Authors: T. B. Markinson
Tags: #Romance, #Lesbian, #Fiction, #LGBT, #(v5.0), #Family & Relationships
A WOMAN LOST
A novel by
T. B. Markinson
Published by T. B. Markinson
Copyright © T. B. Markinson, 2013
Cover Design by Derek Murphy
Edited by Karin Cox
e-book formatting by
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
“I’m getting married.”
“I’m getting married.”
“Peter, it’s”—I rolled over in bed and looked at the clock—“five in the morning, on a Sunday. I’m not in the mood for a prank.” My entire body ached; I’d been awake most of the night.
“It’s not a prank, Elizabeth. I am getting married.”
I sat up in bed.
“We’re flying in next week to have dinner with Mom and Dad. She wants you to join us.”
“What?” I rubbed my eyes, wondering if I was dreaming. My brother and I were not close in any way. I didn’t even know he had my home phone number. Was my number listed? And I was shocked that he’d admitted to his bride-to-be that he had a sister.
“Madeline wants to meet you. Oh, and bring Meg.” He sounded upbeat. It was four in the morning in California, an hour later here in Colorado.
“We broke up.” I tried to keep my voice calm and quiet.
“Oh, my gosh. When did that happen?”
“Two years ago.”
A long, awkward silence followed.
“Oh … wow … that’s too bad. Well, is there someone else?”
I wanted to tell him that girls, let alone love, just didn’t fall from the sky. Instead, I looked over at the naked woman in my bed and chuckled. Well, maybe girls did fall from the sky. Good grief, she could sleep through anything. She always said her mom was intentionally loud during naptime so she would be a sound sleeper; apparently, it worked.
“I’m not ready for that.” I didn’t mean I wasn’t ready to date. Obviously, there was a woman with me, but he didn’t know that on the other end of the phone. I meant I wasn’t ready to introduce anyone to my family … again.
“Hopefully you will still join us. Maddie is so excited to have a sister.”
I thought to myself
. I wasn’t going to have dinner with Mom, Dad, Peter, and now a fiancée.
No fucking way. I’d rather gouge out my own eyes and then eat them.
“Um … sure … where should I meet all of you?”
“At the club.”
Of course! The club. I should have known. Why would they go anywhere else?
* * *
I grabbed my chai from the barista in the coffee shop, and announced, “Peter called.”
“Who’s Peter?” asked Ethan, and poured an insane amount of sugar into his coffee before we sat down at the table. He always ordered the special of the day, never a fancy drink with a shot of this or two squirts of that. He loved coffee with sugar and none of the hoopla.
“My brother, you ass.”
“Oh, my god! How is God?” He straightened his starched shirt. To say he was fastidious would be an understatement.
“He called to tell me he’s getting married. Oh, and get this: he wants me to join him, his fiancée, and my parents for dinner.” I blew into my steaming cup of chai. The vapors fogged up my contacts, and I had to blink several times to see again.
“You said no, didn’t you? Tell him you have a violent case of the clap and if you sneeze they’ll get it.”
“I’m meeting them Monday night.”
“Jesus! You do like your public floggings.”
“He asked me to bring Meg.”
Ethan giggled as he stirred his coffee. “Talking to you about your family always makes me feel better about my own messed-up situation.”
“Yeah. When I told him we broke up, he actually said, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Like he gives a crap.”
“He did not! He always was such an ass.
C’est la vie
. So bring the new girl.”
“Sarah? Are you kidding? She’s not ready to meet the family. And besides, I insinuated I wasn’t seeing anyone, so I can’t bring her now. It will seem desperate.”
“Don’t you mean
aren’t ready to introduce her to the family, and other things, I might add?” He gave me a knowing look.
“That could be the case.” I smiled and took a huge gulp of my chai.
* * *
Sarah and I woke up before the alarm trilled, but neither of us wanted to crawl out of bed yet. She reached over and ran her fingers through my hair. “What are you doing today?”
I rolled over to face her, gazed into her quizzical brown eyes. “Not too much today. I have to teach.” I stroked a strand of hair off her cheek. “Tonight I am having dinner with my family. Oh, and I’m meeting Ethan for coffee today before I head down to Denver. You?” My finger moved down her face to stroke her breasts.
She stared at me for a moment in disbelief, and then she bolted upright. “We have been dating for almost a year, and you have never had dinner with your family. I didn’t think you were even in contact with them.”
I ignored the comment that we had been together almost a year; actually, it was closer to six months. And the first three or four months included only a few casual dates. However, it was not the right moment to remind her of that.
“My brother is in town with his fiancée. We’re having dinner to welcome the poor girl into the family.”
“Oh.” She stared at me with sad doe eyes. “I better get ready for work.”
I watched her walk into the bathroom and step into the shower. Then I rolled onto my back and placed the pillow over my head. “Shit, shit, shit.”
* * *
Normally, Ethan and I met at the coffee shop on Saturdays. But when he couldn’t make it, we rescheduled. Meeting him would help take my mind off my impending family dinner.
“My god, Ethan, she looked at me like I had just run over her dog and had then backed up and run it over again.” I sipped my chai and stared out the window at College Avenue, the main street of Fort Collins. “I’m so screwed.”
He nearly choked on his coffee. “Can you blame the girl? Not only did you plan dinner with your family and not mention it for a whole week, but you are meeting your brother’s fiancée. She has to be wondering why you didn’t invite her. Hasn’t she moved in with you?”
“N-no,” I stammered. “Not completely. She’s still paying rent at her place. She just stays with me every night … and most of her stuff is at my place, but it isn’t official. We have not moved in together.” I turned away from his knowing glare and stared at the other patrons in the coffee shop.
