After one such “date,” I wanted to vent. I decided to e-mail Lori. She would listen, and though her response would likely be hard, it would be what she really felt and maybe I needed to be put back in line anyway. I opened the message window and wrote out my text. I laid it all out, confessing to the kiss, the rendezvous in secret places, everything. I ended by pondering over what I should do to get Adam out of the way, because he was a tool and he had to go. Then I addressed the message to Lori.
Or so I thought. Remember how I said computers had a hand in all of this?
When she called me minutes later, I thought it was to freak out on me, to either squeal over this secret affair or kick my ass like she had done when it was all just speculation on her part. Only, when I said, “I take it you got my e-mail,” her response was, “What e-mail?”
“The one I sent you like, five, ten minutes ago.”
“Lance, I’m at my computer, I’ve been at my computer all afternoon. I haven’t gotten a message from you. What are you talking about?”
That seemed strange. I retraced my steps in my mind, and I realized, I didn’t remember typing in Lori’s name. I went into my Sent box and looked at the last message out.
My entire body sank.
“It went to Adam.”
“The message I was sending to you, it was about him and how Brianne’s been cheating with me, and I don’t know, I must have had him on the brain, and when I was typing in ‘Lori’ typed ‘Adam’ instead, and then auto-complete took over, and oh, shit.”
It was all starting to hit me. I had sent it to Adam. Once he read it, he would know everything. Oh, for Christ’s sake, why couldn’t someone invent e-mail with message retraction?
“Listen, Lori, I have to go.”
I hung up on her and immediately started to panic. I ran to my closet to grab a jacket, realized it was too warm for one, and changed my mind. Forget getting dressed differently, I was just going to get out of the house. I didn’t know where I was going, but I had to get out of there before the something bad I knew was about to happen actually happened.
The phone rang.
It was too late.
I had programmed my phone to recognize the number that was calling me, and so the display said, “FRONT DOOR.” I didn’t answer. There were the requisite number of rings, and then it dumped to voicemail.
The phone rang again.
I stood in my living room, hunched and tense, as if the noise paralyzed me. I could not move until it had ceased. The cats looked at me questioningly. You’d think by now they’d stop being bothered by the fact that they don’t understand me. Unless Lori was right and I was getting progressively worse.
The phone went silent again, and I waited for it to ring once more. Only it didn’t. I couldn’t assume the caller had gone away, though, so the front door was off limits. Nor could I try to go by the side exit. If it was Adam, he could be there looking for me, and I wasn’t ready to confront this. I had no game plan.
Just as I was letting my shoulders drop back down to a relaxed position, there were three loud, successive booms, and my shoulders jumped back up again. This time higher, more hunched, more tense.
The booms were from someone banging on my front door.
Whoever it was--and I knew it was Adam, I just knew--had gotten inside the building.
I remained still. How would he know I was there? I made no noise, there would be no moving shapes on the other side of the peephole, no shadows passing under the door.
Boom, Boom, Boom.
Terry hissed at the sound, but Sadie ignored it, sunning her belly on the windowsill. They represented the battle in miniature--one faction pretending it wasn’t happening, the other venomous and violent.
The air was stagnant, all was quiet. No more knocking. Still, I wasn’t going to move a muscle. I listened instead.
The building's outer door opened and closed. Someone was going into the courtyard--or maybe coming back inside?
Adam appeared, staring in my window. He placed his palms flat against the glass and leaned forward, peering in with wide, manic eyes. He was staring right at me.
Neither of us spoke. There was nothing to be done. There is a back door to my apartment next to the window, and I walked over and opened it. No sooner had I done so, and he was on me. The savagery of it shook me front to back, from my chest and through my spine. How had he covered the space from out there to in here so quickly? He threw his whole body into me, and I tumbled backward, carrying him with me, until I hit the footstool to my chair with the back of my knees and we both tumbled backwards, me on the bottom, him on top. A flurry of responses shot through my brain--my forehead into his face, bite his nose, spit, scream, knee him in the balls--but the shock and the momentum were too much. Before I could react, he tumbled off the top of me, flipping over onto his back and clearing some shelves of movies with his feet.
