Shame

by Julian Tepper

A spring evening in New York and here, once again, piled into Alexander Ames’s bed were Clyde Foreman, Paul Loopy, Phil Owen, Eve Hecht, Emma Beckman—as well as Alexander himself—together now like on most days where they occupied the lunch-table, a corner of the classroom or the steps outside their high school. Emma lay to the right of Alexander, her right arm resting on his leg, her hand opened over his knee. A frail girl with dark hair and a crooked nose, she had on a perfume smelling of sunflowers that her mother had brought home for her just yesterday. She wore a black cashmere sweater and a white skirt, the length of which would have resulted in her dismissal from school. Actually, all the boys, save for Alexander who’d returned home before the others and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, more comfortable attire, were still dressed in their Friday uniforms, navy jackets with red kerchiefs tucked in the front pockets, ties, now hanging loose at the neck and beige slacks. Paul, a sallow-faced, sunken-cheeked boy, had removed his tie, though, and was wearing it proudly around his head. Taking a bottle of vodka from Eve, he raised his chin, drank, then said, “So…where’s your Mom, Alex?”

“Yeah,” Clyde said, coming up on his elbow. “Where is she?”

“In Vermont. She’ll be gone till Sunday.”

“Till Sunday?”

“Yes, Clyde.”

Clyde blinked both his eyes. “Hmmph—I can stay till she comes back?”

“You can. Actually…everyone should.”

And where Alexander meant these last remarks, the comment was, in fact, said explicitly for Emma’s sake. Alexander had been looking for his moment to kiss her for months. What was taking so long, anyhow? Nerves? Yes, nerves and the lack of opportunities. As far as Alexander was concerned, he’d had only a single chance thus far, and that had come one day after school. They were alone together, just one block from the subway; Emma had stopped under an awning to ask Alexander if she could borrow train fare. Alexander agreed; but in his head, there was no way to kiss her afterwards. Maybe she wouldn’t have read into the matter as Alexander had, and so he’d missed his chance. But still, he swore, to himself and to all his friends, that reaching into his pant’s pocket and opening his wallet had cheapened the moment, cooled it of the romance he’d been fantasizing about for so long. He figured he’d just have to wait a little longer. No matter, he’d heard good things from Eve just the other day. As it was, Emma had told Eve she was pleased with Alexander’s recent growth spurt; the way his thick hair, both dark and curly, hardly moved when he jogged around the track during gym class; she’d also said she’d never seen eyes so dark, “like coal…but in a very good way…a very very good way!” Alexander felt optimistic about his chances.

“Well,” Phil said, taking thumb and pointer finger to his chin, “if you mean it, Alex, I’ll call my mother this second, tell her I won’t be home.”

Alexander said, “I mean it, yes. Give her a—”

But here, the phone began to ring. Alexander looked around, touched Emma’s hand and stood, crossing the bedroom to the phone. Picking up, he said, “Hello?”

A voice familiar to Alexander, and eager, said, “So…is your mom up?”

“My mom?” he said, motioning for everyone to quiet down with his free hand. “No. No actually, she’s still asleep.”

“Still asleep?”

“Yes. She’s still in bed.”

It was William Avery, his mother’s fiancée, on the line. He’d already called twice to see if Jean, Alexander’s mother, was awake and feeling well enough to come to the phone. Of course, she wasn’t even home. She was with Peter Feldman, a man she’d been seeing for two month. Sitting in Peter’s car some four hours earlier on her way to Vermont, she’d telephoned home and asked Alexander to explain to William—if he called—that she was sick and couldn’t come to the phone.

Her words were these:
“Listen honey…I’m in a bit of a rush. Now, if William calls, I want you to tell him I don’t feel well, that I’m asleep and that I’ll call him in the morning. And, if he says anything, if he asks to wake me up, I want you to walk away from the phone, then come back and tell him you’ve spoken with me and that I’ve got a migraine, I’m throwing up, and we’ll speak in the morning.
“Now I know, I know…I don’t like to lie—and I don’t plan on raising a liar. But Peter and I are driving up to Vermont and I won’t be back till Sunday. I’ll call William in the morning. I’ll handle him, don’t worry. Just, for now, tell him I’m not well, that I’m asleep—and nothing else. You understand, honey?”

“Yes, I think so. Let me make sure…sick…migraine…throwing up, call in the morning.”

“Yes.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes…that’s all.”

“Well, okay, Mom.”

“I love you, Alex.”

“I love you too.”

