Measure of Love

Measure of Love

Melissa Ford

March 2013 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-282-8


The sequel to the bestseller, Life From Scratch

Getting re-married to your ex? Piece of cake.


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Praise for Life From Scratch

" . . . characters I can relate to, who make me laugh out loud and hungry for dinner." -– MARY ALICE, co-star of Food Network's Ace of Cakes

Rachel has made a new life from scratch with her ex-husband, but can they survive the wedding plans?

It may be her second time getting married, but Rachel Goldman is definitely navigating a sticky relationship with her former—and soon-to-be-again—mother-in-law. Plus she’s in a tug of war with the editor of her upcoming book on divorce who is begging her to keep her happy new relationship with her ex, Adam, on the down low. How can Rachel do that when her society-obsessed mother-in-law is eager to get a featured story in the wedding section of the New York Times?Throw in a sister-in-law-to-be who’s navigating her own upcoming nuptials as well as a friend who not only doesn’t want to get married, but is possibly having an affair. Rachel finds herself with too many pots simmering on a very familiar stove. 

Melissa Ford is the author of Life From Scratch, the bestselling prequel to Measure Of Love. She writes daily at the award-winning blog, Stirrup Queens, and lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and twins. Look for her next novel, Apart At the Seams, coming in 2014. Visit her



"Ford managed to bring the characters in this book vividly to life, giving the feel that these were real people." -- Mary Chrapliwy, Writer's Diary: The Adventures of a Reader & Writer

"Ms. Ford blends great writing and a tale about romance and love, mixed with relationship/friendship drama and touches of humor…" -- Vivian Taylor, The Book Divas Read


Chapter One

I ROLL OVER in bed and let my hand rest on one of the creases in the sheet, a tiny mountain that my fingers curl over like the legs of a giant. I am alone, so it doesn’t matter if I gather all the blankets over my body or grab the second pillow on the other side of the bed. This is one of those benefits of being single, Rachel, my body purrs silently.

Wait. Except that I’m not.

My brain slowly swims closer to consciousness, taking in the fact that light is streaming in through the uncurtained windows. I am wearing a T-shirt—several sizes too big—that advertises some pizza place in the Hamptons as well as a pair of cotton briefs that I picked up three-to- the-pack at a warehouse savings store that looked semi-sexy in the packaging but not so much in actuality on my body. The other side of the bed has a small dip in the mattress, the memory of the body that occupied the space minutes ago. And there is water running from the bathroom shower head, a light sound like paper tearing.

I open my eyes and look around the room, still half-expecting to see my familiar loft apartment, but instead find myself staring at a door. With a knob. And luxurious-by-New-York-standards plaster walls as opposed to the screen I used to wrap around my bed to create the illusion of a room. The closet door is half open, exposing the bins that line the wall holding the yoga pants I prefer to wear while I cook or write. On the floor, kicked casually into the corner of the room, is a pair of men’s jeans and size 11 lace-up black oxfords. Remnants of the pre-sex shedding of clothes.

The water in the bathroom turns off, and the sound is replaced by some off-key whistling. The sort of mindless whistling one does when they’re excited for the day, when they’re actually happy that they have a functioning alarm clock. It’s a whistle I’m currently familiar with because I’ve done it myself as recently as yesterday morning, making my way through a few bars of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” while I made toast. I didn’t mean to do it; I just suddenly realized that the sound that resembled something off a Wham! album performed by birds was coming out of my pursed lips. Which is a long way to admit that, at this moment, my life is okay. Actually, it’s better than okay. It’s pretty damn good.

Recently, my agent, Erika Ledbetter from Rooks, LTD (Rooks knows Books!) sold my non-fiction proposal for a small advance to a mid-size publisher. The money isn’t enough to live on—the dresses at the Oscars cost more than the whole of my advance—but that is somewhat meaningless. It’s what the check represents: that someone cares enough to invest in me. After a post-divorce year of having to emotionally invest in myself out of necessity due to a lack of partner (not counting the hot Spaniard I dated for a few months), it feels good for someone to step forward and find me desirable. I finished the manuscript for my self-help divorce book, The Divorced Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Life from Scratch, and now I’m in that anticipatory period between completion and the book reaching the reader’s hands. Which means that along with the bliss, I’m spending a lot of time chewing Tums.

Ads on my blog, some freelance articles, and dropping the need to pay rent after moving in here have meant that for the time being, I’m still a non-graphic artist. I’m not quite ready to call myself a writer, but at least I haven’t yet returned to the New York Public Library to design brochures for another ten years. I still cook in the morning and write in the afternoon, or vice versa. And this fact alone contributes enormously to that morning whistling feeling. It’s easy to be excited about my day when I no longer have to go to my mind-numbing job.

