EWTF preview series, chapter 1.2: things to do before forty
Here’s the second chapter for my Exactly Where They’d Fall preview series! This one is more newly revised than most of the others, so hopefully I got all the typos out of it, lol! ðŸ˜‰
1.2: THINGS TO DO BEFORE FORTY
The dog died. Amelia had her mother’s dry-cleaning in hand, helped herself into the house to drop it off, and there was the animal’s body, lying still between the stove and a chewed up gnawing bone, dead on the cold ceramic floor. Amelia couldn’t tell at first, so she crouched down low to watch for its breathing. Nothing. She stood again, looked around her mother’s empty kitchen, watched for movement, tapped the animal with a gentle toe. Nothing.
She was an old dog, having joined the family when Amelia was fourteen. Amelia never liked animals much, and never cared much for this dog in particular, a chubby Labrador with a mottled beige coat. But death was still death, abrupt and unsettling. Her mother was alone now. Her father was fine; they’d spoken to him on the phone just days ago. But he was working thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. As a retired Air Force mechanic, they hoped he might be finished with the Middle East. They hoped he would be home to stay until the company he worked for started picking up government contracts. This time, it would be a year, he told them. He said he could come home for the holidays, though they both knew he couldn’t afford that much travel. Amelia could still remember all of his deployments when she was a girl. During Desert Storm, she had been twelve – her seventh grade class sent care packages with handmade cards, magazines, beef jerky, eye drops, and socks. Now she was a full grown woman and every day there were the news reports. You didn’t need to be in combat – didn’t even need to be a soldier at all – doctors, reporters, translators, travelers were killed all the time by children who looked ordinary but had bombs strapped to their chests, or in helicopter crashes, shot down, spinning out of the sky like pinwheels gleaming in the sun. She tried not to think about any of it, until death with its abrupt and unsettling persistence showed up right there at her feet. An old dog, dead.
Amelia started to cry. She set the dry-cleaning over a dining room chair and wiped at her eyes furiously with the back of her wrist. Her mother wasn’t home yet from The Lotus, so no one was even home when it happened. The poor thing had died alone. Suddenly Amelia felt guilty for not spending more time with her, for being too self-involved as a teenager, for not taking her on more walks, for not playing fetch. She never liked dogs, but still, she could have played fetch a time or two.
She didn’t know what to do, so she called Drew. “Can you come over to my mom’s?” She gasped and sniffled into her cell phone. “Lady is dead.”
Drew’s apartment wasn’t very far away. She’d heard him rustling into his jacket before even hanging up his phone, and minutes later he showed up, jacket undone, shoes untied and hair unbrushed. In fact, from the pillow creases on his face, it looked like he’d been napping. She wasn’t sure if he had the smallest clue about what to do with a dead dog, but his being there was a form of help in itself. “Oh, Melie,” he said near her ear as he slipped his arms around her, pressing their bodies close.
They sat down at the kitchen table, as far away from the dead dog as they could while still being in the same room. Drew sat beside her, held her hand, and she turned away from the dog to look at him instead. His gentle brown eyes were narrow and inquisitive as he stared at it, a fingernail between his teeth as he thought. Amelia figured he was probably composing a poem about the fragility of life, or the arresting poignancy of death. Or maybe he was just wondering what to do with the body.
They had a wedding to go to that evening. Her mother had planned on finishing up paperwork at the spa and leaving Mindy in charge for the day. Amelia still had to shower and do her own hair, and she wondered if they had the time to take care of the dog and still make it to the wedding. She tried her mother’s phone, but there was no answer, which likely meant she was already driving.
It wasn’t very long before Claire made it home. As she stepped into the house, Amelia broke the news. “Mom,” Amelia said. “Lady is dead.”
Claire went straight into the kitchen, heels clicking on the stone tile. She stood over the dog for approximately forty-five seconds, a blank expression on her face. “She was so old,” Claire finally said. They were all silent then for another moment, as if they were each wondering if they should say something. A prayer? Should Drew recite a poem? But Claire just pursed her lips into a slight frown, nodded her head once firmly, then turned to the coffee pot, pulling out a filter full of old, wet coffee grounds. “Will you call Corbin for me, sweetie? Only if he’s not busy. Tell him I’ll pay double his regular wage.”
Corbin. Amelia cringed a little.
“Well, we can’t leave her lying here while we’re gone,” Claire insisted.
