Title: The Fleeting Nature of Truth
Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 7 December 2009
Fandom: The Good Wife
Word Count: 1384
Summary: She knows - or at least has a good enough idea - of how many other women her husband has been with. So why does it bother her so badly when Kalinda goes to see Peter behind her back?
Spoilers: 1.06 Conjugal
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DW09
Disclaimer: The Good Wife belongs to a bunch of people who are not me. Iím not making an money off this, profit or otherwise, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Beta: Many thanks to darsfebruary for taking a look at this for me. Your commentary and suggestions were insightful and very much appreciated.
Alicia hates Kalinda for this. If it weren't for her, she wouldn't be here in this room with her husband, locked inside it with no way to get away from him until six o'clock in the morning. There's the emergency button, of course. The guard has already fulfilled her obligation and flatly gone over all the rules with her, including the one that governs her only way out. The thing that frightens her about Peter isn't physical violence, however. He would never hit her. No, the things that make her want to get away from him are much more insidious and in their way, far more terrifying.
She's not getting out until they let her out. Alicia wonders briefly if this is how Peter feels every day, and then she pushes away any sympathy she might feel for him. Her job is the reason that she's here. She might be here under the pretense of a conjugal visit, but the only thing on her agenda is information that could free her client. She closes her eyes and turns her head away from Peter. Was this how Peter's whores felt? She almost flinches and squeezes her eyes shut a little more tightly against her own thought. After all, she's here selling a little part of herself to get this information. Payment in return for her body, her presence. It's a simple enough equation.
She hates Kalinda for making her feel this way too.
Most of all she hates it now when her hand has been forced. She knows it's a reaction to the lack of control that Peter's infidelity brought into her life. She can't go out now without someone recognizing her - thinking they know her and judging everything she's done. Her children are surrounded by evidence of her humiliation and their father's betrayal everywhere they go. Some days it feels like they're only safe in this little bubble they've created in their little three bedroom apartment and sometimes not even then. This time it's Kalinda that's forcing the issue. Not overtly, but through a form of coercion that Kalinda knows she can't resist - the urge to do the right thing, to protect the downtrodden. It's not fair.
But if nothing else, the past year has taught Alicia that life is not fair.
So she lies there in bed, with her arms pressed tightly against her side, stiff with tension. Her muscles are strung tight with too much emotion, nerves and discomfort foremost, below that a fear that Peter will want to talk to her. He hasn't shown any expectations or asked for anything from her other than the privacy to shower, but the worry that he will try to apologize or explain his actions again leaves her feeling sick to her stomach. She has no need or desire to hear it. Somehow it only makes it worse, especially when she's not sure - even now - whether to believe a word he's saying.
Eyes still shut, blocking out everything, Alicia exhales and tries to slow her breathing. It's ironic that even with the time they've spent discussing her case, covering everything she can think to ask and more, she's still getting to bed earlier than she has in weeks. Unfortunately, she can already tell that she's not going to sleep at all while she's here. It will be yet another long night, where her thoughts have the freedom to run through her mind and wreak havoc without restraint. She refolds her arms across her chest, pulling them in closer, and waits. It's all she can do for now.
*** *** ***
When she gets out of the prison, she goes home and showers immediately. She scrubs her skin until it's bright red and feels raw. It doesn't matter; her skin still crawls and she can't seem to get clean enough. Alicia pushes the sensation away with determination and goes about dressing for her day.
Jackie is making breakfast as she enters the kitchen. "You never came home last night." Her very lack of a tone makes her observation of it even more pointed.
"I was...working." It's even true, after a fashion. Her reasons for visiting Peter had nothing to do with anything personal, and she's not about to tell Jackie where she really was. Her assumptions would be too great and Alicia isn't will to deal with them this morning. She's tired and sore after a long night of lying too still on a hard mattress. She only has so much more fortitude and she is going to need it all to get through work.
Jackie doesn't comment, but continues to tidy up as if Alicia hadn't spoken.
Alicia pauses on her way out of the kitchen, tapping her fingers briefly against the counter top.
"Please don't worry the kids."
Jackie looks up and gives her head a brief shake. "Of course not, dear."
*** *** ***
It's late in the day before Alicia sees Kalinda without being surrounded by a group of people. Alicia catches her upper arm firmly, but not harshly and pulls Kalinda out of the way. Kalinda lets her do it and it makes their movement smooth enough not to catch anyone's eye.
"Do not go behind my back like that again. Especially not where my husband is concerned." It's the most possessive Alicia's felt of him in months and she has no idea why, especially not after the night she had. After everything he's put them - put her - through, she can't understand it. He betrayed her, neglected their marriage, and destroyed everything that she thought she knew. She owes him nothing. Most days she doesn't even want to think about him. Each time she's reminded of what he did, his betrayal feels as immediate as it did in the horrible days when the truth was just beginning to come out about Peter's actions.
Kalinda pulls her arm away and Alicia lets go instantly, realizing just how tight her grasp had been from the stiffness in her fingers. Kalinda glances from her hand back up to meet her gaze and pins her with an unflinching stare.
"I never slept with your husband." Kalinda doesn't elaborate, and really, what else is there to say? Either Alicia believes her - this woman who's become the closest thing she has to a friend now and yet still knows so little about - or she doesn't. There's no way to prove whether she's lying or not. Alicia knows that all too well. Evidence that seemed damning on the surface isn't what it appears to be, and the things she once held to be the self-evident truths of her world have disappeared like vapor in the sun. She doesn't know what to believe anymore, so it all comes down to faith.
"Kalinda..." Alicia isn't sure what she wants to say or how to say it. She knows she wants to fix this. She doesn't want their relationship - whatever it may be: co-workers or something approaching friends - to be irreparably damaged by her distrust. Loneliness more profound than what she felt lying in that bed with her husband beside her on the floor consumes her for one terrifying moment.
Then Kalinda touches her arm briefly. "I'll see you in the morning." She doesn't smile, and she still looks as unhappy and uncomfortable as she had moments before when Alicia had threatened her, but Alicia suddenly feels reassured. She can breathe again.
She attempts a small smile, just the corners of her lips turning up, and nods. "Okay. See you then."
She watches Kalinda walk away until she blends into the mixture of associates, secretaries, assistants and clients who scurry back and forth across the across the floor, and then goes back to her desk. She touches a few things, moving a stapler a few centimeters to the left and straightening a stack of folders, and then sits down at her desk. She has to get back to work, but her smile grows a little bit more as her thoughts drift to the next morning.
Maybe she'll stop and pick up a cup of coffee for Kalinda. Or does Kalinda prefer tea? Alicia twirls her pen between her fingers and tries to remember what she's seen Kalinda drinking in the past.