|"Fragile Girl" by Laurette Folk|
It’s proverbial that a man won’t choose a thinking woman for a wife…Emmeline B. Wells
Lola hadn’t heard from her fiancé Reginald in three days. She had called his cell phone many times, each time growing more frustrated with the nasal greeting he recorded when he had a cold. She left many messages at work for him, emailed his friends; they said they hadn’t heard from him either. Finally she took the city bus to his house, saw the car in the driveway, and pounded on his front door with a clenched fist. She rang the bell, yelled out his name to the second floor windows opened half way to let in the warmth of late May. The trees in the front yard seemed to be in celebration with their arrays of confetti-like petals. The tulips she planted last fall stood at attention waiting to bloom. Lola went round to the backdoor, snatched the key from the doormat and let herself in to his newly renovated kitchen.
The kitchen sink was filled with dishes; an empty champagne bottle was on the new granite counter. Someone had written “I love you” in hot pink lipstick on the mosaic backsplash designed by a Mexican immigrant. On the dining room table, two candles had melted down to stubs, blood red hardened wax on the white tablecloth. On the dining room floor, a camisole and a sock. In the living room, the couch pillows were thrown every which way, and on the glass coffee table, a Danielle Steel novel and a condom wrapper. Lola walked about the house incredulous, her blood recoiling from her muscles and bones. She climbed the stairs to Reginald’s bedroom and found the bed disheveled, the items she left on his dresser—perfume, deodorant, Joyce’s Dubliners, and a few hair clips—removed. She sat down on the bed and tried to breathe, telling herself this could be the tryst of one of Reginald’s friend’s. Once an old college roommate showed up on his doorstep looking for a place to crash for a month and Reginald let him sleep on the couch, drink black coffee all day, watch talking head after talking head on CNN.
Moreover, it had never occurred to Lola that Reginald would be interested in anyone else. If anyone was going to be unfaithful, she thought it might be her. She had more of a history with men than Reginald did with women. In fact, she often fantasized of other women, an entire harem of women at Reginald’s beck and call. It was always other women who made a man a decent lover and enhanced his allure. Not that Reginald wasn’t attractive; he was handsome, indeed, but he seemed to lack charisma. He was a microbiologist who liked to micro-analyze everything; he even tried to tell the Mexican immigrant how to lay the tiles in his mosaic.
A car pulled into the driveway and the shutting of a door jarred Lola out of her reverie. She heard a woman laugh and Reginald’s voice, then the snapping of heels on the concrete of the walkway. The front door opened and Reginald and the woman entered the house.
Her first thought was to hide in the closet, crouch down under Reginald’s dry cleaned shirts and slacks and wait until they left. But then Lola decided that would be cowardly. She needed to face this head on, shock Reginald and his lover like they did her. She stood up and felt the blood loosen from her knees. Lola descended the stairs slowly and dramatically. She saw the woman first, a skinny wench with mousy brown hair and a button-down white shirt with prominent soldier pads. She wasn’t much to look at, and perhaps even a bit homely. When Lola got to the bottom of the stairs, the woman still did not look at her. She was facing the kitchen where someone—Reginald—was running water. Lola walked right up to this woman and got in her face, “Who are you?” she asked her. The woman seemed to look right through Lola with a dreamy pair of eyes. Reginald came into the living room and grabbed the remote from the stereo. He made no indication of seeing Lola and flicked on the stereo where the carnal regality of Bolero filled the room.
Suddenly a translucent form walked through the living room. It was Lola’s dead grandfather. He passed through the woman and regarded Lola with mournful, prescient eyes. Lola watched him and felt gutted, as he ascended the stairs and then rose up through the ceiling. Neither Reginald nor the woman made any indication that they had seen the grandfather. She remembered then that she had told Reginald one night, after seeing a shadow pass down the hall that she believed herself to be an especially sentient soul, highly attuned to the plethora of living and non-living beings around her.
Reginald stood next to the woman and reached out to touch her, run his fingers down her arm. This was something he did to Lola. In a rage, she charged at the woman, pummeling her, grabbing her by the hair. The woman did not scream as Lola tossed her about like a doll. She dragged the woman from one end of the newly renovated kitchen to the other. When she finished her tantrum, Reginald went to the woman and held her in his arms. Lola stood there and regarded her fiancé, the man she trusted and loved, as he caressed the brow of the woman who was now looking blankly at the ceiling. Why would he, a man with a brain, be attracted to such a twit? Lola registered then how very alone she was going to be. She would have to start again. Maybe she should call her sister when she got home, ask her if she wanted to go dancing. She knew just the dress to wear, how to do up her hair, wear lipstick. She backed slowly away from the couple, opened the backdoor and went out. The wind had stirred up the trees and a shower of confetti petals filled the air like a wedding.