SERIAL FICTION: Don’t Tell Mrs. Donahue (Part 3)
“Watch where you step,” she said, holding up a cautionary hand. She pointed at the broken bits of the ceramic bowl that Nick had thrown at the wall. Several blueberries lay scattered among the shards. They looked so innocent. And sad. “Go get me the handheld vacuum from the hallway closet, and I’ll clean this up.”
He did as he was told. “I can do it,” he said, handing her the vacuum.
“No, that’s all right,” she said. She got down on her knees and cleaned up the mess Nick had made. It took her several minutes. When finished, she got up and gave the vacuum back to Nick.
“I’m always breaking stuff,” Nick said, chuckling. “Plates, bowls, glasses. By accident, of course. When I was in college, I worked as a busboy at a really fancy restaurant. They eventually fired me because I pretty much broke everything I came in contact with. Isn’t that funny?”
“This wasn’t an accident,” Greta pointed out.
“I know,” Nick said. “I’m just saying that I always break things.” He cleared his throat. “It’s nice that you care so much. Don’t think I don’t appreciate what it is you’re trying to do. But what I really need right now is to be alone with my thoughts. I mean, I’ve got a lot on my mind, you know.”
“If I leave now, this issue will never be resolved.” She winced.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she said, composing herself. “If I leave now, you’re just going to put everything I’ve said out of your mind, and you’ll never tell your wife what’s been going on. Do you really want to go the rest of your life with this thing weighing on your conscience?”
Nick hugged the vacuum to his chest. “I don’t want to cause her any unnecessary pain,” he said.
“Don’t give me that,” Greta said. “That has nothing to do with it. If you were really worried about causing her unnecessary pain, you never would have cheated on her in the first place. You don’t care about anybody but yourself. Stop pretending like you do. I think it’d be best if I wait here with you until your wife comes home.” Greta winced again. “Oh, my Lord.”
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine.”
“We don’t need a mediator.”
Several doors down, Jeremy Tenenbaum was gathering up a few things to take to his brother’s house in Bridesburg. “Where in the world are my keys?” he said aloud. He finally found them on the coffee table under a week-old issue of the Inquirer. Jeremy grabbed everything he needed and left the house.
“I don’t trust you to confess in my absence,” Greta said.
She and Nick continued talking. Meanwhile, Jeremy Tenenbaum walked to his car, which sat parked in front of Nick’s house. He got in and placed his things on the seat next to him. He started the engine, and the car backfired. It sounded like a gunshot.
“Oh, my Lord,” Greta said again. She clutched her chest and collapsed to the floor.
“Holy shit,” Nick said, kneeling down next to her. “Greta, what’s wrong? Is it your heart?”
She nodded, almost imperceptibly. Greta writhed in pain.
“Just hang in there,” Nick said, rising. “I’ll call an ambulance right now.” He hurried down the hall and into his office. The cordless phone sat on his desk in its cradle. He reached out to pick it up, then stopped. Nick put his hands on top of his head and slowly massaged his scalp. He stared at the phone and considered things.
Jeremy Tenenbaum had pulled away from the curb and was now driving to his brother’s house. •