Authors: Colleen Hoover
She releases a frustrated breath. “I’ll let you know after I talk to your fath—” Her mouth clamps shut when she realizes what she was about to say.
I’m not certain because I’m staring out my window, but I think she cries the entire way home.
Two years, six months, and thirteen days. That’s exactly how long Clara and I can live off Chris’s life insurance policy if we continue to live like we’re living. His Social Security check won’t come close to what his actual paycheck was, which means decisions need to be made. Finances need to be reconfigured. Clara’s college fund may need to be decreased. I need to find a job. A
Yet . . . I can’t seem to get out of bed or off the couch to face any of it. I feel like with the more hours I can put between the accident and the current moment, the pain will get better. When the pain is better, maybe my lack of desire to tackle everything that needs to be done will lessen.
I figure the quickest way to get from point A (grief) to point B (less grief) is to sleep my way through it. I think Clara feels the same way, because both of us spent most of the weekend sleeping.
She’s barely spoken to me since the funeral. I took her phone as soon as I found out she’d gotten high. But I haven’t been in the mood for conversation lately, either, so I don’t push her.
I don’t push her, but I do hug her. I don’t know if the hugs are more because I need them or because I’m worried about how she’s taking
everything. Tuesday will make a week since the wreck, and I have no idea if she’s going back to school tomorrow or if she still needs more time. I’d give her more time if she needs it, but we haven’t discussed it yet.
I peek into her room just to make sure she’s okay. I don’t know how to confront this kind of grief with her. We’ve never had to navigate something this awful. I feel lost without Chris. Without Jenny, even. They were always my go-tos when I needed to vent or needed reassurance about how I’m parenting Clara.
My mother died a few years ago, but she’s the last person I’d want to get parenting advice from, anyway. I have friends, but none of them have experienced this level of unexpected loss. I feel like I’m navigating waters that are uncharted by anyone I know. I plan on putting Clara in therapy, but maybe not for another month or so. I want to give her time to work out the most painful part of the grief before I force her into something I know she isn’t going to want to do.
The house has never been so quiet. Not even the sound of the TV fills the background, because the damn cable is still broken. Chris took care of all the bills, so I’m not even sure what the name of our cable company is. I’ll figure it out eventually.
I lower myself to the living room floor. It’s dark, and I attempt to meditate, but really all I’m doing is thinking of everything I can possibly think of that doesn’t involve a thought of Chris or Jenny, but it’s hard. Almost every memory I have includes one of them.
They were both a part of every single milestone or event in my life. My entire pregnancy with Clara. Her birth. Our wedding, our anniversaries, graduations, family holidays, birthday cookouts, movie dates, fishing and camping trips, Elijah’s birth.
Every important moment of my life included the two of them. They were my whole world, and I was theirs. Which is why I refuse to give another thought as to why they might have been together. There’s
no way they would have betrayed me like that. Betrayed
like that. I would have known.
would have known.
My thoughts are interrupted when the doorbell rings.
I get a glimpse of Jonah’s car out the window as I’m heading toward the front door. I don’t feel relieved to see him, because I’d rather not have any visitors at all, but I also don’t feel the irritation I usually feel at the sight of him when I open the door. My sympathy for his situation overshadows my irritation. Of course, I’m devastated about Jenny and Chris, but I’m reasonable enough to know that this affects Jonah more than it affects me. He’s got an infant to raise.
I at least had Chris, Jenny, and Chris’s parents to help with Clara.
Jonah only has his mother.
I guess he has me too. But I’m not much help right now.
I open the door, shocked by what I see. Jonah hasn’t shaved in a few days. He doesn’t even look like he’s showered. Or slept. He probably hasn’t, because
haven’t, and I don’t even have an infant to care for.
“Hey,” he says, his voice flat.
I open the door to let him in. “Where’s Elijah?”
“My mother wanted him for a few hours.”
That makes me feel good. Jonah needs the break.
I don’t know why he’s here, but I’m scared it’s because he wants to talk about what happened. He’s probably here to dissect why they were together. If I could have my way, I’d never speak of it. I want to pretend it didn’t happen. The grief of losing them is enough. I don’t want to pile anger and feelings of betrayal on top of that.
I just want to miss them. I don’t think I have enough strength left to hate them.
We’re standing quietly in the living room for only five seconds, but it feels like longer. I don’t know what to do. Take him to the back patio to sit? Take a seat at the dining room table with him? The couch? This is awkward because I don’t have that kind of ease with Jonah anymore.
My routine with him since he showed back up has been avoidance, and since I can’t really avoid him right now, I feel like this is all-new territory.
“Is Clara home?”
I nod. “Yeah. In her room.”
He glances down the hallway. “I’d like to talk to you in private if you have a minute.”
The living room is the farthest room from Clara’s bedroom. I have a straight view down the hallway and will see her if she comes out of her room, so I point him toward the love seat, and I take the couch facing the hallway.
He leans forward, elbows on his knees, fingers coming to a point against his chin. He sighs heavily. “I don’t know if it’s too soon to discuss it,” he says, “but I have so many questions.”
want to discuss it.”
He sighs, leaning back against the couch. “Morgan.”
I hate how he says my name. Full of disappointment. “What good would it do, Jonah? We don’t know why they were together. If we start dissecting it, we might find answers we don’t want.”
