trying to devour each other.
It had been nearly ten months since we’d made love.
The doctor had ordered me off sex for the pregnancy and Harry was nearly two months old and neither of us had made a move to break through the ice to go back there. But I found myself wanting him desperately. To hold me. To be inside of me. For us to be together again.
‘I’m sorry for what I did. I was a jerk and I promise it never happened before and it will never happen again,’ he said into my hair, hot, breathy. ‘On my children’s lives, I will never hurt you like that again. I will never hurt myself and all those other people like that again.’
‘Chris?’ I said pulling his face back, my hands on his slightly bristly cheeks. His blue eyes were a little bloodshot but still windows into the soul that was my soul-mate. ‘You are a wonderful man and I was so wrong to judge you so harshly when I had understood and been tripped up by temptation myself,’ I whispered, never letting my eyes leave his. ‘I think that I had carried so much shame for what I had done that I was greedy and kind of gleeful to shove it on to someone else for a while. I directed my inner hatred outside for a while but I was wrong.’
‘Are we fixable?’ he asked sadly, completely crestfallen, a bubble of snot bursting from one nostril. ‘I always thought we were cast iron strong, Meg.’
‘I thought we were unbreakable too,’ I sobbed. ‘But I’m fragile you know? I
breakable and even though I’d done what I’d done, I still hurt so bad with what you did with those girls. It was just so ….so stupid.’
‘The idea of you with another man,’ Chris blubbered. ‘…..with that man. It made me physically ill. I threw up. The car stinks. Thinking about his hands on your soft skin…’
Chris buried his head in his hands and bawled like a child. I mewled beside him and we sounded like a chorus of cicadas.
‘We’re not unbreakable,’ I said softly as I regained some composure. ‘But I think we’re fixable. Can you forgive me?’
Chris looked at me and I could see the pain in his eyes. It was like looking in a mirror.
‘I don’t know,’ he said softly. ‘For all these years. For years and years. I now feel like you lied to me everyday almost of our whole life together.’
‘I just let it go. It kind of dissolved from my timeline you know?’ I tried to explain. ‘If I’d told you it would have hurt you. It was over. It was nothing and I didn’t want to ruin what we had.’
It seemed incredible that I was here defending myself against the same thorn that had been in my side since I found out about Chris and the blonde girl.