That wasn’t the problem. Corbin worked for her parents, offering massage therapy at The Lotus, though in the years he’d worked for them, he’d become more of a family friend than an employee. Amelia couldn’t say she was angry with Corbin. He didn’t exactly do anything wrong. It had been a couple of years now. She never said she cared about him – she wasn’t even sure what she felt for him at all, except taken aback most of the time and overwhelmed. No one had ever presented it so openly before, and so earnestly – the way they’d gotten together, exactly two times, and then he casually went into some metaphysical discourse about how his life was his own and his feelings for her were separate and undefined. He’d said, “I’ll always be honest with you, Amelia, but I don’t want to possess you. And I don’t mind if you want to keep seeing your little friend.” They were at the spa, on his massage table, their second and last time together. Her panties were still around her ankles and she was so blindsided by it all, the only response she could offer was to come to Drew’s defense. First, she and Drew had not been seeing each other yet back then, and second, Drew was not little – he was perfectly average-sized for a man, and while he might not have a rock hard yoga body, he did keep himself healthy. He played golf.
Honesty, when presented with it in all its stark nakedness, only felt harsh and unpleasant. And the most outrageous thing about it was that her parents were right about him. Corbin was completely honest, to the core. He meant every single word of it, metaphysical bullshit and all.
Amelia hesitated, but finally did pick up her phone anyway and scrolled through the names. She could see Drew fidget in her peripheral vision. “You have his number stored in your phone?”
Drew never liked Corbin. Amelia had never even told him about the mistaken tryst, but she wondered if maybe he suspected it anyway. It was so slight a thing. She hadn’t even known his name the first time they were together. They were a disaster, and it was so long before she and Drew had gotten together that she just didn’t know how to bring it up. She shrugged. “He works for my parents.”
When Claire left the room, Drew said, “Your mother hates me. Why wouldn’t she just ask me to do it?”
“You need to get ready too.” Amelia reached out to his hand. “She just doesn’t want you to go to a wedding having just buried a dog.”
They both knew that thought hadn’t crossed her mother’s mind in the least.
“No,” Drew said, standing up, sending a ripple across the surface of an oil candle on the table, his eyes alight with both complaint and purpose. “I can bury a dog.” He took off his jacket and hung it on the chair, taking stock of the room. In his striped polo shirt and jeans, he looked more like Clark Kent than Superman, but his assertion was impressive. Amelia didn’t know what to say. She set down her phone.
“What can we wrap her in?” he asked.
Amelia went to get Lady’s blanket, which happened to be one of Amelia’s old childhood blankets, a cotton weave in blue and white, worn ratty over the years.
Drew laid out the blanket on the floor and rolled Lady inside it. He picked up the eighty pound dog in both arms, and Amelia went to get the door for him.
Amelia picked the spot, in the back corner of the yard, underneath an apple tree. Drew got a shovel from the shed and started digging, stomping his heel down on top of the blade and ripping up the ground. The midday sun was strong, and even Amelia began to feel dewy in the heat. Drew swiped the back of his hand across his forehead. Amelia went to get him a glass of iced tea.
When Claire came downstairs, Amelia was still watching him work, the sharp drive of the shovel into the ground, the leverage to pop the dirt up, two capable arms tossing the earth away. The hole was about five feet long and two feet deep already.
“You know,” Claire said to her in a hushed tone. “We only have four hours until the wedding.”
Amelia shrugged. “He’s almost done. And he won’t take as long to get ready anyway.”
Claire stared at the hole, taking slow, steady breaths. If she was upset, Amelia knew her mother wouldn’t show it. Claire walked off quickly, and returned with a Frisbee, a mangled one with tooth-marks in it. “Put this with her, will you? I need to curl my hair.” Claire turned to go back inside.
When he’d finished the hole and placed Lady’s body inside, Amelia knelt down with a small gardening trowel and helped him scoop some of the dirt inside. When they were finished, Amelia placed Lady’s Frisbee on top of the dirt mound, a headstone.
They stood together at the foot of the grave. She placed a hand on Drew’s back, his shirt moist with work, smelling of salty sweat and the earth. She leaned her head to his shoulder. “Let’s go get you cleaned up,” she said.
They all made it to the wedding on time. The three of them sat at their appointed places around a large round table, family of the bride. The hall was decorated in white lights and ivory. Stringed miniature Chinese lanterns were drawn across the room, crossing each other in a glowing web. Glass bowls sat in the center of each table with floating candles in them, ivory rose petals scattered around. Amelia wore a dress that Piper had made for her, just as strange as any of Piper’s creations, ocean blue, with material so airy it somehow managed to lift and float when she moved.
