Page 52

“Yeah,” David says. “Yeah, she did.”

“And you, you’re heartbroken, too. After all this time. I think that means something.”

David laughs. “You don’t think it just means I’m mal­adjusted?”

I laugh, too. “Maybe. But even if you’re maladjusted, you might as well be happy.”

He considers it. “You remember she cuckolded me, right? I mean, I’m a cuckold.”

I laugh at the word and then shrug. “So you’re a cuckold. I mean, that’s the reality of it. You leaving her doesn’t change it. Maybe it’s not what you wanted. But it’s what you have. And you can be a cuckold on your own. Or a cuckold with the woman you love.” I smile at him. “You’re the one who told me that it’s nice when you can let go of what you thought life should be and just be happy with what it is.”

David looks at me. He really looks at me. He’s quiet. And then he says, “OK. Maybe I’ll call her.”

The bartender comes by and drops off the check at the table. “Whenever you’re ready,” he says.

Our glasses are half full, but I think we’re ready.

“So should I take from all of this newfound wisdom that you know what you want to do about Ryan?”

I smile at him, taking my last sip of wine. “Nope,” I say. “Still not a damn clue.”

W hen I get home, I wait for Thumper to come to me, and then I sit with him on the floor. I’m not sure for how long. At some point, I get up and open my e-mail. I start to try to write to Ryan. But nothing comes out. I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know that I have much to say. I sit there, staring at the blank screen, until the phone rings, jolting me out of my catatonic daze. It’s Rachel. I pick up the phone and put it through to voice mail. I’m not up for talking at the moment.

A few seconds later, she calls again. It’s not like her, so I pick up.

“Hey,” I say.

“Have you talked to Mom?” Her voice is no-nonsense and rushed.

“No, why?” I immediately sit forward; my pulse starts to race.

“Grandma’s been admitted to the hospital. Mom just got a call from Uncle Fletcher.”

“Is she OK?”

“No.” Rachel’s voice starts to break down. “I don’t think so.”

“What happened?”

Rachel is quiet. When she finally does speak, her voice is meek and embarrassed. She sounds as if she’s in pain and yet ashamed. “Complications from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”


Rachel is hesitant to admit that I have heard her correctly. “Yes.”

“Cancer? Grandma has cancer?”


“Please tell me you are joking,” I say. My voice is brisk and almost angry. I’m not angry at Rachel. I’m not angry at Grandma or Mom or Uncle Fletcher. I’m not even angry at acute whatever-it’s-called leukemia. I’m angry at myself. I’m angry at all those times I laughed at her. All those times I rolled my eyes.

“I’m not joking,” Rachel says. “Mom booked us flights leaving tomorrow morning. Can you go?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah, I’ll make sure I can go. Is Charlie going?”

“We aren’t sure. Natalie can’t fly. He may drive up.”

“OK,” I say. I don’t know what else to add. I have so many questions that I feel lost about which one to ask first. So I just go with the one I’m the most terrified of. “How long does she have?”

“Uncle Fletcher thinks only a few days.”

“A few days?” I thought we were talking months. I was hoping for years.

“Yeah,” Rachel says. “I don’t know what to do.”

“What time is the flight?” I ask her.

“Seven A.M.”

“Is Mom meeting us there?”

“Mom’s at the airport trying to get a flight out now.”

“OK,” I say. “I need to find someone to watch Thumper. Let me make a few phone calls, and I’ll just come over once I have everything squared away.”

“OK,” she says. “I’m going to check in with Charlie. I’ll talk to you soon.”

“OK,” I say. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Part of me thinks I should call Ryan. He should watch Thumper. But I also know that I have so much going on in my life right this very second that adding that complication on top of it seems messy. I won’t be able to give Ryan the attention he needs in the midst of this. It won’t do anyone any good. So I call Mila.

“I’m sorry it’s so late,” I say when she answers.

“Everything OK?” she asks, her voice muffled and tired. I tell her about my grandmother. I tell her about Thumper.

“Sure, absolutely. We’ll watch him. Do you want to bring him over now?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll see you soon.”

I pack up his food and his leash. I put on shoes under my pajama bottoms. The two of us get into the car. I’m at her front door before I know it. I don’t even remember how we got here.

Mila invites us in. She and Christina are in sweats. We whisper, because the kids are asleep. I rarely see Christina, but I am reminded now that she has such a kind face. Bright eyes, big cheeks. She gives me a hug.

“No matter what, we are here for you,” she says. “Not just Mila but me, too.” Mila looks at her and smiles.

“I should be back in a few days,” I say. “He is pretty well behaved. If you have any trouble, just call me.”

“Don’t worry about us,” Mila says. “You just worry about you. I’ll take care of everything at work. I’ll make sure everyone knows you need some time.”

I nod and bend down to rub noses with Thumper. “I’ll be home soon, baby boy.”

When I walk out of the house, knowing I’ve left my dog, it hurts like a pinch. I get into my car and start crying. The tears stream down my face, clouding my vision. I can barely see. I pull over to the side of the street, and I let it out.

I’m crying for my grandmother. I’m crying for my mom. I’m crying for Thumper. For Rachel and Charlie and me. And throughout all of it, I am crying over Ryan.

I know I will get through this, even though it will be hard. It will feel impossible, and yet I will do it. I know that. But the voice shouting in my ear, the feeling pulling at my heart and constricting my chest, says that it would be easier if Ryan were here. It would just be that little bit easier to have him by my side. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you need someone during the everyday moments of your life. Maybe what matters is that when you need someone, they are the one you need. Maybe needing someone isn’t about not being able to do it without them. Maybe needing someone is about it being easier if they are by your side.

I pull out my phone and open an e-mail draft.

May 30

Dear Ryan,

Grandma has been admitted to the hospital with leukemia. She doesn’t have much time. I keep thinking of all the times I made fun of her behind her back for saying she had cancer. The way we all treated it like some big family joke.

And I keep thinking that it would feel so good if you were here with me. It would feel so nice to hear your voice. You would tell me everything was going to be OK. You would hold me. You would wipe away my tears. You would tell me you understood. Just like you did when we lost Grandpa.

I’m leaving for San Jose in a few hours. We’re going to spend her last days with her there. This kind of stuff is why I married you. I married you because you take care of me. Because you make things seem OK when they aren’t OK. Because you believe in me. You know I can handle things even when I feel like I won’t make it through.

I know that I can do this without you. I’ve learned that this past year. But I just miss you right now. I just want you near me. You bring out the best in me. And I could use the best of me right now.

I love you.



I almost hit send. It seems important enough to actually send to him. But I don’t. I choose to hit save. I put the car into drive, and I move forward.