A Guilty Conscious.

Crow

            I stopped at the bar and grabbed a drink before I moved to the corner booth where my brother was already seated. In his hand was a short glass, scotch on the rocks.

            He took a drink before he addressed me. “You’re late. Started to wonder if you were going to show up.”

            “I got caught up with Nigel. Wanted to know if we would give him a discount if the wine at his venue was exclusively Barsetti Vineyards.”

            “And what did you say?”

            “What do you think I said? It’s easy money.”

            “You didn’t confer with me.”

            “Do you confer with me on every little thing?”

            Cane took a drink of his scotch. “How are things with Pearl?”

            “Back to normal—thank fucking god.”

            “Lots of makeup sex?”

            “Like I would ever tell you.”

            “I tell you about me and Adelina—”

            “Despite my protests…” I finally took my first drink, letting the scotch do its work to take off the edge.

            “You seem like you’re in a bad mood.”

            “I’m not.”

            “Trust me, you are,” he said. “What’s on your mind?”

            I stirred my glass as I stared at the contents.

            “So you and Pearl aren’t so great…”

            My eyes lifted to his. “I struggle to find the words.” Always had. Before Pearl came into my life, I went days without speaking to anyone, even Lars. “There’s a lot I haven’t told her…and now it weighs on me.”

            He gave a slight nod in understanding. “You feel guilty…”

            I’d never felt guilt in my life. “I guess.”

            “Are you going to tell her?”

            I stared at my glass again. “I see no benefit to either of us.”

            “You would clear your conscious.”

            “I don’t have a conscious…”

            “With Pearl you do. It’s your marriage, do what you want. But I think honesty is the best policy.”

            “And Adelina just takes it in stride?”

            He released a quick laugh. “Fuck no. She erupts like Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii…”

            “Then why do you tell her?”

            After a pause, he gave a shrug. “I’d rather feel her wrath at my honesty than her resentment at my deceit…”

            “So you think I should tell Pearl?”

            “Not what I said.”

            “Then what do you think I should do?”

            He cocked his head slightly as he looked at me, a subtle grin moving into his mouth. “Are you asking me for advice?”

            I gave him a cold stare.

            “We’re really doing this…” He gave a quiet chuckle. “I think some waitress hitting on your at a restaurant is very different than the shit that’s happened in the past—which is why I’ve never mentioned it to her. Like Vanessa’s friend Nadine…that went on right under her nose and she had no idea.”

            “I didn’t want Vanessa to lose a friend since she’s had since elementary school.”

            “I get that. But what kind of friend tries to fuck their friend’s father? Their friend’s married father…”

            “She’s been good to Vanessa so…”

            “I’m just saying…it’s not the same thing as a waitress hitting on you at a restaurant. And we see Lacey sometimes at the distribution center, so she’s also not a stranger.”

            “I told her to fuck off and she did.”

            “Even so, not a stranger.”

            “So you think I should tell Pearl all of this?”

            “I think you should have told her when it happened.”

            I gave a loud sigh and took a drink.

            “There’s a difference between her protecting her feelings and making her look like a fool.”

            “Why are you giving me this advice now instead of then?”

            “Because you didn’t ask for my advice then, Crow. If I gave you my two cents you would have told me to fuck right off.”

            Probably.

            “Honestly, if you tell her now she’s going to be pissed.”

            “Nothing happened—”

            ‘But if you hid all of this from her, what else have you hidden from her? You know what I mean?”

            I felt the temper rise like a pot of water on the stove. “I’ve never fucked another woman. I’ve never wanted to fuck another woman. I have nothing to hide, Cane. I’m not the kind of man to be faithful out of marital obligation. If I wanted to fuck a woman, I would just do it. Men have mistresses. Men have affairs. It’s not a new phenomenon…”

            Cane’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “What the fuck are you saying, Crow?”

            “That if I wanted to fuck someone I would—and I would say it straight to her face. That’s the kind of man I am. I’m not a man of integrity, but I’m a man of truth. The only thing I know how to be is transparent. The reason why there’s never been temptation is simply because I don’t want anyone else. I’ve never wanted anyone else since the moment I met Pearl.”

            “I guess that’s romantic…”

            “So I’ve never told her these things because I didn’t feel like there was anything to tell.”

            He stirred his glass, making the ice cubes tap against the glass because it was practically empty. “Let me ask you this…” He brought the glass to his lips and drank what remained at the bottom. “When Conway was at university and brought one of his friends home for a visit and they made a pass at Pearl and she didn’t tell you…how would she feel?”

            I gave no reaction, but the tendons in my neck suddenly felt tight.

            “Or one of the workers at the winery was making a move on Pearl behind your back?”

            I continued to stare, my look focused and hard.

            “I can tell you’re working real hard to keep a straight face…”

            “I’m fine.”

            “Whatever you say, Crow.” He took a drink from his glass.

            I looked away from him, staring at an empty booth across the bar. Silence passed for a while, my brother letting me stew in his words.

            “So…are you going to tell her?”

            “I don’t fucking know.” There was a sudden pressure to my shoulders, a pain in my gut, a trepidation I couldn’t explain.

            “Well…good luck if you do.”