15 Years

I never much liked October to begin with. As a kid, I hated the fall—the temperature drops, it gets darker earlier, and the leaves fall off the trees. I know a lot of people love this time of year, but for me it’s always been depressing. And then October 3, 2002 happened, and since then I’ve had a damn good reason for my annual autumn blues.

15 years ago today, my dad died. I was 19, in my second year of college, and completely unprepared for the ways that night would change my life.

He had been diagnosed with lung cancer five months earlier. We knew it was bad—stage IV lung cancer had (and still has, 15 years later) an abysmal survival rate. But we did our best to keep our hopes up. The first round of chemotherapy showed some slight progress, and in some ways my dad was still a lot like himself. He still cracked sarcastic jokes, and when we moved that summer, he stubbornly insisted on moving furniture that was way too heavy for a cancer patient to lift.

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But as much as we tried to stay optimistic, it was obvious as the summer progressed that his health was worsening. After a lot of tough conversations, I decided to go back to school to start my second year at college. To stay home would have felt like an admission that he wasn’t going to get better, and none of us were prepared to do that yet. I still regret that choice sometimes—not being there meant that I missed my dad’s last lucid days, but a selfish part of me feels relieved to have missed an excruciatingly difficult month as he weakened to the point of breaking him arm just by attempting to sit up in bed. I feel guilty that my mother and sister were left as his caretakers, while I had the option of escaping into college life. My last conversation with my dad was a phone call while I was getting ready to go out on a Saturday night.

I went home at the end of September, planning to stay the weekend to celebrate my sister’s birthday. My dad was in the hospital and had been for a few weeks, but I was still holding tight to the naive belief that he could get better. When I arrived, my mom sat me and my sister down to tell us that wasn’t what was happening. She didn’t know how long it would take, but my dad wasn’t going to get better, and he wasn’t going to come home.

We spent the next six days waiting for him to die. If that sounds awful, it’s because it was. My mom came home once a day to shower; the rest of the time, she spent at my dad’s bedside. My sister and I went home to sleep each night, but most the day was spent at the hospital, sitting with my dad, who could no longer even communicate with us. We were trapped in a terrible limbo of wanting it to just be over already so he could rest and not be in pain any more, but at the same time not wanting it to end because that meant my dad would be dead and gone forever.

We were all there on that last night. My mom sat holding his hand through it all, telling him she loved him and urging him to let go. But my dad was stubborn right until the end, and he hung on for as long as he could. I was sitting in a chair on the other side of the bed, across from my mom. I remember being afraid to reach out and touch him, because that would make things too real. I also remember it being the night I understood true love for the first time, as watching my mom say goodbye to my dad was both the most heartbreaking and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

In the end, my dad’s breathing grew more and more labored until it finally stopped completely. There was relief, because we knew it meant the end of his pain, but mostly it was just numb in that room. It was late on a Thursday night, none of us were prepared to think about the next steps or the logistics of a funeral right then. That would come later, along with laughter and tears and honoring my dad’s memory. That night, none of us really knew what to do with ourselves.

The next several days were surreal. My best friend came home from college and slept on the floor next to my bed that first night, like a human security blanket. Because I had come home from college with no more than a backpack full of dirty laundry, I had to go to the mall the day after my dad died to buy clothes for a funeral. I broke the news to a friend over the phone, half-naked in an H&M dressing room. My sister’s friend brought her PlayStation to the house in an effort to distract us. My cousin rented Zoolander and we watched it after the funeral, because we all needed a mindless escape. I didn’t go back to school until the end of October, and I honestly can’t remember what I did to fill my time during those weeks. Most likely I read and watched movies and generally tried to put off re-entering the real world.

Eventually I went back. Back to school, back to life. That first year was a false start though. I put my head down and bulled my way forward in life, afraid that if I stopped to think about things, I’d never get out of bed. I kept it (mostly) together until the summer when I was home again, where I finally realized that I needed a break if I was ever going to truly move forward with my life. Taking a semester off from school and starting therapy are very likely the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. I started to heal, and figure out ways to cope with my grief so I could remember my dad without the pain overwhelming me.

That’s not to say I was “cured” of missing my dad, of course. I still miss him like crazy all these years later, and sometimes the realization of everything he’s missed or the fact that I’ll never see him again hurts so much that I can’t catch my breath. I’ll never get over it, not fully. And October 3 is always going to be a really hard day for me.

