“Where have you been?” Freddy didn’t bother to look up as he heard Amy stumble through the door. It was after midnight, and she had been gone for a week this time—her longest stretch by far.
“Oh, Freddy. I am so sorry. I know how hard this is for you.” Amy walked over to Freddy and wrapped her arms around him. She was over six feet tall, lissome and had the grace of a ballet dancer—when she wasn’t manic. Her blond curls and light blue eyes had caused many a man to instantly fall for her—Freddy included. Tonight, however, he was immune to her charm. He remembered the first time she had disappeared, two months after they had started dating. He remembered how sick with worry he had been until she reappeared two days later. Then, he had felt nothing but relief that she had come back to him. Now, he was just weary.
“Do you really, Amy? I don’t think you do.” Freddy had no interest in rehashing the old argument, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. “You quit your meds, didn’t you?”
“I had to, Freddy! They were making me so numb. I hate it when I can’t feel anything. You know that.” Amy hugged Freddy harder until he found himself relenting despite himself. “Besides, I have some big news, and it’s part of the reason I left this time. It’s also why I stopped taking my pills. Partly.” Amy wasn’t making much sense, but that was normal for her in her coming down phase. Freddy waited to hear what she had to say. In a far-off corner of his mind, he wondered when he had stopped trying to engage with Amy when she was in this mood. It had to be at least six months ago, and that made Freddy unaccountably sad. “Did you hear me, Freddy? I said I have big news.” Amy’s voice was rising, which indicated that she was still in the very tail end of her manic phase.
“I heard. Tell me, Amy. What’s your big news?” Freddy couldn’t get very excited because to a manic Amy, finding a twenty dollar bill on the street was big news.
“I’m pregnant!” Amy stepped back from Freddy and beamed at him. “We’re going to be parents!” Amy threw her arms in the air and started dancing around in circles. Freddy watched her as if she had grown another head. Amy danced a few minutes more before she realized that she was the only one celebrating. “What’s the matter, Freddy? Why aren’t you happy about the news? You want kids. You told me that.” The last line was delivered reproachfully, and that tipped Freddy over the edge.
“I never told you any such fucking thing, Amy,” Freddy said savagely, grabbing Amy by the wrist. “And, the baby is not mine. Do you know how I can be so sure? Because I am fucking fixed—that I’ve told you. I can’t fucking have children.” Fury filled Freddy as he forced himself to release Amy and step away from her. Freddy had wanted to have children, but a family defect had made him realize that it would be better if he didn’t procreate. After many years of agonizing reflection, Freddy had gotten a vasectomy when he was thirty. He still felt the pangs of regret so many years after the fact that he would never get to hold a child of his in his arms. The news that Amy was pregnant by another man was more than he could bear.
“What? That’s not true! You never told me that.” Amy looked at Freddy, her eyes wide in shock. “If you can’t have children, then how can I be pregnant?”
That was the last straw for Freddy. For the entire time they’d been together, they had pretended that Amy had never strayed when she disappeared during one of her manic episodes. Freddy never questioned her when she returned, but after the first episode, he made sure to use condoms whenever they had sex. He was meticulous about his condom use, which was another reason he was certain he wasn’t the father of Amy’s child—if she were, indeed, pregnant. It sickened Freddy that he could even think that about Amy, but it sickened him more when he realized that it could very well be true. That was the moment that he knew he had to leave Amy—for both of their sakes. He couldn’t be with her any longer—not without great damage to himself. So, despite the fact that he still loved her deeply, he moved out of their house and into an apartment.
Amy did not take what she saw as his desertion well at all. She called him several times a day, leaving him both voice messages and texts. She emailed him long, dramatic emails telling him how much he meant to her and how she couldn’t live without him. She went from debasing herself one minute for not being a better girlfriend to excoriating him in the next for being such a pussy—her word, not his. She promised that she would get rid of the baby and never stray again in one email only to say that she would have the baby and that they could be a happy family in the next. It got to the point where Freddy stopped reading her emails or listening to her voice messages (or reading her texts) because it was just too goddamn painful for him. Every message from her only reopened the wound that refused to heal, so he completely stopped talking with her.
Amy was having none of that and stepped up her campaign. She would show up outside his apartment and make a scene until he let her in. Then, she would prostrate herself in front of him and talk about how she didn’t deserve him. She talked about getting back on her meds or committing herself to a psych ward for treatment. More than once, Freddy was tempted to take her back. However, he knew that they were no good together, no matter how hard he tried. It was breaking his heart to watch her destroy herself, and he couldn’t do it any longer. He couldn’t fix her. He couldn’t will her to get better—so he had to let her go. As much as he loved her, he was not letting her take him down with her. He had many flaws, but being self-destructive wasn’t one of them.
“John never told me any of this,” Leslie whispers, her face white. “I can’t believe he never told me about her. We don’t lie to each other!” The tears fill Leslie’s eyes yet again, but this time, they were tears of rage. She had been made herself completely vulnerable to John, and it seemed that he had played her for a fool. That hurt a lot.
“He wanted to tell you, Leslie. Believe me. He felt so guilty for keeping his past a secret. In fact, the last time we talked on the phone, he had decided that he was going to tell you everything.”
“When was this?” Leslie asks, not believing Rose.
“A day before the last email he sent me.”
“I have to tell her, Rose. It’s killing me.” Freddy paced back and forth as he talked to Rose on his cell. “We’re honest with each other. It’s the best part of our relationship. How can I keep this from her?”
“You’re protecting her, Freddy, just as you’ve always protected me.”
