The Inner Compartment: The Core Laid Bare
Megan feels Don get out of bed. An orange haze streams through the paisley-curtained windows. She’s not alone.
Amy lies beside her.
“Ugh.” Megan groans as she rolls over to the space Don has vacated, still warm and smelling of his night sweat.
She had pushed Don back onto the bed. Straddled him. He was too drunk to fight her, even though he tried to sit up.
Her stomach starts to churn.
“Oh God, did I . . . ?” she whispers to no one. She turns to see Amy sleeping next to her – peacefully. And she remembers more.
Amy putting his hand up her skirt. And forcing him down on the bed with a kiss. While she watched.
“Did we . . . ?” No. It couldn’t have happened. Not that way. She wouldn’t do that to him. But still, she wants to make sure he’s okay. She slips on her pink ruffled robe and quietly heads towards the kitchen, leaving Amy behind, still asleep.
Megan finds him in the kitchen fumbling around, looking for coffee. He hasn’t showered yet. That’s a good sign . . . she thinks.
He pulls her in for a couple of brief kisses as the phone begins to ring. They’re distracted and break away from each other.
It’s Stephanie. Don smiles his first smile of the day as he takes the receiver from Megan. Megan can’t read him as he listens to the voice on the other end of the line.
And she is pissed. She thought she had sent Stephanie away for good. She bangs around in the kitchen to express her anger while Don expresses his concern for Stephanie over the phone. He moves away from the noise Megan is making to finish his conversation.
When he hangs up he puts his hands on her hips and tells her that he needs to leave even though he was supposed to stay the whole weekend.
“But you’re still coming back next weekend, right?” she asks him hopefully.
“Of course.” Too quickly his eyes dart away from hers.
Something is wrong.
Amy comes out of the bedroom to say goodbye.
Don stares at Amy and looks perplexed - but it’s more than that. Megan can see the trauma lining his face. She’s seen that face before. As the front door closes behind Amy, Don closes his eyes briefly and lets out a soft sigh.
Don tells Megan that he’s going to take a shower and leaves her alone in the kitchen.
She tries to take a drag of her cigarette but then throws it down into the ashtray instead. She collapses against the side of the counter, her head in her hand, overwhelmed with dizziness.
She couldn’t have.
But she did.
Megan remembered back to the morning she had woken him over a year ago – after his fever had broken. She’d been concerned.
Don said to her, “You don’t have to worry about me.”
She began to leave the room.
She turned around at the door.
“You don’t have to be concerned that I’ll cheat on you.”
Don motioned for Megan to come back and sit beside him, patting a spot on the bed. She sat down. Why would he be talking about his now?
“Andrea – the woman you saw in the elevator – well, I killed her.”
“What!?” she exclaimed, almost jumping of off the bed.
He grabbed her forearm, keeping her in place.
“Listen . . . it’s not what you think,” he fumbled around for some words and finally found them. “Look, you already know she was someone I had slept with. A long time ago. When I was with Betty.”
Megan nodded. He ran his hand through his hair roughly.
“Well. . . she came to the apartment. . .”
“What!?” his hand was on her forearm again, restraining her.
“Will you just listen?” Don was still so weak from being sick and obviously not going about this the right way. “It wasn’t really her but I thought it was.”
“Oh, okay. Your fever?”
“Yes, that must have been it . . . She . . . oh, God Megan – She forced herself on me. Made me have sex with her.” He looked down at the floor and then looked back up. “So I killed her. For you - for us. So you see you have nothing to worry about.”
He looked at her hopefully.
Megan placed a hand on Don’s forehead to see if he was still warm.
“You don’t need to do that, I’m fine.” He took her hand off of his brow and held it in his, looking her straight in the eye. “I’ll never stray from you.”
Megan sensed there was more to this fever dream. Much more. He seemed erratic. She thought back carefully to what he had said. “She forced herself on you?”
“Yes! I didn’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it. But she . . . “
He looked down, shame burning his cheeks. Megan stared at him, perplexed. This was only a dream, right?
“I told her no. But I was weak, sick. She pressed against me. She could feel me growing hard, even though I honestly didn’t want to . . . ”
He paused, his eyes darting around, blinking furiously, but still downcast. “When it was over she told me that it would happen again. And that I would enjoy it again. Because I am sick . . . She told me I was sick.”
