“And your point to all this is? Are you trying to end your two-year streak of putting up with me? Because in about ten seconds, I think you will have succeeded.”
“No, sir. The point I wanted to make is that…well…a few months ago you started to change. Eliza, your secretary, was here for almost six weeks, and she actually seemed to like her job.”
I stared at her, but said nothing, forcing her to continue.
“Until a few days ago. When Angry Mr. Morgan walked back in. I don’t know what happened, but whatever it is, I’m sorry. And I hope we get Nice Mr. Morgan back again real soon.”
Nice Mr. Morgan? He was the asshole who got stepped on. “Are you done yet, Ava?”
“I am. I’m sorry if I upset you. I just wanted to say you seemed happy. And now you’re not.”
I picked up my pen and proceeded to bury myself back in my work. Ava took the hint this time. Just as she was about to walk out, I asked, “What happened to your dad?”
“You said your dad used to be like me.”
“Oh. He met my stepmother. Now he’s different.”
“Leave the newspapers on the credenza and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.”
I POURED MYSELF A DRINK and stared out my office window. It was dark already. For the last three days, I left the house before the sun rose and returned in the middle of the night. I was exhausted, and it had nothing to do with lack of sleep. The anger that I’d been carrying around was physically draining. Blood boiled in my veins. I was distraught, rejected, betrayed, filled with fury. Hurt squeezed the cold muscle that had replaced the warm heart inside my chest—a heart that had only just begun to thaw after meeting Soraya.
I’d been betrayed before. Fuck, Genevieve and Liam were my best friend and fiancé. When shit went down with them, I’d lost two people who had been the biggest part of my life for years. Yet that loss felt nothing like this. No, there was no comparison. This was utter devastation—the type of loss you feel when you lose someone to death. I still couldn’t get over what Soraya had done to me…what she’d done to us. Never would I have thought she was capable of being unfaithful. The woman I fell in love with was open and honest. It made me question if I had ever really known her at all.
My phone vibrated in my pocket, and just as I did for the last three days, my hopes rose longing to see Soraya’s name flash on the screen. But, of course, it wasn’t; she was gone. I gulped back the contents of my glass and answered.
“Graham. What’s going on? Where have you been?”
“I’ve been busy.”
“Chloe is starting to ask questions. You’ve canceled on seeing her two nights in a row. She’s very vulnerable right now after losing Liam and needs consistency. She needs you, Graham. Somehow, she’s already grown attached.”
I closed my eyes. The last thing I wanted to do was let Chloe down. I’d canceled because I didn’t want her to see me this way—unhappy and angry. But I was a parent now. I needed to get my head out of my ass for the sake of my daughter. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing that concerns you.”
“Is something going on with that girlfriend of yours?”
I ignored her question. “How about if I come for breakfast in the morning and then take Chloe to school?”
“That would be good.” The phone went quiet for a minute. “Chloe isn’t the only one who misses you, Graham. I like having you around.”
“I’ll see you at seven tomorrow, Genevieve.”
After I hung up, I set my empty glass on the credenza. The pile of newspapers that Ava had left were still there. The City Post, the paper that Ask Ida was printed in each day. I picked the top one up and stared at it. I’d intentionally avoided going anywhere near the paper, unable to trust myself not to scour the Ask Ida column for traces of Soraya’s words. The last thing I needed was to read her giving advice to some poor schlep on the topic of love or cheating. No fucking way. I threw the paper back on the pile and decided to call it a day.
“MOMMY SAID YOU LIKED BANANAS in your pancakes.” Chloe and I were sitting at the dining room table finishing our breakfast and strawberry milk. Genevieve had gone upstairs to get dressed for work.
“I do. And chocolate chips, too. My grandmother used to make banana chocolate chip pancakes for me all the time when I was your age.” I leaned to my daughter and whispered, “You want to know a secret?”