You and Milo will be fine, Sidra wrote in a message that randomly popped up while I was scrolling through Facebook.
Swallowing hard, my hand shook as I tried to type my response. No. We won’t.
I rubbed my eyes, which ached from hours of crying. Then I frowned and typed again. How did you know? Sometimes with Sid, it was like she read my mind.
Her response was swift. Look at the prints you’re posting. Look at the songs you’re sharing. Anyone who knows you sees how you’re feeling. You’re all heart, Miranda Jane.
A hollow laugh escaped my lips. She was right. Everything going on with me ever was on display for the world to see.
PS. No one is going to buy them. Too much sadness to hang on a wall. Hell, I hurt just looking at them.
More tears leaked from my eyes. I’m sorry. I had so much more I wanted to write, but I felt completely paralyzed. The fear was so strong, I could barely breathe. So, I stared at the screen and tried to calm down, but all I kept thinking was what the fuck am I going to do? On the desk beside my glass of Jack and Coke, the phone began to vibrate. I almost didn’t answer because I didn’t know how to talk, but it was Sid. She’d know how to make it all come out right. She had a gift for making me feel better. I pushed the button, held the cell to my ear, and said nothing.
“Start with what happened,” she murmured in her most soothing voice.
I sniffled and laughed sadly. “You know, if this whole advice columnist thing doesn’t work out, you can totally get into radio,” I teased. Okay, I attempted to tease. My words fell miserably flat.
“Go on. Time for the healing to begin,” Sid urged.
With a long sigh, I leaned back in my chair and listened for a moment. Milo was silent. Maybe he’d gone to bed after all. I glanced at the clock. It was closing in on midnight.
“Why are you awake?” I asked sadly.
“Eh. Decided to work ahead. I’m thinking about writing a book. In order to do this, I need to carve out more time. And I can’t do that if I’m behind.” I heard her chair creak and I knew she was in her office. She was serious. “Now stop deflecting and start talking.”
“But your book,” I joked.
“It’ll be a relationship and dating advice book. Duh. You’re currently a case study. Don’t let me down. Tell me.” There was an edge to her voice and I knew I had to simply concede.
“Fine. I give up,” I grumbled.
“You’re having a bad month,” Sid admitted quietly.
“Three deaths.” I blew out a breath.
The tapping on the laptop keys stopped and she spoke. “I knew about your dog and your grandfather. What’s the third?”
“My marriage.” Even saying the words had warm, salty tears flowing down my cheeks.
“Are you sure you aren’t being dramatic?” I could absolutely picture her face, the way her brows furrowed, and her lips pursed slightly. I bet her hair was in a ponytail, but not a messy one. Hers were always tight and smooth.
“I wish I was.” I chuckled. Suddenly, the wave of emotions I’d been surfing ended and I was completely worn out. “Can we talk tomorrow?”
“Great idea.” The wheels of her chair rolled across the floor. “By the time I get there, it’ll be tomorrow. See you soon.”
She started to end the call, but I whimpered. “Wait.”
“What?” Her voice was crisp.
“Milo is here.” I chewed nervously on a pen I grabbed from the desk.
“Cool. So, we’ll go out.”
“Wait.” My mind raced as I tried to come up with an excuse for staying here and wallowing. I was afraid to leave. What if I came back and he was gone? What if I remained and he took off anyway?
“I’m already in the car. Bye.” Sid ended the call.
She was one tough nugget. Standing, I carefully made my way through the office, into the house, and to the master bedroom. The door was open a crack. I peeked in, hoping he’d be asleep, praying I would feel comfortable leaving.
Milo was in bed, laying on his stomach. His face was lit by the glow of the phone. He was clearly chatting with someone. Then I saw boobs. I’m pretty sure they were boobs. Pierced nipple boobs. I could see the barbell with the big balls on either side. He was laughing, smiling, and he began to shift his hips. The fucker had a hard on. I clapped a hand over my mouth as tears stung my eyes. Slowly, I backed away, not that he would’ve noticed me anyway.
