Tucked away at home and licking her wounds was where Iocca preferred to be, rather than in the elevator car headed for her tenth floor office. Her career couldn’t be put on hold because her life was falling apart. The doors swooshed open and her eyes darted about the area of the floor she could see. She felt exposed and naked for the world to view. She stepped through the doors just before they closed and faced the receptionist.
“Are you alright, Iocca?”
“Yes, Carol, just have the feeling like I’ve forgotten something.” Iocca said. Were all eyes on her or was she imagining it? Did they all know her girlfriend was unveiled on her own show? They were whispering about it, gossiping how she’d been played, she was sure of it. Everyone knew, goddamn it, everyone knew. She walked the zigzagged path between desks to the back of the floor and her office. The journey seemed longer than usual but she reached the door with her name in bold black letters and quickly stepped through.
She gritted her teeth until they ached. Gail caused this. Gail made her the fool.
Iocca sat in her desk chair and swung around to the window. Her view from there was sky tops and roofs. Standing, she could see the street and trees of the park blocks away. It's the park where Gail faked her car breaking down to get her out for a picnic lunch. Gail planned many lunches for them in that park. The thought of what was saddened her to no end.
“Iocca?” Phillip knocked on the door and called her from her reverie. She sniffed unaware of the moisture on her cheeks. Quickly she found her tissues. He knocked again.
“Come in.” She waited until the door closed before swinging the chair around. She silently thanked Phillip for the latte he placed on her desk and for sitting quietly until her composure returned. “How are things?”
“That should be my question for you.” he said.
“As you’re thinking they are.” Iocca sipped her latte. She smiled inside at the caramel laced treat, a bright moment in an otherwise numb existence. Getting to her feet she began to pace.
“We don’t have to run the segment. We have plenty other cases already canned and ready to go.”
“I appreciate it, thank you. If it ran later, it would only come at a time when it should’ve been forgotten. No, we run it as scheduled. I’d like for you to do the editing. Please.”
“I’m so sorry about this Iocca. I kind of feel responsible for presenting the case.”
“Don’t even think that, Phillip.” She turned to face him. “Gail and I are responsible for this. Not you. You did your job.”
“You’re not responsible.”
“I probably am somehow.” She paused wincing at the tightening in her chest. She needed to get off this train of thought if she wanted to have a semi-productive day. “Tell me something.”
“If I can.”
“What do you think of Heather?” She sipped her latte and waited.
“I need your honest opinion. It stays with me.” She sat on the small couch and braced her foot against the table.
“Okay,” Phillip stood and leaned against the front of her desk. “I think she’s a spoiled little rich girl who could develop her talent if she wasn’t trying to bed you all the time.”
Iocca laughed joined by Phillip. She loved his candor and she loved him for giving her a moment to forget problems. “Ok, we’re in agreement on that.”
“Do you mean to 'run the show' talent?”
“Not alone. She’s watched you in many ways,” He snickered. “She’s learned how to create
this type of show, she could do it, after more training. Why? Thinking of giving her a shot at producing a segment?”
“It’s been in the back of my mind.”
“Is daddy pressuring you?” Phillip mocked Heather’s father, and owner of the network.
“Martin doesn’t know anything about this. You’re the first, so keep your lips tight. Got me?”
“You know me, cross my heart.” He patted his heart. “Speaking of this,” he said. “How is yours?”
“Hemorrhaging,” Iocca said surprised at her honesty.
“I didn’t expect to see you in this morning. You shouldn’t be here.”
“I need to keep busy.”
“You need to get some sleep. You look like hell.”
She couldn’t protest. He was right. She felt like hell. “It feels like everybody knows.”
“Just Heather and I, and the people in the booth.”
“How did that happen?” Both relieved and annoyed, Iocca held her aching head and went to find her bottle of aspirin.
“After you left, Heather spouted off at them. She said it was in defense of you. Don’t worry. I threatened them within an inch of their lives if I heard one word. The guys who were with me
are still in the dark.”
