What we made together was greater than what I would have created myself. Monica was my perfect canvas. The rest would have to fall into place. She was mine. What we had was mine. I’d earned it.
Fuck the rest.
The blanket I’d wrapped around myself smelled of the old Jonathan. Sage. Fog. Jessica had chosen it for him, but I buried my face in it anyway. I stared at the open gate. A cab was on its way. If he didn’t show up before the cab, I would just fold myself back into the world and never see him again. It couldn’t be any harder than what I’d done before.
I smelled him before I heard him. The leather-and-sawdust Jonathan. I looked back inside and saw him standing behind the chair closest to the door. His hair was wet, but his clothes were dry. He wore his trademarked mask of implacable amusement.
He sat in the chair. “I’m sorry I went off on you.”
“I feel like I should explain.”
“Look, you got mad. I know why,” I said.
“No, you don’t.” He leaned back in the chair and crossed an ankle over his knee. “When I married Jessica, I was a nice vanilla guy. We had plenty of sex, and we thought we were just fine. We were. Except I always had this dark place because of what happened with Rachel. I was so young, and not ready. And my father… well, I couldn’t look at him. I still can’t. I never told anyone. No one knew about it, except Jessica. Her knowing made me happy, and being happy, well, I started getting ideas about how good it would feel to f**k her just a little harder. Hold her hands down. Tell her when to come. Slap her ass.” He paused, as if remembering some specific incident. “It didn’t go over well. I didn’t know how to stop, and she didn’t know how to shut up. All her friends were convinced I got off on beating her up. They told their husbands, and before you know it—”
“No one’s talking to you at the Eclipse show.”
“Right. And I lost her. When you get divorced, you don’t just give up the person, you give up all the dreams you had with that person. Those are harder to let go of.” He uncrossed his ankle and put his elbows on his knees. “Now I’m with someone else, and she’s beautiful with me. But she sings this song, and everyone will hear it and think I’m trying to rape and abuse her. It all came back.”
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
“You should cancel that cab.”
“I really want to go home.”
“You’re not going home tonight. They found cameras.”
“Oh, God.” My chest felt as if a spike went through it. That was my house. It had always been my house. I felt myself breaking down and I had to grind my teeth to keep together.
“It’s clean now. And there were none in the kitchen.”
I laughed with relief. The episode on the kitchen floor was the first thing I’d worried about and the one thing I tried not to consider as a possibility.
“We need to find out who did it. And now I really want to have you watched.”
I shook my head. “I’ll stay with Darren.”
“That’s not a long-term solution.”
I got annoyed. He’d taken the conversation and made it his own. “Jonathan, stop it. Long-term solutions are my problem.”
I took a deep breath. I knew what I wanted to say, but after finding out about my house, and his story, I didn’t know if I had the strength. I curled deeper in the blanket. “I’m sorry, Jonathan. What I did with the song was wrong. I’ll do what damage control I can. I’ll record something else and get it to Jerry. I can’t make Jessica unhear it, but it’s not like she didn’t know about your preferences.”
“I know Eddie from Carnival Records, by the way. You met him at the Loft Club. Buddy from—”
“Penn. Right. I’m sorry. I can’t make him unhear it either. Maybe he’ll think you’re hot shit now?”
He shrugged and swung his legs over the chair’s arm. He seemed really relaxed for a guy who looked about to belt me twenty minutes ago.
“I was careless with your feelings,” I continued. “I should have run it by you first. Because it’s your life, and you may not want your kinky shit all over. I mean, it is all over, but you don’t need your lover confirming it. I thought about it, and I don’t want that shit all over either. I could play it off as metaphor, but your rep means I can’t. Then we become the couple no one can talk to because we make them giggle.”
He laughed a bitter little laugh, as if he knew exactly what I was talking about. He did. I was just repeating history for him. I’d be the second woman to leave him because he was dominant. Before he came outside, I’d consoled myself with the fact that he didn’t love me and we hadn’t known each other that long. That seemed untrue, though. I was going to hurt him, and I was powerless to stop it.
“So,” I continued, “that’s when I realized if I’m going to be with you, I can’t talk to anyone. I have to keep a whole part of my life locked up tight or people will look at me. I’m the submissive here. I’m the sucker getting her ass spanked. I’m the one walking around with bruises on her wrists. You’re the master, and I’m under you. I mean, what the f**k am I doing? Do I not care about my life and my career? How am I supposed to get a leg up in a meeting when the guy on the other side of the desk is imagining me with a ball gag? How can I be seen as a musician who can deliver in front of a crowd if they think I’m a man’s slave?”
The cab pulled into the driveway in a flash of headlights.
“I’ll send him back.” Jonathan swung his legs straight.
I unwrapped myself from the blanket and stood. “No, I’m going. What we have is not what I want. It’s too much. I’ve never met a man like you, and god willing, I never will again because I don’t think I could take it. I already can’t imagine myself with anyone else.”
He looked at me. “You’re not leaving, Monica.” He took my hands. His were cold, and the temptation to warm them between mine was unbearable.
I said, “I wanted you to know, before I go, that I love you. I thought I didn’t want to love anyone again, and maybe I didn’t. I mean, look what it comes with, right? The more I fell in love with you, the harder it got to leave you. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”