The Jezebel - Dylan Allen Page 0,1
I release the breath I was holding, and rush into my closet, slide the door closed behind me and start to pace. Mounting dread compounds my shock, but I can’t afford to indulge either.
Since our confrontation after he received the divorce petition, he’s been radio silent. I’ve been praying, unceasingly, he’d stay that way. Marcel being here today is a very, very bad sign and even worse timing.
The State of Texas gives a respondent twenty days to respond before granting a divorce by default. This morning, I woke up and drew the nineteenth red “X” on the small calendar I keep on my bedside table. It was like hearing a key slide into the lock of a door that had been sealed shut for years.
Just one day left. I could taste my freedom. And, for the first time ever, I dared to imagine welcoming Stone to Houston as a single woman.
It was stupid to think Marcel would make this easy.
I glower at my reflection, this time, the sting in my eyes from tears I won’t allow to fall. There’s no reason to cry. Marcel will drag it out and make it as painful as possible, but he can’t do anything to stop the divorce. This is just one battle in a war that, ultimately, I know I’ll win.
I take my time getting dressed, pulling on my softest pair of leggings and a t-shirt Stone bought me in Todos Santos. I stride into my bedroom, walking past him toward my bed without stopping or looking at him, my voice projecting irritation and impatience. “Whatever this about, I wish you’d called first. I have a very busy-”
“Who is he?” Marcel speaks in a quiet, insouciant voice, but his question lands with the potential lethality of a grenade before it detonates. I have no idea if it’s a dud or if my whole life is about to go up in flames.
I quell that flare of panic. There’s only one he that matters, and Marcel can’t know about him. No one does. Stone is my heart’s most closely guarded secret. With that certainty as my shield, I ignore the explosive question, turn my back to him, and start making my bed.
“Regan, I am speaking to you.” The easy confidence in his voice is splintered by indignation that provides another balm to my rattled nerves. He’s much easier to manage when he’s angry.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I drawl and glance over my shoulder in his general direction, one eyebrow raised in apathetic curiosity. “I didn’t hear you.” I resume my task without meeting his eye or waiting for an answer.
A second later, a black smartphone lands face down on the bed. “My mother was right about you. You are the devil in disguise.” he snarls behind me.
I sigh loudly at his dramatics before I pick up the phone and turn to face him. “What is this about?” I snap.
He nods at the phone in my hand. “See for yourself, Jezebel.”
Those tendrils of trepidation hiss like agitated snakes in my gut and drawn my grudging gaze to the phone and the shield I’d been so sure of crumbles as the grenade I’d dismissed for a dud, detonates.
The headline written in bold red all caps reads, “La femme de Landel montre au monde qui elle est: La Jézabel” The wife of Landel shows the world who she is: Jezebel.
It’s splashed over a picture I looked at just this morning with sweet longing and tentative hope. Me and Stone kissing, his hand grasping my bikini clad bottom, my tattoo glaring the small of my bare back. My arms are twined around his neck, obscuring the sliver of his profile that the brim of his hat didn’t hide. I scan the article and see the words “unknown companion”. At least they don’t know it’s him.
Amidst the discordant bells of devastation, disbelief, horror, and humiliation tolling inside my head, is a note of relief. But my knees still buckle under the weight of this disaster and I sit on the bed, dazed.
“I want you out of my house, faithless woman.” Marcel issues his order like a tyrant who expects complete obedience and my head snaps up. His eyes glitter with the anticipatory menace of a spider preparing to devour the unfortunate prey trapped in its web and I’ve never been so afraid in my life.
But, after years of living with his flagrant infidelity, Marcel’s righteousness spawns rage so ardent, it momentarily overwhelms my fear.
I raise my head and meet his raptor