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3.07 - Tectonic Shift

Her insides curdle at the prospect of having to see Arabelle Marsh in person. She's been given so little time to collect herself, and she wonders if the other woman just wants to see her squirm. Arabelle had never given indication of knowing about the affair, but there's all kinds of ways she could have found out. Maybe Vincent's lawyer told her.

She has no idea what to expect.

Nadine considers all the years of her life that she's given to being 'the other woman'. She can recognize, not without shame, how lucky she's been in evading this kind of confrontation thus far, but there's no statute of limitations on this kind of thing.

But like she told Daisy, it's probably just about their ranch in Caracas. She sits stiffly at her desk as she waits for Mrs. Marsh to be brought up to her office. Her mind is whirling with all of the echoed platitudes that had defined the bounds of her choices for eight entire years of her life.

No one will suspect a thing. They're all too busy with their own careers.

This is our money. For after the divorce.

Is this alright?

Does she know it's me?

You're married.

I know.

I think I want to divorce her.

I think I'm falling in love with you.

She pulls out of her thoughts as Arabelle rounds the corner, and rises from her seat. "Arabelle. It's been a long time." She overextends her hand and swallows her nerves. "How are you?"

"I'm well, Nadine. Thank you for seeing me," Arabelle says, coolly pleasant, and Nadine gestures for her to sit. Arabelle lowers herself gracefully on the couch. "Thank you. I can't imagine what kind of day you're having."

"Y-yes, it's a lot. There's still not a great deal of communication and we're… scrambling for information."

"Well unfortunately, that's what I'm looking for. You remember Vincent and I had a ranch outside of Caracas?"

Does she. "Yes I do."

"Well, I kept it going after he passed away, with the same property manager we had for years. She lives in an area that's close to where the quake struck and I have not been able to reach her. I know it's a lot to ask, but I wondered if you could help me find out about her?"

"Of course," she says, because it's the only appropriate response. Anyway, she knows Carla, has been thinking about her since news of the disaster hit this morning. Not that Arabelle would know that. "What's her name?"

"Carla Alvarez… You might have even spoken with her on occasion."

"...Yes, I believe so."

"I feel bad about asking, but... she really is like family."

Nadine jots the name down on a sticky note unnecessarily - for Arabelle's benefit - then looks up at her. "I'll do my best to get whatever information I can." She smiles.

"Thank you, Nadine. It's so terrible what's happening," Arabelle says, standing. "I have fond memories of being there with Vincent. It's such a turbulent place, but he found it beautiful." She moves closer, and Nadine is suddenly glad to have the desk between them. "Something about it really spoke to him." Arabelle is looking her right in the eyes, and Nadine can't help but wonder if this is some sort of test.

She nods. "I remember," she murmurs, wistful. And when Arabelle simply looks at her, she continues, "S-so, I will look into this and get back to you as soon as I can."

Arabelle smiles, but it doesn't reach her eyes. "Thank you. Bye."

"Yeah - bye." Nadine lowers herself into her seat as the other woman leaves, and then allows herself a shaky breath, fumbling her glasses a little. Such a short interaction to leave her feeling so rattled.

For the rest of the day, she wrestles with the dilemma of coming clean to Arabelle, convinced that she cannot endure another meeting with that woman without giving herself away. Maybe it will make her feel better, to tell the truth. Maybe it will bring her closure.

Whether or not she deserves that kind of relief (and Arabelle that sort of pain) is another story.

Nadine feels queasy inside. She thought she was in love. It hardly seems like an excuse now.

Maybe Arabelle already knows. Maybe she's known this whole time. Maybe she's just messing with Nadine because she can - because she feels entitled to. That's the kind of person she used to be. Nadine remembers how Arabelle would try to wield her limited influence over Vincent's career wherever she could, because she could (see: Mike Barnow), and old habits died hard.

Nadine puts off their conversation for as long as possible, because she isn't keen on finding out right away whether or not this woman really is just fucking with her. She arranges to meet Arabelle late in the evening the next day.

And when the time of their appointment finally arrives, she arms herself with a fresh mug of tea and good news, and hopes that that will be enough to get her through this conversation unscathed.

She has to take a few deep breaths before she feels prepared enough to enter her office and face Vincent's wife. "Arabelle, hi."

"Hi, Nadine."

"I have good news for you."

"Carla's safe?"

"Yes, she is. Well, she was injured, but she received treatment at a local clinic and she'll make a full recovery."

Arabelle lets out a breath. "Oh, I'm so relieved. Thank you. As I said, she's like family. And I appreciate you taking the time to do this for me."

"Well, I was glad to help." And before she can stop herself, she barrels on, rather recklessly, "Actually… I was happy to be able to do something for you." As if this small thing was penance enough for all those years of deception.

Arabelle gives her an odd look, and Nadine wonders if this was the wrong move. "Oh," Arabelle says, "why is that?"

Too late to back down. Nadine waffles a little, and then lowers herself into a chair, hoping that the other woman will do the same. Maybe this will feel less intimidating when their height difference isn't so evident. "Well, ah, I feel like we fell out of communication... after Vincent passed... and it was so… well it was... such an abrupt end… We never really... got a chance to talk," she explains, in fits and starts.

Arabelle looks away. "Well the truth is, it's painful for me to be around you, Nadine," she says plainly, and Nadine feels her heart stutter in a little panic.

"I'm sorry..."

When Arabelle continues, Nadine finds it hard to breathe. "When the scandal hit, I was blindsided. I felt so ashamed. Realizing I didn't know my husband the way I thought I did. I mean the idea that he was a… conspirator in this rogue operation to blow up the Iran peace deal."

Nadine pauses. Wait. Is she off the hook?

"Covert meetings, secret bank accounts - all of it. And I didn't have a clue."

Nadine shifts gears smoothly, but she really isn't sure what she's supposed to say now. All of that... it's everything she'd felt, too. "Well." She takes a second to gather her thoughts. "What you need to remember is that… he died trying to do the right thing. He was a good man who took a wrong turn for… idealistic reasons - no matter how misguided they were." She tilts her head, thinking that she really can believe the things coming out of her own mouth.

Arabelle's jaw is tense, and her eyes are bright with gathering tears.

"He lost his bearings a little," Nadine continues, "but… that didn't change everything about who he was." He loved me, Nadine thinks. He loved you.

"Yes. That's right. But it also doesn't change how blind I was."

Nadine blinks. She knows all about being blind to Vincent's actions. "You loved him," she says woodenly, trying to keep her voice from breaking. "And we know what they say about that." She gets up, turning around before she can give herself away.

There's a beat of silence, and then Arabelle asks, "Nadine, is there anything else I need to know?"

Her heartbeat is loud in her ears. I slept with your husband. I slept with your best friend's husband. Really, there are so many ways she can answer that question, if only she has the guts. (She wonders errantly whether Mrs. Marsh and the former-Mrs. Barnow are still as close as they used to be; whether they talk about these things.)

But she isn't feeling brave today. "No," she says, making eye contact. "There isn't."

There's a glint in Arabelle's eyes.

She knows - she must know.

"Well. Thank you again..." Arabelle stands up and gathers her things before turning back to look at Nadine. "...for your time." And the word is heavy with all of the contempt that Nadine is sure the other woman must feel for her. Arabelle walks out of the office.

"Take care," Nadine calls, because she's already backed out of confessing once and doesn't know what else there is to say. She rolls her eyes at herself and fervently, shamelessly hopes that she will never have to see that woman again. If this was as much closure as she could secure, she'll take what she can get.

It's good enough for her.