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Satisfied with her life as an adjunct film professor, Casey Beck finds things unraveling when she discovers that her boyfriend is having a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, which prompts Casey to face her insecurity and possessiveness. Reprint.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Karen Siplin was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She has a degree in Film Production from CUNY's Hunter College.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I was waiting for something to happen and it didn't, so I fell asleep in the big green chair in my living room while the television was blasting and the lights were out. I could have been dreaming; I don't remember. I just remember sensing her presence, smelling her scent, feeling her arm brush past my face. Of course, the sound of the television being turned off woke me up, as well as the total darkness disappearing into light.
And she was there.
Mali was returned.
There's a reason for everything. I've been taught to believe that. But there are still plenty of things I can't explain. I can't explain why zebras have stripes. I can't explain why people are so complicated. And I can't explain why Mali returned. More significantly, I can't explain why she returned to me.
At least I couldn't then.
"You should never fall asleep in a chair like that," Mali said and I jumped. "Eventually it'll ruin your back and you'll get osteoporosis ten years earlier than you were supposed to."
"How did you get in?" I asked, staring at her like she was mad. My boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, all six feet of her, was looming over me, telling me what not to do.
"Good question," she said.
"Would you like to answer it?"
"It wasn't locked, Casey."
I hadn't locked it.
"In this day and age I'm fascinated by anyone who would leave their door unlocked, anywhere. I know this is supposed to be a safe building and all, but even in safe buildings rape happens. I mean, for God's sake, one of your neighbors held the door open for me."
It only happened once, he'd said.
The sight of her standing next to me, sporting dark glasses and a mop of curly, black hair, was shocking. Her years of training as a classical ballerina were still at work: she stood upright and tall, feet spread shoulders-length apart. She was thin and had great muscle tone. She wore no makeup, yet her skin was bright, even and clear. I thought: She's not beautiful. He must know she's not beautiful.
"What time is it?" I asked, standing up. It didn't help. She was still much taller than me.
"A quarter past midnight. Were you waiting for someone?"
She knew what I was waiting for: I was waiting for the phone to ring, I was waiting for him to call and say he was running late, I was waiting for him to open the door with a bouquet of fresh roses and a bottle of Piper Heidsieck champagne.
"Yes," I said. "It's our anniversary."
"Oh?" She tried to sound surprised, but I knew that tone of voice. It was the trying-to-sound-surprised-and-bored tone of voice. Who did she think she was kidding?
Mali Bengoechea was the girl my boyfriend made mad-passionate-love to for four years before he made mad-not-as-passionate-love to me. It was her job to know what night it was.
They say there are few guarantees in life, but when you're a woman on the verge of turning thirty, there are several. Without fail, a gorgeous woman will always manage to introduce herself to your boyfriend at a party the very minute you stick a chicken wing in your mouth. The part of you that turned off the telephone ringer and lowered the volume on the answering machine just to have a couple of hours to yourself will disappear and you'll want to talk to the man in your life, whether he's special or not, every minute of the day. And the moment you and your boyfriend reach a significant milestone, like an anniversary, a woman from his past is sure to reappear. Women love men who aren't available. It makes the chase more challenging.
That's where women like Mali come in. The best friend of twelve years who never found him attractive until you came along. The woman at the bar, the party, the wedding, who thinks he's cute and doesn't care that you're standing next to him, your arm through his arm; she just has to get a number out of him, or a smile, before the night is over. Or simply the ex who wants to give it one last shot.
"Where is he?" she asked.
"Not here," I said, glancing at the nearly empty bottle of Chardonnay I'd been drinking while I waited for him to remember, the Chardonnay that had put me to sleep. Mali looked at the bottle, too. And she smiled.
Three months earlier, I'd learned Mali slept with my boyfriend during our nine blissful months together. It only happened once, he said. In a moment of sheer drunkenness, weakness and stupidity, it only happened once. That was supposed to make me feel better. It didn't.
For a while, I refused to see him. I wouldn't take any of his calls. I spent weeks feeling betrayed, like there was no reason to trust anyone ever again.
But I didn't break up with him.
I tried to figure out why I couldn't find the courage to do it. I'm no idiot. I'm a teacher, for God's sake. I spent seven years in a great university and thousands of my parents' hard-earned dollars to learn how to solve complicated problems. So, why couldn't I toss this guy aside and find solace in a few good affairs of my own?
Simple. I was holding on to my man with a desperate intensity I never thought I was capable of because I didn't want to wake up one morning and realize I was thirty and single. He could have fucked the entire Yankees baseball team and as long as he didn't dump me, it would have been fine.
Actually, there was more to it. After a succession of boyfriends who came too quickly and thought women's lib meant the woman should pay for everything, there was John Paul. He picked up the tab without the blink of an eye, sent cards when he missed me, and rubbed my back in the middle of the night if I couldn't fall asleep.
He was my first real boyfriend and I loved him. I didn't want to lose him to anyone. Especially not Mali.
I wanted to win.
"I'm sorry to put you in this position," she said.
"What position?" I asked, keeping my guard up.
"I'm in a bind. I really need a place to stay."
"You can't stay here," I blurted.
She considered my answer for a minute, and then she said, "Can I have a glass of water?"
I stared at her, surprised that she wasn't trying to convince me to give in. And then I moved toward the kitchen.
"And John Paul's number," she added. "He changed it since I left."
I stopped, hesitated, shivered, and then asked, for lack of anything better to ask, "How do you take your water?"
"Tepid," she said.
Every woman deals with the news of an affair differently. Some women drink. Others eat. I became celibate.
John Paul handled our "situation" like a perfect gentleman. He never complained, never threatened to leave me, and if he slept with another woman before Mali returned, he never told me.
The Oxford American Dictionary defines celibacy as "the unmarried state." There is no definition for it in the Scholastic Children's Dictionary. And stated simply in the Longman Dictionary of American English are the words: "not having sex, especially for religious purposes."
And as I stood in my kitchen holding a glass of tepid water, I wondered if there was a definition for the moment when I was about to give up celibacy and was smacked in the face with the ex-girlfriend instead.
You see, I had the perfect anniversary gift in store for him; it was wrapped in a black teddy, covered by a short black dress. There was also a lifetime supply of extra-thin condoms from Costco, which I thought would add that special something to the evening in case he didn't get the significance of the black teddy. It had been three months since we'd had sex, and the end of my stint as a celibate was my gift. I wanted it to be special.
If exes aren't good for anything else, they're good for ruining a very special evening.
She was standing in front of a bookcase I'd bought with John Paul a few months earlier, skimming through a book.
"Can I borrow this?" she asked without loo
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Book Description Dafina, 2006. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0758213948
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