He squeezes his jaw. We sit in a stark, uncomfortable silence for an entire minute. Then, as if it’s a brand-new thought, Jonah’s eyes flicker to mine. “Where is Chris’s car?” Jonah can tell by the way I avert my eyes that this is something else I was trying to avoid. “He left here in his car that morning, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” I whisper.
I’ve been wondering where his car is, but I haven’t done anything about trying to locate it. I’m afraid of what the location might prove. I’d rather just not know where it is forever, rather than find out it’s parked at some hotel.
“Did he have OnStar?”
I nod. Jonah pulls out his cell phone and goes outside to make the phone call. I rush to the kitchen because I need a drink. I feel nauseated.
I find the bottle of wine Jonah and Jenny brought over last week for my birthday. We never got around to opening it because we had a bottle leftover. I unscrew the cork and pour myself a glass.
The glass is almost empty when Jonah walks into the kitchen.
His face has completely drained of color, and I know with that one look that this isn’t good. My biggest fear is probably about to come true, and even though I don’t want to know, I still can’t help but ask.
I cover my mouth with a hesitant hand. “Where is it?” I whisper.
His face conveys his words before they even come out of his mouth. “It’s parked at the Langford.”
My hand drops from my mouth, and I clench my stomach. I must look like I’m about to faint because Jonah takes the glass of wine from my hand and sets it carefully on the counter.
“I called the hotel,” he continues. “They’ve been leaving voice mails on Chris’s phone. They said we can come get the keys and the stuff that was left in their room.”
My sister and my husband’s hotel room.
“I can’t, Jonah.” My voice is a pained whisper.
His expression is sympathetic now. He puts his hands on my shoulders and dips his head. “You have to. His car will be towed tomorrow if we don’t pick it up tonight. You need his car, Morgan.”
My eyes are filled with tears. I press my lips together and nod. “Okay, but I don’t want to know what’s in the room.”
“That’s fine. You can drive Chris’s car home, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Chris and I stayed at the Langford once. It was our two-year anniversary, and it was before I had finally dropped out of college. He couldn’t take the time off his weekend job, so he booked us a Wednesday night.
My mother kept Clara, and we spent the entire night in bed together.
It was heaven.
We were both exhausted from having a toddler and trying to finish school, so as soon as we got a moment of peace, we took advantage of it. We were only nineteen and twenty years old. Not even old enough to drink alcohol, but already tired enough to have been twice our age.
It eventually got to a point where day care was costing more than I was making at my part-time job, we were barely making ends meet, and the only logical solution at that time was for me to stay home with Clara. Chris said I could finish my degree after he finished his, but I never reenrolled. Once Chris found a job, the financial struggles subsided, and we fell into a comfortable routine.
I was content with my life. We both were, I thought. But maybe Chris was less content with his life than I assumed.
I’m sitting in Jonah’s car. We’re parked next to Chris’s SUV. Jonah got a key from the front desk and went inside the hotel room to find Chris’s car key. He’s been in there for five minutes. I lean my head back and close my eyes, saying a silent prayer. Hoping he’ll come tell me that whatever he found proved we’re way off base. But I already know. In my heart, I know that I’ve been betrayed in the worst way possible by the one person I never thought would hurt me.
My sister. My best friend.
Chris doing something like this was a knife to my heart.
But Jenny? That’s an obliteration of my soul.
When Jonah is back in the driver’s seat, he tosses Jenny’s duffel bag into the back. The one Chris and I bought her for Christmas last year. He hands me the keys to Chris’s car.
I’m staring at the bag, wondering why she would have needed it. She left her house that morning for a twelve-hour shift—not for an overnight trip. Why would she need an overnight bag?
“Why was her bag in there?”
Jonah doesn’t respond. His jaw is like concrete as he stares forward.
“Why did she need a bag, Jonah? She told you she was going to work, right? She wasn’t staying the night anywhere.”
“Her scrubs were in there,” he says. But the way he says it makes me think he’s lying.
She had an overnight bag so she could change
of her scrubs after leaving my house. But what was she changing into?
I reach to the back seat, and he grabs my wrist and stops me. I pull away from him and turn around in my seat, attempting to reach for the duffel bag again. He blocks me with his arm, so we spend the next several seconds scuffling in the car until he has both arms around me, trying to pull me back into my seat, but I’ve already unzipped it.
As soon as I see the black lace trim edging a piece of dainty lingerie, I fall back into the front seat. I stare ahead. Motionless. I try not to let the images flash through my mind, but knowing my sister was planning to wear lingerie for my husband is quite possibly one of the worst things imaginable.
Jonah is also immobile.
We each silently grapple with the reality of what this means. My doubt is devoured by our new grim reality. I curl into myself, pulling my knees to my chest.
“Why?” My voice strains against the walls of my throat. Jonah reaches a comforting arm out, but I push him away. “Take me home.”
He doesn’t move for a moment. “But . . . Chris’s car.”
“I don’t want that
Jonah eyes me for a beat, then nods once. He cranks his car and reverses out of our parking spot, leaving Chris’s car where it’s sat untouched for the past week.
I hope the car gets towed. It’s in Chris’s name—not mine. I don’t want to see the car at my house. The bank can repossess it as far as I’m concerned.