For about six months, “Lucy” and I had an incredible affair. We would meet and just hang out and that would lead to dinner, clubs, maybe a movie, and we would end up at one of our apartments. Our third date lasted three days and it just felt natural. There was so much laughter and we connected on an emotional and physical level.
To my young, romantic mind, Lucy was perfect. She was a fit five-eight with bright blue-gray eyes and a nest of red curls that spilled over her freckled shoulders. She kept her hair long to hide what she called “open car door” ears. She had a habit of biting gently on her bee-stung bottom lip when she was in thought or being flirty. When her eyes sparkled and she sucked in her lip, it melted the world away.
In the first several weeks we were young and full of passion. She looked at me in a way no one ever had and most nights as we lay in my third-hand double-bed in my shitty apartment, she would whisper how glad she was to find me. As the weeks passed and we spent more time together driving long distances to new and exciting destinations, sitting across from one another in restaurants, I tried to get her to open up, only to have her change the subject to the next great thing we would do.
She worked hard to keep the details of her life secret. In her apartment, which was a lot nicer than mine, she had no family pictures or pictures of herself as a younger girl, nothing to suggest she even had a family. Everything about her apartment was new or bought from a second-hand store, so no heirloom items or old clothes.
Lucy looked so innocent, free of the haunted or brooding phases I often see in friends suffering from post-traumatic stress or abuse, so I wondered what she was keeping from me. When we spoke, she did so with a steely impartiality toward all issues. If something happened in the news or among our – really MY – friends, she tried to understand all sides and then change the subject. At first, this attitude seemed enlightened and I admired her ability to stay above conflict. Her narrative, though, would come with a telling world view where we should embrace the freedom to be what we want in life, to explore and experience everything we could. I admit it was a conceit that only the rich and those unburdened by debt could have. She clearly owned nothing extravagant, but she could afford to fly around the world. While she had no photos of her experiences, she spoke in great detail about the sensory experience of dining alone in a Parisian café or how the smell of petrol hung in the cold air of a garment district in Moscow. Her stories were never far-fetched, always personal. Lucy was never one to stop off at the gift shop for reminders of her travels. She always said that the experience was the point of experience.
I liked to imagine she was the daughter of a very rich family and didn’t want that to influence me or how I treated her. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as though she hid the photos or the clues to her life from me. Those spaces didn’t exist in her world. There were no photos hidden in drawers, no stack of bills from elite boutiques, no interruption from business partners or consultants. She was free anytime and anywhere I chose to reach out to her.
As I fell for her, I wanted more than anything to know who she was beyond the moment. I wanted her to become part of my life, past through to the future. When we talked about my life, I would try to flush out comparisons between my family and hers and when she didn’t take the bait I asked her directly about her family.
Again, she would deflect and go so far as to offer me my heart’s desire as if it were a spontaneous thought crossing her mind at just that moment.
We talked about my grandmother’s recent passing and, after talking in general terms about living through tragedy, she responded to my questions about her own grandparents by suggesting:
“Ever been to the Paris underground and the tunnels full of skulls?”
“That’s an odd segue.”
She smiled, un-phased by my phased-ness. “We could go somewhere she always wanted, you know, as a tribute to her. Where did she always want to go?”
“I have no idea.”
“Then where do you want to go?” This would come with an extra sparkle and Lucy’s warm kisses on my neck leading to something else entirely.
She was always in the moment, as she liked to say, pointed forward to the next exciting thing. She wanted to travel and apparently had the means to do so. She drove a late model Audi and her apartment was in an affluent neighborhood downtown, the kind where young professionals lived to be close to their corporate employers.
She wasn’t about material things or holding on to memories of our good times. I had no problem collecting ticket stubs and little mementos from the places we went as most lovers do, reminder of moments that might get lost in the distractions of regular life. In six months, we skipped class just to check out a museum or a gallery three hours away. She insisted on driving, even if we were on the run for three days straight switching between our bedroom at a B&B in Cape May to a bar and then the beach with little sleep. Pushing the issue, she responded by grabbing me by the crotch and giving me a hand job all while tearing down I-95 well over the speed limit.
