FACT : I’m not the kind of girl destined to live in Barbie’s Malibu Dream House
There’s nothing lonelier than the stillness of a room you’ve grown used to sharing. For that reason, when Regina left to spend time with Brendon in Vegas Logan temporarily moved in. At least, that’s the excuse I used to explain his presence in my kitchen at the raw hour of 7 a.m.
A vase of white daisies smiled with sunny yellow centers on the table where two mugs sat on saucers. With a plate of freshly cut fruit in the center, the settings seemed too proper for the groggy breakfast we would share. Logan looked up from his newspaper when he heard my footsteps creak along the floorboard. Standing as I approached, he politely pulled out the chair adjacent to him.
“Good Morning Beautiful.” He smiled before gently kissing my cheek. Replying with something equally endearing, I mindlessly followed the routine we had fallen into. Less than three weeks since I had first taking a confident police officer up on the dinner invitation he had extended at an inappropriate time and I already knew I was keeping him around because it was comfortable; he was safe. For the time being, I was perfectly content with innocent nights together just so I didn’t have to face morning alone. Are relationship had no reason to become sexual, not yet anyway.
Swirling the warm brown liquid around in his cup, Logan looked distracted by more than just his breakfast. Any other morning, I would have dismissed the pensive gaze as a preoccupation with work, but when that same thoughtful emotion displayed itself in his voice I diverted my eyes to where my hands hugged the warm ceramic on my coffee mug.
“I know we agreed to take our time with this, and I really am enjoying spending time with you,” He began placing his mug back onto the saucer and the folded newspaper on his lap.
Fighting off the urge to hurry the second clause of his sentence, I quietly chose a small cube of cantaloupe that looked especially succulent. I didn’t want to hear he was moving onto a more “rewarding” conquest.
“…and I’m really not sure there’s any way to say this without just being completely forward…” He trailed off. For the first time since we had met he seemed noticeably unsure. I chose a piece of watermelon to avoid speaking this time.
“I’d like to make this something official.” He finally announced proudly.
I pretended to choke on a grape to disguise the shock that had caused my eyes to widen. Logan responded with immediate concern, hurrying to the sink before quickly doubling back ready to perform the Heimlich. Even after I assured him it was no emergency he hovered over me just to be sure.
The echoing of my cell phone ringing finally allowed me to escape from his watchful eye. Unfortunately, Sabrina’s high-pitched shrieking from the other line was no better than the prospect of being Logan’s girlfriend. According to her accusations, I was in the process of ruining not only the family brunch she had slaved over preparing but her entire life. Honestly, in a mist of trying to move on from my mistakes, I had completely forgotten.
Assuring Sabrina I would be there as soon as possible was a world easier than convincing Logan it was time for him to leave. Untangling my mess of hair into presentable tousled waves I expertly avoided any further talk of a pending relationship. Logan effortlessly wandered his way out of every conversational dead end I created.
As I slipped from my t-shirt and sweatpants into a light sundress Logan began to argue, “Cassia, if your heart isn’t in this, even just a little bit, you can’t expect to keep me around. I’m not expecting you to love me, not yet anyway, but at least, at least let me know what it is that making you behave like this. Whatever it is you won’t talk to anybody about.”
“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” I insisted brushing a thin layer of pink in a circular motion on the apple of my cheeks. The brush fell from my hand and hit the dresser’s surface with a quiet THUMP, fallen with surprise as Logan had wrapped his arms around my waist. From behind me he kissed my neck and fingered the soft cotton material of the dress I wore. I simply observed our reflection in the vanity mirror; I stood still, almost frozen in his arms, until he started talking again.
“I knew, getting into this, especially after the way you disappeared as you did, this wasn’t going to be typical. I didn’t know you before you went to Vegas, so I don’t know if your behavior can be blamed on that night. But if you don’t let me in Cassia, I can’t save you from whatever happened there or whatever damage Ethan left behind.”
At the mention of Ethan my whole body tensed. “I don’t need to be saved Logan.” I snapped. His gaze caught something in my reflection that caused me to shrug off his embrace and hurry to my closet. Pushing a few hangers aside I chose a white cardigan before turning back to where he stood, now in the doorway.
“So that’s it?” He asked, “That’s all you have to say?”
