by Jessica Knoll
I went ahead with the wedding anyway. Of course I did. I know what happens to women who end up alone. Just look at my mother.
I didn't even ask Peter if what I suspected had happened had happened. His room didn't smell like sex when I got there. (You know the smell.) Not suspicious. He had been in the shower when I knocked on the door. Suspicious.
There was a big gift basket on the coffee table, my name scrawled on the card. "What's this?" I asked Peter.
"Oh," he said, shaking water out of his ear, "you weren't supposed to see that until later tonight. Elizabeth, wait, don't"—
I was already tearing through it. There was an array of flavored lubes, a cheap negligee that I would later leave for the maid to use as a dish towel, something advertising itself as a vibrating cock ring, nipple tassels, a black silk eye mask, black silk restraints, edible body paint, and a whip with a pink fuzzy tip. The card read, "They say married sex can get a little boring. You are far from boring, but here's some back up just in case. We love you! Happy wedding night!" The card was signed from Biz and Izzy.
So Izzy had come up here to drop off a gift for me. Not suspicious.
But why couldn't she have just given it to me herself, in my own room? And when I ran into her in the hallway, why did she lie? Suspicious.
I was two for two. And let me tell you something—I could have been 0 for four and there was still no fucking way I was calling off my wedding. Whatever Peter had or hadn't done, whatever cracks were already opening in the foundation of our marriage, I was walking down that aisle in my god damn custom Carolina Herrera with a demure smile on my face. In my world, it's better to be divorced in your thirties than it is to not be married in your twenties. At least if you're divorced, there are court documents, a monthly alimony check, and angry voicemails from your ex to prove that you weren't some hopeless tragedy in your twenties.
Here's my theory about why it's better to just get married in your twenties, even if you're not entirely sold on the guy. Maybe this is a moneyed New York City thing, maybe not. You tell me. Here goes: in this fucked up world we live in, a woman's value hinges on three things: how thin you are, how young you are, and how pretty you are. In that order too. (Thinness trumps all, mostly because the others are things you can't necessarily control and so no one can really penalize you for not being a nineteen year-old Brooke Shields.)
But I digress. My theory is that you keep with the curb by getting married in your twenties. Not ahead, not behind. Mostly because girls in their twenties generally marry guys in their twenties, or maybe in their early thirties. (Mostly). So everyone is kind of on the same wave length, age wise, you know? And everyone is young and so the men aren't looking to replace you with a spring chicken just yet, because you are the spring chicken. And, for a marriage to thrive, it's very, very important for a husband to see his wife as this budding, wide-eyed ingenue. It's not just enough to look young, you have to be young too. Curious, lost, in need of guidance. Guys love that shit.
Which means if you turn thirty-five and can't fucking take another moment of his bad morning breath or jackhammering, you can get divorced, go out on the town, and meet some dude in his fifties, twice divorced, who is looking for his next bright young thing. And to a man in his fifties, a woman of thirty-five is a bright young thing, and will continue to be a bright young thing for the rest of his life, especially if she's divorced and hurting and vulnerable and confused. Oh God, it's as good as being twenty-four again.
Whereas if you'd never gotten married, you don't have that fresh new lost soul thing going for you, only the sour stench of never being wanted. The desperation that takes hold around twenty-eight, when there are no viable suitors on the horizon. A divorced woman in her thirties is undergoing a rebirth, a single woman in her thirties is practically dead.
So marriage in your twenties is not only a means to avoid being sat at the depressing singles' table or being set up on humiliating blind date after blind date, but it's also a form of insurance. Even if it doesn't work out, it sets you up for the next round, which hopefully does.
Plus, you want to get a kid out of it before you marry the dinosaur, because he's probably over the newborn baby thing at his age.
If I was a betting woman, I would wager to bet that Izzy and Peter were not having an affair. If anything, that incident just reinforced what I had already discovered about Peter, which is that he liked female attention and an affair was not outside the realm of possibility for him. Which is fine, I'm not getting all moral about it. I just want to be prepared, you see. Get my ducks in order for when it finally does go to shit.
And Izzy, while pretty, was not the sort of woman Peter would risk wrecking our nascent marriage for. No, it would have to be someone special. At the time, Peter liked a challenge. And Izzy was just too much of a yessum. She kowtowed to me and even to Biz. She knew her place. She hadn't even lived in Turquoise House with us; hadn't made the cut.
I also couldn't believe that Izzy would be willing to ruin her relationship with Gardner, one of Peter's groomsmen. Things were going well for them; even better than they were for Biz and Brad, who had been together longer. You could tell Gardner was smitten with Izzy, whereas, poor Biz had made the fatal mistake of accusing Brad of cheating on her, multiple times, even in the beginning, when I don't think he had actually cheated on her yet.
Never do that! Accuse someone of cheating on you, that is. Never, ever. The only time you accuse someone of cheating is when you are a) sure, and b) prepared to leave the bastard on the spot. I can't tell you how many girls I've seen torpedo damn fine relationships by their relentless nagging and prying and snooping. Either the guy isn't cheating on you and you're just exposing yourself as a paranoid insecure monster (not sexy), or he is cheating on you and you reveal yourself as such, on top of being a spineless ninny with zero respect for herself (not sexy plus pathetic) because you're not going to leave him. Because that was the case for Biz, her only option was to bury her head in the sand, wait for him to propose, and live out her twenties and early thirties in relative peace before divorcing him and finding the dinosaur who would ultimately be obsessed with her.
