On Second Thought(3)

By: Kristan Higgins

We lived in an older neighborhood of Cambry-on-Hudson, Nathan’s hometown, the same town where my sister and parents lived. Nathan had torn down a house to build his masterpiece on this lot—a vast modern house with walls of glass and dark wood floors and minimalist furniture. He’d built it just after his divorce, thankfully; I didn’t want to live in a house where another wife had made her mark.

But I needed a couch for flopping. The one drawback to living in this architectural jewel was the lack of a flopping couch. Yes. We could get rid of a couple of those angular chairs and replace them with my squishy pink-and-green couch from Brooklyn.

Not that pink and green matched the color palette of the house. Still, I could probably stick it in a bedroom somewhere. We had five, after all. Seven bathrooms (seven!), a huge eat-in kitchen, a dining room that could seat sixteen. Living room, family room, study, den—I still mixed them up sometimes. Laundry room, mudroom, butler’s pantry, modest wine cellar (if any wine cellar could be considered modest), and even a media room in the basement with a huge wonking TV and six leather recliners. In the four months of our marriage, we’d managed to watch one movie down there. There was even a special bathroom off the garage to wash a dog. We didn’t have a dog. Not yet.

I loved Nathan. I loved this house. I even loved (or really, really liked) his sister, Brooke, who lived three-quarters of a mile down the street, next door to Nathan’s parents. This new life would just take some getting used to. Soon, I’d feel right at home. Soon, I’d even master the light switches. There were so many.

What I really wanted was for time to fast-forward to when things felt more real, more solid. In three years, this house would feel like home. Our child’s things would brighten up the place, a basket of toys, finger paintings hanging on the fridge and dozens of pictures of the three of us, laughing, smiling, snuggling. I would know how to turn on every light in the house.

I went into the study (or was it the den?) that served as both Nathan’s and my home office. “Good morning, Hector, noble prince of Troy,” I said to my orange betta fish. He was still alive, bucking the odds at the age of four. Nathan had bought him a gorgeous, handblown bowl when I moved in, replacing the one I got at Petco, and filled it with real plants to oxygenate the water. No wonder Hector was thriving. I watched my pretty fish for a minute, drinking my coffee, pushing against melancholy.

Tonight, when Nathan got home, I’d grab him the second he walked through the door, and we’d do it against the wall. Or on the floor. Or both. We’d be flushed and mellow at Eric’s party. And tomorrow, I’d make crepes, one of my few culinary specialties. The forecast was for rain, so we could stay in and read and watch movies and make love all weekend long—just for us, not for the baby—and he’d smile at me every time he glanced my way.

My sister and Eric lived in this same town; in fact, they knew Nathan before I did. Ainsley had never mentioned Nathan to me back when I was dating; while I wasn’t positive, I thought it was because she didn’t want me on her turf. Our parents had moved to Cambry-on-Hudson a month after I started at NYU, when my brother, Sean, was a junior at Harvard, so only Ainsley spent her teenage years here. She viewed it as the epitome of perfection.

Me, I’d lived in Brooklyn since I was twenty, about a year before it became the capital of hipsters and microbreweries. Yet here I was, in a town where the nannies had degrees from Harvard, where my mother-in-law invited me for lunch at her beloved country club each week, where my sister took hot yoga classes.

Speaking of my sister, there was a text. Can’t wait to see you and Nathan tonight! <3

Her not-so-subtle way of reminding us to come. And the emojis... I sighed. All her life, Ainsley had been not-so-subtle. She was a people-pleaser and, I had to admit, it grated. I understood why, but I just wanted to take her aside and tell her to turn it down a few notches.

And then I’d remember how she used to crawl into my bed when she was four. I texted back. We can’t wait either! Should be so much fun! Sure, it was a lie, but it was the good kind. I couldn’t bring myself to emoji back, though. I was thirty-nine, after all.

There was a message on my phone from Eloise, left ten minutes before, when I was in the bathroom.

“Kate, it’s Eloise Coburn. I’m wondering if we could schedule—” she said shedule, like a Brit “—a portrait of Nathan’s father and myself for our anniversary. Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.”

It always felt like my mother-in-law was about to catch me committing a petty crime. She was never rude; that would be to disobey the cardinal rule of Miss Porter’s, of which she was an honor’s grad and active alumna. But she was a long cry from warm and fuzzy.