Though the biggest reason for the morning whistling sessions is that I’m in love.

Not the sort of love where you’re half-throwing up as you get ready for the date, wondering what every single word spoken means. Not the sort of love where you mark down on your calendar how often you have sex so you can reflect on it and try to deduce how the guy feels about you from the frequency of bed sex vs. sofa sex. No, it’s the calm sort of love that comes at the end of a long road, the sort where you half-smile when he slips his hand into yours in the movie theater, and you think about how lucky you two are that you’ve found each other in this world with seven billion people and millions of missteps knocking your paths out of orbit. The fact that any two people can find each other and fall in love is a bit of a miracle.

And to find the same person and fall in love a second time defies even those enormous odds which are usually used to discuss your chance of being hit by lightning.

Adam Goldman, my ex-husband and once-again boyfriend, comes out of the bathroom, rubbing his brown hair into spikes with one towel while another is wrapped casually around his waist. He leans against the dresser and smiles at me.

"That’s my shirt again,” he tells me.

"Is it?” I yawn, plucking it away from my body so I can examine the pizza graphic with little red circles for pepperoni. "It was dark last night when I grabbed it out of the drawer. In my defense, I bought you this T-shirt maybe ten years ago when we were visiting your parents at their beach house.”

"Ten years?” Adam says dryly. "How is that possible when I just started dating you this year, Ms. Goldman?”

"I have no idea, Mr. Goldman,” I answer. "You’re the teacher. Why don’t you write out one of those theorems and figure out how it’s possible.”

"I teach English,” Adam points out, grabbing a pair of boxers and a white T-shirt out of his top drawer. "I don’t do math. And right now, I teach summer school.”

Not being a lawyer suits Adam even more than not being a graphic designer suits me. Being rid of that life has reverted him back to how he was during my graduate school days when I first met him, back when all he wanted to do was hurry through all of his law school reading so he could have a half hour with Nathaniel Hawthorne. He spends an extraordinary amount of hours preparing his lesson plans, teaching ninth grade English, and then grading papers into the late hours of the night. But it’s a different sort of time and a different sort of stress. He no longer storms into our apartment, releasing the eleven hours of tension that comes from doing something you despise for half your day. Instead, he likes me to sit on the sofa next to him while he corrects commas with his red pen, my legs casually dangling across his lap while I type a blog post on my computer.

See, it’s a whistling sort of life.

I watch him get ready, thinking about how we would have never reached this moment if we hadn’t divorced. Divorce, for us, was like an earthquake; a devastating event that destroyed everything on the fault line. But in the time afterward, what is rebuilt feels stronger and more stable than what existed prior to the loss. Please don’t get me wrong; I would have rather never experienced the denouement of our first relationship nor the year apart. But since I can’t change the past and can only move forward, looking for the silver linings to process that time period, I instead marvel at the ease in which we communicate, the way he makes time for me, and the way I feel safe and self-sufficient within our relationship.

We both, it turns out, needed to find ourselves again.

A few weeks into dating again, after those initial evenings where he admired my roasted chicken, and I complimented him on the sociology project he created for his students trying to refute or prove Pangloss’s theory in Candide, after we got past the careful skirting around of discussing the photographs I left in the apartment or the hours he kept at work, Adam took out a spiral notebook and shyly asked if we could define some things.

"A friend of mine at work got married this year, and they sort of had this... contract thing they talked about at their wedding,” Adam told me, avoiding looking at me directly.

"Like a ketubah?” I asked, pointing to a random wall as if I expected to see our Jewish marriage contract still framed and on display as decorative art.

"No, it was different. They wrote it before they got married. It was all the promises they made to each other about their relationship. Just to make sure they were on the same page with everything.”

"You want to write something like that?” I asked, my heart pounding so loudly that it made my head feel as if it were stuck inside a drum at a rock concert.

Adam shrugged and started doodling a little three-dimensional box in the corner of the page. I sat down on the sofa and listed my first request for our relationship: more spontaneous trips. Without saying anything, Adam jotted it down on the first line of the page and then added another sentence immediately after it. Take a class together every once in a while.

It was the fact that he was suggesting this exercise and not me; that he was the one concerned about the state of our relationship that clued me in to how much he had changed over the year.

From my place on the bed, I can see the edge of the contract we wrote up peeking out from behind the mirror frame. After we wrote it, we signed it, and Adam ripped it out of the notebook. It seemed official since we had just said in not so many words that we were truly going to try again. We both agreed that we didn’t want to frame it, didn’t want others to see it, and I was expressly forbidden from blogging about it.

