Chapter 1: Now
To: “Ambrosia Wellington” firstname.lastname@example.org
From: “Wesleyan Alumni Committee” email@example.com
Subject: Class of 2007 Reunion
Dear Ambrosia Wellington,
Mark Your Calendar!
The Wesleyan University Ten-Year Reunion for the Class of 2007 will take place May 25–28, 2017. Join us for a weekend of catching up with former classmates and attending exciting events, including the All-Campus Party and formal class dinners.
Online registration is available through May 1.
If you’re planning to attend, a full list of area hotels can be found on Wesleyan’s local accommodations page. A limited amount of on-campus housing in our dorms is available. Most rooms are doubles—perfect for reaching out to your old roommate to relive some memories!
Your Alumni Committee
I delete it instantly, just like I do the sale emails from Sephora and Michael Kors and the reminders from Fertility Friend that ovulation is right around the corner. Then I empty my recycling bin, because I know better than to think anything is ever really gone.
Two weeks later, a second email arrives. We haven’t received your RSVP! We really hope you’re joining us. It’s the written equivalent of a wagging finger. I delete that one, too, but not before scrolling down far enough to see her name, bolded, right under the list of Alumni Committee members. Flora Banning.
I forget about the two emails, because out of sight really is out of mind. It’s easy when each day is a variation of the same—taking the N from Astoria to Midtown; stopping at Key Food for groceries, reusable cloth bags cutting into my forearms. Happy hour shouldered in with hipsters at the Ditty, a second glass of wine, despite Adrian’s half-teasing Maybe you shouldn’t. But then I come home from work on Friday, shoulders sagging from the weight of the week, and there’s an envelope on the counter addressed to me.
“Hey, babe,” Adrian shouts from his position on the couch, tablet in hand, where he’s undoubtedly working on his fantasy football league instead of the perpetually unfinished novel he likes to talk about. “How was your day?”
“You left the door open again. Can you please start locking it like I asked?” One of the myriad things I nag Adrian about on a regular basis. Lock the door. Close the cereal bag. Pick up your dirty laundry. Sometimes I feel more like a parent than his wife.
“Relax. It’s a safe building. Hey, something came for you. I think we got invited to a wedding. Except somebody doesn’t know you got married and changed your name.” My new last name, a point of male pride that Adrian pretended wasn’t important to him. I don’t care, but do you really want the kids to have two last names? And yours is so long, he said during wedding planning, the first puncture in my newly engaged bliss. The kids, a brightening certainty on his horizon, my concessions for them expected and inevitable.
The envelope on the counter is addressed to Ambrosia Wellington, in neat calligraphy. Not Ambrosia Turner, the woman I became three years ago when I walked down a tree-shaded aisle at the Mountain Lakes House toward Adrian, his eyes already tear filled. I let him think Turner was for us, for the kids. He has no idea why I was so eager to get rid of Wellington.
Adrian turns around to watch me open it, expectant. He loves weddings, or rather, he loves the receptions, where he can get drunk and pose for pictures with people he’s just met, instant best friends, and invite them to dinners and barbecues we all know will never happen.
“Well, who is it?” he says. “Let me guess. Bethany from work. Is she still dating that really tall guy? Mark. The lacrosse player.”
Adrian and his friends, five and six years younger than me, still post engagement photos on Facebook and Instagram: girls with long hair and Chanel espadrilles, gel manicures to show off pear-shaped rocks, posing next to boys in plaid shirts. The PR girls who work under me at Brighton Dame are the same.
So basic, we used to call them, back when there was no way we would turn into them.
“Bethany’s twenty-two,” I murmur when I pull the card out. I ignore Adrian’s response, because I’m fixated on what’s inside. It’s not a wedding invitation. Nobody is requesting my presence at Gramercy Park or telling me the dress code is black tie or mandating an adults-only reception.
It’s more calligraphy, red and black against cream card stock. Wesleyan colors. The letters tilt slightly to the right, as if whoever wrote them was in a rush to get them out.
You need to come. We need to talk about what we did that night.
There’s no signature, but there doesn’t need to be. It can only be from one person. My face is hot and I can tell my neck is marbling red and white, the same way it always does when my anxiety flares up. I grip the countertop. She knows I deleted the emails. I shouldn’t be surprised; she had a way of knowing everything.
Adrian’s voice interrupts my spiraling thoughts. “The suspense is killing me. It better be an open bar.”
“It’s not a wedding.” I stuff the card back into its envelope, then shove it in my purse. Later, I’ll put it in the place I hide everything Adrian can never see.
He puts down his tablet and stands up. Of course he chooses now to grow an attention span. “You okay? You look like you’re going to puke.”
I could shred the card, but I know what would happen. Another one will come in its place. She was insistent then. She’s probably even more so now.
“It’s nothing. Why don’t we go up to the roof and have a drink?” The rooftop patio with its slices of Manhattan skyline, a feature of our building we thought we would use but rarely ever do.
He nods, curiosity temporarily assuaged, and arches across the counter to kiss my cheek.
I smile at my husband in relief, taking in his mop of curly hair, his dimples, and his pretty green eyes. So freaking sexy, my best friend, Billie, said when I showed her his photo. He looked exactly like his online dating profile, which is probably why I went home with him after our first date, the two of us reduced to sloppy mouths and hands in the back of a cab barreling down Broadway. I later learned that while his picture didn’t lie—not like a dozen other men before him, all of whom were at least twenty pounds heavier than advertised—his life story did. Yes, he went to Florida State, but he never graduated, instead dropping out in his third year to work on the same novel he has yet to complete a chapter of. Nowhere in his bio did it say he was a bartender, the only consistent job he has ever had.
But I overlooked that because he treats me well, because people are drawn to him, because I was drawn to him, to his steady warmth and self-assuredness. He didn’t know the person I was in college but loved the new embodiment of me so simply that I figured I couldn’t be as horrible as everyone thought. I never imagined I would end up with someone five years younger, but being older has had its benefits. Our age gap is small enough that we look good together but big enough that his instincts are softer, more malleable. When I pushed the idea of a proposal because I was creeping into my late twenties, he took the hint and picked out a ring. Not the one I wanted, but it was close enough.
Adrian tries to make conversation as we head up to the roof, but the voice in my head is louder. Hers. We need to talk about what we did that night.
There were two different nights, and I’m not sure which one she means. The one that started everything or the one that ended it. She never wanted to talk about either. Then again, she was the best at breaking her own rules.