*In Part 1 of “The King of Untrue,” Marcus, the ever-cheating husband of Mara, fell in lust with a sexy mysterious online stranger calling herself “Elaine.” After months of teasing him, the person finally invited Marcus to meet her at a downtown Los Angeles hotel….
Clean shaven and smelling good, Marcus, in faded blue jeans, white long-sleeved button down shirt, black dress shoes and a dark blue sport jacket, floated into the bustling lobby of the massive Bonaventure Hotel at five PM, an hour early.
Not especially fond of downtown—he lived and socialized on L.A.’s west side—-Marcus, hopped up on Viagra and mellowed out on pot, was drawn there by curiosity, expectation and unmitigated lust.
Usually, he got a mental high prior to pouncing on a new woman, but uncertainty muted that to a carnal buzz. Elaine was either going to be wicked fun or a total bust. Something told him there’d be no in-between.
Regardless, he brought along his trusty “fuck kit”, a vintage Louis Vuitton doctor’s bag of basic toiletries and sex toys, including a new dildo still in the box, handcuffs and more Viagra.
After asking for but not finding information carrying his name at the front desk, Marcus took a seat at the sparsely populated lobby bar, ordered cranberry juice with a lime slice and tried to calm down.
Whoever this chick is, he mused, I’m gonna tear her up for putting me through this cloak and dagger shit. The thought was interrupted by the hotel desk clerk he’d spoke with earlier, informing him that his meeting has requested him at LAPrime, the hotel’s restaurant on the 35th floor.
In the elevator, Marcus sensed something was about to happen. The last time his intuition blinked like this, he was being stalked by an vexed husband. If that were the case, being on the 35th floor would not be a good idea. Too late. The elevator reached the top and the doors opened.
“Hello Mr. Craftsman.”
Standing in the restaurant foyer, the curves of the woman who’d masqueraded as “Elaine” looked spectacularly sophisticated in a baby blue Chanel suit accented by flesh tone stockings and sensible, chic, light tan suede heels. Straight, dark brown shoulder-length hair that stopped just at the shoulders framed Dani’s expression of both mischief and scorn.
Dani? Dani! The very last person Marcus expected to see this evening was his sister-in-law. My God. His mind raced back to the beyond-provocative emails exchanged with, as it turns out, his wife’s sister.
Bewildered—-does Dani want some of this?–embarrassed and angry, Marcus kept it together, initiating a sheepish half chuckle and a hug reciprocated only enough to keep things courteous in view of the maitre’d. Shit.
Once seated at an out of the way table Dani had requested earlier, she ordered a martini; Marcus had his usual tumbler of scotch. The short walk allowed him to regroup emotionally. Sensing Dani wasn’t here for sex, he started in: “You know, I really shouldn’t even be sitting here with you after the game you”—
“Marcus, you can talk or you can listen. Which do you wanna do?” He’d never seen her like this, stoic but seconds from exploding. Marcus sat back in his seat.
“You nearly destroyed my sister, so I set out to destroy you,” she said in a forceful voice just above a whisper. “You know damn well what our father did to me and Mara as kids. And you do this to her?”
“What did I do….”
“Marcus, stop. Okay? Just stop. Here’s the thing: I’m the ‘crazy one’ in my family. I’m the supposed freak who is suspicious about men, but I’m the one who told her you weren’t doing anything. Well, guess what? She’s naïve sometimes but not stupid. And no, she doesn’t know what I did. She doesn’t know we’re here. I played that game with you online because I had to know for myself.”
“So you did it for six months? You need a life, Dani….”
“I HAVE a damn life. My children, my mom and Mara. She’s your wife, but she’s my sister.”
According to Dani, Mara learned of Marcus’s cheating five years into the marriage. “She’d have found out sooner if she looked for it. She trusted you. I said, ‘You’re dreaming.’ She said, ‘No, I know he is, I’ve seen things.’” That last sentence pinched Marcus. His slight-of-hand had been part of his cheating high.
