Apple Pie Poker

by Marialena Skaramagka

     I hit play and watched myself in the recording. But what I saw isn’t what I remembered.
     For starters, I didn’t like the Elvis impersonator. There was nothing to distinguish him from the dime a dozen men wearing acrylic hair wigs and moving their aged hips to old school Rock and Roll.
     This guy didn’t wear any dark glasses. He had to be able to make out the words. I almost fell onto Jason but he grabbed me by the shoulders and started laughing.
     It must have been the first time I’ve seen him laugh so hard. I didn’t even know he had dimples. Then came the song and there I was, drunker than ever, saying something I couldn’t quite make out but it had been enough to get us all in major trouble. Then there was a sound of a bell and a guy behind the synthesizer started playing “Burning Love” while Jason and I were kissing.
     I hit pause.
     I could watch no more.
     “What do you mean we are married?”
     The lawyer we had across the table was the one who was supposed to sort everything out and get us all out of this huge mess. He kept loosening a tie which was never a good sign for a lawyer and texted someone non-stop. Then another urgent call had him out of the office leaving us in a stone heavy silence.
     “Why did you ever let me do this?” Jason asked me.
     “You know—when I was younger I always said that I was going to get married really fast from the day I’d meet the right guy,” I said with a half smile, trying to make fun of things, but the more I tried, the more it hurt.
     “The right one that is. Rebecca. The right one.” He stood up and looked out of the office. Mr. Bothered was still on the phone.
     “Bridesmaid? bride? What’s the difference?” I kept desperately trying to tell him what I’ve never had the guts to say.
     That’s what being a wallflower does to you. I’ve known Jason my whole life. From the day he gave me a bite of his apple—not that’s not a pun— till the day he announced his engagement to Jennifer at Olive Garden. We were all there drinking our mocktails while they were gazing into each other’s eyes, like drooling lovesick puppies ready to breed.
     “I’m getting married in three weeks,” Jason said.
     “I don’t really think so dear. You’re already married. Shall I play it again?”
     He drank some water and grabbed a cookie. Chocolate always made him happy. “Hah, this is made with brown butter.”
     “They served us the good ones…”
     “They better be, with all the money I’m going to give them—hey do you want one, they’re like the ones we had after—”
     I could see him replaying every little moment in his mind. The gambling, the shots, the crazy wedding, the morning after.
     What had started as Jason’s Bachelor weekend had turned into a honeymoon more savory than sweet. I had got what I’ve always wanted but that always came with a high price.
     Or a high-interest loan. It was so stupid to even get a loan. You would be dead and turning on your grave while you’d still have to pay your mortgage.
     And now here we are,
     I am Rebecca. I married the man of my dreams. The man I’ve always wanted, you know the one I was scribbling his last name next to mine, the one I had wet dreams for and the one who really helped me with my Maths homework. If only I had had the courage to grab him during one of those early face-to-face encounters and tell him I didn’t give a rat’s ass about x and y and that the only thing I was really interested in, was R and M. Maybe then, just maybe I wouldn’t have to give him back.
     Then it dawned on me.
     I didn’t have to.
     I mean what have I actually accomplished by being the nice girl and the polite friend who was always there?
     No, I would stop the nonsense at once.
     Mr. Bothered came back inside and presented us with two documents. “Ok Ms. Fruitful and Mr. Bear here you are. Sign these and we will do whatever we can do to have this marriage annulled as soon as possible.”
     Jason signed his copy and gave me his pen.
     That pen.
     “Is this the pen Jennifer gave you?” I asked
     “Yes,” he flipped through the pages in an effort to help me, as if I wasn’t smart enough to know where to sign. Maybe I should draw a cross and pretend to be illiterate. That would make me laugh.
     But there was something that would make me laugh even more.
     “I’m not signing anything,” I heard myself say.
     “Come again?” Jason’s pen dropped.
     “I’m not signing anything.”
     There you have it, now get that cookie babe. I’m not going to give you up that easily. I have been waiting for you to even look at me this way for an eternity and now—there was no way I was going to leave you.
     Jason rubbed the skin between his eyes and then he leaned close to my face.
     I could smell his fragrance and remembered having that rubbed all over me.
     “Rebecca—” he got that daddy tone “Rebecca please please sign these. This is not the time to play.”
     “But we did play. We played Poker Jason.”
     “You are so not a Poker Face Apples. You always show your cards to everyone.”
     “That’s why I keep on losing.”
     He didn’t understand it was my only chance to play. It was bet time for me and I was about to collect. “I’m never going to sign these papers.”
     “Are you nuts?” Jason yelled. “I’m getting married in three weeks—You are the maid of honor Jezuusss, get with the programmeee—”
     Such a glorious victory. All the chips were mine. If I weren’t so in love with that man, I would certainly walk away from that office and never come back. It would be the first time I would act irresponsibly —no wait the second if you count the wedding— and it felt better than I have imagined. That guilt feeling in my guts had evaporated once and for all. I was at the right place at the right time and grabbed my luck by its hair.
