Saturday, June 25, 2016

Chapter 9, Hell Hath No Fury

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

I knew this day would come, but I dreaded it nonetheless. "Won't you come in," I said with measured politeness.

Ericka perched herself stiffly on my couch, looked around my small house as if it were a hovel, then studied me like a specimen under a microscope. It took utmost effort on my part not to squirm.

"You have here," she said.

I shrugged. "It keeps the rain out. Would you like some coffee? Tea?" I don't have roaches, lady, so stop acting like Snob Extraordinaire, I thought to myself.

"No, thank you," she replied simply.

I shrugged again. "I highly doubt you came here to scrutinize my house, so why don't you get on with the real reason for this surprise visit."

She narrowed her eyes at me. "You're more dense than I imagined if you don't already know." She picked at her skirt as if to remove a piece of lint although she looked impeccable. "I came here to find out exactly what your motives are and to give you a warning."

"I see," I said. I wasn't going to get into a pissing contest of the female variety. It was best to let her get it out without interruption; anything else would be highly nonconstructive. I waited for her to continue and didn't have to wait long.

"You and Simon have put me in a difficult position," she said in measured tones. "Do you know what it's like to find myself in the role the as unsuspecting wife? Do you realize the pain you've caused me?"

"For what it's worth, Ericka, this wasn't a personal vendetta against you, not by me anyway." I tried to speak calmly, wishing my heartbeat would slow down. "It just...happened. I was lonely and Simon was there. I just needed..."

I heaved a sigh, looking down at my shoes. "I needed someone to hold me."

"Well, he certainly did a lot more than hold you, didn't he?" she spat out as she shot to her feet. I felt awful enough as it was but it was nothing compared to how low I felt at seeing the tears standing out in her eyes. "I thought the worst of it was when he stepped out but to find out that he fathered another woman's child..."

She wiped angrily at the tears, composed herself, and looked at me with nothing but coldness. "I'm not easily made a fool of and won't stand by idly as you and Simon laugh at how you've humiliated me."

I felt my blood start to simmer and I, too, was on my feet. "Look, for your information, there is no me and Simon. Our relationship, in all forms, is done. You surely must know he signed over the cosmetics company to me in order to get me out of his hair. As far as hurting you," I lowered my voice, "I never meant you any personal harm. Simon and I made a mistake, one that I am still paying for. I never laughed at you or remarked on any stupidity you believe I felt regarding you. I knew he was married and that it was wrong, but...things happen in moments of weakness. I am truly sorry for hurting you, Ericka. What's done is done though and we need to live with the fallout."

"Sorry doesn't ease the situation, Debbie. What you did--"

I looked her squarely in her eyes. "I take responsibility for my part in this, Ericka. It was a mistake, a very big one, and I own up to it. What you must remember also is that I'm not the only guilty party. Simon obviously strayed for one reason or another. It it hadn't been with me, it would have been with someone else. If you're going to blame someone for this mess, do yourself a favor and place the blame where it belongs and in adequate doses. I'm sorry for your pain. I get that, but I will not take full responsibility."

Ericka reached for an elegant alligator handbag that must have cost a small fortune. "You're right. What's cone is done and we must live with it. Not only must I live with it but I must clean up the mess." She fished inside and pulled out a checkbook. "As I said, I came here to find out what yo wanted and to give you a warning. As to what you want, it must be money."

"I don't want your money. Simon signed over the cosmetics company and that's all I care about. I'll make a very nice living from it and be able to support my son without any additional help. Put the checkbook away."

"Then what is it you want, Debbie?" She fixed me with a thin-lipped scowl.

"I want to be left alone to live my life with my son. I want nothing from either you or Simon."

She looked around my small house again with undisguised distaste. "You call this supporting your son? Why, there's barely room for one person here. He's going to grow, you know, and when he does, he'll require more space."

"I'll deal with that," I said icily. "I might not be able to provide us a huge mansion or send my son to fancy private school like you can do and have, I'm sure, but I manage quite nicely. Now, if there's nothing else--"

"Don't forget that I came here to warn you," she said.

"Right. Fine, then. Give your warning and let's be done with it," I replied, wishing this whole thing to have been over five minutes ago.

As Ericka narrowed her eyes at me, she reminded me a a saber-toothed tiger on the prowl. "I'm warning you to stay away from Simon, me, and any of my family. You are not to demand or expect him to have any kind of relationship with your bastard son, nor are you to change your mind and ask me or him for more money." She still hadn't put the checkbook away. Instead, she opened it and began writing furiously with an ornate gold pen. I goggled at her as she finished the last strokes with a flourish. "This is all you get from either of us."

I was royally pissed now. I glared at her, sure I'd be the one winning the saber-toothed tiger contest. "You can say anything you want about me but I draw the line at my son being referred to in such a filthy way. If you're spoiling for a fight, you'll have a huge one on your hands if you mess with my boy."

