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Chapter 3: Just Deserts

“Just tell me to leave, okay? I mean just say that you don’t want me in the house anymore. Kick me out,” Claire said earnestly. That was the first thing she said to me as I entered the front door of my house. No preface. No greeting. She was standing in the hallway by the front door, evidently waiting for me, and now she was begging me to…

“What?” I asked sharply as I took off my coat and hung it on the peg next to the door. Claire had been living with us for three months at that point and I was past the point of trying to be polite to her. Unless Savannah was right there watching, I spoke as little as possible to Claire and when I did speak to her I was short to the point of rudeness. She was like a scab. Every time I saw her, it was like I was ripping it back off again. I never had a chance to heal. I wanted to deal with her as little as possible.

We avoided each other as best we could, remaining strangers while we shared home. She slinked through the halls quietly and avoided me. I always closed the door when I entered any room. We were only together when Savannah was around. Thankfully, we’d never been forced into any intimacy again. I thought that Claire and, I knew that Savannah, wanted to, but I managed to keep my guard up and prevent it from happening.

“You have to be the one to say it. It won’t work any other way. Just tell me to go,” Claire said, ignoring my tone (as she usually did). Now I turned to look at her, my eyes catching hers.

“You want to leave?” I asked now. I was more than a little bit surprised by that. It had seemed to me that Claire had really settled herself into my home. I mean she’d unpacked all of the things in her room, she cooked in the kitchen (but didn’t do dishes), and had basically taken over the guest bathroom. Savannah had poo-pooed any attempt at rent. So she had a pretty sweet deal. I was shocked that she wanted to give that up.

“I’ve been trying to leave for the last month,” she said, “No, that’s a lie. I’ve been trying to leave since I moved in.”

“What?” I asked again. I was a little disoriented now and I walked passed Claire towards the kitchen. She followed after me as I shook my head. She and Savannah had been thick as thieves since she’d moved in. This didn’t make any sense. Why was she lying to me?

“But I can’t do it. I’ve tried… over and over again. I tell Savannah that I am going to leave…I even got a new job, so I can afford a place. And then she will ask, ‘why? You don’t even have to pay rent here.’ And then I say, ‘because I want a place of my own’ or ‘I need to be closer to work’ and she blows it off. Then last week I came out and told her, ‘I need to go because Kat fucking hates me.’ And I know you do. And she says, ‘What did Kat say?’ sounding angry and I say, ‘nothing, I can just tell’ which is the truth. But then she say, ‘You’re crazy. Kat loves you. We need to have another night like that first night again soon.’ And so then I have to drop it. So you need to kick me out. You need to say the words so that Savannah will believe me and I will go. Then you don’t have to deal with me anymore,” Claire spoke faster and faster with each sentence and I found myself growing more and more confused. This didn’t make any sense.

“I never asked you to be here. This is what you and Savannah wanted…” I started, trying to fit what Claire said into my understanding of the situation. It just didn’t make sense.

“I never wanted this. This…isn’t what I thought I was getting myself into,” Claire explained.

“What do you mean by that? What did you expect when Savannah promised you a room in exchange for having a threesome with her wife? Did you think this was going to be some sort of lezzie ménage a trois living arrangement where we’d all be married to one another? Do you think that is a realistic expectation,” I shot back. I’d, of course, been mulling over what Savannah and Claire had been hoping to achieve since Claire moved in.

“I think that’s what Savannah expected. Or something like that. But trust me, this wasn’t my plan,” Claire replied earnestly.

“Sure. Whatever. But…” I started. Claire put up both of her hands.

“Kat, you need to know,” she said sharply and I became silent, “Savannah started talking to me about moving in for months before that night. Pretty much as soon as I moved in with my roommate Savannah started talking to me about moving in with you guys. That was like…seven months ago now. She knew I was a lesbian and I knew she was too. I thought she was trying to start a relationship. She doesn’t wear her wedding ring in public you know. I wasn’t comfortable moving in with someone before we’d even had a date. But things kept getting worse with my roommate. And Savannah was always really sweet and helpful… Finally, Savannah promised that she wasn’t trying to start a relationship. She was just a friend, trying to help out. That was the first time she told me she was married. And that was why I agreed to come over. Because I thought that Bayan Escort Gaziantep proved it was just a friend helping me out.”

