Hard Pill To Swallow

Even before the Uber came to a complete halt, Katie Solomon had the back passenger-side door open ready to hop out, and was pushing her way through the crowded airport with her wheeled carry-on case in tow. Her phone rang and she struggled to fish it out of her coat pocket.

The phone screen read: GRACE.

Katie rolled her eyes and exhaled sharply as she pressed IGNORE and shoved the phone back into her pocket. Not watching where she was going, she collided with someone and was about to apologize when she looked up and saw Grace Brewer holding out her phone.

“Did you just ignore me?” Grace asked, face like a thunderstorm.

“What? No!” Katie lied. “What are you doing here?”

“Um, trying to speak with my supposed best friend who’s been avoiding me for the past week?”

“I wasn’t avoiding. Things are just hectic at the moment and I’m running late for a conference but if I get through screening like right this minute, I can just make my flight.”

“A week, Katie. Not one returned call or text in a week.”

“But it’s never just a week with you, is it, Grace?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means when your life begins a downward spiral, it’s months of consoling, months of advice, months of talking you down off all the ledges. Months that I don’t have right now.”

“Oh, didn’t realize my misery was such an inconvenience to you. Go on to your conference-thingie, then.”

“I am,” Katie said, as she made a beeline for the escalators.

Grace stood there in shocked disbelief, ready to let out a scream of rage that her best friend couldn’t even spare a few minutes of her time, when her phone rang. It was Katie.

“You’ve got some nerve,” Grace started.

Katie cut her off. “You’ve got a few minutes until I board the plane, so you’re on the clock, talk!”

“What? How can you just put me on the spot like that? It’s too much pressure.”

“Okay, then I’ll go,” Katie said. “Here’s the real reason we haven’t had this conversation yet: You’re. Not. Ready. You’re in the first stage of separation: denial.”

“I’m not in denial, in fact, I think I’m being very mature about things. Colin and I are talking, actually talking, for the first time in a long time.”

“Grace…”

“I’m sure you think it’s a mistake, but I still love him. There’s a lot going on. We have history.”

“Germany has a history, too. Nazis, the SS, Panzers. You learn from history, you don’t repeat it.”

“I just need to know if we have a future. Odds are this will fail miserably and leave me more devastated than I already am, but I’ve got to try. Who wants to live the rest of their life wondering what if?”

Katie said, “That feeling of betrayal? That doesn’t go away. Trust? You can toss that out the window. And every time you two get into even the smallest argument, guess what gets tossed into the mix?”

“I hear what you’re saying, Katie, but I…”

“But nothing. You said the sex stopped months ago. He bought new clothes, started spending more time at work, that’s all the classic signs. Were you really surprised when he asked for his keys back? Doesn’t take Holmesian intuition to work out that he met someone else and it was over between the two of you.”

“But I asked him if he was cheating on me and he said no. Granted maybe nothing was going on between them while we were still together, but he was starting to develop feelings for her that he didn’t want to admit to.”

Off the escalator, Katie located the arrow pointing to her gate and headed in that direction. To Grace, she said, “Okay, here’s the part you’re not going to want to hear, the friendship breaker. Yes, Colin is a vile creature who’s sleeping with the office slut, but he’s not in the wrong here, you are.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s one name that hasn’t come up during all this.”

“Whose?”

“Mark. Your husband.”

“That’s not fair. You know my marriage means nothing to me, obviously, or I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Colin. The only respect I have for Mark is that he’s Lucy’s father. He doesn’t deserve anything else from me. He lost that right before Colin ever came into the picture. Mark is my legal husband, Colin is the husband of my heart.”

“So, what do you hope to get out of all this, a reconciliation? Even if you pull a miracle out of your ass, are you going to leave Mark? Wait until Lucy’s old enough to understand? How many years until she’s off the college? Nine? You really think you can keep a guy like Colin on the side for that long?”

