NEVER DID ALLISON foresee such a dreadful end to the vacation, but when reality hit her, there was no denying it. While most of the hotel guests were still having their sweet dreams before sunrise, the sulky couple was dragging their suitcase down the grand hallway, leaving this supposed paradise for good. When passing by her parent’s room, she casually slipped a note under their door, informing them of the early departure.
From the moment they woke to boarding plane after plane, Daniel had not once faltered his resentment and would only speak when absolutely necessary. Due to their last-moment decision, scarce flight options caused their layover time to double. By the time they got back to Minneapolis, it was mid-afternoon. All the way home in a taxicab, he had not said a word. “Did you have a good trip?” the driver asked them at one point. That sort of typical, feel-good question felt like mockery now, and the more Allison dwelt on Daniel’s reactions to it all, the deeper she plunged down a cliff of loathing.
Home at last. He left the suitcase in the foyer and dashed downstairs. She had not seen him act this hotheadedly before, thus ended her pretense of everything was fine to go after him. Into his den he proceeded, slamming the door on her as she was just catching up. Having made up her mind to get to the bottom of his problem, she held in her anger and entered.
“What’s going on?” she asked, watching him pace back and forth near his desk in obvious exasperation.
“Leave me alone,” he said.
“Why can’t we talk about this?”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Do you think I believe that even just a little bit?”
“Allie! Out, now!” he demanded of her.
“This is crazy. This isn’t you. What happened to your rationality?”
“I told you to stay behind. You are the one who insisted on coming along.”
“So you would have gotten a few extra hours alone to think things over, do you really expect us to never talk about this again?”
“Yes. That’s how we’ve always done it.”
“And look at where we are now. Why can’t we do things differently for a change?”
“Allison! I’m telling you, out!”
Sick and tired of his constant rebuff, she blurted out, “Do you really love her this much?” consequently stopping his frustrated pacing.
“You know what I mean — do you love Megan more than you do me?”
“This is ridiculous. I’m not having this discussion.”
“Humph. You can’t even give me a straight answer.”
“Because I’m not going to dignify it with an answer!”
“At least we can both safely assume that you love her enough to yell at me like this. How can you let her jeopardize our marriage even after she died?!”
“She has nothing to do with how our marriage is.”
“We had many problems of our own long before she came into the picture.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better? Or was it just a lame excuse for you to sleep with her in the first place?!” she hissed, holding nothing back anymore. Even knowing she might have overstepped the mark there, she had not felt more liberated now that the elephant in the room was finally going to be addressed, or so she thought.
Daniel walked up to her, his face scorching red. “Okay… okay. You want to talk about it?”
“Yes I do —”
“Ed Ramsey.” His nose flared.
“What about him?”
“Wasn’t he your high school boyfriend?”
“So? He has nothing to do with anything —”
“You two slept together a few months ago did you not?!” His nose flared again as he gritted his teeth to somewhat restrain his fury.
Bewildered by the accusation, Allison narrowed her eyes at him, her brows furrowed. “Who told you that?”
“Who do you think? He called and bragged to me a week after you got back from your trip. ‘I fucked her... I fucking fucked your wife in Vegas.’ That’s what he said to me, word-for-word. So tell me, how do you expect me to feel about that?”
She kept shaking her head. “No. That is a lie.”
“Ha! A lie.”
“Yes!!! How can you believe something like that just because he said so?!”
“Your best friend doesn’t deny it.”
“I called Sara.”
“How did you —”
“Get her number? I copied it from your phone the day I found out from him, but don’t you dare change the subject just because it’s convenient for you.”
“I wasn’t going to — but they lied.”
“They both lied?”
“Humph. I’m not playing this game.”
“Your game! For weeks before your trip, all I heard was your singing his praises, raving about how great this Ed was to you back when you were dating blah, blah, blah. I could pretend to not mind, but that still hurt.”
“You mean your ego was bruised. Gosh, you may be a smart man, Dan, but you can be so dense when it comes to our relationship. We’ve been married for four years and you still haven’t learnt anything about me. I only said all those things because I wanted you to care.”
“So you went and slept with him to make me care?!”
“For the last time, I did NOT sleep with him. And don’t you use that to justify your own action. You are the one who slept with that slut!”
Daniel’s temper went deeper into the dark. “Leave Meg out of this,” he cautioned her, but she was all too beside herself to care.
“How? You decided to leave in the middle of our vacation all because of what my mother said about her.”
“That’s not entirely true. And don’t even get me started on your mother. She is by far the most condescending, demeaning person I’ve ever known.”
“That’s not fair. She has always liked you. She’s never said one thing bad about you —”
“I don’t believe that for a second, nor that I care.”
“I know… I know. It’s because she called her a ‘whore’ is that it? Well?! Can you really blame her?!”
Right then, his fingers closed into hard fists. His body fidgeted like a raging bull ready to be let loose. “Don’t call her that,” he commanded her, his voice taut, almost like a threat. Allison could see it in his glowering eyes, his festering desire to take revenge for his deceased sister, or to be more accurately phrased, his ex-lover. It was as though Megan’s spirit had truly lived on beyond the grave, taking the form of his wrath that cursed and mocked her. There was not much more she could stomach of this humiliation.