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That’s Enough, 2016

I knew going into 2016 that it was going to be a tough year. There was a lot of uncertainty: what would happen in the presidential election? Just how many celebrities can die in one calendar year? Would Paul and I ever find a place to live? All these questions got answered in 2016. I just didn’t like all the answers.

At the end of 2015, Paul and I were under contract to sell our old house, but without any prospects for a new place, we had nowhere to go but my mother-in-law’s basement, and we had no idea how long we would be there.

I’m incredibly grateful to my mother-in-law for this; because of her, we were able to save money and take our time finding a home that was right for us. Paul and I both know how privileged we are to have had that option at all, to be able to walk away from houses that weren’t quite right, rather than jump on anything we could afford out of desperation.

That said, the eight months we lived in the basement felt like something close to purgatory. It was impossible to look ahead, because we had no way of knowing when we’d find the right house. We didn’t want to get too settled—because then we were just a couple of 30-something’s living in Paul’s mom’s basement—but we still wanted to feel at home. And every free moment was spent looking at houses for sale online and wandering around other people’s houses in person.

In the end, it was worth it. In September, Paul and I moved into our new home. Now we can stop living in the temporary and start making plans for what’s next. Finally finding it and moving in and making it our own has been the single best part of 2016.

Sometimes it feels like it was the only good part of 2016.

The first blow for me was the death of David Bowie in January. David Bowie—or more accurately, Jareth the Goblin King—was my first ever crush. Labyrinth brought out feelings in me that I didn’t understand and couldn’t articulate as a little kid. So with Bowie’s death, the loss felt intimate. I never met him or even saw him perform live, but watching him in Labyrinth was the first time I ever felt attraction, and that made it personal.

The year has bookended with the loss of another icon of my childhood, Carrie Fisher. I was born the year Return of the Jedi came out, but with an older brother who was a Star Wars fanatic, the movies were a part of my life before I can even remember. Princess Leia was one of my original feminist icons, and for a little girl who bristled at gender roles long before I knew the term, she was the perfect role model. She was the original self-rescuing princess, a brave and smart woman talked back, kicked butt, and partied with Ewoks. I didn’t know until later what a great role model Carrie Fisher was, but it turned out the real-life version was a resilient, complicated woman with a sharp tongue and wicked sense of humor who talked back, kicked butt, and partied with her dog, Gary. When I was little I wanted to be like Princess Leia when I grew up. I still do, but I also want to be like Carrie Fisher.

It’s been hard to lose two figures who loomed so large in my childhood, and who bore significance to me as an adult as well. But the hardest loss of 2016 hit me much closer to home when my friend Wade died.

I’ve suffered loss before, but this was the first time a close friend and peer had died. So not only was I dealing with the loss of Wade as a person—a ridiculously good autocrosser and an even better friend—but I was dealing with what his death represented to me in a much more self-centered way. My friends can die, people close to my age can die. I can die. These terrifying truths never felt more real and inevitable than they did this year.

I’ve felt Wade’s absence in ways large and small this year. I had to pull over for an ugly cry the day I passed a blue Cobra with White stripes and a Capital Area Cobra Club sticker on the windshield on the road. I wrote about the pain and heartache of my first trip back to Cumberland for an autocross on the Team Zip-Tie blog. When Paul and I moved into our new home and got the kegerator out of storage, and we found Paul’s chalk drawing label for “Wade’s Flat Top Ale,” on the door, and we remembered that the last beer on draft in our old home was one of Wade’s home brews. And every time I’m confronted with one of those reminders, there’s that little voice inside my head, alternating between angry and sad, reminding me just how unfair it is that he’s gone.

So yes, 2016 had some good moments for me, but the bad moments really sucked, and I’m ready to move on. I don’t know what 2017 will bring. Maybe it will be worse than this year, maybe it will be better. I just know that I’m done with 2016. Good or bad, I’m ready to find out what’s next.

Delphine

My grandmother-in-law, Delphine, died today. She’d been in hospice and we all knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. She was surrounded by her family and loved ones though, which does.

I married into a very large, and very close, family. But as tightly-knit a group as they are, I’ve never been made to feel like an outsider. If one member of their family loves you, you’re in, easy as that. And that attitude started at the top, with the matriarch. Delphine was one of the most open-minded and accepting people you could hope to meet. She was always more than happy to take in people who didn’t have anywhere else to go for a holiday or something like that. And she always made everyone feel like part of the family.

