I think I want to get drunk, but only one glass of wine in, I text Calvin.
I think it’s probably best if we skip dinner. I’ll have Robert give you a copy of the essay tomorrow.
Best for whom?
My heart sags. I’m positive that getting drunk will only result in me calling him later and sobbing into the phone. It might not be fair, but I’m furious with him for moving on so quickly. Just over a month! When I get angry, I cry. It’s like the two wires cross in my emotional brain.
I haven’t said anything to Lulu yet about Calvin and Natalie, but in her tiny pauses to draw breath outside of the Lulu Bubble—babbling about whether or not to break up with Gene, and getting Botox next week, and the new shoes she can’t afford but is going to buy anyway—she seems to pick up that something is wrong.
“I thought we were celebrating the essay,” she says, and pushes my wine closer to me. “You just got your thing published in the place you were super excited about. Why do you look like such a sad sack when I’m describing a pair of Valentinos?”
I stab a fry into a tiny ceramic cup of truffle sauce. Now, with her question, I’m defensive and sad. Why does Lulu always make it seem as though my feelings are an inconvenient distraction from hers?
“I’m a ‘sad sack,’?” I say irritably, “because I think Calvin is dating Natalie Nguyen.”
She nods, popping one of my fries into her mouth. “I saw that the other day.”
I feel like I’ve been punched.
I count to ten, and then give myself only one second to glare up at her. Something inside me is on fire. “Thanks for the heads-up.”
“What did you want me to say? ‘Good luck competing with that’?” She eats another fry. “Wouldn’t that be worse?”
This moment, right here, is where my friendship with Lulu dies.
“How are you?” Davis asks, and in the background I hear neither the television nor any sort of food preparation. The silence tells me that my brother is genuinely worried about me.
“I vacillate between excited about the essay and sad about the boy.” Sad is an understatement. In the week since I saw the photo, and then had drinks with Lulu, I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time sobbing into my pillow.
Davis, wisely, does not make a comment about how hot Natalie Nguyen is, or how I should have seen all of this coming. “I’m sorry, Holls. Have you talked to him?”
“No.” I don’t mention that he’s called me twice this week. Both voicemails were simple and unsentimental—Holland, it’s me. Please call—and although Calvin (the real one, not the past version who sexted me lines to show in an interview) is far more likely to be emotional in person than over voicemail, I also know him well enough to be able to read distance there.
I probably should woman up and have the conversation about initiating our annulment, but although Jeff and Robert still insist I might be wrong, even if there is a five percent chance that Calvin and Natalie aren’t a thing, I’m not sure I’m prepared for the ninety-five percent chance of confirmation that they are.
“And Jeff said something about you having a split with Lulu, too?”
I groan in confirmation, but less out of heartbreak and more out of a surprising relief that the stress of that friendship is past me. With the mention of Lulu, though—and the reminder of her dismal display of tender emotions—I remember that I refuse to be a self-absorbed brat, and there is an actual reason why I called my brother. “I have good news, though. It’s about Robert.”
We found out yesterday that Robert has won the Drama Desk Award for Possessed, a huge Broadway honor. Jeff—who is over the moon about it—is planning a fiftieth birthday party/award celebration. Of course I have to be there . . . and of course Calvin will be, too.
No way am I going solo. I need major reinforcements, and nobody makes me laugh harder than Davis.
“I know where this is going,” he says once I’ve explained the situation. He lets out a long sigh. “Does this mean I need to get a plane ticket and rent a tux?”
“Well yeah, because I want my date to look hot.”
“That is some Flowers in the Attic stuff, Holls. Don’t be weird.”
“You ready for Saturday?” Jeff asks, putting an arm around me as we maneuver through the world’s most expensive grocery store.
“I’m nervous,” I admit.
“Have you picked out a dress?”
“No.” I loathe shopping. “I have a nice black one I can wear.”
My proper dress.
“We should get you something new. This is a big deal.” Jeff pauses to inspect some produce, and doesn’t notice my horror as he seems to seriously consider purchasing a tiny bag of cherries for twelve dollars. “I’m glad Davis is coming out. I haven’t seen him in nearly a year.”
Despite my mopey heart, I have to admit that good things are happening. The essay, Robert’s award, Davis’s visit. I know Jeff is right, and over time I’ll feel incrementally better about this whole Calvin thing. I’m just not there yet.
So when Jeff puts the cherries down and turns to face me fully, wearing an expression of grim resignation, I know he’s preparing to say something that will eviscerate me.
“What?” I ask, my voice low and predatory.