“Sabrina will go into full melt down mode if I’m not there in the next hour.” My speech was terse and informative. I wasn’t going to give the satisfaction of getting any closer to me this morning.
Logan hung his head to disguise the way he massaged his forehead when he was at a loss for words. Even though it wasn’t a detail he had ever shared. After I failed at repressing a sneeze, he forwent the typical formability and simply met my gaze one more.
When I didn’t immediately pour out my heart like a glass of sweet tea in the summer, he sighed in defeat. He grabbed the doorframe with one hand, leaning his weight against it, and messed his hair with his other, free hand.
“Just give me a call,” He said with a nod, “when you’re ready to move on with your life.”
He was gone from the apartment at that point, and I continued to transform myself into the Orange County debutante my parents would expect to show up on a Sunday morning. The only trace he left behind was the shirt I recalled him leaving in the loft the night before. I’d return it only once I found a reason to call him again.
A thin coat of lip-gloss later, I found myself skipping down the stairs from my apartment. I hurried to my car cradling my cell phone to my ear, “I’m on my way Bri, I promised, I’ll be there before your soufflé is out of the oven.”
Reluctantly, Sabrina accepted my guaranteed tardiness and allowed me to drive from Beverly Hills to Malibu in peace. With the kind of traffic typical to the LA area, the promise I made her would have only been possible if there were no other cars on the road. Despite my frustration, I didn’t bother turning on any music until the incessant hum of the highway made my skin crawl.
When the first chords of a Damien Rice song floated from the mixed CD that spun in my stereo I fumbled in my bag for the pair of sunglasses buried in its depths. No sooner had the glasses shielded my sensitivity unwarranted tears escaped from my eyes.
“There’s still a little bit of your taste in my mouth.
Still a little bit of you laced with my doubt.
It’s still a little hard to say what’s going on.”
As pools gathered between my cheeks and the designer frames, neither Logan nor Ethan ever came to mind. Instead the warm eyes of a man who had once kissed my forehead as I fell asleep, with one arm around my waist to both keep me close and safe, found his place in my memory. Recently he had accompanied any trail of thought distracted by whimsy and wishful thinking. His name was Jon. And I knew I’d probably never see him again.
“Stones, taught me to fly. Love, it taught me to lie.
Life, it taught me to die.
So it’s not hard to fall, when you float like a cannonball”
As I continued through the low buzz of highway noise, I attributed my loss of expressive control to the poor sleeping habits I had acquired and the weepy feeling that had been plaguing me for days. Whatever reason I named as the cause of my unnecessary crying, I had traffic on my side. I arrived in front of the tall iron-wrought gates that read “The Price Estate” in just over 47 minutes.
Punching in the six-digit code that would open the gates, I collected the emotions I had spilled across the dashboard and redressed my face with a braver mask. I removed my sunglasses, revealing the remnants of my insecurities to the suited man who stood statuesque in the driveway.
With a characteristically stoic air he greeted me with a monotone, “Good Morning Miss Cassia. Mr. and Mrs. Price have been anticipating your arrival. Allow me to show you into the foyer.”
“Thank you.” I smiled weakly. I had anticipated an elaborate home, obviously too grandiose for a newly married pair, but the three stories of gorgeous before me was a bit of shock. Once in the main courtyard, separated from the driveway by tall rose bushes I was lead up thirteen marble stairs. In the middle they forked to allow space for the cherubic fountain that guarded the tall double doors. The fact its size was nearly double the home I grew up in was a feat in itself.
“Mrs. Price, Your last guest has arrived,” The man who now evidently would be identified as ‘the butler’ seemed just as disguised with my tardiness as Sabrina did when she entered the foyer our parents in tow. With oven mitts hiding what were surely ten perfectly manicured fingernails and an apron tied about her waist, Sabrina looked more like Homemaker Barbie than someone who had slaved over a family brunch for hours. (But that was honestly no surprise).
As she waved her mitted hands in exaggerated gestures, retelling a ‘charming’ story I chose not to listen to, a tinge of jealousy washed over me. This story would have been much better suited leaving my lips. Sabrina never deserved this life.