“Thank you.” She swallowed the aspirin just as the rapid knocks sounded on her door. “Come in,” she managed after taking another sip of caramel filled treat.
Heather walked right up to Iocca’s desk and sat the coffee shop cup matching the one in Iocca’s hand from Phillip, but larger. “Good morning, I thought you might need this.”
“Thank you Heather. I appreciate it.”
“How are you feeling? Never mind. Honey, you shouldn’t be here.”
“Phillip was saying the same thing when you walked in.”
“Well he’s right. Let me take you to lunch and then I’ll drive you home.”
“Thank you, but no.”
“If you need to talk, I’m here for you. You know that right?” Heather offered.
Fat chance, Iocca thought. “Yes, I do, thank you for the offer. But I’m fine, really. Both of you, stop worrying like mother hens.” Another knock on her door and she sighed. Too much stimulation and too little sleep wasn’t a good combination. Maybe they both were right. She shouldn’t have even attempted. “Come in,” she rubbed her temples wishing the aspirin would take effect.
“Guess who, Chica?” The door swung open.
“Evelyn?” She’d forgotten about the luncheon with Evelyn.
“I’m early for lunch because I’m starving.” She noticed the others. “Excuse me, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Wylie,” Iocca rounded the desk to embrace her best friend. “I’ve missed you.” She wanted to burst into tears.
“And I you Chica.”
“Let me look at you.” Iocca stepped arms length away and looked at her marvelous trim friend. Long flowing auburn hair and bold black round eyes, she was beautiful. The cream colored pants suit accentuated her bronze skin. “You look spectacular.”
“And you my friend...” she paused taking in the puffy eyes and paler skin.
“I know.” She stepped aside and extended a hand. “Phillip Webb, Heather Duncan, meet Evelyn Wylder.”
“Hello,” they greeted in unison.
“Wylie?” Phillip said.
“College nickname,” Iocca said. “A well earned nickname, I assure you.” Evelyn slapped her on the arm.
“And Chica?” Heather wanted to know more.
“I came to rescue you for lunch. You promised so let’s go.”
chuckled at Evelyn’s use of words. “I did, didn’t I?”
Having been caged inside a plane for more hours than she cared to count flying between continents, the antiques dealer suggested they walk. She wanted to feel the open freedom and the sun on her face. They carried their shaker salads until the perfect spot in the park called to them. Skaters rolled along the path and the joggers watched their heart rate with each pounding step. Iocca couldn’t find hers.
“So after I flew from Egypt and back to Cayman I came home.” Evelyn said as they sat on a bench.
“And you just left the woman who stole your heart.”
“I’m not sure she had my heart really. I think I was in love with the idea of being in love with her. She was absolutely breathtaking. But she was very demanding of my attention and high maintenance.”
“You seem okay. You’re not devastated or anything.” Like I am, Iocca thought.
“I am a little. I thought she would be the one I’d settle down with.”
“You?” Iocca laughed. “You want to settle down?”
“Yes?” Evelyn said indignantly.
“Who the hell would want the task of taming you?”
“Hey, there are plenty of women out there who’d be happy to snap a whip at me.”
“I’m sure there are.” Iocca chuckled. “If that’s what you’re after, go for it. Good luck.”
“Ha ha Chica, enough about me. What gives?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re good at stalling, but don’t make me hurt you.”
“I don’t stall.”
“Yeah whatever. You look like shit.”
“You say I look like shit, Phillips says I look like hell. I’m batting a thousand today.” Iocca sat the barely touched salad aside. “You timing is perfect. Let me tell you.”
She gathered the words that were still difficult to utter. “Gail’s having an affair.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“Deceevers caught it on film.” Her breath became labored.
“Oh my God, Iocca.” She hugged her. “Oh my God.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.” The tears splashed onto her blouse as she detailed what happened the night before.
“Why that bitch!” Evelyn said.
“She says it wasn’t planned. It just happened.”
“And you believe her? Tell me you don’t believe her?”
After a long pause, Iocca said, “I love her, Wylie.”