Somehow it turned out that Amelia was the last of all her cousins to remain unmarried. She and Drew sat with her mother, enduring her nostalgic engagement and wedding stories. Amelia’s parents were the perfect couple. Alan and Claire Bradshaw – they were so happy together, everyone said so. They’d known each other since they were fourteen years old, high school sweethearts, married for twenty-nine years. And here they were at yet another wedding, recounting the story of how her parents got engaged. “When your father proposed to me, we were at a bonfire…” Claire started the story with her head held high and her hands folded in her lap – there was no dreamy haze in her eyes. It was just history, and she delivered it not like a whimsical memory, but like a classic text that everyone knew. “It was four weeks before graduation. I wasn’t going to college, but he was going off for basic training in a few weeks, and after that, we had no idea where. I remember everything about it – the cinders in the fire pit. He said to me, ‘I can’t do this without you. Come with me – marry me, Claire.’ I remember exactly what we were wearing. I used to wear so much color in those days.” She glanced down at her dark navy dress. “Now it’s all dark, isn’t it?” She turned to Amelia then, laying her palm on Amelia hand. “I’m so glad you wear color, sweetie.”
Amelia knew this story by heart, the cinders in the fire pit, the very modest chip of a diamond he’d worked odd jobs for months to buy, her father down on one knee. It was the kind of story a woman could let live for generations.
Claire wasn’t drinking wine, just a glass of water clutched in both hands. Drew had brought Amelia one glass of wine already, and Amelia sipped it slowly, though she knew she was going to be far too sober for this. “Drew, honey, can we have another?”
At least her mother waited for Drew to leave the table before she started. “Don’t you think you two might like something like this?” She waved a hand at the room. The twinkling candles in water, the bad wedding music, nobody dancing except the very old and the children – it was too early, and the rest of them weren’t drunk enough yet. The tossed rose petals were already starting to wilt. Amelia could buy all of this at Pottery Barn if she wanted it. “He’s a nice enough boy, Amelia.”
Nice enough? Amelia raised her eyebrows. Sometimes Amelia wondered if there was anyone her mother would oppose her marrying as long as he agreed to provide grandchildren quickly. “Mom, we don’t even live together yet.”
“I know,” Claire said. “Believe it or not, there was a time people got married before they lived together. It’s just that you’re our only child.” Claire tilted her head. “And you’re nearly thirty now.”
“Not nearly,” Amelia said. Though close enough. To be honest, it was starting to sink in. Amelia had gray hairs. Two of them. They aged her before her time. One was near her part line, and any time she tried to tuck it underneath, it only rose up again to stand above the rest, pale and defiant.
Claire tapped her fingertips on her water glass, making ripples on the surface. “You know there’s a time limit on some things.”
Amelia grinned. “You know, Mom, they’ve got drugs for that now.”
“Out of all my siblings, all your father’s siblings, we’re the only ones without grandchildren now.”
“Or there’s sperm banks too. You don’t even need a man at all to have a baby.”
“Well,” Claire huffed. “You’re just being stubborn.”
Drew came back with Amelia’s wine, and placed a soft kiss on her cheek. He pointed at the bar. “We were just talking a bit – do you mind?”
Her cousins’ husbands, challenging each other’s manhood with shots of whiskey – she could smell it on him. “No, go ahead,” she said. She didn’t want to draw attention to the idea; her mother didn’t need another reason to dislike her boyfriend. Claire tapped her fingernails on her water glass, a perfectly polite smile spread across her lips as Drew left the table.
“I’m a big girl,” Amelia continued, before her mother could speak first. “I can take care of myself, and you’ll get your grandbaby someday.”
“I know you think it doesn’t matter. We just don’t want you to be alone is all.”
“There’s nothing wrong with living alone,” Amelia said.
She shouldn’t have said it so blunt like that. Her mother flinched. Without the dog now, she was well and truly alone – and Amelia knew she didn’t like it. Her mother had been a military wife for the whole of her youth and Amelia knew she measured the time in months and years, units of deployment breaking up the forward momentum of her life. But Amelia couldn’t change any of that for her, and Amelia was happy now. Two times before she’d lived with a man, and neither time worked out very well. Now she had friends – she had a best friend who was also her boyfriend and who was plenty more than just nice enough. She glanced to Drew at the bar. “I’m not alone,” Amelia said.
