The Light We Lost (Page 41)

lxxi

In the week after we saw each other, I kept trying to push you out of my mind, but news of what was happening between Israel and Gaza filled newspapers and Internet feeds. He’s there! the universe kept saying. Think about him! I scoured every photo for its credit, looking for your name. I found it on a particularly arresting image. Five women, all in headscarves, all wailing. One was reaching out in front of her, as if to stop whatever was going on outside the frame. It was a funeral, I read, for a Palestinian boy who was killed. So I knew—you’d left Jerusalem and were in Gaza City.

A few weeks later, the news media started calling the conflict an actual war. I was glued to the television, horrified as battles erupted while I watched. There were so many children there; some looked like they could have been in first grade like Violet, or in Liam’s preschool class. I watched a journalist interview a woman who explained that she didn’t let any of her three children sleep in the same room at night, so that if a bomb hit one part of her house, it wouldn’t kill all her children at once. Then I saw the families who didn’t have houses left at all.

“Want to watch CSI?” Darren asked, dropping next to me on the couch, while I had the news on.

“Sure,” I said, changing the channel. But I couldn’t follow the storyline. My mind—and my heart—were still in Gaza City.

lxxii

I was at work when you called.

“Gabe,” I said.

“I can’t do this anymore,” you answered. “I’m coming home.”

My heart sped up in my chest. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” you told me. “The women, the children.” Your voice broke on the word. “I just keep thinking about you. About the Warwick. I was wrong when I asked you to come to Jerusalem. I should have offered to stay in New York. Is Darren still with that Linda? Have you talked to him about it?”

My breath caught. That was what I’d wanted—that was the offer I’d hoped for. But it didn’t matter now. I stalled.

“Gabe, you’re doing good work there. I saw your photograph on the front page of the New York Times. You’re showing the world what’s happening. You’re living your dream.”

I heard you take a ragged breath. “I thought I’d be able to make a real difference, but . . . they’re just pictures, Luce. They haven’t changed a thing. The world is still s**t. And now . . . it feels like too much of a sacrifice. I miss you. I think about you all the time.”

“I miss you too,” I said. “But, Gabe, if you come back . . . I can’t promise . . . don’t come for me, Gabe. Don’t make me choose. Darren wasn’t cheating. He . . . he bought me a house. The house where we met. Linda was the real estate agent.” It broke my heart to say it, but I knew it was the right thing to do—for my kids, for my life. I needed to be responsible, to focus on my marriage, to keep my family together.

I listened to you inhale, exhale, inhale, waiting for your response.

“Is that what you want, Lucy?” you said softly. “Will that fix everything?”

I closed my eyes. “No,” I said. “It’s not. It won’t. But it’s a start. I told you I won’t leave my kids. I won’t break up my family.”

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I imagined the pain I knew would be visible on your face. I tried to harden my heart to it.

“I think I need to come back anyway,” you said, your voice filled with emotion. “I think I have to come for me. I’m going to give my notice. Hopefully I’ll be home by the end of the summer. And . . . I won’t expect anything from you. But life is so short, Lucy. I want you to be happy. I want us both to be happy.”

I didn’t know how to respond because I wanted us both to be happy too. I just didn’t see a way to make it happen. “Okay,” I said. “Stay safe until then. We’ll . . . talk when you’re back home.”

“I love you, Lucy,” you said.

I couldn’t leave your words hanging there, not when I felt the same way.

“Me too,” I whispered, tears filling my eyes. “I love you, too, Gabe.” I did, I do, I always have. I realized that then. I love Darren, too, but what you and I have is different. If I’d never met you, maybe Darren would be enough. But I’ve taken a bite of the forbidden fruit. I’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge. I’ve seen how much more there is.

I knew I’d have to forget that, ignore what could be. Because I like Gabe better didn’t seem like an acceptable reason to destroy my marriage with a good, generous man. It didn’t seem like an acceptable reason to do that to my kids.

I took the rest of the day off from work. I went home and fell asleep on the couch holding on to Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

lxxiii

There are some things we know without knowing them.

I should have realized it when I fell asleep in Liam’s bed at eight thirty, in the middle of reading him If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

I should have realized it when my period was five days late, and then ten.

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But I didn’t realize it until I woke up knowing I was going to vomit before I made it to the bathroom. I reached for the garbage pail next to my nightstand.

“Oh, God,” Darren said, jolting up in bed. “Are you sick?”

I wiped my mouth with my hand as my brain quickly put the pieces together. “I’m going to go with pregnant,” I told him, groaning. “Do we have any pregnancy tests in the cabinet?”

I tied the plastic bag that was in the trash can in an airtight knot, as the rest of the information filtered through my brain. I was counting weeks. I’d been so sure I wasn’t ovulating when you and I were together, when Darren and I were together later that day. But I must’ve been wrong. My whole body flashed hot as one thought engulfed my consciousness: Whose baby was it?

“Wait, are you serious?” Darren asked.

“As serious as the Defenestration of Prague,” I told him, trying to keep the shock from registering on my face. The horror.

Darren jumped out of bed and enveloped me in a hug. “This is fantastic!” he said. “We’re filling up this whole apartment with tiny humans! You know I always wanted more. Our new house must be a good-luck charm.”

“It must,” I said, thinking the exact opposite, my mind spinning.

Do I tell him? Don’t I tell him? If I told him, would he leave? Kick me out? Would that be it, our family up in flames? I couldn’t tell him. But what if it was yours? How could I let him raise your son?

“I’m going to puke again,” I said to Darren, running into the bathroom.

I couldn’t believe that this was my life. It was like a soap opera.

I knew you’d planned to be back in New York again soon. I decided I should wait. I didn’t need to tell you. At least not over the phone. At least not yet.

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I wish I’d made a different choice. If I’d known our time was limited, if I’d known we’d end up here, like this, I would have reached out that day. I wish I could rewind time and make that call. Maybe you would’ve come home. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened to you at all.

lxxiv

There are so many moments that change a person’s world. Some are because of a decision that’s made. Others, I think, might be because of the universe, fate, God, a higher power, whatever you want to call it. I don’t know. I’ve been wrestling with this question for thirteen years now.

That Tuesday I was on my way to work in a taxicab. Maybe it was the uncertainty or the guilt or the fact that I hadn’t spoken to you about it yet, but the nausea those few weeks after I realized I was pregnant was so awful that I didn’t want to risk riding the subway and vomiting on the stranger next to me. So I was taking cabs. Darren offered to get a driver to take me to and from work, but that felt excessive. Instead, I hailed a cab each morning. And sometimes on the way home too. Whoever named it “morning sickness” was an optimist. I carried at least two plastic bags in my purse at all times, but so far I hadn’t actually thrown up in a cab. My office was another story. I think I might have scared my poor assistant into celibacy.

I was breathing slowly, in through my nose, out through my mouth, trying to calm my body down. And then my cell phone rang. It was a number I didn’t know, but I picked up, in case it was something having to do with Violet or Liam. Becoming a mother changed my call-screening habits. The last thing I ever wanted to do was not pick up when one of my kids needed me.

“Hello?” I said.

“Is this Lucy Carter Maxwell?”

“Yes,” I answered, though there wasn’t anywhere other than Facebook that I was listed that way.

“This is Eric Weiss,” the person said. “I’m an executive editor at the Associated Press. I work with Gabriel Samson.”

“Yes?”

“I’m calling to let you know that Gabe has been hurt.”

He stopped talking. I stopped breathing.

“Hurt, but he’s okay?”

“He’s in a hospital in Jerusalem.”

Then my brain started catching up with my heart.

“Wait,” I said, “why are you calling me about this?”

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