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Authors: Jackie Pilossoph

Tags: #Romance

Free Gift With Purchase (2 page)

And where was Laura, his faithful, loyal wife who had a work ethic like none I’d ever seen before, not to mention a heart of gold? Where was my dear, sweet sister, who wanted and wished only for a happy, peaceful family life? ‘Poor Laura,’ was all I could think. My innocent, naïve sister would die if she saw this.

I wanted to shout, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” at the top of my lungs, but I didn’t. Instead, I fled Laura’s house, got back into my car, and drove off as fast as I could. When I got a few streets away, I pulled the car over and stopped. Then I sat there literally shaking, the reality of the cheating hitting me even harder than it had when I saw my naked brother-in-law and his flat pancake butt just two minutes earlier.

I looked down at my Blackberry and noticed I had a text from Laura. “Got called into work. Pick me up in front of hospital, 12:15. Hope that’s okay. Sorry.” I took a deep breath and headed for St. Francis hospital. What on earth was I going to do? Tell my sister during her birthday lunch that I just walked in on her husband having sex with a girl on their kitchen counter, where Laura cuts up vegetables how he likes them, (in bite-size pieces) for his salads? I decided right then that lunch was going to be difficult, and that it was probably going to have to involve alcohol.

.

Chapter 2

“I
’m not drinking at lunch and you shouldn’t either,” said Laura, just after I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir at
The Sushi Palace
, our pick for her birthday celebration, the event that was about to turn into my nightmare.

I of course ignored my sister and turned back to the waiter. “She’ll have one also.” Then I looked at Laura and asked, “What’s the big deal? You’re done working, aren’t you?”

She smiled, “I guess.”

Laura began telling me about a patient who came into the E.R. with a broken spine and two broken legs. I wasn’t getting much of the story, as the only legs I was thinking of were the two sets of naked ones that I’d just seen in my sister’s kitchen.

“Hello? Are you even listening to me?” Laura asked, “I feel like I’m talking to a wall.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“You seem really weird today. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“It’s nothing, really.”

“Tell me!”

The wine arrived at that moment, and I couldn’t remember ever feeling more grateful that we had a good waiter. I took a big chug.

“Aren’t you even going to make a toast?” Laura asked.

“Sure,” I replied. Then I held up the glass and with sincerity I said, “Best wishes for a healthy, happy, forty-fourth birthday.” I looked right into my sister’s eyes and finished, “You deserve it, Laura.” Then I took another huge gulp.

“Emma, if you don’t tell me what’s wrong, I’m going to kill you!”

“I’m fine, seriously.”

“Bull. You’re acting really strange, and you’re chugging wine on a Monday afternoon!”

I literally had to stop drinking to respond. “I am not!”

“Look at your drink.”

I looked down at my now almost empty wine glass. At this moment the waiter came back and asked, “Would you like another?”

“Yes, please,” I responded. Then I looked at Laura. “What?”

“I’m waiting,” she said.

I took a long deep breath and then blurted out, “Do you like this lipstick?” I pointed to my mouth. “It was a free gift with purchase from Lancome.”

“It’s pretty.”

“Yeah, there was also a waterproof mascara and four eye shadows in the gift. You should go get it.”

“Emmie,” she said, “Please tell me what’s wrong.”

“Please don’t call me that. It makes me feel like I’m five years old.”

“Okay,” she said with sarcasm, “
Emma!
What’s wrong?”

I looked her right in the eyes and said softly, “Take a sip of wine.”

Laura giggled nervously and did as she was told.

“Take another one.”

She did it.

“Take another one,” I said again.

“Emma!”

My second wine arrived at this moment and I took a big sip. Then I said, “Laura, I went to your house to pick you up for lunch…”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I was just really busy with patients and I didn’t have time to text.”

“It’s okay,” I interrupted, “but I walked into your house and Alan was having sex with a woman in your kitchen.” Another big chug.

