Dirty Red

Page 38

I eye the stacks of books piled everywhere. I don’t really know when he finds the time to read. When he is home with us, he is cooking and interacting. Despite the fact that there is always a book lying around the house, I’ve never actually seen him read. Once, I’d been tidying up, putting the books that he scattered around the house back in his office, when his bookmark had fallen from one of the novels I was carrying. Bending to retrieve it from the floor, I’d found what looked like a penny — or at least it used to be a penny. Now, it had a message about kissing stamped on it. It was an odd shape too, bent slightly and elongated. I’d stuck it back in his book and the next time I was out, I’d picked him up a real bookmark. It was leather, imported from Italy. I paid fifty dollars to the salesman, thinking Caleb was going to be so impressed at my thoughtfulness. When I’d presented it to him that night at dinner, he’d smiled politely and thanked me, showing none of the enthusiasm I’d expected.

“I just thought you needed one. You use that weird penny, and it keeps falling out — “

His eyes had immediately snapped to my face. “Where is it? You didn’t throw it away, did you?” I’d blinked at him, confused.

“No, it’s in your office.” I couldn’t hide the hurt from my voice. His eyes had softened, and he’d come around the table to kiss my cheek.

“Thank you, Leah. It was a good idea — really. I needed something better to use to remind me of my place.”

“Your place?”

“In the book.” He’d smiled.

I’d never seen the penny again, but I had the feeling he’d stowed it somewhere for safekeeping. Caleb was strangely sentimental.

Pushing aside a pile of books on the floor, I go to his drawers first and begin pulling out papers. Bills, work crap — nothing important. The filing cabinet was next. I browse through each file folder, reading them out loud.

“College, Contractors, Deeds to houses, Discover Card…”

I flip back to Deeds to houses. We only had one house, aside from Caleb’s condo, which he insisted on keeping. There were three. The first address was for our house, the second for his condo, and the third…

I sit down as my eyes rove over each word … each name. I feel like I am trying to dig through glass. My brain is at a disconnect with my eyes. I force myself to read. By the time I am done, my eyes can no longer focus on anything. I lay my head on his desk, the papers still clutched in my hand. I’m having trouble breathing. I start to cry, but not self-pitying tears: tears of anger. I cannot believe he did this to me. I cannot.

I stand up so filled with rage. I am ready to do something reckless. I pick up the phone to call him — to scream at him. I hang up before I dial. I double over, clutching my stomach and a moan rumbles from my lips. How can this hurt so much? There have been worse things done to me. I hurt. I hurt so much. I want someone to cut my heart out just so I don’t have to feel this. He promised he would never hurt me. He promised to take care of me.

I knew he never loved me like he loved her, but I wanted him anyway. I knew his love for me was conditional, but I wanted him anyway. I knew I was second choice, but I wanted him anyway. But, this was too much. Stumbling from his office and into the foyer, I look around my mansion, my beautiful little world. Had I created this to cover up the stench of my life? A filigree egg sits on a table near the door. It's an antique that Caleb bought for me on a trip we took to Cape Cod. It cost him five thousand dollars. I pick it up and fling it across the room, screaming as I do. It smashes against the tile, skittering every way, like my life.

I walk to our wedding picture, which is hanging above the sofa. I consider it for a moment, remembering the day — supposedly the happiest day of my life. I grab the broom, which is leaning against a wall, and smash the handle as hard as I can into the glass frame. The picture comes off the wall, crashing over furniture and landing face down on the coffee table.

Estella starts to cry.

I wipe my leaking face with the back of my hand and move toward the stairs. I’m kind of glad she’s awake. I need someone to hold.

Chapter Twenty-Two


My wedding day looked more like a coronation than an actual wedding. It was a coronation for me in a way. I had won my crown. I had, quite possibly, the sexiest, most endearing man the world had to offer. I’d beaten out the evil, raven-haired witch to get him. I felt triumphant. I felt validated. It felt like a long time coming.

I thought all of these things, as I stood in front of the mirror in my ivory dress. It was a heart bodice, mermaid skirt. My hair was up, curled into what looked like a seashell, with a stunning white flower pinned to the side. I’d wanted to wear my hair down, but Caleb asked for it up. I’d do anything for Caleb.

I peeped out the window at my parent’s sprawling backyard. The guests were starting to arrive; ushers were leading them to their seats. The sky was dimming and the thousands of lights I insisted be strung in the trees were finally beginning to show.

A huge tent sat off to the left, where the reception would be. To the right was the Olympic-sized swimming pool. My parents had ordered a glass floor to be placed over the pool, where Caleb and I would take our vows. We’d be walking on water. It made me giddy just to think of it. Chairs were set up to circle the pool. We’d have an audience all around us. Caleb had laughed when he’d first seen it the day before. He hated the way my family tried to outdo the Joneses.

“Love is simple,” he’d said. “The more pomp you add to a wedding, the less sincere it becomes.”

I hated that. Weddings were the frosting for the rest of your life. If the frosting wasn’t good, who wanted to stick around for the cupcake?

We’d stared at that glass floor for a good fifteen minutes, before I eventually said, “I wanted to be the Little Mermaid.” He laughed at first, and then his face had turned serious. He tugged on one of my curls. “It’ll be beautiful, Lee. You’ll be the Little Mermaid. I’m sorry, that was the jackass in me speaking.”

My mother bustled into the room ten minutes before the wedding. It was the first I’d seen of her all day. She leaned over me as Courtney applied my lipstick. Katine, who was across the room putting the final touches on her own makeup, met my eyes in the mirror. She was all too familiar with my mother and her antics. I quelled rising nausea, as Courtney dabbed at my lips with a tissue.

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