“Jamie, Alice, what are you guys doing here? I thought you left right after the wedding.”
“Nope, not til today. We’re on our way to the airport – I left our passports in the safe.”
“Wow. You guys look happy.”
Two faces beamed at each other, and then at him.
“Hi Mick, how’s it going baby? I haven’t talked to you in a while, huh?”
“Christine. How are you?”
“I’d be better if I had your cock in me right now, baby. Wanna come over and fuck me?”
“I – I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“Aw, c’mon baby. Are you trying to make me beg? I’ll beg if you want me to. Pleeeeease, baby -.”
“No I really just can’t tonight. I’m sorry.” Silence, silence. “Christine?”
“Is there someone else?”
“What? No. I’ve just got a lot of work and I had a hard weekend and missed a lot of sleep and… I can’t tonight.”
“You know if you want to end it, you can just say so.”
“What? I – I just… look, can we talk about it another time? Can I call you this weekend?”
“If you want to. You call me.”
“Okay Christine. I will.”
“So you both sign at each line with a yellow flag, and initial where there’s a blue flag. We can start with you, Bob, and pass each sheet to Angie.”
“Sure thing chief – here ya go, hon, first sheet.”
“Thanks sweets. You know I can’t decide whether a this is more romantic or morbid.”
Romantic, Mick thought. Everything about these two seemed romantic to him – the casual intimacy, the teasing, and perhaps above all the revocable living trust, a legal contract declaring, in a way simple marriage didn’t, that they’d stay unto death.
What was the matter with him?
“Since when isn’t morbid the very heartbeat of romantic?” Bob winked at his wife and handed her another sheet.
Fridays Mick worked in the morning, ran at noon, then went home to cook. This Friday, he worked in the morning, ran at noon, and then sat in his kitchen with a beer, trying to think.
Cooking for Fran is what he did on Fridays. Had been for years, at first because she was teaching him and then because he liked it. He liked feeding her, liked witnessing her pleasure as she rolled food over her tongue and sighed. And he had said he would see her Friday.
He wanted to see her. Every night he had gone to bed thinking of her, woken every morning thinking of her, spent his day enmeshed in thoughts of her, fighting to get out.
She had called only once, and he hadn’t answered, too afraid of what he might say.
Sitting there with the beer bottle between his hands, he settled at last into the inescapable reality. If handing over his heart was handing over his life, then he was already lost. There was no choice left to make but the speed of his descent. Far better to get it over with, tell her he loved her, have maybe a few weeks – months, could he hope for months? – of her before she moved on, as everyone did. Everyone did. And then he’d find out just how much loss a person could tolerate before their whole being disintegrated under the corrosive power of grief. It wouldn’t matter much, either way. Fran had saved him after Mandi, given him a purpose that kept him alive long enough to heal. He had little doubt about his chances of recovering from her departure.
He wrote a grocery list. He shopped. He came home and cooked, meticulously preparing everything she most loved: spinach with hollandaise, red onion, and egg; roast lamb with pomegranate reduction; sheep’s milk yogurt and agave. He would have at least this one night with her, one perfect night.