And that was it. Now William was calling for the third time, intent on speaking to Alexander’s mother. He would call all night—Alexander was sure of it—until he reached her directly.

“So she’s still asleep,” William said, a laugh petering out into a sigh. “Could you wake her?”

“Wake her…I don’t know.” Alexander here pressed the phone to his stomach, just as his mother would, and addressing his friends, said, “Everyone, quiet.”

William said, “Is she that ill? Maybe I should come over.”

“No, I mean, no—she came home and looked really sick. It’s just that it’s hard to tell with her. But, she said she didn’t want to be disturbed. She said she didn’t want to talk to anyone. I mean, you’re not…you know…it’s just that that’s just what she said: ‘I don’t want to be disturbed by anyone.”

“Hmm…I have something important to tell her. I have to speak to her tonight.”

Alexander set his gaze on Emma, her legs, and then more specifically the dimple she was forming in her right knee by folding the skin inward. The fold resembled a monkey’s lips, or so he thought to himself, and this made him smile.

“Are you there, Alex?”

“Yes—I’m here, but I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry. I’ll have her call you when she gets up. I’m sure she will. She can’t sleep all night.”

“Okay, yes. You’re right.”

Alexander hung up the phone and returned to his seat beside Emma. Everyone stared at him, silent; Alexander, discomfited by the many eyes, said, “What?” and settled his shoulders back against the headboard, putting a cigarette between his lips. Then he said, “What?” again, and lit a match. “What is it?”

“Well who was that?” Clyde said, taking a swig of vodka.

Paul looked at Phil and said, “Do you know who that was?”

Phil said, “Nope, no idea.”

“Whoever it was,” Eve said, “you told him your mom was sick in bed. She’s not sick in bed, Alex.”

Clyde said, “That’s for sure. What gives?”

And here, a clamor fueled by both youthful curiosity and vodka shot up in the room.
Alexander said, “Okay, okay, okay, quiet,” and lowered his head downward from the neck, taking a slow, heavy breath, his shoulders rising. “Well, you see,” he said, smiling with half his face, “what can I say, guys…my mother…she’s cheating on William.”

“Cheating on William! But they’ve been together three years,” Clyde said, incredulous.

“I know and they were supposed to get married last summer. It didn’t happen. I don’t know why. I mean, my mother doesn’t tell me these kinds of things. I remember, she just came in one day and said that they were going to get married, eventually, but that it just wasn’t the time. Now, of course, she’s up in Vermont with some guy, so…”

Phil said, “What? She’s where, with who?”

“Some guy. I don’t know,” Alexander said, crossing his arms over his chest. “You know, this isn’t the first time she’s cheated on him, either. It’s happened a few times, I’d say. Ten times, yes. That’s probably right. I don’t know…I don’t know if she’ll marry William. I’m starting to think she doesn’t want to,” he laughed. “She says she does, but then she’s always finding other men to be with. She even called this afternoon and asked me to tell William that she was sick, in bed. That’s what she said. That’s what she asked me to do. I said I would, but, I know it—he’s going to call all night and I’m going to have to tell him she’s asleep, or, throwing up in the bathroom or something. It’s never happened like this before. I’ve never had to lie for her…not like this.”

And here, Alexander stopped. The only sound now was that of a fan which had been put beside the door to keep smoke from passing from the bedroom out into the rest of the apartment. All the children were silent, yes.
But then, for no child was this silence meant to express the sorrow or concern each one might have felt for Alexander. Actually, everyone in the room was thinking of their own parents and the way in which they included them in their respective infidelities. Both Emma and Clyde had caught their fathers with other women; Emma, while standing in one of the four quarters of a revolving door at the entrance of the Plaza Hotel, her father and his lover standing pressed together and kissing between the adjacent doors. Hiding under her coat, Emma managed to go undetected; but still, she’d been plagued by guilt ever since, unsure as to whether she should confront her father, inform her mother, or, just stay silent about the incident. She woke in the morning to her grief. At night, she couldn’t sleep. This had been going on for more than two years and she had told no one.

Eve’s mother had left her father, and the rest of the family, for one year and moved in with her lover in his midtown apartment. When meeting him for the first time, Eve realized her mother’s lover was none other than the rabbi from the Hebrew school her mother forced her to attend three times a week. Not that this resulted any kind of religious crisis for the young girl, then eleven years old; no, she later told one of her classmates, “I was grateful. I didn’t ever have to go back there again. It was that easy.” And this was true. Eve’s mother didn’t put up any fight when her daughter stopped attending classes. She said, “Mom…if you’re sleeping with the rabbi, then it must not be the place for me.” Her mother’s response to this was: “I’m shocked you recognized the rabbi. I thought you hated Hebrew school. You told me you hated it!”

