“I know the sex wasn’t a fraud,” I say, and meet his eyes in time to catch his tiny wince. “But I don’t know how to believe you want more than that when you stood there and asked me to let them call me Amanda. That doesn’t scream long term.”
“I need some time to think. Maybe I’ll call my family tonight and talk it out.”
“The show is tonight, love. Mam and Bridge—”
“You can’t honestly expect me to come along, can you?”
His expression crashes and he steps forward, holding my arm in his free hand. “Holland, this is all shite, I get that. But I’ll talk to them, I’ll explain. We’ll fix this.”
I know I’m going to hate that I say it, but I can’t seem to hold the words back: “We don’t need to fix it anymore. You’re free.”
The wind chooses this moment to burst past us, propelling us apart. It’s the perfect moment for the perfect metaphor.
Calvin searches my eyes for a few more seconds and then looks away. “All right. I’ll come round later to gather my things.”
I’ve done a lot of crazy things in the last four months, but calling Brian and quitting before tonight’s performance might be the craziest. I couldn’t tell if he was speechless from glee or shock, but his silence on the other end allowed me to get the words out, even as my own realization that I was quitting rather than just calling in sick unfolded over the phone: I’m not coming in tonight.
Actually, I really need to find something else to do.
I’m not happy working there anymore.
I think . . . I’m quitting.
Jeff and Robert I have to tell in person—I owe them that courtesy after everything they did to get me the job in the first place. But Lulu—bless her heart—replied with a string of hearts and eggplants and smiley faces and rocker-hand emojis before typing the actual words It’s about fucking time. Within ten minutes she sent me a list of restaurants where I should apply.
So while the fire of mania and heartache and terror and regret still burns me up inside, I update my résumé, planning to take it to a dozen places this week.
I worked at the dining hall when I was at Yale—that’s about the extent of my food industry experience. But I’m hoping that my days at the Levin-Gladstone will cash out here, because it is hard as hell to get a job there, and archivist and customer relations looks pretty bad-ass on paper. I get now that what Robert gave me wasn’t a great job, but a great investment.
And then I come home and open my article on Calvin, and the production, and my hunt for talent in New York, trying to Rumpelstiltskin my black angst into golden prose and do everything I can to avoid thinking about how it’s going to feel when Calvin gets home and I realize we’re really over.
I’m hammering away at my keyboard, high on word count and two glasses of wine, but my righteous resolve melts when Calvin walks into the apartment and hangs his coat up on the hook.
He stands by the door, expression somber, and then pulls in a deep breath, stepping into the room.
Taking a perch on the corner of the coffee table, he says quietly, “You weren’t even out in the lobby.” He looks exhausted: blue circles bloom beneath bloodshot eyes, and his normally smiling mouth is a grim, flat line.
I slide my laptop onto the table beside him. “I called Brian and quit.”
He doesn’t seem at all surprised by this. He just nods, staring down at his interlaced hands. Seeing his wedding band glint in the lamplight is enough to suck the air from my lungs.
“Where are your mom and sister?” I ask. A glance at the clock shows me that it’s well past midnight; the show ended at least two hours ago.
“Back at the hotel.”
“Did they have fun?”
He nods but doesn’t answer aloud.
“I’m sure they were so proud of you.”
“I think so,” he says.
I tink so.
This is nothing like my breakup with Bradley, where it felt like all we had to do was put a lid on a box. Right now, my heart hurts. It’s squeezing and squeezing and squeezing, trying to keep me moving through this moment where I’m pretty sure I’ve decided that in order to get myself back, I’ll be losing him.
“I told them about Amanda.” He scratches at a fleck of white on his black dress trousers. “They’re peeved. They’ll get over it.”
I don’t know what to say to this. All that comes out is a sympathetic hum.
Calvin looks up at me. “Will you?”
“Get over it?”
“Maybe,” I tell him, “but not right away. I mean, I think I understand why you lied to them—you didn’t want them to worry about you out here. But then you didn’t tell me, either, and it all just seems very . . . convenient. I had a hard time trusting that this was real at the beginning, and it doesn’t exactly help that you wanted me to lie about my name to your family.”
“I’ll explain whatever you need me to,” he says. “I did a shite job explaining this—I was panicked. I realize it all looks so bad from where you’re sitting.”
“Yeah.” I look up at him. “And although we can hash out the Amanda thing, I’m not sure you can explain away Natalie.”