In the end, Adam pulled the mirror back in our bedroom and sloppily taped it to the back side. We know it’s there, and while a little bit of the jagged spiral-ripped edge of the paper is visible, no one else seems to notice it when they pass through our bedroom. Every time I look in the mirror, I am mindful of all the promises we made to each other that night, all reflected back at me in addition to my image.

Adam returns to the bedroom in socked feet, still hunting for his shoes and finding them in the corner of the room. He sits down on the floor to tie them while I consider my sleep-tangled hair in the mirror and wonder if I should cover up my grey. At first I think Adam is looking at my reflection, but I follow his gaze to the sliver of exposed paper. He raises his eyebrows at me but doesn’t say a word.

He pops up, grabbing his overstuffed backpack and impishly plopping a Yankees cap over his clean hair, something I never understood. Baseball caps, in my world, are for bad hair days. Adam never has a bad hair day. He’s charmed in the looks department, always appearing neat even when his hair is tousled, perpetually slim regardless of what he eats, an easy smile that covers up his uneven lower teeth. (The family rumor is that he threw such a fit when the dentist tried to fit him for braces that his parents gave up and left his teeth misaligned.)

He bends down to kiss me, and I keep my lips firmly locked, mindful of the fact that I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and he has.

"Cooking class tonight at six?” he asks. As part of our contract, I’ve signed us both up for a couple’s cooking class at a boutique cooking school in our neighborhood. For the last five weeks, we’ve made dinner together with four other couples under the guidance of our teacher, a former chef turned cooking school owner. Each couple prepares their food at their station, and then we all sit down for a group meal to discuss the lesson. So far, Adam has cheerfully burned a steak, butchered a meatloaf, and scrambled dozens of eggs—all in the name of love. I know he’d much rather be watching baseball on television or reading a book, but since becoming a teacher, Adam has become a lot more easy-going and agreeable. Plus, it means that dinner is taken care of at least once a week, and I can get a blog post out of it to boot.

"I’ll be ready at 5:30, and we can walk over,” I agree.

Adam pauses in the doorway and turns around to look at me, still in bed. He leans his head in the doorjamb, knocking his baseball cap askew. "I’ll see you tonight. I love you, Rachel.”

"I love you too,” I say back, wondering the source of the tenderness as he walks back across the room to give me a second kiss. His hand finds my face, and he strokes my cheek gently, as if he can’t see my messy hair and sleep-crusted eyes.


Chapter Two



How did this happen?

After swearing off the existence of romantic love, absolutely certain that it’s just a plot device developed by rom-com writers, as similarly fantastical as vampires, werewolves, and zombies (scratch that, zombies are totally real), how did I end up in a committed relationship again... with my ex-husband?

Yes, I’m back together with Adam.

I actually know exactly how this happened, and it all goes back to a day early on after we got together when he showed up at 7 p.m. I wasn’t ready to go out since a 7 p.m. in Adam’s world is a little before 9 p.m. in mine. My experience with Adam up until that point was that he was always late, always giving his time to something other than me. So I was still in yoga pants. With my hair in a ponytail. And no make-up. And chocolate pudding in the corners of my mouth. I thought I had about two more hours to make myself presentable before he’d show.

But the buzzer went off in my apartment, and a few moments later, he was outside my door holding a roll of white butcher paper that he had attached to a wire hanger. "I made this,” he told me, holding out his creation. "You told me that the white screen you use to photograph dishes for your blog got tomato sauce on it, so I borrowed some paper from the art room at the school and attached it to this wire hanger to make you a new screen. For your blog.”

For your blog.

Can you imagine anything more romantic than having someone notice what brings you happiness and then, instead of just supporting you in enjoying it by watching from the sidelines, jumps into that happiness by making you a white screen?

I don’t know which part stunned me more: that he knew that a white screen would mean ten times more to me than a bouquet of flowers or the fact that he was there on time, exactly when he said he would be. All I know is that these two tiny gestures made me fall back in love with him.

I fell in love with him again as I washed my hair in the shower, realizing that for the first time in years, Adam was waiting for me instead of the other way around. I fell in love with him again when I shyly came out of the bathroom to slip into my bedroom area and saw that he was distracted by taking photos with his cell phone of my salt and pepper shakers against the white screen.

And then I fell in love with him again when he took my hand as we walked down the street, neither of us knowing exactly where we’re going (I mean, yes, in that moment we were headed toward the restaurant, but I mean in the larger sense of the direction of this relationship), but somehow both of us knowing without saying it aloud that we’ll be heading wherever that is together.

