One of our favorite authors is Megan Hart. She writes books that always leave you affected in some way or another. Her latest book does this as well.
I’ve lived in this house for twenty-five years, and I don’t think I’ve ever known the full length and width of the kitchen before. Not this way, as I pace and try to occupy myself with cleaning crumbs from toast I didn’t make and splashes of coffee I didn’t drink. I empty the fridge and freezer, scrub away spilled blobs of ice cream and toss packages of brussels sprouts I have to admit I will never cook. I organize the condiments by the size of their bottles and think, stupidly, “there. Now he’ll never be able to find the ketchup.”
Ross isn’t coming home tonight, or tomorrow, or the night after. He might be home sometime during the day after that, if he comes to the house instead of going to the office from the airport, but I didn’t ask him his plans, because I don’t care. He could stay a month and I won’t miss him, and this, like the bag of brussels sprouts, is something I finally have to force myself to admit.
I stand in my kitchen and I look at everything around me, and I wonder how in the hell I got to this place. What happened to me? To my life?
I turned around, I think. And there he was.
And nothing has been the same since, and it will never be the same. It doesn’t matter that I ended it in the back seat of his car with his fingers against my thigh and his tongue in my mouth. It doesn’t matter that I have a responsibility to my daughters, that they deserve a mother who can keep her shit together. It doesn’t matter that it’s over, because it happened, and I am forever changed.
The pain and weight in my chest aren’t new — I’ve felt this stab before. For a period of a few months several years ago, I was convinced I was having a heart attack. The good part of that was that it convinced me to stop smoking, to eat better, to start working out, so I wouldn’t be that woman people talk about in hushed tones, the one who keeled over in her thirties from an unexpected heart attack.
No, now I’ll be the woman they talk about behind their hands, the one who up and left her husband after twenty-five years.
The pain is costrochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs and sternum, and there’s no cure for it except rest and sometimes anti-inflammatories. It hurts more when I breathe and less when I stop, an irony I do not miss. I press my fingertips to the underside of my left breast, my eyes closed, and wish away the pain. The fact is, it feels like someone’s taken a spear and stabbed it through my chest and out my back.
Through my heart.
And then I am folding like a house of cards, onto my knees on the hard kitchen floor, one hand still trying to make my heart stop hurting and the other pressed to my mouth to keep myself from sobbing out loud. There’s nobody to hear me but myself, but I don’t want a repeat of the day in the shower. I don’t want to lose myself that way again. Yet there I am, lost.
I am lost.
I am selfish. I am greedy. I’m incapable of being anything else, and I get myself off the floor. I get my phone. My spear-stabbed heart leaps when I see the tiny red 1 indicating a message, but I can’t make myself see who it’s from because it’s still Schrödinger’s cat. At this point, it’s both from Will and not, and I will never know until I check it.
In the bathroom, I set my phone on the counter and wash my face. I touch up my makeup, which is stupid because it’s six o’clock in the evening and I’m alone. I turn my face from side to side, studying features so familiar they’ve become alien, like saying a word over and over again until it no longer has meaning. I force myself to count to ten, then twenty, then again. To a hundred. To a hundred and fifty while I clean the toilet and shower and tub even though Maria does a fine job and they’re not dirty. I refold the towels. I organize my cosmetics drawer.
And finally, at last, when I can stand it no more, I check the message. It’s not from Will, it’s from Andrea canceling our lunch date for tomorrow, which is fine with me because that means I now have nothing on my Saturday schedule and don’t need to even wake up early. I should fill the tub, read a book. Go to bed early. I should do the right thing.
Of course, I don’t.
One word, that’s all I type, but my fingers are so unsteady on the phone’s touchscreen that I have to type it three times before it stops autocorrecting.
I wait, breathless, to watch the tiny letter D for delivered become an R for read. I hold the phone in both hands, willing him to answer. Waiting, waiting, waiting. And then —
It should feel anticlimactic, after all that breath-holding, but I’m just so fucking relieved that he answered me I don’t care what he said. How are you?
We are strangers, circling and cautious, and I hate it but understand it, too. I’m the one who ruined this, and I’m the one who should leave it alone, but I can’t. I don’t want to.
Fine, I type. Just settling in with a book. What are you up to? Anything fun?
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. The minutes tick by, and even though I can see that he’s read the message, the bastard, he’s not replying. I can’t cry about it. All I can do is fume and wait. And just when I’ve given up and turned on the shower, intending to do what I know I should, shower and go to bed with a book, the small “ping” alerts me to his answer.
I’m at Trinity.
Blue lights, green lights, the steady thump of music. I remember Trinity. We went there dancing once. My throat closes; eyes burn. I’m just about to turn my phone off completely when another message comes through.
You can be here in two hours.
I’m on a train.
I don’t know which stop I got on at; I only know the train is going fast and the world outside becomes a blur. I should get off, but I don’t. The universe is playing a cosmic joke on me. Here I had my life—a good life with everything a woman could want—and suddenly, there is something more I didn’t know I could have. A chance for me to be satisfied and content and maybe even on occasion deliriously, amazingly, exuberantly fulfilled.
So this is where I am, on a train that’s out of control, and I am not just a passenger. I’m the one shoveling the furnace full of coal to keep it going fast and faster.
If I could make myself believe it all happened by chance and I couldn’t help it, that I’ve been swept away, that it’s not my fault, that it’s fate…would that be easier? The truth is, I didn’t know I was looking for this until I found Will, but I must’ve been, all this time. And now it is not random, it is not fate, it is not being swept away.
This is my choice. And I don’t know how to stop.
Or even if I want to.