Drew saw her looking, smiled, and started to walk back then. Amelia looked at her mother, an inhale, a whole conversation with her eyes. Enough. Amelia’s hand rested flat on the table and her mother reached over to pat it; it made her feel like a child.
“Okay,” Claire said, nodding to Drew as he took his place beside Amelia again, rising from her own seat with a sigh. “Well,” she said. “I’m going to turn in early, I think. You two have a good time then.”
Amelia felt bad – too many bad jokes about sperm banks? Was it the dead dog? Was it being on her own at a family wedding when everyone else had a sweetheart at their side? Amelia wished she could be the daughter her mother hoped for. Why couldn’t she just go and marry her sweet boyfriend whom she loved? Many worse things had been asked of women before. “You don’t have to go, Mom.”
“I do, sweetie.” She waved her hand at the room. “This is all making me tired.” She stood and leaned down to kiss Amelia’s head. “But you have a good time, okay?”
Claire waited for an answer.
“We will. Goodnight, Mom.”
When her mother had gone, they both went to the bar. Amelia had seven cousins, and they were all girls. All of them married already apart from Amelia. They all had babysitters for the night, and Amelia caught up with them while Drew did a few more shots with their husbands. Amelia knew he wouldn’t remember being so drunk in the morning. He turned back to her occasionally, giving her another glass of red wine and a kiss. The guys all had their suit jackets off, ties undone, cheeks flushed with whiskey. Amelia’s cousins were eager to drink too after so many years of babies and breastfeeding. Amelia hadn’t intended to get drunk, but she had enough to relax.
Drew slid his hand around her waist and nuzzled his face into the curve of her neck, his other hand holding a shot glass in front of her, mixed tones of brown and beige. He spoke into her ear, “It’s called a screaming orgasm, you want one?”
Her head was already buzzing, and her pulse warmed at the thought of a screaming orgasm. She turned around to see him grinning. “Yes, thank you.” She didn’t mean the drink, but she took it anyway.
She giggled as his placed sloppy kisses over her collar bone, but her laugh was stunted as she caught sight of her cousin Bella doing shots with all of the guys. It didn’t surprise her that Bella could hold her whiskey with the men, but somehow, after all these years, Amelia still bristled with contempt at the sight of her. Especially in that curvy black gown, and standing so close to Drew. Bella had given Amelia’s high school boyfriend a blowjob in the back seat of his car after their senior prom. That hadn’t been the first time Lenny Hutchins cheated on Amelia, and it wouldn’t be the last either, but as far as she knew, that had been the only time Bella ever betrayed her. Even though it happened nearly ten years ago, Amelia wasn’t sure that was the kind of thing a person could ever really get over.
Bella came closer, looping her arm through her husband’s arm. They were all packed in closely near the bar, and Bella had taken a place right next to Drew. She raised her glass to them all, and Amelia couldn’t hear what she was saying to them over the noise. Bella had two children now, and for all Amelia knew, she seemed happily married. People grew up, people changed, people moved on. It had been a lifetime ago. They were all happy now, weren’t they? Amelia took a deep breath and exhaled it. Before turning back to talk to her other cousins, she slipped her fingers into Drew’s hand.
He was a good find, her cousins told her. Amelia already knew that. She’d never denied it. How many of these family weddings had he been to now, and they still weren’t engaged yet themselves? He knew almost everyone by name. He’d been invited to their bachelor parties and weddings, he’d met their children, been to their babies’ first birthday parties. The things Amelia’s mother wanted from her were no different than the things any of their mothers wanted. Parents did that – they imposed their wants on their children, like their children should want those things already themselves. Amelia’s cousins told her the truth – it wouldn’t appease her parents if she got engaged. Sure, maybe for a little while. But next, they’d want a wedding, they’d want a grandchild, and after they got one, they’d want another. And what comes next? After one grandchild, two, three? Her cousins hadn’t gotten that far themselves, but they were all scared to find out.
Amelia couldn’t remember when she’d lost hold of Drew’s hand. They’d been standing back to back most of the night, his hand on her shoulder from time to time, a whisper in her ear, or his laugh among the chorus of drunken laughter. Then another voice spoke from behind her, and when she turned, Drew was gone.
“Your man just threw up in the bathroom.” Amelia turned to find another husband of yet another cousin – she didn’t even remember his name.
“Where is he now?”
“Outside,” he said.
