Cara found an apartment near Tildy’s school where they could stay until the holidays. The apartment was walking distance to the school but of course neither Tildy nor her classmates had been to the school, not since the previous March. The apartment was a small, dark garden level railroad, but the block was peaceful and the kitchen was well equipped enough that she could continue cooking for her few remaining clients. She and Tildy had made one delivery together since moving in two weeks before. They’d waited for the Uber in the small outdoor space between the gate to the street and door. They’d waited, masked, with a week’s worth of meals in Cara’s signature sharpie-doodled trays of recyclable compostable containers. Tildy perched on the fungal tree stump, surrounded by abundant weeds. The tree’s roots had upended the cement, and moss grew through the cracks, spreading like a stain. They left the food with a doorman in the glass lobby of a high-rise overlooking the river and came right back to the apartment. Every night, when she lay in bed, Cara could see the lights of the Italian restaurant across the street on the corner. It was the sole business on the block, and its appeal was enhanced by its lack of signage, how it seemed like it might be just another town house, but one decorated by a particularly festive person.
Most nights she woke at 1am and instinctively checked her phone. Sometimes at this hour she started a vegetable stock. Sometimes she sliced a cabbage. Tonight, there were no new texts; the last one had come in before she’d swiped on Do Not Disturb around eleven before falling asleep. Please don’t do this, is what it said. Now she sat up in bed and, heart racing, drew the curtain aside. A large man in black chef’s scrubs locked the restaurant’s metal gate. Cara glanced over at Tildy, breathed in her aura of incomprehensible seven-year-old peace. Then she scrolled the news on her phone before forcing herself to use her DuoLingo app instead, and she studied Spanish (Tienes un poco de miedo? Si yo tengo un poco de miedo) until she must have dozed, at least briefly, because the twinkly restaurant lights automatically switched off.
In the kitchen, fuck, they were out of milk and she couldn’t stand coffee without it. Tildy wouldn’t be up for another hour at the very least, and she could walk the five blocks to the 24-hour bodega and be back in fifteen, max, but she wondered if going around the block for a carton of milk was reasonable or insane. She did not want to think about how Tildy would feel if she woke and Cara wasn’t there, but she also really wanted, needed her morning coffee. She grabbed her purse off the countertop, grabbed a mask, and scraped her hair into a bun. Reasonable or insane? Razonable o loca? This was a question she posed to herself not infrequently. Cara had no reason to consider pressing her luck, but she went ahead anyway—testing, testing—hustling into the dawn.
Sixteen years before, it had been a chilly November. She’d visited her old friend Tess, who was living in someone’s ramshackle guesthouse on a ranch in Montana. They drove to a hot spring, spent hours in the water. They’d get out of the hot spring, drink a beer, get cold and slip back in. People came and went. They met a blind man who hadn’t always been blind, who’d come to the spring as a child and remembered the slope of the mountain in the distance, the purple shadows in the snowy field during late afternoons. When he was fifteen, after being told it was an easy day hike, he’d climbed that mountain and had been lost and hungry overnight. He pointed to it and they nodded, silently. Tess laughed and said,
I know, said the blind man.
We see the mountain, Cara told him. Deceptive fucker.
Young lady, he said, grinning.
Band of deep violet wrapping the horizon, silver clouds shredding the dying light; she dozed in the car on the ride home. When she woke to the sound of tires crunching snow, Tess was pulling into the ranch and it was nighttime. A man was sitting on the guesthouse porch. He wasn’t looking at a phone. Christ, Tess said, but she didn’t look alarmed. It’s my friend Adam, she said, pulling into the garage. You’ll like him, she shrugged. He’s a beautiful mess.
The autumn sidewalk was littered with yellow gingko leaves and berries, putrid and always surprising. It was humid and chilly at the same time and she walked so fast that her hips ached; she felt the day begin in her bones. Taking Tildy to Costa Rica to live simply and cheaply: reasonable or insane? To live where she could go to second grade in-person and not on Zoom, a school started by Tess, where most of the learning took place outdoors? At the moment it felt reasonable. They’d visited Tess and her girlfriend Luciana during Tildy’s previous winter break, during before-times. Cara treasured many memories about the trip, which she hadn’t realized would be her last chance to travel for a long time: the emerald green of the jungle, Tildy bounding into the surf, the low, smooth bench that Luciana had carved from a palm tree. But one memory still scalded: one late afternoon she’d waded in the ocean and Tess appeared at her side. Cara saw her friend for a moment as if she were a stranger—a notably fit person in surf leggings and a sporty bikini top. They stayed quiet and faced the horizon. There was a mild riptide; it tugged them toward the rocks and she noted a faint pleasure in keeping her balance, at fighting to keep her feet planted firmly in the sand.
