Emily waved as Mark's car turned the corner in the early morning and disappeared from sight. She'd kept her face calm and cheerful last night as he'd told her of his decision to rush off to Michigan to see his parents. She'd even helped him pack, reminding him to take some anti-diarrheal medication along, as the high sulfur content of the water table tended to upset him when he visited, and putting in a couple extra pairs of socks that he would need due to having to walk around in a snow saturated climate.
But so soon? "Tomorrow?" she'd asked him. "Is your dad in that bad a shape?"
"No," he'd told her, trying to look sincere, but unable to hide an elation in his eyes and the eagerness that energized his slight frame. "But I can get there and visit and be back before mid-terms are even an issue."
Emily wondered how she'd seemed in his eyes. Had her eagerness to have him out of the house for a week been so transparently obvious as his? She couldn't wait for him to be gone. The minute she was sure he was on a plane she planned on searching every inch of his den and bedroom. "Call me when you get to the airport," she'd told him as he got in the car.
He'd given her a thumbs-up sign with a grin, a grin the like of which she hadn't seen since he was a mere professor at Port Laughton University, one of the youngest on the faculty staff, and she was his new wife, looking forward to family and success and such a wonderful life in Port Laughton. Her insides had done an involuntary flip at the smile, and she wondered about that.
I fell for that smile and the vision he had of shaping the world. I thought I was a big part of that world. But off he goes, lying to me, still smiling that smile. His trip to Sacramento Airport would take him nearly two hours, so she returned to the house, carrying her cell phone in her sweater pocket. The cleaning service ladies wouldn't be here until nearly eleven, so she had an entire morning free. With Mark gone for a week, she didn't have to worry about menus and food preparation -- she could have ramen noodles for lunches and go to Giammarino's Delicatessen for dinner plates. She could stay in pajamas all day long if she wanted to. The silk pajamas, and her amethyst and rose quartz jewelry. At least one day she would. That was a promise.
But for this morning, playing with the new computer was what it was all about. Digging the computer out from under the undies, she plugged in its power cord in her office, on her desk. Yes! It works over here, too! She called up the e-mail bookmark and saw that she had a message. A leap of delight filled her, and she clicked on the inbox button. Middi!
The message from Middi read, "Emily! We're here, we're stuffed from a truly decadently wonderful restaurant, and the weather is a lot more sunny than Santa Cruz. This hotel has free internet access, as you can see.
"I'm so glad you're on line now. Don't tell Mark about it if you think he'll have fits, at least for 90 days. Then you can't return it!
"Has Mark contacted Clive about the other six dwarves?"
"Nathan says hello, by the way, and is fretting about how Mark took the news about the counterfeit.
Her first e-mail!
She hit the "Reply" button, feeling like a technical wizard compared to Last Week Emily. "Hi Middi!" she wrote. "Tell Dad not to worry about Mark. He was upset to hear that the Schroeder was a fake, but he just wants to see the seller get caught. I'm supposed to call our lawyer this week some time, but I don't really know what happens after I talk to him and an FBI agent.
"Mark is flying to Michigan today to visit his parents." At that, Emily stopped typing. She didn't know if she wanted to tell Middi about the letter from Western Michigan University or not. She decided not, at least not yet. Instead, she typed, "I wonder if I could rent a dog for a week?
Funny, not wanting Middi to know about Mark's deceptiveness. It wasn't that she didn't want Middi to think badly about Mark; Mark's continued snubbing of her already had damaged his relationship with her father and her father's wife. Middi had been well aware that initially, Emily was angry about Nathan marrying her, but she also understood that it wasn't really a personal spite -- Emily had not finished grieving for her mother and had resented anyone stepping in and making her father laugh and look ten years younger. Emily got over her anger, and Middi was still Middi, willing to be friends and make Emily laugh, too. The ten years younger thing might be nice. If I hang out with her a little more, will that happen to me, too? Mark, on the other hand, after his initial outrage at the Nathan and Middi hookup, had sunk into an accusatory hatred of the woman, not because of who she was, or what she was like (although he did view her as lower class and not fit to socialize with) but because she stood between Nathan Storm's fortune and the Fatzer bank account. Middi knew that, and despised him for it. So did Nathan, actually.
Emily knew the state of their relations, and just tried to make as much peace as possible and hoped one day for the best, not making excuses for her husband's attitude, but just trying not to let a battleground be staged, lest she be forced to choose sides. But this deception about the university in Michigan was different.
How is deception more troubling than hatred? Emily frowned, trying to get her thoughts around the situation. She shut her eyes and thought about telling Middi and her father about the fax and letter from Michigan, imagining the three of them sitting at the kitchen table overlooking the ocean. She imagined saying, "Get this. Apparently Mark applied for a job at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and didn't tell me a thing about it! I only found out because I saw a letter inviting him to come interview with them. And lo and behold, now he's off to Battle Creek to visit his parents, who just happen to live not too far from Kalamazoo. What do you think of that?" She visualized the shock, the anger, the disgust she would see on Middi and Nathan's faces, and suddenly Emily knew why she didn't want them to know about this: she was ashamed, ashamed to have been so dumb as to be deceived, profoundly ashamed to be so intimately associated with a man who could deceive his wife so baldfacedly and so coolly.
Her hands began to shake, and she turned off the computer and closed its lid, not wanting to risk hitting the wrong key and losing some program or making something not work or picking up the machine and everything else on the top of her desk and hurling everything against the wall. She stood up, making her chair scoot away from the desk on its rollers. What do people do when things like this happen? I honestly do not know! She wanted to go on a rampage, but had no desire to clean up after a rampage. She felt the need to choke something, but had nothing to choke unless she went down to the kitchen and found Mr. Spoon again, and really, hadn't Spoon suffered enough yesterday? She considered using something as a punching bag, but knew she'd end up pulling a muscle, and then spend the rest of this (private, so nicely private) week in pain. No, no punching bag. She could get drunk, but that was too passive, and she didn't want to deal with a hangover. She thought about going outdoors and walking as far and as hard as she could, but it was cold out, and there were the phone calls she was expecting, and she'd never get to anywhere until lunchtime, unless she walked in a circle, which appealed to her not at all. She exhaled, hard. Fine, I won't break things or punch things or run away from home. She tugged her sleeves down to her wrists and straightened the front of her sweater. Listen, O you who seek Peace! It is not found by straining your body or by enlightening your mind. I have found Peace and it is from sheer laziness.
Emily was too cautious to use the secret keys to riffle through Mark's den again until she knew he was at the airport (what if he had second thoughts and called off the trip and returned home and promised to become a model husband from now on, now wasn't that a thought) but there were things she could be doing in the mean time. She pocketed the keys, hearing them jingle companionably together. One of things she could do was to call her doctor and schedule an exam to make sure she hadn't been contaminated by Mark's fooling around (if he had been fooling around, there really wasn't any proof of that, but there was no assurance, either, that he hadn't) and the other thing she could do until the cleaning service came and went was sit down with a notebook and start planning for the future. If Mark was going to take off with somebody else for the wilds of Michigan, so be it. The way things were looking, there was nothing she was able to do to keep him from leaving her behind, and doing it soon. What on earth would she need to do to survive?
She let a fantasy begin to play in her mind, that he had already left, and she was standing in her house alone, with no future in being Mrs. Mark Fatzer. What would she do for the next hour? For the next day? From the middle drawer of her desk, Emily produced a spiral bound notebook, completely devoid of any writing. She took a pen from the holder on top of the desk and wrote on the front cover of the notebook: "In Case of Fire, Break Glass." I'm pretty funny, aren't I?