Paul’s situation was somewhat different. His mother and father agreed to an open relationship. Paul then, the second of three sons, was made the go-between for his mother and father, who were nosy about each other’s liaisons, but hadn’t the courage to ask anyone other than their son. Thus, Paul spoke for both mother and father, keeping them current about their recent lovers, or, the lack there of; he informed his parents as to the other’s doubts, their joys, their travel plans, even their wishes to be together again. Paul eventually had to consult lawyers for each party about divorce proceedings, though; and, in the end, he decided he’d never tell either of his parents about the other for as long as they lived.

Clyde had come home once in the middle of the day to find his father and a prostitute having sex in the kitchen. His father, seated at the breakfast table with a woman on top of him, stared at his son a moment, then turned away and continued on just as he had been, signaling for Clyde to leave the room with a wave of the hand. And yes, he did leave the room, at once. In fact, Clyde left the apartment immediately and didn’t return for three days. His mother, some eight months later, was still asking for an explanation as to why he ‘ran away that one night.’

Phil had never caught either of his parents doing anything like those of his friends, but, he was the result of his father’s fourth marriage and his mother’s third. He had stepbrothers and sisters who were more than thirty years older than himself and this, as well as many others fact about his parents’ marriage, confused him as a young boy. Once recently, when asking his mother why she and his father had been married so many times before, she answered: “Because your father can’t keep his thing in his pants. And me, for some reason…I’ve always been attracted to men with this problem,” and that was all she said. Phil hadn’t thought about it since.

“Well so this is a problem,” Alexander said, “but what do you all think I should do…let the phone ring for the rest of the night, not pick up? I mean, we’re all here. Who do I need to speak to?”

Clyde said, “Well you have to pick up the phone. You have to lie for your mother. It’s important. She asked you to and you said you would. She’s expecting you to keep your word, Alex. And whether or not you want to, a son has a responsibility to…”

“No, no, no!” Eve said, pulling a rubber band from her wrist and taking her hair back into a ponytail. “You do not have to lie for your mother, Alex. Don’t listen to him. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”

“Oh really!” Clyde shouted. “How do you know I don’t lie for my parents every day! How do you know I don’t?”

Eve came forward on the bed, her hands out, and said, “I don’t care if you do, Clyde! That doesn’t make a difference. Who knows what’ll happen if Alex keeps lying to William, though…he could come busting through the door—tonight!”

“He’s not coming over here,” Clyde said.

Alexander said, “He better not.”

“But he could,” Eve said. “Your mother is putting you in a dangerous situation. Just wait. My mother says where women kill themselves, men are liable to kill anyone when they learn they’ve been cheated on—the person standing next to them—anyone!”

“Ach,” Clyde said, letting his chin drop. “You’re so stupid!”

“Don’t call me stupid! You’re stupid!”

Paul and Phil then leapt to their feet and, Paul, speaking for both of them, said, “You know, this is—this is silly. We’re going to go out, guys. We’ll be back. We just, we want to go, be outside, and well…we’ll be back soon, we promise.”

They then left the room.

The sound of the front door being unlocked, opened and closed, could be heard inside the bedroom.

Eve shrugged and said, “They left in a hurry. Wonder what got to them?”

“Who knows?” Clyde said.

“Anyway, everyone should just—calm down. We’re just talking, right?” Alexander then turned to Emma, bringing his hand up beside her leg so that they touched. “Emma,” he said, “…what do you think about it?”

“Me?”

“Yes. What do you think?”

Emma, resting on her side, lifted the end of her skirt and let it fall back to her thigh. Then, looking down towards her navel, she said, “I think you should do whatever you want to do, Alex.”

“Whatever I want to do?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Well what do I want to do? Hmm…you know, I don’t know.” Alexander sat at the edge of the bed, one hand on his hip, the other pulling at the skin of his neck. “I guess, what I’d really like to do is this: the next time William calls, I’d like to tell him my mother’s cheating on him. I’d like to tell him to come over and see for himself. Yes, I’d like that. I’d like to see him come through the door. I’d point down the hallway to my mother’s bedroom and say, ‘Sorry, but…she’s not here. She’s with

another man. Don’t you know? Aren’t you wise to her! Open your eyes, you shmuch! Come on, it’s obvious!’”

