Author:S. Walden

“It wasn’t laughable to Brian either,” I admitted. “He really did try to stick it out. I mean, a proposal? That’s the furthest I’ve ever gotten.”


Erica plucked the beer bottle from my hand and placed it on the coffee table. She turned her head in the direction of the kitchen when she heard her children’s voices. They were climbing off their chairs. Snack time was over.


“I’m glad you didn’t marry him, Bailey,” Erica whispered in my ear. “He wasn’t right for you.”


“But he made it the longest,” I said, feeling my eyes well again.


“And there’s someone else who will beat him. Someone better. Someone who will stay.” She tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “Forever.”


I smiled sadly and watched the kids march into the living room.


“Who wants cuddles?” Erica asked them. “Because I think I need them. I know Bailey needs them.”


Annie pounced on me in a flash, wrapping her plush baby arms around my neck, raining salty hummus kisses on my cheek. She sat in my lap all afternoon, falling asleep after ten minutes. Little Noah lay on the couch with his head cradled in Erica’s lap.


“So this is why you had kids,” I whispered.


“You better believe it,” Erica replied. She stroked her son’s hair and listened to his shallow breathing. “Their bodies are so tiny. I love listening to them sleep because their breathing is so faint. Not like my husband.” She grimaced. “Not loud and deep with the grunting and the groaning.”


I chuckled.


“And the snorting and the gargling,” she went on.


“Gargling, huh?”


“Yeah. When they get that phlegm in their throats and sort of choke on it?”


I stifled a howl.


“A man sleeping is just about as disgusting as a fart,” Erica said.


I guffawed, then slapped a hand over my mouth when Annie shifted on my lap.


“You’re too hard on him,” I said softly. “You’re bossy and impossible, and he’s gonna divorce you eventually.”


Erica shrugged. “I’d never let him.”


I smiled then jerked my head at the sound of the front door. Noah trudged in with bags of groceries in his arms.


“You switched with him this time?” I asked.


“I didn’t think you wanted to accompany me to the grocery store,” Erica said.


“Yeah, but you’re psycho when it comes to your groceries. You have to know he probably got half the list wrong.”


Erica shrugged. “Eh. I think they call it compromise.”


“Erica!” Noah called from the kitchen. Both children instantly awoke.


“Honey, we’re in here,” Erica said patiently. “And you woke up the kids.”


Noah poked his head in the living room. “Oh, hey Bailey.”


“‘Sup?” I asked.


“Just finishing up my woman’s work,” he replied, grinning. “You know, picking up dry cleaning. Grocery shopping. Running to the post office.”


“Cute,” Erica said.


“Wait, I get the first two, but the post office? I think that’s gender neutral,” I said.


“Doesn’t involve a wrench, oil, or ladder, so it classifies as woman’s work,” Noah explained.


“Are you done?” Erica asked patiently.


Noah approached his wife and leaned over, kissing her long and slow. I averted my eyes and covered Annie’s. I don’t know why, but I felt like it was too much passion for a two-year-old to witness. She wriggled out of my arms and latched on to her father’s leg.


“Little Orphan Annie,” Noah said, picking her up and kissing her cheek. It was a thing they did. He kissed her cheek. She kissed his. And they went back and forth until Annie tired of the game. She made it to five pecks before she was distracted by a toy on the floor. Noah set her on her feet.


“Why do you insist on calling her that?” Erica asked. “She’s gonna grow up thinking she’s adopted and that we’re still unsure if we wanna keep her.”


“Huh?” Noah replied.


“Because you keep calling her ‘orphan!’” Erica explained.


I giggled. Then hiccupped. Noah took notice.


“Drinking on the job, you two?” he asked.


“I had one, honey,” Erica replied.


“And how many did you have?” Noah asked me.


I held up two fingers. He sighed.


“Let me go hide everything with sharp edges,” he said.


“No! That phase is over,” I said. “Soooo over.”


The first two months after Brian broke off our engagement were really tough. I didn’t try to hurt myself, but my depression was so bad that my friends thought I might. They treated me like I was crazy—and perhaps, in a way, I was—because I didn’t feel like me. I acted weirder than I normally do. I don’t know how I managed to perform my job at any kind of satisfactory level. I don’t remember feeding myself. I’m sure I was a terrible friend. The whole time period is a haze to me still.


Six months. It’s been six months since the breakup. Six months since my dad invited me fishing with him and fed me as much alcohol as I wanted. Naturally, I got drunk and cried all over his neck and shirt. Six months since Erica told me I was brave. Don’t know what she meant by that. Experiencing a breakup doesn’t make you brave. Six months since my mother asked me what I did wrong.