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

I hand the car seat to Miss Misty and make a show of kissing Estella’s forehead, and then I run to the car to fetch the diaper bag that a good mother would have carried in with her.


Thirty minutes later, I am finally free — free of the insufferable belly, free of the noisy baby … free, free, free. Just then my phone rings. I collect it from the passenger seat where I’d tossed it earlier and see that Caleb is calling me. I smile despite myself. To this day, when Caleb calls I get butterflies in my stomach. I am about to answer it when I realize that he is probably calling to ask about Estella. I bite my lip and send him to voicemail. I can’t ever tell him what I just did. He’d probably jump onto the first flight available and storm into Miami clutching divorce papers. Maybe he’d even get her to draw them up for him. I know that I am being unreasonable and that he hasn’t spoken to her since my trial ended over a year and a half ago, but thoughts of that raven haired witch plague me every day. I push thoughts of my trial and my attorney to the back of my mind to rehash later.


I am determined to enjoy my baby-free time. I stop at home to change out of my jeans and put on something chic. I choose white linen pants and a Gucci blouse from my shopping trip, and I slip into a pair of kitten heels. By the time I am back in the car and halfway to the restaurant, I realize that I forgot my phone on the kitchen counter.


I meet Katine and a few of our friends for sushi and sake. When I walk into the restaurant, they all clamor around me like I’ve been gone for a year. I air kiss each of them, and we sit down to order. Either Katine has warned them not to ask me about the baby, or they don’t care because none of them breathes a word about her. Part of me is relieved because had I been called upon to discuss my feelings as a new mother, I would have burst into tears … though there is a slight annoyance there, as well. Even if Estella has been made a no-no topic, they could at least ask how I am feeling.


I let it slide. I drink four of those mini glasses of sake and then order wine.


Katine raises her glass to me. “To having you back!” she bellows, and we all take a drink.


I feel fantastic. I am officially back, though it has been a tough decade. In my sake-induced haze, I vow to make my thirties the best years of my life. By three o’clock, lunch is over and we are all sloshed, but not ready to head home.


“So,” Katine whispers to me as we eventually exit the restaurant. “Where’s the kid?”


“Daycare.” I giggle and cover my mouth with my hand.


Katine winks at me conspiratorially. It had been her idea after all.


“Does Caleb know?” she asks.


I look at her like the dumb blonde that she is. “Seriously, Katine? Would I be wearing this if Caleb knew that his little precious was in a stranger’s care?” I wiggle my wedding band at her.


She widens her eyes and puckers her lips like she doesn’t believe me. “Come on. Caleb would never leave you, I mean, he had his chance with that Olivia girl and — “ She slaps her hand over her mouth and looks at me like she’s said too much.


I stop dead in my tracks, ready to slap her. The bitch. How dare she bring her up!


I am breathless, full of sake and anger when I say: “Caleb never ever considered leaving me. She was nothing. Don’t you go telling people those lies, Katine.”


I know my face is red. I can feel it burning under the resentment. Katine’s eyebrows unhinge. They dip down, giving the impression that she’s genuinely sorry.


“I ... I’m sorry,” she stammers. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”


I know this pretty, blonde devil too well to buy into her Emmy-worthy apologies. I give her a disdainful look, and she smiles at me with saccharine sweetness.


“I just meant that he loves you. Not even that hot little piece of ass could take him from you.”


Now I am seething. It is one thing to mention that trash’s name, but to give credence to her obvious good looks crosses the girlfriend/loyalty line.


“Leah, wait,” she calls after me as I storm off. I don’t wait to hear her excuse — her favorite one being that she is from Russia and doesn’t always understand the right way to communicate since English is her second language. I have heard them all before, and I know my slithering best friend. She likes to sugarcoat slurs, slander and underhanded insults. You are so courageous to wear that skirt, I’d be afraid my cellulite would show. Katine is bulimic and doesn’t have a stitch of cellulite. So, obviously she was referring to mine.