“Oh, Lord.” Amelia sighed hard. She was tipsy herself, balancing on sharp heels and holding her floaty dress to her thighs as she stepped out the front doors of the reception hall. Across a large grassy lawn, speeding headlights flashed past on the highway. It wasn’t very late yet but the sky was dark already, the way fall starts to steal light from the evenings more and more each day. It was chilly, having dropped fifteen degrees since they left the house. September did that. But she hadn’t grabbed a jacket because she’d planned to steal Drew’s suit jacket later. She should have brought it out with her – and then it came to mind that she’d put her wallet and phone in her mother’s purse at dinner.
She stopped walking. “Crap,” she said, balling her fists up and groaning at the sky. A man smoking a cigarette against a stone pillar looked over at her. She tucked her arms around her body and continued.
Drew sat on a stone bench a few feet down the sidewalk, where cars pulled up to let guests out or pick them up. He leaned forward heavy on his hands and took deep inhales of the cool fall air. “You look spent,” she said.
He nodded. “Sorry, I don’t know what they were giving me.”
Shots were shots, and he’d done too many of them. It probably wouldn’t matter what kind. Maybe he hadn’t eaten enough? Maybe he was trying too hard to impress them? That seemed more likely a reason.
He held out his keys to her. “Can we go? I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
She’d been drinking all night too. “I can’t drive yet, I just had three glasses of wine.”
He groaned, wrapped his arms around his stomach, and rocked.
“Let me borrow your phone?”
Drew handed her the phone. She sorted through numbers in her head. She tapped the screen, and it brought up his call list. Pacing the sidewalk, she scrolled through names in his phone book, but she didn’t know any of them who weren’t at the wedding already. She didn’t want to ask for a ride and ruin anyone else’s night. She didn’t want to call her mother back out again, and she especially didn’t want her to see Drew in such a condition. Piper would be all the way out at Tom’s, and Jodie would give them the biggest stink about making her drive all the way out there.
It didn’t make sense that Jodie’s name stuck out from the list, but somehow it did. Amelia counted the calls from Jodie. There were dozens, listed several times a week, incoming and outgoing. And one missed call notice from just a couple hours ago. No message though.
Jodie. Her name on that call log set heavy in Amelia’s gut. She didn’t like it, for no real reason she could pinpoint. Maybe it was the time they spent together, without her. She just didn’t like it. The envy, the fear, it welled up through her body, to her fingertips, hovering over the “clear” button, and she pressed it.
It was like Jodie had never called at all.
Amelia had never done that before. Not even with Lenny. Amelia turned back to Drew, still sitting on the stone bench, except now the groom had come out to join him, with his tuxedo jacket off and his shirt untucked. All the undone tuxedos and women in bare feet, standing outside a function hall in the late hours of the night – it reminded Amelia that senior prom. That time, and all those other times. If she’d have checked up on him sooner, maybe he wouldn’t have fooled her for so long.
But Drew wasn’t Lenny. And this wasn’t her phone. And Jodie was their friend. So Amelia exhaled, her bare arms starting to shiver. There was one person she could try. It surprised her that she actually remembered Corbin’s number after all. He lived so close to them anyway, and if she didn’t call a cab, or bribe someone else to leave the wedding early, it was the only number she could think of.
Corbin, this time of night, would either be grading essays from his philosophy lectures, or out screwing. He didn’t do relationships, exactly, so you couldn’t call them “girlfriends.” But Amelia also knew that Corbin was the only person on the planet without a cell phone, so if he was out screwing, he wouldn’t answer.
He answered. “I’m so sorry to bother you,” she said. “My mom left, and I’m drunk, and Drew is trashed, and we kind of need a ride.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
When Corbin finally arrived, Amelia felt conflicted about where to sit. Drew didn’t like Corbin enough to want to sit up front, so he slid straight into the back seat, rolling his woozy head against the headrest. It would have been impolite to sit in the back with Drew, and leave Corbin up front alone like he was their chauffeur – that was not how she’d meant it at all – and yet it seemed just as impolite to leave Drew alone in the back, especially as sick as he was. She stood outside the car long enough that Corbin glanced over to her. She got in beside Drew, leaning forward between the seats to say, “I should probably make sure he doesn’t throw up.”
Corbin nodded, and they went.
Drew crossed his arms and slumped. Corbin’s car was a rusty white Chevy Cavalier that must have been fifteen years old, stick shift which he drove roughly, and suspension that felt like being pulled over potholes in a kiddie wagon. Amelia reached over to squeeze Drew’s knee. “You’re not gonna throw up, are you?”
He rolled his head – no.
“Your place or his?” Corbin said from the front.
