“It’s just a little lie, it barely has color” I firmly believed my justification as I spewed these words to my sister, Charlotte.
“It’s not that I can’t hold a serious face when I’m in the middle of conducting a small lie, it’s that I don’t want to get caught…it’s embarrassing,” she confided.
Whenever I think of a “white lie”, I remember a quote that I’d read on a church bulletin board, “When we tell white lies, we become progressively color blind”. I was only 11 years old when I read that quote and I can’t forget it, it’s like knowing all the words to an annoying song. Honesty can be a little tricky; sometimes we have to tell a white lie to save someone’s feelings or to protect a child’s innocence, like keeping the myth of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny alive. And pleasantries are a basket of white lies, who doesn’t say, I’m fine, no matter how we’re feeling; it’s for the sake of social decorum. My white lie today will fall under the “I need some free time” category.
“Please don’t blow this for me,” I said to Charlotte with a hint of warning in my voice. “I just need a few hours to be alone and Andy doesn’t get it,” I continue justifying my teeny, tiny lie.
“He really doesn’t let you go out…ever?” Charlotte looked at me with her medium brown eyes that seemed to look a shade lighter when the sun shone on them at just the right angle. My eyes were dark brown and always looked bleak and common compared to hers.
“Since we had the baby, he’s kind of afraid to be alone with her, I think,” I said remembering when Ivy was a week old and I’d inadvertently stayed 10 minutes outside with the neighbor, talking about lawns. Andy panicked and insisted I come back in the house by yelling out the front door. It felt so good to be standing barefoot in my front yard and feeling the damp blades of grass between my toes with the soft summer breeze dancing through my hair. I was so mad when I walked back into the house, and he scolded me for taking too long outside. He said, “do you remember you have a baby?” I suppose it was a rhetorical question, but I felt the need to answer it, “No, how could I?” Let me explain something about my husband, the 1950s might be over, but you’d never know it by his attitude towards marriage and babies.
Now that Ivy is four months old, Andy was, thankfully participating more in her care and he seemed to be supportive when I showed interest in a class being taught at our local college. “Do you think it would be a big deal for you to watch Ivy, so I can take this class?” I hated that I had to ask the father of my child to take care of his daughter so the mother of his child could better herself.
“What kind of class?” He asked as the wheels in his head began to turn. It was obvious he was meticulously thinking of an answer he wouldn’t regret by asking questions, this way he could mull over the original question.
“It’s to reapply for my notary license. Mine is about to expire and I’ll need it for work. I feel like I should take a refresher class, in case any laws have changed,” I answered. I was glad that I’d anticipated this question and my answer was prepared.
“What days and hours?” his asked his next question as if they were loaded and ready to go.
“One day a week, three hours for five weeks,” I quickly answered again. “I understand if you don’t feel comfortable being alone with Ivy for a few hours, I’ll just have to wait,” I said trying to see his perspective and letting him think I’m okay with whatever he decides.
“No, I can take care of her. Go ahead and sign up for the class,” and with those words, an agreement was made.
In the third week of class, Charlotte dropped me off on time. “I’ll pick you up in an hour,” she reminded me as I stepped out of the car. I turned to close the door and I caught a glimpse of her guilty face.
“Why do you look like were masterminding a bank robbery?” I asked as I held the car door.
“Why do we have to connive and manipulate just to have dinner and a drink? It just doesn’t feel right,” she answered glumly.
“I know, it’s just easier than being honest. It’s just a little lie and it’s for my sanity,” justifying my life is becoming my new hobby. “In fact, come back in 45 minutes, I might want to have two drinks,” I don’t wait for an answer, the only sound heard was the slamming of the car door.
As I enter class, the first person I see is my new friend, Roberta. She points to the chair beside her, it’s obvious she’s holding it for me. I quietly walk over to the chair she’s saving. I use the back of the chair to hang my sweater and purse, I then lay my books on the connected desk. “Did I miss anything?” I ask as I watch the instructor opening his book.
