Once upstairs my auntie nearly attacked me with questions! Is he abusive? Is he cheating on you? Are you pregnant? Oh my gosh, are you pregnant? You aren’t pregnant right? The list went on and on.
“No, I’m not pregnant! I’m not even sleeping with him!” I said for the tenth time.
My aunt looked exhausted and sat down on the bed next to me. “Then what is it?”
I took a deep breath and sighed. “I don’t know. I just…I heard him on the phone with some guy…I don’t know. He told the person, whoever it was, that he made up this story about his past. He made up being abandoned, left in a park, all this…this…CRAP!” I started to cry. I hadn’t let this out to anyone until now and now…it astonishingly hurt more than I thought.
“How could he lie to me? Why would he?
“And then,” I continued, “I asked him who he was talking to and he said his ‘mamma’, when four seconds before that, I just heard him say she was make believe!” The sobs overtook my body and I put my head on my Auntie’s chest.
At least she was here for me. Not lying behind my back and acting like everything was okay!
For at least a half hour, I cried and she soothed. When I sobbed she whispered encouraging words to me. When I couldn’t breathe from crying and sobbing she patted my back and told me that I was strong; I could take this. I nodded my head, but I didn’t believe it. Look at me! I was sitting here crying like a little baby!
Finally, I calmed myself down just enough to breathe, and just then we heard a knock on the door.
“Is everything alright in there, Claire?” It was my uncle. He was such a sweetheart. I wondered where Freddie was and mentally slapped myself for still being in love with him. This was way too hard.
“Just fine. We’re just doing a little bit of catching up right now, but we’ll be down in a minute,” Auntie Claire looked at me and wiped the last tear off of my now red cheeks. “You ok?”
I nodded giving her a weak smile. “We should probably go eat now. I can’t wait to eat some of that homemade fried chicken of yours!” I offered, giving her a hug. We stood up together and her arm went around my shoulders lovingly. She then proceeded to kiss my forehead.
Something was wrong with her. Ever since that one Saturday morning when she had heard me on the phone. I reached the conclusion that she had heard more then she let on; what else could it have been. I felt so torn in my relationship. They were all about trust and being truthful, so how could I do this to her? If I reached out to her, I’d have to tell her my secret. Yet if I didn’t, she would do doubt stop trusting me to a point where she felt obliged to break up with me. My insides went dry. I needed her. Every second of my day, she was the one that kept me going. I loved that girl to death. I decided then and there. I needed to tell her. Tonight.
I had it all arranged. I figured we were mature enough in our relationship, that she wouldn’t take it the wrong way; I hoped. After dinner I would ask her to take a walk with me around the farm, showing me all the places she had told me about. Then, I’d tell her. Gosh, I felt nervous enough about this; ten points for all those guys who have to go through proposing!
Arianne’s uncle was talking to me non-stop about a bunch of random things, but every subject always turned into hurting his little princess. Funny. I called her that too.
“You know, the corn’s really great this year,” he had said, referring to the crops. “Arianne loves harvest time. When she was little she used to get up before me to tell me it was harvest day. My, my I love that little girl. It wouldn’t be good for anyone who hurt her, though. They’d answer straight to me,”
Arianne’s uncle had rolled up his sleeve by then and showed me his muscles. “Won two local boxing championships two years in a row,” he said evenly. I gulped.
After a while, he seemed to get tired of threatening me and decided to see what was taking so long. I heard my stomach grumbling. I hoped everything was okay up there. I heard Uncle Ben shouting to them from upstairs and I laughed.
I had never been surrounded by coziness like I was experiencing now. The floors smelled like old wood, probably because they were. The furniture was old-fashioned but beautifully made. There were random pictures of animals on the walls and I couldn’t help but be alarmed by a picture of a bear with a rabbit in it’s mouth! Poor woodland creature!
I heard footsteps on the stairs and was happy to see Arianne coming toward me. However, my happiness subsided as I saw her eyes.
They were red-brimmed and just the slightest bit puffy. Had she been crying?