“How long are you going to string this girl along?” He shook his head. Not a hair was out of place.
Ethan and I had been
good friends at one point. We worked together part-time at the college library. I was just starting my PhD program in history, and he was starting his in English. Since we studied the same time period, we talked a lot about our classes. After working together for two years, Ethan quit the program on completion of his Masters. He opted for teaching at a high school in a neighboring city, and we didn’t see much of each other.
But then, out of the blue, we met for coffee. We had so much fun we started to meet for coffee once a week, and continued to for two years. Then both of us hit rough patches in our lives. His marriage was on the rocks. My relationship fell apart completely. We became therapists for each other.
Our weekly meetings switched from discussing our research and learning, to bickering, fighting, and calling the other person on their shit. We had fun doing that, too. No matter how brutal we were to each other, the next week, both of us would be right on time. Dysfunctional: yes. Bizarre: yes. But we needed it. Or at least that was what I told myself.
We would tell each other things we wouldn’t dream of telling our loved ones or partners. We knew each other better than our significant others did, indulging in an odd, sometimes intrusive intimacy that never went beyond our coffee dates.
“I don’t know what you mean.” I eventually answered his earlier question, staring across the table at him, watching his nervous habit of pulling at the corner of his neatly trimmed moustache.
How does he make it so narrow and precise?
I wondered. We sat in the back corner, hiding from a gaggle of college students in the shop. “I’m not stringing her along.” Again, I avoided his eyes. Instead, I stared over at the barista, who was making a Frappuccino.
Ethan took off his Coke-bottle-thick glasses and cleaned them on a serviette. “Yes you do. Don’t try that shit with me, Lizzie.”
“I don’t know what to do, Ethan. I care about her, but when I look at her—sometimes, I don’t feel anything. When she’s sleeping at night and I’ve got insomnia and can’t sleep, I get annoyed that she is in my bed. The other night, I was on my back and she was up against my left side with her leg draped over me and her arm around my chest.”
He frowned impatiently and motioned for me to get to the point.
“Wait, that’s not the weird part.” I continued. “She was holding my earlobe! The arm she had draped over me—she was holding my earlobe. And I started to think:
Why was she holding onto my ear? Then I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact. I mean, who does that? Who holds their girlfriend’s ear while she sleeps? Who?” I threw my arms up in the air in exasperation. “She wasn’t rubbing it. Not feeling it. Just holding it. I don’t think I slept at all until she rolled over. Who holds someone’s ear?” I took a nervous sip of my chai, embarrassed by my rant about Sarah. Why did it even bother me so much?
“I’ll admit that it’s a little weird. But it doesn’t seem like something you should obsess about. She probably didn’t know she was doing it. Do you think maybe it had something to do with your insomnia? When you can’t sleep, you focus on anything and everything you find annoying. You’re a freak, and so is she. You two are perfect for each other.” He gave his southern smart-ass smile.
“Very funny. You might be right.” I took another sip and said, “Oh, have I mentioned that she has started to say ‘I heart you’ now.”
He raised his delicate eyebrows.
I shook my head. I really didn’t want to tell him why she had started saying that, but then I caved. “We’d only just started saying ‘I love you’ and I wasn’t very comfortable saying it, and then I saw this hanger in the bedroom, from the drycleaners. Anyway, I noticed that it had an advertisement on it that said ‘We love our customers’ but instead of the word love, it had a heart. What is up with that?” I detoured again, hoping he’d forget I mentioned it. “How did the heart come to symbolize love? … Really, it’s just a muscle.”
He motioned for me to stop stalling. “Oh, all right. Right after seeing the hanger, she was getting ready to leave, and I said, ‘I heart you.’”
Ethan burst out laughing.
“She thought it was adorable. Now it’s kinda our thing … I guess.” I rolled my eyes.
“Lizzie, I didn’t know you were such a romantic.” He batted his eyes at me.
“Yeah right … ” I took a deep breath. “Are these feelings and thoughts I have about her … about us … are they normal?”
“Not after this long. Maybe after twenty years, but you two should still be in the honeymoon phase. You should be running home from classes so you can rip her clothes off. Staying up all night talking in bed, naked bodies intertwined.” He wrapped his gangly arms around himself in a weird contortion.
Ethan was slim, tall, effeminate—the kind of man everyone thought was gay. He adamantly refused he was, but being such a scrawny, open-minded Southern boy did not help his cause.
“Naked bodies intertwined,” I mocked. “Tell me something, oh relationship guru, why should I listen to you? You hate your wife.”
Ethan had been married for four years. A year ago, he confessed to me that he wanted to leave, but he hadn’t told his wife yet. Deep down, I think he’s afraid his friends and family will think he is gay for sure.
“Low blow. Very low blow, Lizzie.” He pulled his keychain from his pocket. A nail clipper dangled on the chain. Ethan proceeded to clip one of his nails, and then he carefully put the keychain away.
“Do you expect anything else from me? I despise my own girlfriend. Why would I treat my best friend differently?” I raised my chai in his direction in salute, and said, “Yes, my friend, I am a bitch.”
“Oh, I never doubted that. That, my dear, is why we are best friends. You are a bitch, and I am a stuck-up bastard from Mississippi. Neither one of us has any morals or standards.”
Despite being a Southerner, when he moved out west, Ethan had soon discovered it was better to lose his southern accent—especially as an English major. His department was full of snooty kids who believed they were elite students. His accent made them look at him like he was a Neanderthal who had married his sister.
I took another sip, and watched the traffic crawl past. “She wants us to go to therapy,” I confessed. “Apparently, I don’t open up enough. She wants us to learn how to communicate effectively—whatever the hell
means.” I waved one hand in the air.