Soon, I was back in the office. I stared up at the camera, watching and waiting for Sid to arrive. Even when she pulled in, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. Then my phone rang. As soon as I accepted the call, she started speaking while I stared at the screen.
“I know you know I’m here.” She waved at the camera. “Get your ass out here. I mean it. I will go in and get you.”
I sighed, but at the same time, I kinda laughed as I pictured little Sid rushing in here and dragging me out. “I’m coming.” Swallowing hard, I stood and grabbed my purse from the office couch. Then I trudged out the door, locking it behind me. Sidra sat behind the wheel, smiling at me. I could tell she felt super proud of herself for getting me out of the house, so I curtseyed. The gravel shifted beneath my feet and while I didn’t exactly collapse, I did manage to twist the shit out of my ankle, twingle my knee, and beat the hell out of my pride. I hobbled to the car and pulled open the door.
“Are you okay?” Sid asked, her face blanketed with concern.
“Of course I am,” I snapped to cover my embarrassment.
“Where to?” She smiled pleasantly, while studying me.
I shook my head and bit on my lip to hide the pain. “Anywhere but here,” I finally grumbled.
“Right.” She nodded. Sid shifted the car into reverse, backed out of my driveway, and then sped off without saying a word.
Curiosity was actually killing me more than my ankle at the moment. “Where are we going?”
Sid grinned. “Taco Bell. This seemed like an emergency. We’re making a run for the border.” She glanced at my rapidly swelling ankle. “Although right now, I doubt you could even manage a brisk walk.”
“I’m fine,” I lied.
“Oh, good. Then you won’t mind if we park at the far end of the lot where there are more lights, right?” Her brows rose as she smirked at me. With a growl, I looked away. “That’s what I thought,” she muttered. “Drive through it is. And then the ER.”
“I don’t need the ER,” I objected loudly.
Half an hour later, after we’d parked and finished our tacos, I was singing a different tune. “Maybe the ER isn’t such a terrible idea,” I grumbled.
“Uh huh. And after they give you something for the pain, we can talk.” Sid winked at me as we drove to the hospital.
“I’m surprised you’re willing to wait that long.” I sighed and reclined in the passenger seat.
“Well, I figured you’d let me know when you were ready. You seemed pretty upset when you left the house.” She reached out and squeezed my shoulder. “How can I help?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. I can barely think.” Staring out the window, I began replaying the night in my head. “Milo came home the other night. Lucy took a turn for the worst. We brought her to the vet and they told us her kidneys had shut down. We had to put her to sleep.” I sniffled and swiped at my eyes. “After we said our goodbyes and drove home, Milo tried to hug me, but I stiffened. Next thing I know, he told me he was done.”
Sid groaned. “All guys say that. Back when we first started dating, Jayce said that all the time. We never were, mind you, but he said all kinds of stupid shit.” She shrugged.
I shifted in my seat to face her. “No. He means it. When he says something, he has thought it through and made a decision. We’re separating and getting a divorce.”
“Give him a chance. There’s a lot going on. Your grandfather…your dog…” Sid frowned.
I licked my lips as I tried to figure out how to explain. “We want different things. We’ve outgrown each other. He was my college boyfriend. We married when we almost didn’t even date.” I shook my head. “I shouldn’t have let him push me into it.”
“So, you want this? The divorce?” Sid asked as she pulled up to the curb at the ER.
“No.” I shivered and wrapped my arms around my body. “But I want kids and he doesn’t.” Before she could ask another question, I pushed open the door and struggled to step out of the vehicle. “See you in there,” I mumbled as I shut the door behind me.
While I limped into the ER, I recalled the discussion I’d had with Milo only hours ago. I’d been mourning the loss of our fur baby in the bedroom when he walked in and announced we were done. Initially, I struggled to process his proclamation. I couldn’t understand why he suddenly wanted a divorce, but he quickly explained we didn’t want the same things anymore. “You want kids. And the idea of having a baby freaks me the fuck out.”
