Saved by the silence

A lesson in deception after a quickie threesome prepares me for my probing boyfriend.

Published November 29, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Nov. 29, 1999

Wednesday afternoon, October 6

This morning, a quickie chez Jasmine. While post-orgasmic Harry was washing up, Jasmine was urging me to attend Sexaholics Anonymous tonight -- so I could spy on David, her ongoing project. "I want you to follow him," she insisted. "See where he goes after the meeting. I'll point him out --"

"Absolutely not!" I protested. "Besides," I added, more soberly, "I have to see Matt." I told her about our fight at La Metairie -- the questions he was asking before I ran away from the table -- and then his phone call, last night: "I tried to forgive him but he wouldn't let me. He wants to talk about it. I wish he would just forget the entire episode!"

"Forgive him too easily and you'll arouse suspicion. Make him apologize for causing a scene! Don't lose your nerve," she advised. "Remember, boyfriends are just civilians."

Harry emerged from the bathroom, humming softly, and patted Jasmine's rump. As Harry left, her playful smile gave way to a more familiar, determined expression.

"I hope you're not going to follow in Allison's footsteps and play the confession card," she said ominously. She ignored my irate glare. "It's not Matt's fault if paranoid guilt undermines you!"

"It's not guilt," I sighed. "I'm just burned out from lying all the time. Don't you ever get sick of lying to people?"

"Nope," Jasmine said cheerfully. "I just want to know if other people are lying to me. I spend my time pursuing truth, not sharing it indiscriminately. Speaking of which -- I have to find out if David's really got bucks before I make my next move. He's very secretive." She extracted some folded money from beneath her VCR -- Harry's payment -- and handed over my portion. "At meetings," she continued, "he just says, 'I'm a sex addict and I'm here to listen and learn ...' Then he gives all the ladies in the room a puppy dog look and clams right up. But it's always me -- after the meeting -- that he flirts with." She frowned for a second. "Last Friday, we went to a gallery opening at Castelli. He was being totally attentive -- well, I looked pretty damn good, if I say so myself. Suddenly, he disappears, then comes back looking really embarrassed. He must have been using his phone. His aunt wasn't supposed to arrive until the next morning but she got into town early! This was supposed to be our first, like, real date! Now what kind of a crazy story is THAT? If I weren't working the guy, I'd be totally pissed off!"

"Maybe he's got a rich aunt," I said hopefully, "and he humors her to keep the money in the family."

"You've been watching too much 'Masterpiece Theater,'" Jasmine snorted. "If he's one of these trustafarians, I can't be bothered. Guys like that aren't generous ... I was going to write him off but he called the next day, totally apologizing and trying to make plans for this week! I guess it's too soon to drop him."

"Maybe he's not really divorced?"

"Maybe!" Jasmine looked pleased. "Then I'll know exactly how to play him." I envy Jasmine her predatory detachment.

Thursday: the morning after

Last night, Matt was waiting in the bar of San Giusto, nursing a neat scotch, fiddling nervously with his phone.

"I was about to call -- I thought maybe you weren't coming," he said, in a humble voice that disarmed me.

"Why would I stand you up like that?" As I spoke, I felt a twinge of guilt over the extra time I had spent obsessing in my mirror. Matt's wistful, tormented gaze made me flinch.

"You don't trust me," he said, flatly -- mournfully. I sipped some wine to steady my nerves and buy a few seconds of silence. "The other night, you ran off," he said quietly. "And suddenly, it all made sense. I realized why."

I sat very still, praying he wasn't saying what he seemed to be saying. He gulped some more scotch and said, in a controlled, bitter voice: "I know why you don't trust me. I've been in denial about it for months and yet --" he looked at me sadly "-- I knew it on some level."

My hands began to shake. Suddenly, everything was converging to a point of no return. I held my breath.

"When I told Elspeth --"

"Your sister?" I exploded. "You told your sister? How could you do that to me?" I stared at him in numb rage. His sister -- the assistant prosecutor!

"Well," he said pathetically, "I had to talk to someone who knew us both -- I made a mistake, OK? I thought I could put it behind me -- because it was just -- just a fling -- you're the one I care about, Nancy. If you would just let me explain --"

Stunned, I began to realize what I had almost done to myself -- and to him. He's not here to confront me with my past -- he wants to confront me with his!

"Please," he said, reaching for my hand. "It's hard to tell you the truth but I have to because I love you. I know I've been unfair to you --"

"But how," I asked him, backtracking furiously, "could you tell someone else you were cheating on me? You made me look like a total fool!"

"Elspeth warned me about that," he conceded miserably. "You're not supposed to know that she knows. She says it's a woman thing."

"Oh, great," I said warming to my theme of outrage. "So that's why she was making all those pseudo-nice comments. When we had dinner with her --"

"Look, can we focus on one problem at a time?" he demanded. "Leave my sister out of this for now --"

"You're the one who included her," I pointed out, on the verge of tears -- partially of relief.

"Please don't," he begged, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have told you here," he added in a gentle voice. He could see that I wasn't getting up to leave and I sensed that he was more than a little flattered by my reaction.

"You're a sadistic bastard!" I whispered, dabbing my eyes with a bar napkin. "All this time you've been -- you've been projecting your own sneaky motives onto me, and I suppose you thought you were being clever, didn't you?" I tried to control my rampaging impulses but I couldn't help adding: "Who was it? Do I know her? Did I ever meet her?"

He sighed sheepishly. "I ... look, maybe we shouldn't get into -- it's over, OK?"

"For how long?" I demanded, blowing my nose. I thought back to the party at Miranda's -- where I overheard him, talking about another girl. Tearfully, I consoled myself -- my long silence had saved me in a way. "Were you lying to both of us?" I added, quietly. "What was she like?"

He winced. "I don't think you ever met -- she was working for Pam," he said, alluding to his boss, "and she came onto me when we went out West for the pitch -- she's back in school now."

"Larissa R_________!" I gasped, without thinking. Spooky's daughter, I realized, was Pam's summer intern!

Matt stared in surprise. "How did you know?"

By Tracy Quan

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