Emma said, “Oh quiet, Alex,” and sat up.

“Yeah…I’d like to do that! And then, and then…to my mother, when she calls in the morning, I’d like to tell her, ‘Oh momma, it’s all over. He knows everything.’ ‘Everything?’ she’d say. ‘Yes…everything!’ I mean, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself. She’d be completely stunned. I’d say, ‘But please…you’ve got to figure out a better plan next time, Mom! You need a better plan if you’re going to fuck around!’”

“Don’t say that!” Emma shouted.

“But that’s her language. On the phone with her friends, it’s ‘I’m fucking around!’ ‘He’s fucking around!’ ‘She’s fucking around!’ Everybody…just fucking around! What’s wrong with these people, they can’t stop…’”

Emma, here, slapped her hand against the headboard and said, “Shut up, Alex! I’m—I’m going home. I want to leave. I don’t want to be here.”

Alexander looked back at her, in awe.

Eve and Clyde, who had been screwing up their lips and making faces at each other, paused a moment and stared, bewildered, at Emma.

“You’re leaving?” Clyde said. “Oh, come on. Don’t worry about it. This is nothing.”

Eve said, “Emma…this isn’t any reason to go home. Come on.”

But Emma stood and left the room. Alexander followed after her in a hurry. They were, at once, beside the front door, Emma with her coat on and a schoolbag hanging over her shoulder, Alexander now impetuous and desperate, pulling at her bag, insisting that, if it were in any way important to her, he would tell William the truth when he called again. Yes, he would explain everything to him. He would end the situation, immediately.

“Please, Emma.”

She said, “I’m sorry, Alex. I don’t want to be here.”

“But why! I don’t get it.”

“Because,” she said, “I don’t like any of this.”

Then the phone started to ring and Emma wagged her finger in the direction from which the sound was coming. “There it is again. I’m sorry. I’m going home.”

Alexander said, “No, wait, please. Don’t leave. Not yet, okay.” Alexander turned and went along through the hallway into the kitchen. His heart was beating so that he heard the thump-thump in his ears. He was hot in the neck, in the shoes, his scalp itching. “Shit,” he said, aloud; and then, “Hello.”

“Hi, Alex, hi. Is your Mom up?”

“William,” he said. “Ahh no.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Well…I need you to wake her then.”

“Wake her—now?”

“Yes.”

“William, I’m not going to wake her. She’s not well. Why don’t you just wait and she’ll call you when she’s up. It’ll be soon,

I’m sure.”

“No, Alex.”

“But that’s what she wants, William.”

“Well,” William huffed into the phone, “I don’t care. I don’t. You know, you say your mom’s not feeling well and that she’s asleep. But that doesn’t explain why she can’t answer the phone! I mean, just put her on for a second. I have to tell her something. I do—and I tried her all day at work, she didn’t get back to me. Now I’m calling her at home and I still can’t get her on the line.”

Alexander said, “Well,” and peered out of the kitchen to check on Emma. She hadn’t moved.

“You told her I called, yes?”

“No, I haven’t…She’s been asleep, William.”

“I understand…asleep.”

“Yes, asleep.”

“Okay, well, again I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m going out to walk the dog. Tell your mother I’ll call back in twenty minutes and that she better answer, okay? Tell her that.”

“You want me to tell her that?”

“Yes.”

“Fine, William. I’ll tell her.”

“Thank you.”

Alexander slammed down the phone and said, “Emma?” walking out the kitchen and back through the hallway. When he got to the front door, Emma was still there; she had removed her schoolbag, as well as her coat, though, and she was sitting cross-legged on the floor, her hands to her face and hiding tears.

“Hey…what’s the matter?” Alexander said. “You all right?”

She said nothing.

Alexander sat down beside her. “What? What is it?”

“Nothing,” Emma said. “It’s nothing.” And then she stood up, said, “Excuse me,” and went directly into a nearby bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her.

Alexander stood outside the bathroom door, calling Emma’s name, then waiting and calling to her again; she didn’t respond. He knocked and asked if he could come in, if she wanted to talk; but still, she remained quiet. He next asked her if he should go away; this seemed to be the right question, because, right then, the door opened and Emma took Alexander’s hand, leading him inside. She sat on the closed lid of the toilet, Alexander resting himself down just beside her on the lip of bathtub. Emma had stopped crying and she was looking up, then away at Alexander, laughing, before turning her attention back to the floor.

