He likes the Italian sheets, with the paisleys, so she grabs armfuls of high-thread count cotton from the airing cupboard and remakes the bed with trembling hands. Mark watches her, wearing boxers and nothing else, hands on his hips. The flannel sheets, still warm from their bodies, were stripped and shoved hastily in the back of her walk-in closet. She'll figure out what to do with them tomorrow. She'll figure out everything tomorrow. Now she just makes neat hospital corners, still feeling the ache of him inside her. Derek's blue shirt is thrown over the chaise - she's told him not to do that - the arm folded in on itself. Like it knows. Feeling guilty and small, she yanks the sheets into place and grabs the comforter from the floor, then feels some of the weight leave her arms. Mark, helping her spread the blanket across the bed.
What have we done?
I'm not sorry.
She doesn't see Derek for two days - that's normal for them - and when she does she's terrified he'll know, he'll notice. That he'll be able to sense another man's hands on her - not just another man, his best friend, their best friend. But his eyes skate over her with hardly any recognition at all. Yes, everything's fine. No, he can't have dinner with her tonight.
She finds Mark in his office on the fourth floor, draws the blinds. He looks at her with naked curiosity. "I thought you said this was a one time thing?"
Her body still tingles where he touched her. She thinks she can still feel the indentation of him in their mattress: eleven years in the marital bed, as if the fabric and springs themselves can sense her betrayal.
"Can't I change my mind?" she asks.
She tells herself it's just physical, anyway - in the hospital, in Mark's bachelor loft, in the spare room at the brownstone, but never in their marital bed again. Not with the paisley sheets, the ones Derek loves. Then he forgets their anniversary and she calls Mark and double locks the front door and pushes him down on the bed. She craves this, the release, the distraction, and the paisleys blur in front of her eyes, maroon, blue, as Mark drives into her, his hands tangled in her hair. She collapses, sweat trickling down her back, and he licks it away where it pools at the hollow in the base of her spine. It's only physical but she falls asleep in his arms anyway. Derek doesn't come home.
She's like the speeder who never gets stopped, because the idea of being caught seems totally foreign now. Derek's actually there one morning, sipping coffee in the kitchen like he lives there while she picks through the Times real estate listings, pretending that moving is an option.
"That emergency craniotomy on the tenth - lucky I'm the one I paged, since I'd worked on the guy three months ago and I remembered that - Addison, are you listening?"
She's pale, gripping the edge of the marble kitchen island with both hands. "Yes," she manages. "Go on. It was, um, it was the tenth?"
He frowns at her. "Yes. I said that. I came home and had already taken my coat off when they paged me. I was just saying it was lucky I was the one they paged. Warrenstein wouldn't have known about that complication and I don't think the guy would have pulled through."
"Lucky," she echoes.
"I have to go." He kisses her quickly. "I won't be home tonight."
Mark's not stirred the way she is. He lies next to her, his bed this time, a stark wrought-iron number, and when he shrugs she can feel the ropy muscles of his shoulder moving under her cheek. "So?"
"So he was there, Mark! That night! He could have caught us!"
"But he didn't."
"You left your jacket downstairs, I saw it later - he could have seen it, too."
"But he didn't."
"He didn't." His voice is firm, reassuring, and his hands are warm as they slide along her body. She gives herself over to him, enjoys the feel of his lips, the press of his body, the way he looks at her. She's lost in rhythm, his fingers inside her, his lips skimming from one hip to the other as she writhes under his touch, when she hears him whisper it somewhere south of her bellybutton. "It was lucky."
"Lucky," she echoes, her voice sounding like it belongs to someone else. When he pushes into her she arches her back, lifts her hips to meet him, tells herself it's okay that lust feels like guilt sometimes, that everything feels raw, that the more gently he touches her the more it hurts.
Derek lectures at Stanford, two nights of certainty as to where he'll sleep: in the sunshine, while she and Mark burrow under down comforters and chilly late fall batters at the window of the brownstone. They play at couples, getting daring: walking through the park with coffee warming cold hands, eating dinner at a table for two without an empty chair to signify their third limb. He makes her breakfast; she watches his fine surgeon's hands slicing a melon and pretends this is their house, their life and then she can't wait and drags him down with her; they make love on the kitchen floor with coffee brewing above them. The toast burns. His fingers burn, on her skin. A wedding picture in a silver Tiffany frame mocks her from the visible credenza in the hall. She curses her need, holds him tighter. She wants him to fill her, surround her, take her away from here. He wants her too, he says.
