“Well, like you said, we were never close at school Frank” She said bitterly. He leaned forward and gently touched her cheek, willing her not to shy away from him. “We were at one point,”...
“You’re married?” Frank finally asked. In the meantime he had sat down and balled his hands in the pockets of his jacket.
Escher leaned back and closed her eyes.
“Oh God…I must have been…nineteen? Twenty?”
“Are you still together?”
She seemed to laugh.
“No, no we split up in 2004”
Escher closed her eyes again. She’d met Johnny when she was in college. He’d been unlike anyone she’d ever met, so beautiful, so artistic. He was a poet and she had fallen head over heels.
“It wasn’t a rushed marriage though,” She was quick to assure Frank, “We got married here, in New York, with a lot of friends around us”
“But it didn’t work out” He stated.
“We were too young, too naïve. Neither of us was ready to share our lives”
“But you were together for four years?”
“Yeah, but we were holding on to something that was wrong”
“Did you love him?”
She gave him a withering glance.
“I wouldn’t have married him if I didn’t love him as much as I did”
“Do you still see him?”
“No,” She inhaled heavily and exhaled through her nose, “No,” She repeated, “He uh…he died a little over a year ago”
Frank squeezed his eyes shut.
“Oh God, I’m so sorry Escher”
She turned away from him, but only for a moment.
“We met in college, John was artistic, a big thinker and very, very pretty” She said quietly.
Frank smiled at this and Escher felt her own mouth curl into a small reciprocation.
“He ignored me in the beginning so I spent a couple of weeks gearing up for a big seduction of him, I had it all planned out. And then he went and ruined it by asking me out.” She smiled beautifully, a perfect smile, tinged with the sadness of memory. Frank felt the overwhelming urge to hold her, but resisted it, fearing she would resent it, she was so strong.
“We had a whirlwind romance and moved in together after three weeks, it was a couple of months later that we got married.”
“You said it wasn’t a rushed marriage though,”
“I just meant we didn’t catch a plane to Vegas…we were very in love and decided it was something we wanted to do. Once we were married, I finished university and he stayed at home and wrote”
Something seemed to form in Frank’s mind, as though a puzzle piece had fallen into place.
“Wait, you said John, right? Johnny Drake?”
“He was Gee’s favourite author”
“I know” Escher said with a mysterious smile, “We’d not been married very long before ‘Blank Pages’ was released. That’s when we bought the penthouse I live in now”
“What did your parents think of you getting married at nineteen? And to an ex-heroin addict at that?”
Johhny Drake’s break-through novel had been a memoir called “Blank Pages” about being a young,
teenage heroin addict in Southern California. Escher laughed bitterly. Frank didn’t like the way her eyes hardened when he asked her.
“Frank, I haven’t addressed a word to my parents since I left home for college. I doubt they even know what I was studying, let alone that I was married”
She could see that he was shocked, he had probably thought that was how she paid for her lifestyle in New York, with money from mommy and daddy.
“You had a falling out?”
“In a way,”
He raised his eyebrows, obviously wanting to know the story. Escher sighed heavily.
Her parents, she explained, had never been as perfect as Frank had assumed. Her family life had been hell for her. They didn’t beat her, or rape her, or poison her. It wasn’t as awful as a lot of the family lives of children she’d grown up with. They had just neglected her. She had learnt at a very early age how to look after herself, because neither of them were going to do it for her. Her mother was a designer drug addict, perpetually whacked out on almost lethal doses of Prozac, Xanax, Vicodin; whatever she could get her grubby little manicured hands on. And she took lovers. That was how Escher had always imagined it, like a wealthy English aristocrat, she didn’t have affairs, she took lovers. And her father was a drunk. He wasn’t a drunk who came home and beat on his wife and child. He was a drunk who would come home filled with the most hurtful, vitriolic things.
Escher had always wondered why they had had her. Her father had told her many times that she had been an accident. But accidents were relatively easy to get rid of, even in those days.
“I wonder if they didn’t have me because it was expected. You know, the model child for the model family. A shame it was such a fucking joke. I knew I had to stay there until I was eighteen, but once I was eighteen I was free to go. I told my father that one night when I came home late from a party…”
She wondered fleetingly if Frank remembered the party, and why she had been late home.
“…He was waiting up for me, drunk, he called me names and I, full of bravado because I’d had too much to drink, told him that once I was done with school I was out of there and they’d never see me again”
She took a great, heaving breath before continuing.
“That was the one and only time my father ever hit me”
She felt Frank’s hand wrap around hers tightly.
“He called me ungrateful, told me he’d be happy to see the back of me, that he’d be happy to tell everyone what an ungrateful daughter he had, that I would be cut out of the will, disowned”
She laughed almost hysterically and Frank tightened his grip on her.
“Like I gave a fucking shit about the money, or the car” she spat, “the reason I disappeared was that I was done with school, I'd already been accepted to college, and I was eighteen. I packed a bag of things that I owned, things that I had bought with my own money. I left the keys to the car they’d given me on the kitchen bench and caught a train to New York, to Colombia”
Frank leaned back in his seat, his mind spinning. So many of the things he’d been thinking of Escher since she’d come back into his life nearly five months ago, had been turned on their head.
“I always assumed…” He began, “I always thought that your parents were…”
“They put on a good act” Escher said quietly.
“You put on a pretty good act E, I never guessed”
“Well, like you said, we were never close at school Frank” She said bitterly.
He leaned forward and gently touched her cheek, willing her not to shy away from him.
“We were at one point,” He said quietly.