Was this, Alexander wondered, his moment to kiss her? He was more uncertain now than he’d been on the day outside the train station; after all, she had just been crying. She was upset. To all of a sudden embrace her, raise his lips to hers, could prove himself the wrong boy—insensitive, dense, too forward, sexually speaking. He leaned forward anyway, though; and, with Emma’s head turned slightly away from his, he puckered his lips and landed them just above her ear, pulling away with a long, black strand of hair in his mouth.

She seemed not to notice. She didn’t look at him or say anything.

So, Alexander, taking Emma’s hair out from between his lips, kissed her again, this time on the hand. Yes, he took her hand and kissed her just above the knuckles. It would have been impossible for her to miss this gesture.

But still, Emma gave no sign affirming his kiss. Instead, she said, “Does this happen often to you, Alex?”

“What’s that?” he said, letting go of her hand.

“Your mother…does she have you tell lies to her fiancée while she’s off with other men?”

Alex thought about it a moment and said, “No. Not often. I mean, I lie to family and friends all the time, on the phone, tell them she’s in another country, or, you know…dead.”

“Dead?”

“Practically, yes.”

Emma seemed disappointed. “Why would she have you do that?”

“I don’t know. I mean, my mother doesn’t want to come to the phone sometimes. She doesn’t always have the energy for it.

So, she asks me to do it for her.”

“That’s terrible, Alex.”

“Maybe. I don’t mind it…”

And Alexander tried kissing Emma again. This time she stopped him.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t want to.”

“Why?”

“Because…I don’t. I don’t want to kiss you.”

“Okay,” Alexander said. And, to avoid any further awkwardness, he launched quickly into: “Hey, tell me—you know, if you feel comfortable saying—I mean, if you do then, well…did you ever catch one of your parents cheating on the other?”

“What?” Emma said.

“A parent, you know? Did you ever catch one cheating on the other?”

“No!” Emma shouted. “Of course not!”

“…”

“What would make you think that!”

“Nothing, it’s just…”

And Emma ran out the bathroom.

For the next ten minutes, Alexander tried convincing Emma to stay at his apartment. And though she refused him, it was at the very moment she attempted to unlock the front door and make her exit that Paul and Phil returned from their outing, picked Emma up off her feet and carried her over their shoulders back into Alexander’s room, there interrupting Clyde and Eve from further undressing each other. Alexander then asked Clyde and Eve to put their clothes back on or seek privacy in his mother’s bedroom. Embarrassed at being found with their tops off, they declined, inviting everyone to sit around once again, to talk, to drink and be at ease, then slid their shirts back over their heads. Paul and Phil were not finished restraining Emma, however. Paul had blocked off the bedroom door and Phil was holding both pointer fingers in the air, as if to say he would tickle her if need be; but now Emma had a smile on her face and was happy to be wanted. She forced them to back away from her and promised not to leave, swearing at the same time that they couldn’t hold her prisoner and that they would be advised to keep an eye on her. Alexander watched quietly from a seat on the floor beside the bed, feeling, at once, rejected, but pleased that someone was able to keep Emma from leaving so soon. Clyde had brought six small glasses from the kitchen and was pouring shots of vodka. He passed the glasses around and raising his own in the air, ordered everyone to drink at once. All did as they were told. Clyde then began going about the room and pouring more for those who wanted. To Alexander, Clyde seemed to be stomping a bit too loudly on the floor and he asked him to quiet down. Clyde obliged his friend, but he didn’t hide his contempt, asking out and to the room, “Will someone give that boy a knock in the head or something! Jesus, someone please!” Then, an empty glass, which was resting on a nightstand, was kicked to the floor. Eve raised her head up from a pillow on the bed and apologizing, ran off to get a broom and dustpan to sweep up the broken glass. Phil didn’t even flinch when the glass hit the floor, but continued after Emma, forcing her back with his hands.

Alexander watched Paul and Emma a moment, then returned his gaze to his lap. He stayed like this a while, sadly rubbing his hands. Eve finished cleaning up the glass and she patted Alexander on the cheek and said, “It’s all good now, honey,” taking the bottle of vodka and drinking. “Just watch your feet.”

