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“Sweetie! Is that you?” I heard Connor’s voice float through the apartment as I shut the door. I made a face. I had his birthday present folded under my arm. If he came to greet me in the foyer, I’d be dead in the water because he’d ask me what I had and he always knew when I was lying. Like, damn dude let me surprise you once in awhile.
“What’s for dinner?” I called back, trying to deflect him from a question he hadn’t even asked. It smelled heavenly, and even though my nose said it was pasta night I didn’t want to get my hopes up that he was making his from-scratch marinara sauce. I dropped my keys in the bowl on the console table, slipped off my coat, and tucked it away into the coat closet, and crept into the house softly, shifting his package behind the other things I’d picked up that afternoon. It was a cold, overcast day, and snow flurries had drifted down between the towering buildings. But I had made my way through stores, excited for Connor’s birthday and Christmas. And as I tip-toed over the hardwood floors, towards a fast hiding spot in the living room, I smiled as I thought of giving him his gift in just a couple of weeks.
“Your favorite,” Connor said, speaking over the classical jazz coming from the kitchen speakers. Normally he was an NPR-while-he-cooked guy, but maybe the snow made him feel festive. I heard him shift around a few glasses and quickly put away his gift before meeting him in the entry to the kitchen, as he headed my way with a long-stemmed glass of white wine.
“Thank God, I’m famished. Shopping takes a lot out of a girl, you know.” I grinned up at him as he kissed me on my forehead.
“Did you have a fun day out?” he asked, walking back to the counter to stir something into the cauldron of red sauce. I took my glass of wine and sat down, warming up.
“I did, as a matter of fact.”
“Shocker,” he interjected quickly, shooting me a smile over his shoulder. I stuck out my tongue at him.
“The girls and I all met at Saks because you know that Nikki just had to find a dress for Jim’s office party, you know, a month early because she’ll change her mind six times when all the VPs wives mention on Facebook what they looked at.” I rolled my eyes but with love. Nikki was great, but could be a bit extra. But so were Maya and Lilly. “And then we just kind of strolled and spent the day looking at this and that.” Connor made a mmm and I smiled at his back. He was so handsome. He was wearing a dark gray cashmere sweater, hie sleeves pushed up, and one of my aprons wrapped around his body. Superfrilly gag-gifts from my friends who knew I hated to cook. His dark salt and pepper hair was disheveled, making made him look ten years younger than he was.
“Oh,” I said, “but we ran into Jessica Lowe in Neiman Marcus.” I paused and he turned and gave me a look. We didn’t like Jessica Lowe and, yes, that was a collective we.
“What was that cow doing there?” he asked, acid coating every word.
“Trying on a beautiful dress, that poor thing.” By that poor thing, I was talking about the dress. I took a sip from my glass. Jessica Lowe had given us a lot of grief when it became apparent Connor and I were serious about each other. Jessica Lowe hadn’t liked it that I was younger than she was, and 25 years younger than Conner—everybody seems dying to know—and from a slightly lower tax bracket. His was that type of wealthy where you wondered if God asked for a loan to start Eden. Anyone under that .01 percent was apparently money-grubbing trailer trash, though to Jessica. She had grown up with Connor and, in my opinion, was bitter that he’d never been interested in intertwining their empires—and households—the way she had been interested in doing. But she was a two-dimensional villain in my life. A fly at a horse’s blinders. But she was still a pest.
Connor make a tsk noise. He’d hated how so many people had given me a chilly shoulder when we had taken interest in each other.
“The dress really was beautiful, Connor. I think it was a McQueen. And of course Maya and her are friendly so I had to stand there with this dumb, placated smile—” I paused to re-create the face and he chuckled—“on my face while they just snipped at everything and everyone they could think of. I never thought they’d stop.”
“Did she say anything to you?” His tone was casual, but I could hear the protective edge to his words. I got up out of the barstool to go to his side and wrapped my arms around him.