I felt woozy from the revelations I’d just heard. I walked over towards the kitchen table in a fog and sat down quietly. Savannah didn’t wear her wedding ring out? She’d been trying to get Claire to move in two months before our anniversary? I don’t know why…I generally didn’t trust Claire. But there was something about the way she was talking. Something about it made sense. She seemed…credible. But then I remembered something, I seized on it quickly.

“Yeah, but you promised to have sex with me and my wife for the room. You can’t pretend that you didn’t understand what was happening then…” I said.

“I didn’t promise anything like that. And Savannah didn’t even bring it up until after I’d already cleaned out my room at my apartment and told my roommate I was leaving. It was only when all of my possessions were in the car and I was explaining that I’d need some time to scrounge up rent that Savannah brought that up. And she said, ‘maybe we can work something out’ and she said it all coy and everything. And I asked what she meant. And that is when she brought up the idea of us having a threesome. And I said no. The first three times she asked. But she was really insistent. And she started to get a little bit angry too. It was like…it became pretty clear that she was saying that she didn’t want rent. That was what she wanted. I didn’t want to. But I tried to bide my time by saying that ‘maybe’ I’d do it and only then if you really wanted to do it. I thought, you know…I’d have time to figure out a way out of it. And then I was here and…it just got out of hand so quickly. And I knew you didn’t want it, but you wouldn’t stop it…”

“You’re blaming me!” I said angrily, trying to grasp at that last point to avoid thinking about everything I’d heard before it.

“No!” Claire said quickly, “I’m not…this isn’t blame. I am saying that neither of us wants this…arrangement. And you are the person who can stop it.”

“Why me?” I asked.

“Your Savannah’s wife. If you say no…doesn’t she have to do it?” I sunk down into the chair at the kitchen table and laughed wryly.

“What about my marriage has ever given you that impression?” I asked, “I mean I made myself pretty clear about not wanting to this when you showed up. You saw what that got me.” Claire’s brow furrowed and I think, for the first time, she was seeing things from my perspective. I was still avoiding seeing things from hers.

“But maybe if you are just like…really direct about it…”

“And be the bad guy? Face that guilt trip? Are you kidding me?” I said and I ran my hands through my hair and wondered if this was some sort of plan by Claire to insinuate herself between me and Savannah, “I am sure she liked to portray me as the old ball and chain down at the yoga studio with her friends. But you can see for yourself that she runs this show.”

“I told you, I didn’t know she was married,” Claire responded, “I mean, frankly I was surprised she was married. She didn’t act like it. I see now that you guys must have some kind of deal…”

“What kind of deal? We don’t have any sort of deal,” I said, rising up from the chair quickly. I could tell without knowing that we were circling around something. Something terrible. I refused to think about it directly.

“Like an open marriage or something…” Claire explained, but even as she did, she took a step back. There must’ve been something about my voice.

“An open marriage?” I asked, “You think because of that first night with you, that meant we have an open marriage?”

“No because…” Claire started and then stopped. She wasn’t looking at me. The room was deadly silent. My mouth was dry and I could feel my heart straining in my chest.

“Because why?” I asked in a voice barely audible. But the room was so quiet, Claire knew what I’d asked. She waited a long minute in silence. I could tell that had changed her mind about the advisability of what she was going to say next. But I wasn’t going to let her go until she said it.

“Because,” she said finally, “she sleeps with a lot of women.” I groaned as Claire’s words battered their way into my ears. It’s hard to explain the feeling that I had in that moment. It certainly wasn’t surprise. I mean I cannot claim that I harbored any specific suspicions. At least not consciously. I purposefully avoided thinking about it, actually. But everything about Savannah’s behavior attested to her fundamental lack of respect for me. And what was an affair but the ultimate expression of contempt for a partner? I hadn’t known, but only because I preferred my self-delusion. Even then, the shattering of that delusion was painful. I felt my eyes well with tears and a lump forming in my throat. And I turned with fury towards Claire, the person who had stolen my somewhat comfortable ignorance from me. And I summoned the remaining delusion I had to strike back at her.

