She took the next exit and looped into downtown. Amazingly, there was a parking spot right across the street from the Times’s office. She pulled in and parked.
And wondered what the hell she was doing here. She didn’t even know if he’d be working today. She knew nothing about his life now.
They were separate. Divorced. What had made her think he’d want to see her?
You hear that, Papa? Your Angela is afraid.
It was true. And it was no way to live.
She flipped down the mirror and checked her face. She saw every wrinkle that time and circumstance had left on her.
If only there was time for a chemical peel.
Be brave, Angie.
She grabbed her purse and went inside the building.
The receptionist was new.
"I’m here to see Conlan Malone."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"Mr. Malone is busy today. I’ll check–"
"I’m his wife." She winced, corrected herself. "Ex wife."
"Oh. Let me–"
Henry Chase, the security guard who’d worked this building for more years than anyone could count, came around the corner. "Angie," he said grinning. "Long time no see."
She let out a relieved breath. "Hey, Henry."
"You here to see him?"
She smiled back at the receptionist, who shrugged and reached for the phone.
Angie followed Henry to the bank of elevators, said good-bye, and went upstairs. On the third floor, she stepped out into the busy center of Conlan’s life.
There were desks everywhere. On this holiday weekend, many of them were empty. She was glad of that. Still, there were plenty of familiar faces. People looked up, smiled nervously, and glanced toward Conlan’s office.
The ex-wife’s visit was worry-worthy, apparently. No doubt, word of her visit would spread from desk to desk; reporters loved to hear news and pass it on.
She tilted her chin up, clutched her purse in sweaty fingers, and kept moving.
She saw him before he saw her. He stood at the window of his corner office, talking on the phone. He was putting on his coat as he talked.
In that instant, everything she’d repressed came flooding back. She remembered how he used to kiss her first thing in the morning, every day, even when he was late for work, and how she sometimes pushed him away because she had other, more important things on her mind.
She knocked on the glass door.
Conlan turned, saw her. His smile faded slowly, his eyes narrowed. In anger? Disappointment? She wasn’t sure anymore; she couldn’t read his face. Maybe the look had been one of sadness.
He waved her in.
She opened the door and went inside.
He held up one finger to her, then said into the phone, "That’s not okay, George. We’re scheduled. I have the photographer ready. He’s waiting in the van already."
Angie looked down at his desk. It was covered with notes and letters; a stack of newspapers dominated one side.
The pictures of her were gone. Now there was nothing personal at all, no glimpse of who he was on his off hours.
She didn’t sit down, afraid that she’d start to tap her foot or squirm nervously.
"Ten minutes, George. Don’t you move." Conlan hung up the phone, then turned to her. "Angie" was all he said. The Why are you here? was silent but unmistakable.
"I was in town. I thought we could–"
"Bad timing, Ange. That was George Stephanopoulos on the phone. I have a meeting with him in"–he looked at his watch–"seventeen minutes."
He reached down for his briefcase.
She took a step backward, feeling vulnerable now.
He looked at her.
Neither of them moved or spoke. The room felt full of ghosts and long lost sounds. Laughter. Crying. Whispering.
She wanted him to move toward her, give her some sign of encouragement, however small. Then she could launch into I’m sorry and he would know why she was here.
"I’ve gotta run. Sorry." He started to reach for her, probably to pat her shoulder, but drew back before making contact. They stared at each other for another long moment, and then he walked out on her.
She sank down into the chair in front of his desk.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there, dazed, trying to collect the pieces of herself. She looked up and saw Diane VanDerbeek.
Angie didn’t rise. She wasn’t sure her legs would hold her. "Diane. It’s good to see you again."
And it was. Diane had worked with Conlan for a long time. She and her husband, John, had been their friends for years. Conlan had gotten custody of the friendship in the divorce. No, that wasn’t quite true. Angie had given them up without a fight. For weeks after the separation, Diane had called. Angie hadn’t called her back.
"Let him be, for heaven’s sake. He’s finally getting his life back."
Angie frowned. "You make it sound like he fell apart after the divorce. He was a rock."
Diane stared down at her silently, as if measuring what to say. After a moment, she glanced out the window at the gray November day. Her mouth, usually so quick to smile, remained pressed in a thin line, perhaps even curled downward ever so slightly.
Angie felt herself tightening up. Diane had always had a reporter’s directness. I call ’em like I see ’em had been her mantra. Whatever observation she was about to make, Angie was pretty sure she didn’t want to hear it.
"Did you really miss so much?" Diane finally asked.
"I don’t think I want to talk about this."
"Twice this year I came into his office and found him crying. Once when Sophie died and once when you’d decided to divorce." Her voice softened; so did the look in her eyes. "With Sophie, I thought: How sad that he had to come here to cry."
