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Authors: Randy Susan Meyers

Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Contemporary Women, #Family Life

The Comfort of Lies

BOOK: The Comfort of Lies
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“Happiness at someone else’s expense came at a price. Tia had imagined judgment from the first kiss that she and Nathan shared. All year, she’d waited to be punished for being in love, and in truth, she believed that whatever consequences came her way would be deserved.”

Five years ago
, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption.

Five years ago
, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she’s questioning whether she’s cut out for the role of wife and mother.

Five years ago
, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again, and she trusted him.

But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted.

Riveting and arresting,
The Comfort of Lies
explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.

Contents

Part 1: Before
Chapter 1: Tia
Chapter 2: Juliette
Chapter 3: Caroline
Part 2: After
Chapter 4: Tia
Chapter 5: Tia
Chapter 6: Juliette
Chapter 7: Juliette
Chapter 8: Caroline
Chapter 9: Caroline
Chapter 10: Tia
Chapter 11: Tia
Chapter 12: Juliette
Chapter 13: Juliette
Chapter 14: Caroline
Chapter 15: Caroline
Chapter 16: Tia
Chapter 17: Tia
Chapter 18: Juliette
Chapter 19: Juliette
Chapter 20: Caroline
Chapter 21: Caroline
Chapter 22: Tia
Chapter 23: Tia
Chapter 24: Juliette
Chapter 25: Nathan
Chapter 26: Caroline
Chapter 27: Tia
Chapter 28: Juliette
Chapter 29: Nathan
Chapter 30: Caroline
Chapter 31: Tia
Chapter 32: Juliette
Chapter 33: Caroline
Chapter 34: Tia
Chapter 35: Juliette
Chapter 36: Caroline
Chapter 37: Tia
Acknowledgments
About Randy Susan Meyers

For Jeff, always

It is better to be told a hurtful truth than to be told a comforting lie. In the end, the truth will make its way out and will hurt much more than it ever had to.

—Anonymous

Part 1

BEFORE

CHAPTER 1

Tia

Happiness at someone else’s expense came at a price. Tia had imagined judgment from the first kiss that she and Nathan shared. All year she’d waited to be punished for being in love, and in truth, she believed that whatever consequences came her way would be deserved.

She felt vaguely queasy from the late Sunday lunch she and Nathan had just shared. They'd ordered far too many courses; buttery appetizers, overdressed salad, and marbled meat roiled in her stomach. Black Forest cake had left her mouth pasty with sugar and chocolate. Each time Nathan patted his thickening middle with chagrin, she worried that she’d become Nathan’s accomplice in more than one sin.

Since childhood, she’d hated heavy food. Instead of sharing this lunch, she wished they could have waited until tomorrow to see each other, when they could sit on a blanket watching fireworks explode on the Esplanade and listening to the Boston Pops. The Fourth of July was a holiday without the burden of expectations; a perfect celebration for them.

Nathan squeezed her hand as they walked toward her apartment. His obvious pride delighted her. She was twenty-four, he was
thirty-seven, and this was the first time she’d been loved by a man of substance. Each time they met, she discovered new love-struck traits—details she’d never admit to anyone, like the way his hands seemed more like a cowboy’s than a professor’s. Qualities that might seem ordinary to someone who’d grown up with a father, Tia added to her list of Nathan lore.

Last week, he’d seemed like Superman when he came over carrying a toolbox, planning to install a showerhead that sprayed more than a weak stream. Attached to the handle was a card where he'd written, “This is for you to keep here.”

The words made Tia feel as though he’d use it again.

No present could have pleased her more.

Mostly, she found Nathan perfect. Muscled arms. A wide back. His sardonic New York edge, delivered with a crooked smile—worlds away from the street humor of the South Boston boys of her youth—cracked her up, while his innate competence wrapped her in a thick blanket of security. Nathan’s too-rare presence oxygenated her blood. When she ran her thumb up and down each of his fingers, the universe existed in that physical connection. Her life had shrunk to being with him.

She’d spent many hours crying during this year of Nathan. A man with a family couldn’t spare a whole lot of attention.

When they reached the two-family house where she lived, Nathan circled her from behind. She leaned back and caught his kiss on the side of her neck. He ran his hands down the length of her body. “I never tire of touching you,” he said.

“I hope that never changes.”

“People always change.” A look of discomfort crossed his face as he disengaged from her. “You deserve so much.”

Did he think she deserved having him with her always? Tia put the key in the door. She comforted herself with the thought that he believed her worthy.

The moment they entered her apartment, Tia raced to the bathroom; lately she always needed the bathroom. Afterward, she spent a long time drying her hands and straightening an out-of-place antique
perfume bottle he’d bought her. She was constantly rearranging things, trying to make the pink crystal fit in with her Ikea-ware and her mother’s castoffs. Tia’s apartment became a stage set when Nathan visited. She spent hours before he arrived seeing every book, decoration, and poster through his eyes.

