Part two of Liar, Liar: A Necessary Humilation. Liar, Liar is a short story told in two parts about the dangers of not knowing when to keep your mouth shut and bowing to social pressures.
Picking up where we left off …
That night I went home conflicted. Obviously there was something deeply wrong with me that I needed the approval of these women so much. Wasn’t I happy? Wasn’t Jonathan worth the wait? I was not a liar, so why was I letting myself become one?
But I was no longer myself, my brain constantly swirling and planning and discontent, and though I spent the weekend rehashing my original cover story about Jonathan holding the ring for a friend I threw all sense out of the window as soon as I arrived at work.
During our coffee break that Monday I told the girls about The Proposal. I even managed a tear glistening in my eye as I recited Jonathan’s speech which was both moving and humorous, very Jonathan. When they asked to see the ring I said it was getting sized as Jonathan hadn’t thought to check it against one of my actual rings. (Something I know would actually happen if the proposal wasn’t fake. He had never been one for details.) They wondered why I hadn’t taken any pictures of the ring and I briefly thought my shtick was up (what a ridiculous way to describe my temporary insanity) but they didn’t suspect a thing.
The next two weeks went by in a blur. As word spread around the office I received more congratulatory emails than I could count (mostly from people whose faces I couldn’t even picture). A few bridal magazines were anonymously dropped off at my desk and the girls even treated me for coffee the next few days, making cheeky comments about how I needed to start saving for the Big Day. At the end of the week we had a Girls’ Night celebration that turned into an impromptu and early Bridal Shower with cocktails instead of gifts.
Everything was spiralling out of control but rather than trepidation all I felt was unbridled (ha!) joy.
The happiness my new reality caused was infectious and addictive. The lie was thrilling in the way that duplicity always is, naughty and risqué being the words I chose to describe my situation as opposed to the more appropriate words sociopathic and delusional.
I was being accepted, initiated into the ranks of happily committed women. The fact that Jonathan appeared to choke on air every time I mentioned marriage seemed moot, a reality that I shoved to the side as I obsessively searched Pinterest for wedding ideas.
At the end of the month Jonathan and I headed to his parents’ for dinner, a monthly arrangement that I usually dreaded for both the bland food and the awkward barbs always delivered by his Mother about our unmarried state. Somehow his parents felt it was my fault that we weren’t married and their wilful ignorance of their son’s resistance to marriage always drove me nuts.
But this time I received their jokes with a smile, retreating to my fictional reality every time they said something particularly galling. Jonathan was an only child and their desperation for grandchildren was understandable. I understood them more deeply now than I ever had before and I even told a few self-deprecating jokes with them, earning A Look (capitalized) from Jonathan.
During the drive home Jonathan was suspicious, asking me several times if everything was ok. Normally our commute home from his parents was filled with bitter smiles and simmering anger culminating in an “If not now then when?!” argument when we got home, and Jonathan was obviously nervous about my new attitude. He must have felt it was a trap.
But that night as we curled up in front of the TV watching movies on Netflix I sensed him relax, feeling his hope that I had become the “cool girl” he’d always dreamed of, my biological timelines somehow disappearing.
On Sunday I went out and bought a ring, a beautiful silver number with fake diamonds and a price tag far higher than the damn thing was worth but it looked real. I no longer recognized myself as I took over my new persona, the Fiancée.
The next few weeks flew past, my days filled with wedding planning and bridal gossip and for once in my life I finally felt popular.
The evenings and weekends when I spent my time with Jonathan were happier than ever, no longer feeling the pressure of the unwed and thus no longer putting that pressure and bitterness on Jonathan. We didn’t have a fight for weeks; it was like we had been granted a new lease on our relationship and though I knew that Jonathan was curious he never asked me what was going on for fear of breaking the spell.
There were a few times where I almost got caught but I did my best to keep the lie from becoming too elaborate. I kept a notebook of all the details, being sure to never embellish too much and forced myself to be coy when too many questions were asked. I was also very careful to make sure the lie didn’t spread outside my work social circle, refusing Jonathan’s offer of lunch on the one day he missed work.
I may have been crazy, but at least it was somewhat contained.