But, as always, Biz didn't listen to me. So when Gardner popped the question to Izzy, two years after my wedding, almost six years since Biz and Brad had met (though they'd broken up and gotten back together numerous times over that period), Biz was beside herself. Her mother had been referring to her as an old maid since her twenty-seventh birthday, after all.
"Listen!" I told her. "You want to be at least engaged by the time you're twenty-nine? And to Brad?" (We were twenty-eight at that point).
One fat tear, tinged black with mascara, wobbled on Biz's chin before plopping onto my new white couch, blooming a dark stain in the fabric. I sighed and went to find the Resolve in the kitchen.
"Then you are going to say and do everything I tell you to do," I said, coming back into the room, squirt bottle in hand. "From here on out."
Biz dug the heels of her hands into her eyes, starting to calm down. "Okay. What's my next move then?"
"Break up with him. You've got to do something to shock him into action."
Biz didn't want to do it. She whined and protested and begged for other alternatives. Then, after about three weeks of hemming and hawing over it, she actually followed my advice.
For the next year, I counseled Biz on her every move. She didn't so much as venture into the twenty block radius of Brad's neighborhood without first consulting me. This was a nice little arrangement—Brad was starting to pursue Biz, determined to win her back, and I was granted a reprieve from my baby fever. Peter and I had been trying every since the morning of our wedding, and yet every month there it was, the bloody, mean brag of my period on my grossly overpriced underwear.
Of course I made an appointment with the most cutting edge fertility clinic on the Upper East Side. I had my hormone levels tested, my insides poked and prodded. When that didn't turn up anything, it was Peter's turn. Only no one could find anything wrong with him either. "Stress," Doctor Mendez told me, "once you stop thinking about it so much, it will happen."
So I funneled all of my energy into Project Get Biz a Ring, hoping this would distract me from my debilitating desire to have a baby.
It actually worked! I was as much if not more vested in Biz's impending engagement than she was. Biz was the only person left in my life who really knew me and loved me and stood by me because she wanted to, not because she had to, like my father. I knew that ring would make her happy, would boost her confidence and worth. So what if she had to play games. Show me a single person who hasn't strategized and conned their way to get what they want, and I'll show you someone who never amounted to anything.
On the morning of Izzy's bridal shower, I was getting ready when the phone in the front hallway buzzed. Peter was at the gym, so I wrapped a robe around myself and scurried to answer it.
"You have a guest, Miss Elizabeth," my doorman told me.
I paused for a moment, trying to remember if Biz was planning on coming to my apartment beforehand. No, she had definitely said she would see me there. She had Izzy's gift, a cumbersome package not unlike the one they had put together for me for my wedding night, and she just wanted to make one trip to get to the shower.
"I'm not expecting anyone," I said. "Who is it?"
There was a muffled exchange, and then my doorman spoke into the receiver. "Abby Mason."
I gripped the phone tighter. "Excuse me?"
"Yes, a Miss Abby Mason." Then I heard it. The voice of the girl whose sister I had killed. The voice of the girl who had loved and, who some believed, killed my brother. I couldn't make out what she was saying, but it was her voice, without a doubt. "She says she's been trying to get in touch with you but"—
"Louis," I hissed into the phone, "get her out of the building now. Call the police if you have to."
I hung up and stood staring at the phone in its holder for so long my wet hair produced a small puddle around my feet. She had been trying to get in touch with me? No, she hadn't. This was the first I'd heard from the girl in the seven years since I graduated from Smithson.
Some time passed before I realized I was about to be much more than fashionably late. I hurried to get ready, praying that enough time had passed that Abby wouldn't be lingering around the corner by the time I got outside. I had my doorman hail me a cab, just in case.
"I warned her if she ever came back I would call the police," Louis told me, as he opened the door to my taxi. I slipped him a twenty.
By the time I got to Soho House, I was really late. Lunch had already been served and Izzy was opening gifts. Thankfully no one noticed as I snuck in and took a seat at a table in the back.
I mean, really, I thank my lucky fucking stars that no one saw me. Because I arrived at just the moment Izzy was unwrapping the tawdry gift basket Biz had assembled on behalf of the bridesmaids. Izzy was pawing through it, holding up every sex toy and accessory and reading the instructions out loud, eliciting hearty laughs from all the women on their third mimosas.
There was the usual: lube, dildos, games, etc, etc. Boring, boring. Really good sex doesn't require so many props, people! But I sat up straight as an arrow when Izzy extracted a pair of handcuffs, and at first I didn't understand why every muscle in my body was packed so tight, why I could taste my heart in my throat, metallic and salty-sweet. And then I remembered. The fuzzy leopard print cuffs, the ones that had been used to bound me to that water pipe in the basement of That House all those years ago. Izzy was holding an identical pair in her hands, and her and Biz were playing with them and laughing, laughing. No, they were cackling.
I know I was sort of a pill before, but it was that moment that I really came into my own. Homewrecker, liar, cheat, whore, villain, evil cuntface, Elizabitch. Whatever you want to call me. I don't care. The only thing I cared about was making the people I used to love pay for what they had done to me. Biz had done this to me, I realized, every bone in my body aching as the thought settled into my marrow. Later, I went home and cried. It was the last time I cried for a very long time.