By Paul Teodo & Tom Myers
The door slammed. A photograph of the woman smiling surrounded by sons forcing theirs, fell to the floor. Glass shattered.
“He’ll be fine.”
“I’m not the guy.”
“He doesn’t know that.”
She paused, looking to the pale ceiling for what she should say next. “Let’s drop it for now.”
“Drop it?” Raising his voice, but controlled, trying not to let what was building inside run away with what was best.
Eddie didn’t know drop it. Five years, this one and his brothers thinking Eddie was the guy. Eddie didn’t know the guy. Never seen the guy. She never talked about him. He broke it up, he tore her family apart. Her boys, her ex, all aware there was a guy. But Eddie wasn’t him. Never would have been, didn’t do that kinda stuff. It’d happened to him, he wouldn’t do it to anyone else.
They met at a party. Christmas time.
“Do you have a tree?” She was pushy. He liked that.
“Not this year. Kids ain’t around.” Shouldn’t a used ain’t. “No tree.” He tried not to stare at her. Trees were not on his mind.
“That’s so sad.” She looked sincere, blue eyes keeping him where she wanted.
He was bad at this. She wasn’t. She came on to him. Confident. Assured. A doctor. He was what she wanted and she moved like he was her prey.
“This isn’t a good Idea.”
“Let me decide.”
“I’m older than you.”
“That’s a lot.”
“Not in my book.”
“I ain’t white.”
“So.” She stood hands on hips smiling. “Eduardo.”
He looked down kicking the floor. They didn’t call him that. “You heal people. I clean this place. A janitor.”
“I know what I want.” Keeping him in her sights. “Life’s too short.”
So he jumped in. Hard, with both feet. Now this. Her kid full of teenage juice. Her flashing her Mexican janitor around. She let them think Eddie was the guy, busting things up.
“If you don’t tell him, we don’t have a chance.”
“I will.” Face stern. “But in my time. Not yours.” She gave the orders. She was the doc.
“You act like I don’t have a right. If we’re gonna do this, I got a right.”
“We go at my pace.”
“Pace?” Eddie pursed his lips. “Five years, and you haven’t said a thing. You let them think it’s me.”
“I have work to do.”
“You don’t tell them because…”
She dismissed him. Like shooing a fly. “I told you, I have work to do.”
“Because if you did, that’d mean there was a guy.”
“Eddie!” Pointing, jaw set. “Don’t.”
“What was he like?”
“I told you.” She thumbed through her phone, Facebook, Chapsnap, Instatgram, some kinda crap. “I have work to do.”
“He was okay with the two of you sneaking around?”
She glared. She pecked hard at her iPhone 6, or was it a 7? Her nails clicked on the glass. “Don’t go there.”
“They think it’s me.”
Eyes never leaving the phone. “You can handle it.”
“I shouldn’t have to.”
Silence hung like a damp cloth.
“Ace in the hole.”
“What?” She looked up from her phone.
“When you’re ready to dump me you can say they don’t accept me. Everybody’d understand. Family comes first. Real sweet. But I ain’t the guy.”
“Come on.” She forced a smile.
He knew what she didn’t want him to, letting them think her Mexican was the guy.
“But you’re not the guy.” Her smile again.
“Is that real?”
“The smile. “
“I’m always real. I’m licensed.”
“You don’t need it to lie.”
She started, then stopped. Her diversion offensive. She was pissed. He could tell. Her eyes narrowed. Her skin shaded red. “Come on.” Again with her incongruent smile. She took his hand. Squeezed it gently. “Let’s let this go tonight. Get comfortable.”
She pulled him close and as her lips met his, she moaned. He knew what this was. A bob, a weave. She was in the ring, with him. Like Rocky or Ali. Her way to distract, to avoid, to hide her guilt.
For now this would do.
He wasn’t the guy. He was her ace.