Tess asked, Is Adam ok?
Cara heard her own burst of awkward laughter, but the sound was far away. She suddenly felt as if her body were somewhere out there underwater, maybe floating alongside the micro-plastics from the deadly straws, trapped inside the seaweed.
I mean he was your friend first. You remember what you said that night.
What did I say?
You warned me, said Cara.
He seems a little… I don’t know… distracted?
He’s always been distracted.
I warned you? She seemed to be genuinely asking.
Cara tried and failed not to be irritated. She imagined telling Adam about this conversation. Is Adam ok? She didn’t answer Tess. What could she say? She imagined telling Adam but she never did.
The blur of houses gave way to closed storefronts and finally the 24-hour bodega. Cara said good morning in the direction of the counter, scurried to the fridge, took a carton of milk and prayed that Tildy still slept. Two cops came in, one with his mask hanging beneath his nose. She was sweating. They clearly knew the guy behind the counter and started chatting in Arabic. The silent bodega became suddenly jolly and no one was in a hurry. She put the milk on the counter with a more dramatic thud than strictly necessary and said, “I don’t need a bag.” She felt the cops sizing her up and she added thank you, handing over cash, awash with unreasonable shame.
Outside it was raining, and of course she didn’t have an umbrella. She gave over to the rain, didn’t try to dash under awnings. She hauled the milk in a soaking cotton tote bag stenciled with the name of Tildy’s school, which, she remembered now that Adam had picked up for her at the Family Fiesta when Tildy was in PreK. Tildy at three: touching their faces, winding her fingers through Cara’s hair, bringing home bulging folders of scribbles and cut-outs, colored tissue and foil on paper.
The rain poured down. She ran and slipped, caught herself on a neighbor’s fence, ran again and nearly bumped into a garbage can, before realizing she’d forgotten to drag her trash to the sidewalk. Garbage Day! She’d promised to be diligent about it. Aside from being desperate to get back inside to Tildy, she felt a soaring ridiculous accomplishment at not having missed the chance to deal with the garbage. She pushed open the brownstone gate, reached into her bag and her stomach flipped; of course, she’d forgotten her keys. She peered through the window; the curtains were closed but thin and she could just make out the form of Tildy in bed, presumably still sleeping. The lights were off and she couldn’t hear any yelling or crying and her heart finally stopped racing. So, no keys. She’d knock on the window. Okay she’d startle her, but it would be fine, she would explain about the garbage (maybe leave out the milk errand) and the inside lock was easy enough for Tildy to turn; she could certainly let her in. Cara hauled the garbage to the sidewalk; the rain-soaked cardboard, the paper turned to mush, all of it out of her hands now.
On Tess’s porch: small yellow light hanging above him, good posture; brown jacket, green hat, blue gloves. Cara realized she always associated him with these colors—like a child’s drawing of planet earth—even though for years he’d worn almost exclusively black, gray, and white cotton shirts from a Japanese company that only made white cotton shirts. He squinted into the oncoming lights of Tess’s car. He didn’t smile but his face looked open, even expectant. Cara watched him stand and reach his hands to the rafter of the low porch ceiling. He gave his arms and back a stretch while waiting for them.
What kind of beautiful mess? she asked Tess in the brief darkness of the car as they gathered their things, but Tess didn’t answer.
Cara looked through the refrigerator, which was not well stocked. She cooked them big bowls of rice with soy sauce and butter and one roasted sweet potato. They talked about Jakarta, where he’d done a story on the recent bombing and had returned to Montana, finished with being a foreign correspondent. Tess told the story of working as a cook on a refurbished naval ship that traveled between Bali and the Spice Islands and Komodo, how she stepped on a Komodo Dragon and that all she remembered was finding herself perched on a branch, ten feet off the ground with no memory of climbing the tree. Tess lit a joint, and took a hit, passed it to Adam, who declined. Cara took it from him. His fingers were dry, the nails clean. She inhaled.
I love that story about the dragon, Cara said.
Adam agreed, It never gets old.
Tess smiled and lay back on the couch. I’m going to let you two clean up.
Lucky us, Cara said, draping a heavy blanket over her.
Lucky you, Tess smiled, and fell asleep.
