I sit on the bed and take off my shoes—the rest of my clothes quickly follow. Dee slides under the covers, then switches off the lamp, but the room doesn’t plunge into total darkness. There’s just enough light from the window to make out her silhouette—on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Boxers on, I climb under the covers next to her. And as soon as my head is on the pillow, she moves closer, turning on her side and resting her forehead against my bicep.
“I’m glad you didn’t go.”
I wrap my arm around her, pulling our bodies together—her cheek now on my chest, her hand on my stomach, our legs entwined. Delores whispers, “What am I supposed to do tomorrow? It’s Thanksgiving. Kate, Billy, and I were going to spend the day together—go out for steak.”
My brow wrinkles. “Steak?”
I feel her shrug. “Everybody eats turkey. I hate doing what everyone else does.”
And I can’t help but smile.
“I can’t choose between them,” she continues. “This is going to be hard enough—I don’t want either of them to feel lonely.” Dee lifts her head and looks into my eyes. “If Steven and Alexandra broke up, who would you pick to spend the day with?”
I stroke her back lightly and answer in the most unhelpful way possible.
“I don’t know.”
She lies back down on my chest. And I add, “You don’t have to choose. You could blow them both off equally and come to Drew’s parents’ place with me for dinner.”
She snorts. “No, I can’t do that.”
I didn’t actually think she’d go for it.
I suggest an alternative. “Your cousin is going to be sleeping it off for many hours to come. And when he does wake up, I can guarantee he’s not gonna want to eat steak. Leave Billy a note, meet up with Kate for brunch, spend the afternoon with her, then take him out for a late dinner.”
“But they’ll both still be alone, for part of the day at least.”
“They’re adults, Dee. They’ll deal. And who knows, maybe tomorrow they’ll patch things up.”
“I don’t think so,” she says softly. “It’s probably for the best if they don’t.”
“That’s pretty much what your cousin said too.”
She kisses my chest lightly—one sweet peck. “It’s just . . . sad. The end of an era.”
I squeeze her. Dee tilts her head back to look at me. “Matthew, these last few weeks with you and me . . . I . . .” She pauses and licks her lips. “I . . . I’m really glad you stayed tonight.”
After a few minutes, her breathing turns steady and deep. I think she’s fallen asleep, until, in a small voice she says, “Just . . . don’t hurt me . . . okay.”
I run my hand through her hair and hold her tight. “Not ever, Delores. Promise.”
They’re the last words we speak before we both fall asleep.
Early the next morning, Dee wakes up just long enough to kiss me good-bye. I walk past Billy—dead to the world—on the couch and go home for a long shower. Then I drive up to Drew’s parents’ country place for the day’s festivities.
All the usual suspects are in attendance—John and Anne, Steven and Alexandra, George, and my mother and father. I make my way through the handshakes and hugs to the back sunroom, which affords a panoramic view of the pristine backyard. And a view of Drew—with Mackenzie—riding opposite ends of the very same seesaw we played on, as kids, a lifetime ago.
Although they seem to be engaged in a serious conversation, I walk out the back door anyway, to join them. Drew lets Mackenzie know I’m here and she jumps off the seesaw, runs, and throws herself into my arms like she hasn’t seen me for months. But I eat it up and give her a long hug when her little arms wrap around my neck.
Then I set her down and we walk back to Drew. “Hey, man,” he greets me.
“What’s up?” I ask. “You go out early last night? You never came back to the party.”
He shrugs. “My head wasn’t in it. I hit the gym and went to bed.”
Huh. That kind of behavior is weird for Drew, and I wonder if it has anything to do with his pissy attitude toward Kate and Billy at the party.
“You hung out with that Delores chick?” he asks.
I nod. And test the waters. “Her, Kate, and Billy.”
He shakes his head. “That guy licks ass.”
Mackenzie walks over to us and holds up the Bad Word Jar—Alexandra’s invention—to keep us in check around her kid. It’s simultaneously a bane of my existence and completely f**king hysterical.
“He’s not so bad.”
Drew says, “Idiots annoy me.” And he loses another dollar.
I think he does it on purpose—actually curses more than he would if the jar didn’t exist. Like a twisted sort of reverse psychology, just to buck the system and show his sister that he won’t be controlled.
And maybe you’re wondering why I haven’t told him about Billy and Kate’s breakup? The answer is simple: Guys don’t f**king gossip. We don’t talk about shit like that—other people’s relationship issues. We barely talk about our own relationship issues. It’s just that simple.
Plus, Drew would be on Kate like white on rice, if he knew she got dumped. Because everyone knows dumped chicks are low-hanging fruit. Easy pickings. I think it would give him an unfair advantage in their little battle of the sexes. One he doesn’t need.