“You always straighten your hair.”
“I haven’t straightened my hair in four days.” She frowned, but I didn’t make a comment about her disappointment. I didn’t want to deal with her emotions that afternoon. For the past four days, she’d been a wreck, the opposite of the woman I married, and I wasn’t one to deal with people’s emotions.
What Jane needed to do was pull herself together.
I went back to staring at my computer screen, and my fingers started moving quickly once more.
“Graham,” she grumbled, waddling over to me with her very pregnant stomach. “We have to get going.”
“I have to finish my manuscript.”
“You haven’t stopped writing for the past four days. You hardly make it to bed before three in the morning, and then you’re up by six. You need a break. Plus, we can’t be late.”
I cleared my throat and kept typing. “I decided I’m going to have to miss out on this silly engagement. Sorry, Jane.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her jaw slacken. “Silly engagement? Graham…it’s your father’s funeral.”
“You say that as if it should mean something to me.”
“It does mean something to you.”
“Don’t tell me what does and doesn’t mean something to me. It’s belittling.”
“You’re tired,” she said.
There you go again, telling me about myself. “I’ll sleep when I’m eighty, or when I’m my father. I’m sure he’s sleeping well tonight.”
She cringed. I didn’t care.
“You’ve been drinking?” she asked, concerned.
“In all the years of us being together, when have you ever known me to drink?”
She studied the bottles of alcohol surrounding me and let out a small breath. “I know, sorry. It’s just…you added more bottles to your desk.”
“It’s a tribute to my dear father. May he rot in hell.”
“Don’t speak so ill of the dead,” Jane said before hiccupping and placing her hands on her stomach. “God, I hate that feeling.” She took my hands away from my keyboard and placed them on her stomach. “It’s like she’s kicking me in every internal organ I have. I cannot stand it.”
“How motherly of you,” I mocked, my hands still on her.
“I never wanted children.” She breathed out, hiccupping once more. “Ever.”
“And yet, here we are,” I replied. I wasn’t certain Jane had fully come to terms with the fact that in two short months, she’d be giving birth to an actual human being who would need her love and attention twenty-four hours a day.
If there was anyone who gave love less than I did, it was my wife.
“God,” she murmured, closing her eyes. “It just feels weird today.”
“Maybe we should go to the hospital,” I offered.
“Nice try. You’re going to your father’s funeral.”
“We still need to find a nanny,” she said. “The firm gave me a few weeks off for maternity leave, but I won’t need all of the time if we find a decent nanny. I’d love a little old Mexican lady, preferably one with a green card.”
My eyebrows furrowed, disturbed. “You do know saying that is not only disgusting and racist, but also saying it to your half-Mexican husband is pretty distasteful, right?”
“You’re hardly Mexican, Graham. You don’t even speak a lick of Spanish.”
“Which makes me non-Mexican—duly noted, thank you,” I said coldly. At times my wife was the person I hated the most. While we agreed on many things, sometimes the words that left her mouth made me rethink every flow chart we’d ever made.
How could someone so beautiful be so ugly at times?
My chest tightened, my hands still resting around Jane’s stomach.
Those kicks terrified me. If there was anything I knew for certain, it was that I was not father material. My family history led me to believe anything that came from my line of ancestry couldn’t be good.
I just prayed to God that the baby wouldn’t inherit any of my traits—or worse, my father’s.
Jane leaned against my desk, shifting my perfectly neat paperwork as my fingers lay still against her stomach. “It’s time to hop in the shower and get dressed. I hung your suit in the bathroom.”
“I told you, I cannot make this engagement. I have a deadline to meet.”
“While you have a deadline to meet, your father has already met his deadline, and now it’s time to send off his manuscript.”
“His manuscript being his casket?”
Jane’s brows furrowed. “No. Don’t be silly. His body is the manuscript; his casket is the book cover.”
“A freaking expensive book cover, too. I can’t believe he picked one that is lined with gold.” I paused and bit my lip. “On second thought, I easily believe that. You know my father.”
“So many people will be there today. His readers, his colleagues.”
Hundreds would show up to celebrate the life of Kent Russell. “It’s going to be a circus,” I groaned. “They’ll mourn for him, in complete and utter sadness, and they’ll sit in disbelief. They’ll start pouring in with their stories, with their pain. ‘Not Kent, it can’t be. He’s the reason I even gave this writing thing a chance. Five years sober because of that man. I cannot believe he’s gone. Kent Theodore Russell, a man, a father, a hero. Nobel Prize winner. Dead.’ The world will mourn.”
“And you?” Jane asked. “What will you do?”
“Me?” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms. “I’ll finish my manuscript.”
“Are you sad he’s gone?” Jane asked, rubbing her stomach.
Her question swam in my mind for a beat before I answered. “No.”
I wanted to miss him.
I wanted to love him.
I wanted to hate him.
I wanted to forget him.
But instead, I felt nothing. It had taken me years to teach myself to feel nothing toward my father, to erase all the pain he’d inflicted on me, on the ones I loved the most. The only way I knew how to shut off the hurt was to lock it away and forget everything he’d ever done to me, to forget everything I’d ever wished him to be.
Once I locked the hurt away, I almost forgot how to feel completely.
Jane didn’t mind my locked-away soul, because she too didn’t feel much either.
“You answered too quickly,” she told me.
“The fastest answer is always the truest.”
“I miss him,” she said, her voice lowering, communicating her pain over the loss of my father. In many ways, Kent Russell was a best friend to millions through his storybooks, his inspirational speeches, and the persona and brand he sold to the world. I would’ve missed him too if I didn’t know the man he truly was in the privacy of his home.