“You’re only saying this because we just lost Lucy,” I argued.
“No.” Milo raked his hands through his hair before sitting hard on the bed. “I’m not. I’ve been thinking about this a long time. Losing Lucy simply cemented it for me.”
“Our dog died. And this is when you decide we’re not supposed to be together anymore?” I shook my head angrily. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“What makes you think anything is wrong? Maybe finally everything is right.” Milo stood and began to pace around the room. “It’s like I’ve had this moment of clarity. I spent the last six weeks staying in hotel rooms and I felt more at home there than I do here. I felt happier away from you than I do with you. It’s just time to end things.” Then he walked away and I was left alone in the room with my thoughts, battling all my fears. At first I didn’t know what to say or do.
Then it all came to me in this rush of anger. I confronted him out in the kitchen. “I can’t believe you want to end things this way. I didn’t want to date you ten years ago and you pushed it. Now you want us to be done. Maybe I should push it.” I stomped my foot angrily.
“You could try that.” Milo frowned. “I just think it would be a terrible waste of energy. And I don’t want to waste one more minute of my time on this earth. I especially don’t want to waste it fighting with you.” He sighed and his shoulders sagged. “My mind is made up. I’ll never want children. And I no longer want you.”
I froze at his coldhearted words. In my chest, my heart stopped beating altogether. And all I could think was this is how it ends. Only…I meant for me. I had to be dying. His words had knocked the air from my lungs. I had no idea how to move on and keep living like this. Suddenly, I was filled with an indescribable rage. “I can’t believe I wasted my best years on you. I gave you my best eggs. Now I’m pushing thirty. Who’s going to want me now?”
He actually laughed at me and shook his head. “Your best eggs? Really, Randi? That’s all you have to say?” Milo snickered. “Keep making this easy on me. I’ll be out by next weekend. I promise.” With a chuckled, he walked away and disappeared into the master bedroom.
I wandered into the office and shut the door behind me. As was so often the case, I lost myself in social media. Sometimes, it was work. Sometimes, it was a way to numb my mind and forget my problems. I scrolled through Facebook, periodically posting images that I found, and sharing every sad song that came to mind. This was when Sid found me. This was how we ended up here in the ER waiting for x-rays.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked as she stared at me sadly.
“I think there’s someone else,” I whispered. Now that I had spoken those words aloud I finally felt the truth of them. “When I left, he was on a chat app. I watched him for a minute. Then I saw boobs, and I left. It made me sick. I literally threw up in my mouth. To think that I’ve spent all these years with this man, and I guess I never really knew him.”
“Everyone thinks that when a relationship ends,” Sid announced.
“Really? Did you think that when Jayce died? Because I didn’t hear you saying anything remotely like that when you lost your husband.” I looked away. Those were probably the most hateful words I’d ever spoken to her. And I couldn’t bear to see the pain in her eyes after my careless outburst.
“It’s different. Jayce died; he didn’t choose to leave me. There’s really no comparison.” She tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear.
I blew out of breath. Slowly, my eyes met hers. “I’m sorry. I’m just hurting. I know it doesn’t give me the right to hurt you back.” I smirked. “Although there’s nothing wrong with me right now that a few pain pills couldn’t fix.”
Sid laughed. “I get it. I understand. No offense taken. You didn’t mean anything by it.”
She reached out and gave me a gentle hug. “You’ll get through this. We’ll get through this together.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. Still, I pasted a smile on my face and murmured, “Right now, I don’t see how. I guess I’ll just have to trust, since you have experience in this department.”
“About the other woman…” Her voice trailed off as she studied my face. “Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s probably nothing. Just concentrate on you. Be the best Randi you can be. Make him regret ever wanting to leave you.” She grinned.
“And when he doesn’t?” I asked sadly.
Sid wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “Then it won’t matter because so many others will want to be with you, spend time with you. Just wait. You’ll see.”