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Page 12

“I’ll add it to my estimate. In the meantime, look into getting someone in here to deal with the tree and we’ll be in business to start as soon as you’re ready for us.”

“Sounds good.” I force a smile I’m far from feeling. This place is turning into as big a mess as my former life, and that sucks, especially considering how much it felt like a potential lifeline when Aunt Maggie’s will was read.

“Oh,” Mikey says as he turns to go. “One more thing. Stay off that porch until we can fix it. And post a few signs to warn everyone else to stay off it, too. No telling when it’s going to collapse completely, but if I were you, I wouldn’t tempt fate.”

Why do his parting words sound more like an omen than a suggestion?

Chapter Ten


   I’m just about to start cooking myself dinner—a chicken breast with a side of roasted asparagus—when the full bid comes through from Mikey. Steeling myself with a large sip of wine from one of the bottles from the awesome collection I just found in Aunt Maggie’s basement, I’m not even a little embarrassed to admit discovering my aunt hoarded wine was the highlight of my year.

I open the email attachment and then squeeze my eyes shut before I can actually see any of the numbers.

And yes, I know this isn’t going to get me anywhere when I’m the only one around to look at them, but still…I’m scared. Since I walked in on Karl going down on his girlfriend, life has been coming at me extra fast.

No time to catch my breath.

No time to talk myself into whatever has to come next.

No time to hide, even for a second.

Just all crappy reality, all the time.

It’s fucking exhausting.

I take another big drink for courage—just because I have to deal with this mess doesn’t mean I have to do it sober—then peek one eye open. And nearly have a heart attack. There are more than a few numbers on that spreadsheet. A lot more. And none of them are good.

True to Mikey’s original best-guess estimate, the final bid came in at just over $26,500. He was kind enough to deduct that 10 percent friends-and-family discount, but still… It’s almost double what I have left in the bank. If insurance doesn’t come through like he thought, I’m screwed.

I shoot back the rest of the wine in my glass—I’m waaaaaay past thinking this bottle isn’t going to go fast—and force myself to look at the bid again to find something, anything I can actually afford to do without careful planning.

And the answer is simple. The dumpster. I can afford the $500 a week for the dumpster, even though my HOA doesn’t actually give a shit about what the inside of my house looks like. Just the outside with its $12,000 front porch estimate and all the rest.

Fuck it.

I drop my phone on the counter and reach for the bottle of wine. This time I fill my glass all the way up to the tippy top and drink it down in three large gulps. Then I fill the glass up again before wandering into my aunt’s family room and up to the old stereo she had, complete with turntable and CD player, under the TV.

When I was a kid, Aunt Maggie used to turn on her favorite Beatles albums and we’d dance and dance and dance around the room before having an elaborate tea party, complete with scones, finger sandwiches, and gorgeously decorated petits fours from the bakery down the street.

When Karl and I got married, I used to dream about having a child—or children—to throw tea parties for.

A daughter to dress up in sparkly dresses and whirl around the room to a special playlist I’d made just for us. A son I could use cookies and cakes and his favorite songs to bribe into dancing with me. Having kids isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally cool. But I have always wanted to be the mom version of my aunt Maggie—fun, supportive, encouraging, and basically everything I rarely found under my own roof growing up.

But Karl wanted to wait, wanted a little more time before we started a family. And now, here I am—broke, almost divorced, jobless, and childless.

Definitely not how I planned to spend my thirty-fifth year on this planet.

Then again, nothing that has happened in the past several months was how I expected my life to turn out. I used to have big plans—law school, partnership in a major firm by the time I was thirty, a solid marriage, kids to spoil with trips to the theater and the beach and maybe even Europe. I refused to settle for less.

I take another long sip of wine, even though I definitely feel the last cup kicking in. Then I open the sliding door that leads out to the patio to let in some fresh air before I drop down on the floor in front of my aunt’s incredible and extensive vinyl collection and start searching through it for our favorite album. Part of me expects it to be right in front like it always was, but it isn’t.

It’s buried deep, about a hundred albums back, behind Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, and, randomly, a Queen album. I almost put on that iconic album but instead pull out Abbey Road—the best Beatles album ever, no matter what the internet says—with reverent hands and slide it onto the turntable. But before the needle gets to “Come Together,” my phone rings in the kitchen.

I’m halfway to ignoring it—I’m not expecting a call from anyone right then anyway—but the ringing continues, so I grab my wine and jog into the kitchen. My mom mentioned she wasn’t feeling very well when we talked yesterday. Maybe she’s feeling worse.

But it isn’t my mom. The Caller ID shows the last man in the world I would ever want to talk to again, but years of ingrained habit has me answering.

“Hi, Karl.” I hate the way my palms get damp as I wait for him to answer, the way my stomach clenches in dread. He’s just a man. Just a total asshole of a man who I used to love.

“Took you long enough,” he mutters.

“I could hang up if you prefer and you could call back,” I say, barely recognizing my own moxie. “I’ll try to answer more quickly.” Or not at all, but he doesn’t need to know that.

“Why exactly would I do that?” he demands.

“I just thought—”

“Never mind.” He talks right over me. “I only have a few minutes, but I was calling to tell you that I’m having the divorce waiting period waiver couriered over. The courier has instructions to stay. Sign the papers immediately and send them right back. I’ll file them and all this unpleasantness can be behind us once and for all.”

Unpleasantness? That’s what he calls our ten-year marriage? Unpleasantness? Even though I did everything in my power to make him happy while, it turned out, he was running around with whatever woman would have him?

The anger from earlier drowns under a wave of regret. Not because our marriage is over—good riddance to bad trash and all that—but because I wasted so much of my time, of myself, on a man who so obviously never gave a shit about me.

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