     “Ms. Fruitful, why are you saying all these?” Mr. Bothered asked. “My associates and I were under the impression that this was clearly what you both wanted? To get this marriage annulled?”
     I couldn’t exactly tell him everything that rushed through my mind, because my thoughts went off like Fourth of July fireworks. Jason had taken on that condescending look now, paired with a bittersweet menace.
     “Rebecca, I need you to sign the papers. Please.” He said and I still didn’t pick up the pen.
     “No, no, no,” I said, “I’m not letting you go.”
     At that moment, a blonde legal assistant in her twenties came in and took a seat next to Mr. Bothered.
     “Is there something I can do to help here?” She asked. She had this long, blonde, beachy hair caught up in a bun. I could see a white patch of skin inside her shirt. She came straight from the beach to hell.
     “No, no I’m afraid I’ve made up my mind. I’m sorry Jason. You can do whatever you want from now on. Even if it was not meant to be, even if we shouldn’t have done this, it did happen. And what are you going to do? Pretend it didn’t happen, sign these papers and throw everything away? Our friendship?”
     “Don’t you dare talk about our friendship.” Jason came near my face and the only thing I could see was a cookie crumb on the side of his lower lip. I took it and put it in my mouth.
     “You are right. There is a brown butter in this.”
     I walked away and left them they’re dealing with the mess.
     Then Jennifer rang. I let it go to voicemail for the first fourteen times but after she threatened to come over with the police, I had to pick it up. I couldn’t imagine how it would appear to the neighbors if a preppy bride-to-be and some cops came over to pay me a visit.
     But she couldn’t bring me a parking ticket for marrying her man.
     I got the legal rights to the land now.
     She went on and on calling me different names and even went as far as telling me that I had an evil plan—yeah my evil plan was that I had no plan— to steal her future husband.
     Isn’t it funny how women always blame other women for stealing their men? It’s like I was the only one who was there. For some magical reason, Jason had been just a victim of my lethal charm and manipulative ways.
     I could go on for a few minutes telling her what her helpless victim and I did after the wedding, but she was bound to break her well-manicured fingers and it would be a pity and a waste of money.
     “How am I going to get married? We have invited everyone, my uncle is flying over from Italy. I’ve picked the cakeee,”
     I could hear her sniffing her nose and trying to take some deep breaths.
     Yoga could help with the annulment.
     The joke of a woman.
     “I’m sorry Jennifer—well not exactly— but I get where you’re coming from and all. I’ll be brief and honest with you.”
     The only way to peel off a bandage is to do it with a decisive move. “I’ve loved Jason since I was twelve. I loved him before I had even met him— I’m sure you understand—even though he’s ridiculously immature at times and he forgets to take a break from work, he was made to be my man.”
     She started sobbing and pleading with me to not destroy her life.
     She had no idea of what a destroyed life was, that’s why she begged me not to destroy hers. I had to inform her that when you get to that moment, the moment when you have nothing to lose, then no destruction fears you.
     When she started threatening me again, I hung up the phone and deactivated it.
     A few hours later, Jason came over. We hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks by the time I let him cross my front door. He had informed me that he had brought a bottle of wine and something sweet with him.
     Jason and I had a sweet and wine pairing pact based on which, whenever we visited each other’s houses we had to bring with as a bottle of wine and some sort of dessert.
     As he lifted up the decorative blanket on my sofa, he almost sat on my cat, Giggles, who was under the soft fabric.
     Even if I didn’t see him for ten years, when I did, it would always be like the first time.
     “She’s pretty upset,” Jason said, “I am too.”
     “You are?”
     He grabbed Giggles and put him on his lap. My kitty purred and purred.
     “I was, I am still a bit but now—now—I also feel something different. I don’t understand how it came about. Overall, I am a very organized and disciplined man.”
     “You are also human, remember? shitty things come with that as well,” How I wanted to go sit next to him, on his lap like my kitty.
     “I don’t want to sign the papers,” he said and my eyes lit up. “I think I love you Apples. I guess it started in the baking contest when you came over at four am to help me make the apple pie from scratch. When you came over just for me, to save me.”
     “I’m not supposed to say that, but I could cross an ocean to make this apple pie with you,” I started coughing, “but then again, that would not be practical. I’m sure you would have made another pie after the day it would take me to get over here— if I was in another part of the world— and then maybe I wouldn’t be able to find a flight, and the apples— what would I do with the apples? Would I have to carry some with me? And then—”
     He came next to me and took my face in his hands. He pressed my lips on his, just for a brief moment and we were all of a sudden twelve and back in his mum’s kitchen, peeling the apples at four am.
     I could smell the cinnamon and taste the crisp pieces.
     Red,
     fleshy red.