I scrambled over onto all fours and pushed myself up. Either the fall made me dizzy or the rising gave me a head rush, probably a little of everything. I was woozy and my spine was like jelly and I was receiving bad reception of the world. “My DVDs!” I shouted, and instantly realized it was a stupid response. Shouldn’t I have at least been thinking of Brianne?
As I pondered this, I gave Adam enough time to get to his feet again, and he charged me once more, pushing me back toward the window. He was grunting through gritted teeth, a barbaric sound. I envisioned myself going through the glass, and I panicked and stuck my hands out behind me and managed to stop us at the sill. Cats leapt out of the way, meowing and hissing. I hoped neither of them went for the open door.
“You son of a bitch,” Adam said, still trying to push up on me like a tackle dummy. “She’s mine, you son of a bitch.”
That was all I needed to hear to trigger me. I pushed off of the windowsill and lunged into Adam with my shoulder. He lost his balance and stepped backward quickly, and I took him through the kitchen door and slammed him up against the wall. My arm was under his chin, pressed against his throat. I could hear my own breathing, wheezes and hisses and the thick bubbles of too much saliva. “What the fuck are you doing?”
Adam shoved me hard, pushing me off of him. “What are you doing, man? She’s my wife. You’re going after my wife!”
He took a swing at me, but I managed to step back out of it. Once again my hands were behind me, and I was propping myself up on the kitchen counter. “So, what? You’re going to go after me? We’re going to kill each other?”
“Maybe.” He was panting, his chest heaving with the effort of his lungs.
“Definitely. I’ll fucking murder you.”
I stood up. No leaning on anything. I put my chin up, ready for his fist to slam into it and shatter my jaw. If he did, I’d take it, and I was going to let him know exactly that.
“Go ahead,” I said. “We can fight, we can wail on each other, but it doesn’t matter. You have righteous anger, but I have nothing to lose. And that means you can’t beat me.”
Adam tilted his head back like he was trying to get a better look at me.
“This could be my last shot, Adam. If this doesn’t happen for me, that’s it. I go home and I’m the caretaker for my cats, and eventually they die, and then I can die, and that’s all I’ll ever have. The nothing I have now. You can’t take anything away from me, I can only take from you.”
And then, just to make sure the knife was in as deep as it could go:
“I love her. From deep down. In ways you never can.”
That snapped something in Adam. He raised both arms above his head and shouted and brought the arms down on my shoulders, once more tumbling into me like he had lost his balance on the tightrope of rage he had been walking and I was his safety net. My lower back slammed against the kitchen counter and my whole upper body jerked with the pain of it. I had my arms up behind him now, and I started ramming my fists against the back of his head. It was awkward, though, like I was punching backwards to hit myself in my own face. With each blow, flecks of spit or sweat rained off of him and onto me, and I could feel both substances pouring out of my body, too. It was like we were swapping.
When he’d had enough, Adam reached back and grabbed my wrists. We were all tangled. His lip was bleeding. I think he bit it. He was glaring at me with a wild fire in his eyes. His breathing was ragged and feral, like an angry boar.
“What makes you so sure?” he asked me, his voice a rasp. “Why do you think you can take her from me?”
I wrestled away from him, shaking my wrists out of his meaty grip. It was almost petulant the way I did it, as if I were lashing out because I hadn’t received the toy I wanted. Yet, I didn’t take my gaze off of him. Our eyes were locked.
“Because the right guy has to win sometime,” I said. “I figure the odds are in my favor. Things have to swing my way sooner or later. I’m due.”
Adam’s breathing was beginning to steady. The way it looked, it was like he was sucking it all in, and as he processed, it settled him. After what had to be at least a full minute, he started to walk back out of the kitchen and toward the open door. He stopped, however, and looked back at me. He pointed a sweaty finger in my direction. “Don’t count this as over,” Adam warned. “It’s not going to be safe for you to walk these streets. I have friends, I have means. Win or lose, you’ll lose.”
Then he left, slamming the door so hard I thought every inch of glass in the apartment would shatter from the vibrations.
That was when I decided to leave.