This relationship did not escape the notice of my friends who were free with their praise and mock-mockery. To them, she really was out of my league. I was a geek who, while not out of shape, was definitely the product of poor nutrition and a lack of exercise.
I realized that while Lucy always seemed to be among my friends, none of them really knew her. She was quiet in class, whenever she bothered to show up, anyway. She wasn’t close to anyone but me, so my friends asked a lot of questions. I told them what I knew, which was nothing, but that I didn’t care because every moment with her was a new experience.
My friends joked that she was my Sugar Mommy and speculated that maybe she was a Russian spy or had some secret life I wouldn’t approve of. The nights my friends and I could play together were disappearing because I was getting better offers from someone far better looking and willing to sleep with me. I began looking forward to the routine of working, studying, and spending as much time as I could with Lucy.
My Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, she was, with a smile that told me I was loved and wanted in all her moments and in the future. I have to say she trained me to stop asking about her past or anything outside the envelope of “us” – not even including my friends. She didn’t have any that she brought into that bubble and was reluctant to include my friends or our activities.
At first, this was fine. I didn’t notice and my friends were supportive that I had someone to keep me in bed and take me to breakfast, especially someone who carried herself so effortlessly and looked like a model. I was proud, but also happy because though I didn’t know her past or her family, I felt I knew Lucy – and that was enough.
About the fourth month is when things started to change.
It was time for the holidays. I wanted to introduce her to my family and bring her home for Christmas. She had begged off of Thanksgiving feigning sickness and stress over finals. I relented, assuming she wasn’t ready to commit.
I wanted to catch up with old friends and, kinda, show her off. I mean, she was everything a young man dreams of – the kind of perfection that is just a well-maintained illusion for a naïve young man. My friends always had a weekly movie night and regular gaming nights where all friends and their SOs were welcome. Lucy was never interested, pretending she didn’t think she could learn the kind of RPGs I played and wasn’t interested in watching a movie unless she could be sure we could just fall into bed at any time during it.
My friends were overtly problematic. The one time I had friends over to my apartment to play games and watch movies, she sat quietly next to me – not mad or even tense, but just…inert. After the last friend left around two in the morning, she helped clean up in silence. When I asked her about it, she acted as though she had enjoyed herself and my friends but just didn’t feel a part of “that world.” She then began critiquing them subtly based on things they said, calling my one friend Kyle “perverted” for pointing out an attractive woman in a movie and Ben “a bit dull” for his dry wit. It was the last time she agreed to sleep over at my place, insisting we enjoy her quiet (and bigger) home.
Christmas called her bluff. She refused to meet my family and was irritated that I wouldn’t skip out on seeing them, essentially saying I was making her spend Christmas alone. She didn’t hit me with guilt, but disappointment that I didn’t seem to understand that it was natural for just the two of us to be together all the time because “sometimes boys leave their parents and start their own traditions.”
There was no way I was missing family Christmas, so I reluctantly spent Christmas Eve with her at dinner, offered her my relatively modest gift – tickets to a concert she wanted to see. She told me my gift would be waiting when I returned and we parted warmly, but quietly that evening so I could wake up at home with my parents Christmas morning. I missed her at breakfast and my parents were disappointed she couldn’t make it. My brother accused me of making her up, especially since I had no photos of her. But that’s how she was.
“In the moment.”
I was looking for work during the break and this took me away from her many mornings and some afternoons. She filled this time with shopping and going on little day trips that she would tell me about every night at her place. When I told her I was going over to Ben and Kyle’s she seemed confused about why I would choose them over her. I tried to say it wasn’t a choice, but they were my friends. I added that she was always welcome to join, but that wasn’t something she was into. Over time, I pulled away from them, hoping that my dedication and commitment would earn me more insight into her past and why she was so possessive and territorial, though I never put my concerns to her that way.
