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I hover near the back, feeling the sting of tears across my eyes, too, because this scene is wonderful and they’re all sobbing and I love him

I love him

I love him

and this reunion is truly one of the most genuine displays of joy I’ve ever witnessed.

“How did you manage this?” he asks, his voice muffled by his mother’s coat.

“Amanda,” she cries, squeezing him tighter. “Your sweet Amanda and Brigid arranged the whole thing!”

Calvin looks up, sobering as his eyes meet mine across the room.

I put on a pot of water for some tea and make myself busy in the kitchen while they take a few minutes to get caught up. My movements feel robotic, my pulse is paradoxically slow.

Why did he give Brigid my number?

What was he thinking?

And how did we manage to never use names for crying out loud? How did she never ask me why we were in touch now—rather than years ago when we supposedly first got married?

She won’t get too personal, he’d said.

It’s the McLoughlin way.

Would Calvin have told her not to ask?

The deception of that possibility feels cutting.

“When did you get in?” he asks them.

“Just now,” Marina tells him. “Amanda met us at the airport, we took a car here.”

I feel him glance across the room into the kitchen. “She said she had a doctor’s appointment.”

“Oh, she fooled you!” Brigid laughs, and I hear the sound of them groaning happily in another embrace.

“Are you tired?” he asks, and I note how thick his accent becomes around them.

“Exhausted,” his mother says. “We didn’t sleep on the plane.”

Calvin is quiet for a few breaths, and then says quietly, “We could make up the bed here for you to rest a bit.”

“Not at all, Callie,” Marina says to her son. “We’re staying at the Sheraton.”

“Let’s get you checked in, then. You can have a lie-down.”

“Amanda’s uncle got us tickets to see you tonight.”

“Oh, he did?” His voice is so tight. “Wonderful. Thank you, love,” he calls out to me.

I try to reply with as much natural brightness as I can muster: “Of course, Callie!”

“Come on, then,” he murmurs to them, “let’s get you sorted.”

He moves them toward the door before ducking into the kitchen and putting his arms around me in a show of gratitude. “Thank you for this,” he says.

“Are you kidding?” I give him a bright smile, knowing they’re listening and hoping they can hear it in my voice. “I’m so happy for you. That was so sweet, I started crying, too.”

He pulls back, kissing my temple, and looks at me; I can feel how flat my expression is. A book’s worth of words is communicated in our eyes.

“I’m going to take them to their hotel to get checked in,” he says.

Nodding stiffly, I say, “Okay.”

Calvin leans in, lips pressed to my cheek. “I’ll explain everything later, please don’t leave.”

I don’t say anything.

His lips come right up against my ear. “I’m so sorry, mo stóirín.”

So many times I’ve felt his kiss there, and in the rearview mirror, every one of them now seems suspect.

“Don’t leave,” he repeats.

Unable to stop it, I feel a fat tear roll down my cheek. “Okay.”

Calvin returns an hour later, alone. He walks in, shuts the door, and then leans against it, closing his eyes.

I watch from the sofa, still nauseated, waiting to see how this is all going to unfold. In a weird way, I feel like I’ve been cheated on, and I know that sentiment isn’t quite right, but the betrayal is sharp like that: bewilderment with a side of inexplicable shame.

“I was going to tell you this whole story,” he says, straightening and walking toward me with wary eyes. “I didn’t think it would come out this way.”

“I’m just sitting here reeling in the irony that a few weeks ago you were so upset I didn’t admit I had feelings for you before we knew each other. Meanwhile, you’ve been married for years to a woman named Amanda?”

“It’s a lie.” He sits beside me, reaching to put his hand on my thigh before he seems to think better of it.

“But is there someone named Amanda?”

“She’s my ex-girlfriend.”

Inside, my heart seems to flip over and twist, and I remember. “Oh.”

“I mentioned her when we first . . . were married.”

“The bossy one.”

He laughs, but it isn’t a joyful sound. “Right.”

I don’t even know if I need him to tell me more, because the story unfolds so obviously in front of me. His words fade in and out, close on the heels of my own spiraling understanding: “I haven’t spoken to her since we broke up. We were together only six months or so. It was so good when we first met . . . I was young, and stupid. After only a week I told my family that I was going to marry her, and stay in the States. Things went off the rails, but I didn’t bother to tell them. Didn’t want them to worry, and it got to a point where it was easier to lie.”

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