After talking to Hiromi, I felt my composure slipping and moved into the shadowy doorway of the next building. I was in so much pain that I could barely move. Plum and Canfield had stepped on me and I felt crushed. All this time, I was operating under the delusion that no matter how callous Plum appeared to be, we were friends and there were certain lines that friends just didn’t cross. I wanted to believe it so badly that I ignored all of the signs because the idea of losing her friendship made me feel bereft. How can I go on without Plum? I…love her. She’s the only friend I have. I stood there weeping uncontrollably while trying to sift through my thoughts and feelings. That’s when the small, still voice in my head spoke up. Do you really love Plum or are you just afraid to be alone? You’ve only known her for a short time. How could she already be your everything? Mentally, I argued back that she paid attention to me when I was invisible to everyone else. She befriended me and spent time with me. And what about all the times that she bought me things? She spent time with you because you were a mark that needed to be priming. I was nothing more to Plum than a pawn in the game she was playing.
Most people in my position would become enraged and confront Plum. I felt a sort of impotent anger. As much as I hated what Plum had done to me, a part of me believed that it was no more than I deserved. Why should she be any different from others I have known over the years? I am such a doormat that all of my relationships ended with my friend or partner using me and then wiping their feet on me on the way out of our relationship. The thought of confronting her made my stomach hurt. Growing up, my father spanked all of the rebellion out of me. I learned early on that it was less painful to submit rather than stand up for myself because fighting back only prolonged the punishment. It made me uncomfortable whenever someone was angry or disappointed with me. There I stood, not wanting to confront Plum but knowing that I had to do something. I laughed bitterly. Plum was destroying me and I still couldn’t find the strength to put my foot down.
I suddenly realized that I had been outside for quite a while and if I didn’t get back inside the club then she would begin to wonder where I was. My heart was telling me to storm in there and tell Plum off, let her know how badly she had hurt me, make her realize that there was no way in hell she would get away with it. The drama queen in me let that scenario play out mentally for a few enjoyable moments. Once I calmed down, I realized that Plum had already done her dirt and none of it could be undone. It was doubtful that she would undo any of it even if she could. Confronting her would cause more trouble than any personal satisfaction would be worth. Knowing Plum, it might hurt me more to see how little she cared about my personal feelings. Since I was a pawn then it would be unwise to let her know how much I had learned and what my next move might be. Get yourself together Patricia! If this woman had any feelings for you at all, she would not have set you up! Stop trying to get from her what she obviously isn’t willing to give. So you’ll be alone again. If it hasn’t killed you in all this time, it’s not going to kill you now. At least you know what to expect from loneliness. For your own safety, you’ve got to break free of her and move on.
I wish I could say, I came up with a brilliant plan on the spot. The truth is that it’s not in my nature to plot and plan. At that time, I was an awful judge of character which made me bad at reading people and anticipating what they might do next. The more I thought about things, the more my anger began to simmer. I put her phone on vibrate, shoved it into my waistband and pulled my top out over it. I went back inside and had a drink on her tab. I spent the rest of the night lost in thought, dimly aware of Plum’s hard partying. She took a break from dancing and began staggering around looking for her cell phone. I sat watching her with a barely concealed smirk on my face. She had taken from me, so I was going to take from her starting with the stupid cell phone which was constantly stuck to her ear. Plum used that phone so much, she must have been going through withdrawal pains and separation anxiety. When she asked me about it, opened my eyes wide in what I hoped was an innocent expression, and acted dumb.
By the time the bars closed down, she was sloppy drunk and in no condition to drive. I had never seen Plum out of control. Knowing the depth of her treachery, it was surprising to me that she would drink to the point of helplessness in my presence. It’s because she doesn’t perceive you as a threat. You are as harmless as a declawed kitten. The first time you found out about her betrayal, what did you do? You moved into her house and went to work for her! I pushed those upsetting thoughts to the back of my mind, confiscated her car keys and got us back to her place. I helped her up to her room and dumped her onto the bed, taking the opportunity to search her closet and dresser drawers for the chit while she passed out. Beyond a roll of hundred-dollar bills in the toe of a riding boot, which I stuffed into my cleavage, nothing turned up. I was straightening the closet back up when Flame came in.
“What the hell are you doing in here?”
“I was uh, looking for Plum’s gown. I was gonna help her get ready for bed.”
“I’ll do that, go on down to your room.”
“I don’t mind.”
“Are you deaf? Get out of here and go to bed.”
“What are you, my mother?”
“What did you say?”
“You heard me Flame. Stop telling me what to do.”
“Look little girl, don’t start thinking that because Plum had pity and gave you a little attention that you’re gonna be running things. I run this house and I run you. Now, get your ass down to your room and go to bed.”
“Are you kidding me with this? I’m not in the mood for this nonsense Flame. If you want to help Plum get ready for bed then knock yourself out but don’t tell me what to do.”
Flame’s astonishment was almost comical. I found my own bravado surprising. It must have been coming from the liquid courage I had imbibed at the bar. Whatever was causing it, I decided to enjoy it while it lasted. Flame was standing in the doorway of the closet with her left hand parked on her hip. I tried to brush past her and she pushed me roughly. I stumbled backwards and fell onto my ass. Flame move to stand over me, laughing viciously. The anger that had been simmering all night suddenly boiled over and I launched myself up off of the floor and tackled Flame, knocking her down. Being an inexperienced fighter, I attempted rain punches straight down at her face, making it easy for her to grab my wrists after two punches. The adrenaline and alcohol swimming around in my system made the rest of the fight blur together. I barely felt her punch me back. I went into an enraged frenzy. It actually took me a few moments to realize that Flame was not fighting back because she was unconscious.
The adrenaline dump from the fight still had me keyed up. I got up and staggered down to Flame’s room, looking around for something to break or take. I was done allowing people to walk all over me and wanted to make that glaringly clear to Flame, in case she ever felt the urge to try me again. Her room was sparsely furnished. There were no framed pictures to break or mirrors to shatter, no nick knacks to crush. I caught sight of her purse and upended it on the bed. In her wallet was a driver’s license with my name on it. Now I know who set up the bogus bank account in my name. I studied the photograph on the license and was surprised to find that Flame had achieved a close approximation to my appearance. A wig and glasses obscured much of her face. I stood there staring at the photo, marveling at the transformation. My family wouldn’t be fooled but someone who did not know me well might be. If Flame could pass for me then I could pass for her!