“Enough to forgive her for this?”
“I’m beginning to think so.” Her voice caught. “I don’t want to hurt anymore.”
“I understand that, but you’re confused right now. You don’t know what you want. Take some time. Think about it.”
“I knew that’s what you were going to say.”
“Then you should listen to your instincts.”
“Eight years, Evelyn, that’s a long time to just walk away from.”
“She did it easily.”
“I don’t think so. Gail was pretty torn up about it too.”
“She was caught by the cameramen! I’d be torn up too.”
“I was so... shocked when I saw them on the monitor.”
“Like I said, it’s only been a few hours. You need more time to think about this.”
“You’re not trying to talk me out of getting back with her are you?”
Evelyn thought a moment, “Maybe unintentionally. It pains me to see you like this and to know she’s responsible. I hate the fact she’ll get a chance to do it again.”
“She’s agreed to marry me.”
“Are you crazy?” Evelyn shrieked. “You can’t be serious?”
“I want to fight for her.”
Evelyn threw her hands into the air. “You are crazy.”
“This is the only thing that’s come between us in eight years. We can work through this.” Iocca paused and then chuckled.
“And you’re losing it.” Evelyn eyed her friend suspiciously.
“No. One Christmas Gail jumped on the bed wearing footed pajamas, one piece getup zipper down the front. She was so adorable with her hair in pigtails. She made me get up and put on a matching blue pair, with pigtails mind you.”
“You are losing it."
“No, I’m remembering why I love her.” Iocca closed her eyes and tilted her face to the sun. “The way the sun highlights her hair in the summer. The way she smells. How she makes me laugh.” She opened her eyes and looked at her friend. “Eight years, that’s an investment you don’t just throw away.”
“But she did.”
“She said it was a mistake!” Iocca said more harshly than she intended.
Silence fell between them. Each lost in thought as the other had spoken a kernel of truth. It was some time before Evelyn’s loud sigh brokered the quiet. “You’re my friend and I love you above all others.”
“And I you.”
“I’ll support whatever you decide, Chica. “
“You do what makes you happy and I won’t get her mummified.” Iocca burst into laughter and nodded her agreement. “You laugh. But I do know people ya know.”
“I’m sure you do.” She chuckled.
Evelyn slapped her leg and stood. “Now come on.”
“We’re going to find us a place where beautiful women will serve us drinks.”
“I shouldn’t. Not with everything going on.” Iocca hedged.
“Yes you should, for two reasons.” Evelyn stood and looped her arm through Iocca’s.
“I hate to ask.”
“First and foremost, you’re having a drink with your best gal pal who wants to see what opportunities are out there for settling down.”
“And number two?”
“For you to see what you’re going to be missing.”
“Oh gee, thanks for understanding.”
Evelyn moved into the apartment and kept Iocca busy for the next week. She’d been successful in talking Iocca out of answering Gail’s numerous calls and messages. Iocca had gone along with her best friends plan but it didn’t ease the emptiness in life without Gail. She’d given it time. She’d given it thought. Although her panic wasn’t as severe as when their separation first began, it was there nonetheless.
“Hello.” Iocca said answering the telephone on the third ring.
“Iocca, its Gail.” She paused.
She stared at the unfamiliar number on the caller ID. “How are you?” Her heart pounded. It was the first time they spoken in over a week since she’d left peacefully.
“Getting by. And you?”
“The same.” Iocca chewed on her lip and paced the floor. Gail’s voice turned her thundering heart calmer and set the butterflies free in her stomach. Evelyn had been successful in keeping her incommunicado with Gail, but thoughts of her partner plagued her every waking moment and followed into her dreams at night. She wanted her life back. She wanted Gail.
“This feels so awkward.”
“It’s my fault and I’m sorry.”
“I believe you.”
Iocca heard the glimmer of hope in Gail’s voice and gave her more to hold onto. “Of course I do.”
“You don’t know how much that mean’s to me, Iocca.”
“Just as much as it means to me.”
“Are you saying what I hope you are?”