Cara looked up at Adam, who was stacking their empty rice bowls. Maybe he was still thinking about Komodo Dragons or was already on the night ride home.
The word Afghan just popped into my head, Cara said.
That’s what my grandparents used to call the blanket in their living room. I had forgotten that for about twenty years, right up until I draped that blanket over Tess. You don’t hear that anymore, do you? Hand me that Afghan?
Even though her voice was jokey, she felt a sudden longing for her grandparents, their modest house on a small canal, how a day with them unfolded at half-speed and felt imbued with care.
Very 19th Century, he said. I like it. Where did they live?
She didn’t answer; she suddenly couldn’t. She missed feeling truly loved.
What will you do now? Cara asked, as he began doing the dishes. Now that you’re back, I mean. He handed her a bowl to dry.
She expected him to shrug, maybe say something about wandering, but he answered her directly, I’m moving to New York. I have a job at Bloomberg.
Oh, she blushed so intensely that the tips of her ears actually burned. Tess had already mentioned several times that Cara was visiting from Brooklyn. Well.
He scrubbed the pot and rinsed so thoroughly that she finally turned off the faucet. If Adam had looked beside him or at the window above the sink he would have seen how Cara’s arms were crossed tightly, as if either wrapped in her own embrace or else just holding herself together. She regarded the sill: terracotta pinch pot holding silver rings, tiny glass bottle—former home to French yogurt?—filled with cloudy water and a sprig of pine, a natural sponge, three rocks; Cara scanned it all while thinking I should be the one to kiss him first why do I always hold back but his hands were on her neck and in her hair and she was finished.
It was still raining. She was really wet now and wondered when she’d begin to get cold. She knocked on the window, but Tildy didn’t stir. She knocked and then banged until she reflexively looked to see if anyone was watching. Finally, her daughter sat up in bed. Cara squinted to see past the curtain but she could only make out the form of her daughter, the outline.
“Honey, it’s me,” she shouted. “Over here.”
Her daughter didn’t move.
“Can you come to the window?”
The form came forward. She drew the curtain aside.
“I took out the garbage and I forgot my keys. I need you to open the door, okay?”
Tildy looked through the window. Her big hazel eyes were unusually blank; she pulled her long straight hair behind her ears with a quick little flick. Then she placed one hand on the glass.
Cara wedged her own hand through the black iron bars, meant, of course, to keep out intruders, and pressed it onto the window, mirroring Tildy’s. It was 6:45am. Her daughter had fallen asleep around 8:30 in the bed that they shared, to the sound of Cara singing John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” which had been their song for as long as she could remember. She’d sung it to Tildy as an infant and she had instinctively changed the lyric Let me die in your arms to Let me lie in your arms. And because she’d made that change in the lyric, that quick-change avoidance of death, almost every time she sung this 1970s hit, she did an instant dive into morbid contemplation. Mornings could go either way—tears or good cheer—and from her daughter’s expression through the rain-stippled glass, it was hard to read her expression.
“I’m getting cold, honey. Can you come let me in?”
Tildy disappeared and Cara turned towards the door, waiting to hear the lock. Her fingers started to feel numb, which happened more quickly now. Along with clusters of sun (liver) spots dark circles under her eyes and prominent veins on her hands and legs, the numb fingers in the cold was a direct proclamation of the passing years. She refused to complain about aging, just as she refused the feminine theater of bemoaning the gain of five to ten stupid pounds or what Adam did or didn’t do, what his words and deeds really meant.
“Tildy?” She called. She tried to peer into the bedroom window but her daughter wasn’t there. “Tildy,” she shouted. “Are you having trouble opening it?” She banged on the door.
“Hey,” Cara heard a male voice and shrieked, spinning around toward the sidewalk. A man in a puffer and jeans was carrying a high-quality umbrella, the kind a doorman might open for a guest while escorting her from car to lobby. He was wearing a bandana as a mask. “Hey, you locked out?”
Cara forced a smile. “Oh no. Well, yes. I forgot my keys. My daughter’s letting me in.”
“She’s takin her time, huh?” He laughed in a way that made her think he had kids. “You want my umbrella? I’m not going far.”
She glanced at the door again, at the bedroom window. She shook her head. “Thanks, though.”
“It’s supposed to stop pretty soon.”
“I’m fine, thanks. I’m already soaked—as you can tell!—and she’ll be opening it any second. Tildy?”
