One Terrific Lie


First off, a warning: if you haven’t read Just Another Week in Suburbia, this scene is going to be something of a spoiler (as will this post).

The reason for that is because in both versions the conclusion is the same. It’s the journey to get there that differs, but get there they both do (hence the spoiler warning).

However, in the published book, the journey is a simple, tempered conversation. The characters are spent. All they have left now are words.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Originally when Casper and Jane met, it went like this …


Chapter 52
(in the original manuscript anyway)

Jane’s wearing a denim skirt and a white blouse that are too big for her, and a pair of sandals. I don’t think the clothes as hers, and she hasn’t had an opportunity to go home and get changed. They must be Sarah’s. Her hair is frazzled but tied back.
      I don’t get up when she reaches the table, even though she hovers there. Maybe she expected me to get up and kiss her. Or hug her. Or stand like a gentleman. But I just sit there and stare at the top of my tea. She sits down opposite me.
      Then, silence.

Still, silence.
      I’m not going to be the one to speak. I don’t even look at her, although I get that sense that she’s not looking at me either, that she’s staring at her latte instead. I don’t know if that’s right, though. My sensor is horrible. There are times in class I think my kids are looking at me, but when I check they have their heads buried in their work.
      ‘You got me a latte.’
      I don’t confirm it. Obviously I got her a latte.
      ‘That was considerate.’
      I lean back in my chair and now I do look at her. I see my wife, the woman I love, but she’s also alien to me. She’s wearing a lot of make-up. It sits on her like a coat of paint. It makes me think of Kai spraying her. But underneath it, I can see the eyes rimmed red, the crescents not entirely obscured by foundation or whatever it is that women use.
      ‘What?’ I say.
      ‘You’re angry.’
      ‘No. I’m happy. Aren’t you?’
      She sits back in her chair, like I slapped her.
      ‘I didn’t bring us here.’ My voice rises. I grit my feet, hear them grind in my ears. I didn’t know what I expected when this moment came, but now the anger pours from me. ‘What did I do to deserve this?’
      ‘Since this began—’
      ‘How long?’
      ‘How long have you been fucking Kai?’
      Jane bows her head. A tear runs down her cheek. Good.
      ‘It’s been five times over a month.’
      My hand clenches around my tea. The cup’s still hot – just hot enough to be scalding. I keep my hand around it.
      ‘I’ve been talking with Sarah, I’ve been trying to work it out in my head, I’ve been trying to find a reason to blame you for what I did.’
      ‘Blame me?’ I rock back. Maybe she’ll behave just as Luke said she would.
      ‘No, no, listen to me.’ Jane reaches across the table – reaches for my hands. I snatch them away. ‘It was just me. Kai and I developed … a friendship. A closeness. It just happened. It wasn’t something we meant.’
      ‘Lucky you.’
      ‘Casper, I’m trying to take responsibility for my actions. I wanted to talk.’ Jane brushes at her eyes. Her make-up smears. She seems to know it, because she dabs at the smear with her palm until its passable. ‘I spent the night in our hotel room last night.’
      It takes several moments for it to click with me that she means the room at the Sheraton where we were meant to spend our anniversary.
      ‘I was almost hoping you’d come.’
      She waits, like she wants me to be touched by that comment. I sit unmoved.
      ‘I cried the whole night, thinking about how I would handle this, how I would talk to you, how I could try and fix it. I know it mightn’t come out right, but you have to take it how I mean it.’
      Again she waits, this time for my understanding. I lean back in my chair.
      ‘Whatever was happening with Kai, it’s over. I told him. But you knew that. He told me what you did.
      ‘Oh, so you just had to talk.’
      ‘He called me and I wouldn’t take it. He had to message me about what you’d done so then, yes, I did have to speak him.’