Delphine was one of my biggest fans from the start, pestering Paul about when we’d be getting married pretty much as soon as we started dating. The second time I met her, Paul was introducing me to a family member as “my girlfriend” and Delphine grabbed him by the ear and hissed “You won’t be calling her just your girlfriend for much longer, will you?”

It was about another five years before we got married, but I like to think the wedding celebration was worth the wait for everyone. Paul’s grandparents stole the show during the ceremony when the Deacon noticed they were both wearing Chuck Taylors, to match the groomsmen (and me). His were black to match Paul’s, hers were sparkly, because she thought they were pretty. I don’t know a lot of grandparents who would wear sneakers to a wedding, but it was small gestures like that– full of love and support– that made our wedding so special.

Chucks!

Chucks!

Rather than do a bouquet toss, Paul and I opted to do an anniversary dance, to give the bouquet to the couple who had been married the longest, which would be Paul’s grandparents. After the dance, I gave the bouquet to Delphine, and she was so surprised and excited that she got to keep the flowers. It was one of the very few times that I actually teared up that day.

This is what 64 years of love looks like.

This is what 64 years of love looks like.

I’m so glad that she got to see a handful of her grandchildren get married. Paul and I had to miss the most recent family wedding, but were lucky enough to stop in Illinois on our way home from a trip to Nebraska last month, and had dinner with Paul’s grandparents. Usually when I saw them it was at family gatherings, where there are tons of people present, so it was nice to have some one-on-one time with them for a change. Delphine was already not doing that well, but she was having a really good day when we stopped in. We talked about the time she’d visited and seen Paul autocross years before, and she showed me a photo album from the wedding I’d missed and  told me all about it. As we were leaving, she gave Paul a hard time about his newest tattoo, and offered to get a needle and sew some strings into his arm over the fret markers. While I’m sad that Paul and I couldn’t be there at the end, I’m so grateful that we had that last chance to see her, when we could still have a conversation and tell stories, and most of all, laugh.

I feel extremely lucky to have known Delphine, and to have become part of her family. She was truly an incredible woman, and the world needs more people like her.

Fortunately, she has a really big family. And they’ve learned from the best.

My first cousins photo.

My first Cousins Photo.

The Untitled Draft of the Beginning of a New Story

This is a draft of the start of a story that’s been kicking around in my head for a little while. I got to what felt like a good stopping point, so I figured I might as well post it, seeing as how it’s been ages since I last put up anything new here.

***

“Yes Mom, I know.” Jenny March balanced the phone between her shoulder and ear as she tossed a bag of chips into her shopping cart. “Listen, I should go, I’m almost to the checkout line. I’ll call you later, ok? Yes Mom, I’ll take a look at those job postings you sent me. I promise. No, I don’t want to be a temp forever. I’ll check out the postings as soon as I get home, I swear. Ok, love you too, Mom. Bye.”

Jenny sighed as she dropped her phone into her bag and headed to the liquor section. She figured she’d earned herself a couple of gin and tonics after that call.

After her detour, Jenny took her place in the checkout line and started lining her purchases up on the conveyor belt. She could feel eyes on her, and turned to see the young twenty-something couple in line behind her looking at Jenny and her groceries with barely concealed judgment. She eyed her selections, trying to see her choices how an outside observer might. Chips and salsa, some frozen meals, a box of cereal, orange juice, and a bottle of gin. She supposed she could see their point.

They were filling their section of the belt with bags of produce and wrapped packages from the butcher’s counter. Not a preservative in sight. Jenny thought it looked like a pain in the ass and a waste of time. She gave a mental shrug and turned to face the cashier with a smile.

When she was done, Jenny hefted her bags onto her shoulder and started the walk home. Not for the first time, she wondered why cars had to be so damn pricey.

“Excuse me, ma’am? Ma’am?” Jenny didn’t realize the polite but insistent voice was directed at her until she felt a tap on her elbow. She turned to see a Girl Scout staring at her expectantly, and groaned to herself.

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Mirror Images

Hayley Stillwater pushed open the door and came face to face with herself.

“Shit!” She jumped, nearly dropping the box she was balancing on her hip. “I was not expecting that.”

