It all started out so innocently, was the thing: "Hey, babe, do you think you could drop something off for me, since you're going that way?" Of course she said yes. It was the considerate thing to do. She was, after all, already going that way.
Of course, that wasn't really the beginning. The beginning was a couple of years before that. It wasn't even that unusual of a story. She thought that was the worst part of the whole thing, that it was something she'd heard about happening half a dozen times, to half a dozen different girls, and she'd scoffed and thought that it would never happen to her. She was smarter than that, she wouldn't fall for someone like that. Her man was one of the good ones. Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
It all started off so well. (But then, did anyone ever stay in long enough to wind up in her shoes, if it started out badly?). He was funny and charming, he paid for dinner, he brought her presents, he held the door and her chair for her. If the presents were a little out of what should have been his price range (which they were, of course), she was too giddy to notice, and even when she did she only protested his generosity, didn't wonder where the money was coming from.
And she'd still accepted those stupid earrings, even knowing there was no way he could have afforded them.
She should probably stop wearing those, actually.
She kept her blinders on long enough to marry him, because she was a good Catholic girl, and everyone else might do things backwards these days, even her sister, who had two kids and no man, but not her, no way. She was going to do things right. A few days before the wedding, her sister asked her if she was sure, and she looked so serious. She'd assured her she was, thinking the question came from her sister's fear of commitment, but now that she had the wool ripped from her eyes, she had to wonder.
On her wedding day, she was so happy, and so young, and so incredibly stupid.
Looking back, she really should have lived with him for a while first. Then she might have had a better idea, or maybe not, maybe her blinders were just that good, but maybe she would have gotten tired of his ways and ended it before they went and made it legal. Instead, she'd gone and married him before she had a clue about the odd hours, the late nights and random visitors, and she'd assumed he was just having some trouble adjusting, settling down, even when it kept fucking happening no matter how many times they fought about it. And she thought he had a lot of friends. ("Friends," she thinks now, complete with imaginary air quotes.) If she had ever stopped to wonder--so many things, but why some of them only ever stopped by once, why most of them didn't seem to want to chat with her, why almost none of these people had been at her wedding...she'd felt wounded, thinking it was something about her, but she'd never thought of another (obvious) explanation, and never said anything to him about it. She'd thought it would be an embarrassing conversation to have, or make her out to be a harpy who couldn't handle that his friends didn't like her.
She never asked where the money came from. Surely she should have realized his job didn't pay that well--but then, there was all that overtime. Or, 'overtime.'
The earrings, and the necklace on their first anniversary, and damn, she'd been stupid.
And then there were the mysterious packages. And they were mysterious: envelopes taped shut, something in a plastic grocery bag inside another one, both of them tied in hard double knots. If he'd just been loaning someone a DVD, there would never have been that level of secrecy, and she ]knew that. But somehow she never thought anything of it, never questioned why, she just knocked on doors in parts of town worse and better than her own, handed these mystery objects to the suspicious, wary people who answered, and went on her way.
The evidence built up and up and up, and she still didn't see. She didn't want to see, she supposed, so she became willfully stupid about it, blind by choice. She was too smart to have overheard some of the things she'd heard, seen some of the things she'd seen, to have driven over to Phillips and handed a bundle that had been a manila envelope before her man taped it up through the chained-shut gap in an apartment door that got slammed in her face a moment later without so much as a, "Thank you," and not ever wondered what the hell she thought she was doing, and what the hell she thought he was doing.
It hadn't even been him, really, was the thing. She loved him, but she wasn't that crazy about him. She'd been raised to be more sensible than that, to not tie her entire self up in a man. It was just...she wasn't one to rock the boat, and she had a good life, a comfortable life. She didn't have to work overtime, or two jobs. Her man wasn't a deadbeat. She was luckier than a lot, she thought. She didn't want to ruin things. If she ever thought of the things she didn't want to see as a possibility, which she wasn't saying that she did, she'd hesitate, second-guess herself, think, what if she was wrong? What would he do then? What if his friends really just didn't like her?
If it had been someone else, anyone else, she wouldn't have believed it. She would have shaken her head with the other women who gossiped on the steps before services, then confessed that they'd been gossiping after and went off to say a few Hail Marys and feel better about it. Of course she knew, she would have insisted. How could someone not know something like that? She'd probably held that exact conversation half a dozen times, if she was honest, and then gone home to her safe little house of lies, and kept right on not knowing what was right under her own nose. How could she have not known? Easy, it turned out.
On some level she thought she'd known all along. That was why, when it all started crashing down, there was never a huge shock, a moment when the bottom fell out from underneath her. It was like the door eased open slowly in her mind, until one day she looked around and her safe little life had fallen apart and she knew why, even if she still didn't want to.
She remembered noting one time that those people in the car across the street had been there all day, and he sort of freaked right out, but even then she didn't really think much of his reaction, and part of her wondered what the fuck was wrong with her; thought, how thick could one person possibly be? But it was true what they said: there really were none so blind as those who would not see.
Now the luxury of her willful ignorance was gone, and she wished she could have it back but she couldn't. The police were closing in, and no one knew where her man was except maybe, just maybe, for her, and she wasn't telling. Everyone knew, now, the tongues were wagging. She could feel the whispers start behind her back everywhere she went. Does she know? What does she know? "I don't know anything!" she wanted to yell, and she didn't even know if it was a lie or not any more.
Whether she knew or not, there were going to be questions, questions about what she knew and when she knew it, the answers to which weren't believable. No one was that big of an idiot. Of course she knew, they would scoff on the church steps. How could she not know? And there would be questions about packages delivered, and what was in them, and she didn't know what she was going to tell them when they started asking. She didn't even know what she was going to tell them when they asked her where her husband was.
Her sister had asked her if she was sure, and she'd thought she didn't know what she was talking about. But now she needed advice, needed, desperately, for someone to tell her what to do the way she'd let him for years. So she swallowed her pride and she picked up the phone.
Later, after she hung up the phone, she took her little black dress out of the closet and stood looking at it for a long time. Then, for the first time in a long time, she made up her mind to act by doing something, instead of nothing.
She needed to be seen.
Those earrings might come in handy after all.