I CLICK OPEN the post I wrote several months ago after a particularly good date and re-read it before closing it again, leaving it still unpublished in the drafts folder on my blog. I didn’t publish it at the time because I was worried that Adam would read it and get scared off. How mortifying if I had to endure Adam’s face after reading about our undying love for one another if he furrowed his brow and said, "uh, Rach, I only read the post because I was actually on your blog to leave you a comment about how I didn’tthink this was working.”

Now, several months later, things are clearly working. So much so that I’ve moved back in and stacked up my yoga pants in the closet. But now the post feels out-of-date, a little too early-on dreamy to convey exactly how settled and calm I feel now that Adam and I have gotten the chance to get to know one another again, especially learning all the changes we both went through during our time apart.

I obviously need to write a new version of the post, but I pause for the hundredth time in front of a blank screen, watching the cursor blink at me like a rhythmic eye. It feels as if it’s staring at me, incredulous that I still haven’t written yet about Adam. I’ve often called my blog my computer therapist, but that description hits a little too close to home today as my blog stares coolly back at me, silently asking me to delve into the recesses of my mind to figure out why I haven’t told anyone yet about Adam if I am so deeply in love.

I don’t have the energy for a virtual psychotherapy session today. I close my blogging software and head out of the apartment to Arianna’s for a good dose of procrastination.

JULY IN THE city is soupy: a hot, sticky, bubbly mess of taxi cabs, slow-walking tourists pushing enormous strollers, cranky kids, and sun-melted gum. I sidestep someone’s discarded wad of Trident, inadvertently crushing a still-smoldering cigarette with the tip of the sandals Arianna picked up for me from a photo shoot, and dash through the intersection. Adam always strolls casually across the street. If he has the pedestrian crossing sign, he’s going to exercise his right to walk by squeezing every second he can from the anxious cab trying to make a right turn without hitting him. I, on the other hand, dart across the street like an apology. Summer in the city brings out my inner nervousness that I smother under scarves and heavy coats in the winter time.

I slow down once I’m back on the sidewalk and push my way into the upscale deli next door to Arianna’s building, waiting impatiently for a poppy seed bagel with cream cheese and an iced coffee. Mopey Maria, the owner’s daughter and the slowest coffee pourer in the world, is behind the counter. She’s the type who usually forgets to attach the lid properly, splashing half the contents of the cup across the counter as she sets it down. Because the deli is right next to Arianna’s building, I come here often enough that she should recognize me too, but if she does, she doesn’t do anything to indicate it, choosing instead to stare at the cookie display as if madeleines are the most fascinating confection in the world.

"Actually, Maria,” I say, carefully enunciating her name as if this will jog her memory that I’m Rachel Goldman who prefers her to move a little faster, "why don’t you throw in a sprinkle cookie for Beckett.”

"For who?” she asks slowly, taking a square of tissue paper out of the box in the cookie case. Her hand passes over the perfectly round cookie in the back to grab a half-broken one from the middle of the tray.

"My friend Arianna’s son. Beckett. I come down here with him all the time.”

"Oh, yeah,” she finally says, my face clicking into place in her slow-moving mind. "Hey, Rachel.” She hands me the paper bag. And that’s when I first notice that Maria is sporting a tiny diamond ring on her left hand. She follows my gaze to her hand and notes the ring as if she’s seeing one of the various summer flies that buzz around the cash register. She takes my bagel out of the toaster and then stands around for a moment, apparently forgetting the next step in preparing a cream cheese bagel.

"Did you get engaged?” I ask. If my voice doesn’t jolt this woman into movement soon, my bagel will be rock hard by the time it makes its way to my mouth.

"Last week,” she tells me. She sighs and slowly lifts the cream cheese spreader as if she is removing King Arthur’s Excalibur.

"Well, congratulations,” I hurriedly add. "I actually have to get upstairs if that bagel is done.”

"My dad hates him,” Maria sighs.

"I’m sorry to hear that,” I say as politely as possible, staring at my cooling bagel and trying to move it over to my hand with telekinesis.

"He thinks that I’m making a huge mistake.”

With no one behind me in line, I can see that I’ve been chosen as the giver of Mopey Maria’s free therapy session of the day. If I’m going to have to listen to her bemoan her relationship, the least she can do is pass my coffee over the counter to make it bearable. But without a clear stream of caffeine coming my way, I cut right to the heart of the matter, pointing at the cream cheese spreader at the same time as a reminder.

"My bagel, Maria. What it comes down to is whether you think you’re making a mistake. Do you think you’ll have regrets?” I ask her.

"I don’t think so,” Maria answers slowly. "But I’m not really sure how you know.”

"You just do,” I tell her, tapping my hand on the counter. "You can’t let other people’s opinions invade your relationship. If you’re happy, you should ignore everyone else and follow your bliss. That’s what I would do.”