I stood up as she reached out her hand to mine. Her usually soft and warm hand was now cold and as I looked into her eyes to try and comfort her, I found she wouldn’t look back. In fact, all throughout dinner she avoided eye contact with me and no matter what I did or said, she wouldn’t do it. Something was definitely wrong.
After dinner was over, which was a delicious meal of Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and greens, Uncle Ben decided that we’d all go into the living room to talk.
As I seated myself I tried to smile at Arianne and convince her to sit next to me, but she pretended not to notice and sat herself next to her uncle. Now, I was starting to get angry.
Why was she ignoring me on purpose? You don’t do that to your boyfriend! I found myself wanting to shake her out of this trance she had been in. This was going too far. Just as I was about to ask Arianne to walk with me outside, her aunt came in with four plates of pie, skillfully balanced on her arms.
It looked delicious and even though I had convinced myself not to eat another bite, I was surprised to hear my stomach rumbling at the sight of those delicious looking apples.
“Here we are!” she almost sang and carefully handed Arie and her uncle a slice of pie. Then, turning to me, her face went cold and almost tossed the plate in my lap, then sat in a chair between the couch I occupied, and the couch that Arianne and her uncle occupied. Why was she being hostile to me too? Was there a conspiracy against me here? I decided this was enough. Nobody was talking, Auntie Claire was glaring me down, and Arianne was picking at the apple pie she raved about on a weekly basis. Uncle Ben seemed to be the only one actually enjoying the silence because it meant less talk, and more eat.
I’d had enough. I gently put my plate down and said as sternly as possible, “Arie. Can we take a walk please?”
For the first time that night, her eyes flew up to mine and I saw curiosity written all over her face. She glanced at Auntie Claire, who was quietly watching the scene with a mouth full of apple pie, and shook her head slightly. I felt myself getting angrier but said more softly, “Come on, doll,” and I reached my hand out to her. She seemed to relax by my relaxed tone, and a second later she took my hand and stood up. I gave her a smile and she seemed to relax even more.
Like a fan, the cold November night breeze hit our faces with force, but it felt good on my flushed face. We walked slowly for a couple minutes, neither of us saying anything until we got to a small pond about 100 yards from her house. There was a bench beside the water and a few stepping stones led to it. I stepped over the stones with my big feet and kept her following me. I sat down first with a ‘thump’ and was scared that this bench would break, but as Arianne sat beside me, I could feel the sturdiness of the wood.
Arianne was looking away from me and I reached out and grabbed a strand of her hair. I twirled it in my fingers a few times before I spoke.
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” I made sure to use the kindest voice I could muster but I’m afraid my anger showed in that sentence more than I wanted it to.
She turned to me, her eyes cold. Arianne stared at me for a few more moments then suddenly she burst! “I know you’ve been lying to me, Freddie. About everything. You don’t have a ‘mamma’. Your entire pathetic abandonment story was crap. Your childhood, your past… you lied to me about everything! Even how you got to Harvard. And I want to know why? Do you seriously think I’m THAT stupid, that I wouldn’t figure it out? Our entire relationship has been built on a lie! How can I trust you? What else have you been lying to me about Freddie? Have you been cheating on me? Is that it?”
I suddenly grabbed her shoulders. “No, Arie I swear, I’m not cheating on you! I lo-… You don’t understand any of this,” I decided to say instead. I just couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking I was with someone else. There would never be anyone else, ever. I loved her more than anything I ever had, and I would sacrifice my life for hers. I needed to tell her that; it wasn’t fair for her, but now wasn’t the right time. She would probably assume that I was lying about that too…
“It’s gone too far,” she said taking my hands off of her. “I don’t know if I can take it anymore!” By this point she was crying, which showed that I had been right. She did hear more than she had let on. I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid. Again! It would be a miracle if she forgave me. Just then, Arianne let out a sob and broke me from my thoughts.
She quickly stood and started walking away. I practically flew to her side and turned her back to me.
“Arie, you can’t go. I need to tell you something.”