“I believe I am.” She heard Gail weeping into the receiver and she melted herself. “Honey, don’t cry. Please.”
“It’s just that... I’ve been so worried... so afraid. God, Iocca, I’m missed you so much.”
“And I’ve missed you.”
“Can I come home?”
Iocca inhaled deeply and thought with her mind not her heart. Evelyn was right. They needed to start at the beginning for this to work. Living together meant the temptation of having sex and that would blur what needed to be repaired. Trust. “Not yet. We need to talk first.”
“We can do that when I’m home.”
“No. I don’t think we should live together right away after this. I think it would confuse things even more. You know what I mean?”
“I do but, when can I come home?”
“Oh.” Gail paused and sighed. “I’ll need to get some of my clothes and things.”
“Yeah, sure. Why don’t you come over in about an hour?”
“I’ll be there with bells on,” Gail said. “I can’t wait to see you.”
“See ya then.” She clicked off with Gail and immediately dialed Evelyn.
“Wylder.” Evelyn barked into the receiver.
“Are we feeling a bit irritable today?”
“You have no idea how it is to work with imbeciles who can’t seem to read even though they have a PHD.”
“Oh my, we are cranky today.”
“And you sound too chipper. What going on?”
“Gail is stopping by.” A long pause on the line. “Come on Evelyn, you said you’d support me.”
“I did and I am.”
“She’s coming for more of her things. I told her we couldn’t live together right away.”
“And how did she take that?”
“Ok. She believes there’s a chance for us.”
“I can’t believe you’re going back to her.”
“What do you need from me?”
“Don’t come home for a couple of hours?” She’d been grateful for her best friends company the past week, but she needed time alone with Gail.
“Are you planning to -” Her voice trailed off.
“No, talking. First round.”
“No problem. Looks like I’ll be here a while sorting this mess.”
Iocca clicked the controls for the stereo in the bedroom. The familiar reggae sounds of Bob Marley's calypso filled the air. She pulled the suitcase from storage and started to pack things Gail had originally forgotten but wanted to have with her. What she was doing suddenly occurred to her. Humming while packing her lovers suitcase because she slept with another woman? How could that make her cheerful? It was handing Gail easy access to Lauren.
“No,” Iocca said aloud. “Lauren was a mistake. She wouldn’t risk us again.”
Each with their own closets, Iocca opened Gail’s and scanned the double row of clothing. She selected suits and placed them in the garment carrier. Slacks and blouses carefully folded upon the bed to be neatly packed later. As her fingers caressed the silk fabric of Gail’s undergarments her groin clenched remembering making love with Gail. Just as quickly, she shook her entire body to get rid of such thoughts. She returned to her task lightly humming.
Into the bottom of Gail’s closet she dove and sorted through mounds of shoes. Iocca glanced at the bed and the clothing that lay there waiting for the final piece of their ensemble. She picked several pairs and thought better of the sneakers. She reached deep into the closet to put them back when her hand hit something solid. She crawled further in to grasp the box with both hands. She withdrew the wooden box shaped like a treasure chest.
Puzzled, Iocca stared at the box in the middle of the floor. She didn’t recall ever seeing it before. Not finding the key, she found a screwdriver instead. She pried at the lock with the screw driver then stopped. What ever was in the box was something Gail didn’t want to share with her yet. Once she crossed that line, their relationship would have another dynamic. She wasn’t sure she was ready to add to the pile so soon. Iocca put the screw driver on the floor, got to her knees and carried the chest back to the closet. She’d let it be a subject of one of their talks.
“Would she ever?” Iocca said and turned and picked up the screwdriver.
She worked furiously to pry off the lock. Frustrated, she jumped to her feet, left the room and returned with the hammer. On her knees she took a hard look at the chest. With all her might she brought the head of the hammer down on the top of the chest. The wood splintered and cracked. She pounded until there was a gaping hole in the top.
