“I know,” Trey says lightly. “I’ve never understood her interest either. It’s at odds with every other thing about her, but P’s all about The Bachelor.”
“Not all about it,” I say, defensive. I started watching a couple seasons ago with Rachel when a girl from her art program was a contestant, and within three or four episodes, I was hooked. “I just think it’s, like, this incredible experiment,” I explain. “And you get to watch hours of the footage compiled in it. You learn so much about people.”
Sarah’s eyebrows flick up. “Like what narcissists are willing to do for fame?”
Trey laughs. “Dead-on.”
I force out a laugh, take another sip of my wine. “Not what I was talking about.” I shift uncomfortably, trying to figure out how to explain myself. “I mean, there’s a lot that I like. But one thing . . . I like how in the end, it seems like it’s actually a hard decision for some people. There will be two or three contestants they feel a strong connection with, and it doesn’t just come down to choosing the strongest one. Instead, it’s like . . . you’re watching them choose a life.”
And that’s how it is in real life too. You can love someone and still know the future you’d have with them wouldn’t work for you, or for them, or maybe even for both of you.
“But do any of those relationships really work out?” Sarah asks.
“Most don’t,” I admit. “But that’s not the point. You watch someone date all these people, and you see how different they are with each of them, and then you watch them choose. Some people choose the person they have the best chemistry with, or that they have the most fun with, and some choose the one they think will make an amazing father, or who they’ve felt the safest opening up to. It’s fascinating. How so much of love is about who you are with someone.”
I love who I am with Trey. I’m confident and independent, flexible and coolheaded. I’m at ease. I’m the person I always dreamed I would be.
“Fair,” Sarah allows. “It’s the part about making out with, like, thirty guys then getting engaged to someone you’ve met five times that’s harder for me to swallow.”
Trey tips his head back, laughing. “You’d totally sign up for that show if we broke up. Wouldn’t you, P?”
“Now, that I would watch,” Sarah says, giggling.
I know he’s joking around, but it irks me, feeling like they’re united against me.
I think about saying, Why do you think that? Because I’m a narcissist who’s willing to do anything to get famous?
Alex bumps his leg into mine under the table, and when I glance at him, he’s not even looking my way. He’s just reminding me that he’s here, that nothing can really hurt me.
I bite down on my words and let it go. “More wine?”
The next night, we eat a long, late dinner out on the terrace. When I go inside to dish up gelato for dessert, I find Alex standing in the kitchen, reading an email.
He has just gotten word that Tin House accepted one of his stories. He looks so happy, so brilliantly himself, that I sneak a picture of him. I love it so much I would probably set it as my background if both of us were single and that wasn’t extremely weird for both Sarah and Trey.
We decide we have to celebrate (as if that isn’t what this whole trip has been), and Trey makes us mojitos and we sit out on the chaise lounges overlooking the valley, listening to the soft, twinkly sounds of nighttime in the countryside.
I barely sip on my drink. I’ve been nauseated all night, and for the first time, I excuse myself to go to sleep long before the others. Trey climbs into bed hours later, tipsy and kissing on my neck, pulling on me, and after we have sex, he falls asleep immediately, and my nausea comes back.
That’s when it occurs to me.
I was supposed to start my period at some point on this trip.
Probably it’s a fluke. There are a lot of reasons to wind up nauseated while traveling internationally. And Trey and I are fairly careful.
Still, I get out of bed, stomach roiling, and tiptoe downstairs, opening my notes app to see when I was expecting my period. Rachel’s constantly telling me to get this period tracker app, but until now I haven’t really seen the point.
My ears are pounding. My heart is racing. My tongue feels too big for my mouth.
I was supposed to start yesterday. A two-day delay isn’t unheard-of. Nausea after drinking buckets of red wine isn’t either. Especially for a migraineur. But still, I’m freaking out.
I grab my jacket off the coatrack, stuff my feet into sandals, and take the rental car keys. The nearest twenty-four-hour grocery store is thirty-eight minutes away. I make it back to the villa with three different pregnancy tests before the sun has even started to rise.
By then I’m in a full-blown panic. All I can do is pace back and forth on the terrace, gripping the most expensive pregnancy test in one hand and reminding myself to inhale, exhale, inhale. My lungs feel worse than they did when I had pneumonia.
“Couldn’t sleep?” A quiet voice startles me. Alex is leaned against the open door in a pair of black shorts and running shoes, his pale body cast blue by the predawn.
A laugh dies in my throat. I’m not sure why. “Are you getting up to run?”
“It’s cooler before the sun’s up.”
I nod, wrap my arms around myself, and turn back to gaze over the valley. Alex comes to stand beside me, and without looking over at him, I start to cry. He reaches out for my hand and unfurls it to see the pregnancy test clenched there.
For ten seconds, he is silent. We are both silent.
“Have you taken one yet?” he asks softly.
I shake my head and start to cry harder. He pulls me in, wraps his arms around my back as I let my breath out in a few rushes of quiet sobs. It eases some of the pressure, and I draw back from him, wiping my eyes with the heels of my hands.