Only fools follow the fickleness of Fate. Fools, or foreigners.
Backwater babies grow up to be exactly as their birth circumstances presage.
In the bright lights of big cities, though, a man or woman stands with eyes shielding the dazzling sunlight of choice. Our plans are like totems, tall and straight to the point. The richness of our Being is eclipsed only by the Future we could have. Could have, if work is hard and each juncture has been consulted and measured correctly by media far and wide…oh shit
“Where was I?” asked Virginia.
“I was on a roll about Fate and Freewill being one and the same, mixed in parcels of particles…”
“What the hell?”
“Well I don’t know. Whenever I get on some subjects I just feel these statements welling up and wanting to burst out like the Wisdom of the Ages.”
“Oh, yeah. I know what you mean.”
“Well what do you know? Just when you thought you knew a guy.”
“Still Waters Run Deep, as they say.”
“Laugh Out Loud, as they say. Who was that on the phone?”
“When I was typing you took a call. Who was it?”
“Oh.” Virginia waited.
“It wasn’t that European lady again?”
“Whatshername. The masseuse.”
“Dr. Verdinova. She’s a doctor in Russia.”
“So she says.”
“Why wouldn’t she be? She’s a professional. It’s respectful to use her professional name.”
“She’s a professional all right.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing.” Virginia paused. “Can’t you see a different masseuse? Like a man, for instance?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I don’t want a man touching me, that’s all.”
“A man touching you…? It’s remedial. A man’s touch is going to get down into your muscles just as well and maybe even better.”
“Geez, sexual innuendo much?”
“It’s just my preference. That’s it. Nothing more to it than that.”
Cameron reached for his phone and tucked his wallet into his back pocket.
“Hey, seeing as you are tip-tappy laptop happy this afternoon, I might head out to the hardware shop. Got to look at those dry vacs.”
“You be here a while?”
“Ok honey, be back soon. Have a nice …” He said something more but it was muffled by her hair as he bent to kiss her head. It sounded like “dime.” Have a nice dime. Go ahead and use the phone, it’s your dime. Massage therapists are a dime a dozen, dammit. Why did he have to see that slut?
Where exactly, Virginia mused, did the slut work?
She closed up her laptop and slipped into her orthopedic sandals.
She had one phone number and one friend up the street who owed her a favour. Digging out the slip of paper she had secreted in her cardigan, she walked for a hundred metres. Standing outside the iron-grilled door she considered how much to tell Ruth. It took a long time and a few rings of the bell before the door opened. Virginia noticed that Ruth didn’t look too happy to see her.
“Hi Ruth. Is this a bad time to drop in?”
“I won’t take long, I promise.”
Ruth ran her fingers through her very short hair. “Leo’s back.”
“Oh!…well…how is he? Is he…”
“Going to jail? We don’t know yet. Probably not. Anyways, he’s not guilty, so why should he go to jail?”
“Oh! Yes! Of course not.”
Ruth seemed to relax. “Cup of tea?”
“Oh yes please.”
As soon as they had picked their way through the rubbish obstructing the hallway, Virginia cautiously said: “I have a favour to ask you.”
“You can trace numbers can’t you? Phone numbers.”
“Yeah. But so can anyone. Reverse search. Start with the number and work backwards. They have books at the library.”
“Well, this isn’t a publicly available number. It’s not in any of the phone books I’ve checked. Can’t you find out where it’s located?”
“Is it a land line?”
“Ok…I’ve got a shift tomorrow night so I’ll see what I can do. Whose number is it? Or is that a stupid question?”
“It’s not a stupid question, and I know who the number belongs to…Well…I don’t know her exactly, but I know approximately…”
“What’s that mean?”
“Ruth, do you mind if I don’t talk about this right now? It’s kind of personal and I don’t know where it might lead.”
“Thank you. Really. Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem.” Ruth turned to finish pouring the hot water over the tea bags. “But you’ll have to tell me eventually. I can’t do these things in the dark. It’s not fair.”
“No Virginia, I haven’t forgotten what happened with your Mom. You told me it would all be ok and it wasn’t ok. Remember? And then I had to live with the fall-out with Leo for months and months, and he wasn’t a happy camper let me tell you. Leo got fired and he says he hasn’t had a job that good since then. He still believes your Mom stole the money. I mean, who else could have done it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well it wasn’t Leo, no matter what anyone else says.”
“I never said he did!”
Ruth passed her a chipped mug brimming with watery tea. “Maybe not, but Cameron did.”
“Cameron! He’s an asshole.”
Ruth abruptly brought her tea cup down onto the dirty countertop. “Excuse me? Did I just hear you call your soulmate an asshole?”
“I didn’t mean asshole…he’s not a bad person…I’m just a little confused about him right now…”
“Confused? You mean he might be gay??”
“Say no more. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.”
“Virginia, I’m not as stupid as I look. You come here looking to trace a secret number and then call your dear husband an asshole, then admit you’re confused. What’s not to know?”
“It’s not what you think.”
“Oh yeah. Sure.”
“It isn’t!” Virginia tossed the rest of the horrible tea down the sink and turned to leave. “I’ll explain it all later. Really, it’s not that bad. I’m just…curious. That’s all. I’m curious.”
“Curious is the word for it. Oh boy, I really gotta know about this one.” She narrowed her eyes. “Your mother’s not involved, is she?”
“No. Not yet at least. Here’s hoping that she stays that way.” Virginia paused to look into the living room. My God it was messy. How could anyone live that way? “Mother has a gift for screwing things up.”
“She means well. I think.”
They both laughed. It wasn’t a soul-clearing laugh, but it was the best they could do. Virginia went back home, and Ruth stood at the window watching her. When Virginia reached the potted bamboo at the end of her driveway, she turned around to see Ruth’s bleak face, disembodied by the window’s reflection. Just time enough to make dinner before Cameron returned, she thought, and turned back to her own door.