Iocca reached in and pulled out a letter. Curious, she reached back through the hole and found several bracelets, perfume bottles, and rings. Iocca sat on the floor and looked at the envelopes. They were addressed to Gail at a post office box. The return addresses were from women in the city and other states. The one she held in her hand was post marked two weeks ago. She pulled the scented stationary from the envelope.
My dearest Gail,
I have missed your touch. The way your body melds into mine. Your fat cock
fits me just right. Say you’ll come to me, come in me, soon.
“What the fuck’s this?” Iocca grabbed the envelope for the return address. “New York.” She grabbed the others. Six different names. There had to be thirty letters in the chest from six different women. She tore open another envelope and read.
My Passionate Gail,
Sorry that I missed you when I flew into town yesterday. I had delicious plans for those marvelous lips of yours. My next flight in is next Thursday.
“Oh my god,” Iocca whispered. She looked through the letters. She opened a ring box and several bracelet boxes. Barely able to see through the tears she opened the note clipped to the plane ticket for the Bahamas dated three months ago.
Come with me Gail. Live with me there. You don’t ever have to come back. If you’re at the airport, you’d make me the happiest woman in the world. If not, I don’t even want to think about living without you.
Iocca crumbled the letter between her fingers, and ripped the credit card statements to shreds. She grabbed the hammer and wiped the tears from her eyes so she could aim carefully. Atop the diamond ring, once, twice, three times the hammer’s head thundered upon the floor. Each of the three rings in the chest received the same attention.
Iocca left the couch at the sharp rap sounded on the front door. Gail stood anxious on the other side. “Hi, come on in.” She stepped aside and allowed her to enter.
“Thanks. I appreciate you doing this.”
Iocca shrugged. “No problem.”
Gail bent to kiss her and Iocca turned away. “I’m sorry. I just thought...”
Gail’s eyebrows knitted confused. This was a different Iocca than she heard on the telephone.
“I’ll fight for us, Iocca. I won’t let you go so easily.”
Iocca’s skin prickled and she fought to keep the bile in its place. “That’s sweet.”
“I love you. Only you. Lauren was an accident.”
“So you’ve told me.”
“The only one I’ve made. It was costly, I know that now. I’ll never risk us again.”
“It’s going to take some time.”
“As long as we need,” Gail said hopefully. “I’ve been so lost without you.”
“Yeah, me too. Look, I’ll call you in a few days -”
“I’d like that.”
“Why don’t you check the suitcase, make sure I’ve packed what you need.” Iocca pointed and stepped back towards the couch.
Gail bent to open the suit case by the door. She pulled back the top and gasped. “What’s this?” Iocca shrugged. Gail lifted the ragged and torn blouse and pair of slacks. “What the hell happened to my clothes?”
“I don’t know.” Iocca said innocently.
“You don’t know!?”
“It just happened.” Iocca sipped her bourbon.
“Come on, Iocca. This is way beneath you.” She threw the rags back into the case and shoved it aside. “I can’t believe you did this.”
“I didn’t even realize I was doing it,” Iocca shrugged. “But when I did, I stopped at just the one blouse and pair of pants. Thank God.”
“You want to make up and you do this!?”
“You want to make up, and you’ve done this.” Iocca lifted the battered treasure chest and tossed it to land next to the suitcase. Gail jumped as it slammed onto the floor with a sickening bang. “How many were there Gail!? You lying fuck. How many!?”
Her mouth opened and closed without sound. “Iocca-”
“I counted six.” Her chest heaved. “You had the nerve to keep that shit in my house!”
“Iocca, please,” Gail trembled.
“Take your trophies and get out.”
“GET THE FUCK OUT!”
Gail fumbled for the door handle. She’d managed to get the door closed before the loud bang and shattering sounded from the other side.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this.” Phillip said entering Iocca’s empty office. She turned from the window and sighed.
“You can’t just decide to do this on a whim.”
“It wasn’t on a whim. I decided weeks ago when things with Gail happened.”
“And you didn’t tell me,” Phillip said.
“No. I asked Martin to keep it quiet until things were arranged.”