“Yes, that’s right…everyone watch your feet!” Alexander shouted. “There’s probably some glass on the floor still—watch your feet;” and realizing his spirit had risen with Eve’s touch and that, moreover, he had the attention of the room, Alexander said,

“Hey quiet! Everyone, please. Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! Just for a second, I have to ask you…let me ask all of you, please—for a moment, please…” The room became silent. “Because I was asking Emma about it not too long ago and her answer was no. I want to ask the rest of you, please…I want to know if anyone’s, well…if anyone’s ever caught their parents cheating on each other?”

Confusion appeared on all faces.

Alexander repeated his question. He said, “I mean, or has anyone ever had to lie for a parent about their cheating on each other?”

Clyde laughed and said, “You’re an idiot.”

Alexander said, “But I mean it.” Alexander’s voice became strained. “Is this such an unusual thing?”

“Yes,” Phil said. “It is.”

Paul said, “I agree,” and clapped his hands.

“So no one here’s ever caught their parents cheating?” Alexander opened his palms to the ceiling. “I mean, if you haven’t, you haven’t. But…maybe you have. I don’t know.”

Again, the room fell quiet. No one said a word. Alexander looked around and said, “Well I mean, if you haven’t, you haven’t. But…okay then.”

And the phone began to ring.

Alexander said, “I’ll get it,” and rushed across the room, answering.

“Is she up?” were Williams first words. “Did you tell her I was going to call?”

“Yes, William. I did.”

“And?”

“And she doesn’t want to talk.”

“No!”

“No, William. I’m sorry. She’s asleep.”

“Asleep!”

“Yes.”

“Tell me, Alex—tell me…is she even there?”

“Yes…she’s here.”

“She is!”

“Yes, she is!”

“Well, I don’t believe you,” he said. “No—I can tell you’re lying to me,” and he hung up.

Fifteen minutes later, Alexander heard the front door unlocking from inside his bedroom and stood and ran out to see William entering inside his apartment. With his hand on the knob, William stopped, then leaned forward towards Alexander. He offered no greeting, made no immediate demands about Jean’s whereabouts, remaining, instead, beside the front door, his feet still beyond the threshold of the apartment. He was neither tall, nor thick-limbed; hadn’t any extra weight to carry; wasn’t wiry, nimble, nor someone who would intimidate others by sheer physicality alone. Actually, seen from across an avenue, William appeared almost old, the little hair remaining on his head, gray and thinning, his back crooked from an auto accident. His eyebrows were thick and white and he wore a neatly trimmed, gray mustache. Still, it was in his dark, brooding eyes, in the veins that stood up from his forehead when his face flushed with anger, as it did now, that he appeared menacing. Alexander had never feared William before; but he had watched others experience William’s explosive temper—and he thought it coming.

Closing his bedroom door, Alexander said, “I’m sorry…she’s not here, William. She’s gone.”

William came forward, the front door shutting behind him. “What do you mean!” he said. “Where is she? Did she go out to get milk?”

“No,” Alexander said.

“No?”

“No, William.”

“Where is she then?”

“I don’t know. She’s with someone.”

William then wiped his eyes and left his hand bent above the brow. “With someone! Who! Sherry! Denise!”

“No…she’s not with any of them.”

“Then who the hell is she with!”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know!”

“I mean, I know. I know she’s with someone.”

“Who!”

“A man.”

“What do you mean—a man!”

“I mean she’s with another man…his name’s Peter. She’s seeing him.”

William lowered his head and began rapping the tips of his middle and pointer fingers against his forehead

“I’m sorry, William, but…that’s the truth.”

“So you were lying Alexander!”

“It wasn’t my fault. I was told to lie,” and Alexander stepped out from the wall on which he was leaning and around William to
the front door. “My mother she’s…”

“I know your mother, okay. I know what she’s like, but…I can’t believe this!”

“Well…”

“How long’s this been going on?”

“How long?”

“Yes—how long!” William said, his face now pale.

“Months.”

“Months!”

Alexander nodded.

“Months!” William’s hand raised above his shoulder and he appeared ready to strike Alexander.

“Yes…I’m sorry.”

“Oh, god! Ach! Oh, I have—I have to go. I’m sorry. This is…this is just…I’m sorry. I’m leaving.” Then William pocketed the keys he’d used to enter Alexander’s apartment—his personal set—and left.

Soon heard were the voices of Alexander’s friends calling to him from the bedroom. They wanted to know if it were all right to come out.

And yes, it was. William was gone. There was no need to hide anymore. They came to Alexander in a collective fever, eager to know what had happened. All stood around him and began asking every kind of question, interrupting each other, pressing Alexander for answers.

He would tell them nothing.

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *