“First of all,” she says, “you’re lying, and I can tell. And second of all . . .” Her teeth worry over her pink-glossed lip. “I had something else in mind.”
“Two spa days?” I guess.
She cracks a tentative smile. “You know how you’re always complaining about how publishing pretty much shuts down in August and you have nothing to do?”
“I have plenty to do,” I argue.
“Nothing that requires you to be in the city,” she amends. “So what if we went somewhere? Got away for a few weeks and just relaxed? I can go a day without getting anyone else’s bodily fluids on me, and you can forget about what happened with Aaron, and we can just . . . take a break from being the Tired Supermom and Fancy Career Lady we have to be the other eleven months out of the year. Maybe you can even take a page out of your exes’ books and have a whirlwind romance with a local . . . lobster hunter?”
I stare at her, trying to parse out how serious she is.
“Fisher? Lobster fisher?” she says. “Fisherman?”
“But we never go anywhere,” I point out.
“Exactly,” she says, a ragged edge creeping into her voice. She grabs for my hand, and I note the way her nails are bitten down. I try to swallow, but it’s like my esophagus is inside a vise. Because, right then, I’m suddenly sure there’s more going on with Libby than run-of-the-mill money problems, lack of sleep, or irritation with my work schedule.
Six months ago, I’d have known exactly what was going on. I wouldn’t have even had to ask. She would’ve stopped by my apartment, unannounced, and flopped onto my couch dramatically and said, “You know what’s bothering me lately, Sissy?” and I would pull her head into my lap and tease my fingers through her hair while she poured out her worries over a glass of crisp white wine. Things are different now.
“This is our chance, Nora,” she says quietly, urgently. “Let’s take a trip. Just the two of us. The last time we did that was California.”
My stomach plummets, then rebounds. That trip—like my relationship with Jakob—is part of the time in my life I do my best not to revisit.
Pretty much everything I do, actually, is to ensure Libby and I never find ourselves back in that dark place we were in after Mom died. But the undeniable truth is I haven’t seen her look like this, like she’s at her breaking point, since then.
I swallow hard. “Can you get away right now?”
“Brendan’s parents will help with the girls.” She squeezes my hands, her wide blue eyes practically burning with hope. “When this baby gets here, I’m going to be an empty shell of a person for a while, and before that happens, I really, really want to spend time with you, like it used to be. And also I’m like three sleepless nights away from snapping and pulling a Where’d You Go, Bernadette, if not the full Gone Girl. I need this.”
My chest squeezes. An image of a heart in a too-small metal cage flashes over my mind. I’ve always been incapable of saying no to her. Not when she was five and wanted the last bite of Junior’s cheesecake, or when she was fifteen and wanted to borrow my favorite jeans (the seat of which never recovered from her superior curves), or when she was sixteen and she said through tears, I just want to not be here, and I swept her off to Los Angeles.
She never actually asked for any of those things, but she’s asking now, her palms pressed together and her lower lip jutted, and it makes me feel panicky and breathless, even more out of control than the thought of leaving the city. “Please.”
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