Toward New Year’s, nights grew tense as she tried very hard to keep me engaged late into the morning, where her sexual appetites seemed insatiable. Her time at the gym made her open to any and all challengers while my long days and less, uh, durable body was put to the test. That’s not to say I was ineffectual in bed. But where she achieved one orgasm, she wanted two and then more until I had no feeling in my thighs or turgor in my girder. Where we used to drift off together in each other’s arms, she would get up and walk out of the bedroom, disappearing for long periods. She might start cleaning, banging dishes around or turn on the TV just loud enough that I could hear it on in the next room. She would come back to bed and sleep with her back to me at the edge of the bed.
The following morning, though, I’d see that bright smile and sparkling eyes as if the previous night hadn’t been awkward at all. On those mornings after a night of awkward tension, she would be the brightest. She made breakfast or insisted we go to some new place to try out a specific dish she’d heard about. It was always about the next big adventure.
So infatuated I grew with her, desperate to bring back that amazing woman who blew my mind, I spent my available cash on her. But she didn’t appreciate material gifts. Practical ones were fine. Concert tickets or things she could experience were what she loved, but when I bought her a framed painting from one of the galleries we visited, she left it in the paper wrapping beside the sofa for weeks. She was all about visiting places, eating new cuisine, and coming home with nothing but memories, not even photos.
This brings us to about month five out of six.
I was coming to the end of my lease on my apartment and had to opportunity to move into the house with Ben and Kyle, which was far less in rent and utilities than I’d been paying. I didn’t think much of it. Lucy wasn’t pushing the idea of moving in together and I wasn’t prepared for that, either. In fact, the nights of tension and the growing urgency to plan our days, weeks, and even months out in advance to lock down our time together was becoming worrisome. I also felt I wasn’t pulling my weight, financially, and didn’t like the constant ribbing from friends about my “sugar mommy” and how Lucy spent money on experiences and nothing much else.
When I told her about it and asked her to come see the place with me, she came closest to anger I’d ever seen. Her face went red and she stared down at the floor of her living room a long time trying to process this information. She shut down for nearly twenty minutes and it began creeping me out. It was odd that she hadn’t deflected the news entirely like she did my questions about her life or family. There was no suggestion on the table about what to do next. She looked like the light had gone out in her soul.
Finally, I sat down next to her and put an arm around her. “What’s the matter, Luce?”
After struggling to find words and stuttering, she said, “Your friend, Kyle, is a rapist.”
She said it so plainly, like it was common knowledge and I had to accept it. He blank expression didn’t change and she kept looking at the floor.
I probably responded with something like “What are you talking about?”
“The last time I was at your place, he cornered me coming out of the bathroom and told me he was going to fuck me one way or another and that’s why I was so uncomfortable around him and your friends. I can’t stand them. The one guy -Ben – judges me and Kyle wants to hurt me.”
Doubtful, but trying to understand the situation, I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about Kyle that night? Or until now, baby?”
“Because he said that if I told you he’d make it hurt and get me pregnant. He said you wouldn’t do anything about it.” A few beats later, she added, “Because you’re such a bitch.”
This made no sense. Kyle is a weird guy, a geek with an odd sense of humor, but he barely had the courage to look a girl in the eye much less do what she said he did. It wasn’t in his nature. I knew him well and he never so much as expressed more than a “whoah” about a woman’s appearance and under his breath.
But love and trust have a way of deadening common sense. The way she talked and kept looking at the floor made me think she had thrown out the first thing she could to try and plant those seeds of doubt about Kyle. After all, it’s always the quiet ones.
I sat back on the sofa, my hand still caressing her back. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Don’t move into that place.” Her voice was pleading, though that expression never changed. I felt like I was talking to Lucy through a radio where my girl was somewhere distant, and this body was just a vessel. She didn’t move.
I said a few things that I can’t remember about bills and the housing market, ending with “My lease is up and I can’t afford another year there if I can’t find work after school ends.”
Lucy turned to me and smiled. She was suddenly back in her bright, easy-going mood, eyes shining at her sudden, brilliant idea. The shift was so quick my heart began to race and I felt suddenly uncomfortable with her. She said, “Move in with me.”