She nodded, relieved just to hear her little voice. “Thank you so much,” she said to the man, in a way that she hoped would make it clear he should move along. “Stay dry.” She turned her back to the man. “Honey?” she asked, “are you having trouble with the lock?”
The man asked, “how old is she?” And Cara suddenly wanted to hurl the garbage can lid at his feet.
“You should really get going,” Cara said.
He offered a half wave-half-military salute, and she attempted to return the gesture.
“Tildy?” She called.
“You don’t have to yell,” she heard Tildy say.
“I just want to make sure you can hear me.”
“I hear you.”
“Are you having trouble?”
“No,” her daughter said.
There had been signs, she supposed, though just the idea of thinking there had been signs made her want to never have sex with anyone ever again. Or it made her want to have sex with everyone, just never again with her husband. And, really, signs of what?
On her phone: 57 texts from him, unanswered.
Adam was usually the one who put Tildy to bed. He would tell stories until he fell asleep and she was still awake and she would wake him up, saying Daddy, get up, until he woke and continued the story; he never once sounded frustrated. Even though Adam made more money than she did and so she’d been the one to cut back on her work in order to care for Tildy, he was the one who worried more about Tildy’s nutrition and verged on being what Cara considered rigid when it came to her dinner and bath routines. She may have taught Tildy how to play Alouette on the keyboard and sing it in perfect French and add a disco beat, but he remembered when she was due for a checkup at the pediatrician. She’d worried more than once and was currently very glad she’d never said aloud: he was the better parent. And if you typed Adam’s full name on Google, which she now did frequently, because now she couldn’t fucking stop, what came up immediately, next to a very good black and white photo of him that Cara had taken on the roof of their old apartment, was not his list of significant professional accomplishments, not the logo of the media company he’d founded and from which he’d been recently fired, but the original video. And the memes.
“Stop yelling, Mommy.”
She took a deep breath and felt dizzy, saw electric orange. She exhaled and counted to three. She said, “Tildy. Sweetheart. You just turn the little thingy on top of the handle to the right.”
“So do it! Please just open the door, honey.”
She heard the metallic boom from the restaurant across the street; the gate was going up. They’d started serving lunch outdoors and began prepping early in the kitchen. Their tables were always filled; everyone was desperate to get out. Just a couple of months before, as people were dying and if not dying then working in hospitals or delivering food or mail or caring for the elderly or fighting fires or quarantining or at least trying to stay the fuck home and then out protesting the murder of George Floyd and police brutality and systemic racism, just a couple of months before if you only lived through the world on your phone you would have thought that her neighborhood was forecasting the apocalypse. But there was also live jazz and chamber music on the avenues closed off to cars where people removed their increasingly fashionable masks to eat oysters and tacos and drink cocktails. It felt like the opposite of the end. She had once ventured to the drugstore and on her way home a woman was playing the harp in the entryway to a townhouse. The front door was open, the harp was miked, and music—rendered more magnificent by the unlikely setting—flooded the street. There had been a stretch during July when she’d looked at Adam and thought that maybe the world was not only not ending but that they—the lucky survivors—might have the outrageous fortune to look back at this time as a beginning.
Though she would never say such a blatantly stupid thing out loud.
Was her daughter laughing? The door remained shut.
“Tildy this isn’t funny.”
The DuoLingo app flashed on her phone, reminding her to practice. This is not funny. No es divertido. The app featured a strangely appealing cartoon owl that jumped up and down and which now commanded: Translate “Love.”
Adam had made tables of friends laugh so hard they cried, incidents of sprayed wine and coughing fits and, once, at a co-ed baby shower, the mother-to-be whispering Fuck you, Adam, you made me pee at my own party, before giving him a hug goodbye. He’d walked the fine line of mocking others, but in private, was concerned about their friends’ feelings, to an extent that would likely surprise them.
DuoLingo offered themes aside from love: News, Health, Warnings. Another text came through on her phone and she dropped it back into her damp tote, as if it were on fire.
She often thought about a party in Ditmas before Tildy was born. The hosts had roasted a pig. It was in the upper 90s and humid and they’d all been drinking since noon. Around dusk she was looking for Adam. He wasn’t in the inflatable pool or on the covered porch or in the yard. There was an alley beside the house and that’s where she found him talking with a woman in a pair of overalls and a bikini top. Cara didn’t make her presence known. Although she couldn’t make out what they were saying, there was a serious cast to their conversation. Then the woman started laughing and Adam threw a full drink in her face. She was soaking wet. A wedge of lime fell from her shoulder to the pavement. Adam was laughing and the woman wasn’t. But then she did laugh. Or that’s how Cara remembered it.
