Read Splintered Heart Online

Authors: Emily Frankel

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General

Splintered Heart (10 page)

Marian remained calm and logical. "I'm just asking a rather obvious question and you immediately jump to Andrea's defense."

"I wasn't defending her!"

"Well then, why don't you answer the question?"

"Which question, what question? You've been asking so many questions, I've lost track."

"Her build. I simply asked you what kind of figure the girl has and you keep avoiding answering me."

"You want her measurements?"

People from other booths were looking at them. Ferris took a sip of water. He signaled the waiter for the check. He folded his napkin. Then he spoke calmly, quietly stating that as far as he was concerned, Marian had the ideal figure for a woman, that Andrea's figure was very much like Marian's.

Marian's eyes, thoughts turned in. He was making
into shapes that belonged in a camera lens — he wasn't talking about the bodies of two women with whom he'd made love. She was remembering her father, how often he came home late. She had never wondered about it, but now she was wondering about the store models in their swim suits, low-cut gowns and lingerie.

They walked home without talking.

"How often did you see Andrea?" Marian asked, after Jimmy the elevator man had delivered them to their floor.

"Do we have to have this discussion here in the hallway?" Ferris took Marian by the elbow and led her down the hallway to their door.

"Did you see her every night?" She felt as if she was watching it happen on the twenty-inch screen. He was the soap-opera husband who had been kissing the young girl yesterday and she was the shrewish soap opera wife. "Once a week? Everyday?"

"I didn't keep a record. Probably once a week." Ferris spoke through clenched teeth.

"Only once a week? On Friday nights?" asked the soap opera wife. "This is your night for Andrea, I presume?"

"I was planning to see Andrea tonight, yes," Ferris was fumbling for his key ring.

"Yes, I know — her friend Myra phoned you here. Myra wanted to let you know your girlfriend was going to be late for your date this evening."

"I didn't get Myra's message, I didn't see Andrea this evening, Marian, but the purpose of my meeting with her tonight was to explain — "

"To explain that your wife came home unexpectedly? Andrea didn't know you were married?"

Ferris tried one key, then another.

"And you were going to make new arrangements with her, now that your wife is back? For some other night perhaps? Or maybe for the afternoons on your lunch hour?"

The lock was sticking. It was a nightmare — no matter what he did or said, he was in the quicksand, going down.

When they were inside, Marian said, "Ferris, have there been other women?"

"Other women?" The telephone was ringing. "I've got to answer that phone."

"I want to know if you've had other women?" Marian's heart was pounding furiously. She could hardly breathe.

Ferris stopped in the middle of the room, ignored the ringing..."Marian there is no one in my life but you."

"That's not what I asked you. Have you had other love affairs, other than this girl?"

"'Love affairs' — God, no!"

"I want the truth!"

"Marian, there has been no one — there is no one but you!" He started to say more, found he couldn't, so he turned and picked up the ringing telephone.

There was strength in the words he chose, conviction in the way he said it. Marian had to believe him, but as she stood watching him — the expression on his face as he said "Hello" to the phone, his expression when he announced, "There's no one on the line," and hung up — she wanted to laugh, also to weep, throw something, slap him. "Is that your little Friday girlfriend phoning to check why you didn't meet her this evening?" As soon as the words were out, she wanted to take them back. She wished she could be punished, have her mouth washed out with soap. She felt out of control, as if she were possessed by some madness.

She'd never known any kind of madness, except perhaps, falling in love with Ferris —
had been a madness. She didn't understand that jealousy is one of the uncontrollable passions — like being in love — an all consuming fire that had to run its course. She didn't realize that there was no cure for what she was feeling, except time.

Saturday morning more details were brought out into the open.

It seemed to help — reconstructing the sequence of what had taken place while the Coopers had been apart. The honeymoon in Florida was now separated into events: "The Walk on the Beach", the "Candle Lit Restaurant", the "Day She Wore the Yellow Dress." The Friday dates back in the city were also titled: "The Friday Snow in Central Park", "The Friday They Went to the Movies", "The Party on Lincoln's Birthday".

"Now that I know what you two shared, I can understand your falling in love with the girl," Marian said.

Ferris had learned not to let statements like that pass. "I was not 'in love' — she was just a friend."

"A friend," Marian echoed. The lovemaking that most certainly had taken place was something that she couldn't talk about and he wouldn't talk about. "So, what did you and your friend talk about?"

"I don't know... Poetry..."

"Poetry!" Marian was seeing the T.S. Eliot on the table next to the bed. "When did you find time to talk about poetry?"

"I don't know — when we were walking on the beach."

"The day she wore the yellow dress?"

"Good Lord, what dress — what are you talking about?"

"You said she looked like a 'yellow rose' — was that the only time you talked about poetry?"

He was nodding his head yes. She was shaking her head no. They were like children on the beach arguing over whose sand castle it was, while the sand castle was melting into the sand.

"Dammit, I needed someone to talk to, I recited a poem, that's all!"

"And she was a very 'good listener,' I'll bet."

"Marian, I was lonely, you weren't around — "

"Yes." Her tone was bitter.

"Sweetheart, you were in California — "

"Oh I see, now it's my fault because I was working in California. You always say you want me to have my career, but you don't, do you? " It came over Marian like a heavy blanket — the career discussion they'd had as newlyweds — he didn't know that she had been too old to start a family and now she was being punished for her lies and subterfuges, by his lies and his affair.