He looked up at Megan, his eyes raw. “And that’s when I killed her.”
“Honey, you didn’t kill anyone. I was right here with you the whole time.” She moved some of the hair out of his eyes. “Has this happened before?”
“Me killing someone?”
“No,” she said and paused, thinking how best to word this. “It’s just that your reaction seems so extreme. Instinctual. I’m just wondering if something happened to you . . . ?”
“I killed her for you. For us.”
“No, Don,” she said, and gave him a serious look.
As he stared at her, he began to break down. His face crumpled and she took it into her hands, cradling him. She pressed her forehead against his, feeling his tears fall onto her cheeks, “Oh, honey.”
Eventually he was able to talk, but he couldn’t look her in the eye.
“I was only a teenager. And living in that whore house.”
“Aimee told me that I liked it. I told her to stop.”
He took in a deep breath and shuddered.
“I had been sick – she had taken care of me. I just wanted her kindness. Not. . . not. . . not what happened.”
“It’s okay,” Megan rubbed his back to soothe him.
“She thought I wanted it. Told me I did. She taunted me. Because she lifted the sheets and saw my erection.”
Megan felt him cringe.
“I didn’t want it, Megan, I didn’t,” he said desperately and dissolved into a torrent of tears again.
“I know, Honey,” she said and tilted his face up to look at her. His eyes were so haunted. “I know.”
Megan returns to the present, sickened by these memories. The dizziness is overwhelming. She staggers to the bedroom to go lie down. Don is still in the shower.
As she flops face first into the bed, she smells their sex and begins to cry. How could she do this to him?
The beginning of their tryst comes flooding back to her. How she had approached him with Amy. Offered both of them to him.
“Kiss her. I know you want to.”
“I don’t want anything right now,” he had said.
She had pressed on his groin and felt the hardness there, misinterpreted it.
“Oh, God. What have I done?” she buries her face in the sheets, wishing she could only smell herself and Don within them. But Amy’s scent is there, too. Amy/Aimee. . .
She hears the shower turn off and decides to fake being asleep until Don packs up and leaves.
She cannot face him.
The Outer Compartment: The Shell Firmly in Place
Megan hasn’t seen Don since the threesome. She doesn’t want to face him. Talking with him on the phone is hard enough. Her guilt is overwhelming and keeps her up at night. But she knows it’s over. Even if he doesn’t seem to.
Unfortunately she has to see him one last time to get her things from their apartment in New York. In preparation for leaving him.
She comes early and surprises him at the office. He looks perplexed when he encounters her and his brow furrows as she quickly kisses him. He stiffens and seems uncomfortable when they touch. This only reinforces that she is doing the right thing. And she just wants to get it over with.
He whisks her away to dinner. What she has to say to him is not a discussion to be had in public, so she makes small talk, pretending nothing is wrong. He doesn’t seem to notice.
She needs to apologize. They need to talk about this - she wants to tell him why she’s leaving him. Get it all off her chest so they can both move forward. She wants to tell him, You’re not sick. I know you didn’t ask for it, didn’t want to be forced . . . didn’t deserve it.
She has to leave . . . after what she’s done to him . . . she knows it’s going to tear him apart. She can’t live with it, not with the overwhelming guilt. Nor with him.
And she hopes that expressing her remorse will help him to get through this easier.
When they get back to the apartment he begins kissing her fervently before they are barely through the door. It takes all of her resolve to push him away.
“Don, we need to talk.” She heads over to the couch, sits.
He looks confused. “Okay . . . ” He sets down his briefcase and joins her.
“Don, what happened with Amy –“
“Now who’s Amy again?”
“Don,” she chastises.
“Is she the one who was always annoyingly answering your phone for you? Pretending she lived there?”
“Don, listen to me –“
“What ever happened to that one? She doesn’t answer anymore.”
“Don – “
“Forget about her . . . Mmmm” He nuzzles her neck. “You smell good.”
She gives in to his caress – he feels so good.
“Megan, I’ve been thinking about you so much . . .”
He pulls back and strokes her cheek. Before she can think of what to say, his mouth is on hers, warm and wet, probing her lips open with his tongue. His hand presses the small of her back, pulling her into him. His other hand trails over her breast.
“Take this off,” He touches her wig.
She pulls it off and shakes out her own hair, then discards the fake hair on the cushions behind her.
