“If you can’t close the book, turn the page.” Morgana’s footsteps pound out those words over and over again. She has no idea where she has heard that phrase, but it works nicely to fill in the gaps between one excruciating thought and the next.
Still stinging from the revelation that Jack had never ended his involvement with her sister, Jewel, Morgana walks aimlessly home. Her Regal Countenance Mode forgotten, she plods along the Lake path in what can only be described as a “schlep.”
Oh, Jack, Jack, Jack, she thinks. How many times can you disappoint me? Good thing that I’ve already given up on you. Good thing I see nothing to mourn over except my own inability to have my own damned life.
Oh, and Jewel! My favorite sister! You must have been so mad at me when I married Jack. How the hell was I supposed to know that you still loved him when you screwed around on him, and then ran off with another guy?
Oh, Jack, how could you have used me to get back at Jewel? How could you have treated her little sister like the whore you believed Jewel to be after she betrayed you?
Yes, she thinks, I was only 16—Jack took advantage of me.
When the word “Bullshit!” echoes through her head, she realizes that her conscience was listening.
Stung again, Morgana admits the truth to herself. Yeah, I was only 16, but I knew what I was doing all along. It felt good, I can’t lie—punishing Jewel, the secret, hot, steamy romance with an older, good-looking guy. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t right to pick up with someone else’s “leavings,” as her mother told her upon discovering just who this “Jack” guy really was. Bad enough that he was too old for an innocent 16-year-old girl…but the jilted lover of her sister, Jewel? Really? How could she stoop so low, her mother wanted to know.
Her mother made it sound like Morgana was displaying a loss of pride, but had she called a spade a spade, “betrayal” would have been a more accurate characterization of Morgana’s behavior. To be fair, though, both Jewel and Jack had betrayed each other first.
Had Morgana been accused of “betrayal” instead of “a loss of pride,” perhaps it would have made a difference in her decision to marry Jack, but second-guessing with what-ifs after the fact is just running a fool’s errand.
It wasn’t easy dealing with that ill-fated decision. It had cost her many years of subliminal, seething enmity from her family. In spite of Jewel’s scandalous behavior, Morgana’s transgression of picking up with Jack and marrying him was regarded as the worst betrayal of all.
But who knows what betrayal really is? In this very moment, nobody better than Morgana! The realization is visceral. Betrayal is that nasty, opportunistic boogeyman lurking in the darkest corner of your soul who sacrifices loyalty on the altar of really bad decisions, sanctioned by the avenging angels of teenage angst. She is nauseated by the very thought.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The only thing that kept Morgana going all these years was her resolve to see herself as the victim in this relationship. Only now can she see how she made a bad situation worse, how her complicity in Jack’s retaliation against her sister, Jewel, only served to keep them apart officially but locked forever in an unholy alliance of Morgana’s own making. As inlaws, the bond between Jewel and Jack would never be completely broken, since there would always be weddings, funerals, graduations, christenings, and holidays which would occasion all kinds of get-togethers and family dinners. The spark between Jewel and Jack could be easily overlooked by the casual observer, but it was always there, come to think of it.
She shudders to think that her mother, her father, her sisters, everyone but her, watched Jewel and Jack exchanging furtive glances all these years, never forgetting what happened, never forgetting that thanks to Morgana, this scandal would be a permanent fixture in their lives.
Little did Morgana know, after all these years, that not only had Jewel and Jack buried the hatchet long ago, but that each had continued to harbor resentment against Morgana, seeing her as the real impediment to their happiness.
Up to this moment, she had always regarded herself as a cog in a wheel that she, herself, did not put into motion. Now she recognizes that this illusion gave her a false immunity from any blame.
She remembers now how, ever since she married Jack, she’s always felt like an outsider among her own sisters and parents. Jack’s family hadn’t been particularly warm and fuzzy either, but that’s just the way they were; her own family had never been that way before. Never one to fully trust her own hunches, she ignored those little glimmers of truth. There were always cakes to bake, dishes to wash, and kids to bathe.
She thought of her friend, Angie, who always said that Karma is one pissed-off, self-righteous bitch! It suddenly occurs to Morgana that the only thing that made her a victim was her own Karma.
Too tired to take the stairs as she does in her perkier moments, she gets on the elevator. She doesn’t see any of her neighbors, which is a relief. There’s no one she wants to talk to right now. If she liked the taste of alcohol, she’d probably just get drunk.
Back in her apartment, she retrieves her red flannel lumberjack nightgown from the dresser drawer, kicks off her shoes, and heads to the bathroom. She peels off her clothes as the tub fills with steaming hot water.
She kicks her bag over and out rolls the little mini bottle of Boney Stalker Scotch. Without a second thought, she uncaps it and downs the rest of its contents. Ugh! The bad taste makes her eyes tear and her nostrils burn but it quickly fades as she feels a tranquilizing warmth rippling through every fiber of her body.
It’s all OK, she thinks. Everything is everything.
Soaking in a nice, hot bath, she lets her mind go to some other place where she is neither the victim nor the perpetrator. She concentrates on the perfection of water, and how it just has to obey a few rules and everything’s fine. So simple.
Music Credit: Matt Simons – Catch & Release (Deepend remix) – Lyrics Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LXsm9y-z3I)
Photo Credit: “Haunted Mirrors,” by artist Allison Diaz
To Be Continued in Chapter 24