Dirty Red (Love Me With Lies)
Author:Fisher, Tarryn

Dirty Red (Love Me With Lies) by Fisher, Tarryn

 

 

 

For Maryse Couturier Black

 

&

 

her book pimps

 

 

 

(Jenny Aspinall, Patricia Nesbitt, Gitte Doherty & the great Rebecca Espinoza)

 

Thanks for changing my life

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One Present

 

 

 

I stare down at the screaming, pink creature in my arms, and I panic.

 

Panic is a maelstrom. It churns to life in your brain like a whirlpool, gaining speed as it funnels down into the rest of the body. Round and round it goes, causing your heart to race. Round and round twisting, knotting and sickening the stomach. Round and round, it hits your knees, weakening them before creating a cesspool in your toes. You curl up your toes, take a few deep breaths, and grab onto the life-preserving ring of sanity before the panic can suck you in.

 

These are my first ten seconds of being a mother.

 

I hand her back to her father. “We have to hire a nanny.”

 

I fan myself with a copy of Vogue, until it becomes too heavy, then I let my wrist go limp, dropping it to the floor.

 

“Can I have my Pellegrino?” I wiggle my fingers toward my bottled water, which is out of my reach, and lean my head back against the flat, hospital-issued pillow. These are the facts: a human being just fell out of my body after I grew it there for nine months. The parasitical similarities are enough to cause me to grab a doctor by his lapels and demand he tie my tubes into a pretty bow. My stomach — which I have already examined — looks like a deflated, skin-toned balloon. I am tired and sore. I want to go home. When my water doesn’t come, I crack open an eye. Aren’t people supposed to be running circles around me after what I just did?

 

Baby and father are standing in front of the window, framed by the dim afternoon light like a cheesy hospital advertisement. All they need is a pithy hospital catch phrase to caption the moment: Start your family with our family.

 

I make the effort to study them. He is cradling her in his arms, his head bent so low their noses are almost touching. It should be a tender moment, but he is gazing at her with so much love, I feel jealousy do a little squeeze-squeeze on my heart. Jealousy has a hell of a strong hand. I squirm underneath its touch, uncomfortable for letting it in.

 

Why couldn’t it have been a boy? It … my child. Fresh disappointment makes me press my face against the pillow, blocking out the scene in front of me. Two hours earlier, the doctor had said the word girl and tossed her blue, slime-covered body onto my chest. I hadn’t known what to do. My husband was watching me, so I reached a hand up to touch her; all the while, the word girl was crushing down on my chest like a thousand ton elephant.

 

Girl

 

Girl

 

Girl

 

I am going to have to share my husband with another woman … again.

 

“What are we going to name her?” He doesn’t even look at me when he speaks. I feel I’ve earned a little eye contact. Mon Pied! Already I was an afterthought.

 

I hadn’t chosen a girl’s name. I had been so sure it was a boy. Charles Austin — after my father.

 

“I don’t know. Any suggestions?” I smooth out my bed sheets, study my fingernails. A name is a name, right? I don’t even go by the one my parents gave me.

 

He looks at her for a long time, his hand cupping her head. She has stopped thrashing her fists around and is still and content in his arms. I know the feeling.

 

“Estella.” The name rolls off his tongue like he’s been waiting to say it his whole life.

 

My head jerks up. I was expecting something less … ancient. I scrunch up my nose.

 

“That sounds like an old lady’s name.”

 

“It’s from a book.”

 

Caleb and his books.

 

“Which one?” I don’t read … unless you count magazines, but chances are if it was made into a movie, I probably saw it.

 

“Great Expectations.”

 

I narrow my eyes and get that sinking feeling in my stomach. It has something to do with her. I know it.

 

I do not verbalize these thoughts. I am too clever to call attention to my insecurities, so I casually shrug and smile in his direction.

 

“Any specific reason?” I ask sweetly.

 

For a minute I think I see something pass across his face, a shade coming down over his eyes like he’s seeing a movie play out on his eyeballs. I swallow hard. I know that face.

 

“Baby—?”

 

The movie ends, and he comes back to me. “I’ve always liked that name. She looks like an Estella.”

 

A catch in his voice.

 

She looks like a bald, old man to me, but I nod. I am incapable of saying no to my husband, so it looks like the kid just got screwed.