Maria finally returns the spreader to the tub of cream cheese and starts wrapping my sandwich. "Would you marry someone if your parents hated him?”

I silently think to myself that I wouldn’t date someone if I were literally getting that sort of grief; I wouldn’t let the relationship proceed to the point of marriage. But I also can’t imagine whom my parents would hate with that intensity. Maybe a gun-toting Republican. On the other hand, if Arianna had a problem with Adam, it would have stopped me in my tracks. Her opinion means the world to me, and I often think that she knows me better than I know myself. At the very least, she knows me better than my parents.

"Yes,” I say firmly. "At the end of the day, it’s not going to be your father or anyone else living your life. It’s yours alone. Therefore, you need to do what makes you happy, Maria. What feels right to you. And ignore everyone else who isn’t on board with your plan.”

"But what if my dad is right?”

I can see that Maria needs more therapy than I can give her before the ice in my coffee will melt. I plaster on my best sympathetic face and shrug as she hands me my bagel. "I still need that iced coffee.”

She pours it slightly faster than usual, taking a moment to secure the lid in place. My payment for my free advice. She gives me a tight smile that has the effect of making her look extra miserable. Even five minutes with Maria can bring down a person’s bliss.

I dart into Arianna’s lobby, past the cruddy sofa across from the front desk that has absorbed every woman’s perfume from the last 100 years, and leap into the recently-vacated elevator before the doors can close. It’s New York choreography—city ballet—to catch the elevator without wasting a hot second, and it makes up for the time wasted at the deli.

Arianna opens the door, scooping Beckett up simultaneously so he can’t toddle out into the hallway. He arches his back and screeches in protest, and Arianna rolls her eyes. "This honeymoon period of working at home has come to an end,” she tells me. Arianna is a finisher for a designer, affixing zippers and doing beadwork, and she usually works out of the apartment, taking freelance seamstress projects on the side.

"What?” I try hard to keep the astonishment out of my voice. I’m sure anyone else would have seen this coming. Having Arianna at home may mean more to me than it does to Beckett. Where will I go for my midday bitch sessions? Who will accompany me on Zabar outings?

"Well, we knew this couldn’t last forever,” Arianna tells me, setting Beckett back on the floor so he can return to pressing the same button on his Fisher Price farm over and over again, filling the apartment with the sound of an electronic cow mooing.

"We did?”

"I did,” Arianna says dryly. "He’s getting into everything at this point. When he naps, I can get a lot done, but all other times, it’s impossible. Sorry, bud, but I’m shipping you off. Mama’s got to pay the rent.”

"Oh,” I sigh, perhaps a bit too loudly because even Arianna looks at me strangely. "He’s going somewhere. You’regoing to keep working here.”

"Not exactly. I found a nanny share for Beckett. Two days a week, another little boy and the nanny will be here, and I’ll be taking space at work. Three days a week, they’ll be a few blocks away at the boy’s apartment. I haven’t decided what I’ll do at that point—work here or just stay at the loft. It may just be easier to have everything at the loft. Anyway, now that Ethan has moved in here, there’s just less space. All of his crap has taken over my work space.”

My brother Ethan moved in a few weeks ago, giving up his Brooklyn apartment. A fantastic side effect of my best friend dating my brother is that I can now see both of them at once.

"But what about... getting stuff done here? Like the laundry?” I ask.

"Rachel,” Arianna says firmly, "we’ll have lunch.”

I nod my head, trying to get accustomed to this new plan. I’m not the best person when it comes to change. I busy myself with taking out Beckett’s cookie and arranging it on one of his Sesame Street plates. He eyes it suspiciously, as if he’s gearing up for the Mother of All Tantrums if you dare eat a sprinkle cookie on his plate in front of him. But when I place it on the low coffee table and walk away, his body releases the pent-up howl, and he goes to town, peppering the floor with cookie bits.

"I had to give Mopey Maria therapy in order to get my bagel,” I tell Arianna. She nods in agreement.

"About the engagement? Her father hates the guy? We had the same conversation yesterday when I had to run in there with Ethan to pick up dinner.”

"What did you tell her?” I question, taking a bite of my now somewhat cold and definitely hard poppy seed bagel.

"I told her that maybe her father could see something that she couldn’t see. That he obviously had her best interests at heart, and she should reconsider marrying the guy if she’s getting this sort of feedback,” Arianna says, picking up a stray pair of Beckett’s socks.

I stare at her for a moment. "That’s terrible advice. She’s supposed to live her life based on everyone else’s whims?”

