September 4, 2015 – Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve, Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen,Chapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen, Chapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty,Chapter Twenty-One, Twenty-Two,Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five
Fiona walked home leisurely after working a few hours later than usual. She purposely stayed to transcribe the day’s notes from the afternoon court session, a task she would typically leave until morning, but it felt safer to let the building clear before she left after yesterday’s incident. She’d let her guard down for a moment, and headed to the ladies’ room down the hall instead of using the restroom on another floor, and ran into Gilbert in the hallway during jury selection.
It wasn’t a pretty reunion, and he most assuredly remembered her. She panicked when she realized it was too late to turn back, and he began screaming obscenities her at her before she could get away. Words like whore, slut, and bit shot out of his foul mouth in anger, and she cringed with fear and embarrassment. The police had to restrain him causing a scene, and couldn’t let that happen again. It was worse a few hours later, when the police stopped by her desk to ask if she wanted to press charges against her assailant. Calling him an assailant was an understatement, and she felt a bit of relief that she came across as a random victim. Thank God no one had suspected they knew each other. The police admitted there was probably not much they could do, but they wanted to protect one of their own. She quietly declined and informed them she just wanted to forget the incident. They looked at her with sympathy, as if she was the innocent party, the weak victim, and although she believed she was, she also realized that she shared some of the guilt in this mess. That was a huge realization for her.
As she passed the City Tavern she looked at her watch. It was 8:30. Doug would dine at the City Tavern on the evenings he spent with his accountant going over the books. A little deduction told her this was about the time they’d go over his first quarter numbers, and she longed to go in and see if he was there. It was just like Doug to do it up big. He wanted to feel important and show off in front of his accountant, that she knew, and the high price of the Old City Tavern would make him appear like the big shot he pretended to be.
Quickly, she realized it was not a good idea to peek inside, although it took every bit of strength she could muster to push the thought from her mind. Now, if she could walk in with a handsome man on her arm that would be a different story. It would surely get his attention, and she would love rubbing it in his face.
The thought made her sad. There was no other man, nor the hope of one on the horizon. Her loneliness felt unbearable, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could go on this way. Without even realizing it, she found herself opening the tavern door. She knew it would be wrong to go in, so she stood frozen in the shadow wondering what her next move would be and she backed away finding herself back on the street again.
When the taxi pulled up, the last person she expected to see exit was Doug. But it was him. At first she smiled, thinking this was really meant to be. Having them both show up at this exact time was written in the stars, she believed. Her smile quickly turned to a frown when she noticed he wasn’t alone. Nor was he with his accountant, unless she was a tall slender woman with chestnut hair and spiky high heels. But she knew his accountant, Ira Stone, a slightly overweight middle-aged man with no personality and a wife and five kids in the suburbs. This woman held on to his arm, as she wanted to, only Doug never took her to nice places like The City Tavern. They barely left her apartment. Her heart sank as she realized that she could be his wife. She did not know. She had never met the woman. She tried to hide behind the handsome cab parked nearby under the oil lit lamp-post, which was probably waiting for tourists to finish dinner. Old City was flooded with them.
Her mind raced with all sorts of possibilities, but none of them told her what to do next. Fiona wanted to run, but she couldn’t move as she watched the woman laugh and nuzzle into his body. She wanted to vomit. He looked happy, and that unnerved her. Now she knew what she had to do. That smug happy look on his face gave her no alternative. She had to go in and confront him.
She walked back up the few steps and into the restaurant sitting at the bar to get a better view of the dining room. The host had seated them in the corner table in the back, and she watched him help the woman off with her coat and kiss her cheek. She hated that he was not attentive enough to her, and now seeing this public display of affection, she was near tears. The bartender asked for her drink order, but she ignored him. She saw the woman walking away from the table, towards the ladies’ room, and she knew this might be her chance.
“Hello, Doug,” she said smugly as she walked up to his table.
“Fiona,” a surprised Doug replied standing, and nervously looking around the room. He stumbled on his words. “What are you doing here?”
“Catching you, I suppose.” Fiona tried to be calm, but inside she was crumbling and she knew she would not be able to fight the tears much longer. “Are you here with your wife?”
Doug continued to appear stunned and uneasy and she almost appreciated that. “I meant to call you, but I’ve been very busy. Actually, I tried to call last week, and I’m surprised I didn’t hear back from you. Why don’t I stop by tomorrow after work and we’ll talk.”
“Why wait? let’s talk now,” she said moving her head back and forth in a motion that said she had total control. “I’d like to meet the woman who threatened to kill me.”
Doug sighed and began to clear his throat. He was nervous, fidgeting with his tie to make sure it was straight. “We’re getting a divorce,” he whispered softly. “I’m not with my wife.”
As the world collapsed around her, she wanted to cry out in pain. She didn’t think it was possible that he could hurt her more than he already had. “I thought she wanted to work things out,” she said, feeling closer to losing control.
“We tried,” he said continuing to speak softly so no one would overhear. “Can’t you just be happy that I found someone else to love?”
Fiona looked at him with tears in her eyes, and suddenly her strength had disappeared. What had she ever seen in him? He wasn’t really handsome, but she told herself he was, and he treated her horribly. Why did she still want him? “I thought you loved me, Doug. You said you did and you were supposed to leave your wife for me. Not for another woman.”
“Don’t do this now,” he begged. “I promise I will stop by tomorrow and I’ll explain.”
“But what about your business?”
“It was my wife who wanted the divorce so it’s not a problem. Please, Fiona. I haven’t been this happy in a long time, and I haven’t had a chance to tell Carol about my indiscretion.”
“Is that what I was to you?” Fiona’s bottom lip began to tremble and she could not swallow. She may have been crying already, she did not know, but hearing that he had not been this happy in a long time was too much to handle. It shattered everything she believed they had together.
The patrons in the restaurant were starting to stare, and it hit her at that exact moment that Jenny was right. Her life had not changed since high school. Today had proved that by slamming her with cold hard facts. First the confrontation with Gilbert Crawley, and now with Doug. She was bound to continue to repeat the same pathetic patterns until she did something drastic. Her family told her exactly that, as they nagged her about her lifestyle, and how it embarrassed them. They told her she would pay for what she did to people and she hated that they were right.
She turned and walked away slowly, her heart broken. Nothing else needed to be said. The self-loathing she felt was powerful, making her want to run in shame, and giving her the strength to walk out of the restaurant. She felt naked, as if the entire restaurant had been laughing at the pathetic woman in front of them. Fiona wanted to flee far from Philadelphia, just like she did that dreadful night her family confronted her after receiving Gilbert Crawley’s letter. However, she couldn’t, and she knew it.
Outside, she let the tears flow freely, shaken to the core, but finding strength in realizing what she had to do. If she were to ever have any self-respect again and forgive herself for the past 25 years, it had to be done now.