Read Pretense Online

Authors: Lori Wick

Tags: #Romance, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Christian, #Family, #Fiction, #Christian Fiction, #Sisters, #INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE, #General, #Religious

Pretense (7 page)

BOOK: Pretense
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"Now I have a great therapist. He's a wonderful man, and he's helped me to see that none of this was my fault. It wasn't Marty's fault either. We just couldn't make a go of it, and there really wasn't much we could do about that. Right now my business is booming, and I'm happier than I've ever been in my life."

Marrell nodded, but she wasn't sure she agreed. Marriages didn't break up because no one was at fault, but she didn't think now was the time to voice that opinion.

"So what do you do with yourself all day?" Shay asked. "Hey," she cut in before Marrell could even start, sitting up very straight in her chair, "you were the best typist in class, Marrell. You wouldn't want a job, would you? I can't get good office help for love or money."

Marrell laughed. "I'm not looking for a job, Shay, but thank you."

"Are you sure? It wouldn't need to be full time. Not to mention that everyone in the office would love your accent."

Marrell ignored the part about her voice. "I'm very sure I don't want a job in your office. I don't want anyone else seeing to my girls. Maybe when they're older, but not now."

"The salary's good."

Marrell shook her head. "It doesn't matter."

Shay pulled a face but then smiled. "I can see I'll never convince you. I guess I'll just have to offer you an espresso."

Marrell laughed at her change of thought and rose to follow her to the kitchen. This room was another surprise. It looked as if Shay enjoyed cooking. Marrell did not expect that. The architect

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had shelves of cookbooks, and pots and pans hung everywhere. As if it were an everyday occurrence, she pulled forth an espresso machine and began the process. Marrell felt immediately out of her element. She'd never had an espresso and wasn't sure she would like it. From the little Marrell had seen of San Francisco, she suspected Shay fit right in. She wasn't sure she ever would.

"Do you like espresso?" Shay suddenly asked her.

"I don't know," Marrell answered honestly, and Shay looked at her for a long moment.

"It's easy to see why you're happy, Marrell." Her voice was so serious that the other woman blinked.

"Why is that?"

"Your honesty. Anyone that straightforward has nothing to hide."

"You make it sound like you do."

Shay stared at her for a moment and then down at the machine. "I'm not as happy as I'd like you to believe." Shay wasn't prepared to go on, but when she looked up, Marrell's look was one of such compassion that she blurted the rest out.

"My therapist! It's getting serious between us, and I don't know what to do."

"You don't want to be married again?"

Shay looked utterly miserable as she said, "He's already married."

Marrell did nothing to hide her disapproval. "You can't do that, Shay, and that's the end of it."

"I don't even know why I'm telling you all of this," she suddenly burst out. "We don't even know each other anymore."

"We'll always know each other," Marrell insisted, "and besides that, you know what's right and wrong. Put yourself in his wife's shoes. How do you think it will make her feel?"

"I know how it will make her feel," Shay replied dully. "Marty already did it to me."

Marrell could have wept on the spot. "Turn that machine off," she ordered quietly. "Come back to the living room."

Expecting to be followed, Marrell walked out. Her voice was the one she used when the girls needed help but any comfort would dissolve them to tears. She had a few things to say to her friend, and she would say them even if they got her kicked out

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the front door. They took their original seats, and Marrell speared Shay with her eyes.

"You will call this man today and tell him you can't see him anymore. If he won't take you at your word, you change your phone number. If he has a key to this place, you get the locks changed. You can't do this, Sharon. It's wrong, and you know it is. You can call me naive or say I'm not progressive, but I know the type of thing that can destroy a person, and you're right in the middle of it."

"I don't know if I can do that." Tears had come to Shay's eyes but were not spilling over.

"Yes, you can. Have you been intimate with him?" The question was fired like a shot.

"No, but we're going away next weekend together."

"Cancel it, Shay. Tell him you've changed your mind." Marrell's hand slashed through the air. "What kind of man takes advantage of his client? That's completely unprofessional."

"But he's helped me so much." Her voice was that of a lost child.

"Maybe he has, Shay," Marrell said, her voice softening as well, "but this is clearly wrong, or you wouldn't have told me you're not as happy as you'd like me to believe."

Shay lost it then. Marrell watched as her friend sobbed into her hands. She had come today not knowing what to expect but hoping they could renew their friendship. Never would she have imagined this. Marrell slipped across the rug then and knelt by Shay's chair. She rubbed her friend's arm and spoke with soft conviction.

"Right now it feels horrible, Shay, but it's the right thing to do. You don't want a man, no matter how wonderful he seems, who could treat his wife this way. Don't let him hurt you the way he's hurting his wife."

Shay cried some more but then began to gain some control. Marrell remained quiet until Shay turned angry eyes on her.

"I suppose you want me to leave."

"No." Shay's voice was tight. "I'm just so angry at myself. I do this every time. When am I going to get it right?"

When indeed?
Marrell ached for her friend but didn't know what else she could say. She would have offered to make the

50

espresso herself but had no idea how. The phone rang in the middle of her thoughts.

"That'll be Dante."

"Your therapist?"

"Yes."

"I'll go, Shay."

"No. Please stay, Marrell. I'm going to tell him, and I would like you here when I'm finished."

Marrell nodded and watched while Shay rose and left the room. The ringing stopped a moment later, and Marrell could hear Shay's voice from another room, presumably the bedroom. She couldn't catch the words, but she didn't want to listen anyway. For the longest time she just studied the pattern on the oriental rug, still in shock over all that had transpired. To keep from pacing, Marrell finally picked up a glossy magazine from the coffee table and began to page through it. How much time passed she wasn't sure, but when Shay returned, she was pale and solemn.