“What am I supposed to do? Financially and logistically, I can’t care for Lucy alone right now. And Mark would flip if I moved her in with Colin. Should she go without or live in a dangerous neighborhood because I’m not in love with her father anymore? There’s no family for me to turn to for help and support. I’m not looking for another father for her, she’s got one. I just wish that we could live under a separate roof. I need to be able to care for her by myself. This situation is unfair to everyone involved.”

“I’m not blaming you for doing right by Lucy, I’m just saying if you plan on winning Colin back, you need to start filling sandbags and shoring up your castle to protect the queen. And be prepared not to let him into your heart again until he proves himself over time. And if you do let him back in, be shrewd, be careful and keep your eyes open wide. Listen for the wrong answers. Remember, in his eyes, regardless of your shared relationship, he’s sleeping with a married woman. After a while you cheapen yourself by staying with him and he’ll value you less. And that’s unacceptable,” Katie said, and off Grace’s silence, added, “I’ve said too much, please be careful, I know what you’re going through and it’s hard to let something close to you go… probably the hardest thing anyone can do. “

“Cheapen myself? He can’t possibly see me that way, can he?”

Katie shrugged. “Don’t know what to tell you, Grace, you’re still kind of unavailable to him. Marriage has a way of doing that to the third party.”

“I just not willing to accept the fact that all the time we’ve spent together was for nothing.”

“There are no number of years together or history or whatever that’s worth your peace of mind,” Katie said, reaching a security checkpoint, She presented her ticket and boarding pass. “He’s violated that by sleeping with someone else and it’s something he can never repair. No matter how good he may be or become. You are the only one who can give yourself peace of mind. I highly recommend you wean yourself from him, as difficult as it may be. There’s more out there. Yes, he’s familiar, but take a good look at that word: fami-LIAR.”

“All I can say is this. I know with everything that I am that I was meant to be with Colin.” Grace said. “For how long, I can’t say, but I know we’re not done. This is not a desperate cry, this is a maturity that’s awakening in me. I won’t forgive him for what he’s done, but I have to work past it. It’s like gutting a house, sometimes the foundation is strong enough so that you just have to replace the innards and resurface the exterior. You combine the old and the new into something better.”

“Look, if Colin’s indiscretion is something you can live with fine, but for me, personally, I can’t deal with infidelity. If the person I’m with starts messing with someone else, it’s adiós muchacho.”

“Don’t you understand? This is about more than just him being attracted to someone else. It’s been a long time since I felt free, an eternity since I let someone really see all of who I am. You were there, Katie, you knew me when. Not to sound vain or anything but I’m beautiful. I’m a unique vision of creation, a work of art, who’s trying to get back in touch with the person I was, who I still am, not the golem that my life experiences are trying to carve me out to be.”

There was silence on the other end of the line and Grace thought the connection had dropped. Katie’s voice finally broke the silence, her tone a little softer. “I get that.”

“Well, you must be close to your gate by now, so don’t let me keep you. I really just needed to say the words out loud before they consumed me. Thanks for being a friend,” Grace said as she ended the call.

Dejected, Grace walked out of the terminal and stared at the long queue for the taxi stand. She resigned herself to her fate of waiting, when a hand hooked the crook of her arm, pulling her in the opposite direction.

It was Katie.

“What the hell are you doing?” Grace asked, confused.

“Being the friend I should have been in the first place.”

“But your flight—”

“I’ll catch the red eye. So, liquid or frozen?”

“What?”

“Name your comfort poison, booze or ice cream.”

“Both?”

“Wow, you really do suck at making decisions.”

“I make decisions all the time,” Grace said, indignant.

“Yeah, the wrong ones.”

“This is being a friend? You know, it’s probably not too late to catch your plane.”

“Still got a little fight in you. Nice to know,” Katie smiled. “Now, where can we grab a froyo mojito?”

“I know just the place.”

Text and audio ©2014-2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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