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It is dark in the belfry, lonesome, the pull to outside exceptional, the wind stronger up here. Inching forward, right hand on the cold metal of the bell, left hand swiping at the dark. The bell aches on its rope but otherwise it is silence and a terrible nothing kind of blackness, not even shadows to mistake for ghosts, only the mind’s makings playing like a movie, Gloria with the baby that is hers now and forever, formula feeding her and pushing solids too soon, certainly not co-sleeping, certainly not joining a mother’s group for early socialization and camaraderie, probably going out at night and leaving Abelyn with her grandma, who smokes. “Indoors?” we had asked Gloria at that lousy diner.
“We live in Boston. Of course indoors.”
The slow creep toward total ruination. Abelyn could have been well educated and well rounded, her sharp edges reduced to a smooth clean surface.
Forward, inching forward, swiping at the darkness until there’s the cool comfort of stucco, which we learned from one of the informational placards outside was mixed with manure for binding purposes.
We can’t help it, thinking of Abelyn as ours, worrying for her. We cleared out our home office, made room for her in our life, and now we can’t turn it back. Earlier, on the shag carpeting of our hotel room, before the mushrooms, before the under the bridge kids, before our bathroom interlude, we told her story in turns.
“She’s sitting up by now, working her way to crawling.”
“She’s said her first words.”
“She’s going to be walking before we know it.”
“She’ll need someone to teach her to ride a bike.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
That’s exactly how we got into this mess, and now it is darkness and unknowing and all that is scary, only us for comfort, only us.
It’s morning and all I want is to swim. Joel’s left me another voicemail. His voice is ragged—he’s probably been up all night chain-smoking and checking his email.
“Glenda,” he’s sobbing, “they’re changing the ending. The fucking ending! You know how much that means to me. You know it has to go like that.” I do know. I know that Joel wanted the alien to die, for the brotherhood to be dissolved, for the friendship to end. It’s the first season finale. Something big has to change to keep the second season from becoming reductive, a snake turning on itself. But this is a major network and the execs are going to bleed every last bit of life out of that pairing, which has proved wildly successful in both our focus groups and the ratings.
I should get back to him, my most lucrative client—there are other agents circling, waiting to steal him away from me—but I leave my phone in the room and head to the pool.
Evan’s bought a white pair of trunks to match my suit, and I’m embarrassed, walking into the water holding hands, like some dumb coordinated couple. Too far, I want to tell him, you’ve gone too far, as we descend into the water, gradual as the incline intends, heated so that it’s warmer than the air.
“What happened?” I ask him and he knows I mean the belfry.
He swims away from me, cresting off on his back. “We were on mushrooms.”
“Did you see anything?”
He hits the wall and pushes back toward me. “Just mushroom stuff. You?”
“Just mushroom stuff.”
As he’s passing, he says, “That was fun.”
“That was fun,” I agree and I remember my sorority sisters, their warnings, too intense, he’ll take you from yourself, he’ll make you want to run. Wrong, sisters, I say in my head, swimming in his direction, tugging on his white board shorts till he’s mine, twined in my arms.