A large mirror hung over the fireplace in the formal living room, dusty and old with an ornate frame. Hayley gave her appearance a cursory glance and smoothed some hair down before placing her box in a corner. Then she stood up and took in her new home.

It was a small cabin, still furnished with her recently deceased great aunt Marie’s belongings. The style skewed “Old Lady Chic” with logs of wicker and floral patterns. For a moment, Hayley felt a pang of longing for her old apartment with its stylish minimalist décor. “It’s only temporary. You can deal with the Laura Ashley showroom for a few months,” she told herself. “Besides, it’s free.” And right then, Hayley was in no position to look a gift horse in the mouth—no matter how dated and out of style that horse may be.

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Kate, Now with Double the Blogs!

So I’ve started another blog. If you read my earlier post Happily Ever After; or, When “Having it All” Means Something Different to You, you already know what it’s about. I’ll be attempting to write a semi-autobiographical alternative chick-lit account of looking for jobs in all the wrong places.

So what made me finally bite the bullet and take the leap? Last week, I got laid off. It took me completely by surprise– I really liked where I worked, even if I didn’t always love the job itself. I really thought it would be a place I’d stay at for several years. So losing this job really felt like getting dumped.

So, in an attempt to keep myself occupied (when I’m not scouring every job board on the Internet, that is) I decided to write this. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I’m excited to give it a shot. So, if you’re interested, please check out my new blog!

You Had Me at “Help Wanted”: http://youhadmeathelpwanted.wordpress.com/

 

Character Sketch: Eleanor

When Eleanor was born, her parents gave her an old family name and intended to shorten it something more suitable for a child. But it became quickly apparent that this girl was no “Ellie” or “Elle.” She was quiet and serious, usually lost in her own imaginary worlds. Some might call her an old soul, but that wasn’t entirely accurate. Rather than a child who seemed a great deal older than her age, she was definitely a child, but one of an earlier era – that of her namesake, maybe.

She loved fairy stories and fantasy tales. When Eleanor’s mother called her for dinner and she didn’t appear, her mother knew to check the front hall closet. There she would often find Eleanor, hiding among blankets and out-of-season coats, with a book in one hand and a flashlight in the other, usually with the family dog Puck lying across her feet. While her older brother Jimmy ran with the neighborhood children, playing tag or kickball, Eleanor was more likely to be playing by herself deep in the trees of the backyard, which she called her “meadow,” where she liked to act out her favorite fairy tales, playing all the parts herself.

It wasn’t that she didn’t get along with children her own age, she just couldn’t relate to them. She was polite and friendly to her classmates, but at recess, while the other kids climbed jungle gyms and chased each other, Eleanor preferred to retreat to the solitary swing set at the edge of the playground where she could close her eyes and pump her legs. As she went higher and higher, she could imagine that she was flying.

Every summer, Eleanor went with her family to visit her grandparents at the shore. Eleanor loved those days better than anything. Away from his friends, Jimmy turned to her out of boredom and desperation, and they spent the summer as best friends and co-conspirators. They would spend days at the beach building sandcastles together, and Jimmy would even help her create stories for the kings and queens who lived in them. Eleanor didn’t feel lonely at home, but having her brother as a companion, being able to share her secret world with him, made those weeks at the shore magical.

But the summer she turned nine, things changed. For one, her parents didn’t go with them; instead sending the two children off alone on a train to the beach. A “grown up vacation” they said, so they could spend some time alone together while Eleanor and Jimmy visited with their grandparents. And at 12 years old, Jimmy was just shy of being a teenager, and Eleanor could already tell that meant the end of her summer camaraderie with her brother. He was sullen and moody, lashing out at Eleanor whenever she tried to talk to him on the train.

Eleanor could see her favorite time of the year turning sour before her eyes. It was going to be a long, lonely summer.

That is, until the night of the fireflies, and the arrival of Nissa. That was when everything changed.

The Little Things

This is another writing exercise I did based on the prompt “the smell of fresh cut grass.” I don’t know why it’s so bleak, I just liked the idea of missing the simple pleasures.

***

It’s the little things I miss the most. A long, hot shower on a weekend morning, when you can take your time and really enjoy it. The breeze in your face as you drive aimlessly with the windows rolled down, just for the hell of it. The smell of fresh cut grass filling your head with memories of childhood summers and late, humid nights. The kinds of things you take for granted until they’re gone and it’s their absence that leaves the impression, like a crater.