“I don’t think we’re at that point, Luce.”
Her enthusiasm only dimmed slightly. “Why not? Save up your money. Heck, if we don’t have enough room, we can look at a place where you can have an office and maybe get a dog and…”
“Luce! I’m not moving in with you. We’re not there, yet.” I added ‘yet’ as a courtesy, but at that moment, I didn’t want to be with her at all.
The question was a challenge. “Why not?”
The move-in with my friends was the only call. There was no way that I was going to further insulate myself from the world by moving all I was into this small bubble. I loved her, but I knew she didn’t love enough of who I was and what I loved to make me commit. But she deserved a reason and was waiting on it.
“You don’t like my friends,” I said. “I wish I’d known that something had happened with Kyle, but that’s not a factor here. You avoid my family. I don’t know much about you outside your taste in art and food and fun. I don’t know your politics, if you’re religious…hell, I don’t know much about you outside the time we’ve been together. You know a LOT about me. I’ve shared hoping you would share back, you know? I can’t move in with someone I don’t know.”
Her expression did not change. We were back to the vessel broadcasting the voice of someone far, far away. “So you’ll move in with a predator because you’ve known him so many years but not me, the girl you love. The girl who has given all of her time, effort, and love to you and you alone.” She put it out there and let the words linger in our imaginations for a moment, what that really meant to each of us. To her, it was entitlement. To me, it was her true character beginning to show through.
I said her name as though I had something more to say, but it was just an attempt to keep connected to the person I knew who was quickly melting into someone completely different before my eyes. The façade was failing her as her bright expression faded and her posture stiffened.
“Get out,” she said. “Go home and let me alone.”
I left without another word. Realizing that, in the moment of tension, we’d forgotten the Chinese food we brought back for dinner, I took a box and an eggroll from the kitchen pass-through and walked out.
By the time I got down from her apartment on the fourth floor, the rest of the Chinese food was splattered across the sidewalk below her window. I sidestepped it, lost in a funk.
The sudden end to our whirlwind relationship which, to that point was a perfect mix of thrills, new experiences, and mind-expanding sex provided a slap to the face that my friends could not or would not provide. I had a chance to think about who this person was and why I was really with her. Would Kyle really threaten her that way? I was torn between an obligation to believe the woman I cared for, but then the woman I cared for had so many secrets and was a controlling and manipulative person.
My rejection of Lucy’s newfound nature lasted about as long as it took for me to finish my General Tso’s and rice before I wanted to feel that buzz again. All those hints and signs were still encroached by the feeling of being wanted and sharing my time with someone who laughed at my jokes, called my name when she came, loved me when I was weak, who shared MOST of my interests and…
The interests we shared were solitary ones. She didn’t like gaming, which ruled out interaction with my friends. She didn’t like formal dinners or parties which excluded meeting my family and strangers. Everything we did was about doing it either away from people or from places where we might run into people we knew.
I went home, adding that thought to the growing collection of red flags, checked my answering machine to see if she called, and sank into my own couch disappointed and alone to catch up on recordings of Mystery Science Theater I’d been unable to watch while jet-setting it around the Delmarva peninsula.
I woke up around nine the next morning to a call from my friend Ben who, in a near-panic, told me that the police had been to the house and they were asking Kyle about threats he made to. Kyle wasn’t in custody but hiding in his room shaking in terror. I lied and said I had no idea about it, turning it back on him to provide more information.
As he started to talk, there was a loud pounding on my door. I left the phone off the hook and walked to the door. As expected, there were two officers standing on the other side of the peep hole and with a chill spreading from my stomach across my body and an electrical short crossing my brain, I opened the door. I can’t remember what they looked like except they were two tall men with serous expressions. They introduced themselves and didn’t bother to lower their voices to say they were there about a complaint my girlfriend made regarding one of my friends. Rather than have them in my home, I stepped outside and shut the door. At some point we were outside near their patrol car and I was cold because I hadn’t bothered to put on a coat or shoes. This point was made several times by the officers, but I said it was fine. I felt nothing.
