TWO LIARS AND A BRIDE
From chapters 8 and 9:
Our doorbell rang one afternoon when Maria was only a month old and Gunther was at work. When I opened the door, a young woman pushed past me into our living room, looking me up and down. She had a neck as long as Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, and wore a silver chain around it. Her purse was expensive and so were her shoes, and her fur coat was aggressive, like a pelt just ripped from some predator.
“So this is where he keeps you,” she said, looking around her as if the apartment smelled.
“Who?” I said. “This is the Meyer home.”
She came close, too close, looking me over. I backed away. Maria and I were alone.
“You poor thing,” she said. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?” She laughed.
“What?” My mouth must have hung open.
“Don’t think I haven’t known where you are.” She went to look at Maria in her crib, and her long black hair almost touched Maria’s face. “I thought so. Gunther’s hidden you away to have bastards. I’m married to Gunther. You’re his—“
That woman didn’t have the sense to back away. I shoved her against my front door. “Get out!” I yelled.
She laughed in my face. “A Nebraska trucker’s by-blow from some hole-in-the-road town called…what is it…Plattberg. A hamburger joint waitress? Gunther’s going to be famous, and he’s going to be rich.” She was so close that I could see that she’d lined her lips red and her eyes black. “Will somebody like you be there beside him then—his little side dish?”
She must have seen the look in my eye—she got out of our apartment quick and spoke from the hall. “Not a chance,” she said. “Here. Take a look at this. Our wedding picture. And we’ve bought a new house in Oak Park—it’s gorgeous.” She threw a newspaper section through the door. “Stay away from my husband! Go home to that shack in Nebraska!”
I slammed the door on her. Her heels click-clacked away.
The apartment seemed too small for someone as furious as I was. I had a mortal enemy I’d never imagined—or was she, simply, insane?
Of course. She was crazy.
But the newspaper lay at my feet. I unfolded it to see Gunther seated in a little newspaper rectangle. His eyes stared straight at me—smiling! And the Egyptian Queen in white held him down with her ringed hand on his shoulder. The article said that Neola Renee Rand and Gunther Charles Meyer had been married September tenth in Oak Park…
I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I sat by Maria’s crib and stared at her. What had I been doing the day Gunther married Neola Rand, and they had had their wedding night? I’d been lying in bed waiting to have his baby.
I called Gunther. His voice was as smooth and rich as the wickedest kind of cheesecake—you’ve heard him on television. I loved that voice. I loved that man. I would have lived in darkest Africa on the bare ground with him.
He sounded scared. “Is Maria all right?”
“Yes,” I said. But somone’s just been here. She says she’s married to you.”
There was silence on his end of the line. Then he said, “Mary—I was going—“
“Your wedding announcement was in the paper.
I heard Gunther make a small sound like a moan.
“We had a wedding!” I cried. “Manuel was there! We had a minister!”
He didn’t answer. I said fiercely, “Don’t lie to me! The wedding was a fake? We’re not married?”
“No.” Gunther only whispered, but I heard him. I cut him off. I didn’t even say goodbye.
Oh—I was a wild woman! I didn’t know what I was doing. My love for Gunther exploded into hate, like oil you’ve set a match to. Burning like that, I wailed. I shuddered.
I screamed. I dumped my “wedding dress” out of its box and blue tissue paper and stabbed it with a kitchen knife through every lace medallion, as if they were memories I wanted to kill. I ripped that dress. I shredded it. I threw it on our bed, lay on it and howled.
Finally I heard Maria fussing at the noise I was making. I splashed cold water on my face. I had to leave—go! Where? I threw some of my clothes in a suitcase with Maria’s diapers, blankets, clothes, food. I locked the door of my first home for the last time.