“No, not really. Are we still leaving at the first break?” she asks in anticipation.
“Yes, even before. My sister will be back in 45 minutes,” I say as Roberta rubs her palms together and smiles, like a villain in an old movie.
At 45 minutes past the hour, I quietly gather my belongings and softly leave the classroom. I wait outside as Roberta appears. “I felt weird walking out of class that way,” she admits.
“Let’s go, Charlotte should be back soon,” I say as we walk through the double doors and down the steps to the front lawn. “I’m going to turn off my locater, if my husband asks, I’ll just say, I don’t know what happened,” I feel sneaky doing this, but all I want is two hours of uninterrupted time and if he happens to look at the locater and sees that I’m at El Rey’s, he’ll never understand why I had to do this.
Wanda and Roberta hear the honk at the same time, “Get in!” Charlotte yells through the passenger opened window.
On the way to the restaurant, I start feeling guilty, I can smell my baby. Her scent is on my clothes, I read somewhere that the sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger. Not that I could forget Ivy, there’s nothing that makes me smile more than the sound of her giggles. “Should I call Andy and tell him class got out early and I’m going to eat with you?” I don’t even look at Charlotte when I ask the question, I’m only staring forward.
“No, we’ve come this far. It’s just little fib. In fact, let’s both turn our phones down, we can still check them. Let’s take two hours for ourselves, sister-time,” she says as she finds a parking just outside the back of the restaurant. She then takes her phone out of her purse and taps the side to silence it. “There,” she says as she places the phone back in her purse and then opens the car door, “let’s have dinner” she says with a hint of victor in her voice. I notice her attitude has changed since before class, I’m sure she’s doing it for me.
The waiter brings a plate of nachos, a plate of mini tacos and another plate of spicy wings. The women move their drinks and water cups to make room for the plates. “These designs on the plates are so festive…vibrant,” Roberta comments, though it was obvious to Wanda and Charlotte that the margarita was talking.
Wanda is still on her first drink, a mango margarita, the first one she’s had in almost 18 months. She twirls the straw around in the margarita glass and watches the ice cubes as they clink in the glass. “I’m going to check my phone,” the guilty feeling is returning.
“How long ago did that text come in?” she says with eyes wide open in surprise.
The ladies yell for the waiter, when Wanda gets his attention, the two sisters yell, “we need the check!”
Roberta is lost in the plan, “what’s going on?”
“We have to leave, I’ll explain in the car,” Wanda says nervously while grabbing her purse and sweater and dropping a $10 tip on the table.
Charlotte is behind the wheel again, she has to ask, “In three weeks he’s never came to pick you up? Why today?”
“I don’t know, you think he got some weird vibe off me, or do you think he heard us planning? Or worse, did he check my phone?” I gasp with a little anger.
Charlotte starts to laugh, “Are you mad that he found out you lied? Wow,” she continues laughing.
“Do you think I was wrong for wanting to have a little free time?”
“No, I think you and your husband need to talk. I feel like he’s being a little controlling, but you have to tell him how you feel,” Charlotte says as if it’s something she’s been wanting to confess for a long time.
Roberta is sitting in the back seat. The two sisters are talking as if she’s not in the car. She wonders if she should cough or something to remind them.
“Another text, oh no!”
“What is it?” Charlotte was almost scared to ask after hearing her sister scream.
“Look” Wanda puts the phone up so her sister can see.
“Let me pull over,” Charlotte looks for the first space she can find on the street. “Oh my God, he’s on his way to the school!”
“Drop me off in the back”.
“The gates are locked after 6:00,” finally Roberta adds something to the conversation.
Charlotte drives to the school, she and her sister look around for Andy’s car. “This is ridiculous, just because you can’t be honest with your husband, we are reduced to acting like teenagers”.
“There’s his car!” I say pointing down the street. For just a moment, time stopped. “Duck!” I yelled.