“Mine,” she said, then realized that her mother had her keys too. Drew had a set of her house keys though. “You have keys, right?”
He rooted through his pocket and pulled them out.
Corbin pulled up at the street in front of Amelia’s townhouse. “Thanks for the ride,” Drew mumbled, quickly, and got out of the car.
“Thank you for that,” Amelia said.
Corbin turned himself in the front seat to glance back at her. “No problem,” he said. “It wasn’t that far.”
“Well I’ll owe you one.”
“You don’t owe me anything,” he said.
Why was he so generous? It wasn’t natural – people weren’t like that. It only made her feel like he wanted something. She pursed her lips. “Fine,” she said, breaking into an anxious laugh.
He bowed his head lightly. “Namaste, Amelia.”
Drew was inside already, upstairs in the master bathroom. She came up to the closed door, not because she wanted to hear him puking, but to make sure he didn’t die. Was that possible? That in his drunkenness, he might stumble and knock himself out, end up choking on his own vomit? She shivered. “Are you okay?” she asked through the closed door.
He opened it a crack, and she let herself in. The faucet was running, and he splashed his face, looking up at himself with disappointment as drops of water hung from his nose and chin. He smelled like toothpaste.
“You feel better?”
“No, not really,” he said. “I bet he got a kick out of seeing me like this.”
“Who, Corbin? He doesn’t care.”
“He’s probably mocking me.”
“Corbin doesn’t mock people.”
“Well isn’t he a saint?” Drew slumped slowly to the tile floor, his back pressed against the wall, cornered between the sink and the toilet.
“Corbin is not perfect.”
“I know how your parents like him.”
She sat next to him. The tile was cold on her bare legs. “They like you too,” she said. At least, she figured her dad did.
“I’m sorry, Melie. Never mind. Did I do anything really stupid?”
“Not that I saw,” she said.
But had Amelia done anything stupid? Erasing Jodie’s call? She felt so petty for it. It was worrying how often Jodie’s name came up lately. Amelia worried about how love could be so changeable, that she could be so adored for a time and then just as easily forgotten.
She was sure he hadn’t started the night with two shirt buttons undone, though she remembered he hadn’t worn a tie. Now the collar of his shirt hung open, just a peek of chest hair showing. It made her want to touch him there. But he reached out to her face instead, running a thumb along her cheekbone. “I tuoi occhi sono dolci come il miele,” he said to her.
He rarely spoke Italian – only when he was drunk, or trying to woo her panties off, or both. But when he did, it reminded Amelia of a story his mother told her once after having had a little too much champagne, of the summer of 1978 and a mysterious Italian man with an accent that made every conversation feel like a song. Drew would never meet his real father, but it must have been genetic why he’d become a poet, or why he felt inclined to study three languages in college, or how he pulled off the charm without sounding too pompous or too false. Otherwise Amelia might have suspected that he only remembered the lines he could use to coax her into bed. “I bet that doesn’t sound as good in English.”
“Your eyes are sweet as honey.”
Her heart fluttered a little, against its better judgment. “Well, I guess that’s alright too.”
She didn’t trust charm. His smile melted her heart, and she wanted to believe. She really did. But they were all charming, weren’t they? And she fell for it, again and again and again.
But she shouldn’t have cleared that missed call. Her conscience felt the weight of a million lies, even though there was just this one. Amelia hated lies. “Jodie called for you,” she said, in one solid exhale.
“Oh, what’d she want?”
Amelia shrugged. “It was just a missed call. I pressed the wrong button and it was gone.”
Drew grinned at her. “She wanted to say she’d marry me, you know, since you won’t.”
It was a joke, but she tensed anyway. “She’d eat you alive, you know. You’re too sweet for her.” She took his hand and held it still in her lap.
“I want to marry you, Melie,” he said. His eyes were heavy and half closed.
She wasn’t ignorant. And she wasn’t oblivious. It wasn’t like she didn’t know that this was what he’d been after for as long as he’d known her. It felt different when he said it, like he was actually talking about marrying her, specifically, and not just picking an item off some generic checklist: Things To Do Before Forty. But did he really know what he’d be getting himself into? Once they believed in it, it would fade into something ordinary and taken for granted. He would lose interest and move on. They always did.
But sometimes, it felt so clear and real that she almost started to believe in it herself.
He smiled with his eyes closed. She knew she needed to get them to bed before he fell asleep on the tiled bathroom floor. She sighed. “Why don’t you say that again some time when you’re sober?”
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