      ‘Must’ve been great to reconnect.’
      ‘It wasn’t like that. You know it wasn’t. You terrified him. He wanted to call the cops.’
      ‘Did you fuck him not to?’
      ‘Please, Casper.’
      ‘Please what?’
      ‘This wasn’t something I planned. It’s not like I was unhappy, woke up one morning, and thought I needed to look elsewhere. It was just an attraction. It developed.’
      ‘Developed? You keep saying that. When? You’ve been working together for years.’
      Jane lifts her shoulders slowly.
      ‘It’s been there maybe the last year.’
      ‘So just like that, after you’ve been working together years, it develops.’
      ‘There was stuff over the last year where we had to work a lot more closely. I nearly quit because it was becoming an issue. But we thought we could manage it.’
      ‘Good job.’
      ‘Please, Casper. Haven’t you ever been attracted—?’
      ‘It’s normal to be attracted, it’s … whatever it is when you do something about it. It’s fucked.’
      Jane tosses her head back. Her jaw clenches. ‘Haven’t you ever felt that? Like you could just … slip?’
      ‘Yeah. Slip. What about Beth? Are you telling me you don’t feel any attraction to her? You’ve never felt like … just like that … something could happen?’
      ‘I’m attracted to Beth. I’m sure she’s attracted to me. But we’ve never slipped.’
      ‘Never got close?’
      ‘Some time you maybe didn’t tell me about?’
      ‘Well, I’m sorry I’m not as perfect as you.’
      ‘Don’t turn this around on me. I didn’t do anything. I’m not pretending to be perfect. But I’m not the fucking bad guy.’
      ‘It just happened. I don’t know how. It just did.’
      ‘Five times.’
      ‘After the first time, I swore it would never happen again and I talked to Kai about it. And we’d be okay for a little while. But then … I don’t know. One thing led to another. It’s not like there was even any special emotional attachment to him – not like I feel for you.’
      ‘Maybe if you thought about me the way you thought about Kai, you’d fuck me like that.’
      ‘I’m not explaining this well.’
      ‘No. I’ve got it. You developed a closeness to Kai over the last year. There was an attraction. You fucked. You felt guilty. You controlled yourself for maybe all of a week. Then you fucked again. You say five times in a month – if I can actually believe you. So even if you fucked once a week, even if you were able to control yourselves for a whole week – an average of a fuck a week over a month – there’s still a week where you did it twice. I guess the control wasn’t great that week, huh?’
      ‘Please, Casper …’
      Jane bows her head. Tears are free now. She pulls a handkerchief from her pocket, blows her nose. And despite it all, I want to go around there and console her, but some part of me also wants to hurt her. Wants to reduce her to remorse that’ll destroy her.
      ‘You and I got together when we were young and inexperienced and I never had a problem with sex. I never felt it was lacking. I still don’t. But obviously as you stay together longer, especially when you’re trying to have a baby, the sex becomes … I don’t know. It becomes safe or something.’
      ‘So you were bored with me?’
      ‘No! I said I never felt it was lacking! I just meant that with him, with what happened, it was just a letting go without thinking.’
      ‘Oh, you didn’t think all right.’
      ‘But that’s all it was. That physical thing.’
      ‘That would be a lot less insulting if Kai wasn’t some scrawny, anorexic cunt, if the guy you fucked was some buff barbell boy with some porn star horse cock.’
      ‘Please, Casper.’
      ‘What do you expect? Understanding? Fuck. You. Okay? You give yourself to him like that and I’m just meant to be fine with that. That another man fucks my wife like that?’
      ‘Just …’ Jane shrugs. ‘Last week, I really tried to open myself up to you because I wanted to reconnect with you, so what we’d have would obliterate what was happening between Kai and me.’
      ‘How’d that work? Oh, wait, Friday fuckathon. Starring Jane Gray and Kai Fuckhardy.’
      Jane gapes at me.