"I wouldn't go near your brat even if he was dying in the street," Ericka spat back. She reached for her checkbook again, tore the check loose, and slammed it down on my end table. "I want yo out of my life and if that means paying you off, then so be it. I can afford it."

"I said I don't want your damned money!" I yelled.

"I'm not taking it back so you've no choice. I suggest you use it to buy yourself a house out of town. Let me give you some advice. You'd be better off. Everyone in Aurora Skies hates you. You slept around with a pillar of the community and got yourself knocked up by him. Everyone will figure you blackmailed him into giving you the company and he complied in order to keep you silent about your torrid trysts. Everyone thinks you're a shameless hussy who just wanted to bilk money from the boss." She smiled a fake syrupy smile before turning on her heel and marching toward the door. "If you don't do it for yourself, do it for the brat. What kid would want to be known as the illegitimate one whose father doesn't even acknowledge his existence? Tough break or a young, impressionable tyke, don't you think?"

I wanted to bitch-slap her but kept my temper in check with great effort. What she said hit home and I knew Nathaniel would have tons of questions for me on this very subject when he got older. Still, I wanted to throttle her but realized it wouldn't do Nathaniel or me any good if I took a swing at her and landed myself in the hoosegow. Ericka was an embittered woman and Lord knows she had reason to be. I had to be the bigger person and not let her rile me any more than I already was.

The slamming of the door and squealing of tires told me that Ericka was gone. The only part of her that remained was the check on the table staring me in the face. I picked it up gingerly and swore under my breath. It was made out for a hundred fifty thousand dollars. As much as I really didn't want the money, I had to think of my son. Ericka was right. This place wouldn't hold the two of us for much longer. I'd wanted to get us a bigger place but had to put that on the back burner. I felt it was important to put away as much as I could for Nathaniel's education and figured I could get us something better when I made more from Countess Deborah Cosmetics. Even though my circumstances had started to look more promising, I was still very conservative with what I doled out. However, with this new development, I realized I could put a down payment on a nice, comfortable house for us, still have some leftover money to put away for his education, and still be in good shape.

I decided I would call a realtor first thing Monday morning. Oh, I'd be getting a new house, all right, but it wouldn't be out of town. I never ran from my problems before and wasn't about to start now. I would just deal with whatever the town threw at me. If I ran, it would only be teaching Nathaniel to do the same; I didn't want that. I want him to be able to face adversity with courage and self respect.

I was about to go check on Nathaniel when my cell phone rang. I groaned as I looked at the caller ID. "Hey, Debbie, it's Terrill. I was thinking that since we had such a great time at lunch yesterday, we could have dinner together tomorrow night. What do you say?"

Now was not a great time to deal with this new wrinkle in my life. With everything that happened with Ericka still fresh in my mind, the explosion erupted and I couldn't hold it back. "No, I do not want to have dinner with you tomorrow night or any other night. No more lunch dates and no more making nice. I certainly don't need a man to keep me comfortable. I'm perfectly capable of running my own life."

"Whoa, hold the phone." He sounded completely perplexed. "Let's take it down to thirty-three and a third, and then you can tell me what I've done to piss you off."

"It's just...just..." I was aghast at myself when I burst into tears. "Awww shit!" I put the phone on speaker, set it down on the table, and bowed my face into my hands.

"Debbie, what is it?" the concern in his voice undid me. I bawled, really bawled, and couldn't stop.

"Debbie, please talk to me. You've got me really worried. Are you hurt? Ill?"

"N-no. Not sick. Not h-hurt...physically. I'm s-sorry. Please f-forgive me," I stammered through sobs. Good God! He must think me completely certifiable.

"It's okay. No apologies necessary. I'm just concerned about you. If ever there was a lady who needed to unload some troubles, you're that lady. I make a good listener. Will you let me come over and be that friend you obviously need?" Terrell's deep, rich voice went right to my very soul. If I let myself, I could start to care for him; I could care for him too much and that was how I'd gotten into trouble before.

"I'll b-be okay," I said.

"Bullshit. Friends, remember? I'm unattached and have nobody to answer to. You need to talk and I'll gladly lend a listening ear. What've you got to lose?" he persisted gently.

My soul, I almost said. Instead, I sighed, then sniffled. I truly did need a friend; a friend with no conditions or commitments. It was a lonely existence with only my son for company. I needed adult companionship and I needed someone to listen, truly listen for once. I wiped my tears, gathered my courage, and took a giant leap of faith. "Fine then." I gave him my address and directions to my house.

"I'll be there in ten minutes," he said.

As I waited for Terril's arrival, I went into the bathroom to fix the damage my weeping had caused. I looked at myself in the mirror and heaved a great sigh. "Well, Evans, what have you done this time?" I fervently hoped I wouldn't regret taking this leap I'd been so scared to take.