“Why?” Charlotte said as she lay slumped over the middle console. “He knows my car”.
“I don’t know, it was just a reaction,” I said as I curled up in front of the passenger seat on the floor.
“I don’t know why I ducked, he doesn’t even now me,” we thought about that for a second and then all burst out laughing. The laughter was abruptly halted when we all heard it, a tap on the window. At that moment nothing was funny, it was a, the-call-is-coming-from-inside-the-house moment.
“Wanda, why are you on the floor?” Andy yelled through the window.
I got up into the seat and pushed the button to bring the window down. “I had cramps, and curling up helps,” when will the lies stop? I asked myself.
“What?” Andy looked confused. I was just glad he didn’t notice everyone else hiding in the car.
“What are you doing here?” maybe asking questions would take his mind off me posed in a fetus position.
“I’ve been here for almost an hour, where’ve you been?” his voice slightly gained octaves with each word.
“I didn’t feel well, so I called Charlotte to pick me up early. Then I thought I might need something to eat, since you didn’t expect me home anyway, I thought what’s the harm in stopping at a restaurant to relax and eat something,” I hoped he’d believe me. It was kind of a half-truth, would that be considered a clear lie, just a step above a white lie?
“That doesn’t make sense, try again,” he said it, as if he dared me to lie again. He stood in front of me as I remained in the car with his arms crossed, and with a fixed stare, eyeballs to eyeballs.
“You’re right, lies upon lies,” I had enough, the first lie was like a seed and it sprouted, then it produced more lies. “First, where’s Ivy?” that I wanted to know, and I wasn’t budging on it.
“Good-bye Charlotte, and whoever you are in the back,” he looked at me and said, “we need to talk, let’s go home,” he motioned for me to follow him.
I stepped out of Charlottes car, turned through the open window and said, “I’ll call you later Sis, bye Roberta”.
The car ride home started out silently, but it was broken when Andy asked, “you know don’t you?”
I was stunned.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, “please believe me”.
I was not sure what he was talking about, but I wanted to see where it was going. “First tell me where Ivy is, and then tell me everything,” I asked.
“The baby is at my mom’s,” he said and then stopped right there.
I took a wild guess and said, “She’s been there every Tuesday night when I go to school hasn’t she?”
“Yes,” a simple word, but this answer tells me that there’s so much more.
“Now, tell me everything,” I was starting to get scared, has he been unfaithful, is he into something illegal, what’s happening?
“It started as a dare, I thought it would be fun, but I enjoyed it so much, it became my guilty pleasure. I wanted to tell you, but I wasn’t sure you’d be okay with it,” he confessed, but obviously thought I knew what he was talking about. “When I saw you crossing Delaware Blvd., and then checked your locater, I’d saw you turned it off and I knew, you knew because you were following me.”
El Rey’s is just off Delaware! He must have seen us and thought we were following him. “This has been going on for three weeks?”
“No, longer. I thought you would have found out before. I swear I’ll stop if you want me to,” he sounded worried.
“What do you get out of it?” I was still fishing for clues. I don’t think it’s another woman, he wouldn’t have given me a choice on stopping.
“It started about two months ago. First I’d take long lunches and then I started going one or two days a week. I usually told you I was working late,” he continued after a pause, “I’m sorry, should have told you,” Andy apologizes again.
I remember finding boxing gloves in the back of his car, I asked him about it, but he said they belonged to Larry, a co-worker. Then I remembered there was a boxing gym by El Rey’s, “Boxing! You’ve been boxing?”
“Yes, I thought you knew?”
“I do know, yes, boxing,” a relief warms me like hot cocoa on a cold, winter night. “I think we have a lot of talking to do. First, let me say, don’t get mad at me, but…” we discuss the whole crazy night, realize we both needed free time to do something other than marvel at our child.
“I feel so much better telling you what I’ve been doing,” Andy holds me close, “and no more lies,” he adds.
“No more lies, I promise, honesty will prevail,” I say, happy for our newfound understanding.