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“So I read about this guy David,” Ryan says. “Is David still a . . . still a thing?”

“No.” I shake my head. “No, not a thing.”

“I want to kill him,” Ryan says, smiling. It’s a dangerous smile. “You know that, right? I’ve wanted to kill him for months. I sometimes dream about it. Notice I didn’t call them nightmares.” Our shoes squeak on the hospital floor.

“I’m not too fond of Emily, either,” I say. For the first time in months, I allow myself to feel the rage I had when I found out he was seeing other women. I can feel it once again, the way it rises to the surface like a flotation device. The way it keeps bouncing back no matter how hard you push it down.

“Emily never held a candle to you,” he says, when we finally get to the ice machine.

I grab a cup and put it underneath the machine. I could say more. I could ask more. But I decide to leave it at that. The machine grumbles, but it spits nothing out. Ryan slams the side of it, throwing his whole body against it. Chips start to flow out into the cup.

We walk back to Charlie and Natalie’s room and hand Charlie the ice chips. He thanks us, and even though Natalie appears to no longer be in pain, I figure it’s best if Ryan and I go to the waiting room.

“You’ll come get us if you need anything?” I ask Charlie, and he nods.

Ryan makes a fist and gives Charlie a pound. “Good luck,” he says.

The waiting room is mostly empty, save for a new grandparent or two. So we take a seat in the middle by the wall. Sometimes we talk about a lot of things. Sometimes we don’t say anything. Sometimes we are quiet for a long time, and then the conversation takes off again when one of us says something like “I can’t believe you don’t like Persian food” or “I can’t believe you bought me that beard trimmer to get me to shave my pubes. Definitely the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever read. I read that, and I literally walked straight into the bathroom and trimmed them.” Ryan smiles, laughing. He gives a fake shiver. “Mortifying.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I honestly did not think you would ever read that.”

“No, but it’s good I did, right? A little pinch of embarrassment at first, but now I know. And henceforth my nether regions will be squeaky clean.”

I look down at the ground. The hospital carpet is a pattern of diamonds. Diamond after diamond after diamond. I unfocus my eyes a bit and realize that if you look at it a different way, it’s a large series of Xs. Or Ws.

“I think if I’ve learned anything about how to . . . fix this,” I say, “it’s that I really need to work on telling you what I want.”

“Yeah,” he says. “Same here. That’s a big one for me. I was just going along with what I thought you wanted all the time, and after a while, I think I just grew pissed off about it.”

“Yeah,” I say, nodding my head. “I assumed that the way to be a good partner to you was compliance.”

“Yes!” he says, eager in agreement.

“And so I never asked for the things I needed.”

“You expected me to know them.”

“Yeah,” I say. “And when you didn’t know them, or you didn’t guess them, I just assumed you didn’t care. That I didn’t matter. That you were choosing you over me.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” he says. “Imagine if I had just told you I hate international food.”

“Right!” I say. “I don’t even care that much about eating Persian food or Greek food or Vietnamese. I really don’t. I only ever cared about having dinner with you.”

“So that’s one of the things we have to do better, Lauren. We have to. We have to be honest.”

“Yeah,” I say.

“No,” Ryan says, turning toward me, grabbing my hand, looking me in the eye. “Brutal honesty. It’s OK to hurt me. It’s OK to hurt my feelings. It’s OK to embarrass me. As long as you do it from love. Nothing you could ever say out of love could hurt as much as it did to look into your eyes and see that you couldn’t stand me anymore. I would rather be told to shave my pubes a thousand times than have you look at me the way you had been.”

I want to roll around on the floor with him. I want to smell his hair. I want to kiss his neck. I want to sneak into one of those doctor “on call” rooms they have on soap operas and make love to him on the bunk beds. I want to show him what I have missed. Show him what he has missed. Show him what I have learned. I want to lose sight of where I end and he begins.

And we will do that. I know that. But I also have to remember that this is the beginning of the solution. This is the part where we do the work to fix our marriage.

“I love you,” I say, my voice quivering. My muscles relaxing. My eyes filling with tears.

“I love you, too,” he says, his voice breaking into a cry. It’s a controlled cry. His tears barely make their way over the edge of his eyelid.

He kisses me.

And it is now that I understand the true value of the past ten months.

Sure, I have learned things about myself. I’ve learned what I want in bed. I’ve learned to ask for what I need. I’ve learned that love and romance don’t have to be the same thing. I’ve learned that not everyone wants one or the other. I’ve learned that what you need and what you want are both equally important in love. I’ve learned a lot. But I could have learned these things with Ryan by my side. I could have sought out these lessons with him instead of away from him. No, the true value of this year isn’t that I’ve learned ways to fix my marriage. The value of this year has been that I finally want to fix my marriage.

I have the energy to do it. I have the passion to do it. I have the drive. And I believe.

I want my marriage to work. I want it to work so bad that I feel it deep in my bones. I know the sun will rise tomorrow if I fail. I know that I can live with myself if we don’t make it. But I want it. I want it so bad.

“So you’ll stayed married to me?” Ryan asks. It has the weight and vulnerability of when he asked me to marry him, all those years ago.

I smile. “Yes,” I say. “Yes!”

He grabs me and kisses me. He holds me. “She said yes!” he says to the waiting room. The few people in here just look at us and smile politely.

“I feel so good right now. I feel alive for the first time in years,” he says. “I feel like I could conquer the world.”

I kiss him. I kiss him again. He’s so cute. And he’s so handsome. And he’s so smart. And funny. And charming. I don’t know how I stopped seeing all of that.

“I never lost faith,” he says. “I mean, in the back of my mind, I always hoped. You know that game people play in the car, when you see a car with one headlight out, you make a wish as you—”

“Flick the roof and say ‘Pididdle,’” I say.

He nods. “I’ve only ever wished for one thing. Each time.”



“Even this whole year?”

“Every time.”

We need each other. Whatever that means. We complement each other. We have great potential to make each other better. I was the one who had the strength to be honest about what we were doing to each other. I was the one who was brave enough to break this thing in half in the hopes of putting it back together. But when I lost faith, he’s the one who had enough for both of us.

Ryan takes his hand out of mine for the first time in hours. He leans back and puts his arm around me. He pulls me in to him. The arms of the chairs make it slightly uncomfortable, and yet it is entirely comforting. I let my head sink into the crook of his armpit. I breathe in, sighing. He smells. He smells like Ryan. A scent pleasing in its familiarity and yet repulsive in its odor.

“Ugh,” I say, not backing away. “You need to wear deodorant. Have you forgotten to keep yourself deodorized?”

“Smell it, baby girl,” he says in an overly manly voice. “That’s the smell of a man.”

“The smell of a man is Old Spice,” I say. “Let’s invest in some.”