“Now take this off,” He hitches up the hem of her dress.
She wants this. One last time with him. Her plans to apologize to him are almost forgotten. She pushes the bottom of her dress down, and coyly gets up off of the couch, making him follow her into the bedroom.
“Megan, don’t make me wait, ” he says in a heated rush as he comes up behind her and encircles his arms about her waist.
Then they’re frantically tearing each other’s clothes off before tumbling into bed. But it’s not Don - not the one she knows. He acts as if nothing is wrong between them. As if everything has been reset to the way it was at the beginning.
She joins him in this fantasy. Just one last time .
He parts her legs and settles in. His hard cock is on the inside of her thigh. No misunderstanding now. He wants this.
She doesn’t remember how his cock had felt that night. Not at all. That memory is gone.
He penetrates her with urgency. He feels so good inside of her. She has missed this. He caresses her breast as he suckles her neck, ever shifting back and forth inside her. Then suddenly one hand is on her hip, holding her down while he thrusts deep inside her, making her moan.
After a while, he slows down and says, “Megan?”
She looks up at him.
“I love you,” he breathes.
Is this how he’s wooed so many lovers? He can fake this very well.
But she knows him. There’s nothing behind his eyes. It almost makes her cry.
She just wants to go back to the fantasy.
She nods, says “I love you, too,” and then grasps his hips, making him penetrate her even deeper. She looks away from him, trying not to see this man before her. She’d rather let herself believe that she is with the Don she once knew. And if she looks into those vacant eyes she can’t.
“Hey,” he says, turning her face back to look at him.
She can’t hold back the tears now.
He slowly withdraws and just lays beside her. He pulls her head to his chest and strokes her hair, letting her cry. After a while, she dares to say what’s been on her mind.
“Don, what happened with Amy –”
She regrets that she had been too high and too drunk that night to comprehend that he really didn’t want to have sex with both of them. Why hadn’t she recognized his discomfort? She would have backed off immediately. It had just been impulsive - she had no real excuse. If only she had been herself that night she never would have done this to him. If only . . .
He looks down at her. “It never happened.”
“Are you serious?” She realizes he’s serious - dead serious.
“NOTHING happened.” He sounds a bit angry. “Let it go.”
“But – “
“Shhh.” He begins urgently kissing her again. “It never happened - it wasn’t you.”
She wishes that what he is saying is true. “But – “
“It wasn’t you,” he murmurs again and she almost believes him. She wants to believe him.
So she follows him into this fantasy world he’s created for them. She imagines that she’s really with him again, if only temporarily.
Megan awakens the next morning with Don sleeping soundly beside her. He looks so peaceful when he sleeps and she wonders how this can be. But he’s always done this, despite the demons that she knows can torture him.
She leaves him there and prepares a breakfast for them on the balcony. As she’s setting the plates and silverware, he comes up behind her and snuggles into her neck.
“Tell me it was all a dream,” he says, pulling her closer.
“You’re in a good mood,” she says smiling. It looks like the fantasy will continue.
“Tell me you didn’t miss this.”
“I missed you.”
And she means it because the Don she knows is buried deep. Locked away in a compartment that she is sure she will never see again. She doesn’t deserve that kind of access to his soul anymore.
She closes her eyes and sinks into his embrace.
Megan packs up while Don looks down at her with a towel around his waist – fresh from the shower. She is packing more than just the summer clothes she told him she was there to get and he looks a bit perplexed.
When he mentions that he can bring some of her stuff when he sees her again at the end of July, she knows she has to prevent this. This needs to be the last time she sees him. She cannot continue the lie. But she knows he’s living in it – pretending everything’s okay. She takes advantage of the situation, telling him what he wants to hear, but making no real commitment to see him again.
“You know what?” she says, “I want to see you somewhere where there’s nothing else going on. Not L.A. – not here. Just us.”
“That’d be nice.”
Megan turns away from him and resumes packing as he stares at her. She tries not to look at him but, in the glimpses that she does catch, he looks worried. He must know that she’s leaving him. The façade is beginning to crack.
She has to go before it dissolves entirely. She realizes now that she’ll never be able to apologize to him. It would only force him to remember what he’s shut away to protect himself so that he can go on living.
And she knows that she wouldn’t be able to face the Don that actually comprehends what she’s done to him.
She has to go.