Authors: Jessica Anya Blau
For my daughters, Madeline Tavis
and Ella Grossbach
Love is like a fever, which comes and goes quite independently of the will.
HE PROBLEM WASN'T SO MUCH THAT LEXIE HAD TAKEN THE KLONOPIN.
And it wasn't even that she had stolen them. At thirty generic pills for ten dollars, the theft of a handful (one down the gullet, the rest down her bra) had to be less than . . . seven bucks? The problem, as Lexie saw it, was that she had fallen asleep in the bed of the owner of the Klonopin. And the owner of the Klonopin was the wife of her lover.
“Miss James?” Jen Waite said. Her dyed hair was blonder than Lexie's and her pale face looked prettier than Lexie remembered from their single meeting at Parents' Weekendâbrow furrowed now, head tilted with concern.
Lexie looked down at herself. Her fitted red dress was scrunched up to her hips and she wasn't wearing underwear. A shadow of hair trailed from crotch to midthigh. Lexie tried to yank the dress down but her brain-hand-body coordination was off and she couldn't manage the required butt-lift.
“Miss James, do you know where you are?” Jen Waite said.
Lexie managed to sit up. Her eyes were wide open. She looked straight down at the tightly made bed (at thirty-three, she had yet to figure out how to make a bed this perfectly, this hotel- or military-like) and thought about the pill bottle. Yes, she remembered, she had put it back exactly where she had found it. Prescription label facing out, as it had been when she'd first spotted the drugs in the medicine cabinet.
“Miss James, are you okay?” Dear god, Daniel was in the room. And he was calling her
as if they hadn't spent an entire week together in this very house only last month. As if they hadn't spent two nights together every week for the past eight months. As if he had never whispered
I love you
into her ear, her neck, and the usually hairless and opalescent insides of her thighs.
No. Daniel was calling her
as if their only relationship were through Ethan, the beloved Waite son, who earlier in the year had been one of Lexie's student patients at The Ruxton Academy. Ethan's condition had been nothing serious, nothing even half-serious: college-application-related stress, an exceedingly ho-hum and common ailment at the elite boarding school.
“Ambien!” Lexie finally said. She had read stories of people taking the sleeping pill and then eating all the dairy out of their refrigerator or driving to their ex-wife's house and trying on her underwear.
“You need an Ambien?” Daniel was staring at her with a hard, distant look. There was no glint of recognition, no slyness of shared secrets, mixed fluids, merged scents. “You're missing a shoe.” He pointed at Lexie's bare right foot. On her left foot was the strappy
high-heeled sandal she had originally bought for her planned wedding. Of course, she had intended to wear both shoes to the blessed event.
“I haven't been sleeping lately and I took an Ambien tonight and I must have driven over here on itâ
!” Lexie tried to act as stunned as one might be if this had actually happened. “
. Can you believe it?!” She got off the bed and pulled down her dress. She brushed her hand across the bedspread as if fleas or crumbs had fallen off her. “Wow.”
“Wow,” Jen said. “That's crazy! Was the door unlocked?” Jen looked at Daniel as if to accuse him of once again forgetting to lock the front door.
“I guess it was unlocked. I don't even remember coming in!”
“Don't you live on campus?” Jen was openmouthed and wild-eyed. This would be a story for her next dinner party. Lexie hoped it would be the only story Jen told involving Lexie. Until earlier in the night, Lexie hadn't understood that she was
The one who may have broken up a twenty-year marriage by ruthlessly being the easy one in a man's life: never asking him to stop at the drugstore and pick up vitamin C, never demanding that he not chew his cereal so loudly, never insisting that he refrain from making sexist jokes in front of company. Always interested in sex.
“I do live on campus, but I have a friend who lives nearby on Scarborough Road, so I'm familiar with the area . . .” Lexie pointed toward the window as if Scarborough Road were right there, although she wasn't even sure if it was within thirty minutes of the Waite house. She had passed a street sign for Scarborough Road
during the drive over and remembered only because when she had read the sign, Simon and Garfunkel had started singing “Scarborough Fair” in some far away, echoey nook in her head
“Oh, who do you know on Scarborough?” Jen smiled. She seemed happy to know they might have a mutual friend.
“What a lucky coincidence that of all the houses around here, yours was the one where I landed!” Lexie rolled right over the question. The muck in her brain couldn't coalesce enough to come up with a name.
“I guess that is lucky,” Jen said.
“Well, I better get outta here.” Lexie looked back at the bed as if she had forgotten something.
“No! You have to stay tonight,” Jen said. “It's not safe to drive with that stuff in your system, and we have plenty of bedrooms.”
“Short half-life”âLexie waved her handâ“I'll be fine.” She knew she was far from reaching the half-life of anything.
“Oh, please stay. I'll blame myself if something happens to you on the road.” Jen extended a hand and placed it on Lexie's forearm. How odd to be touched by the wife of your lover. It was such a gentle touch, so natural. And yet Lexie hated itâit stirred up a soupy guilt for acts that had, in the past, felt wonderfully liberating.
“She'll be fine.” Daniel went to the bedroom door and stood there, stiffly, as if to escort Lexie out.
“I'm sorry,” Jen said. She shot her eyes toward Daniel to scold him for his rudeness.
“Oh, no, I'm sorry.” Lexie felt a sheen of shame growing on her flesh like a fish-skin coat.
“Should we look for your shoe?” Jen glanced around the room.
“My shoe?” Lexie looked down at her leather sack-like purse
that sat on the floor by the bed. The rubber edge of Jen's vibrator peeked out the top of Lexie's bag like a periscope. Lexie swooped down and hoisted the bag up onto her shoulder. She shook the bag a little, allowing the vibrator to burrow out of sight. “No, don't bother. I'm pretty sure I left it at my apartment.” Lexie forced a smile and then shrugged her shoulders as if this were a comical, weekend mishap. Something that might happen in a sitcom or a romcom starring a sitcom star.
For a few seconds, Lexie, Jen, and Daniel all stood motionless as if they were in a play and had each forgotten their blocking.
“Well, walk her to the car, at least, Danny!” Jen said at last.
Danny? Lexie had never heard that one before. “Thank you, Mr. Waite,” she said. The
felt foreign now, like a tin coin in Lexie's mouth, the edges beveled and sharp.
Daniel once told Lexie that the instant he met her, he craved her body with the hunger of a starving man in a Turkish prison. Lexie had been meaning to look up Turkish prisons ever since, to see if they actually starved people in them. Her sense of Turkey was that it was a pretty cosmopolitan place as long as you stayed on the European side. But like so much else the past few months, looking up Turkey was something she'd never gotten around to.