"Not everyone else,” Arianna says carefully. "We’re talking about her father; someone who knows her well. Someone who has a broader perspective that comes with age.”

"So if your parents hated Ethan, you would have dropped him?”

"Yes,” Arianna says honestly, which is precisely why I love her, though my loyalty to my brother makes me cranky with her answer. "If they made a strong argument for why we shouldn’t be together, it would have been stupid to ignore them. What? I should only take advice if it confirms what I already want to do?”

"Of course not!” I realize this is all hypothetical since Arianna’s parents—as far as I know—approve of their relationship. I only see her parents when they come to the city for a visit. They’re wholesome, Midwestern types, the sort who support their daughter through any facet of life but would love for her to settle into a traditional marriage that reflects their traditional marriage. As if she mirrored her life to resemble theirs, it would confirm their life choices. I could see them approving of any relationship that looked as if it had the legs to walk itself down the aisle.

Plus, it’s hard to not like Ethan. Being in a relationship with Arianna has aged him, in a good way. He has finally taken a normal job as the photography teacher at a ritzy private school on the Upper East Side, which means he no longer mooches off of our sister, Sarah, or me. He’s even teaching adult education classes during his off-time in the summer months. He’s fantastic with Beckett, falling easily into a parenting role. And he’s retained all of his prior good points such as being easy-going and selfless. Her parents would be crazy not to like him.

"If I ask someone’s opinion, I want to hear what they have to say,” Arianna finishes. "Which is why I rarely ask for anyone’s opinion.”

In that moment, I’m dying to ask if my brother and Arianna are planning to get married. Part of our unspoken agreement is that beyond some surface topics, we never delve deeply into her relationship with Ethan. Until recently, I’ve been grateful to not be privy to the fine details—I mean, who the hell wants to think about their brother in the bedroom? But lately, it also means that there’s a strange distance between us. Arianna has always shared every small detail with me, and I use those facts along with her facial expressions, hand gesticulations, and how much chocolate she’s consuming to gauge where the relationship is heading.

Suddenly, I’m feeling my way through Arianna’s life in the dark, without a sense of where she’ll be six months from now much less six weeks from now. Perhaps that is why her announcement about work threw me for such a loop—because like Ethan moving in, it was stated as if I was following along a story. Except that I’m not. Or it’s as if the book has suddenly changed to Braille—the words still clearly on the page, but non-accessible to my eyes. I would hazard a guess that Mopey Maria even knows more about where Arianna stands on her relationship with Ethan.

This is the side we never considered during those first giddy thoughts about the possibility of becoming actual sisters.

BY 5:30 P.M., I’ve pulled my hair up into a high ponytail, applied a thin layer of lip gloss, and traded my yoga pants for a pair of jeans, tank top, and ballet flats. I spent the afternoon working on a website for the book, leaving space to add reviews in the future once it goes on sale. In a few short months, the book should be in bookstores, a thought that alternately fills me with dread and excitement.

I quickly compose a post about the new site for my blog, embedding a link so people can click over to see the work I’ve done. My blog readership seems to fall into three main camps: those who want to learn how to cook and appreciate my step-by-step instructions, those who are divorced who want the camaraderie and advice of a fellow divorcée, and a small handful of people who don’t cook and aren’t divorced but found me when my readership exploded last year due to a blogging award and stay for the daily life stories that I pepper in between posts about roasting potatoes or confessions of Facebook stalking an ex.

All three camps of readers—even the non-divorced, non-cooking ones—are almost as excited as I am for my book to come out. People are able to preorder it on Amazon, and I have to admit that I spend an unhealthy amount of time looking at the book’s rank. Or scouring the Internet for mentions on other blogs. Or making lists such as blogs I’d like to review the book when it comes out.

I hit publish on the post, craving a deluge of comments and then turn off the computer as Adam kisses the back of my neck. We’ve had a lot of talks about the blog since getting back together, and he’s more than supportive of it as long as I don’t delve too deeply into our personal life. Though as of late, he’s been teasing me that I don’t need to be this circumspect. I could, for instance, let readers know that I’ve moved back in with him, which I promise to do very soon.

I step out in our hallway, waiting for Adam to lock the door, and I start down the stairwell. "Wait,” Adam calls out, removing his key from the lock. I pause halfway between two stairs until he’s right behind me. "I want to walk with you. I haven’t seen you all day.”

Sometimes I forget that we’re still supposed to be at the courting stage. In some ways, we are. And in other ways, it feels natural to walk ahead of him, to move into perfunctory, practical interactions that all relationships must reach at some point. No one can live in a constant state of giddiness forever, and sometimes you just need to get where you’re going. Adam’s voice slows me down, makes me note the way our footsteps are echoing in the deserted stairwell, the faint smell of cold wetness that seems to always permeate the space regardless of the time of year.

