He was seeing another woman, a woman who was not his wife, which admittedly was a little disorienting. What was he gaining that wasn’t already given to him by me or the wife (the wife never called him daddy). He hadn’t replied to my texts in three days, and I was about to announce a fake pregnancy. Then she called.
I recognized her voice immediately despite not wanting to. I had heard it enough on the other end of his cell phone, asking him to pick up wheat bread on his way home.
“Hello, this is Diane.” Smooth, cold. I imagined her skin was like expensive kitchen islands.
“Diane…?” I was pretending, feeling suddenly twelve. For some reason I wasn’t surprised she was calling, but I didn’t want to think about why just yet. Or how she had acquired my work number.
“Diane Wright. I believe you know my husband.” It wasn’t a question. I saw no use pretending, plus I wanted to stop the feeling of hide and seek. It made me have to pee.
After a long moment I said “Yes.” I could hear her unlabored breathing.
“Funny we haven’t met. I feel like I already know you.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I coughed.
“My husband doesn’t talk about you. But he knows I know you exist. I allow it, because you’re small and pretty. I think I would be more offended if you were fat.”
I dimly registered the insult of Daniel never talking about me, but why would he? I was a dirty pocket of space he occupied when he grew tired of being clean. Diane. She was regal, she was able to figure out who I was and where I worked and she knew I was pretty.
“I don’t work out.” I said, horrified by the voice that spoke. Did I always sound so weak?
Diane, surprisingly, laughed. It was not a necessarily merry sound, more like gravel being driven over by an expensive car.
“I know you don’t. You’re twenty-three. You probably eat McDonald’s every other day and still drink Miller Lite.”
“I’m sorry if this comes off as rude, but can I ask why you’re calling?”
“My husband is seeing another woman. Not you, yet another woman. And I would like you to come with me to meet her.”
My desk, in the center of my office, was in perfect plain view to both my assistant manager and my head manager. This meant I couldn’t scream, slam my head against my desk, or throw my fist through my computer screen like my body was begging hands and knees for me to do. Instead, I ground my teeth, clenched my buttocks, and said into the phone,
“When and where?”
I had known for some time that Daniel was much richer than I was, partially because he was more than twice my age, and partially because he was a top analyst at a company that didn’t need to worry about abiding by environmental laws. I didn’t know where he lived, he kept that a secret, but his watches were always different and I wasn’t allowed to sit in the front seat of his car unless I was blowing him. So, later that day when the white Mercedes pulled in front of my decrepit apartment building, I was faintly aware that Diane Wright might allow me to sit in the front seat without expectation of sexual favors. I allowed myself to feel excited while swallowing the bile of meeting my lover’s wife.
I approached the car and she faced completely forward, huge sunglasses sitting atop a fine, perfect nose. The doors unlocked with a click. I slid inside, feeling like my mother was picking me up from school early after having lied to the nurse about a high temperature.
She was completely white. Hair so blonde it was white, pulling back light eyebrows with the effort of her tight bun. Her breasts were small but youthful, a loose white button down covering her nipples in a way that would have made me look slutty but somehow made Diane Wright look regal. I didn’t have to look down to know she was wearing heels. Her lips, however, were thin and red. My upper lip was much fuller.
“Hello.” She said, not looking at me and shifting into drive.
I swallowed. “Hi.”
“You are very pretty.”
Silence. I wondered if she was reptilian, wearing a skin suit. I wondered what Daniel would think of me sitting in the front seat.
“We’re going to Chinatown. I think she’s Asian.”
“I’m not a racist, you know.”
I didn’t know how I would know this.
“I don’t care what she is. I care that he needs more than one toy. I thought the jet ski would be enough. Did you know we have a son?”
I did know this, but by accident. I saw his photo in Daniel’s wallet once while he was in the bathroom.
“He’s retarded. Did you know that? He runs away, doesn’t want to eat. He threw our TV on the ground last weekend and Daniel didn’t react. He’s eleven. Does Daniel share these things with you?”
I shook my head. I knew Daniel liked his privacy in regards to a few things: his home, his family, his middle name. I knew what he liked in bed, I knew his shoe and dick size, I knew he hated curry and all things spicy. I knew he said he loved me the last time we fucked, and didn’t mean it.
“Well, it happens. He’s named Daniel too, but we call him Danny. I hate that they share a name.” She paused and sighed. I realized opera was playing faintly on the sound system, and it sounded like crying.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Maybe this is why my husband likes you. You’re easy to confess to.”
My mother had said this to me in the past, that my eyes were so dark it was difficult to read judgment from their depths. It made even the most base criminal want to share his bitter ends, the bedtime stories he wished his father read him when his nose ran. Diane Wright adjusted the AC in the car and her nipples grew harder. I shivered as we approached Chinatown.
People milled the streets and sidewalks like preoccupied background noise, and I began to wonder where Daniel was at this moment. Was he at his desk, seated in his home office with a cigar puffing beside him? Was he chewing on his lip in that human way that reminded me he wasn’t just flesh with a steel interior, a wrist for a watch to rest on? I wondered if he and Diane made love, if he sucked on those nipples until she came and promised he would do better and keep a better eye on Danny, this Danny who was so beautiful in his wallet. I couldn’t imagine why Diane Wright had chosen me as the confidant, the conspirator against this new interloper that threatened us both. But I was flattered, if also terrified, and I knew I would see this through for the woman in white who had my boyfriend’s diamond singing on her left finger.
