“Yes! How do you know about all of this?” I ask him.

“Linus. When I got to the hospital, Linus gave me a full blow by blow. He was so upset. I calmed him down, explained how the epinephrine worked and that you’d be just fine.”

“Oh, my poor baby,” I say. “Thank you. Wait.”

“Waiting . . .”

“How did you know to come to the hospital?” I ask him.

“Because I saw you get carted here from the softball game,” he says.

I pause. “How did you know to come to the softball game?”

“You asked me to, remember? Late last night?”

Did we drunk text Davis last night and invite him to the girls’ game? Yes, I recall, yes, we did. “Of course I remember,” I say. “Did you see Bridge too?”

“Yes, and I don’t know who else exactly I talked to. There were a lot of people there, most in softball uniforms. It was a bit of a melee. You are deeply cared for,” he tells me.

“No,” I tell him firmly. “I’m not. I wish I were, but those people were here for Celeste. For my friend. She’s very hurt,” I say, my throat catching. “Davis, she’s very badly hurt, and for reasons too complicated to go into right now, it’s my fault.”

He makes a tsking sound into the phone. “People say stuff like that whenever they’ve been in a scary accident. But from what I hear, you were in anaphylactic shock when the whole thing went down, so it’s pretty hard to imagine you were culpable.”

“Trust me,” I say. “The thing is, I haven’t been in a good . . . uh . . . headspace lately. Something happened, between me and Seth. I need to talk to you.”

Davis makes a low noise in his throat. “Ah . . . Wendy . . . ,” he begins. “I’m trying so hard to be respectful. I’m trying to give you space . . .”

“I know we don’t usually touch this subject with a ten-foot pole,” I tell him. “But I think that’s been a mistake. I think I should have been more honest with you about what life is like for me, even just from the perspective of a friend. Though”—I take a deep breath—“the thing is, I have feelings for you that don’t stop at friendship.”

The other end of the line is silent.


“I’m listening,” he says, without giving any indication of how he’s taking this. “I can do listening.”

“Ok, well, listen to this. I’ve spent the last week having a pretty creative nervous breakdown,” I tell him. “And I’ve come away realizing that everything I’m doing is wrong. I’m parenting wrong, I’m working wrong, I’m friending wrong, and I’m definitely not being a great wife. A good wife would be trying to work things out with Seth—really work them out, not just hide all our problems behind overachievement and overcompensation. The truth is, if I had really wanted to save what Seth and I had, I probably wouldn’t have let you come on board in the first place, because I’ve been attracted to you from the very first.”

There’s a sharp intake of air on the other end of the phone.

“But obviously I did, and at the same time, I had absolutely no intention of changing the situation, changing what Seth and I had or trying to fix it or whatever, because the way I’ve been running my life lately, if something’s not on fire, then it doesn’t get dealt with. It’s strictly triage around here, and it’s been making me feel terrible. It’s convinced me that I don’t deserve anything better, because I can’t cope with what I already do have.”

Davis is still silent on the line.

“Even after I caught him trying to cheat, I thought I could just ignore what I knew. I know how stupid that sounds now, but I really did think it was the way to play things. To keep acting like I had it all, even as I finally could say, without a shadow of a doubt, that my marriage needed to be over. And I just want you to know I’m so sorry about all that. It never occurred to me that while I was busy jerking myself around, I wasn’t doing the right thing by you either. Until it did.”

“During that pretty creative nervous breakdown?” he asks.

“Very creative, to be honest.”

“But Wendy, why are you telling me all of this?” he asks. “I’m not the person you need to be talking to right now.”

“You’re right. I need to be talking to Seth.”

At exactly that moment, Seth walks into the otherwise quiet waiting room. “What do you need to be talking to Seth about?” he asks, almost casually.

I ignore Seth and say into the phone. “You’re exactly right, Davis. It’s time for me to do that right now. Ok if I call you back later?”

“Better if you meet me in the ER when you can,” he says. “That way the nurses can cross you off the AWOL list. And I can . . .” His voice drifts off. When he speaks again, the old thought is forgotten. “Good luck. Wendy. Remember our motto: passion wins.”

“I will,” I tell him, and end the call. Then I turn on my husband.

“I know you haven’t been faithful,” I start. It’s partly a bluff—it’s possible the move he put on me when I was Celeste was his first offense, but that doesn’t seem particularly likely.

Even so, a tiny part of me wants to be hopeful when his face falls and he says, “What are you talking about? Unfaithful? When? I don’t—”

I hold up a hand to stop his bullshittery. “It’s too late for all that, Seth,” I tell him. “Save your breath.”

His shoulders collapse. “How long have you known?” he asks.

I pause and consult my heart. When was the last time he came home from the studio in a great mood about his work and in the mood to celebrate? With me? “Years,” I tell him.

“Oh, Wendy,” he says. He sounds sad and very tired. I am tired, too—tired of protecting my conscious from what my unconscious has surely understood for a long, long time. Why else wouldn’t I push back about the city studio we can hardly afford or his long hours or the complete lack of compassion he’s shown me? I am, in all other areas, a reasonably strong woman. I negotiate on the cost of printer toner and the internet bill and never, ever buy an extended warranty. But there was nothing to negotiate with Seth, was there? He was already lost to me. I had no ace up my sleeve, and I wasn’t willing to walk away from the table.

Until now.

“We’re breaking up,” I tell him. “And doing it in a way that spares the kids from any drama as much as humanly possible. Our dissolution will be just like everything else I do: well planned, carefully orchestrated, and all for the best of our family.”

Seth looks at me in shock. I don’t miss a beat, though, because for some reason, every single thing is crystal clear in my mind. What to do, how it will work, when it will happen. “We’ll sit down with Linus and Bridget and tell them we’re going our separate ways by mutual agreement. We’ll make sure they have counselors to talk to whenever they need them. They’ll visit you on Wednesday nights and every other weekend, as long as you live within a drivable radius from school.”

“What?” he stammers.

“Honestly, Seth, I think we’ll be good coparents. And so you know how absolutely serious I am about this going smoothly, we’ll split all our assets—the house and retirement savings—right down the middle. I won’t put up a single fight.”

Seth is still staring.

“I’ve made good investments,” I tell him. “Play it my way, and you’ll have time to sell some art before you have to worry about money.”

“I . . .”

“Talk to a lawyer anytime you want. No hurry there. But I’m telling the kids tonight, and you’d better be there for that. And afterward you’d better be gone.”

“Where will I go?” he asks me.

I look at him askance. “What do you mean, where will you go? You can stay in the studio rent-free, at least tonight. After all, it has a sofa.”

Seth has the good sense to look ashamed. “Wendy, look. I didn’t mean for things to go this way. I didn’t know how bad I’d be at the two-kids, white-picket-fence life, is the thing. I didn’t know how much it would kill my soul.”

“You still don’t know if you’re bad or good at it, Seth,” I say bitterly. “Because you never put yourself all the way into it. You never tried to be the dad you might have been. Were you even faithful to me back when we lived in the city?” I ask him. “Because now that I can see things more clearly, I think we went wrong before Birchboro Hills even factored into the picture.”

He frowns. “We went wrong when you talked me into having kids before we were ready.”