A comforter covered her in this cozy little cabin and its name was Fiona Apple. Her pillow happened to be some kind of red wine Morgan had bought. Allie realized that sitting around by a fireplace sipping wine on a Sunday night wasn’t really a great way to declare victory over the booze-faced bastard she’d just left but she was coping. Morgan had given her a pill to help with the panic, too. Maybe that helped. Allie wasn’t much of a fan for either of these vices but tonight she needed them and welcomed them. The music was simply the soundtrack for her sad little soul.
You meet the man of your dreams and you’re swept off your feet. With an Italian name and an accent and all the promise of this wonderful art he created. A director. A visionary. A fresh voice.
Allie wondered if most men had similar demons or if the artistic ones tended to carry a special breed of them. The tortured souls falling victim to their own vapid shadows. Believing the hype predicted and then medicating over the cliff tossed over.
At one point, Allie had tried to carry Bernardo. She understood the industry and how fickle and ferocious it could be. She also understood how things changed—how everything suddenly stopped once California was partially decimated. They had moved and people had died and the entire industry suddenly started to circle. Some being sucked inside the swirling hole. Some of it surviving but changing. Some of it simply vanishing into thin air.
Bernardo’s career had been of the latter sort. Nobody wanted clever art anymore. The world was ending. Nobody wanted anything that could be called art or even rhymed with that word. Bernardo’s career wasn’t just on hold. It was finished. Done. Over. Thank you very much for coming, here’s your consolation prize. It’s a wife that will bleed for you and allow you to bruise her over your misfortunes and your missed opportunites.
A punching bag.
A shadowboxer as Fiona Apple sang about on the iPod and the portable speakers Morgan had moved from the kitchen into the main room.
The room spun around and Allie knew she’d had enough. The past can do that to you.
“Wow, going old school tonight,” Morgan said walking into the room, not worrying about turning down the volume.
“I remember getting high to this album,” Allie said.
“What? Really? Not you.”
Allie nodded and laughed. “Yeah. I had this stoner boyfriend in high school-he was a mess. But a beautiful mess.”
“You seem to attract those.”
“I could deal with the beautiful part,” Morgan said sipping her fresh glass of wine. “At least on cold winter nights.”
Memories were like bits of snow and ice pelting the side of the house. So many in bits and pieces. Too many to choose to pick up and study.
Morgan sat down next to her on the couch and sat Indian-style facing Allie.
“I left him,” she told her friend.
“What do you mean?”
Allie heard herself laugh and it sounded a bit mental, a bit delirious. This only made her laugh harder.
“I mean I bashed a champagne bottle over his head and knocked him unconscious and then left. That’s why my suitcase is so packed.”
Morgan still obviously didn’t understand. She was silent, waiting to hear the yeah right just kidding.
“I’m not kidding, Morgan.”
“Do I need to tell you?”
The flickering light from the fire moved over Morgan’s face. “No but I mean—did something happen that I don’t know about? Something to make you finally–”
“I married him. That’s enough.”
Yes, this was true, but Allie also knew there was something else. The final eye-opening moment. The new low, the hitting rock bottom moment.
“But yeah, there was something,” Allie added. “A week before you invited me to North Carolina.”
There was only the sound of crackling wood and the crinkle of flames in the fireplace. Morgan balled up more on the sofa and waited, watching Allie.
“Things haven’t been good,” Allie said.
“I know that.”
“No, I mean—the last couple of months. Things with Bernardo—he started acting strange.”
“The beating-your-wife kind of strange?”
“No.” Allie paused, again unsure whether to go there. The alcohol and the late night and the seclusion all helped, but still.
Still . . .
There was nothing to hide. She had hidden too much for long enough. Telling someone—speaking it out loud—didn’t just make it real. It allowed her to try to let it go. Or at least to start to.
“Something was different recently,” Allie said.
“What? Tell me—you sound so—what happened Allie?”
“There was a night—something was wrong. I didn’t know what prompted it. Of course, everything wrong in his life was because of his unlucky fate. His poor, poor luck of timing. Not being born two decades earlier before the tsunamis. The decline of the art-house film and blah blah blah. Everything’s been wrong since we moved. You know that. But this was different. Something was very, very wrong the moment he stepped foot in our apartment.”
Morgan waited, sipping her wine and watching Allie as if she was watching some kind of horror movie. Maybe she had been ever since Allie called her up the moment they were reunited in New York.
“He just seemed . . . I know how this might sound–”
“It’s me, Allie. I don’t care how it sounds. What happened?”
“He raped me. Crazy to say about someone you’ve slept with for years, right? But this night, he didn’t wait, he didn’t ask, he barely said a word to me. It was like every single angry drop of blood inside of him was wanting to lash out, so he did. It was . . . awful.”
Morgan came to Allie’s side and held her hand. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I was scared. More than I’ve ever been in my life. It wasn’t Bernardo who raped me that night. It was somebody else. Bernardo-the monster I realized I’d married—he was gone. And it was like—this is the crazy part. It was like he was possessed by some kind of thing. Some vile thing. I just . . .”
Allie wasn’t sure if she had cried any since it happened. The shock and the pain had dried them up. At least until tonight. Maybe it was the security and the sanctuary of this place. The warmth of the fire and the wine. The glow over Morgan’s face. The ability to tell this depraved story to her friend. Maybe all that and more.
“I am so sorry Allie,” Morgan said embracing her.
“When you told me about North Carolina, about this place, I knew. A switch flicked and I was like ‘I’m leaving him.’ It was that simple.”
“Does he know you’re here?”
“Not yet. He will. I swear—a part of me wondered if I killed him. I knocked him unconscious. I half wanted to kill him.”
Morgan cursed Bernardo’s name. “I hope he makes his way up here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to see what he does when I take that axe over there by the woodbox and slice his head open.”
The way Morgan said it made Allie laugh. “Have you even picked that thing up? It looks pretty heavy.”
“Well, no, but–”
“How about we just keep the doors locked and our cell phones powered?” Allie said.
“We don’t get the best service up here.”
“Even more reason to lock the doors,” Allie said, wiping her cheeks and eyes.
“I wish you had told me,” Morgan said as she looked up at her.
“I just did. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to.”
“Allie—you can do anything. I know that. I just wish you realized that about yourself.”
“I’m starting to,” Allie said. “Perhaps.”