I’m done reading Eric’s story. How illuminating. He never brought up any of this stuff the other day over koroga and champagne. But why would he? That’s the day he caught me in the bathroom with Frank. I toss my phone aside. Well, well. I lie under the covers, staring at the overhead ceiling. Eric is the one guy, among all of them, that I saw myself being married to.
Since we are done (before, in many ways, we even began) I’m not going to obsess over this. I turn on the TV. There’s a new Will Smith film I’ve been meaning to watch. Collateral Beauty. Its focus is on Time, Death and Love. It has a very surprising plot twist in the end. As the credits roll, I decide to borrow from the movie and send a text message to Eric: “I wish we could be strangers again.”
Think about it. In relationships, a lot is said and done that can piss the other person off. Most of the time we forget what we liked about the other person because we are so angry or hurt by them. Sometimes time passes and the anger dissipates but still, too much has happened between the two of you to ever get back to where you were. Which is a shame because you really liked each other. Perhaps even loved one another. So this one sentence — I wish we could be strangers again — hits me right between the eyes. I hope it has the same effect on Eric. If we could wipe the slate clean and start all over again as strangers, it would be like turning back time.
I fall asleep. The next morning I check my phone for a response from Eric. Nothing from him. There’s a text message from my mom.
“Did you go to church on Wednesday? What are you giving up for Lent?”
Oh yes, this past week had Ash Wednesday in there. It sort of passed me by with all the drama in my life. Ashes are made from palm branches blessed in the previous year’s Palm Sunday. This practice started in the 12th century. If you make it to church on Wednesday, they place the ashes on your forehead with the sign of the cross. It’s not a day of holy obligation but my mum likes all of us to go. I text her back.
“I’ll get the ashes on Sunday, I didn’t make it on Wednesday. Giving up sex.”
Yes, I actually wrote that. And hit send. I was going to say ‘alcohol’ but in my mind I wanted it to be sex and I didn’t realise what I was sending to my mother until it was gone.
Her response was swift.
“Good. Give it up totally until marriage.”
I burst out laughing. My poor mother must be traumatised! The reality, of course, is that I can’t give up sex. I have one more guy to seduce before my scam is over. Mr N was here last night before I started to read Eric’s story. It did not go very well. It had started off well enough with us making love and him cuddling with me thereafter. That was a big deal. Mr N never cuddles! Then I spoiled it all with my question.
“Hey…” I whispered into his ear. “Who is my fourth target?”
His eyes flew open and there was a look of confusion and disappointment. Then it was gone and he was all business as usual. He let go of me and stood up to get dressed. I immediately regretted my words.
“Don’t leave yet,” I said.
“I need to go. I’ll give you the last assignment tomorrow,” he said coldly. He turned to leave and this time, he slammed the door.