"Don’t," Angie murmured.
"I tried to tell you this before, when it mattered, but you wouldn’t listen. So why are you here now?"
"I thought …" Angie stood up suddenly. In about five seconds, she was going to start crying. If she started, God alone knew when she’d stop. "It doesn’t matter. I need to go. I was an idiot." She ran for the door. As she rounded the corner into the hallway, she heard Diane say:
"Leave him alone, Angie. You’ve hurt him enough."
ANGIE HARDLY SLEPT THAT NIGHT. WHEN SHE CRAWLED into bed and closed her eyes, all she saw were memories flickering across the theater screen in her mind.
She and Conlan were in New York four years ago for his birthday. He’d bought her an Armani dress–her first designer garment.
"It cost more than my first car. I don’t think I can wear it. We should return it, in fact. There are children starving in Africa …"
He came up beside her. Their reflections were framed in the perfect oval of the hotel room mirror. "Let’s not worry about the starving children tonight. You look beautiful."
She turned, looped her arms around him, and looked up into his blue, blue eyes.
She should have told him she loved him more than life, more even than the babies God had withheld from them. Why hadn’t she?
"The thing about silk," he said, sliding his hand down her back, "is that it slips off as easily as it slips on."
She’d felt a shiver of desire then; she remembered that clearly. But it had been the wrong time of the month for conception.
"It’s the wrong time," she’d said, not noticing until later how much those words had taken from him.
Stupid woman. Stupid.
Another memory came to her. More recent. This time they were in San Francisco on business. She’d been pitching a high-concept campaign for a national account. Conlan had come along for the ride. He’d thought they could make a romantic weekend out of it, or so he’d said. She’d agreed because … well, their romantic weekends had become few and far between by then.
In the Promenade Bar, thirty-four stories above the busy San Francisco streets, they chose a window table. The city, in all her jeweled glory, lay glittering all around them.
Conlan excused himself and went to the restroom. Angie ordered a Cosmopolitan for herself and a Maker’s Mark on the rocks for him. While she waited, she studied the company’s statistics again. The waitress delivered the drinks.
Angie was stunned by the bill. "Seventeen dollars for one Cosmopolitan?"
"It’s the Promenade," the waitress answered. "Magic is expensive. You want the drinks?"
Conlan returned a minute later. He had barely sat down when Angie leaned over and said, "I closed out the tab. Seventeen bucks for one drink."
He sighed, then smiled. Had it been forced? Then, she hadn’t thought so. "None of your DeSaria economy plans for us tonight. We’ve got the money, Ange. We might as well spend it."
Finally, she understood. He’d come along on this trip not in search of romance, but rather in search of a different life. It was his way of dealing with a dream that hadn’t come true. He wanted to remind himself–and her–that they could make a full, wonderful life without children, and that getaway weekends were the trade-off for a too-quiet house and an empty nursery.
What she should have said was "Then I’ll have three drinks … and order the lobster."
It would have been so easy. He would have kissed her then, and maybe their new life would have begun.
Instead, she’d started to cry. "Don’t ask me to give it up," she’d whispered. "I’m not ready."
And just like that, their new beginning had slid down into the mud of the same old middle.
Why hadn’t she seen the truth when it was right beside her, sharing her bed night after night? All this time, she’d thought that the search for a baby had ruined them.
But that wasn’t the whole truth. It had broken her, and she in turn had ruined them. No wonder he’d divorced her.
Twice I came into his office and found him crying…. How sad that he had to come here to cry….
SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE RESTAURANT WAS WILD. EVERY table was full, and a line of hopefuls waited in the corner. Angie was grateful for the business. It meant she didn’t have time to think.
Thinking was the last thing she wanted to do.
At closing time, Mira showed up, running in from the cold. "Well?" she said. "Livvy said you went to see Conlan. How did it go?"
"Oh." Mira’s plump face seemed to crumple. "I’m sorry."
"Not as sorry as I am, believe me."
LOVE CAN GET US THROUGH THE HARDEST TIMES.
It can also be our hardest times.
All weekend Lauren had been thinking about her conversation with Angie. Lauren kept hoping that somehow the answer was there, waiting for her to be smart enough to see it. Because as it was, she saw nothing but bad decisions in front of her.
She didn’t want to be a mother.
She didn’t want to have a baby and give it away.
What she wanted was not to be pregnant.
By Sunday she’d worried herself sick. She’d ignored Angie at work and slipped out of the restaurant without a good-bye to anyone. She walked all the way home, not bothering with the crosstown bus. No matter how much she tried to think about other things, THE BABY was always there.
Somewhere along the way it started to rain. She flipped her hood up and kept walking. The weather suited her mood. She took a perverse pleasure in the cold and chill.
She turned the corner toward home and saw him.