Still trying to catch this blog up to everything that has happened in the past few weeks…
Zulya stepped back in surprise, and I followed her. For a second I stood inhaling the baked apple odor in its native habitat, less cloying than in my house, rich with tobacco, wine and soap. Then I focused on Zulya. Up close, her skin looked weatherworn. Her hair, even at this hour, was tied back in a long pony tail. She tightened a silk bathrobe around her svelteness. “You have no right to force in here!”
“It is not time or place.”
I stepped past her, first into the kitchen, cluttered and redolent of onions, then into the book-lined living room where dark velvet furniture pressed together beneath serpentine reading lamps. Over the couch hung a huge photograph of an airborne dancer in a magenta leotard – Zulya herself in younger days — one knee bent, both arms flung backward, soaring over the dance floor.
I found Charlie in the bedroom, hastily tugging slacks up his thighs. His great gray-thatched torso was still bare, and behind him, an unmade wrought iron bed filled most of the room. Double pillows lay against the bars of an arching bedstead and feathery quilts were thrown like snowdrifts. On the nightstand, atop a stack of books, a copper ashtray held his old meerschaum. His eyes, when I caught them, were wider than I’d ever seen, his pupils sliding back and forth from me to the door. “Adrienne!” His lips parted. “Dante?!”
I turned to see that our son had followed me, his face tugged by fear. Behind him, from another room, I could hear Chloe crying. Before I could run back to retrieve her, Zulya wheeled her in. I grabbed for the stroller’s handles and Zulya shrank from my touch.
Charlie tried comforting her while putting his arm through a sleeve of a white business shirt. “Chloe! Don’t cry! See? Daddy’s here! Mommy’s here!”
It was those words, in Charlie’s soft paternal voice, that finally cracked open my mouth. I whirled to him. “So this is you!” The words tumbled out before I could formulate a proper sentence. “I can’t believe this is you! You’re doing this!”
“Asshole. Fucking asshole!”
“Children!” I swiveled to see Dante’s gaping mouth. I was breathless by now, my face hurting with the horror of my own satisfaction. Now Charlie had to face our children. He had to see what he was doing to their lives. And maybe they had to see him, as well. The sooner they understood what kind of father they had, the sooner they could move on to whatever would take the place of the family he had ruined. “Children, remember this is your father. This is how he is. Fucking another woman. A fucking liar. A fucking creep.”
Charlie quickly buttoned his shirt and tucked it into his pants while I pummeled him with epithets.
Chloe’s cry rose to a siren. I unfastened her automatically to take her in my arms.
Zulya, tight-skinned and impassive in her elegant bathrobe, took a cigarette from a pack on the nightstand.
“Adrienne!” Charlie stepped toward me. “This isn’t helping.”
“Fuck you, you deviant bastard!”
“Let’s go home and put the kids to bed,” said Charlie. His face was red. The hand he reached toward me trembled slightly. “Then we can discuss this more calmly.”
Zulya let out a stream of smoke.
“Oh no,” I said. “You’re not coming home with us. You live here, now, asshole. You can stay here for all I care. Kids, we’re going home. You don’t have a father anymore.”
Dante’s eyes collapsed in sinkholes. Chloe’s fingernails cut my neck. Charlie’s lips pulled back to show his teeth. “You listen here, Adrienne,” he boomed. “You say what you want to say to me, but don’t involve our children in this!” He crouched and put an arm around Dante. “Listen, buster,” he said. “Mommy’s a little angry right now –”
“Take your philandering hands off him!” I grabbed Dante, plopped Chloe back into her stroller and pushed back through the living room.
Charlie shuffled after us, leaving Zulya in her contemplative cloud. His disheveled hair and badly tucked shirt, the pleading that broke through his voice, reduced his bearish bulk to something almost pitiable. “Adrienne, we’ll talk this over in the morning. Dante, and Chloe, I love you. I promise I’ll see you soon.” He caught up to me as I reached the door and thrust his head close enough to place a kiss on Chloe’s cheek before I tore her away. I tried to pull the door shut, but he held it, watching us head down the hall.
His voice followed. “I’ll call you!”
That’s all I have time to write tonight. More, I hope, tomorrow. Thanks again for all the emails — eisenbergadrienne AT gmail.com.