“She tried to live with it,” said Dani, “hoping you would change. My sister cried in my arms every time she came to see the kids. Then, when she came by, she didn’t cry anymore. That’s when I got worried.”
Dani took more than a sip on her Martini and then began to tell a story that even the king of infidelity found incredulous.
Mara decided she’d cheat, too. But not just cheat. Competitive by nature, her acting out was both designed to outdo her husband’s philandering and somehow find relief from the scalding pain of abuse by the two most important men in her life—-her father and Marcus.
In all, over a three year period there were thirteen men. “That I know of,” said Dani.
“I don’t believe a word of this,” Marcus retorted, the sentence barely escaping his mouth through anger-clinched teeth. “I know her password. I would check her phone. She wasn’t doing nothing”, he declared, grappling for emotional footing.
“You DO know your wife is a genius, right? C’mon, man! She’s a numbers girl! All those phone numbers and information, she purposely kept in her head, Marcus! But she knew everything YOU were doing. She called you an amateur.” Marcus’s jaw tightened.
It was the discovery of a threesome Marcus arranged in San Diego while on business that truly pushed Mara over the edge. According to Dani, in retaliation Mara slept with a man on a particular birthday of Marcus’s–to which Marcus confidently replied he and Mara celebrated that birthday at home, just the two of them. “She never left the house.”
“You’re right, she never left the house,” said Dani. “The next day she told me that you mentioned how “frisky” she was that night….”
“The sex was great. Your point?”
“Marcus, she was excited because…” In the hour they’d been spewing controlled anger across the table, this was the first time Dani had hesitated. In her brown eyes, water welled.
“She was excited because of what? Spit it out.”
“Because there was a man….”
What? SAY it!”
“Mara was excited because there was a man in your bedroom the whole time you guys made love.”
“No, Marcus, listen to me—-he was some guy she met online who gets off doing dangerous shit; he was under your bed the whole time, listening. Masturbating. You were drunk. When you fell asleep, she said she took him into the garage….”
With that, Marcus rose from the table. He felt like he might faint. Nausea. A heart attack? He couldn’t breathe. “I can’t deal with this….” Like a zombie, he staggered to the elevator and leaned on the button.
Once onboard, he worked to maintain composure when, on the way down, the elevator stopped on three floors, taking on three people. Dani took the next elevator down and found Marcus in the fetal position on the concrete lobby floor, balling. Trying to pull him to his feet, Dani fell upon her brother-in-law, crying with him.
A hotel security guard, a female concierge attendant and two concerned guests stood over the two but just away, giving respect to this tortured bundle of human pain.
Mara sat in meditation on a rickety little bench in the backyard garden of Dani’s west side tract home, where Mara had moved for a while, taking in her share of the afternoon California sun. It had been three painful weeks since she’d returned from a Women in Science week in Denver only to find her dysfunctional world as she’d known it, obliterated.
There was enough anger to go around—for Dani’s actions, for Marcus, for herself. For the men she did. In her home, before she moved out, there’d been crying, shouting, holding, crying, more shouting, more crying.
Dani was remorseful. In retrospect, she would have done things differently. Elaine should never have existed. But she doesn’t regret helping her sister. Not one bit.
Mara and Marcus entered therapy together, but neither could make enough room within the hurt to let healing thoughts plant a flag. He quit while Mara continued with another therapist, on her own.
After an extended sick leave, she returned to work. Got herself an apartment. Though at times it all seems so insurmountable–still–she knows she is going to make it. She hadn’t hurt like this, ever. Yet she survived.
As for Marcus, after the hotel summit with Dani he immediately shuttered all his traps, as he lovingly referred to his online dating memberships. In searching for a way to fill the hole in his insecure soul, he had the stunning revelation that there is no satisfaction in sport fucking when there is no one on which to cheat. A king of pain, dethroned. For now.
The Twisted was created by Steven Ivory, a veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]