A tinge of something else washed over me when a rich aroma wafted in from the kitchen. As we approached the kitchen the strong syrupy scent turned into a sort of burning. I couldn’t decide if it was the sweetness or the smoke that made me suddenly ill. I excused myself quickly, afraid to seem impolite in front of my parents. Apparently, asking for directions to a bathroom diverted too much attention from Sabrina. She didn’t have the same hesitations of seeming impolite as she brashly directed me down the hall and to the left.
By the time a second round of heaving brought stains to the porcelain my hair had been brushed off my face my a touch but gentle hand. With even a glance behind me I knew it was Ethan. We had spent way too many nights testing our tolerance of alcohol to think any differently.
“Are you alright?” He asked, his brow furrowed with concern.
“Fine.” I replied shaking my hair free before shifting into a more comfortable position on the tiled floor. Bending to his knees, he folded a piece of toilet paper and dabbed at the corner of my mouth. I turned my head away. It was an action I was cable of performing myself. “It’s probably just the stomach flu, I’ve been throwing up all week.”
He shook his head. “You should probably get that checked out,” His voice sounded almost fatherly, “You never get THAT sick.”
“I’m fine Ethan.” I shot back bringing my knees to my chest to distance him even more. I was being defensive, because he was right. “Why don’t you go take care of your wife,” My words were only meant to see how far I could push him, “It smells like she’s about to burn the house down. And we all know what a waste that would be.”
He stood up almost obediently, only to turn back when he got to the doorway. It looked soap opera dramatic. “You’ll have to forgive me eventually Cassia.” He spat back in my direction. His words hit me like I was nothing more than dust on the floor. I wish I could have just as easily disappeared. “There’s no reason to still be immature about this.”
Mustering up more anger that I had ever felt towards one person I stood even though I knew I’d never reach his height. I let my voice start out in a whisper because I knew he’d simply tune me out if I came at him screaming. I’m not sure though when the tears became part of my statement though.
“You cheated on me.”
“With my sister.”
“You let me suffer next to your bed as you screamed and wretched through almost a week of withdrawals.”
“I took care of you night and day just so you could leave me?”
“Make-up can only hide physical scar Ethan,” For a second he looked like he was going to embrace me. The way he had when I had gotten worked up in the pass. He’d envelop me in a hug that left me speechless. This time he just turned away. “Why don’t you let the rest of them heal before accusing me of being immature again?”
He paused a few second, just to be sure my rant was over, and then he continued, speaking with more distress than vengeance or rage. “Quick acting like I tore you apart on purpose.” His ice blue eyes pierced me at the moment. Grabbing my hand for emphasis he made sure to sound sincere as he spoke, “You know I loved you with my entire heart, but what I had to offer is not what you need.”
A sob caught in my throat as the pads of my fingertips brushed across his wedding band. I really hoped he wouldn’t say anymore. “Your sister is a Barbie doll, dress her in nice clothes and buy her a dream house and she’s happy forever.” He explained. Apparently I had used all my luck for the day in my wishes for good traffic. “But you’re more than that you wouldn’t be happy living this life.”
I felt like I was getting broken up with all over again.
“It broke my heart that I couldn’t give you anymore than a yacht with your name painted on the side or Christmas’ at Lake Tahoe.” The sincerity in his voice almost made me believe him. The speech on forgetting the past and “Taking a Chance” sounded more like he had been coached by Regina than had a heartfelt epiphany.
“Can I have some privacy?” I finally found the courage to ask. Maybe I needed to hear the same message coming from a different vessel.
“Are you going to throw up again?” He asked as though a previous conversation had never left the tips of our tongues. Shaking my head with a firm “No” he closed the door behind him as he joined the party in the dining room.
Digging through the depths of my bag to find an item I had been carrying with me almost constantly the past week I pushed aside my compact, wallet, ipod, and cell phone. From the very bottom, I removed a small rectangular cardboard box was crushed at its corners. Tearing open its seal with little regard for my chipping nail polish I removed its contents: a plastic rod and a small set of instructions. Understanding the general concept of the instrument I disregarded the pamphlet and squatted over the toilet and emptied my bladder onto the plastic stick.
Like gazing into a crystal ball, the tiny display screen would tell my future. I held my breath waiting for a change. Growing impatient after just a few seconds I set it down and began my search for the instructions I had thrust aside. Finding the folding paper in a ball beneath the sink I returned it to the box and nervously checked the sink’s edge for my fate.
A plus sign had just begun to form. It was faint but unmistakable.