"Marian, I am always lonely when you are away. I miss you when you are away, but you have an important job." He took Marian's hand. "When you were away I missed your advice, your sense of humor. I missed your beautiful eyes, everything about you."

Except making love
... She noted that his list of her virtues did not include that. Pulling away her hand she muttered, "Well, I'm not going away again!"

"Sweetheart, you can't walk away from your responsibility to your business — what about the style show in California? "

"I'm not going anywhere."

Ferris lost patience. "I won't let you do this — you have to work, you have to travel!"

"Yes, so you can play around, like my Daddy playing around with the models, that's why Mamma was always so depressed!" Marian shouted. Then, she saw that Ferris' face was white, his hand was on the door, he was ready to leave the room.

"Please Ferris, forgive me. I must be getting my period. I don't know why I said such awful things. Daddy was always a faithful husband. I'm just all pent up, it's jet lag. I just don't think you should be stuck with a wife who works all the time. I just want us to be together more of the time."

"That's what I want, Marian."

It was clear that Ferris was talking about their future together.

Marian smiled at him weakly, "I'm not going to give up my business, I promise."


They went shopping. They were lightheartedly impulsive and in complete rapport — on the case of wine, a lounge chair, a set of porcelain and silver-rimmed espresso cups and saucers for eight which they did not need because they never drank espresso but which they decided to buy anyway for entertaining guests even though they didn't have an espresso machine.

While comparing prices, colors, styles, talking to sales-people, waiting for receipts, Marian was reviewing the titles: "Walk on the Beach", "Yellow Dress", "Party" — it was a litany — by repeating it, she was making what happened less real.

…It was circumstances, coincidence, he was just lonely. I was away, Florida was balmy, there were problems, there was nobody for Ferris to talk to except Charles and Charles was playing around — these days everybody plays around...

"Ferris, doesn't Charles know?" They were home, Ferris was fixing them drinks while Marian was unwrapping the little porcelain cups, setting them out on the table. The question came up as she discovered a blemish in one of the delicate saucers.

"Sweetheart, I already told you — "

"Yes, but doesn't he know about you and Andrea?" She was holding out the saucer for him to inspect.

"I don't think so — he was at the party, but there were a lot of people here." Ferris scrutinized the saucer. "The saucer does seem to have a little crack honey." He resumed the stirring of the martini mix.

party? You had a party

" was just an office party — secretaries, the crew, cameramen, script people... It was on a Sunday, the 15th or maybe the 14th..." It was the quicksand again and Ferris wasn't prepared.

"Valentine's Day..." She was remembering her Valentine surprise. "So, what did Andrea think of our home?"

"She thought the place was tastefully furnished."

"Ah, 'tastefully furnished!'" Marian didn't bother to cover her sarcasm, "And what kind of apartment does your Andrea have?"

"Just one room — bamboo, pillows and pictures."

"Sounds like a set for some low-budget movie. You certainly wouldn't call that place tasteful, would you — "

"Honey — "

"When I made my Valentine phone call, I thought you'd been asleep but Andrea was here, wasn't she? She stayed overnight here with you in our bed, didn't she? Did she make the bed in the morning? Fix you coffee?"

"Marian, we must stop this. My relationship with the girl is finished. It's over! Dammit, you know everything!" Ferris shouted. "We cannot keep going over and over and over it, don't you see what it's doing to us?"

"Yes." Marian saw she would lose him if she did not stop pressing him about Andrea.

"Marian, I love
. You are my wife, the woman

She could feel the tears on her cheeks, but she was silently exulting. ...It's me that he loves, he chose me, not

"My dearest love, please don't cry, please don't be sad anymore."

"I'm not sad. I just feel sorry for poor Andrea."

"Don't even say her name. It's the past. It's gone, done with!" Ferris stood up, took Marian's hands.

When they were kissing, the telephone rang.

"Let's not answer," Ferris said.

Marian had the dizzy giddy feeling of being a young girl in love again. She could feel herself melting — muscle, sinew, bones dissolving. His arms around her, his lips, his hands on her body were lovely.

"Come on darling," Ferris said, leading Marian to their bedroom.

As they were beginning their lovely lovemaking rituals, beginning to enjoy at long last the pleasures of their homecoming honeymoon evening, Marian had one little last thought for the girl. ...It's over, Andrea...

It was just the faintest of whispers in her mind.

She didn't have the experience to understand the danger. Her whisper was the smoke and spark of the other fire — the passion that was the opposite of the lovely passion both the Coopers needed and yearned to enjoy.

But after a half hour or so, the lovers chuckled a little, and explained to each other. "It's too soon. We'll let a little time pass. Then, things will be as good as always."

They said
I love you
, as each turned to his pillow, her side of the bed, to private thoughts and sleep.




Chapter 11

"Oh, you look so rested, so sweet this morning," Mamma said, opening the door, "I'll be ready in a minute. I just want to put on some earrings. Who's driving us today?"

"The same chauffeur who drove you last time probably, Bernie — I think that's his name."

"What did you say his name was?"

"Bernard — he calls himself 'Bernie,' Mamma."

"Oh yes. I remember Bernie. He's a good driver. Do I need a fur? The temperature is supposed to drop this evening, Ralph adores my sheared beaver. Do you want anything to eat before we go?"

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