They stared at each other for what felt like hours to Molly, but the reality was that it was seconds and didn’t phase Victoria in the least. She smiled and widened her eyes a little while looking up and down at Molly in what used to be her clothes.
“I didn’t know you knew Molly Parker.”
Victoria didn’t stop staring, waiting for Molly to violently fidget or scream as she so clearly wanted to, but something held her back, whether it was decorum or defeatism it was enough to pacify any outburst. Victoria cleared the doorway and let her in. As she led the way in, Molly had to chance to catch the full view of what happened the night before. Victoria was still naked. She crawled on top of the covers to rest her head next to Dom’s. He would be naked too. Molly’s mind shuddered as she remembered the noises from the night before but chalked them up to being drunk and unsure of what was going on. She plopped on a chair and sighed, trying to hold it in. Dom shuffled himself upwards against the headboard to talk to his friend. It was a sad sight, she knew it. She was just sitting there in what she wore as spoils now turned into humiliation — when he was supposed to see her at her bravest and most refined. Dom didn’t see the humiliation, he only smiled that his friend had tried something new. Victoria had her head on his chest and her fingers around his and Dom forgot to see anything else about Molly. The other woman laid on the bed curling chest hairs naked, unabashed – Molly didn’t understand it, she didn’t know how someone could be so open and blatant. She felt a twinge in her shoulders when she thought of what April or May would say about it. That they would tell her that Victoria was no good and that she was without class and Dom deserved what he would get being with such a woman.
Molly stared at the room around her while Dom spent a few more seconds with Victoria. She had never been in his room their entire week in France. The days spent in her bed confined her and she only left to go out to nibble on complimentary muffins on the first floor. It was light blue in there, all around from ceiling to floor, while her’s was green. It felt American at its core, as though the owners had looked up what a B&B was in New Hampshire and decided to replicate it. That blue, it wasn’t powder blue, it was a shade darker but it wasn’t baby blue either, also with a touch of red. It was one of colors where the shade and the hue combined to be entirely unremarkable but impossible to pin down due to their chromatic ambiguities. Molly stared at the walls wondering why the hell it was in France — it should have stayed in New Hampshire where it belonged. She looked away to the wall and wiggled in the wicker chair, also wondering why it was transported to the south of France. She didn’t want to look up and see the two of them, knowing if she had waited a day it would be her there. But she looked, like all masochistic people do. Dom was happy. He didn’t wait. It took all of a casual encounter for him to forget and move on with his life.
It was more of a defeated rage that came up than anything actionable. One that knows that whatever is boiling up will come to nothing, but not in the way that one would argue over coffee in the morning when both parties are incapable of coherent thought or attack or parry, rather a rage that had already hit its wall and just flailed about like fish struggling for oxygen. Dom never looked happier and smiled (he actually had after kicking Art in the groin, but that’s beside the point), which kicked the rest out of her. With a woman though, she knew it. Even when he was showing her pictures of Nice just the other day he didn’t look like that. Dom stroked Victoria’s hair, she still laid naked on the covers as a visceral threat to Molly. Molly wanted to vomit defensively. She could swear that Victoria was purring. Her eyes were even green and wide open like a cat’s.
“Molly, I like you in my clothes. They suit you. They seem more appropriate than that black thing you were wearing.”
The Dolce dress was a puddle on the floor. It wasn’t even Molly’s most expensive dress, but she loved it and it was discarded. When she would take it off in front of Art she would drape it so it didn’t get badly wrinkled or dirty even though she would probably dry clean it afterwards. It just laid crumpled on the floor. Just a black thing. She was even careful with it in the bathroom so that it didn’t touch the floor when she stepped out. Victoria wore it when she got Dom. Molly’s nostrils flared when she discovered this and she felt ill.
“You really do.”
Dom’s voice provided the relief. Molly eased into the back of the chair and remembered how she looked in the mirror in her room. The words floated through her mind again. She looked down at her tights and wiggled a few toes. She only caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror back at the club, all she really had were two halves that she pieced together. Victoria shifted on the bed so she was sitting upright and Dom fell into her shoulder. It was clear that he was happy, Molly at least accepted that. So she slumped in the chair and laughed at herself which was more of a heaving motion. And finally uttered “yeah…”. The tension seemed to be leaving and though a part of her felt like crying and believing she was a miserable failure, she did feel whole not having someone in her life. That maybe that was something to hold onto.
