Home > From This Moment(7)

From This Moment(7)
Author: Melanie Harlow

“And the thing is, rationally, I know I should just face the fact that I have to get used to seeing him. It’s not his fault he looks just like Drew or that being around him is a trigger for me.”

“But fuck rationally.”

I sighed. “Exactly.”

“So what’ll you do?”

“What can I do?”

“Tell him it’s a bad night.”

“Putting him off tonight only delays the inevitable, though. And it isn’t fair to him. Or to Abby.” I pushed some chicken salad around the plate.

“What if you dropped Abby off at your in-laws’? Then you wouldn’t have to be around him.”

I shook my head. “I thought about that yesterday, but I feel like I need to be there for Abby. At least in the beginning. I don’t want her to be confused.”

“So say yes. See how it goes. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Uh, I could have a seismic emotional meltdown in front of him?”

She shrugged. “At least he wouldn’t want to come over anymore.”

In spite of everything, I laughed a little. “Right.”

“Listen.” She scooted her chair in and put her hand on my forearm. “You don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to do, but you’re stronger than you think. That much I know for sure.”

I’m not, I felt like saying. I’m just fooling you all. I’m pretending so you’ll stop asking me how I’m doing all the time. I’m pretending in the hopes of fooling myself. I’m pretending because the alternative—the truth—is that I’m sad, scared, sick, worried, angry, guilty, lost, and alone. I’m so fucking alone I could scream.

But I didn’t say that.

“Thanks.” I set down my fork. “I’ll text him back.”

Hi Wes. Yes, tonight is fine. Six o’clock will give me time to feed Abby dinner first.

Georgia patted my shoulder and started prepping for dinner, and I picked up the fork again and ate a few bites, tears dripping into my chicken salad.

 

When I got home, I made spaghetti for dinner and sat at the table with Abby while she ate. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat anything, despite what felt like an ever-widening pit in my stomach. Instead, I poured a glass of wine, hoping it would take the edge off my frazzled nerves.

“So you remember I told you about Daddy’s twin brother, Uncle Wes?”

“The one that looks like him?” she asked as a blob of meat sauce fell off her fork and into her lap.

I got up to get a paper towel. “Yes. He’s been in Africa for a while, so we haven’t seen him much, but he’s home now.”

“Does he live at Nana’s?” She shoveled in a forkful of pasta.

“Yes,” I said, wiping up what had spilled. “But he wants to come over here for a visit. Would that be okay?”

“Sure.”

“It might be a little strange because he looks just like Daddy, but it’s not him.”

“Okay.” She reached for her milk.

“And it’s okay to feel sad about it.”

After a few swallows, she set down the cup. “Okay. But does he have any kids he could bring?” Abby had recently learned what cousins were and was desperate to have some of her own.

“No, he doesn’t have kids. Maybe he will someday, if he gets married.”

“Oh.” She dug into her spaghetti again, and I lifted my wine glass to my lips. I was tempted to keep talking about Drew and Wes, press further, tease out any ambivalence she might be trying to hide from me, but it appeared the only mixed feelings about Wes around here belonged to me.

She’s five, reasoned a voice in my head. She doesn’t realize how difficult it might be.

I’d keep a close eye on her while he was here. If the visit seemed too traumatic for her, I’d cut it short. “Do you have any other questions about him?”

She thought for a moment. “What time is he coming?”

“Six.” I glanced at the clock on the wall. “In about half an hour.”

“Maybe he’ll want to get ice cream. Daddy liked to get ice cream after dinner.”

I wasn’t sure if she actually remembered that or if it was a memory manufactured after the fact based on stories I’d told her. It was one of my favorite memories, going to get ice cream after dinner on summer nights, and Abby asked me about it often. We’d walk into town, and he’d carry Abby on his shoulders. We always ordered the same thing—Moose Tracks in a waffle cone for Drew, pistachio in a cup for me, Birthday Cake in a sugar cone for Abby, which would drip from the bottom of the cone all down her shirt. God, we’d had everything in those days. And I thought we’d have it forever.

“Mommy?” Abby was looking at me. “Do you think he likes ice cream?”

My throat had gotten tight, and I swallowed hard. “Um, yes. At least, he used to. You can ask him.”

She looked happy about that, and I peeked at the clock again before taking another sip of wine.

 

He was a few minutes early.

Abby had insisted on waiting for him outside, so I was sitting on the porch when he drove up, my stomach in knots. He parked a black Cadillac I recognized as his dad’s in the street in front of the house, and waved at us through the passenger window. Abby, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, waved back before scrambling up the walk to stand next to me. I rose to my feet, feeling a little dizzy and short of breath.

Wes got out of the car, and Abby took my hand. Together we watched him walk toward us, carrying a brown paper bag in one hand. He smiled at both of us, and it was so familiar I wanted to cry. To throw myself at him. To beg him to be someone else and give me my life back.

My knees felt weak.

“Hey,” he called as he came up the walk. “How’s it going?”

Abby looked up at me, and I knew I had to keep it together for her sake. “Good,” I said, squeezing her hand. “Abby, do you remember Uncle Wes?”

She looked at him and shyly shook her head. But then, to my amazement, she let go of my hand and went right to him with open arms. He crouched down and hugged her, balanced on the balls of his feet. Over her shoulder, he looked at me and smiled in surprise. Then he closed his eyes a moment, and I knew he had to be thinking of Drew. A huge lump formed in my throat.

Abby was an affectionate, loving child, but I’d never seen her cling like that to someone she didn’t know very well, especially a man. I miss him too, baby. I twisted my wedding band around on my finger.

Eventually she let go and he straightened up. “She’s beautiful,” he said to me.

“Thanks. She looks like her daddy.” Abby came and stood next to me, and I tousled her hair.

“I see a lot of you in her too,” he said, his eyes on her face, then mine. I’d forgotten how much more quietly he spoke than Drew.

I took a deep breath. “Would you like to come in?”

“Sure. Thank you.”

I opened the screen door and let Abby go in first, then Wes held it open for me. Automatically, I went into the kitchen. When I’m nervous, I tend to fall back on what I know how to do—feed someone. Pour them some coffee. Offer a drink.

“Smells amazing in here,” he commented, looking around. “And it looks great, too. But were the walls a different color before?”

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