He gently brushes the back of my neck with his lips, and I close my eyes, tuning out the fact that we are in a concrete-walled stairwell. He smells good, like sunshine and hair product and gum, and I lean back slightly into his chest.

"Did you miss me?” I ask.

"I always miss you,” Adam answers. We continue down the stairs together, pass through the fire door, and step outside. It is still bright out, still annoyingly hot. Not exactly the sort of weather that entices you to stand in front of a stove. I hope that we’re making something like gazpacho tonight.

We walk through a small park, pausing to coo over a puppy. It’s not really a secret that Adam is dying to get a puppy, and I’d be fully on board with the idea if puppies didn’t grow so quickly into full-sized dogs. Still, I lean against a nearby bench while he kneels down to lovingly rubhis hands over the tiny black lab’s back.

"Beautiful dog,” he tells the owner, a middle-aged woman who looks like she’d like to get her dog through this walk and back up to her air-conditioned apartment.

I love this side of Adam, the one that disappeared during the years that he was working in the law firm. That Adam never paused to pet a random dog. Honestly, he wouldn’t have even noticed the dog because he would have either been walking too quickly or had his eyes trained on his BlackBerry. Adam finally gets the hint that the owner would like to move along and drags himself off the ground, looking longingly at the puppy as we continue toward our class.

"You are going to remember to wash really well before you start cooking, right?” I tease.

"Between my fingers and with soap and everything,” Adam promises. "But, come on, that puppy was so damn cute. How could I not pet him?”

"He was cute,” I agree. "Too bad he’ll grow up to be the size of our coffee table.”

"True,” Adam muses. He stares at a hot dog vendor packing up his cart for the night. "Do you ever still think about the two of us having a baby?”

Adam glances at me sideways, as if he doesn’t quite want to confront this topic head-on. It’s not the first time he has brought up children since we’ve been back together, but usually, it’s more of a passing comment rather than an outright question. Do I still want children?

I slip my hand through his, despite the fact that it is covered in dog saliva and God knows what else from touching the pavement as he crouched down. That is love—holding a hand that you know has been to disgusting places and back. "Absolutely,” I tell him, deciding to go the Band-Aid ripping approach and spill out my intentions clearly in case they don’t mesh with his own. Better to know this now rather than later. "I know it’s getting late to have the three or four kids I imagined I’d have, but I’d like to have one. Do you feel the same way?”

"I absolutely feel the same way,” Adam agrees. "I’m not against more than one, but I’d like to have at least one child. However we build our family.”

"However?” I joke.

"I was just thinking about Arianna and how fertility is never a given,” Adam admits, referring to the fact that my best friend needed years of fertility treatments in order to have her son. As we approach the cooking school, its familiar green awning a few storefronts away, Adam drops my hand in favor of lightly touching both shoulders. My heartbeat quickens as he looks into my eyes, and I glance down at a crack in the pavement: a tiny, discarded matchstick lying in the collected city grime like an open grave. "My biggest regret, Rach, is missing out on time with you. Of letting things get where they got and missing out on so much time with you. I can never get those years back.”

"You’re going to make me cry before class,” I whisper.

The truth is that I have the exact same regret, and it fills my chest with an enormous pressure, like a hand squeezing a water balloon, shoving the contents to bulge on either side while the center contracts. I don’t want to spill all over right now, moments before class. It is unfair that life doesn’t come with a rewind button; an undo button that can reset time after you make a terrible mistake. I am well aware without Adam’s thoughts that our stubbornness, our inability to communicate, may have cost me my chance at motherhood. I do a fine job tipping back my head and staring at the sky, only losing two tears—one from each eye—as I get myself under control. I have a meal to cook, dammit. A food blogger doesn’t fall apart seconds before she starts working on the dish that is going to be focus of her post.

We enter the building and immediately head to the sinks, carefully scrubbing our hands with the meticulousness of surgeons. I glance up at the chalkboard in front of the demonstration kitchen and note that we’re using the indoor grills to prepare Asian-marinated salmon steaks that we’re going to fillet ourselves. I am not a fan of preparing whole fish, preferring to keep the meat masquerade going by having it come to me shrink-wrapped and incognito from its former self. There’s something about cutting into an animal that still has its eyes attached. Who knows what dead fish can see?

Adam and I gather at the demonstration kitchen with the other couples. One other couple is in their mid-thirties. They’re two men hailing from Brooklyn who work in Manhattan close to the school. They come from their office jobs in stylish button-down shirts and expensive pants. They live in my sister’s neighborhood of Park Slope, and I once bumped into the cuter one—Jared—when he was out jogging with their dog.

