Olivia. I’ve lost her three times. The first was to impatience. The second was to a lie so dense we couldn’t work our way through it, and the third time — this time — I’ve lost her to Noah.
Noah. He’s a good guy. I checked him out. Extensively. But, he could be the Crown Prince of England and he still wouldn’t be good enough for her. Olivia is a piece of art. You have to know how to interpret her, how to see the beauty under the harsh lines of her personality. When I think of him having her in ways I can’t, I want to pound my fist into his face until there’s nothing left.
She’s mine. She always has been, she always will be. We’ve been running in opposite directions for the last ten years, and we collide at every turn. Sometimes, it’s because we’re looking for each other, other times it’s fate.
She has the kind of love that can stain your soul, make you beg not to have one, just to escape the spell she’s put you under. I’ve tried to break myself of her over and over, but it’s pointless. I’ve got more of her in my veins than blood.
I see her now; she’s on TV. All seventy-two inches of the screen are filled with Olivia: black hair, ambivalent eyes, ruby red fingernails tap, tap, tapping on the table in front of her. Channel six news is covering the story. Dobson Scott Orchard, a notorious ra**st who kidnapped eight girls in a twelve-year span, is on trial … and Olivia is defending him. It turns my stomach. Why she would take this man’s case is beyond even my understanding of her. Perhaps her contempt for herself propels her toward defending worthless criminals. She defended my wife once and won the case that could have put her behind bars for twenty years. Now, she sits calmly next to her client, every so often leaning over to say something in his ear as they wait for the jury to enter the room with their verdict. I am on my second scotch. I don’t know if I’m nervous for her or about her. My eyes drift to her hands — you can always tell what Olivia is feeling by her hands. They’ve stopped tapping and are fisted, her tiny wrists resting on the edge of the table like they’re chained there. I have a bird’s eye view of her wedding band. I pour myself another scotch, shoot it, and toss the bottle aside. The screen switches to a media room where a reporter is talking about the mere six hours that the jury deliberated — what it means for the verdict. Suddenly, he jerks in his seat like someone has shocked him. The jury has entered the courtroom, where in a few minutes the judge will read the verdict. Let’s go there now.
I sit forward in my seat, my elbows resting on my knees. My legs are bouncing — a nervous habit — and I wish I had another finger of scotch. The entire courtroom is on its feet. Dobson looms over Olivia, who looks like a tiny porcelain doll next to him. She is wearing a blue silk blouse — my favorite shade. Her hair is clipped back, but the waves are escaping the pins and falling around her face. She’s so beautiful; I drop my head to avoid the memories. They come anyway. Her hair dominates every one of them, wild and long. I see it on my pillow, I see it in my hands, I see it in the pool where I first kissed her. It’s the first thing you notice about her: tiny girl, surrounded by a mass of wavy, dark hair. After we broke up, she cut it. I almost didn’t recognize her in the music store where we ran into each other. My shock at how she’d changed aided my lie. I wanted to know the Olivia who cut her hair and cut through a room using only her lies. Lies, it sounds demented to want a woman’s lies. But, Olivia loves you with her lies. She lies about how she’s feeling, how she’s hurting, how she wants you when she tells you she doesn’t. She lies to protect you and herself.
I watch as she impatiently swipes a strand of it behind her ear. To the untrained eye, this is a normal female gesture, but I see the way her wrist yanks back. She is agitated.
I smile. It drops from my face as soon as the judge reads Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. By God — she did it. I run all ten fingers through my hair. I don’t know whether I want to shake her or congratulate her. She collapses in her seat, wearing her shock in her eyebrows. Everyone is embracing, patting her on the back. More of her hair bounces loose as she sustains the congratulations. Dobson will be sent to an institute for the mentally disturbed, rather than federal prison. I wait to see if she will embrace him, but she keeps her distance, only offering him a tight smile. The camera pivots to the prosecutor’s face; he looks enraged. Everyone looks enraged. She’s making enemies — it’s her specialty. I want to protect her, but she’s not mine. I hope Noah’s up for the task.
I grab my keys and go for a jog. The air is thick with humidity; it pulses around me, distracting me from my thoughts. Drenched as soon as I leave my condo, I turn left out of my building and head for the beach. It’s peak hour for traffic. I cut through the bumpers, ignoring the agitated eyes that follow me across the street. Mercedes, BMWs, Audis — the people in my neighborhood are not short on cash. It feels good to run. My condo is a mile from the beach. You have to cross two waterways to get there. I glance at the yachts as I dodge a couple strollers and think about my boat. It’s been a while since I worked on it. Maybe that’s what I need, a day with the boat. When I reach the water, I make a sharp left and run along the shore. This is where I deal with my anger.
I run until I can’t. Then I sit in the sand, breathing hard. I have to pull myself together. If I wade in this sewer of emotion for much longer, I might never come out. Pulling my cell from my pocket, I hit the home button. My mother answers, breathless, like she’s been on her elliptical. We pass through the niceties. No matter what the situation, no matter how desperate my voice could be, my mother will politely inquire how I am and then give me a brief update on her roses. I wait until she’s finished, and then say in a more strangled voice than I intend, “I’m going to take the job in London.”
There is a moment of shocked silence before she responds. Her voice is overly happy. “Caleb, it’s the right thing. Thank God it came around again. You turned it down the last time for that girl — what a mistake that wa-”
I cut her off, tell her I’ll call tomorrow after I’ve spoken to the London office. I take one more look at the ocean before I head home. Tomorrow I’m going to London.
But, I don’t.
I wake up to pounding. At first I think it’s the construction going on in my building. 760 is remodeling their kitchen. I crush my head beneath my pillow. It does nothing to mute the sound. Swearing, I toss it aside. The pounding sounds closer to home. I roll onto my back and listen. The room rocks on its axis. Too much scotch — again. The pounding is coming from my front door. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and pull on a pair of grey pajama pants I find lying on the floor. I cross my living room, kicking aside shoes and piles of clothes that have been gathering for weeks. I fling open the door, and everything freezes. Breath … beats of heart … thought.