The restaurant across the street switched on their lights. Though she’d worked in professional kitchens for years and had grown to hate the monotony, now she looked at this struggling restaurant with envy and relished the idea of kitchen prep for multiple paying customers, many strangers all at once, the chopping and stirring and series of tasks, day after busy day, night after frantic night.
Her daughter had locked her out of the house.
It had started, as everything did these days, with her phone. Tess had texted, are you alright?
She’d been chopping onions for one of her three remaining clients’ favorite tart. Adam had gone running. Tildy was “in school” on Zoom at the kitchen table. Cara’s eyes, despite being shielded by her pink onion-chopping goggles, were stinging from onion tears. They’d all eaten pancakes for breakfast and she took a break from chopping to scrub at the syrup-sticky countertop. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and texted back yes, why? And Tess had called and there was a bad connection and she couldn’t hear anything and she’d texted why? And Tess wrote, Google Adam.
By the time he’d come home, she’d taken Tildy out. There was nowhere to go besides Prospect Park, where Adam was running the loop. No movies, no museums, no carousels. #pandemic #covidtimes #inthetimeofcorona #parentingduringcovid #motherfuckingvirus–
I have school.
It’s okay, she remembered saying to her daughter, just don’t touch anything, as she led Tildy down the steps to the subway for the first time in six months. We’re having a special day.
They rode the train to the end of the line. She was shaking. She put her phone into Do Not Disturb mode. They played a seemingly endless game of I Spy.
Mommy, where are we going?
It’s a surprise.
No aquarium, no rides, no games, but when they emerged from underground they could smell the ocean and the yeasty, grease-fire scent of knishes and hot dogs. She bought Tildy soft-serve chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, which Tildy ate with heart-breaking care. Cara succeeded in not crying. They walked down to the beach and sat on the sand. It was cool, even cold. They squinted into a bitter lemon October sun.
She didn’t have a plan.
But by the next day she called an old friend, a guy she’d worked with at a particularly brutal oyster bar at least three lifetimes ago, who’d left the city for his house upstate. He didn’t know when he’d be back. She laid out what had happened and he said she should go ahead and stay in his place as long as she needed to.
Should I get used to people offering me things? She asked him over the phone.
Well, he said, and she could hear the exhale of a cigarette; she made a mental note to tell him to quit again, I’m just scrolling a little right now, doll, I’m just giving the Google another glance and I’d say yeah, get used to free shit.
Of course she’d gone home, if only to collect their things. There was one night of Adam pleading and apologizing and crying. She threw a bottle of Argan Oil at him, which broke and spilled over the white tile bathroom floor and he wiped up the oil and swept up the glass and she trembled in a way that was strangely familiar and she realized this was how her body reacted immediately after her emergency C-section, the morning that Tildy was born.
By the time Adam came back from running the next morning, they were gone.
She realized what she was doing was not fair to Tildy and it was probably not even legal, but she couldn’t see Adam or speak to him and she certainly wasn’t going to leave her daughter because she couldn’t stand to see or speak to her husband, so what other option did she have? She told Tildy they were taking a Mother Daughter trip. She made chocolate chip pancakes every morning. The first bedtime was arguably the worst of Cara’s life. Tildy asked for Adam and when Cara told her that this was their special time together, Tildy cried and demanded to go home. We can’t go home yet, honey,Cara told her. This is our getaway! To which Tildy sobbed until Cara considered calling Adam, but giving him the gift of knowing how much Tildy missed him was something that she just couldn’t bring herself to do. Tildy cried and actually screamed until Cara pretended to call Adam and when she said, Daddy’s not answering, he must be sleeping already, honey, it’s really late, Tildy said, Well I’m not going to sleep. And then she didn’t. When Cara tried to sing to her, she yelled Stop singing! When Cara tried to rub her back, she yelled Don’t touch me! When Cara said, I’m sorry, sweetheart. I’m sorry you’re sad, Tildy said flatly, What does sorry even mean? I want Daddy. And she continued to cry. Each time Cara thought her daughter was surely asleep, she was not asleep and in fact Tildy never slept that night, not even for a few minutes. The sun began to rise. She only slept after eggs and toast and three episodes of Polly Pocket.
Then, remarkably, she did not ask for Adam again.