“Fine you fucking…cunt,” I said, my lips quivering as I spat out that word in anger for the first time in my life, “I want you out of my house. Right now. Go to the guest room and get your shit. You want me to be the bad guy? You want me to kick you out? Well you’ve got it. But I want you to know that Savannah is going to know the truth. She is going to know that I didn’t kick you out because I didn’t want you here. I am doing it because you are lying and trying to break up our marriage. I am going to tell her that you made up stories about her cheating on me. And she won’t forgive you for that.” Heat poured out of my body with my words. I watched as Claire seemed to wither in front of me. She was shaking her head and opening her mouth. I let every bit of bile and hatred pour out of me, dropping it all on Claire.

“I’m sorry I told you. I didn’t know…” she said in a meek voice, “But I am not lying.” My eyes and nostrils flared.

“Get away from me right now or I will make you leave without your shit,” I said between gritted teeth. Claire paused for a minute, staring at me wide-eyed. Then she turned quickly and ran for the stairs. As soon as she was gone, the anger slipped from me. I didn’t have anything left to prop up the lies I told myself. The full impact of what Claire had told me crashed hard into my gut. I let out a soft whimper and then collapsed onto the kitchen floor, holding my stomach, and crying.

* * * * *

“I’m packing!” Claire’s voice called out sharply from behind the door to her room, “I’m going as fast as I can.” I stood for a moment in the hallway and ran my hands through my hair. It was clear from Claire’s voice that she’d been crying as well. She definitely didn’t want to talk to me. Still, I knocked again.

“Can I come in for just a second?” I asked, “There is something I need to say.” My voice sounded flat. But controlled too. Not the crazed woman I’d been down in the kitchen. There was silence behind the door. I waited for a nearly a minute and I was about to turn and leave when it opened. Claire was standing behind the door with her arms crossed in front of her breasts. Her eyes looked wide and red, her face was taut.

“What is it?” she asked coldly.

“Can I come in?” I asked. I don’t know why, it felt wrong to whisper back and forth in the hallway. Claire shrugged.

“It’s your house,” she said archly, and then she stepped back inside and let me walk into her room. I could see that her suitcase was packed to the bursting point and there were a handful of small boxes scattered around the room. She was nearly finished. I walked over and sat down on a chair next to my grandmother’s old desk. Claire remained standing just inside the door. I indicated towards the bed and Claire uncomfortably walked over and sat down.

For a few seconds, I just looked across the room at her. I told myself that I needed to get my thoughts together, to say what I needed to say. But I’d already figured that out over the last hour and a half down in the kitchen. I just didn’t want to do it.

“There was something you wanted to say? Did you think of another way that I’ve wronged you? I’m out of apologies,” Claire said firmly. It was clear that she’d spent her time packing and getting righteously indignant. I guess she had a point. I couldn’t push it off any longer. I had to just be honest. I took a deep breath.

“It wasn’t always like this,” I said softly and then let out a shuddering breath, “I mean there were always ways that Savannah and I were sort of…incompatible. But they were, I thought, small things. For the most part, we seemed to fit together.” I looked up briefly now and saw Claire looking at me, her brow knit. She was leaning back slightly, like she didn’t trust what I was saying.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly, and then looked away from her again, “That’s what I needed to say. You didn’t deserve that…earlier today. I had not right to yell at you like that. This mess…you didn’t make it. You got pulled into it. Mostly by Savannah. And a little by me. I am sorry,” I said. I couldn’t have imagined just an hour ago that I’d ever say anything like that to Claire. The hate had burned so bright…then to have it just disappear… it was strange. Even if I knew why it happened. Claire seemed taken aback as well.

“Sorry?” she asked, not upset, just confused. It was the only thing I’d ever said to her that wasn’t rude.

“When Savannah and I first got together…I was a sort of innocent, virginal girl and she was this…exciting, adventurous…goddess. And I think we both liked those roles. I was shy and demure, and she would coax me out of my shell. And sometimes her wildness would butt up against my conservatism. And that was okay. It was a fun way to start a relationship really. And we rode that fun right into a relationship and then into a marriage.