“Are you two ready to order?” said our waiter, suddenly appearing and having the worst timing in the world.

Laura was frozen, her face white as a ghost.

“Could you give us a minute?” I asked the waiter.

“Of course,” he said.

“Actually, I’m ready to order,” Laura said in a fake, cheery voice. Then she turned to me and asked, “Can I order for both of us?”

“Uh…sure,”

Laura proceeded to order five or six items, saying things like, “that looks delicious,” and “definitely need one of those,” after each selection. I knew my sister better than anyone in this world and I knew that on the inside she was dying, and on the outside she was maintaining her persona of controlled, courteous, well-mannered, pleasant professional while ordering raw fish. “We may order more later,” she finished with a sugary smile, “May I have another wine?”

“Coming right up,” said the waiter.

Laura then chugged what was left in her glass.

“So, how’s Izzie?” she asked.

“Laura, say something.”

“I am,” she said happily, “I’m saying I want to know how my niece is.”

“I mean say something about Alan.”

“Something about Alan…hmm…let me think…”

Now I was frightened because even though I’d never really seen Laura lose it, I thought she might actually go ballistic for the first time in her life. Her calm, fake tone was unnerving.

“Let’s see,” she continued, “the woman in the kitchen must have been Maggie, his personal trainer.” Laura’s wine arrived at this moment and she took a big sip. “He’s also fucking Kellie, a paralegal in his office, and I believe Joannie, who owns the new dry cleaners in our neighborhood. Those are all of Alan’s girls right now, I think. There might be a couple more. I’m not sure.”

“Okay, Laura, your tone is extremely scary on several levels, the main one being that you know your husband’s cheating on you right and left and you’ve never mentioned this to me?” I practically shouted, “How can you be living like this?”

“Please lower your voice, Miss Drama Queen,” she answered.

“You know Alan is sleeping around and you’re not doing anything about it?”

“What do you expect me to do?” she asked, her eyes now brimming with tears.

“Anything but put up with it!”

“What? Get a divorce?”

“Yes!”

“No thanks.”

“So it’s okay for your husband to nail three other women. You’re just going to live with it. Are you sleeping with him?”

Laura let out a huge laugh and answered, “Uh…that would be a firm NO.”

“Look Laura, I’m so sorry. I feel sick. What can I do to help you?”

A tear rolled down her cheek. “Nothing. You and I are very different people, Emma. I’m not strong like you.”

“Huh! You think I’m strong?”

“Yes,” she said with a gentle smile, “At least you used to be. You’re temporarily…how should I say it…not you? When you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’ll be strong again. When’s that happening, by the way?”

“Umm…never?” I giggled.

“You know, I wish you would channel all the vigor and drive and guts you have for MY situation and invoke it on yourself. I feel like you have no fight left in you.”

“Things can turn upside down so fast,” I said with the sadness I so often had in my voice these days.

“Where’s that built-in courage that I used to be so envious of?”

“On a long vacation?”

Laura smiled, “Time for it to come home.”

“And time for you to face up to the fact that you have a shitty marriage.” I looked at my sister and she looked really hurt, so I added, “No offense,” which made her smile.

“Things with Alan aren’t that bad,” she said, “We’re friends. It’s been that way for years, for most of our marriage, in fact. So if he wants to live his life this way, I have two choices. Put up with it or get a divorce. And I choose number one. I have no interest in Alan romantically anymore. But I don’t want to meet anyone else either. So I just make it work.”

“Look, I’m not that surprised by what you’re telling me. I never really felt like you and Alan wanted to rip each other’s clothes off or anything.”

“Em!”

“What? I’m just being honest. But the cheating, that truly was a shock.”

“Why? Men cheat.”

“Yeah, but not men like Alan.”

“Why not?”

“Because who would want to sleep with that dork?!”