Every morning Cara swore to herself that she would call him and just let him talk to Tildy, but every day went by and Tildy didn’t ask for him and she didn’t call him. She texted that they’d not left the state and that she’d be in touch soon. She ignored his texts and voicemails and everyone else’s, even Tess’s.
“Tildy, please open the door.”
“No,” she said.
“Open this door right now.”
“Tildy. I mean it. Open this door.”
“You’re locking me out?”
“Like in Tangled.”
Tildy had lain between them in an airport motel during a snowstorm. They’d watched the Disney movie twice, while sharing a box of M&Ms. Cara had found the relationship between Rapunzel and the scoundrel (who becomes the prince) romantic, almost embarrassingly so. Are you crying? Adam had teased her.
“I’m not a witch,” Cara said to the door. To her daughter behind the door. Adam always said Tangled in the airport motel was his favorite night, even better than the trip they eventually had, the one to Costa Rica, after the storm had passed. “I don’t have any powers. Honey, I wish I did.”
“You do have powers. You’re a really good cook.”
“That’s just hard work,” she said to the door. “I’m not a witch. I’m your mommy. Plus, your hair is not that long.”
“That’s not funny,” she shouted. “Nothing is funny.” Tildy started to cry, which instantly set off Cara’s tears but she forced herself to stop. If she did nothing else she could spare her daughter this: a future explaining to friends and shrinks, my mother was always crying.
“You’re right,” Cara said, sinking down on the wet cement ground. “It’s not.”
She looked from the dark green painted door to the tree-stump and weeds. The rain had turned to drizzle but there was already a puddle that would attract mosquitos, even this late in the fall.
She’d had her own restaurant once. She’d unlocked the lock to her very own security grille. In the beginning, when she’d opened and closed the restaurant herself, she was the one to unlock the lock; she was the one to lift the gate. This memory was so accessible and so instantly, palpably physical. Why did that feeling of unlocking the lock, of lifting the gate—why, of all the repeated tasks of her life—why did that stand out? Especially at the beginning with Adam, but also on and off over the years, it was hard for her to find release. She was the lock. He always persisted and she was never resentful for his persistence because she may have been locked but she was also very hungry. Those early mornings of the restaurant: click of the key finding its groove, hands grabbing metal and pulling, pushing, sometimes closing her eyes. Those hazy, bright, sunny, rainy, snowy early mornings: the gate rolled up slowly at first but then it gathered speed and she was ready.
She hadn’t heard the click, but the door opened. And then her daughter was standing barefoot in the doorway in her too-small pink and orange striped pajamas. Cara rushed to scoop her up because she still could. She breathed in her skin and kissed her cheeks. “Thank you,” Cara said.
Tildy wrapped Cara’s hair around her fingers. “I want to go home.”
Cara set her down and nodded.
Every Monday, starting after the city went into lockdown, Adam had asked his 27-year-old assistant if she’d had sex over the weekend. She never responded. He asked: What kind of sex?? He asked: If the sex were a movie what movie would it be? What type of fruit? What country? His voice was Adam’s voice, low, gravelly, a good voice for radio, he’d been told more than once. The assistant never answered him. She smiled without her teeth showing and moved on to the agenda of the day. This was all recorded on Zoom. The recording—a spliced and edited compilation entitled Monday Mornings—was now on many sites all over the internet, with some versions featuring the sounds of people climaxing in the background, and #mondaymornings was trending. When Tildy was old enough, despite best efforts to scrub it off of search engines, she would find this recording, she would see it, or one of her friends would find it and see it first.
“I miss Daddy,” Tildy said.
Cara looked across the street at the restaurant. She pictured the line cook and the busboy and the bartender sitting down together like a family. At the oyster bar where they’d worked all those lifetimes ago, she’d had sex with the man who’d loaned her this apartment. She had thought he was gay but he wasn’t, at least not strictly. They’d laughed their way to the storeroom but then suddenly nothing was funny. The world, hers, had been full of strange turns that were mostly promising.
“Will we call him?” Tildy asked.
“Sure,” she said.
“And after that?”
Cara looked around the apartment. All the lighting was strange, almost red. The spices in the cabinet were old.
She pictured the assistant’s face and had to catch her breath. She never looked flirtatious or frightened or even particularly annoyed.
“I had a nice time on our getaway,” Tildy said.
She nodded too hard, then reached for her daughter’s hand. She squeezed too tightly before letting go and closing the door behind them.
Joanna Hershon is the author of five novels, including A Duel Inheritance, available to purchase here, and most recently, St. Ivo, published by Picador, and available for purchase here.