I answered their questions best I could that, yes, Kyle and Ben were friends of mine and, no, I wasn’t aware of Kyle making any passes at Lucy. I wasn’t aware that he had groped her in the hallway of his home during one visit but confirmed Lucy claimed he threatened her with sexual violence during a visit to my home. Asked what I did in response to learning it, I shared how she claimed Kyle threatened her if she told me. I added that I didn’t really believe it since it was so out of character for Kyle. Satisfied, they thanked me and gave me a business card.
When I reached Ben again by phone, he said Kyle was crying in his bedroom, terrified he was going to be arrested for something he didn’t do. He was scared to talk to me because he thought I’d be furious with him.
I made a note to visit the house later in the day. I thought about calling Lucy, but I had no idea what to say to her. I was worried about her and I was wondering if there was a side to Kyle I’d never seen in the decade I’d known him. After all, Lucy called the cops and she wouldn’t do that unless there was really something to all this, right? I had to be a supportive boyfriend even though we were having our first “lover’s quarrel” so I drove across town to her apartment, sidestepping the remains of the Chinese food that hadn’t been picked over by the city’s local wildlife.
I had a key and opted to use it instead of knocking. I didn’t see her between the doorway and her open bedroom door on the far side of the living room. I didn’t hear any movement or other sounds in the apartment, so I announced myself.
I closed the door and called for Lucy. Again, there was no answer. She wasn’t home. I left her a note saying I needed to see her to make sure she was okay and I left. The only thing of note in the apartment was that the painting I gave her that she had abandoned in a corner was gone. She didn’t call me that day or the next. She hadn’t seen the note by the time I checked in that night or the following afternoon. At least the note hadn’t moved from under the paperweight I moved to call attention to it on the pass-through. I added a sticky note with Ben’s house number if she wanted to reach me there in case I wasn’t home.
Kyle had regained some of his confidence when he heard back from the officers and told that he was no longer under investigation for lack of any evidence or corroborating statements. They warned him to keep away from Lucy. Kyle seemed to think it wasn’t a threat but a warning but he was too timid to ask any further questions, thrilled to no longer be a suspect of sexual assault.
To distract ourselves, Ben, Kyle, and I talked about living arrangements. We had lunch and killed several hours brewing beer, talking games, and being kids. I missed those days of just hanging with my friends and it reminded me how much time I’d spent alone with Lucy. Her absence bothered me, but Kyle and Ben kept telling me to let her work through things and call me when she was ready to talk.
She didn’t call that day.
I had job interviews the morning of the following day. Because I was in a suit and in the neighborhood, I decided to try stopping by her apartment again.
She had her locks changed.
I responded the only way I could think of at the moment, I put my useless knob and deadbolt keys under the mat and went home.
Stuck between my door and frame was a folded sheet of yellow paper. Excited and nervous, I pulled it from the door and opened it.
“You better hope I am not pregnant.”
Through the dull ache through my body and the ringing in my ears, I had the revelation that Lucy still had a key to my house. I went inside, expecting the worst.
To me, “worst” was an apartment that looked like Keith Moon stayed the night. Instead, worst was going into the house to find all my bed clothes missing. My sheets, comforter, pillows, and bed liner were gone. My closet doors hung open and I noticed gaps on the rack and a few items crumpled on the floor below it. My underwear drawer had been riffled through. The only things missing in my apartment, apparently, were things I wore and things I slept in. Nothing else was touched.
In my head, I heard Ben and Kyle urging me to report it to the cops. Document it. Be smart and protect myself. I went to call them and check for any messages.
My answering machine was gone.
I had collected several romantic messages on the tape. The whole device was gone, the naked phone cable hanging over a square of dustless space on a neglected side table.
After taking note of anything I’d touched, I called 911 and reported a burglary. While she had a key to my house and an open invitation to enter, the things she took were not hers.