Be with me instead.
He'd never forgive us.
Mark will learn, anyway, that her need is bigger than him the way it was bigger than Derek; she's ashamed but emboldened by his attentions. She sends a nurse with a fake message for him, pounces on him in an on-call room, pretends to forget to lock the door.
Addison, what are you doing? Do you want to get caught?
She invites him to the brownstone, relishes the fear that Derek's surgical schedule is predictably unpredictable. She straddles Mark on the antique couch she insisted on, the one Derek hates - but it's got some benefits, a series of complicated maple-wood whorls on its high back that serve as perfect grips for her hands. She holds tightly, new power surging through her legs, and even Mark is impressed. They collapse afterwards, sweaty and sated, on the stiff embroidered cushions. The whole house smells like him now.
It was really lucky.
She calls him, pages him. He answers for the most part. She surprises him at his apartment and he schools his face into neutral, even happy, but she knows that look, that expression, so she tries harder to please. Does things she's never tried. Doesn't want him to get bored. She finds a pair of pink satin panties mixed in with his laundry - she's gone over there to get his apartment ready for the maid, as a treat - and they're not hers, a size smaller and a cheap department store brand. She throws them down the incinerator - because if he doesn't know she knows then it's like she doesn't know.
She prods him. That scrub nurse - what's her name - Lacey? She's pretty. Mark looks confused. You know, if you ever wanted to -
His eyebrows raise.
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say no, is all I'm saying. She fiddles with the edges of his duvet.
Good to know, he says slowly. And then I only want you.
His lie, shamefully, feels like love.
Let's tell Derek, Addie. Tell him about us. Let's be together for real.
By now she knows about Annie, his downstairs neighbor, and that candy-striper who can't be more than a sophomore in college. It curdles her stomach, makes her anxious.
Addison, you okay? She says yes no matter which one of them is asking, starts to wonder how different they really are.
She walks in on him with her own nurse, in an on-call room, and walks out again as if it never happened. He's all apologies later, tells her it meant nothing.
She says I'm pregnant. It's not true.
The color drains from his face. "Okay," he says. "Okay." He paces the room. "This is good, Addie, this is good news. We can do this. We'll tell Derek, we'll-"
She says I'm not keeping it.
"What? No, Addison, we can do this. We can be a family."
"You can't keep it in your pants for five minutes!" she's screaming, all that silence finally working its way out of her. He grabs her hand, waves it in her own face, forcing the rings close to her.
"And you? You're still with him. You're with me, but you won't leave him. You're still goddamned married, Addison!"
She pulls her hand out of his grip, white finger marks visible on her wrist, and wonders how they got to this point.
He brings her flowers that night - Derek's working late - apologizes, begs her to reconsider. Her lie feels like truth now. She has nothing more to give him; there's nothing left to do except close her eyes and open her thighs and start the process of forgetting him. The bouquet of roses is crushed beneath her; their scent will always, after that night, remind her of sex and sadness.
We would be good parents, he mumbles at the door while she's rebuttoning her blouse and she almost feels sorry for him.
I love you, he tells her, at the hospital, in the supply closet he shoved them both into when she wouldn't answer his page.
You don't know how to love, she tells him. She thinks of the other women, the cut of her rings, that stupid page that stupid night. We were so lucky. Were they?
Derek hasn't touched her in weeks but he senses something, maybe, in the way she's curled on the couch in his pajama bottoms and old Columbia t-shirt, not quite asleep or awake either. He doesn't ask her what's wrong, and she decides it's because he knows her so well - fifteen years now - not because he doesn't care. They end up on the couch, simple missionary as straightforward as their marriage itself. She does what's expected so she makes appreciative noises and fakes it once she's too sad to try anymore.
"You're staying with him?"
"He's my husband."
"I haven't seen Mark in a while," Derek observes when they're getting ready for a hospital fundraiser. They're home at the same time, for once, and she's enjoying watching him watch her get ready. She shrugs, pretending Mark's name doesn't hurt.
"Is he coming tonight?" she asks in what she thinks is a neutral tone.
"Yeah." Derek struggles with his tie for a moment, then lets go and permits Addison to tie it. "Said he's bringing this intern, and- ow, Addie!"
"Sorry," she mumbles, rubbing the spot where her fingernails scraped him.
