It was 10:30 at night.
Dale, dressed in an ancient Lanz nightgown, peered through the peephole in her apartment door, even though she rather imagined that she knew who was knocking on her door at this hour on a Saturday night. As she’d expected, the specter standing outside her door was Gemmy, tear-stained, bedraggled, and wet.
It had taken Gemmy a long, teary, walk to metro in the rain, two bus trips, and another long walk, aided by Googlemaps, to come, finally, to Dale’s 13th-floor door.
Gemmy wasn’t happy about it.
In Gemmy’s ideal world, she’s have marched off from Backyard Garden Center and never looked back. She’s have gone directly home, done some kind of brilliant magic at her altar, gone to bed, and awakened fresh from the fight. Paris and Susan would have realized immediately how they’d hurt her and would have been completely chastised by what they’d done. Paris would have sent Susan packing and Susan would have come to beg Gemmy’s forgiveness, sorry for traipsing onto Gemmy’s territory and mostly concerned about her own professional friendship with Gemmy. Paris would have shown up later with roses, eager to administer a backrub, full of apologies.
It hadn’t worked out like that.
Instead, Gemmy stood, soaking from the recent thunderstorm and still weeping from hurt, outside what Gemmy hoped was Dale’s apartment in the highrise part of Northern Virginia. Gemmy was hungry, tired, miserable, and she needed desperately to pee. If this wasn’t Dale’s apartment, Gemmy was going to be in trouble.
“Oh, my,” Dale said, opening her door. “Come in. The bathroom’s on the left. I’ll make a pot of very hot tea.”
Ten minutes later, Gemmy sat sniffling on Dale’s teal-green futon. She cradled a Japanese cup of tea in her hands, letting the warmth bleed into her soul, and watched Dale, moving with grace and ease within her tiny kitchen, steaming rice and warming the strong broth that Dale would pour into a rice bowl to hand to Gemmy.
“Tell me everything,” Dale said, cradling a cup of green tea in her hands and sitting just across from Gemmy, who was now warm from a hot bath and whose hair was now wrapped in a terry-cloth towel, on the futon. “Is this about Paris?”
“Well, yes, Paris. Well, no, more about Susan, well, no, it’s mostly, I guess . . . . sob . . . . about Timmy, or, well Susan, or well, you know.”
“Here,” Dale said, handing Gemmy a rice bowl filled with vegetable broth, rich with slivers of garlic and bok choy. “Have this first and then tell me what happened.”
“You know,” Gemmy began, drawing in a deep breath that felt as if it would sustain her, with a tummy full of rice and tea, and wrapped in Dale’s warm shawl, “I always thought that what happened to me and Timmy, well, to Timmy and me, well what happened to us was all due to the recession. I mean, that’s what I told myself. We were doing fine and then, all of a sudden, suddenly, all of a sudden, we both were out of work and our fights were all about money, even when they seemed to be about other things. If the economy hadn’t gone bad, I told myself, we’d have been ok.”
“And . . . .” Dale said, sitting back against her own futon and waiting for Gemmy to come to the point.
“Well,” Gemmy said, followed by a long stretch of silence, “well, it’s the same thing that happened with Timmy. He started coming home late and, when I pressed him, he’d admit that he’d been out late with his old girlfriends. You know? Just like Paris being out with Susan. Only after I pushed and pushed and then he’d admit what was going on.”
“Has Paris been dishonest with you?” Dale asked.
“Well, no, not exactly, but he’s doing the whole ‘Gee, I’m a male and I don’t get what’s going on,’ thing,” Gemmy said. “You know, the way they pretend that the other woman isn’t moving in, at least, until it’s all over and they can’t pretend any longer. That’s what Paris is doing that makes me furious.
I’m not going to play any games with Paris.”
“Why?” asked Dale.
“It’s just, I don’t know,” Gemmy said. “I didn’t come here to play games with Paris or anyone. I came here to make a career, sink my roots, build a home, and become a ‘real’ Witch. Paris can do whatever he wants, can deal with his own old issues, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to navigate the space between the current Paris and the old-time Susan. I feel as if he’s betrayed me, as if he is choosing not to keep up with me.”
“And that’s because . . . .” Dale asked.
“Because, well, because I like him, but I’m not willing to . . . . I’m not willing to pretend for Paris. If that’s what he needs from me, well, I’m not willing to give it to him. I didn’t come here to do that,” Gemmy said, only realizing the truth as she said it.
“OK,” Dale said, taking Gemmy’s teacup and pushing Gemmy back onto the futon, and then, a minute later, smoothing the shawl up to Gemmy’s neck and across Gemmy’s upper arms. “Sleep warm until tomorrow,” Dale said, “We’ll figure it all out then.”
Later, many hours later, Gemmy stepped into her own townhouse and opened a can of catfood for Peschecat. She felt strong and sustained from Dale’s morning bowl of oatmeal and mug of Earl Grey tea. “Here you go girl,” Gemmy said to Peschecat. Just then, her cell phone sounded: I Love Paris in the Springtime.
Picture found here.