“But, over the years, I think we’ve both started to realize something. It felt, in the early days, like we were moving towards one another. Like I was becoming a little bit more open and bold while Savannah was starting to calm down, to become an adult. But, after a while, it has become clear that that has stopped happening. I had found my comfort zone and I wasn’t willing to move out of it. And Savannah is the same way. She doesn’t want to change. And we lost the dynamic of our relationship. I’m not a naïve college coed looking to learn and Savannah isn’t my transgressive mentor. We are two adult women who don’t see eye to eye on things.

“When we lost that…we lost something else too. I don’t know…I guess I could feel it. I could feel that…something between us melting away. You know? We had a reason to be together and it made being together magical. And then we lost our reason and now…well Savannah doesn’t see any magic anymore. I can feel her resentment. It’s been building for years. I mean you lived here long enough. You see the contempt she holds me in. Savannah doesn’t even like me anymore.” My throat seized as I said the last words. It might’ve been obvious, but I had avoided thinking about it. It hurt. Claire was looking at me intently.

“I’m sorry,” I said again, “You don’t really need to know all this. I just…I don’t know anyone else I can say this too. And I owe you an explanation…”

“It’s okay,” Claire said quickly. The fury had gone out of her as well, “I don’t mind listening.” I nodded at her slowly and was surprised to find a wave of gratitude wash over me. My eyes pricked, but I kept myself together.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Didn’t you ever just…talk to her about it? I mean Savannah is different when we are at the yoga studio, I get that. But she will talk about things…” I dropped my head into my hands and laughed wryly.

“Savannah is a good friend. She isn’t…she doesn’t care to be a good wife,” I admitted. I raised my hands as if to say I didn’t have any answers. But then again, I did, “I didn’t really think about it being a problem. Some of it was, I think, that I just pretended it wasn’t happening. Savannah didn’t get like this overnight. It was gradual and I sort of slipped into slowly. So I just pretended that Savannah wasn’t spending less time with me and that she wasn’t ignoring me or being rude. And I focused exclusively on the positive. Whatever was still good about the relationship, I made that the reason for the relationship in my mind. Lately…all I can keep thinking about is that she is beautiful. That’s the only thing that I have left. She doesn’t make me laugh anymore. She doesn’t make me feel safe. She doesn’t even give me orgasms anymore. She just looks nice. And I have pretended to myself that that was enough.”

“Well when you recognized what was happening, why did you put up with it? I mean, like you said, I can see the way Savannah is around you. I thought that that was just the way you guys were. But if that isn’t the relationship either of you wanted, why did you stay in it?”

“Well that’s the whole thing, isn’t it?” I asked, “This is my mess. I have to sleep in the bed I’ve made…” I started. Claire shook her head quickly.

“I mean look…we haven’t gotten off to a good start together,” Claire said, “But I mean, I see how you are. I’m not going to say you’re nice. You haven’t been exactly nice to me,” she actually smiled at me when she said that, “But I know that this is the life you built. You work hard to support your family. You have this beautiful, tasteful home that you seem to maintain yourself. I know you try to make it a warm place, when I am not around. And you are completely devoted to Savannah. You’re young and you’re pretty. You’re a good wife. It’s like you’d climb over broken glass for her. Savannah is pretty, but if she doesn’t do anything else for you…I mean there has to be some give and take in a relationship. Get the relationship you want.” I blushed as she finished speaking. On the one hand, it felt incredibly nice, especially now, to have someone, finally, recognize the contributions and the sacrifices I made for my family. But, at the same time, I knew there was more to it than that. I had to explain it to Claire, because only then could she understand why I was apologizing. And I also had to do it so I could really understand it myself.

“Look,” I said, “I am only really getting a handle on this now. So I am going to try to put this into words. But it might not make any sense. That devotion you saw? That’s my resentment. That’s how I showed my anger at Savannah.” Claire’s brows knit.

“I don’t understand,” She said. I sighed and looked at the ceiling. I took a minute and gathered my thoughts.

“It’s like this,” I said after, my voice cutting sharply across the still air, “part of me knew that Savannah was pulling away from me. And why she was doing it. Savannah wants me to keep changing. She wants me to be more like her. But I am done figuring out who I am. I know it now. And so she resents me for not changing. But I resent her for wanting me to change. I feel like…I tell myself the same things you just said about me. I know I work hard and I am smart and devoted. And I say to myself, ‘that should be enough for her.’

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