Over Her Shoulder ( pt 3. Back to reality excerpt)

A blaring ambulance siren snapped Karen back to reality as she opened her eyes and wiped a lone tear from her cheek. Looking up again at the sky she started to feel the dreaded spins coming on. God dammit. Laying down always made it worse so in efforts to combat this nearly impossible enemy she rose to her feet. She walked into the living room through the slider door she had neglected to close earlier. The roof deck was her sanctuary, she spent more time there than any other part of the house. As she made her way into the kitchen for some water her phone rang. Karen’s barely opened eyes looked at the blurry green clock on the stove and finally made out the time: 10:04. Who would be calling at this hour of the night? She didn’t even bother checking the caller ID. It had to be Leslie. It had to be. She knew immediately what the call would entail. “Come out with the girls let’s let loose and forget about your douchebag of a husband!” Leslie would exclaim. Karen loved Leslie’s youthful exuberance and support but she couldn’t handle it right now, she let it ring.

Tossing a handful of ice into a plastic cup she heard Leslie’s message begin. “Don’t you dare try to ignore me Karen I know you’re there, pick up the damn phone”. Karen laughed as she filled her cup of water and headed for the phone. “I swear if you-” Leslie started as Karen cut her off. “You, Leslie, you really know me too well, you you know me too Lez you do!” Karen said as she stumbled over her words. “Of course I do, since Ms. Diamonds 3rd grade class I’ve known your skinny ass, also long enough to know you’re half in the bag right now aren’t you?” Karen rolled her eyes, “You could’ve known me for 2 seconds and figured that out”. They both laughed as Leslie laid out her instructions. “Alright well I love it, for once you’re ahead of me on the drinking so, get yourself together,  put on that tight black dress  you know you look sexy in and I’m coming to pick you up with Sherri. “I don’t know Lez, I’m not -” “Stop it, its final- Leslie retorted.” “You can’t sit around and bask in self-pity all night so instead come out and listen to how shitty my marriage is because I need to vent too, it’s not all about you honey”-Leslie said. “I’ve got a sitter for the night and Chris is going to play cards with the guys and watch whatever game it is that’s going on, so, we’re not wasting this night”. Karen was still not fully convinced but she also knew her best friend rarely steered her wrong.

She sat on a kitchen barstool contemplating what the rest of her night would be like otherwise: pretty miserable she projected. “Okay fine, make it 11:15 but just for an hour or so” Karen said. “You sound so old and boring!-Leslie yelled”. “We ARE old and boring! Karen replied, resting her head down on her arm and staring at the black marble countertop. Speak for yourself Karen! See you at 11, look hot!” -Leslie said. Karen shook her head smiling, 11:15!! She attempted to say again but Leslie had already hung up. Ahh Leslie, always there to pick her up. She could never have survived all this shit without her best friend. “Look hot!” Karen repeated Leslie’s words to herself.  Deal with this emotional baggage right now? She couldn’t. Deal with explaining to her son what this mess was all about, she couldn’t. . But look hot? Karen thought, she could definitely do that.  

       Making her way to the bedroom Karen took off her grey sweater as she hummed the tune of “uptown girl”. She quickly reminisced back to a Billy Joel concert she and her girlfriends had attended a few years back. In fact, right around the time when she started to confirm her long held suspicions about Roy’s infidelity. Regretfully, she didn’t remember much after the opening act as she attempted to drown her anger towards him in shots of whiskey. Roy ruining another night- seemed to be a theme over the past few years. Karen wanted to believe things would work themselves out more than anything. She wanted to buy his lies, and she did for a while. Thankfully her friends, namely Leslie, knocked some sense into her and insisted she leave his sorry ass. Best decision she ever made. Yet despite all the times he had wronged her, she still felt it was also the hardest decision she had ever made. She knew what it would do to their son Tyler, how confusing and damaging it would be. Above all she believed in Roy’s ability to be a good man, more than he had ever believed in himself.

