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

He comes over, takes her from me and places her against his chest. He pats her back in short little taps that make a heartbeat sound.

 

“She’ll be here for a week.”

 

I roll over and hide my face in a pillow, with my butt sticking up in the air. He smacks me on the rear and laughs.

 

“It won’t be that bad.”

 

I grit my teeth. "Nope."

 

I feel the couch give as he sits next to me. I peek at him through my hair, which is wrapped around my face in a red mask. He holds the baby with one hand and uses the other to clear my face, swiping hair gently over my shoulder.

 

"Look at me," he says. I do, keeping my one exposed eye away from the little lump against his chest.

 

"You okay?"

 

I swallow. "Yup."

 

He purses his lips and nods. "Nope and Yup. Have I ever told you, you only say "nope" and "yup" when you're vulnerable?"

 

I groan. "Don't psychoanalyze me, Boy Scout."

 

He laughs and pushes me over so that I roll onto my back. I love it when he plays with me. It used to happen a lot more, but lately...

 

"It's gonna be okay, Red. If you need me, I'll jump on a plane and come home."

 

I smile and nod.

 

 

 

But, he is wrong. It will not be okay. The last time I saw my mother was when I was seven months pregnant. She flew down for my baby shower and complained the entire ride there about the horrible venue my girlfriends had chosen.

 

“It’s a tearoom, Mother — not a bar.”

 

At the shower, she refused to speak to anyone and sat in a corner sulking because no one had announced her as mother to the mother-to-be. A fistfight almost erupted with the tearoom’s owner because they did not serve organic Brazilian honey. I had refused to see her since.

 

Caleb — ever forgiving, ever understanding — encourages me to see past her flaws and help her understand how to be a better mother to me. I love this about him, but I learned long ago, that trying to be like him is beyond my reach. I pretend to understand what he is directing me toward and then do my own thing, which usually entails some sort of passive aggression. So, I agree with him wholeheartedly. I promise to make an effort with my mother and retire upstairs to get away from him and the noisy baby. I want a cigarette so badly it’s killing me. I go to the bathroom and strip, then I look at myself long and hard in the mirror. My stomach has thankfully deflated. A few more pounds and I’ll be back to normal. Now all I need to do is get my life back to normal.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

My mother arrives on Monday as scheduled. We all go to the airport to pick her up. Caleb is wary about taking the baby out in public so soon, but I convince him that she’ll be fine if we keep her in the stroller. I'm tired of sitting at home, tired of holding bottles and tired of pretending that eight pounds of screaming human flesh is cute. Besides, I want a Jamba Juice. I'm sipping on my juice and following Caleb and the stroller around baggage claim when we spot her obnoxious blonde head coming down the escalator. I roll my eyes. She is wearing an all-white pantsuit. Who travels in all white? She waves at us brightly and trots over, first hugging Caleb and then me.

 

She leans over the stroller and claps a hand over her mouth like she’s wrought with emotion.

 

God, I want to be sick.

 

“Ooooh,” she coos, “She looks like Caleb.”

 

This is absolute bullshit. I decided a day ago that she looks exactly like me. The kid has fluffy red hair and a heart shaped face. Regardless, Caleb smiles broadly, and they engage in a five-minute conversation about Estella’s eating and pooping habits. I’m confused as to how she knows anything about babies eating and pooping since a nanny raised my sister and me. I tap my foot impatiently on the tacky tropical carpeting and look longingly at the exit. Now that I’m here I just want to leave. Why did I think this was a good idea?

 

When Caleb’s attention is diverted with the baby, my mother pokes me accusingly in my stomach and shakes her head. I suck in my belly and look around guiltily. Who else noticed? True, I had a baby only three days ago, but I was being so careful to stand up tall — suck in the belly fat. My momentary lapse embarrasses me. It’s all I can think about on the ride home. I make a pact with myself to stop eating until I reassume my former figure.

 

At home, my mother insists on taking the room next to Estella’s, even though I had the larger guest room prepared for her.

 

“Mother, what is the purpose of having this room?” I ask as Caleb deposits her bag next to the bed.

 

“I want to help you, Leah. Get up with her in the middle of the night and all that good stuff.” She bats her eyelashes at Caleb, who smiles at her.

 

I hold my eye roll.