It really was funny, and we both burst out laughing, but I could tell that Laura was really affected. It was one thing when she suspected her husband of infidelity, but having confirmation that someone actually caught him in the act must have been pretty brutal.

I was so protective of Laura, constantly telling people (in front of her) that she was “the good sister, the one who dedicated her life to helping people, the angel, the good mom, the good wife.” I could tell that this ultimate betrayal was like a knife in her back, and it was frustrating because I couldn’t protect her.

“You know, with Audrey leaving for college in the fall, you could actually have a really nice life,” I said, “You could have lots of freedom, lots of peace, and lots of time to do fun things without a loser who cheats on you.”

Laura nodded.

“I want to kill him,” I said angrily.

“Don’t say that. You don’t mean it.”

“Yes, I do. I want to go back to your house right now and kick box the crap out of him.”

“What?!”

“Yeah, I’ve been taking kick boxing classes on Tuesdays and Fridays.” I demonstrated as I spoke, “Right hooks, left hooks, uppercuts, cross punches… I could give him some much deserved bruises. Say the word.”

“No thanks,” she giggled.

All of a sudden, at this very moment, I burst into tears. Laura tried to comfort me, which was totally ironic.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, while semi-hyperventilating, “I just want you to be happy, Laura, and I thought you were.”

“I have a beautiful daughter, a job I love, no financial worries, two healthy parents, an adorable niece, and a crazy but wonderful sister. I have a lot to be happy about.”

Through tears, I asked, “How do we have the same blood pumping through our veins? If I were you, I would NEVER EVER compromise and sleep in the same bed with a cheater like Alan. If I were you, I’d rid myself of the screwed up baggage holding me down. If I were you, I’d file for divorce and milk the guy for every cent I could.”

“And if I were YOU, I’d get over what happened, stop blaming myself, stop feeling guilty and move on. It’s been over a year since Sam died, and it’s okay to still be grieving his death. But this guilt you have over it, it’s enough already. Let it go and try to start moving on. Could you maybe try to date a little bit, dip your toe in the water?”

“No thanks.”

“I’m not saying you should dive into a relationship, but you haven’t even gone out with one guy. In fact, have you had any interaction with a man in the past year, other than dad?”

“Yes, actually.”

“Who?”

“The guy who works in the wine section at Trader Joe’s. He really knows his Pinot Noirs.”

Laura took a deep breath. “You better watch it or you’re going to get some right and left hooks from
me
. I’ve taken kick box classes, too.”

“Ooh, I’m scared.”

“What about a job?” Laura asked, “Have you thought any more about going back to work?”

“What’s the point?” I asked bitterly, “I don’t need the money thanks to Sam’s insurance policy.”

“Fuck the insurance policy!”

“Laura!” I said with a laugh. I always found it so funny when Miss Prim and Proper used a four-letter word, which wasn’t often, trust me.

“Not for the money, Emma. Work would give you self-worth, satisfaction, and the feeling of productivity.”

“I know. You’re right,” I said, “But I’m not ready. Besides, I like staying home with Isabelle.”

“Who’s in school most of the day,” she answered.

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. I just sat there with my head down. Then, I looked at my sister. “Did I ever tell you my last words to Sam?”

“Why are you bringing this up again?” she answered, exasperation in her tone.

“I hate you,” I said coldly, “Those were my last words. I hate you.”

“Oh my God! Are you going to blame yourself for the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know.”

Laura took my hand across the table and with tears in her eyes, my dear, sweet, gentle sister said softly, “There’s a light that shines on your face. You’re a beautiful woman. And yes, I’m sure it will be years that you will grieve Sam’s death. I think that’s okay. But you’re wasting good years lamenting about what you think your role was in Sam’s death. Emmie, you didn’t have a role in his death. Do you understand that? How many times do I have to say it? You didn’t kill Sam. Come to terms with it. Please.”

“Thanks,” I smiled, letting those words roll right off of me, as I usually did. At that moment, Laura had a look of defeat on her face.

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