He gives her a benevolent smile, then checks his watch. "We need to leave in twenty minutes," he says briskly; she's still in an ivory chemise and nothing else.
Derek's always liked her in red. She chooses a simple silk number, pins her hair up and chooses delicate dangling earrings that call attention to the length of her neck. He rewards her with a slightly longer glance than usual and you look beautiful, Addie, and she reminds herself it's far more than she deserves. It was her choice, after all.
If choice were simple she'd sit by Derek's side now like a dutiful wife, applaud the speakers politely, sip wine in moderation between dainty bites of chicken, enjoy his occasional pat to her thigh or half smile in her direction. It's not, though, so she gulps three glasses of white before switching to merlot to go with her steak. She catches the busty blonde next to Mark eyeing her with curious disapproval while she nibbles at her mostly untouched steamed vegetable plate. Let her. Addison drains another goblet, signals a passing waiter for more.
Derek gives her a quick look. You okay? They've been married for eleven years. Maybe they don't need to speak anymore. She tries it out, staring right back at him and screaming (but only in her head) not even fucking close.
So she whispers I'm fine, honey and she senses Mark wince at honey, sees his hand floating over the blonde's bare arm. She can't be more than twenty-five, skin firm with youth and Addison grimaces, watching her giggle and pretend to object to Mark's attention.
He's looking right at her. Bastard. She leans closer to Derek and he pulls back a bit. Undeterred, she runs her hand over his arm. She likes this suit; she picked it out. Derek lifts an eyebrow at her. "What?"
"Nothing," she purrs, moving closer yet.
"Addison, I'm trying to listen," he whispers, and she rests her hand on his thigh anyway, happy that he's sitting to her right and she can leave her left hand gracefully draped on the table, rings catching the light. Diamond hard enough to break.
She rests her cheek on Derek's shoulder, breathes in the scent of him.
If they'd paged someone else instead...
Mark's looking right at her now, no pretense anymore, the blonde half draped across him while the speaker drones on about charitable foundations and lifetime hospital grants. She cuddles closer to Derek; he ignores her; the rare steak, which she chewed too quickly, settles like a lump in her stomach. She reaches for more wine, and, unbalanced, half tips the glass into her plate. A few drops settle on her bodice.
A waiter hurries over to supply a fresh plate; Derek frowns at her. "Addie, take it easy."
She flushes under his disapproval. "I just - it didn't spill much." She hesitates. "I'm going to go clean up."
She's halfway down the heavily carpeted hall, looking forward to splashing cold water on her face, when she feels a hand grab her arm, stopping her in her tracks. She doesn't have to turn around to see who it is.
"What are you trying to pull?"
"Me?" She lets her voice rise. "You're the one who brought that - middle schooler with the fake-"
"You left me."
He's still holding her arm; with her free hand, she rubs at the tension in her neck. "It's not that simple and you know it."
"It's simple. It's a choice. You chose him."
"He's my husband!"
The word is like a switch, she thinks later; his face changes and maybe hers too and then her back hits the wall in a room she doesn't recognize, plush and beige with a telephone and a legal pad and she supposes it's for conference calls and then she's not thinking because his hot breath is in her ear, his fingers pinning her wrists.
She wraps her legs around his waist, holding on for dear life. It's fast and angry, her head knocking the wallpaper, her fingers scrabbling for purchase at the surprisingly tender skin of his neck. Her dress was low cut anyway, her breasts fairly leaping toward him as her body heaves against him. He takes mouthfuls of sensitive skin and she moans into the rough fabric of his jacket; he's still wearing his suit. Diamonds scrape the bare bits of his chest as she reaches for bare skin, anywhere, but he pushes her back, not giving her any more of him. His blue eyes are dark, looking at her and past her at the same time. The pain in them hurts her and she's tired of hurting. She says I'm sorry and he says don't and there are no more words until he gasps her name into her mouth, shoving her one last time into ivory wallpaper. He eases out of her, sets her back on wobbling heels, and for a moment they just look at each other. Her hair's come down from its elegant updo, she can feel the flush rising on her skin, pinpricks of heat from his scruff already standing up at the side of her neck, between her breasts. Fuck. She looks down to smooth her dress, angry when she sees the black lace of her bra visible, rips the width of his fingers cutting through the material.
"You tore my dress," she snaps.
"You broke my heart," he counters; she gathers ripped red silk around still-quivering flesh with as much dignity as she can manage and forces a smile as if he's just kidding.