“By keeping her in the dark! I think I can protect her better if she knows the dangers.”
“Be honest with yourself. Do you actually think if you tell her everything, she’ll be content to just sit around and let you protect her?”
They argued about it for an hour. Rose didn’t see any benefit to telling Leslie about the situation—indeed, Rose thought it would only exacerbate the danger. Freddy, on the other hand, stood firm that Leslie would be in less peril if she knew exactly what was going on. And, though he didn’t say it out loud, Freddy was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with keeping such a huge secret from Leslie. He knew that she had trust issues—with good reason—and he didn’t want to do anything to intensify that problem. He was touched at how vulnerable Leslie was willing to make herself with him, telling him things she had never told anyone else, and he wanted to be worthy of her confidences. In the end, Rose conceded that perhaps it may not be the worst idea in the world to tell Leslie all, but she wasn’t convinced it was the best idea, either.
“He didn’t tell me anything before he died,” Leslie says softly. “So you must tell me everything. Now.” It is a command, and she doesn’t bother couching it as a request.
“I have to give you a bit more background about his relationship with Amy,” Rose replies. “Are you sure you want to hear it?”
“Yes.” Leslie knows she does not want to hear any more about Amy, but if it’ll get her the information she needs, she’ll listen.
“You think I’m disgusting.” Amy sobbed into her hands as she slumped over in Freddy’s couch. “That’s why you won’t come back to me.” She looked radiant, even in her distress, and to Freddy’s dismay, he wanted her more than ever.
“I don’t think you’re disgusting, Amy,” Freddy said carefully. He felt as if he were in a minefield and didn’t know where he should step. “I do think you need help—help that you refuse to get. I can’t give it to you, so you should just leave now.” Freddy felt like a heartless bastard saying this to the woman he loved, but he knew that he had to stand firm in his resolve.
“I don’t want to spend the night alone, Freddy.” Amy raised her eyes, and they were wet with tears. “I feel so lonely without you. Those other guys, you know they didn’t mean anything to me. I only love you.” There. It was out. Her affairs. Guys. Plural. Even though Freddy had known the truth for some time, it still hurt to hear her state it so casually.
“It’s not enough any more, Amy. It just isn’t.” Freddy bit back the harsher words he had as he didn’t want to make the situation worse.
“I made mistakes, Freddy. I can admit that to you. When I was…manic…I wasn’t very picky. I just needed companionship, and I didn’t want you to see me like that! I didn’t care what the other guys thought. They were just using me, anyway, you know, the way powerful men do.” Amy stood up from the couch and made her way over to Freddy who was staring at her with cold eyes. Amy wound her arms around Freddy’s neck and pressed her body against his. Despite his resolve, Freddy hardened instantly. “I didn’t want them, Freddy. I wanted you. All the time I was with them, I thought about you.” Amy kissed Freddy hard on the mouth. He made a noise in the back of his throat before returning his kiss. Without saying another word, he led her to his bedroom where she spent the night.
“So he fucked her. Of course he did. Please tell me he at least used a condom.” Leslie hates how harsh her voice is, but she cannot help it. She is in shock from what she is hearing, and she doesn’t know how else to deal with it.
“He did, but that’s not the point.” Rose’s voice is sharp as if she’s rebuking Leslie. Leslie bristles as she is the aggrieved party here. Before she can say anything, however, Rose continues. “Freddy realized he made a mistake that night. He cut off all communication with Amy, and I mean all. He went out of his way to avoid her, and she flipped.”
“I hate you, Freddy! I wish you were dead!” Freddy shut his window so he could no longer hear Amy hollering at him from the street below. It was a week since the last time they had slept together, and Freddy had been successful in avoiding her until tonight. He shook his head slightly as he tried to pretend she wasn’t out there. That became impossible, however, when there was a knock on his door three minutes later. “Freddy! I know you’re in there. You better let me in now!” She didn’t say what she’d do otherwise, but Freddy recognized a threat when he heard one. He did not want Amy to cause a scene in the hallway, so he opened the door and yanked her inside.
“What the fuck are you doing here? I told you I didn’t want to see you again.” Freddy’s voice was deadly cold as he tried to contain his fury. He hated being out of control, and Amy had a talent for making him feel that way.
“Did you think I would go away so easily, Freddy? You must not know me very well to think I’d just disappear.” Amy was slurring her words, and it was clear that she was drunk. Freddy’s old man had been an alcoholic, so Freddy hated it when someone couldn’t hold her liquor. “You think you’re so high-and-mighty, judging me from your goddamn throne. Who the hell do you think you are?” Amy was standing nose-to-nose with Freddy, and he wasn’t backing down. Before he could react, Amy grabbed his face and kissed him hard. At the same time, she reached down to cup his cock. It was semi-hard, but he wrenched himself away from her.
“Stop that.” Freddy’s voice was raw as he struggled to control himself.
“You want me, Freddy, just as you always have.” Amy pressed herself against Freddy again and started massaging his cock through his pants. “Why fight it?”
“You need to leave.” Freddy broke free again and held Amy’s wrists in his hands. “I am tired of your games.”
“I’m not playing a game, Freddy. I want you back. I always get what you want.”
“Not this time, Amy.” Freddy dropped Amy’s hands and walked over to his front door. He opened it and gestured for her to leave.
“Fine. I don’t need you, anyway, Freddy. I’ve found someone else!” With that, Amy swept by Freddy and flounced out of the room. It was clear that Freddy was supposed to follow her and reclaim her, but he had no interest in doing that. Instead, he shut the door and locked it before going to bed. For the first time since he moved out, he slept soundly.