by Smita Shandelya
The sky turned grey as I fumbled through my wallet in search of a Saks Fifth Ave receipt. No luck. I sighed as I glanced over at the passenger seat and fixed my eyes on the black plastic shopping bag. Turning the engine off was a bad idea, I thought to myself as I shivered and turned the key clockwise in the ignition. Hot air began flowing through the vents and suppressed the winter cold. I rolled my eyes as the lyrics began to resonate in my head.
“It’s just another sad love song rackin’ my brain like crazy…guess I’m all torn up,” Toni Braxton sang as I slammed the radio off. Talk about the universe being in sync. The weather, 92Q’s playlist, and my mood were all vibing at the same frequency. Low.
“I’ve got to find this receipt,” I said aloud to myself. It was painful for me to accept the fact that I, Stacey Cowzer-Wain, had reached a point like this in life. Reality, however, was sinking in. With Eric gone and divorce proceedings approaching, my finances were on the brink of ruin. With a car payment pending, rent, and mouths to be fed, any remnant of my old life had to be liquidated.
I scrummaged through my purse, discarding proofs of purchase from Starbucks, Whole Foods, and several other retailers. And then, there it was. I felt my frown do an inversion as I reached for the bottom of my Louis Vuitton tote and retrieved a folded piece of white paper I’d believed would put $1,295 back in my pockets once the return transaction was complete.
I unfolded the crumpled receipt and glared. The ink was barely visible, but I could make out the words. It definitely was not what I was looking for.
I looked up and noticed the rain drops splattering on the windshield. I took my mission for impossible and sunk back into the driver’s seat and let my mind travel back a few months in time, to the date indicated by the faded purple ink.
Fifty dollars. I grunted as I ran my finger across the line of connecting dots that linked the word TOTAL to the amount that read $50.34. That’s what my brother spent that evening. Dinner and drinks with the bro! Sounds like a swell plan! Right? Ordinarily yes. But my brother is not ordinary; and after that night, I realized that I wasn’t either. I think that dinner date forever changed my relationship with top shelf Long Islands and fried calamari. And definitely with my family.
I was surprised to see that David had chosen a two top table in the corner of the restaraunt when I walked into Morton’s. Pics at the bar make life look more sensational for Instagram, he’d taught me. David looked up from his iPhone as I approached the table. I greeted my brother with a hug and sat down.
“Have you been waiting long,” I asked.
“Nope. Just a few minutes. Haven’t even ordered drinks yet.”
Within seconds, a curly haired brunette named Megan, yuppie-ish in demeanor, appeared at our side.
“I’ll have a top shelf Long Island and the calamari,” I told Megan.
“I’ll have the same,” David muttered, barely lifting his face from the menu. Megan smiled as she nodded her head and walked away.
Something’s up, I thought to myself. “Is everything O.K.?” I asked my brother as we waited for our first course.
“Stace, there’s something I need to talk…uhh..t..tell you about,” he replied.
“David, what’s wrong? Do I need to be worried? Is it your health?”
“Do you remember the New Year’s party I threw five years ago?”
“The one that was at the mansion in Gambrils?” He nodded. “Yeahhhh,” I hesitated.
“There’s something about that night that you need to know.”
“I hooked up with a girl.”
“Okaaaayy.” I was confused. “What’s so out of the ordinary about that? You’re a club promoter. You get girls drunk on purpose so you can have sex with them when they pass out. Well,” I paused. “Hopefully, before they pass out?” I confirmed.
“See…” he began.
“You know I don’t agree with a lot of your actions, but I guess everyone has to figure out their own life. I just hope you don’t have to learn the hard way. Anyway, you didn’t call me here to tell me a nasty anecdote did you? Because, I’ve gotta get home to Darla. You know she’s been a wreck lately.”
“I asked a girl to meet me in one of the bedrooms that night.”
“What does any of this have to do with me!”
“Will you stop cutting me off! God Damn!”
“O.K., O.K. I’m sorry.” I fell silent. He was serious. I held my tongue and waited for David to continue.
“I told her to meet me upstairs while I went to go let the bartender know it was time for last call. She was pretty trashed and I was surprised she even made it to the bedroom. By the time, I got up there, she’d passed out.”
“Well, she wasn’t the only one,” I said, internally referencing myself.
“After we…you know…”
“I came back downstairs to tie up some loose ends and leave. And then I saw her come out of the room. But it wasn’t the room I was in.”
“I think I may have had sex with a different girl that night.”
“O.K. Who?” He said nothing.
“Are you not sure who you had sex with? Is someone trying to pin a baby on you?”
“The bouncers were checking the entire mansion grounds to make sure everyone was gone. A couple of minutes later, they brought a girl out of the room I was in. The room I had told the girl to meet me in. The room I was in.”
“Mmm,” I grunted as I remembered personally being dismissed from the party as well by a bouncer. “And the mystery was solved right? Who was it?” I took the last long sip of my Long Island.
Hot tears streamed down my cheek as I blinked. I don’t remember grabbing the receipt and putting it in my purse that night, but I certainly wished I hadn’t. Seeing it again was like picking at a scab; so when it heals, the scar is darker. I wanted it to be a mistake. I wanted to forget about that conversation so bad I never ate calamari or drank Long Islands again!
Eric already had suspicions about Darla’s paternity. David’s confession definitely prepared me for the results of the paternity test. No, Eric was not the father. I still can’t believe I was penetrated that night, and didn’t even know it. I can’t believe he didn’t wear a condom!
Nobody knows about the other paternity test though. That was a family affair. A Cowzer family affair. David was the father. I lied to Eric and told him that he was right. Yes, I’d been cheating. He spared me, and asked no further questions. Darla was not his daughter; and he left it alone, just as he’d left me.
I tore the receipt to pieces and tossed them out the window. I watched them settle at different points on the parking lot tar. I chuckled. I guess I thought destroying the evidence would ease some of the pain. Maybe all this is just some kind of karma David and I are being served. And just as the soul lives on after the body dies, the soul of this emotional scar lived on long after I left the parking lot with the Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag still at my side.