I don’t know why I expected the same officers to arrive, but I was surprised when I had to explain the back story about Kyle and Ben to two new cops. I gave permission to search and dust my apartment and stepped out into the cold, better dressed this time, and explained that I hadn’t seen her since the night before she reported Kyle to the police. I showed them the note I found in the door for what it was worth and they both cringed when they read it.
I provided a list of missing items – two shirts, some random underwear, a pair of jeans (maybe), and all my bed clothes. Also, the answering machine. I chose not to mention that the drawer in the bedside table had been pulled out and our play toys and condoms taken. I’d been humiliated enough for one day. Some of that stuff was hers anyway.
One of the officers suggested maybe she took things that she bought me or that she associates with our relationship, like things I wore on dates. The other half-joked that it’s usually the boyfriends who go in and steal their ex-partner’s undergarments.
A few official-looking strangers circulated through my apartment for an hour while I chatted with the officers, leaving as quickly and unceremoniously as they arrived. They marked it as a crime scene and sealed the door with special tape in case they found something in the evidence they collected. They cautioned me that nothing would come of it.
“You don’t seem to know a lot about your girlfriend.”
“She was very private with me. We spent a lot of time doing things. She isn’t big on nostalgia.”
The other officer gave me a look that reminded of Detective Lenny Briscoe on “Law & Order” whenever he thinks a situation can’t get weirder and suddenly does. “You gave us the address for your girlfriend. You sure it’s right?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“We talked to a Michelle Fulbright who is living there. She’s the one who called us about your pal, Kyle. She didn’t want to file a report after we came back and said no one at the house knew a ‘Michelle’ just your girlfriend ‘Lucy’.”
They seemed to be testing me for a response. I have no idea how they took it, but they seemed more sympathetic to me after. One of the officers handed me papers, asking, “Would you take a look at this?”
Here is where my old life just ended. I passed through some weird membrane where reality changed. No longer had I been dating 24-year-old Lucy Falchurch, but 32-year-old Michelle Lucille Fulbright, a divorced mom from Smyrna, Delaware, convicted of embezzling from the construction firm she worked for five years earlier. Her real name was public record. It was on her lease, on her mail, and on her college records – all things that she took pains to keep me from seeing. I never saw so much as an insurance card in her Audi. How she had the means to live as she did wasn’t something I could fathom.
Suddenly, the police looked at me differently, like I was a kind of rube.
“Maybe ‘Falchurch’ is her maiden name? I mean, ‘Lucy’ is her middle name, right?”
It wasn’t. Her maiden name was ‘Corning’, according to the records police had.
Police made an attempt to get my stuff back from ‘Lucy’ but she was very convincing in that she was there but only trying to reach me. She had a key that I provided and offered to let police search her place. She never called herself anything other than “Lucy” which was a natural nickname for someone with that middle name and had no idea how her boyfriend got her surname so confused.
It was one of those cases where police weren’t going to put a lot of effort into a domestic dispute with no bloodletting. I was a dumb ass kid who didn’t know who he was fucking and she was a troubled woman with a litigious past.
Further, Michelle Fulbright had a history of filing reports of sexual harassment and assault, all against people who threatened her security. She had surrendered custody of her daughter and left Delaware after police threatened to jail her over false reports against her ex-husband for stalking and assault.
They advised me to let the property go rather than pursue something that would never make it in front of a judge. Unofficially, they advised that I should just move on so that Kyle and I would be spared accusations of sexual assault and abuse.
I couldn’t get out of that apartment fast enough.
Michelle dropped out of school at the end of the term and moved away.
I moved in with my friends with all new bed stuff, underwear, an alarm system I installed, and a new job to pay for it all. The new year came with just a lingering sense of regret and shame that I missed all the signs and ignored common sense.
A few months passed and things began returning to normal. I spent weekends with Ben, Kyle, and other friends, got promoted at work and started a plan to graduate college and establish a life on my own, and even had some miserable dating experiences that were the result of my paranoia and cynicism.
