“I can’t believe you of all people could do this to me, Karen!” I shouted, filled with overflowing fury.
“What are you talking about, Em?”
“That outrageous stunt!” I spat at her, pointing to the TV set.
“Hold it, Em. You think I had something to do with that?”
“You brought up the ridiculous idea of leaking the news of my child’s paternity so Fitz wouldn’t have custody of her,” I said with an accusing finger in her direction.
“And you said it was a bad idea which I agreed to. Why would I then go ahead and leak it? Who would I even leak it to?” “How would I know? You seemed to have it clearly thought out when you mentioned it.”
“I would never go behind your back like that, Em. I understand that you’re shaken up but you need to calm down. The world isn’t coming to an end yet.”
“Obviously, yours hasn’t but mine definitely has! Now, the whole world knows me to be an unfaithful slut of a wife!” Karen winced at my words as she had been physically slapped with them. I covered my mouth with my trembling hands and sat down.
“Emily, I had nothing to do with this, I swear!” My phone rang. It was Fitz calling.
“He’d think I did this!”
“That’s nonsense. Why would you ruin your reputation like that?”
“Because I’m worth nothing now!” I shouted.
The interview ended soon after the blurt-out from the hostess. Adam had been so visibly shaken and defensive that the show had to end ten minutes earlier than scheduled. His eyes had turned red and his hands had tightened into fists. If the hostess hadn’t drawn the curtain on the show at the time she did, Adam would have lost control.
The media was going to feast on the story like vultures on carcass. I have to leave campus before I get swamped by the gossips, I thought.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this. We’ll find out how…”
“The truth about my baby’s paternity is known by Fitz, Adam, you and I. And if I take your word for it, then it’s impossible for anyone of us four to leak this knowing how damaging that could be.”
“I know it looks bad but unless the walls literally told a passerby when I made that comment, I don’t know how that is possible,” Karen said, baffled.
After a seemingly eternity of silence had passed, I looked up to glance at Karen.
“Did you tell James?” I asked quietly. For a minute, Karen facial expression changed from ‘you-seriously-don’t-think-he-could to ‘OMG-could-he-have?!’ I buried my face in my palms.
“James wouldn’t do such a thing. He knows better not to,” Karen said rather unconvincingly.
“But it doesn’t rule out the fact that he could have mentioned it to a friend who told another friend and it goes on and on till it fell on the ears of someone who works in the media. How could you, Karen?!”
“James doesn’t blab; I know that for sure. I am so sorry, Em. I don’t know what to say.” My phone rang again. It was Adam. I picked up.
“I’m so sorry about that. I didn’t know she would drop such a bombshell…”
“It’s okay, Adam. It’s not your fault. Where are you now?”
“I’m driving home. Do you want me to come over?”
“No, no, not; that would be a terrible idea. Get home safe and catch some sleep. You’ll need it. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay; what are you going to tell people when they ask?”
“I have no idea how I can control this. I need to get out of here though. Take care and drive carefully, okay?”
“Okay; goodnight, Emily.”
“Yeah, I need it. Bye.” I ended the call and got up. I started gathering my things.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like? I’m getting out of here.”
“Where could you possibly go to at this time of the night?”
“To my husband’s house, where else? We need to work out a common story to tell the public about this scandalous news.” Karen gasped.
“Maybe this was his plan all along! By leaking the news, it makes you run to him and he offers you his protection in exchange for your freedom. I must say, Fitz Daniels is one good genius!”
“That’s preposterous. The last thing Fitz wanted was the world to know that the baby wasn’t his. Why would he risk his reputation just to have me back?”
“Because apparently, when you are in the picture, all bets are off and so are the negotiation rules. Everything changes when you’re concerned.”
“I don’t believe Fitz would stoop so low.” I zipped up my suitcase.
“Are you really serious about leaving?” “Do I look like I’m rehearsing for a play?” I took my phone and car key.
“Emily, it’s late. You’re in shock and you’re definitely not thinking straight. Lie down and get some sleep. We’ll figure this out tomorrow.”
“Oh no, the dawn of tomorrow won’t meet me here. Everyone who knows me would be pounding on the door tomorrow demanding answers. And thanks to smartphones dominating the campus, this rude encounter could be streamed live on social media. My image is tattered as it is and I’m not going to risk being hassled because someone couldn’t keep his mouth shut!” I said with a tone of finality.
“I just don’t think you should be driving at night in such a mood.”
“Don’t worry; I’ve driven safely under worse moods. I’ll let you know when I arrive. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Let me escort you to your car.” We went outside and I unlocked the door.
“Make sure to drill the truth out of your boyfriend, Karen and if he is behind this, let him know I’m pissed I am,” I said and sat in the car. Without giving her another look, I drove away.