"Are you all right?" Marrell asked, putting the periodical aside.

"Not right now, but I will be. When I heard his voice I almost lost it, but I told him it's over."

It was on the tip of Marrell's tongue to ask what he said, but she didn't feel it was her place. She had pushed in enough as it was. Shay surprised her by telling all.

"I don't think he believed me at first, but I was calm and finally got through to him. He's not angry, but I'm sure he's thinking I just need a little time to come around. I wonder what he'll say when I don't show up for our session on Tuesday night."

"Do you think he'll call here?"

"Yes."

"Come to dinner. Meet Paul and the girls. We'd love to have you. When you get home, unplug your phone."

For an instant Shay wanted to lash out at her. Marrell made it sound so simple, but Shay's world was falling apart. Deep inside, however, was a peace that Shay hadn't known since the first time she'd gone into Dante's office. They had been attracted to each other from the start, and the picture of Dante's wife and children on the desk only mocked her, even when she became practiced at ignoring them. But none of this was Marrell's fault, and Shay had no right to lash out at her. If she hadn't wanted

51

her advice, she should have kept her mouth shut about the situation.

Before she could change her mind, Shay stuffed the pain deep inside and asked what time she should come.

"Come right after work. We'll eat at 6:00."

"All right. Shall I bring something?"

"No. Cooking is not my strongest point, but I won't poison you."

Shay smiled. "I'm ready for that espresso. How about you?"

"Only if you're up to it, Shay," Marrell said gently. "Maybe you'd rather I leave."

"I'll understand if you want to."

Marrell's head went to one side in thought. "I had hoped that we could renew our friendship, Shay, I had hoped very much. I must be honest and tell you I never expected this, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to walk away. We were best friends at one time, and I'll always love you. I'm sorry for this hurt in your life, but I'll be even more sorry if you need me and I'm not there."

Tears welled in Shay's eyes, but she bit her lip to keep them at bay. Motioning with her head, she led the way back to the kitchen. Less than an hour later the women sat across the table from each other-salads, rolls, and hot coffee in front of them. Their conversation had ranged to all topics, and even to the most painful one for Shay, but at no time did walls come up or uncomfortable silences fall.

After so many years, neither one could say that it was as if no time had passed-too much had gone on for that. They would never be girls again, but by the time Marrell was ready to leave, the ties were back in place.

"What will you do with yourself for the rest of the day?"

"Take a long walk," Shay told her, "and then cry the rest of the afternoon."

Marrell nodded and hugged her.

"I'll see you Tuesday night."

"Yes. I'll come right from the office."

Marrell turned with a wave, but not before Shay called to her.

"Next time you come, I'll actually make you that espresso."

52

Four

Marrell had been gone for only 20 minutes when Shay's landlady, who also lived below her,knocked on the door. Shay's plan had been to walk and then cry; it hadn't worked that way. As soon as Rose Cumberland saw her face, she knew something was wrong. Keeping her tone casual, she said, "Here's the bowl I borrowed."

"Oh, thanks, Rose. I have my rent check for you if you can wait a second."

"Sure."

The landlady stood patiently, her heart in quiet contemplation over what she'd seen on Shay's face. The lady in question was back just minutes later, and it was then that Rose noticed her running shoes and shorts.

"Are you off for a run?"

"Just a walk."

"I haven't gone today. Do you want company?"

Before Shay could answer, the phone rang. She turned and looked at it, but made herself look away.

"Can you go now?" She sounded almost frightened.

"Yeah. I just need to change my shoes."

Shay gave a decisive nod, grabbed her keys, and followed Rose out the door.

Marrell could not get her arms around Paul fast enough. He met her at the front door, and as soon as the door was shut, she hugged him. The girls were trying to talk to her, but she just held on tight. Mackenzie and Delancey eventually wandered back to the living room, leaving their parents in the foyer.

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"Bad time?" he whispered in her ear.

"Yes and no. I'll have to tell you later."

It was several more moments before Marrell moved back enough to see his face.

"We're not going to divorce, Paul Bishop," she said, her voice low and urgent. "And we're not going to cheat on each other."

Paul laid his forehead against hers. If the girls hadn't been in the next room, he might have tried to question her, but he would have to wait. He knew she'd been upset over Shay's divorce, but it must have been worse than either of them had suspected.

"Mom," Delancey finally got through; she had been calling from the living room. "Where did you go?"

Marrell made herself turn and address her. "To my friend's house," she answered patiently, even though she had already told them where she was going before she left. "You'll meet her on Tuesday when she comes to dinner."

Marrell glanced at Paul when she said this and watched him nod.

"What's her name?"

"Shay. Mrs. Elliot to you."

"Who's Mrs. Elliot?" Mackenzie wanted to know.

"A friend of mine."

"Does she have kids?"

"No," Marrell answered and changed the subject before they could go on. "What did you two do today? Did you take good care of Daddy?"

Delancey came uncorked, but Mackenzie was oddly quiet. The younger girl rattled on about something they had watched on TV. Marrell waited until she was finished and then asked Mackenzie how she was doing. She only shrugged in response. Marrell turned questioning eyes to Paul.

"D.J. broke Micki's Barbie Jeep. It's not completely ruined, but it has a big crack."

Marrell turned compassionate eyes to her oldest daughter. "I'm sorry, Micki. Did you cry?"

BOOK: Pretense
12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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