Sometime in May, I was home doing some chores around the basement, setting out a few kegs that had leaked so I could clean up the floor and walls. Kyle’s car was in the shop, so he had borrowed mine for the day. The basement attached to a garage and I left the garage door open to vent the heavy stink of fermented hops and barley. It wasn’t to cold out for that time of year, so I was able to set up a mop and bucket from the deep sink in the laundry alcove. I was looking for detergent when I heard a car pull up. I didn’t think anything about it, assuming it was Kyle or Ben coming home.
A few minutes later, I was getting ready to put down the chemicals. Someone, one of the guys perhaps, was walking around upstairs in the living area of the house and I was about to call up for some assistance when I looked out through the open garage door and spotted the car.
Of course, the alarm was off because I was home and the garage door was open. Of all days to pick to visit, she picked one when I was alone and security was down. Somehow, she had come into the house and gone up the stairs all while I was standing in an alcove less than five feet from her. I crept up the stairs, not knowing what to expect from her. At the top of the stars I had a view straight down the main hallway from the kitchen into the living room. After waiting in silence for a moment, I watched a small, dark figure cross the living room toward the bedroom hallway.
I called out to the intruder. “Stop. Who’s there?” I knew who it was, but what the hell.
Lucy…Michelle, really… stepped back into the main hallway and looked down it at me. I recognized those beautiful eyes immediately. She had dyed her red hair black and wore dark red lipstick along with some gold jewelry around her neck and wrists. She opened her gray peacoat to reveal a tight black top that provided uplifting support and a pencil skirt that stopped a few inches above her knees. Her outfit was tight enough that I could say she probably wasn’t pregnant. If she were here to share that kind of news, I assumed she would have dressed to emphasize that point instead of looking like she was headed out to some club for the night.
She looked at me like I was an old and dear friend. She held out her arms either to invite me into an embrace or show she wasn’t armed. Either way, I wasn’t trusting her.
“Michelle Fulbright, huh?”
She spoke my name the way she sang it when I walked into her apartment.
Angered by this memory, I growled, “You’re not welcome here. Get out before I call police.”
She stood there, arms falling slowly back to her sides. She stepped down the main hall into the kitchen, eyes scanning the walls and shelves, taking it all in like she was trying to decide if she liked the place, if she might want to stay.
She said my name again, this time, like it was something of great value and looked me over the same way she looked at the furnishings. “Lucy said I’d like you. I think I do.”
With that, I began to understand Michelle a bit more. It was strange that she would look back at anyone, especially an estranged boyfriend and where pain and loss were present. But what does someone like Michelle do when the pain gets too great?
She reinvents herself.
“My name is Melissa. You’re more handsome than Lucy described. I kept telling her she should buy a camera but you know how she is. Never look back, no regrets and…”
“What the hell, man?” I stepped into the kitchen as she approached for the very god reason that it contained many sharp and pointed objects and I needed to put myself between them any my unwanted visitor. The closest phone was behind her in the main hallway or the basement.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you that Lucy is gone. She couldn’t move past the guilt. She cut herself up about it.” ‘Melissa’ offered up her arms again and, at close range, I saw the long slices along them from the wrist to toward the inside of the elbow. They were fresh, but old enough to have scarred over. “She told me all about you when we crossed over from heaven, so I’m here to beg your forgiveness so her soul can cross over.”
In my life I have found myself in fear for my life maybe a half-dozen times. That moment I felt I might die from a short-circuiting brain as I failed, over and over, to process this bugfuckery. I was angry, scared, and threatened as this woman stood in my kitchen dressed to kill (maybe), showing me her jagged suicide tracks with the same expression I fell in love with, a face so…normal and ordinary that I couldn’t make all these elements work together without electric shock across my skull. As the room spun around a bit, I found myself offering her a chair at the kitchen table as I fell into another across from her. I guess I thought that if we were both sitting, no one would be punching or stabbing.
