A To-Do List
Chris marries into a wealthy family. Has an affair with his brother-in-law's old girlfriend. Twists and turns. And a list.
Taking in big breaths, I'm grateful to be away from my own house and able to relax.
Our wives are out for the evening, and I've joined my brother-in-law Tom at his house.
We've finished watching a polo match, and Tom shuts the television, stands. "So, terrible shame about Nola, her death. You were at the police station also. They questioned you."
Looking up, "how do you know?"
"They also called me in. After reading Nolas' diary," pausing, "did you know she kept one?"
"No, not until the police showed it to me."
"You got away with her murder, you know, and it was because of me."
Shaken, "what? I didn't do—"
"Come on, Chris, I know it was you who killed her. Let me give you the rundown, in case you have forgotten."
"You knew the old woman who lived downstairs from Nola, got her to open her door, made it look like the burglary of a drug addict."
"Stop. Let me finish this twisted tale."
"You knew exactly what time Nola would be coming up the elevator and shot her, making it look like she interrupted the burglar.
Turning to stare at me, my face drained of color, "but if it weren't for me, you would be in prison right now."
"What, what are you talking about?"
Sitting across from me, his hands clasped, that slight smug look he can have, he becomes serious.
"I had gone to her place to give her the name and phone number of a producer. I had met him at a party. Don't know why I didn't just phone her. No," upon seeing my smug look, "I didn't go with any ulterior motive. I saw your cuff links on her nightstand and put two and two together. I confronted her, and she told me she was with child, and you were divorcing my sister to marry her. That was not true, I knew. You would never divorce Chloe."
I collapse into the seat, my head in my hands. "I naturally realized you were putting her off. You couldn't give up this fantastical life you're now leading. After all, Chris, chauffeured car, rich foods, fabulous clothes. And doesn't Father think you're the best thing to happen to his business? Yes, you're going places in the company. Maybe higher than myself. You couldn't give all that up. Not for a low-bred girl who screws whatever comes her way."
"But what has that to do with the diary?" my hands shake so much I can't pick up the teacup.
Taking his time, slowly sipping his tea, he stands up. "Come over to the window, Chris. Let's see. You have about the same acreage as I do. The same comforts that I grew up with are now yours. You, a man from a working-class family. How did you manage it? How did you crawl into my sisters' bed?"
"Tom, I didn't do anything other than date her. She fell in love with me. "
"But," lighting a cigarette, not offering me one, "you were not feeling the same because you screwed my girlfriend—"
"No, Tom. It didn't happen like that! I didn't go after her. She enticed me, lured me. You know how Nola gets that look about her?"
Taking a puff, "But you fell for it. How and when? Give me the details."
"Why?" I say, scratching the back of my neck, nervous.
I stare out the window, the night as black as myself, "I chased after her one afternoon. I saw her run out of the house in an absolute downpour and became worried. When I caught up with her, I don't know—it just happened."
"In the rain, where?"
"In the grass."
Stepping away, he grabs my arm, "in the grass in the rain. Oh, how poetic! You could write a song about it."
"Tom, I don't get it. What has this to do with anything?"
"Just clearing the air, that's all. And after the fuck in the rain, you couldn't keep away from her. Had no willpower."
"Please let me go," releasing my arm, I step away.
"Yes, that's what happened. And one day, even when I had no condom, she insisted we make love."
"Screw is the word, Chris."
Finishing his cigarette, and dousing it in his teacup, "sit next to me, Chris, and let me tell you how I saved your ass. No, don't look down. Look me in the eyes."
"After seeing the cufflinks, I decided my sister needed saving and told Nola that you and I had become lovers."
"What the fuck," jumping out of my seat, I distance myself from him.
"Told her that Father would never believe her, because she was just an actress and after as much money as she could wrangle from him."
"Tom, how could you?"
"But," walking over to me," taking my arm and pulling me towards the bookcase he says, "she believed me and wrote it in her diary."
Leaning me against the books, he puts one foot between my thighs, so I'm paralyzed with fear.
"When the police read that part, they understood they couldn't continue to harass you because it would upset the family. And father dear gives very, very generously to the police force," unbuckling, unzipping, and unbuckling and unzipping. "And now, you see, dear Chris, if this is the lifestyle you have to have, then it comes with a to-do list."
Beginning to understand as our trousers lower to the ground, "Yes Chris, this is blackmail," his voice a sigh as I kneel," blackmail."