Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bookfield, Betrayal - Part 6

Evan looked a bit worried as I left that morning on my bicycle. I was elated. Finally I had a boyfriend that seemed really nice. Every minute that we were together was heavenly and exciting. As soon as I could get Mary to accept him, and meet him, she would see for herself that this was okay.

The day on the bookfield sped by. All I could think about was how I would explain my absence the night before to Mary. I was sure that she would understand.

I rolled home at about nine o’clock in the evening. I stashed my bike on the sun porch and carried my sales case inside. Mary was sitting on the top of the stairs crying. When she looked up and saw me she came down to the center hallway to meet me.

She seemed bursting to tell me something, but I felt that I had to speak my apology first, since I assumed that my staying over at Evan’s was what had upset her.

“Mary I’m really, really, sorry about last night.” I looked at her face to see if the apology had made any impact, but now she broke into sobs. I continued, thinking that she was just touched by my apology. “I stayed over because of bad planning, and if you want, it will never happen again. I plan to apologize to Chris too. I’m so sorry if what I did has upset you. Let me know what I can do to make it up to you.”

I felt good about apologizing. After all, Mary and I had been through a lot together. If I put myself in her shoes, maybe I would have felt abandoned if my roommate did not come home. But Mary seemed still more upset when my apology was finished. She staggered back a few steps and sat back down on the stairs.

“Sue, stop. I’ve got to tell you something. Please sit down.”

Now I was really concerned. Mary’s level of emotion was comparable to when she was hit by that car. I sat on my sales case opposite from her. “Okay, tell me what the problem is.” I went into my listening mode.

“It’s kind of a long story. I don’t know why, but it is really easy for me to sell books. I can sell for four or five hours a day and I’ve sold plenty. It’s just so easy. Too easy.” She continued to sob at his point.

“You mean that you’re sales so far have come from just half days? How can you sell so much? Do you get a good deposit?”

“Sue, I’ve been selling in the projects.”

This statement hit me like a ton of bricks. “Mary, how could you? It’s so dangerous!”

“I’m only there during the day, but, Sue, I can sell to almost every house if I like. That’s why my territory is lasting better than yours and I have enough to share with Chris. I’m making half of the calls that you do every day. You’re right about the deposits. I’m only collecting deposits at one in ten houses I sell to. I’m assuming that I won’t be able to deliver to some of the houses because they didn’t put a deposit down, but you’ve seen my sales at the meetings. I’m one of the best sales people this year.”

She was right about that. She was doing really well. “Mary, what has this got to do with last night?”

“Well, since I don’t need to sell all day, I come home to the Sanders’. I love them, they are so sweet and they’ve been really good to me. I have dinner here almost every night. Sometimes I come home and take a nap.”

A nap? My face could not hide what a bombshell this was. My mouth opened and my brows crinkled together in astonishment. How could straight as an arrow, clean living Mary be doing this?

“I lived every day fearing that you or Chris would come home early, find me here, and discover my secret. Neither of you ever have. I have lived with such guilt. I can’t believe that you never suspected.”

I never had. I had trusted that we were both out in the bookfield selling all day. She certainly had me fooled. The only tip off to all of this was that I remembered that she was always home before me.

“Mary, why are you telling me all this now?”

“It gets worse. I never intended for you to find out. I told the Sanders that when I was home in the afternoon, if anyone called, to say I was out. But, they forgot that today. I came home at two and decided to take a nap. The phone rang, and Mr. Sanders, without even asking who it was told them that I was there. I know he didn’t mean to, I can’t blame him. I figured it was too late to keep up appearances, and I took the call. It was Robbie.” She collapsed into fits of tears again.

I gasped. What rotten luck for Robbie to call while Mary was home. But, even though she had been dishonest with me, I was still on her side. “Did you tell him that you just came home because you weren’t feeling well?”

“I tried something like that, but he knew! He knew I was lying. He knows everything!” With this she looked directly at me and exploded into gasping sobs.

“He knew everything? You mean that you admitted what you had just told me?” I couldn’t believe the weakness in this.