 • • • 

Nathan offered her a glass of wine when she joined him in the living room. “Listen to this one,” he said. “I used an old Groucho line today—‘I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member’—to illustrate a point, and a student asked me who Groucho Marx was.”

Tia put out a refusing palm for the wine. “No thanks. I’m not in the mood.”

“It made me feel about a hundred years old. Now, tell me the absolute truth: You know who Groucho Marx was, right?” He pushed the glass toward her. “At least taste it. It’s probably the smoothest Merlot you’ll ever have.”

When she didn’t have wine at lunch, he hadn’t commented. “I’m in the mood for a Pepsi,” she’d said. Maybe he thought she was acting like a teenager and he found it cute. Sometimes it bothered her, the things he found cute.


You Bet Your Life
,” she said. “
Duck Soup. A Night at the Opera.”

“Thank you. My faith in young people is restored.”

“There aren’t that many years between us.” She hated when he dwelled on their age difference. “God knows I’m older than your students.”

“And sharper,” he said.

“That’s right—don’t forget.”

The moment she shared her news, their romance would change forever, not that it had ever had been sustainable as it was. From the first time they slept together and he’d blurted out, “I’m crazy about you,” she’d wanted more. First she’d wanted him in her bed all the time, and then she wanted the ring on his finger to be from her. When her need for him hit full throttle, she wanted the crease in his
pants to be put there by a dry cleaner she’d chosen, his shirt to smell of detergent she’d chosen.

Tia looked straight at him. “I’m pregnant.”

He stood with his hand still extended, the wine sloshing against the edge of the glass like a riptide.

Tia reached for the glass. “You’re going to drop it.” She put it next to his on the coffee table.

“So that’s why you didn’t drink with lunch,” he said.

He delivered the words slowly, so slowly it terrified Tia. Despite knowing how unlikely it was, she wanted to see a shy smile—a TV smile followed by a movie-style kiss. She put a hand over her still-flat belly, nausea welling again. She pushed away thoughts of Nathan’s wife. Much as she tried, Tia couldn’t stop thinking of Juliette—where she was, where she believed her husband had gone—but early on, he’d made it clear that topic was off-limits.

“How long have you known?” he asked.

“A few days. I wanted to tell you in person.”

He nodded, finished his wine, and then sat. He laced his fingers and leaned over until his arms rested on his legs. He glanced up at her, looking stern, like the professor he was. “You’re going to take care of it, right?”

Tia sank into the armchair across from the couch. “Take care of it?”

“Of course, take care of it.” He closed his eyes for one moment. When he opened them, he sat up straighter. “What else can we do? What else makes sense?”

“I can have it.” She wouldn’t cry. If nothing else good in this damned world happened tonight, she’d keep from crying.

“Alone? Like your mother?” Nathan ran his hand over his chin. “You of all people know what a hard road that is, right, sweetheart?”

“Where are you going to be? Are you planning to die? Disappear?” Behind her brave front, Tia shrank to walnut size. She knew where Nathan would be. He’d be in his beautiful house with Juliette. The wife. The wife she’d once spied on. The wife who looked like sun and sky, whose blonde shine had blinded Tia.

“I’ll pay for whatever you need to take care of . . . ”

“ ‘Take care of, take care of,’ ” Tia mimicked. “Take care of what?” She wanted to force him to say the word
abortion
.

“My sons are so young.”

Tia clutched the arm of the chair. She craved the forbidden wine.

“I can’t stretch between two families. Please. Look at what this means,” he begged.

Dry skin peeled from her cracked thumb as she wrung her hands. Already this pregnancy had changed her, somehow drying her out while also making her pee twice an hour.

Nathan came and put his arms around her. “Pregnancy makes women romanticize things. You think after seeing the baby, fatherly love will overwhelm me and I’ll change my mind. But I can’t. I’m not leaving my family. Wasn’t I always straight about that?”

Oh God. He was crying.

His family.

She’d thought she was having his family.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Finally she spoke. “I can’t do it, Nathan. What you’re asking—I can’t.”

Nathan drew away. “I’m sorry, but there’s no possible way we can be together, Tia. Please. Take care of this. It’s the best thing for both of us. Honestly.”

 • • • 

By her sixth month of pregnancy, discomfort had become Tia’s new normal. Once upon a time so skinny that people pressed milkshakes on her, now she lumbered. She stuck a cushion behind her as she sat on the couch, surrounded by begging letters, photos, and essays from couples hungry for her baby.

Tia had refused to “take care of this,” as Nathan wanted. St. Peter’s nuns and Tia’s mother had done too good a job. She couldn’t rid herself of the pregnancy for fear of being haunted into the afterlife, and she couldn’t find the courage to hold her child in this life, so here she was, six months pregnant, choosing a mother and father for her baby.

BOOK: The Comfort of Lies
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