Hands on hips, Collette stared at Chewy, watching his mouth struggle to form words. Just as something started coming out, she snapped,
“Those better be truthful words Chewy, or so help me!”
Chewy’s lips remained pursed, mid thought. He could see just inside Cleo’s where people’s next were craning to watch the fight.
“Let’s move over here a bit, hon,” he started, and tried to guide Collette by putting his hand around hershoulder. She shrugged him off.
“Don’t fucking touch me!”
“For fucks sakes Collette! The whole bar is watching!” Chewy snapped back. He rubbed his face and sighed. “Look,” he said, holding up his hands in acquiescence, “I’m only trying to not cause a scene.”
Collette’s brown eyes drilled into Chewy’s face.
“Oh really?” she said, suddenly dropping her tone. Chewy felt sweat bead up on his forehead. “You don’t want a ‘scene’, huh?” She looked around blindly. “You better start talking Chewy. NOW.”
Chewy wondered how he got to this point. The whole thing had been one bad move each step of the way.
“I don’t know how things got here, Collette. That’s the god’s truth!” He paced around a bit.
“Candy is fucking pregnant,” Collette hissed. “What is that?! Some miracle of the Lord?? Did she secretly keep your sperm or something?? Did you get drunk one night and pay her a fucking visit, you fucking drunk asshole!” Collette went over and kicked Chewy in the shins, who doubled over. Collette began punching at him, slapping at his face. “Say something you dick!!”
The door to Cleo’s opened and Clem stepped out, ducking under Collette’s flaying arms. He calmly pushed in between them.
“I’m just gonna leave this door open here, so we can see what you two are up to and such. I won’t hesitate to call the law on you Chewy, so you had better mind yourself.”
Both Collette and Chewy stood apart, breathing heavy. Collette’s makeup smudged her face as it mixed with her tears. Suddenly, she sat on the curb and buried her hands, sobbing.
Chewy stared at her for a bit, wondering if getting a beer would be another bad move at this moment. Sweat was pooling around his neck, sliding down his back. It was hard being a big man in the humid heat of New Orleans. An extra cold, frosted beer with ice chips slinking down the sides sounded very cooling. Enticing. He look at the open door to Cleo’s, then decided to sit down as close as he dared next to Collette instead.
“Look. Candy and I were broken up by the time you and me got serious. I swear.” Collette looked up, her face wet and red from weeping.
The street began to fill more with the setting of the sun. The darkening sunrays played off the walls of the colorful homes that lined the block on either side, sitting almost right up to the edge of the road, leaving just enough sidewalk. Before too long, dinner time would turn to revelry and still, nothing would make this day better.
Chewy looked up and nodded at a neighbor walking by. He reached into his chest pocket and removed a packet of cigarettes. After he light up, he exhaled slowly, and watched the end glow. “Sometime after you and me are doing it, Candy comes to me and says she’s pregnant. Boom. Just like that. It happened right here at Cleo’s.” Chewy dragged on his cigarette, exhaling the smoke so it rolled around in his mouth first. “I was like, ‘no way, you’re lying’, and told her fuck off. But then, like, I don’t know a month later, she comes back with a fucking ultrasound photo. She tells me when it happened, like, calculated back to what night, and then I like, remembered and shit. I didn’t know what to do, Collette! I don’t want some kid of mine not to have me be a dad because of some shit I did to it!”
Collette felt her stomach cramp up and leaned over her knees just in case something came up. After a moment, she felt well enough to speak.
“This is some fucked up bullshit Chewy! First off, why she keeping a baby like that?? Just to try and keep you around?? What about her saying you’re still her man and shit??”
“Look, Collette,” Chewy continued, pulling hard on his cigarette. He pinched his nose between his fingers, and closed his eyes for a moment. “I told her that because I had to tell her something–she was fucking committed to keeping the baby–and I tried for a while, like a few weeks– to convince her to like, change her mind, or at least consider it, but then the window to do something about it made it just fucking wrong. Also…,” Chewy sat up, firming up his spine, “this is my kid, Collette. I just can’t abandon my fucking kid!”
“Yeah!” Collette held both sides of her head with her hands to stop the feeling of the world spinning. Her fists balled up and released a few times.
“Fine. But you don’t need to be her fucking boyfriend either, no do you, you fucking jerk! And how the fuck do you not tell me, who is your fucking girlfriend, what the fuck is going on???”
“I didn’t know how,” Chewy said, his eyes downcast in shame.
“Chewy?” a small voice called out from behind where they were sitting.
“Oh what the fuck now?” Chewy spat out, as he and Collette turned to the voice. Candy stood a few paces behind, her hand on her baby bump.
Somewhere in the pause, Collette sprung up and lunged toward Candy, Chewy tackling her around her waist just as Candy stumbled backwards. Shocked, Candy managed to grab onto the wall of the first house she could reach.
“Are you fucking kidding me??” Collette screamed from the sidewalk, under Chewy’s pinning. “Let me go asshole!” She screamed and ripped away from his arms. “This is MY MAN, Candy!!” she shouted, as she made pointing motions with her index finger.
“Chewy? What is she saying??” Candy said, still gripping the wall. Chewy crawled up to stand. He welcomed the ground to open right up and swallow him in for good.
Candy slid over to where he stood, never taking her eyes off Collette.
“Chewy, who is this chick??”
“Yeah Chewy,” Collette mocked, “Who am I?? I’m his goddam girlfriend, that’s fucking who! Bitch!”
Candy looked at Chewy, tears welling in her eyes.
“You think you can talk to me like that? I’m pregnant!” Candy rubbed her swollen middle, holding the wall of the house behind her for support. Candy pulled out her phone and began scanning the screen. “This is US. Our baby’s family! That’s me and HIM.” She turned the phone for Collette to see the photos flipping by. A few looked like Chewy wearing the same shirt he had on at the moment. “We’re supposed to get move in together next week cuz we’re getting ready for the baby…” She shoved a picture of a newly painted apartment on Marais St. at Collette’s face. Her hand shaking, she covered her mouth. “We’re going to pick out a crib… today…”
Collette stared at Chewy, watching his face crumble much the same way their relationship was beginning to crumble. How could she be so blind? How had she been taken in so easily? Just like that the man she was in love with had a whole other life happening right under her nose. She peered into Cleo’s noticing that the lights overhead had been turned on. Around her dusk was settling. It was like her relationship was settling to the ground all around her and soon, it would turn to dust.
Candy began sobbing. “What kind of person would do this to a pregnant lady? It’s so cruel!” Chewy ran over to her just as she began to collapse.
Stunned at being turned into the criminal, Collette got off the ground and stood in front of Candy and Chewy. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Don’t you see what’s going on here, Candy? He played you. He played me! He played us both.” She looked deep into Chewy’s face, searching his soul under frightened brown eyes. Before she realized, her hand flew across his face, slapping him. Hard.
Several of the patron’s at Cleo’s came stumbling out the bar, spilling onto the street, drinks in hand. Clem came out and stood in the melee, taking it all in. He saw Chewy holding his face, his arm propping up Candy’s waist.
“Well, friends. It’s getting late. I’m gonna wrap this up for ya’ll,” he said, and as gently as he could, grabbed Collette’s hand, leading her away. He saw me standing there gaping with everyone else. “Antoinette, how long you been out here, girl? Come here, give me a hand.”
We began walking when suddenly Collette collapsed to ground onto her hands and knees, shaking.
“Chewy!” she groaned. Clem and I hoisted her up, one arm around each of us. Chewy had lied. Not only was what they had all share was a fake, but Collette had been conned into living a fake life all the while living with the con-artist himself.
©Isabel Alvear, August 2020