“Just the usual snide, don’t you like this dress? Isn’t it beautiful? Doesn’t it look beaaauuutiful on me? I gave her beautifully passive-aggressive retorts.” I could feel his shoulders relax a bit, and I took this opportunity to steal some of the pasta sitting in the serving bowl.
“Hey! You can’t wait ten minutes?” He swatted my butt as I scampered back to my wine glass. “Go be helpful and set the table, won’t you?” he teased as he turned again to the food. I set the table and put out food for our dogs, who were out with the dogwalker. I refreshed our wine and helped Connor bring out the food, which, as always, was delicious. A lot of nights we ordered in, or our housekeeper made food, but on the weekends or when we got home earlier from work, Connor would take to the kitchen.
I should’ve married one of those Southern housewives. They’d cook for me, he’d joke.
You’d kill yourself if you married a housewife, I’d shoot back.
In my defense, I was not Connor’s secretary, his nanny, or his first wife’s personal shopper. Meeting him at an office party when I was a paralegal wasn’t so much fate as it was subtly elbowing Samantha Wilson out of the way to introduce myself. But that was just so I could network, Scout’s honor. I had no idea that we’d get along so well, that it would be like fire when we touched. Samantha wasn’t cut for the city, anyway; she moved back to Texas and her Facebook is full of posts involving burlap and Mason jars. She would’ve hated this life.
During dinner, we talked about the upcoming week and the holiday plans. What did we want to do for Thanksgiving? His birthday? When did we want to put out the Christmas tree this year? It was probably the snow flurries that made us think about all these things, as well as all the holiday decorations I saw while out shopping today. I jotted down a quick list of things we needed to do in the next week while Connor scraped the last of the pasta onto his plate.
“I think I’ll take the boat out tomorrow, just one last time this season.” he said as I was writing down the Whitmans on the list for gift baskets.
“I thought you took it out one last time like three weeks ago.” I said, not bothering to look up.
“Yeah, but…” he trailed off. He knew I didn’t get the boat thing. I never got the boat thing. Especially when it was this cold? I mentally threw up my hands like my friend Rebecca did whenever her husband did something husband-y.
“Okay, Popeye the Sailor Man. I’ll just invite the girls over tomorrow night then.” He always took a stunning amount of time out on the boat and at the boathouse. I wrote down cars? and pondered if it would be nicer for him to be interested in classic Porsches instead of the latest from Pursuit Boating.
“I need to call Tomas and talk to him about those parts I was telling you about. I want to see if the boat is still making that weird noise before we order them. Because why order it if it was just a fluke?” He started to clear the table and I bit my pen’s cap. Tomas was Connor’s boat guy. I didn’t know a single thing about boats. I’d tried. I swear I did.
“What time do you think you’ll head out?” I asked as he took my plate. We’d leave the dishes for our housekeeper to do in the afternoon.
“Probably around eleven. I don’t want to be out there too late.” Connor called from the kitchen. I jotted the rest of my thoughts down about holiday plans before helping him take care of leftovers.
“Want to watch a movie? I hear they put that cool documentary about the car industry on Netflix,” I said as I wiped down the counter.
The police officers came in the evening. I’m ashamed that I fainted. I’d never fainted in my life. The girls didn’t know whether to stay or go after I passed along the news that Connor had been in an accident, was dead. I made them go and knew that as soon as they had dispersed from the elevator, they’d be on their phones, telling everyone. They’d be my alibi, whether they liked it or not.
The minimalist apartment was suddenly too big now when it was just me. I kept all the lights on, terrified of some unidentified entity, as if turning off the lights would mean I too would be grabbed and dragged into the deep and unforgiving water. Similarly, I kept myself wrapped in one of my favorite blankets. It was white fur and the softest thing I’d ever felt. It instantly soothed me, and it warmed me, as I found myself shivering more this fall than previous ones. And our two giant, lovely, Great Danes, Hermés and Manolo, followed me around everywhere whimpering ever so slightly as they asked where their daddy was. I wanted to cry to them and explain that he wasn’t coming back and I was so sorry, that sometimes fate was cruel to us, but instead sadly rubbed their soft ears and let them sleep in the bed with me, taking comfort with the weight balance on the mattress.


