"Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endureth his torments willingly." --Proverb
The third and final hotel was when the shit hit the fan, when her nonchalance and my wringing hands collided. The stress of what we were doing wore on both of us, and like most affairs, it was bound to come to a quick close. There was raspberry cheesecake and champagne, the extra dry kind I hated but she loved. The hotel's bed was soft and fluffy, the comforters a material like down and the mattress covered in oceans of beige striped pillows. My blood burbled through my veins with excitement, dizzy and giddy, drunk less on the champagne and more on what we were doing, the pure delicious secrecy and wrongness of it.
Jillian's eyelashes fluttered against my upper arm as she twisted and whispered small circular patterns on my skin with the tip of her index finger. She said the words that shattered our relationship like someone sane would murmur "I love you." But Jillian wasn't sane, she was strange and exotic and beautiful, the kind of woman who could love me and be married at the same time and not portray an ounce of worry about it.
She readied her arrow with a lazy breath, never ceasing her dance on my skin, stark naked under the sheets and slim, smooth legs sliding firmly against mine with a shift of position. They were distracting, and I nearly missed that ground-breaking statement, that statement I later wished I could have never heard, those three words.
"I told him."
I'd like to say I reacted dramatically, my heart breaking in my eyes and tears spotting the spaces between the crisp crests of comforter. But I didn't. I sat there a moment as my brain processed her words. She stopped tracing abstract art on my arm and looked up into my eyes with concern, like she hadn't expected this to go over poorly.
"You what?!" I managed, short of breath, and not because only a moment before my hands had been entangled in her perfect red curls as she kissed me senseless in places I never even knew I had. No, not from kisses, not from her presence, I could never feel that way about her anymore. This spear of fear and panic struck me and I dressed it up in the pretty guise of indignant anger.
"Danielle, you know I had to," she hurried to explain, but Jillian always had this way about her that when she was hurrying she only seemed more relaxed. I had admired that quality in her, but now it infuriated me. "Mike was getting suspicious. I don't normally have absences I can't account for."
"So what?!" I said, still incredulous and unbelieving. But I did believe, really. I just wouldn't admit it. "You've gone and ruined everything! "
I trailed off, sitting up slowly, the opulent fabric slipping off of my warm skin and leaving me vulnerable, bare-breasted and cold. I didn't know what to think. Maybe that we could have maintained the charade, kept up the lies and excuses until our affair fizzled out and we returned to our former lives, to our husbands and me to my child. Until what I hoped was only a fling, only a rebellion against my new marriage, not some, some lesbian revolution of my lifestyle! My petite frame left the safety and comfort of the bed reluctantly, but I forced it out. There was a traitor underneath the covers.
"He's going to tell Kyle," I murmured with new revelation. Not only had she thoroughly ruined our relationship, she ruined everything I had. "Jill, they're best friends!" my voice was almost at a screech as I paused, buck naked and pausing in shoveling my dirty, rumpled clothes back into my suitcase. "He's going to know! Oh my fucking god, how could you? You've destroyed my life!"
Her eyes fell with hurt and pain, a small and subtle change in her features only I could've noticed. My chest hurt, the space in my stomach turning to a sickly gel. She didn't say anything, just cuddled under the covers with her pleading face and watched me leave. During that whole time, I knew if I had just said something, anything, she would've explained, she would've saved us. Jillian's words could save the world, save me and love me and make me nauseous with joy. It was why I loved her. If I had only said something that night. Yelled at her more, apologized—it wouldn't have mattered, so long as I had spoken.
I did not speak. I got dressed in silence, anger overcoming sorrow and pain, and deserted the hotel like it was an infectious disease. As the door slammed shut behind me I caught the harsh exhalation of a sigh when she slid into hopeless tears. And I arrived at home with a heart of iron and so much anxiety I feared biting my lip off.
The house was unsurprisingly dark as it was three in the morning, but when I let myself in I knew something was wrong. The black maw of the house devoured me as I disappeared through the front door, our wedding picture a smashed glass mosaic on the floor. I raced through the house but there was no husband, no darling baby boy, none of their clothes; there was only a small, angry note on the table. They were gone but the proclamation that I was a cheating, lying dyke unfit to raise a child rang through the house like the striking of a bomb. Next to the note were three hotel receipts, discovered due to my own carelessness, and a picture of Jillian and I kissing in front of the Statue of Liberty. The first place we met and the first hotel we checked into was in the heart of Manhattan Island, and my heart wrung itself as I lovingly kissed the Polaroid. She had known he was leaving me, she had lied, she had tried to take the blame. I left that deep, scary house that night and never came back. I don't know what happened to those three receipts, but that Polaroid is always somewhere close.
Now I only ever drink extra dry champagne, the kind I hated and the kind she loved. A toast to the first and only person I've ever truly loved.