“So what brought you two to France? I’ve been trying to dig it out of Dom, but all he said was that he was bringing you.”
It was a momentary freeze. Molly stared into Victoria’s eyes not knowing how much to tell or if she should just lie. And then she realized she didn’t have to answer right away.
“What brought you?”
Victoria pulled away from Dom, folding her legs up under her, and betrayed an earnestness not found in laying with a lover.
“I was running. I was with a man, one who promised to be there for me, and then he celebrated his anniversary with his wife. I stole some of his money and fled to here. It was the only place interesting that was departing within an hour.”
Victoria stared down Molly in as much a sympathetic outreach as a dare. A dare to one up her, to prove that the story she would hear would be worth her while. And Molly froze. She looked at Dom who already knew and was content with it and then back at Victoria who seemed to loom larger.
Molly choked up.
She didn’t know why she went away.
And now she didn’t have Dom to talk to.
With just a couple of heaves from Molly, Victoria was immediately at her side and guiding her to the bed. Victoria squeezed Molly’s shoulder lightly and sighed.
“It helps to talk. And if you want to talk at any time, start talking. But you can also listen.
Molly shook her head. She didn’t want to talk about anything. It didn’t matter if it would help, it didn’t matter. Dom stopped looking at his friend and started running his hand through Victoria’s blonde hair. He kissed her temple and she curled tighter around him. Molly stared. She stared at the tender man who had kept her together through the divorce and whisked her away to a new city all with the promise of the two of them finally coming together until Victoria. Molly knew it. She finally saw it. It made her ill. She dug her nails into her thighs and said she had to go. That she would see Dom later when they went to the Opera de Nice. Dom simply said “okay” and then finished with saying that Victoria would join them and act as a tour guide of the city. A scream almost came from Molly — not a scream of anger or passion but one to simply release the pressure. But she left.
It was only the next door down, but the walk was a stumbling mess. Tears welled up and fell as the final release seemed only a few steps away that never seemed to come as each step taken was smaller and smaller than the one before ending in a shuffle and a collapse through the bedroom door. Molly shut the door behind her and sat in front of it with her back pressing it shut so no one would enter. It was over. The words spiraled in her mind. It was all over. Dom had given up. She had been too obsessed with waiting for the right moment, waiting for things to line up like how her friends would do it, how society wanted her to do things, how she thought that it was proper to have the perfect evening. That if she just told Dom she loved him while she laid in bed, sick, him taking care of her, just been honest… Her thoughts trailed into a blank stare, remembering how Dom’s room looked. Her eyes fell to her feet stretched out. Lace stockings covered her feet. She felt powerful once in those clothes, not humiliated.
And then there was Victoria.
She was powerful.
No trace of self consciousness or societal rules in her behavior.
Molly smiled and gave up.
“Is she okay?”
Dom shrugged. He had seen Molly in that mood throughout the divorce. Not necessarily sad but simply disheveled and upset. He told her that the divorce was just finalized and she would probably still be hurting. It was best to let her burn out this time.
“She seems pretty upset for it to be a normal divorce.”
Dom nodded. He said it was because Art cheated and initiated the divorce to be with his mistress, Karen. Art met Karen through work, and started slipping away to meet her. And then the entire marriage started to unravel. Molly’s friends, April, May, and June were of no help either. They were too detached from reality to understand what she was going through. No sex, no intimacy, and soon Molly just became depressed. Soon she hired a private investigator to tail Art. He was cheating. And then Molly just unraveled.
Victoria nodded along.
“I know what it’s like to implode.”
Dom continued to talk about Molly, and then more about himself. Victoria prodded him. Dom didn’t know what it was like to have someone listen. For so long his circle of friends were work associates that were in no way close to him, and then there was Art, his closest friend, but he lost him in the divorce, and then there were the socialites April, May, and June who only talked about themselves. But there was Victoria. She smiled when he started talking about himself. At first it was a little unloading on what the divorce did to him, how he was the one that kept Molly together and a semi-functioning human being by cleaning and ordering food and taking her outside for walks so she didn’t simply lay around all day. And then he talked about music.