Karen entered her room, slamming the door behind her. She took her phone and dialled James’ number.
“Karen?” Karen rolled her eyes and slapped her forehead with her palm. James was the mole; he calling her by the name was just enough evidence.
“Did you do it?”
“Don’t play silly games with me, Jay. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Did you leak the story about Emily’s baby?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Then who did?”
“You’re angry. Let me come over and talk. Is Emily there?”
“No, she just left.”
“Great; I’ll be there in a jiffy.” The call ended. Karen slumped herself down on her bed and waited.
He knocked and entered. He stared at Karen who stared back. He swallowed.
“What did you do, James?”
“It slipped out when I spoke with Tony the other day…” That made Karen stand.
“You told Tony?! What the heck, Jay?!”
“I know; it just came out. He must have leaked it. How’s Emily taking it? She must be furious with me.”
“Furious doesn’t begin to touch it. I can’t believe this happened because I told you. This is entirely my fault.”
“No, it’s not; it’s mine. I should have been more discreet.”
“Yes, you should have.”
“But this is Emily’s mess, not yours. Sooner or later, this was bound to come out. Why punish yourself over an inevitable occurrence anyway?”
“Are you kidding me? Emily and I have been through this heckle of a life together. She trusts me or should I now say she used to trust me with her life and now because of you…”
“Because of me what? Why does it always feel like Emily matters more to you than I do?” Karen chuckled.
“You don’t want us to go down that road right now, James.”
“Oh but I do. Let’s talk about this right here right now. It kind of seems that it is you and Emily in the relationship and I’m on standby.”
“Are you saying you’re jealous of our friendship?”
“I don’t want to be but sometimes I admit I do feel sidelined.”
“Wow…what a perfect time to bring it up. Emily and I….”
“Yeah, yeah, have grown together like sisters whiles you were kids. I get that and I don’t want to get in between you two…”
“It seems that’s what you’re doing right now, Jay.”
“You make your world all about her and sometimes I’m afraid that you’re with me because she’s allowing you to.” “That’s ridiculous. I’m her friend not her slave.”
“Whatever. I don’t want you to complicate yourself in a mess you created all by herself. Do you know that we spent the most time together when she was ‘dead’?” Karen gasped.
“Are you implying you were happy she was gone?”
“I’d be lying if a part of me wasn’t glad that she wasn’t in the way anymore.”
“I can’t hear anymore of this. Please leave. I need some peace and quiet to think.”
“If it came down to both of us, do I have to guess who you’d choose?”
“You’re not asking me to, are you now?”
“What if I am?”
“You know who I would choose.”
“Wow…no hesitation at all. That’s admirable. I wish you’d have chosen me in a heartbeat like that.”
“I think we need a break, Karen. Your sister is back and your life doesn’t have space for me right now. So I’ll give it to you.”
“We’re done, Karen,” he said finally. When Karen gaped in response, he walked out and slammed the door.
“Could this day get any worse?” Karen fumed.
I entered the house to meet a distraught Fitz trying to calm a crying Karen. I dropped the suitcase and rushed to take her from him.
“What’s wrong? She’s burning up.”
“I don’t know…she was fine a short while ago and Rose has already left.”
“Please stop crying,” I said soothingly.
“Did you watch the interview?”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now. Let’s see what we can do about my baby.”
Later when the baby had fallen asleep, we both lay in bed, each absorbed in deep thoughts.
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
“I can’t think of anything right now. I wonder where the leak came from,” he said. I said nothing. He wrapped his arm around my middle.
“I’m glad you’re back.”
“It’s safer for us this way. I’m tired. Let’s think of something tomorrow.”
“Sure, goodnight.” He kissed my forehead. Surprisingly, I slept like a baby despite the scandal cloud looming over us.
The following morning, Fitz left home early for work. I was enjoying my breakfast when Karen arrived. She sat down and started helping herself.
“You look like you didn’t sleep last night. Are you okay?” I asked, worried.
“James and I broke up,” she said flatly, spreading her slice of bread with peanut butter.
“Why, what happened?” She looked at me oddly.
“Have you forgotten what happened yesterday? You seem to be in a good mood today.” I shrugged.
“Don’t tell me he’s the mole.”
“Indirectly he is. He blabbed out to Tony who I’m sure leaked it.”
“Darn it! Tony of all people? I can’t believe it!”
“Yep.” I watched my friend devouring the bread.
“I’m sorry you two broke up on my account. Now he has every right to overtly hate me. I’ll talk to him, okay?” “Don’t bother, Em. We need some time apart. I’ll sort it out.”
“You’re sure?” She gave me the thumbs up, still eating.
The scandal that was my life had just begun.