If You Only Knew(9)

By: Kristan Higgins

I sense my hard-won optimism is about to get a smackdown. The Angel of Death, also known as my mother, Lenore Tate, long-suffering widow and professional pessimist.

Best to take the call; otherwise, she’ll call the police to check on me.

“Hi, Mom,” I say, making sure I sound chipper.

“I’m just checking in. Honey, I’m so sad for you. Horrible that you have to move,” she says in her trademark tone—mournful with a dash of smug.

“I don’t have to, Mom. I chose to.”

“You sound so depressed. Well, who can blame you?”

My eye twitches. “I’m not depressed. I’m really happy. I’ll be closer to you, and Rachel, and—”

“Yes, but these aren’t exactly ideal circumstances, are they? It should’ve been you and Owen, not him and Ana-Sofia. Though she is quite beautiful. The baby, too. Did I tell you they had me over last week?”

“Yes. You’ve mentioned it nine times now.”

“Oh, you’re counting. Poor thing. I can only imagine how hard it was, delivering the baby who should’ve been yours...”

“Okay, I’m hanging up now.” She’s not exactly wrong, and she knows it. Such is her evil power.

“I’m coming over to help you unpack. Do you have pepper spray? The neighborhood is seedy.”

When I went to college, Mom moved across the state border to a posh little town in Connecticut and began viewing COH as akin to the slums of Calcutta. It’s irritating, but at least she doesn’t live too close by.

“Mom, the neighborhood is gorgeous,” I tell her, using my “calm the bride” voice.

“Well, it’s not what it was when your father was alive. If he hadn’t died, it still might be a nice place to live.”

This is one of those illogical and unarguable statements so common from Mother Dear. Westchester County is hardly a hotbed of crime and urban decay. Even if COH was hit by urban blight—which it hasn’t been—it’s not as if Dad, who was a dentist, would’ve single-handedly stepped in and saved the day.

“You should’ve moved to Connecticut, Jenny. Hedgefield would’ve been perfect for your little dress shop. I still don’t understand why you didn’t want to come here.”

Because you live there. “I have to go, Mom. Don’t come over. I’ll have you up over dinner later this week, okay?”

“I can’t eat dairy anymore. It gives me terrible diarrhea. Ana-Sofia made empanadas that were delicious. Maybe you could call her for the recipe, since you’re not the best cook.”

Cleansing breath, cleansing breath. “Anything else?”

“Well, don’t make duck. I’m morally opposed to duck. Do you know what they do to ducks at a duck farm? The cruelty! It’s barbaric. But I do love veal. Can you make veal? Or is that too hard for you?”

“I’ll make something delicious, Mom.” I won’t. I’ll buy something delicious.

“See you in a few hours, then.”

“No, no. Please don’t come. I won’t even be here. I have a bride coming in.” A lie, but it’s de rigueur when dodging a maternal visit.

“Fine. Maybe I’ll call Ana-Sofia. She asked for some advice on getting the baby to burp, so...”

“Okay, bye.” I stab the end button hard. My twitch has grown into a throb.

I’d like to say that Mom means well, but that wouldn’t really be true. When things are good, she looks not for the silver lining, but for the mercury toxicity. When things are bad, her eyes light up, she stands straighter and her life is filled with purpose. She views my move to COH as both my inevitable failure at marriage—she always hinted Owen was too good for me—and also a gauntlet I’ve thrown at her feet. If I do better after my divorce—personally and professionally—it might imply that she should, too.

Well, no point in crying over spilled milk. Spilled wine, yes. But I have a long day of unpacking in front of me, and I want to get started. Unfortunately, the moving truck is nowhere in sight. Luis said he knew the street, but they’re late just the same, even if they left just a second after I did.

Hopefully, this will be the last time I move—which is exactly what I said when I moved in with Owen. He was the fourth boyfriend I lived with, but I thought he had staying power. But seriously, this could be the last time, because my new place is flippin’ beautiful. The real estate lady said it’s possible that it’ll go up for sale next year; it was an impulse buy on the part of the owner, and my lease is only for one year—a hint, she said, that the owner might want to sell it.

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