Her words continued in breathless gasps. “He told me that if I didn’t tell him everything he would fire me on the spot! I had to tell him. I had to tell him everything! He knows things.”

She looked at me as if I was supposed to understand something more here, but I didn’t get it. “What do you mean he knows ‘things’?”

“I told him that you stayed out all last night.”

“You what??? Why in the hell did you do that?”

“I had to! He was coming down so hard on me. I was carrying so much guilt. I had to confess, and I was angry that you didn’t come home.”

My head was spinning. Mary had told Robbie. I was furious at her. I needed to know a bit more before I expressed this anger. “What did Robbie say?”

“He wants you to call him tomorrow at noon.”

A rage towards Mary boiled up in my throat. Traitor! She had ratted on me to deflect the heat she was taking from Robbie. I bit my lip hard to keep from letting loose at her.

“Sue, I’m really sorry. Do you think you can ever forgive me for what I did?”

I couldn’t bring myself to even answer her. I had to think this out. My number one priority was to stay for the rest of the summer. I had stuck it out for so long; it was only a couple of weeks left until delivery. I did not want to jeopardize my goal of staying so close to the end. Slowly, I swallowed my anger which was like hot bile in my throat. I could not speak for some minutes while I sought to control it. Mary looked imploringly at me with reddened and swollen eyes. I had left myself open to this by staying out all night. It didn’t make what she had done right, but it was stupid of me. In my heart of hearts I knew that I could control my anger now, but I held no hope of ever being able to forgive Mary for what she had done. I decided to just do what I had to do to stay and finish the summer.

“Again, I’m sorry that I stayed out all night, Mary, and it will never happen again.” With that I got up, picked up my case and ran up the stairs past Mary. I tried not to notice the look of dismay on her face as I went past. When I reached the top I could still hear her crying.

Chris was in the room trying to look busy at the kitchenette sink. I’m sure she had heard about everything that went on. I put on as calm a face as possible and walked over to her.

“Chris, I just wanted to apologize for staying out all night last night. It will never happen again.”

“Thanks, but that’s okay Sue. I didn’t have a problem with it. I think it’s great that you met a nice guy.”

I acknowledged her reply with a nod, put down my case and headed out for dinner. Mary was now in the living room being comforted by the Sanders. I did not stop and headed for the door.

My bike rode easily without the sales case on it. I rolled down deserted but well lit streets. I wasn’t really hungry anymore. Recent events played over and over in my head. I was really hurt that Mary had betrayed me. How could she? All this time, I thought that we were friends. She was willing to sacrifice our trust to relieve the weight of her guilt and minimize her punishment. I never, ever would have done that to her. She was a filthy rat. The dry breeze swept past my tear stained face.

I thought about calling Evan, but I didn’t think it right to unload my problems on someone I had just met. I didn’t want to frighten him away with my problems, or even worse, appear weak and vulnerable to him. Besides, I really wanted that relationship to be fun and an escape from the bookfield.

I pedaled the bike as hard as I could; building up terrific speed. The hot breeze kept my face dry. Each time my legs pushed the pedals down I imagined using my pain as steam powering an engine. Each burst of steam flushed pain powered the bike. There was so much steam. I could power the pedals for miles and miles at this rate. I felt like collapsing into a shrieking rage. I pedaled more forcefully. I headed for a hill and stood on the pedals, pushing with all of my might, and topping the hill in record time. I rolled to the bottom, and rode up the hill again and again. My thighs burned with exhaustion by the time I stopped. Exasperated and completely empty, I rode home.

All of the lights were out and every one was asleep. I was glad. I didn’t want to see anyone’s faces. The kind faces of the Sanders would melt me, and I wanted to retain a stony resolve. Mary’s face would anger me more. I snuck into the room where Mary and Chris were asleep and laid on my bed, still in my clothes. My legs were still throbbing from my exertion. I slept, and dreamt of betrayal so wicked that it could not be true of anyone. Thank goodness it was only a dream.

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