“But why? You’ve worked so hard to get Deceevers where it is. Why quit now?”
She sighed. “I can’t do this anymore Phillip. Something’s gone and I really don’t care about getting it back right now.” She looked at him earnestly. “I just...need some time.”
“That’s not like you Iocca. You thrive on this stuff. You live for this.”
“That’s sad, don’t you think? It’s time I find something else to thrive on. Life’s too short as they say. I’m tired of all this,” She stopped packing and spread her arms wide. “And I don’t want to be apart of it anymore.”
He’d never seen her so complacent in the years he’d known her. “What will you do?”
“Not sure and don’t care.” She chuckled. “Write the great American lesbian novel.”
“You’re a writer?”
“Who knows?” She sighed. “I don’t want to do anything for awhile.”
“It’s not like you to sit around and contemplate.”
“I might like it.”
“There’s no reconciliation between you two?”
“No.” She said sharply and left it at that.
“I’m sorry Iocca.”
“Don’t be.” It had been a month and the wounds still made her eyes tear up. “Listen, just because I’m not in the chair doesn’t mean I expect anything less than your best. I’ll be keeping tabs.”
She slung the leather strap across her shoulder and picked up the box. One last glance at the office she had fought to win years ago. She bid her goodbyes to those in the office pool and walked the jagged path for the last time.
“Iocca,” Gail called from the open door of the condo. She stepped further into the place she hadn’t seen in weeks. It felt empty. It was partially empty. The couch was missing. So were the TV and the entertainment center. Boxes were scattered about the hall and living room. “Iocca?” She called again.
“Iocca’s not here,” Evelyn said descending the stairs.
Gail stiffened. “Hello Evelyn. I didn’t know you were back in town.”
“Surprise!” Evelyn said with a smirk.
“Iocca must be ecstatic.”
“Where is she?”
Gail sighed heavily. She wasn’t in the mood for Evelyn’s games. “She called and asked me to come by.”
“Those are your boxes over there.”
“I’d rather speak to her first. Is she here?” Gail said.
“She’s gone, I told you.”
“Gone where Evelyn? I don’t have time to play your silly little games.”
“Seems like you found plenty of time to play your little games,” Evelyn smirked.
“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Oh but I do. Iocca told me everything.”
“And you loved poisoning her against me didn’t you?” Gail sneered.
“You did that all by yourself.”
“Where is she?”
“She doesn’t need a whore like you messing with her.”
“Fuck you Evelyn.”
“Not in your wildest dreams bitch!” Evelyn spat. “You’re not to ever try and see her or
you’ll answer to me.”
“She can’t leave. What about our condo?”
“Not yours, hers. I own the condo. So don’t try to get back in or so help me god I’ll press charges and watch you rot in the jail.”
Without a word, Gail struggled to lift one of the boxes while Evelyn watched. She managed several steps on the other side of the arch before Evelyn pushed the remaining two boxes onto the stoop and closed the door.
Iocca followed the twisted road she’d driven once before. At the end of the curves, the road straightened and the houses were further apart. It’s what she wanted. Far away from Gail and The Deceevers, she needed solitude and time to heal. She parked in the drive of her new house three bedroom ranch and stepped from the car into the brisk breeze from the ocean.
Iocca walked into the spacious ranch and deposited the box of groceries on the floor. The
realtor met her in the living room and gave her a guided tour of the house and the surrounding beach area. It was perfect. Her belongings would be arriving on the truck in a few days. After signing a few more papers she was left alone in her new home.
Iocca poured herself a drink and looked around at the few boxes that had arrived. She went to the sliding doors and stepped out onto the deck. The sun was sprawled across the horizon finishing its course around the earth. Glass raised in toast to her new start before the burning liquid traveled down her throat.
Iocca coughed choking as an idea slammed into her mind harder than the bourbon. She grabbed the rail to remain upright. She ran into the living room for the lap top and impatiently waited
for it to boot and the program to open. She sat on a stool in the empty kitchen and her fingers began to fly over the keyboard.
Continued in Part 3
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