Dirty Red

Page 27

He looked like he was about to cry, so I sat on the edge of his bed, seeing my opportunity to be of some use.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “I’m fine so long as you’re fine.”

He frowned. “I’m not fine.”

“Then, neither am I, but we’re in this together.”

Chapter Fifteen


I am in the living room, flipping through Vogue while Caleb cooks dinner. The baby is sleeping upstairs, and the television is on some grody news station, playing just loud enough so Caleb can hear it. I am thinking about changing the channel to put on America’s Next Top Model, when I hear her name. My head snaps up. Olivia Kaspen. Her picture is on the screen, as she stands surrounded by reporters. I grab for the remote, not to turn it up, but to change the channel before Caleb can see it.

“Don’t,” I hear from behind me. I squeeze my eyes shut. Shrugging, I increase the volume. The newscaster is female. I once read a statistic that said sixty percent of men tune out female newscasters. Unfortunately for me, Caleb is not one of those men. He edges closer to the TV, the knife still in his hand. His knuckles are white. My eyes trace up his arm and rest on his face. From his nose down, his features are marble. Everything above that is registering emotion on a nuclear level. His eyebrows are drawn and his eyes look like a loaded gun ready to go off at any moment. I transfer my gaze to the television, afraid that if I keep watching him, I’ll start crying.

“The trial for Dobson Scott Orchard will begin next week. His attorney, Olivia Kaspen, who up until this point has been mum about her client, recently made a statement, saying she took the case after the accused kidnapper and serial ra**st contacted her directly, asking her to represent him. It is highly speculated that Olivia, who received her undergraduate degree from the same college as one of his victims, will be issuing a plea of “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.”

The show switches to a commercial. I flop back against the couch. The picture they had shown of Olivia was grainy. The only thing really visible was her hair, which was much longer than it had been through my trial. I slowly pivot my neck around until I can see Caleb’s face. He is standing motionless behind me, his eyes slightly narrowed and glued to the toilet paper commercial, like he’s suspicious of their three-ply guarantee.

“Caleb?” I say. My voice catches, and I clear my throat. Tears sting at my eyes, and I have to use all of my willpower to keep them from spilling onto my cheeks. Caleb is looking at me, but he is not seeing me. I want to throw up. How fragile is my marriage, if all he has to do is look at her and I cease to exist? I turn off the television and abruptly stand up, sending the contents of my lap crashing to the floor. I grab for my purse, feeling for where I stashed my cigarettes the night I went to Mother Gothel with Sam. I pull them out, not caring if he sees … wanting him to see.

“Are you serious?”

His voice is calm, but I can see the unbridled anger in his eyes.

“You don’t own me,” I say casually, but my hand is shaking as I lift my lighter. It is such a lie. Caleb has owned every one of my thoughts and actions for the last five years. Why? Was I always such a sellout to love? I think back to my other relationships as I take a drag. No, in every relationship that came before Caleb — I had the power. I blow my smoke in his direction, but he’s gone. I stub out the cigarette. Why did I feel the need to do that? God.

I don’t go to bed. I sit on the couch all night, drinking rum straight from the bottle. Self-reflection is not something I excel in. I think of myself as being perfectly photoshopped. If I started scraping at the layers of what I’m suppressing — what I’ve put a pretty picture over — things would start looking pretty ugly. I do not like to think about who I really am, but the loneliness and alcohol are loosening my restraints. I call Sam to distract myself. When he picks up, I can hear music in the background.

“Hold on,” He says.

He comes back on a few seconds later.

“Is Estella okay?”

“Yes,” I say annoyed. I can hear his sigh of relief.

“I am not a good mother,” I announce to him. “I’m probably worse than my own self-absorbed, critical, gin and tonic drinking mother.”

“Leah, are you drinking?”


I set the bottle of rum aside. It misses the table and crashes to the floor. Good thing it was empty. I flinch.

“You better have pumped before you did that,” he snaps.

I start crying. I did. Everyone is so judgmental.

He hears me sniffling and sighs. “You’re a pretty bad mother, yes. But, you don’t have to be.”

“Also, Caleb still has strong feelings for Olivia.”

“Can you just not focus on Caleb for once? You’re obsessed. Let’s talk about Estella-“

I cut him off. “I think I’ve always known this, but I’m not sure. I can pull dozens of memories from some private storage room in my brain that only alcohol has the key to unlock. Most of the memories are of looks — the ones he gives her and not me.” I bite my kneecap and rock back and forth.

“You know what, I have to go,” Sam says. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hangs up. I toss my phone aside. Fuck Sam.

When Caleb looks at her, his eyes shift into a different gear. It’s like he’s seeing the only thing that matters. I am sickly familiar with the way he looks at Olivia, because it is the way I look at him. When I stand up, the room swings. I am so drunk I can barely understand my own thoughts. I stumble upstairs and into my closet. I pull down bags and suitcases until I am surrounded by L’s and V’s and the subtle rich smell of leather. I’m going to leave him. I don’t deserve this. It’s just like Cammie said. I’m being half loved. I stuff a few handfuls of clothes into a bag and then collapse on the floor. Who am I kidding? I’ll never leave him. If I leave him, she wins.

I wake up with my face pressed to the floor. I groan and roll onto my back trying to fit the pieces of last night together. I feel worse than the day I gave birth. I wipe the drool from my face and stare around at the mess. Suitcases and duffel bags are littered around me like my closet rained them. Was I trying to reach something when I knocked these down? I have the violent urge to vomit, and I hurl myself towards the toilet, making it just in time to empty my stomach into the bowl. I am gasping for air when Caleb strolls in, smelling clean and fresh. He is dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, which is odd since he works today. He ignores me as he slips his watch over his hand and checks the time.

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