      ‘I saw you on Friday. I saw you. I came early to your work because I needed to talk to you. I fucking needed you! Then … that. You’ve never been like that with me. That was like fucking monkeys or hyenas or something. I don’t know.’
      Jane’s chokes on her sobs, like she’s trying to bite them down.
      ‘You feel deeper for me than him, but you do what I saw you do with him? You let him come on your face. God knows how he fucked you. Tell me what that means.’
      Jane blows her noses. Sniffles.
      ‘Tell me, Jane. I’m trying to understand. Tell me.’
      ‘I don’t know, okay? I don’t know! It was just …’
      Jane’s sobs grow loud enough now they attract other patrons. From the counter, Leon and Caroline cast us nervous glances.
      ‘Friday was it,’ she says.
      ‘Oh, a goodbye fuck.’
      Jane recoils. ‘Friday was just …’
      ‘What, Jane? What?’
      ‘I was feeling queasy all afternoon. I bought the pregnancy test. Did you see it? I left it on the kitchen counter.’
      Jane waits for an answer. I say nothing, but I must flinch or something because she seems to get an unspoken answer from me.
      ‘I took it into the bathroom at work,’ she goes on, ‘but when I got in there I realised I wanted you with me.’
      ‘Oh, how sweet.’
      ‘Please. I’m just trying to explain.’ Jane bows her head, blinks furiously, trying to compose herself. ‘I … I told Henry I was going to leave early. To come home. Kai followed me. I kept breaking it off. He kept resenting I was shutting him out entirely. Friday was like … I just … it was anger. I don’t know how it became that. I just got so angry I lost all control.’
      ‘What a magnificent explanation.’
      ‘I don’t mean in that way. I don’t know, Casper. It wasn’t about love or passion or even lust. It was just about … I don’t know, I really don’t. It was like I lost all sense of myself. Maybe I had a breakdown Friday. Something happened.’
      ‘Something happened all right—’
      ‘I don’t mean the sex! I mean it was like blacking out, like losing myself and finding you when I came out of it. I’m not explaining myself well.’
      ‘Finding me? You did this on a day I was coming to get you for dinner. How’s that sit with you? That you can fuck another man, then go out to dinner with your husband?’
      Janes balls her hands into her eyes.
      ‘Who knows about the other times you did it.’
      ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m—’
      ‘What about this pregnancy test?’
      Jane lifts her head sharply.
      ‘I took a test at Sarah’s. I had an appointment with a doctor yesterday morning. I’m pregnant.’
      ‘Is it Kai’s?’
      ‘Are you sure?’
      ‘I’m at six weeks. I’ve been … late.’
      I shake my head. Pick up my tea. Gulp it like it’s a beer. It burns my throat.
      ‘I quit.’
      I put my cup down, look at my palm and the inside of my fingers. They’re all red.
      ‘I rang Henry and told him I had to leave for personal reasons, effective immediately.’
      ‘What do you want me to say?’
      ‘I don’t want to lose you.’
      ‘Are you kidding me?’
      ‘Casper, I made a mistake. We all make mistakes—’
      ‘You made five.’
      ‘I’m sorry. I know I fucked up. But I want you. I want to be with you. I’m willing to do anything to rebuild your trust in me.’
      ‘So, just like that, it’s done.’
      ‘I know it’s not going to be just like that.’
      ‘I don’t know if I can look and not see him fucking you. I’m actually scared – really scared – to ask what was going on. I’m scared of what the answer is. I’m not sure I can look at your face and see not his cock all over you, his cum all over you. I’m not sure I can even look at pictures of us, and not just think it’s all a lie.’
      Jane shakes. Her sobs now cut through Sofia’s. Leon comes around the counter and starts over. I don’t care, though. They can ask why she’s crying, why I’m angry. She can tell them.
      ‘I didn’t deserve this,’ I say.
      ‘No, you didn’t.’
      ‘Fuck it.’
      I get up, grab my iPhone from the table, prepared to storm out. Jane catches my wrist. I’m already moving, though, so my momentum drags her to her feet. Jane tugs at my arm. I spin. Leon approaches.
      Then the world explodes.