She made a turn, and we were there. I knew it in the way Diane Wright’s red lips twisted, a small sneer that made me feel both superior and guilty. I had become the preferred concubine. The familiar one, if not exactly welcome.
We were pulled in front of a laundromat with no name left on the marquee, just rubbed out red printing and a promise of $2.99! Inside were a few customers, most of them old and squatting on benches in front of the dryers. I couldn’t see any women that weren’t younger than sixty, and I began to wonder if Daniel had developed older tastes.
“He’s such a moron. Why would we do our laundry here, forty minutes from our home? A home that has a washer and dryer, might I add.” She snorted. “I found him fishing between our couch cushions for quarters last week. As if I don’t fluff those fucking cushions every morning myself.”
“I figured the maid would do it.” I said, surprising myself. She looked at me and laughed, a bark that made us both jump. I laughed a little too, feeling both dangerous and in danger. Diane Wright pulled out her purse and turned the car off.
“Do you have quarters?” She asked.
“No. I didn’t bring my wallet.”
She stared as if this was no surprise to her and turned away, exiting the car in one fluid motion. I swallowed the chalk in my throat and followed suit, astounded that she had chosen me as her Robin Hood.
Diane Wright strode into the laundromat, heels clicking against the whir of cycles running. I saw she was heading towards the counter. The woman seated there, our target, never looked up from her magazine. She had a small green eyebrow ring, thin eyebrows, and a stack of black hair coiled into a slightly oily bun. She was thin, but not alarmingly so, breasts bigger and more rounded than Diane Wright’s. My upper lip was still fuller. I was sweating, the fluorescent lights coating my scalp with undecided alliance.
Diane Wright slapped her hand on the counter, causing the interloper to leap in place.
“Can I help you?” the mistress said. She removed one cheap headphone from atop her heavily pierced ear. No accent, but a deep voice.
“Dylan?” the wife said, much the same way I had heard “Marissa?” this morning.
“Yes?” she was confused, I could see that. Why the woman in white with a red lip and designer bag would be in a cheap Chinatown laundromat with a small, pretty girl who looked like she was about to vomit. I felt my lips go green.
“Are you fucking my husband?”
Dylan’s eyes widened and that was the answer. My tongue was cement.
Diane Wright leaned in so close I thought their miniature noses might touch.
“Stay the fuck away from him you invisible crumb.” She stared for a moment, breathing in cigarette language. Then she turned and stalked away, spitting a “Let’s go, Marissa” over her shoulder. I looked at this Dylan, who appeared that she might cry, and I recognized the same ideas I had about men when I was fifteen. Now, if Daniel hit me with his car, I wouldn’t say thank you. But I wouldn’t jump out of the way, either.
Back in the white Mercedes, Diane Wright had regained her composure. The drive back to my neck of the woods was bumpy and silent, the sweat drying between my thighs at the behest of the cooling leather seats. My phone vibrated about fifteen minutes from my apartment building, and I knew it was Daniel before I looked. Diane Wright focused on the road.
I locked my phone and put it away. I wondered if Dylan had any part of her pussy pierced.
Diane Wright slowed to a stop in front of my building, her sunglasses still shielding what I felt sure were blue eyes. But, when she then took them off to fully turn and face me, they were brown, like mine. Maybe even deeper.
“Thanks for your help, Marissa. I needed the moral support.”
“Any time.” I responded, registering the inappropriate nature of this promise. She smiled the strangest smile I had ever seen, strange not in its emotion, but in its possession of me and the ways in which I belonged to her.
A week later, Diane Wright flung herself off the fourth-floor balcony of her own home. Daniel called me twelve times the night after and left a weeping voicemail saying it was all my fault. I deleted it and he stopped texting me altogether. When I googled his name some time later, I found he had married Dylan and was living with her and Danny in upstate New York. They owned several laundromats.
Image by mastersenaiper from Pixabay
7 thoughts on “Quarters by Meg Croley”
One redeeming outcome is that Marissa got out of the relationship. I felt the unease and awkward tension throughout this sad story of deceit. Great writing.
The line early on that stated that his wife never called him daddy was brilliant and very unsettling. It said so much without going into any detail
Is it a negative that this was never elaborated on? I don’t think so – It added another level.
The acceptance of one mistress by the wife was interesting and again, gave the reader something to consider.
The suicide is also a bit of a mystery but we are taken back to our thoughts on her accepting one other woman.
Him not giving up the other other woman was what pushed her over the edge, or did it? We can also have thoughts on him killing her..
All these considerations never left me frustrated which can happen when a writer with less skill tries to construct this type of ‘audience thinking’ into their story. They are all positives and made this interesting, enjoyable and thought provoking.
Have as good a time as you can over the holidays!
Excellent story. Totally engrossed and felt completely involved. Well done.
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This is a fine piece which could have gone wrong in ten places but stayed true to its little black heart through to the end. Crummy thing about the world: Seldom do the correct people “fall” off balconies.
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A fresh take on the other woman story. Several writing touches that I appreciated.( laughter “like gravel being driven over by an expensive car.“) Even though I wasn’t expecting the ending, it was believable.
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I wonder what Marissa got out of her relationship with Daniel.. he seemed repulsive…except for his money. Also odd Diane would take Marissa with her to see Dylan. The ending seems strange, why would Dylan accept living with the disabled Danny…or indeed the piggish Daniel? Then again, the story can be appealing because of its absurdity. Truth can be stranger than fiction. All these women captive to a “bad boy.”
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Wow! I feel like a story like this is hard to pull off, but your skill allowed you to craft great characters and story. LOVE!
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