He hadn’t talked about music in months.
Victoria said that she knew a great little venue.
Dom raised his eyebrows.
She was taking him there.
Victoria climbed on top of him and stared down into his eyes. He had a small grin at seeing her above him. He reached up and cupped her breast and with the other he wrapped his fingers around the nape of her neck to pull her to him. But she resisted.
“Don’t just tell me anything, always tell me everything.”
Dom pulled her to him and then promised he would.
The cafe was nice. Molly didn’t see any difference between the French cafe and one back in San Antonio other than the coffee wasn’t as good. So she played with her coffee, adding some sugar to cut the burnt black flavor. Dom and Victoria where playing footsy under the table. It was nauseating to watch only to be one upped when Victoria would sink a nail or two into Dom’s neck when she left to get more coffee. Little red marks appeared shortly after each grasp like a painful hickey. The first time she did it, Molly stared not knowing that Dom would like such a thing. It seemed so out of character, so bizarre compared to him being such a puppy dog around other women. Molly wondered what he was like in bed. After sitting in her room for hours staring at the wall, she didn’t care anymore what he did. Victoria returned with more coffee and gently bit Dom’s neck. Dom shuddered and smiled. Molly gagged.
There when Victoria sat down an awkward tension rose. They all stared at each other trying to find what banality to bring up. Victoria glanced at Dom and then at Molly, then spotted Molly glaring at her. She smiled and knew what to say.
“So Molly. Dom tells me that you recently divorced your husband.”
Molly stopped stirring the sugar in her coffee and didn’t know what to do next. She rose two fingers to her lips to stop herself from saying anything. Dom shrugged his shoulders apologetically. Molly nodded her head and stared down at her coffee.
“I know what it’s like. I had a man leave me for another woman.”
Molly was impassive, but wanted to hear. So Victoria continued.
I met Bertrand while I was at LSE. It was my last year there. I studied philosophy. He was my TA. He wasn’t like Dom here, muscly and sort of like the Brawny Man, no, Bertrand was more of a stereotypical philosopher. He had broad shoulders, but not that broad, and a little bit of a belly that he always told me would go away when he started dieting but it never did and I don’t really think he put much effort into dieting in the first place. His hair was also the curliest I’ve ever seen, really tight curls that only my pinky would fit into, and sort of a reddish brown from his Irish heritage. And that nose of his, big but not obscenely big. He also looked silly in contacts. He tried them for a while, but glasses were better on him even though he didn’t think so. High, strong, cheekbones.
I had crush on him immediately.
And he was smart. Smarter than the professor.
I went to discussions just to hear him talk and see his smile that he would get whenever he was about to announce a major point of the reading.
I still miss him from time to time.
I went to see him for office hours every week and spent the entire time talking to him. At first it was philosophy, but soon it was just us talking about the latest TV show or music playing in London. He was a nerd, but he knew a great deal about culture. Soon, it wasn’t just a crush. In his office I had to bite my lip to not leap at him. And then he asked.
I said yes.
After the class was over we went out to his favorite music venue. He glad handed with the owner and embraced the band. He seemed to know everyone there. It turned me on. He wasn’t just another geek, he wasn’t just someone who stayed in all the time, he was a part of London. But for all his hand shaking, he introduced me to everyone, he brought me into the fold. I wanted to be with him there and then. My crush leaped into loving him and I knew I wanted to be with him forever. I felt like a girl around him, not like a woman, and I forgot myself in him. That night I led him back to my little apartment and he was also pretty good in bed.
That was something that he taught me. How to have sex.
Before, I would dabble in a little foreplay that amounted to sucking his cock. But he went down on me from the get go. I came over and over from his tongue and my body felt exhausted before he climbed on top of me. He kept going.
And then he gripped my arms. He pulled them over my head and held them down with one hand. He whispered that he dreamed of this for months. As I began to come again he put his free hand on my neck and it felt like his entire weight was on it even though I could still breath, though it was hard. My body shivered and it felt like the muscles clamped tighter and tighter around him until my body felt like it was going to erupt from a chaotic pressure inside. I had never felt that. I wanted that over and over.
