I shove open the lid to the chest and see the book lying at the bottom. There is a single puzzle piece resting on its cover. I dust it away. This was the only book I saved when we burned everything to keep warm. It makes no sense why I’d save it. I had Isaac to answer my medical questions. Isaac to stitch me up. I saved it for myself. Because on some level I knew the zookeeper put it here for me. My stomach clenches. I flip through the index. Page 546. Fever.
She smiles; it starts in her eyes and spreads slowly to her lips.Come over for dinner. Noah’s always wanted to meet you. She must see the skepticism on my face, because she laughs. He’s great. Really. Bring a date?
I run my hand over my face and shake my head. Dinner with your husband is not on my bucket list.Neither was defending your ex-wife in a lawsuit.See you next Tuesday at seven? She winks at me and practically skips out of my condo.
I don’t agree, but she knows I’ll be there.Damn. I’m whipped.
I call my date. She’s running behind schedule as usual. I’ve seen her twice a week for the last three months. It came as a surprise how much I enjoy her company, especially after what happened with Leah. I felt done with women for a while, but I guess I’m an addict.
We agree to meet at Olivia’s instead of driving together. I text her Olivia’s address while I trim the beard down to a goatee. I go for James Dean and wear blue jeans and a white shirt. There is still a tan line where my wedding band used to be. For the first month after the divorce, I found myself constantly feeling for the ring, having a moment of panic every time I saw my empty finger and thinking that I’d lost it. The truth always choked me, like a mouth full of cotton. I lost my marriage, not my ring, and it had been my fault. Forever became five years, death till us part became irreconcilable differences. I still miss it, or maybe the idea of it. My mother always said I was born to be married. I rub at the empty spot as I wait for the elevator in her building.She couldn’t seem to tear her gaze away from me, so I kept talking. When I saw you were still in the class, I thought it would help.
She closed her mouth finally and gripped her assignment so hard that it crumpled. I took it from her and straightened it against the leg of my jeans.When I handed it back, she said, I did the same thing.
I’ll talk to Amy, I said. I’ll switch back.Corabelle’s jaw clenched, and I had to resist the urge to run my finger under her chin, like I always had when she was upset.