Chapter 5

My dad parked the BMW a block down from our brownstone. As he shut off the car, he said, “Where’d you get the ring?”

“The what?”

“On your finger. I don’t remember seeing it before.”

I glanced down at my left hand, lost for words, then said, “Just found it somewhere.”

We walked to the brownstone in silence, the block still but the city faint with noise. As we neared the house the streetlamps along the block flickered briefly.

“Strange,” my dad said. At the bottom of the stone steps he looked at me. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

He stepped forward, wrapped his arms around me, murmured, “I love you, son.”

I instantly felt that sudden pinprick on my finger and stepped out of his embrace. Staring up at him I studied his face, the furrows in his brow, the bags underneath his eyes.

Frowning at me, he said, “What is it?”

“You promised you would stop.”

“Huh?”

“You made a promise to Mom and me that you would never see her again.”

“David, what are you talking about?”

“You can’t admit to it, can you? You’re pathetic.”

The front door opened and my mom appeared in her wheelchair. “David? John? Is everything okay?”

I glanced back at my dad and saw him staring at me, his face suddenly tight.

“Yeah, honey,” he called. “Everything’s great.”

I turned away from him and hurried up the steps. Mom held out her arms, and I leaned down and gave her a hug.

“I was so worried,” she said. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“What happened?”

“It sounds worse than it really was.”

My dad was still standing at the bottom of the steps, staring down the block.

I placed my hand on the door and waited for Mom to roll back so I could shut it.

“What about your father?”

“He said he needed to make a call before he comes in.”

I shut the door harder than I probably needed to, hoping he would somehow feel my anger through the vibrations.

“Easy now,” Mom said quietly. “You’ll wake your sister.”

But apparently my sister was already awake, little eight-year-old Emma dressed in her Hanna Montana pajamas rubbing the sleep from her eye as she stumbled out of the living room.

“David?” she asked sleepily. “Is that you?”

“Hey, munchkin. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

Mom said, “When your father received your call he was frantic and managed to wake her up. She’s been worried ever since.”

“Well I’m home now,” I said, smiling at my sister.

“You’re not hurt?”

“Not at all.”

“That’s good.”

“Want to take her upstairs and tuck her in for me?” Mom asked.

She was thinking about my dad and why he hadn’t come in yet. I knew this just as I knew Dad was still standing in the same spot I’d left him, his eyes now closed, wondering how I’d found out he was still sleeping around.

“Sure.” I leaned down, kissed my mom on the cheek. “Good night.”

I turned to my sister, grinned, and said, “I’ll race you to the top.” She was already turning away and scrambling up the stairs. I waited a few seconds and then hurried after, my mom laughing in that singsong way of hers as she watched us go.

“I win, I win, I win,” Emma cried when she reached the top, jumping up and down.

Of course she did; I always let her win.

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