I never thought these would be the things I would dwell on when the world ended.

Maybe it’s just my mind desperately trying to cope with the unimaginable. It’s easier to focus your energy on missing the feeling of scrubbing yourself clean in the shower than it is to remember what it was like to watch cities collapse. Easier than remembering the sight of bodies in the streets.

As if that’s the kind of thing a person could ever forget.

When it started, we fled the city. The major population centers were the first to go. But even after those were nothing but crushed buildings and bodies, it continued. For months after, blasts lit up the sky, destroying farmhouses, suburban subdivisions, and open fields alike. Everything burned.

It’s stopped now, but the taut silence following the roar of explosions is nearly as unbearable. Now that the world has been dismantled piece by piece, what will we find in it? Before at least there was a certain kind of horrible predictability. But now it’s time to start over in an unknown world, and that’s a terrifying thought.

We keep moving. There are others like us, small groups of survivors roaming like ancient nomads—family units mostly, or friends from neighborhoods that no longer exist. It’s important to hang onto something familiar when everything else is alien. Our paths cross occasionally, but we never stay together. No one’s ready to start forming new bonds just yet. Building anything new—a home or a family—is too daunting. What if it’s not over? We could lose everything again while we’re still mourning losing it the first time.

It’s nearly impossible to trust outsiders, too. Another casualty of the apocalypse, you could say. Resources are scarce, so no one’s too keen on sharing with strangers. And there have been stories of horrific cruelty and savagery out there. These are desperate times, after all. It’s safer to stick with who know, find a meal and a place to sleep, and keep moving in the morning.

Maybe someday we’ll rebuild. Create new cities and towns where people can settle and stay in one place without fear. Maybe in time we’ll regain those modern conveniences we’ve all been missing so much. Maybe I’ll even have a little lawn of my own to mow. I can pretend to take it for granted while grumbling that I can’t believe it’s time to cut it again already, didn’t I just mow it last week?

But not yet. Right now, we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Right now, we have to survive.

Happily Ever After; or, When “Having it All” Means Something Different to You

Why is it that people in healthy, stable relationships are always seen as having their shit together? Because I can guarantee, that’s not always the case.

I’ve been sick, so I’ve been killing a lot of time watching movies on Netflix. A theme I keep seeing, especially when it comes to women, is this idea that the single ones are always the messes with issues and problems, and the friend (because she’s always a supporting player, never the main character) who’s married or in the long-term relationship is the one who’s got it all figured out and is happy. Is this just because it’s more dramatic or interesting to focus on the one who’s “looking for love” and by virtue of having met her partner, there’s no story to tell about the woman in the relationship? Once you meet the right person, and fall in love, is there nothing left to say? Jesus, that’s depressing.

Not to burst the bubble of every chick-lit reader and romantic comedy watcher out there, but finding true love doesn’t mean happily ever after. And no, I’m not talking about the relationship. Obviously couples don’t always stay together, and the ones who do often hit rough patches, but I’m talking about happiness beyond your relationship. Why isn’t that a topic that’s addressed more often in fiction?

I have a great husband, and I know I’m extremely lucky. Paul and I have been together nearly ten years now, and married over two. He’s my best friend in the world and I love him like crazy. And not to brag or anything, but we’re pretty much perfect together. But that’s not all there is to us, not all there is to me.

A few years ago, I was unemployed for a year and a half. It was awful, and I was miserable. But one of the things I kept hearing was “at least you have Paul.” Don’t get me wrong, I was so grateful to have his support, I don’t know how I would have made it through that time without him. But there was this idea that things in my life couldn’t be that bad because I had a good relationship, and I just don’t get that.

Having Paul didn’t keep me from falling into a serious depression. Paul couldn’t keep me from feeling completely worthless while I sent resumes out day after day and got rejected from jobs I didn’t even want in the first place. Yes, it’s great that I have a great relationship, but it’s not always enough, and that’s ok. It’s ok to want to other parts of your life to be as good as the best part.

I’ve had this idea for a story that I’ve really been wanting to write for ages now, but I just haven’t been able to get it right in my head yet. I want it to be a kind of satire of those chick-lit tropes. So often in these stories, the woman has this effortlessly glamorous and amazing career, but she doesn’t care about that, she’s too busy wondering why that blind date didn’t call her back– was it because she’s so clumsy? (She’s always clumsy.) Instead, I want to write about a woman who’s completely happy with her partner, but is just so unlucky when it comes to her work life. I think it would be a fun and new perspective.