She spoke my name again with the same breathy satisfaction as when she settled back into bed with me, satisfied and content. “I am so sorry. I’m not…” He eyes sparkled again, but with welling tears. “I’m not Melissa or Lucy. I’m just me. Same me, different name. Different age, but same person. Same person you loved and loved you. I’m sorry.”
“So you’re making amends by walking into my house unannounced, leading with your suicide story and bad jokes about your mental illness. I hope you just came up with that on the fly because if you gave it thought and consideration and still went with it, I am afraid this will be another day I spend with the police dealing with you.”
“You’re being kind to me. Thank you. Michelle is not someone I like, being. I hate her. I cannot excuse her actions. I cannot forgive her. I can’t escape her. The first time I thought I could was with you. I was in love and so happy. I’m sorry I hurt you.”
She went on to describe “Michelle” in detail, how she was abused as a child and married young. She talked about how she only married because her attempt to ‘come out’ as bisexual to her parents resulted in them threatening to cut off her trust fund if she didn’t find a man. She picked someone who expressed an interest, agreed to marry him, and embarked on a life under contract, without love or respect. She suffered much trying to change to meet the expectations of her husband and family. With She lived with rape perpetrated nightly by her husband, resulting in an unwanted and complicated pregnancy, followed by a nervous breakdown.
One day, when the family was traveling through the Arizona desert on vacation, Michelle said her husband hit her for forgetting something. He did this in public and no one cared. In her mind, everyone seemed to agree she was a bad wife and mother. That night, she walked out of their motel and into the desert where she hoped she would die or find rebirth as the tour guide explained was the supernatural force of the region.
For once, I didn’t have to ask. Michelle was answering all of my questions both about her and Lucy.
She said, “Saying I’m sorry for hurting you isn’t enough. He told me he was sorry for hurting me and then hurt me more. I don’t want to hurt anyone. That’s why Michelle died to become Lucy. And Lucy was so happy…until she hurt you and promised to never hurt you again. Another lie.”
I asked, “Tell me what happened in the desert.”
There was little to share except for memories of hospital stays and legal issues that she didn’t understand. She gave everything up for that feeling of walking away, even her child.
Financially, she was able to live as she wished so long as she didn’t have contact with her parents or other family. It wasn’t vast wealth, but definitely enough to live comfortably and travel.
When she was arrested for taking five thousand dollars from a construction company, she had a money order made out to them before they realized the theft and called for an investigation. She said she did it to feel “something” again. She didn’t need the money.
Michelle had to die for Lucy to try and make a new life for herself. Michelle wandered off into the woods one day and was rescued by Park Rangers. From then on, she was “Lucy.”
She went to school near the Poconos but that didn’t work, so she relocated and started again where she met me.
And the rest you know.
I never met Michelle Fulbright. I don’t know if I’d like her more or less than the troubled Lucy Falchurch. This intruder, this woman across from me in the chair, was both a stranger and the woman who melted into my arms each night when we were together, a woman never haunted by or grieving over anything so long as she could look up and see someone – perhaps not me specifically – but someone who looked at her and not what she had experienced or with scorn and disappointment. She disappeared into a role on a small stage with a cast of two that made life bearable for a short while.
Our story commenced its final scene with Ben returning to the house, seeing the Audi parked out front, and calling police from the neighbor’s home. Fearing bodily harm, a number of cars arrived quietly, and they surrounded the house. Seeing us talking and catching a glimpse of us sitting together holding hands in polite conversation, they entered the house and took her into custody. They didn’t “take her down” but led her away gently. When they spoke, she kept looking at me. When an officer put hands on her shoulder, she looked down and said simply, “Goodbye, Warren.”
As the years went on, I remained a cautious and less romantic person. I married, started a family, and grew old. I can’t say I want for anything. My life has been blessed, even through moments of tragedy and setback. My wife knows about my life with “Lucy” and understands I never really knew her as “Michelle.”
I sometimes think of Michelle. I was told not to look for her or engage her because it may cause her to relapse. I was also promised that I’d be informed if and when she was released from the care facility she walked away from a week before she showed up at my home.
I haven’t asked and they haven’t told. So life is what it is.