I was with him maybe three months before he brought rope and tied me up.
Then I tied him up.
Soon I was in command all the time.
I could do anything to him and he couldn’t stop me.
It was a drug.
I wasn’t just in love with him, it stretched over sex and culture and my entire life. All my pleasures became intertwined with his. When he wasn’t with me I felt his presence in everything I did. We were together for nine months before I found out.
He was at my place and I realized I had never seen his apartment. It seemed nice that he would come over, spend the night, and I would never have to leave, never take a cab home in the morning, walk in high heels, I would just lay naked in bed watching him dress and then he’d lean over to give me a kiss and then leave. His clothes were always crumpled, but they were more so after spending the night on the floor. But one night he was with me and things were going to the bedroom and felt something cold on his cheek. He forgot to take his ring off.
I tried to throw him out. But he pushed back. He said he loved me. He said he wanted to be with me instead of with his wife. The reason he wasn’t divorce from her was that it was messy, complicated, it doesn’t just happen over night. But he assured me that it was happening. I believed him. He was spending more time with me each month. Talking to me about our future. I believed him.
We became closer after that.
He spent an extra night a week at my place and most of the day when he wasn’t at the office. He even ducked out from time to time from the office to spend an entire day with me before going back to his wife. He showed me divorce papers that had been drawn up and said it was any day now. He said he would never celebrate another anniversary with his wife. That he would rather spend it with me.
Nine months passed.
He flew me here to visit a conference. It’s where I found the leather and lace parties here. We would dress up and head out. He would be in his motorcycle jacket that was getting creases in it he wore it so much. I went out in the clothes you were wearing the other night. I felt alive. We were strangers to the city, we were strangers to society, living as we did in the shadow and in secret. Being with him I started to get off on it. I started abandoning societal rules and mores. It started off as fun, but I started to feel powerful. I was the one he was going to be with. It was me. My allure, my insight, my body, all his.
After Nice we were inseparable. I swear he spent a week at my apartment, whether it was during the day or in the evening, he was there. And we did nothing but be together. Then one night, he couldn’t make it. He made plans with me, but he forgot his wife’s anniversary. I spent the night crying. Two weeks later his wife left to go somewhere, I forget, it’s not important. But he invited me to stay with him at his place. His study was a shrine to his wife. She gave him a pocket watch, silver, for the anniversary. I saw the look in his face. When talking about it he had the same look that he did when he looked at me in the morning while we were in bed. He loved his wife.
That night, when he was asleep, I paced through the house. I rummaged through his study and found all kinds of things, passports, his wife looked like me, kinda, bank statements, private letters, though none from me, I paced in his kitchen, and then started opening his mail. I found a new bank statement. His wife was an investment banker and supported him. They were rich beyond belief. I stuffed the statement into my purse and went back to the study to take the passports. He would pay for lying to me, she would pay for keeping him.
The next morning he kicked me out so his wife wouldn’t find me. I went to the bank. With the statement and the passport for ID I drained their savings into bonds and took them to my bank. I grabbed my passport from my deposit box and went to the airport bearer bonds in hand. Returning to my apartment was too much, too much history, too many lies, it could burn for all I cared. Three hours later I was in Nice. It only took a day to get a new ID, French passport, and new bank.
Victoria stared down Molly, hoping for a reaction, hoping to provide some sort of connection to keep Molly from imploding. Molly stared back, hands trembling.
“So you tried to break up a marriage? You have no shame about trying to break up a marriage?”
Victoria raised an eyebrow and leaned back. A few words fumbled out of her mouth while Molly began to shake. Victoria struggled for words and Dom tried to ease the situation by saying that the two knew what it was like to be lied to in a relationship and have their lives destroyed by it. Molly just shook harder at the thought of being across from another Karen, another woman who broke up marriages and stole men from their wives. Victoria simply froze, not knowing what to say to Molly to see her side of the story. But it was too little too late. Molly erupted without words and hurled her coffee mug at Victoria, connecting with her forehead and shattering the mug in her face. Dom ran off for ice as Molly stormed off.