I think it’s a great idea, but maybe that’s just because it reflects my life better than that other type of story. Is there a market for something like that? I guess it doesn’t really matter yet, I haven’t written it yet. It’s one of those stories I’ve started a dozen times, only to scrap a few pages in for some reason or another. I have all these ideas for it, but I just can’t seem to get it started.

Maybe because that would be more like a full-length book, rather than a short story or the little writing exercises I’ve been doing lately. And I feel like I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to writing, so I’d better do some stretches and warm up before trying to do a marathon. And it’s an idea that’s been in my head so long, I really want to do it justice.

Hopefully I’ll get to it eventually. In the meantime, I’m going to find something on Netflix without a love story.

Going Steady with the Messiah

This is an old story I wrote back in undergrad. It actually started as an exercise for one of my workshops– write a scene based on a dream you’d had, and use strong imagery and details to ground the more fantastical elements in reality. I didn’t have any interesting dreams to write about (I rarely remember them in any kind of coherent narrative) but this guy I’d just started dating named Paul told me about this dream he’d had and let me use it for my assignment. A year or so later I turned it into a short story for another workshop, and it’s been through a few revisions in the years since.

It started as a first-person narrative from the girlfriend’s perspective, but then I wanted to play around with point of view, and changed the narrator to a third-person omniscient presence who knows a lot more than the characters do– which seems fitting for this particular story, but at the time I was just aiming for a Ron Howard in Arrested Development voice over kind of thing. I was mostly able to resist the urge to make any edits reading it again recently, because I wanted to give an honest look at the way I used to write. Hopefully I’ve gotten better and can continue to improve, but several years later, I still really like this story. Hope you enjoy it too.

***

Maggie Taylor paced her apartment. Her boyfriend Gabe Holt was late. He was supposed to pick her up at 9:00 for their one-year anniversary, but it was quarter after 11:00, and he wasn’t answering his cell phone. Maggie alternated between anger and concern as she waited restlessly.

“He’d better have a damn good excuse,” she said to her puggle Chuck, who followed at her heels. Maggie immediately felt guilty, imagining her boyfriend lying dead in a ditch somewhere. There weren’t many ditches to be found in Georgetown, but Maggie’s capacity for rational thought was clouded at the moment.

At the sound of a knock, Maggie lunged for the door. “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what time it is? Why didn’t you at least call me? I thought you were lying in a ditch somewhere, bleeding and disfigured!” She said by way of greeting.

“I didn’t know there were any ditches in Georgetown,” Gabe said. “Hey Chuck,” he said, picking up the small dog.

“I’m waiting for an explanation,” Maggie said.

“It’s kind of a long story sweetie, and it’s kind of hard to believe.”

“Try me.”

“Ok, but don’t get pissed, ok?” Gabe asked.

“Gabe, I’m already pissed.”

“Well, I met Jesus tonight. As in, Christ.”

“You’re right, I don’t believe you,” Maggie said. “Now tell me what really happened.”

“No, I’m serious.” Gabe sat down on the couch with Chuck in his lap. “I met Jesus. Actually, I saved his ass.”

“Cut it out,” Maggie said. “Just tell me what’s going on.”

“I did tell you. I swear Maggie, I’m not lying,” Gabe said. However, Gabe couldn’t blame his girlfriend for doubting him. This wasn’t the first time he’d tried to reel her in with an elaborate story. Those tales usually ended with Gabe’s laughter and Maggie’s ire. For two days during their first month of dating Maggie had been convinced that the Attorney General was having an illicit affair with Gabe’s neighbor.

“You know what?” Maggie said. “I’m not in the mood for another of your bullshit stories. I’m tired. I spent the last two hours waiting on you, and now I’m just ready for bed. If you feel like telling me the truth, wake me up.” She snatched Chuck out of Gabe’s lap and left the room, each sharp click of her heels reminding Gabe of the anniversary dinner they’d missed.

Twenty minutes later, Gabe gently shook Maggie’s shoulder. “You mind if I join you?” Without a word, she rolled over and Gabe slipped into bed, pulling the comforter up to his chin.

***

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