Or so I thought.
After several more months of the lie (yes, I was able to hold it together that long) Maggie decided to throw me an Engagement Party. Somehow I just knew when I saw the email that she suspected I was lying. She had also cc’d the rest of our clique so by the time I saw the email there had already been half a dozen exuberant RSVP’d yeses.
Maggie was trying to catch me. What a bitch.
I panicked throughout the afternoon, sweat settling into the small of my back and across my brow as I went over and over the implications of what I had done. I had faked an engagement. I had bought a fake ring. I had more than 1,000 wedding themed pins on Pinterest and I had even discussed venues and save the dates with coworkers.
I was clearly insane.
I told Maggie it would be fine, that I would talk to Jonathan that night and we would be there, trying to set some groundwork for our having to decline the party invite. “It was sweet, really,” I planned to say, “but Jonathan still wants to keep everything small and he’s just not comfortable around crowds.” I wanted to have Jonathan be the bad guy in this situation, his shyness causing us to have to cancel the Engagement Party, but the dread in my belly still would not go away.
And then Maggie said the words that caused everything to fall apart, my entire world crushing down around me as the colour drained from my face.
“Oh, don’t worry April!” Maggie said the calculated gleam in her eyes at odds with her sickly sweet tone and smile. “I already emailed Jonathan explaining how excited we all are for you both! I’m sure you’ll be able to convince him to come. After all, it’s just one party.”
I swallowed deeply and thanked her, numb.
I delayed going home that night, lingering in a coffee shop a few blocks away and ignoring the texts I received from Jonathan. (“Where are you? We need to talk. What the hell is going on? I really need you to come home now!”)
Finally as they closed up for the night I had to go home.
Jonathan was sitting on the couch when I let myself in, the TV on in front of him but his glazed eyes and deep set frown making it clear he wasn’t watching it. He turned to look at me as the door closed and I stayed where I was, waiting for him to start the conversation. I was a coward.
That was when he held up my notebook and I knew then that it was all over.
We fought that night and it was ugly. He moved out the next day, seven years thrown away in the face of my compulsive lies. A large part of me blamed him for the situation and I told him this putting the final nails in the coffin. If he had only proposed for real none of this would have happened.
He was disgusted as he pulled out a real ring box with a real ring. He had been planning on proposing that weekend, finally comfortable and ready to do it now that I had stopped putting so much pressure on him.
I hated him at that moment. And I hated myself.
Jonathan never responded to Maggie’s email so I was forced to tell everyone that we had broken up. I originally planned to tell everyone that Jonathan had called off the engagement after deciding he was in love with another woman, thus getting me more sympathy and keeping me in with the “in crowd” but somewhere around 4 am as I lay in a bed by myself for the first time in 7 years I realized I needed to come clean.
I wrote an office wide email telling everyone that the engagement had been fake and that I was a big fat liar.
I’m sure you can imagine how awful the next week was for me, and I can honestly tell you it was even worse than that, worse than your imagination and worse even than I had ever considered.
I ended up quitting my job, though my boss was kind enough to give me a glowing reference. Apparently my craziness didn’t impact my work performance, so there’s a bonus. I moved out of our apartment and actually moved a few cities away, hoping to start fresh and new, even buying myself a “new me” outfit with the money I gained from hocking the ring I had bought myself.
The next few months were terribly difficult. The loss of Jonathan was something I felt extremely deeply at first, seven years of memories taking on a nostalgic air as I remembered the look on his face as he held up the notebook. But then I remembered the bad times, the frustrations and the aggravations and it finally became clear to me that the only reason we had been together that long was out of habit and fear. Better the devil you know, right?
Suddenly things weren’t so difficult.
Nobody here knew me and I was able to start over. I saw a therapist once the benefits started at my new job and my confidence grew as the lies became part of the more and more distant past.
Still I have never been comfortable with the lies I told, blaming it all on temporary insanity and a desire to change my life. But they did bring me to where I am now, becoming a necessary humiliation and allowing me to finally become the person I was meant to be, so I suppose it wasn’t all bad.
I am still single but for once in my life it feels ok to be single.
And I am happy.