• • •
It’s an hour later when I have a new phone in my hands. I’m sitting in my car at the cell phone store when I turn it on. I watch the screen as seventeen messages appear. All from Allysa.
I guess it would make sense that Ryle didn’t call me all night, since he knew what kind of shape my phone was in.
I start to open a text message when my phone begins ringing. It’s Allysa.
She sighs heavily, and then, “Lily! What in the hell is going on? Oh my God, you can’t do this to me, I’m pregnant!”
I start my car and set the phone to Bluetooth while I drive toward the store. Allysa is off today. She’s only got a few days left before she gets a jump start on her maternity leave.
“I’m okay,” I tell her. “Ryle is okay. We got into a fight. I’m sorry I couldn’t call you, he broke my phone.”
She’s quiet for a moment, and then, “He did? Are you okay? Where are you?”
“I’m fine. Heading to work now.”
“Good, I’m almost there myself.”
I start to protest, but she hangs up before I have the chance.
By the time I make it to the store, she’s already there.
I open the front door, ready to field questions and defend my reasons for kicking her brother out of my apartment. But I stop short when I see the two of them standing at the counter. Ryle is leaning against it and Allysa has her hands on top of his, saying something to him that I can’t hear.
They both turn to face me when they hear the door close behind me.
“Ryle,” Allysa whispers. “What did you do to her?” She walks around the counter and pulls me in for a hug. “Oh, Lily,” she says, running her hand down my back. She pulls back with tears in her eyes, and her reaction confuses me. She obviously knows Ryle is responsible, but if that’s the case, it seems she would be attacking him, or at least yelling.
She turns back to Ryle and he’s looking up at me apologetically. Longingly. Like he wants to reach out and hug me, but he’s scared to death to touch me. He should be.
“You need to tell her,” Allysa says to Ryle.
He instantly drops his head in his hands.
“Tell her,” Allysa says, her voice angrier now. “She has the right to know, Ryle. She’s your wife. If you don’t tell her, I will.”
Ryle’s shoulders roll forward and his head is fully pressed against the counter now. Whatever it is Allysa wants him to tell me has him so agonized, he can’t even look at me. I clench my stomach, feeling the angst deeper than my soul.
Allysa spins toward me and puts her hands on my shoulders. “Hear him out,” she begs. “I’m not asking you to forgive him, because I have no idea what happened last night. But just please, as my sister-in-law and my best friend, give my brother a chance to talk to you.”
• • •
Allysa said she’d watch the store for the next hour until another employee comes in for their shift. I was still so upset with Ryle, I didn’t want him in the same car with me. He said he’d send for an Uber and meet me at my apartment.
My entire drive home I agonized over what he could possibly need to tell me that Allysa already knows. So many things went through my head. Is he dying? Has he been cheating on me? Did he lose his job? She didn’t seem to know the details of what happened between us last night, so I have no idea how this relates to that.
Ryle finally walks through my front door ten minutes after me. I’m sitting on the couch, nervously picking at my nails.
I stand up and start to pace as he slowly walks to the chair and takes a seat. He leans forward, clasping his hands in front of him.
“Please sit down, Lily.”
He says it pleadingly, like he can’t take seeing me worry. I return to my seat on the couch, but I scoot to the arm, pull my feet up, and bring my hands to my mouth. “Are you dying?”
His eyes stretch wide and he immediately shakes his head. “No. No. It’s nothing like that.”
“Then what is it?”
I just want him to spit it out. My hands are starting to shake. He sees how much he’s freaking me out, so he leans forward and pulls my hands from my face, holding them in his. Part of me doesn’t want him touching me after what he did last night, but a piece of me needs the reassurance from him. The anticipation of what I’m about to find out is making me nauseous.
“No one is dying. I’m not cheating on you. What I’m about to tell you isn’t going to hurt you, okay? It’s all in the past. But Allysa thinks you need to know. And . . . so do I.”
I nod and he releases my hands. He’s the one up and pacing now, back and forth behind the coffee table. It’s as if he’s having to work up the courage to find his own words and that’s making me even more nervous.
He sits in the chair again. “Lily? Do you remember the night we met?”
“You remember when I walked out onto the roof? How angry I was?”
I nod again. He was kicking the chair. It was before he knew marine-grade polymer was virtually indestructible.
“Do you remember my naked truth? What I told you about that night and what caused me to be so angry?”
I lean my head down and think back to that night and to all the truths he told me. He said marriage repulsed him. He was only into one-night stands. He never wanted to have kids. He was mad about a patient he’d lost that night.