Listen, I swear to God I wasn’t going to wear it, I really wasn’t. And as soon as we entered the funeral home, as soon as I heard the first gasp, reverberating in the white, solemn building, I cracked inside, whoo boy did that half bottle of red wear off real quick. I looked over at my friend, who clasped my hand and motioned for me to keep walking, not to look to see who made the soft exclamation. So that’s exactly what we did. Instead of acknowledging the murmurs and the purr of scandal running through the pews, my best friend and I made our way to the front of the church so that we could lay my husband to rest.
A beautiful, black silk Alexander McQueen evening gown is probably going to attract attention anywhere, let’s face it. Even drunk me could understand that. Throw in that it was eleven o’clock in the morning, a quarter of the skirt was really just lace, and the off-the-shoulder sleeves were, too, lace, drunk me could definitely understand why they were whispering. But God, didn’t they at least have the decency to do so in the ladies’ room, inevitably doomed to have awkward run-ins there with my best friend or myself? Have some class, bitches.
They thought I killed him. My husband, I meant. Which is why I really wore the dress. Someone ordered it in my name from Neiman Marcus, haha, we know you killed your husband, heifer, here’s a scandalous dress. The news of the insurance money coming through had just hit the Avenue, no doubt. As if there wasn’t going to be an investigation into Connor’s death, as if I’d want him dead. Who goes fishing in November? I have no idea but then again men are stupid. But just because men are stupid doesn’t mean I’d want Connor gone. But I knew I wasn’t going to roll over when given the chance to look people in the eyes until they were the ones to turn away. He wouldn’t want that for me.
The service was led beautifully, but in truth I don’t remember much of it. Ash to ash, dust to dust. The ride to and from the burial site was mostly made up of my friend, Maggie, babbling on about what everyone was wearing. It was what she did when she was nervous. Mother and Father couldn’t make it, and Connor’s mother looked at me like I was a walking ball of rat poison. She had been quite adamant about taking a different car from me in the procession, even though I wasn’t sure how the concave-looking woman was able to get out of bed at her age. Clearly she wasn’t a fan of the dress. I’m not entirely sure why. It was absolutely beautiful. Connor would’ve loved it.
November, what a month to die in. And of course you rarely choose when you die, but November? I pulled my coat closer to my body as we stepped away from the hole where my beloved now rested. I had opted out of talking during the service or the memorial. I had sat unwavering in the first pew, behind oversized sunglasses and listened to those who did speak, thanking those who came to offer their condolences. There were of course the few pointed comments about “taken too soon,” and glances to see if I was crying—but I knew it wouldn’t be the right amount regardless. Too much and it would be look at those crocodile tears, and too little it’d be tsk, heartless. They had no idea how when I got the call I fell to my knees, and how Maggie, Kaitlyn, and Nikki—over for a girls’ night—thought I would have to be sedated. Nikki sent for her personal psychiatrist, a tiny woman with a gray bob who had patted my hands sympathetically and given me the number of someone who was really good at helping with loss.
Our two dogs, really, are the reason why—I told myself and others—that I wouldn’t have people over after the funeral. It would upset them too much and there’s just been too much going on, I said, and who the hell was going question a bereaved widow and her dogs? No one of polite company, of course.
When I got home, I poured myself another glass of the red wine Maggie and I—mostly I—had been drinking before the funeral. Rich people didn’t drop off casseroles, they had catered casseroles and lasagnas and condolence fruit baskets sent over. And I spent the rest of the day, sitting in a black lace crepe evening gown, drinking from a glass of red wine, in a kitchen with too many white cabinets. The dogwalker came and went, and the phone rang several times. I ignored each of these things. The clock struck one; the fog rolled into the city—fog I had not known was coming—and I was reminded I’d need to sleep at some point, that I’d need to put this day to bed. I needed to hang it up with this beautiful, tragic dress.

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