As she undressed her tight white jeans she forecasted the night in her head. Her friends would certainly be trying to get Karen’s mind off Roy tonight. Which meant they would certainly be trying to get Karen laid tonight. Karen wasn’t into it. Or at least, that wasn’t her main objective. One night stands just didn’t have the appeal to her anymore. Granted, her last one had been probably her junior year of college, ever since then she had been solely with Roy. Many a man had made passes at her but Karen was unwaveringly loyal, the same could not be said of her husband. Her mind very briefly considered the thrill and excitement of being with someone new again. However, the thought of sleeping around or revenge fucking someone also seemed too contrived to her. Plus, she felt too old to be doing that. Sure, she had enjoyed those  careless days of wild nights and fun flings,  but even then, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “Catching up on lost time” wasn’t interesting to her at the moment.

Walking into the bedroom she stubbed her toe on the white vanity her mother had passed down to her for her 18th birthday. Grabbing her foot and grimacing she looked on the ground and noticed an earring that had fallen off the rotating display of jewelry. She picked it up and analyzed it for a second. Looking perplexed she tried to think back to where she had gotten it. Not having any clue she dismissed it as most likely one of the many apology gifts from Roy that seemed to all blend together. They were nice though, he always had good taste she admitted as she found its match and re-hung the earring. Maybe she’d wear those tonight..  After undressing she hopped in the steaming shower and continued “uptown girl”, this time vocally. “And when she’s walking she’s looking so fi yiiii yineeee”she belted out un-melodically. Karen loved music, but she wasn’t exactly Tina Turner. 20 minutes later she glanced down and noticed her hands beginning to prune and realized she needed to hurry up. She still had her makeup and hair to do not to mention picking out an outfit. The black dress Lez had suggested was too revealing for tonight she decided.

Wrapping the white towel around her head she contemplated what to wear. Feeling a headache coming on she scurried to the kitchen for her glass of water, leaving a faint wet trail on the hardwood floor. It was the kind of headache that came on as a result of stopping drinking. So, after polishing off the water she threw in the last bit of the highbrow wine and took two big swigs. “Ahhh” she exhaled, as she stood naked in the dark kitchen, time to get ready. Her wardrobe consisted mainly of dress clothes now, with a handful of cocktail dresses thrown in. Many of her things were still at their house on the coast of Glencoe, about 45 minutes outside of the city. Truthfully there was no one to blame but herself for continually postponing gathering her things. It had been several months, almost a year now, since she had willingly moved out to the penthouse apartment in an area known as the Gold Coast.

The spot was convenient as it was a mere stone’s throw away from her downtown office at Horizons Realty. Karen had made a transition just over a year ago from her long-time lucrative stint as a defense attorney. Netting a cool 2 mill the year before departing she was the top earner at her firm, and she worked hard for it. She buried herself in her work frequently. The money was great, the hours were shit. But she loved it, the rat race was enticing to her for a while. It was only once she saw it starting to hurt her relationship with her son that she realized, it was time for a new gig.

Karen made the wise decision to focus more time on her home-life, specifically on her son Tyler. Making her own schedule allowed her more flexibility and time with Ty. She worked maybe 30 hours a week now, it was a breeze. While being new to the industry she was still doing quite well for herself at Horizons. She was a maven in the city in all things business and her connection base served her well. Roy’s rolodex was quite strong as well, though she rarely called on them. He worked as a sports agent at CCMG a highly regarded talent agency. His client list was a lengthy star studded cast. Karen missed being the IT couple. Roy had prophesied in college that they would become celebrities in the city someday but she never believed it, until it started to become true. They had plans to take over the world together. Outlandish dreams that they were quickly making a reality. That’s what she had loved about Roy, nothing was too far-fetched. He made her feel like they could and would accomplish anything they wanted. They loved Chicago and Chicago loved them back. In fact, she and Roy had both been given a key to the city about 4 years ago, for their frequent generous donations and involvement in revitalizing the area. Roy loved to help. He was always volunteering his time or money or both to help make the city better. Not in a self-serving way either, he didn’t do it for the attention or praise, though he received a great deal of both. He had always been humble and philanthropic. Sure he spent lavishly on himself, but even more so on others. Reasons like that were why Karen had such a hard time believing his wrongdoings. She knew what kind of guy he was deep down. What had changed him?

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