How much does your partner need to know? Are there things you should never confess about yourself? Or is honesty the best policy, even if it hurts the other person?
To judge from the proliferating number of “secrets and confessions” websites, many of us are tortured by secrets–secret regrets, insecurities, fears and desires. Some of them are shocking, but others are quirky enough to leave you with a smile.
27. Keeping Secrets
After chatting up Gerry the Drummer for a while at the bar, Emily was pleased to catch sight of Angus in the far corner of the lounge. Excusing herself, she picked up her brimming Cosmopolitan, first taking a generous slurp to make sure it didn’t slosh over the rim during transport. Then she made her way across the room, careful in her platform heels as she navigated the Persian rugs. Angus sported his usual evening garb of dark jeans, Doc Marten boots, black T-shirt and suede jacket. He’d been running his hands through his hair, a nervous habit of his, and a couple of red tufts stuck out from his head like the rays on a child’s drawing of the sun. He was talking to a shorter, balding man in an expensive-looking suit and a burgundy charvet tie.
“Emily,” Angus greeted her as she approached. Mindful of Kim’s instructions to flirt with the prime suspects, she had taken extra care with her appearance tonight. She wore a dress of a subdued color, dark forest green, but the fit was snug, and the hem was high. Its V-neck was narrow but deep, creating a dramatic effect. She watched as both men paid her the silent homage of a long, appreciative look. Then Angus said, “This is Jeffrey Toobin, Esquire. He’s counsel fer the Philadelphia Repertory Theater and we were just havin’ a word aboot mah contract fer the Macbeth score. Jeffrey— Emily Swanson.”
Following the manners of a byegone day, Jeffrey did not offer his hand for her to shake, but he bowed slightly and raised an eyebrow. “Miss Swanson. A pleasure.”
“I hope I’m not interrupting a private conversation,” she said.
“Nay, I’ve nae secrets from Emily,” said Angus affectionately. His words made Emily wince internally. She was keeping a secret from Angus. They had been friends for a long time, and he thought he knew her well, but he didn’t. Not really.
“Having a secret isn’t necessarily bad,” said Jeffrey authoritatively, and Emily blinked. “I should know. You might say that I keep secrets for a living,” he went on.
“So you think honesty isn’t always the best policy?” she asked.
“Certainly not. Some secrets are best left in obscurity. Why, when I was handling divorce cases, I saw it all the time. Perfectly good marriages were ruined when one partner succumbed to an attack of projectile honesty and bombarded the other with confessions of real or imagined peccadillos.”
“’Tis best ye ken the worst,” said Angus stoutly.
“Oh, no. For example, I knew a lovely couple who broke up when the wife learned her husband’s secret. They had to sell their gracious home in Gladwyne, divest themselves of some very choice assets at the bottom of the market, disturb their family, divide their friends… it was quite ghastly and completely unnecessary. Even their dog fell ill as a result of the stress.” He shook his head sadly.
“What was the husband’s secret?” said Emily.
Jeffrey drew himself up primly. “Of course, as his attorney, my lips ought to be sealed, but I shall excuse myself in the knowledge that the events took place long ago, and that the matter did become general knowledge among the couple’s acquaintance. Instead of a weekly visit to his masseur, the husband was seeing a dominatrix and had done so for many years.”
A crack of laughter escaped Angus. “Ye mean, his dearest desire was to crawl around licking her boots? The puir, sick bastard!” Hearing this, Emily grew very still, her eyes on Angus.
“Perhaps,” said Jeffrey. “But his only real mistake was confessing the arrangement to his wife during something called a ‘marriage encounter weekend.’” He allowed himself a slight sniff and grimace, as though detecting a faint odor of excrement. “The irony was that he was never physically unfaithful to his wife.”
“But… what if he had only confessed to her what he wanted?” said Emily. “Perhaps she could have satisfied his… needs from then on.”
“Oh, aye,” said Angus. “Wee hen, would ye don this rubber suit and gi’ me a skelp on the face wi’ yer ridin’ crop?” Still laughing, he wiped his eyes. “Not likely. She’d have been disgusted. I guess yer right after all, Jeffrey. About keepin’ secrets.”
Emily’s face felt frozen, and she could scarcely follow the conversation after that, something to do with Angus’ intellectual property rights in the music he was to compose for the theater. Eventually Jeffrey wandered off to meet a friend, and Angus turned to her.
“Emily, ye do look a treat.”
“Thank you.” Her anger and consternation at Angus’ reaction to the story were still growing, and she knew her face was flushed.
Angus’ gaze fell on the empty sofa beside them. “If we were alone, I’d throw ye down right there and spread yer legs.”
“Is that so?” His words, which normally would have excited her, now had the opposite effect. “Well, we’re not alone, Angus.” She looked away.
“Emily…” Only now was he noticing the change in her demeanor. “What’s wrong? Were ye bored by the talk aboot mah contract? Was I neglectin’ ye?”
“No,” she said, fighting back tears as he slid both hands around her waist. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Dinna lie to me, woman. Come on,” he said. “Tell Angus what’s got ye sae crabbit. I’ll take ye home, set ye on mah knee and sing ye a dandlin’ song.” Smilingly, he crooned into her ear, “Huis, huis, air an each, An t-each a’ dol a Bhàlaigh. Giddy up on the horse, the horse going to Vallay.”
As Angus held her, she caught sight of Ellen, her back to the wall, looking dazed and uncertain. Hector leaned in close, speaking to her intently. Suddenly Emily realized that she was neglecting her duties. Tonight was not about her issues with Angus. “I’ve got to get up early in the morning,” she told him, removing herself from his grip. “We’ll talk again soon.”
Copyright 2016 by Linnet Moss
Notes: Angus’ dandling song can be found here on an educational site from the Scottish government. The site notes of this cheerful ditty: “Little songs used as dandling songs were quite common in the oral tradition, although there are relatively few still in existence. They were sung by anyone bouncing a child up and down on their knees.” Little do they know to what use Angus has been putting the song…