A short story told in two parts about the dangers of not knowing when to keep your mouth shut and bowing to social pressures.
I can’t say I make a habit of being a liar. I mean, I embellish stories on occasion and I’ve certainly faked the flu to get out of things more times than I care to admit but overall I’d say I’m a pretty decent person.
Which is why this entire situation is so completely bizarre and insane and really unlike me.
To be honest I don’t even know how it happened. The actual moment where the lie took life is a blur to me, a memory that seems more like a movie I had playing in the background while I vacuumed than an actual real life experience.
And then the lie grew, morphing and taking on a new life like lies often do becoming bigger than I ever could have imagined and completely escaping my control. And though I never really believed the lie myself it certainly started to blur into reality becoming such a huge part of my identity and that it was easier to talk about it than the truth.
Even now as it is all blowing up in my face, my world crumbling and changing around me and the humiliation that it’s brought on a constant weight on my chest, I really don’t know if I would do things differently.
I mean, yes, it was a stupid thing to say, but not everything was bad. There were some good moments, some great parties, and a few heartwarming memories that I can take from this experience. And now that it’s all over I can move on and reinvent myself. Maybe become the person I have always imagined I was, starting fresh.
It all started six months ago. I was at a dinner party with some of my work friends (an Around the World Wine Party) and we were into our fourth bottle. Everyone was gushing about this anniversary and that wedding and my spinster status was becoming a dark cloud in my thoughts, bitterness at my happily married friends making me feel more alone than ever and causing my smile to feel brittle, stretched wide across my mouth.
Maggie, a girl I tolerate only out of sheer necessity, turned to face me, her eyes drooping as they struggled to remain focused (she never could hold her alcohol, the bitch). “When’s it your turn, April?” She asked me. Everyone went quiet which would have been funny had the moment not been so terrible.
Everyone knows you don’t ask someone over the age of thirty when they are getting married! It’s one of the number one rules of social etiquette!
Still, despite the massive faux pas all eyes descended on me, the silence becoming awkward.
I made myself smile again and gave a gentle shrug fully prepared to say something flippant like “Who knows what the fates have in store?” or “Why? Are you interested?” when something strange took over, as if my lips were no longer my own.
“Pretty soon I suspect.” The words dropped from my mouth like a bomb, impossible to take back and far more destructive than I could have imagined. Everyone squealed (yes, literally squealed) with joy, talking all at once and desperate to know more details. Had Jonathan proposed? Was there a ring? What had happened?
My inner voice was screaming at me to just leave it alone, let the comment linger and leave people to come to their own conclusions. But there was a devil in me and it kept talking.
“Well,” I paused for effect, satisfied to see my friends lean in even as my inner voice threw a tantrum. “I was putting away the laundry the other night when he freaked out, running into the room in a panic and telling me he’d do it. I didn’t think anything of it, Jonathan always prefers to do his own laundry ever since I shrunk his sweater, so I let him finish.” The girls nodded in agreement and I took a sip of wine, relishing the story even as I regretted every second of it.
“It wasn’t until he’d gone to bed that I realized he’d left a stack on the chair. I opened the drawer to put them away and that’s when I saw the ring box. I couldn’t help myself, I opened it.”
(There were a few gasps at that and even an admiring “You naughty girl!” Even Maggie looked impressed.)
We spent the rest of the night talking about my imaginary ring in the imaginary ring box in Jonathan’s very real underwear drawer. The girls were dying to know if he’d given any hints as to when it would happen. Did we have a special anniversary coming up? Any trips planned? Did I know if he’d asked my parent’s for permission?
The speculation left me giddy and I was in a wonderful mood when I went home that night, cuddling up next to Jonathan and for once not feeling the burden of being thirty three and unmarried. It was glorious.
I woke up the next morning hung over and feeling terrible. The lie had settled deep in my stomach, mixing with the wine and making me feel to throw up. It was awful. I spent hours coming up with a cover story finally inventing one that was completely plausible, though it would leave me looking a little pathetic.
I would tell the girls that Jonathan was holding the ring for a friend of his and that he hadn’t wanted me to find it to make sure I wouldn’t get the wrong idea. I would put on a brave face and tell everyone that we had a long talk and agreed that things were fine the way they were and that we didn’t need marriage to prove how we felt about each other. Perhaps I would even put on a vaguely superior air?
My confidence in our bohemian lifestyle would make their traditional lives look old and boring. Maybe their pity would even turn into envy? (A girl can dream.)
Monday came around and I carried myself to work on good intentions, still filled with embarrassment but ready to clear the air and set the record straight. It’s always best to nip these things in the butt before they get out of hand.
But the workday became busy, I was swamped and the hours sped past me leaving no opportunity to tell anyone the new true story. I went home determined to fix things the next day. Tuesday morning came around, and then Wednesday, and then the rest of the week flew by and I still hadn’t said anything.
Finally on Friday evening as I shut off the computer and put on my coat I was ambushed by Katie and Tina, both of whom had been at the wine night.
They both wished me good luck, rapidly talking at me about my upcoming engagement and the devil in me rose again, stopping me from saying anything sensible. I plastered on my brightest smile, crossed my fingers in hope, and told them “I had a good feeling.”
Ugh. Sometimes I can be such a stupid girl.
To be continued.