I checked my watch as if it was a possibility. “Got a meeting with Tim LaShaun from District 34. Then a tenant’s advocacy group that wants my head on a stick. More bullshit tomorrow and the next.”
She nodded. I always had at least that much bullshit when I came to San Francisco, but things was different, and she knew it. There wouldn’t be one last f**k. I’d done it. I’d come out unscathed and true to my word. I was less confident about Sharon. She had a way of putting a nice face on everything until she decided the pain was too much to bear.
We parted outside. I gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I felt that relief again, but unlike the previous night, when I’d walked out on Jessica, it felt less like getting hit in the head by a two-by-four.
My phone rang as I put Sharon in a cab.
“Hi, Debbie,” I answered as I handed the valet my ticket. “Speak of the devil. I was just with Sharon.”
As usual, she wasted no time getting to the point. “Jessica met Monica last night?”
“She came here and insisted on sitting at her station.”
Ugly. It was just like Jessica to highlight any class difference she could tease out. Having Monica serve her would be a way to humiliate her with a smile.
Debbie continued, “I don’t expect you to do anything about it. Except your wife—”
“She said something to Monica. I don’t know what, but now the girl looks like she’s been slapped.”
My fingers got ice cold. Jessica could have said a hundred things, secrets she could have revealed or implied. A million half-truths. Without a man to lean on, she was a cornered animal. I’d forgotten how dangerous she was when I was busy choosing another woman over her.
“Did you ask Monica?” I asked.
“She won’t repeat it.”
Apparently, my beautiful goddess was also a woman of honor. “I’ll call her.”
“She’s working the floor, so her phone is off. Fix it, please. I don’t like it. The power trip. It’s sneaky.”
“I will, Debbie. I will.”
I hung up. My car came, and I parked it around the corner to give myself a minute to think. What did Jessica know? Everything. What was she willing to share? Or imply? Or use? I had no idea. I knew for sure I wasn’t ready to share everything about my past with Monica, not a word or deed I didn’t have to, because I’d lose her. Any woman would run for the hills.
I texted Monica before I drove away.
—Can you call me?—
When I got out of my first meeting, she still hadn’t called. She’d gotten the text, so her silence was intentional.
If I were her, what would I do?
Whatever Jessica had said, I’d be finding out if it was true. So I had to make the investigation impossible to complete. That meant moving Rachel, touching base with each sister, Deirdre especially, and stressing their silence. And Thomas. And the hospital. And dad, who would laugh in my face. And… Fuck. There were too many fires to put out. Too many pieces to move across the chessboard.
I put my phone in my pocket.
It occurred to me that I’d longed for Jessica because she knew all the ugliness of my past. I didn’t have to reveal a thing to her. I didn’t have to bear the uncertainty and loneliness of wondering what someone thought of me. But if she loved me through it, couldn’t someone else? Couldn’t someone else keep a secret or ten? Maybe, but I was getting ahead of myself. I was letting my excitement get ahead of my sense. I had to finish up here and get back to LA without panicking.
I made my way to my meeting with the tenant’s rights group. That bunch would use that information to take me down, even if I gave them what they wanted. I had to deal with Jessica at some point, no matter what, unless I was willing to live without intimacy the way I wanted it. Or I would risk losing Monica before we even started.