After my little moment with Joey at Halloween we went back to our old texting routine. It was actually a little annoying, since I would be at work showing some couple a house and I would feel my phone buzz in my purse and I would have to resist the urge to answer it. It alternates between annoying and kind of sweet, depending on how I was feeling. Part of me really likes how much this guy is into me. I've had my share of success with women, but I've never been pursued as much as this... usually I'm on Joey's side of things, desperately trying to get a chick's attention. This is so much easier... except when it's not.
So I've had to put him off and reschedule all month because hey, there's not really a slow time in this biz if you know how to hustle. And I feel like it kind of hurt his feelings. But I had some spare time over the Thanksgiving weekend... I opted not to go to Iowa and stay with Joy's parents. (They were understanding, but also clearly disappointed since it's now been about two years since they've seen their daughter in the flesh.) So I made a dinner date with Joey for Black Friday.
All week long my stomach was in knots. I couldn't believe how wrapped up in this I was getting. I was more stressed than ever about my hair, my makeup, my style... I am used to making myself look "pretty" for work, but that's more of a "presentable." thing. For this night I wanted to look hot. Like, totally fuckable. Not that that was where I necessarily saw the night going, but I wanted to get his hopes up and see how he reacted. I had just the right Little Black Dress in Joy's closet that I had been saving, I guess secretly knowing that this kind of occasion would come up eventually for me. I tried it on and... vavavoom. I'm used to seeing myself in buttoned-down pantsuits and blouses - cute and professional but not model-quality. With this, and a strapless pushup bra, I looked like I had some real killer curves. Then I went to Sephora to get my makeup and hair done.
When I got home from that, about an hour before the date, Treena was waiting for me. It looked like she had been crying. This was new. Treena isn't exactly a robot or anything but I've never seen her break down in tears. She was really trying hard to keep it together. So I went cautiously forward asking what was wrong and if there was anything I could do.
"Hey Simon... uh, can you sit down for a sec?"
"Sure, no problem."
I had this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach that this somehow concerned me.
"I have some bad news. Like, really bad news. And I don't know how you're going to react but I'm... this isn't good, Simon. So just pardon me if I can't... quite get the words out." She sniffled.
"Okay, you're scaring me." I hadn't felt this severe since the day I woke up as Joy... and even then I had enough composure to go to the conference and woo Abe Fowler.
Treena looked at me like she'd seen a ghost. "She's... gone, Simon."
"Who's gone?" I asked, barely in a whisper... kind of already knowing but afraid to be sure.
"Joy's gone. She's... I'm pretty sure she's dead."
My face went cold. Treena showed me the screen of her laptop and it showed some local paper out in Nowheresville, New England, an obituary for "Brian Meeks," born September 10 1948, died April 12, 2016. Just over a month before she was due to return to the Inn. No wonder my cheapass company got that room at the Trading Post on such short notice.
It said "he" died peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack, discovered in the morning by his wife of 35 years. What a horrifying thought. It dawned on me later that she had gone through all this grieving and her husband is actually still out there somewhere. But at the time my head was just swimming.
She's dead. Treena is 110% sure of that fact: Joy was Brian Meeks. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it.
I tried to put it out of my mind. She's gone, but I'm still here. I never met her, and I've been living this life as I please the entire time. It shouldn't affect me. But if I catch a glimpse of my reflection, it feels like the words "DEAD GIRL" are tattooed across my face.
It was hard to enjoy dinner with this sitting on my shoulders (I couldn't very well bring myself to cancel again.) I was lost in thought, not very good company for Joey. I was still in my LBD but I felt totally ridiculous with my tits pushed up and my neckline plunging all the way down. And I just couldn't bring myself to care about anything he had to say... except when we talked about his work as a lifeguard, and I asked how close he's been to death (he made a few claims about saving lives that seemed exaggerated, and then I had to downplay my sudden interest in the subject.) When the date ended I had to politely decline an invite back to his place. I was anything but "in the mood." He seemed absolutely pissed off about that, and confirmed this the next day with a long series of texts about how two-faced I was and how I was just leading him on and how girls like me never give guys like him a chance and all that bullshit. I couldn't even come up with a response.
It has been a weird week. I'm trying to think what happens next, but all I can do is just live my life day by day and not let this affect me. I'm still here.