“Go on. Hit me. I have no sympathy for her and never will. Nothing… nothing can ever make me change my mind about that cunt —”
She just barely finished that last word, the very word that prompted Daniel to raise his hand and slap her across the face. The next thing she realized was the ringing in her ear that momentarily knocked her out of reality. When she oriented herself with what had happened, a glistening tear rolled down her throbbing cheek. She fought to resist the emotions choking up her throat.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Having the upper hand, Daniel was not exactly dancing with joy. If anything, he was just as shocked at his own outburst of violence. He staggered a few steps back, dropped to the floor, and simultaneously buried his face in his hands. In shame certainly he was for hitting his wife, but somehow even more so for his failure to shield Megan from further ignominy after her death.
“I owe her, Allie. I owe her just that much.”
“You don’t owe her anything.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t —”
“Will you just listen to me!!” he howled, shooting his moist eyes up at her, clasping his forehead, his face contorted as if in great pain.
Allison never thought her seemingly always-judicious husband was capable of coming undone like this. His look of anguish made aware to her just what she believed was the whole of the story, could in fact be the tip of the iceberg.
What he went on to tell her confirmed it.
“I’ve always known Meg was murdered. I know with certainty that she’d never have killed herself, but I just… I just kept my mouth shut and let the police assume so.”
“What are you talking about? — What?”
“The police contacted me the afternoon I got back from Virginia. They came looking for me at the office when I was just in to wrap up a few things. They somehow suspected I had something to do with her death.”
“But you weren’t even in town when they found her.”
“I know, I told them that, but for some reason they didn’t buy it and would not stop drilling me with all these questions… At one point they asked if I noticed anything out of the ordinary the last time I saw her, I just lied and said that she had been depressed for some time.”
“So she wasn’t depressed?”
“Right. I was in a panic when I told them. They never got in touch with me again after the hour-long interrogation at the police station. Shortly after, they declared her case a suicide when it most certainly wasn’t...”
“What makes you so sure she was murdered?”
“Because… she was pregnant. I was with her the Monday morning before flying out. We found out together.”
“They found her that Tuesday… No, no way. This can’t be —”
“It’s the truth. I swear my life on it.”
“How come you never told me this before?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“Well I don’t believe you —”
“The truth will stay true whether you want to believe me or not!! I called her a couple times later the same day but she never answered the phone. It was so unlike her. I don’t know what, but something… something terrible must have happened during that short period of time…”
Despite the significance of his assertion, Allison was not interested in solving the proposed mystery. There was, however, one thing she wished to make clear.
“How many more times did you sneak over to see her that I don’t know about?”
Daniel stopped what he was saying to reply, “Does that even matter now?”
“I asked didn’t I? So tell me.”
“I don’t know.” He looked away. “I don’t remember.”
“Let me rephrase then…” She took a step towards him. “How many times did you actually sleep with her?”
In turn, he said nothing back. That alone scared her.
“So, it was more than the one time. Am I right?”
“Don’t do this, Allie —”
“Then deny it. Can’t you?”
He looked away a second time. His avoidance of her eye contact pretty much said it all.
“How… how could you… how could you do this to me… you… YOU FUCKING PIG!!!” she lashed out, hitting and shoving him till she stumbled onto the ground in desolation. Then, something even worse occurred to her. “My god…” she gasped, hands over her mouth, “Her baby… was it yours?! WAS THE BABY YOURS, ANSWER TO THAT!!”
“YES! YES IT WAS MINE! THE BABY WAS MINE!!” he screamed back at her, breaking out in a startling mix of woe, anger, and frustration. Hot tears that had been welling up in his flaming eyes spontaneously came down his cheeks. His voice cracked into pieces, and he began to sob. “There... sat-satisfied?”
Allison felt like being stabbed in the chest watching him be punished by his own inner demon that was his guilty conscience. Rather than releasing her pain, she just sat there, numb.
I must get out of here… I need to get out of here. Right when she was thinking that, by sheer coincidence, Sara called. She got up off the floor immediately and left the room to answer it.
“Finally! Where have you been the past two days?!”
Her friend’s voice at that moment sounded to her like a godsend. Disguising her heartbreak, she replied, “I told you about the Bahamas trip. We just got back.”
“I guess you were having such a good time and didn’t even bother to check your voicemails. I left you like five.”
“I’m sorry —”
“Hold on a minute, if you did go, I thought you wouldn’t be back till late?”
“We decided to cut the trip short.”
“‘We’ as in everybody or just you and Daniel?”
She paused before telling her. “Just me and him.”
“So — what’s going on with you?”
“Me? I’m just out buying more beer. Thought I might bug you one last time to see if you would stop by tonight.”
“You are having a party?”
“Uh, hello? It’s the housewarming I’ve been stressing you about. Ethan and Reese are staying at my parents’ for the night. They’ve already left so it’s just going to be us adults. I sure hope this weather will hold so more people show up —”
“Is Ed going to be there?”
“I believe so. Is that going to be a problem?”
“No. I was just checking. I’ll be there in a bit.”
“You mean it?”
“Alright! The party’s at six but just come over whenever. Oh goody! I can hardly wait!”