Two of the couples are slightly older, perhaps nearing their late forties. Both couples live in the neighborhood, in the same building, and they’ve known each other for years. They often chat about their respective children over the low wall between their two kitchens. From what I’ve been able to pick up from snatches of conversation, the stylish African-American woman married to the white man who looks like a stereotypical bad guy from a spy movie works for the United Nations, and the petite white woman married to the lanky Asian man types up his long-hand poems and answers his correspondence. Their husbands rarely speak, so while I can tell that one is a fairly successful poet who recently read his work at the White House, I can’t tell what the bad-guy-from-a-spy-movie does except sulk as he shells English peas.

The last couple is much older than us, past our parents’ age. This class is just one of the many activities they’re doing with their retirement hours. They missed two of the classes because they were off scuba diving in Australia. The man, Xavier, does the majority of the work while his wife, Oona, kibitzes with whomever she can drag away from their kitchen. She may not chop her vegetables neatly or even answer her husband’s pleas for help when he’s endlessly stirring a sauce, but she always makes sure that our wine glasses are filled with each course. She is what I imagine the first person who used the phrase, "the life of the party” meant when they coined the term.

Adam refers to our class as the Benetton Cooking Class (or BCC for short), a snarky reference to our diversity in age, sexuality, and race. It is odd how different we are from one another—brought together simply due to our love of food—and in comparison, Adam and I seem a little vanilla pudding in our exterior. On the other hand, I’d hazard a guess that no one else in the room is re-dating their ex-partner, a fact that I’d like to think sets us apart from all the other happy couples as unique.

Or not so happy couples. Tonight, there is a strange tension between the UN worker and her bad-guy-spy husband. They stand stiffly, their arms identically crossed over their chests, not only not speaking to one another, but pretty much ignoring their neighbors too. The poem-typer-and-correspondence-answerer gives me a tense smile, as if she is trying to suppress her own good mood in the face of the other couple’s obvious shitstorm.

Our teacher, a red-haired guy who looks much younger than his actual age of forty-two—a fact I found out after Googling him and piecing together his cooking resume from old restaurant reviews (as well as finding his wedding announcement to a Ms. Courtney Hill in an old New York Times)—clears his throat to indicate that he’s ready to begin. His hands are a constellation of old kitchen burns and knife scars, and he splays them across the counter as he speaks to us, almost as a warning of how we’ll end up if we’re not careful and go into a life of restaurant work.

"It’s important to know how to fillet a whole fish. Not only will it make it possible for you to prepare what you catch next time you go fishing, but it will change the way you approach someplace like the New Fulton Fish Market.”

"When are we heading up to Nova Scotia to troll for salmon?” I whisper to Adam.

"Forget that. When have we ever gone out to the Bronx to buy fish?” Adam whispers back.

"The fish we’re preparing today,” Alex the chef informs us, "are whole salmons. We’re going to keep the skin on, but debone the fillets. I’ve already descaled all of these.”

He takes a fish out of the tub of ice chips and places it flat on his cutting board. The fish stares upward at him, as if daring him to make the first move. Alex makes a cut behind the gills, leaving the head intact. He then turns his knife, sliding it into the groove he just created next to the gills, and cuts evenly from the head to the tail. I look away, staring at his neat handwriting on the blackboard. Maybe I’ll ask Adam to do this part while I work on bringing together the marinade.

"You should be able to feel your knife against the backbone,” Alex says in a gentle voice that belies the inherent violence that comes in taking apart another animal. "Though you’ll cut straight through those little pin bones. Cut the fillet completely off the bone, and then flip the fish over and do the same on the other side.”

When the two fillets are free from the corpse, he discards the head and backbone into the small rubbish bin he keeps tucked under the counter. Now the salmon looks like something I could have picked up at Whole Foods. He trims off the rib bones and then picks up a tiny tweezer. "You’re going to place the fillet skin-side down on your cutting board. I use my fingertips to locate the little pin bones and then use these kitchen tweezers to pull them out. If you’re on the river or at the beach and you’ve forgotten this utensil, a pair of everyday pliers can work just fine. Just remember to clean them beforehand.”

"When do we ever have a pair of pliers with us when we’re at the river?” I comment to Adam as we gather up the remaining ingredients we’ll need for the side dishes from the demonstration kitchen to bring back to our work space.

"When are we ever at a river?” Adam murmurs back, passing over a few bulbs of garlic to find a perfect one in the pile. "We’re more likely to be tortured by my parents in the Hamptons. Though I assume that if you’re fishing, that’s one of those tools you might find in a tackle box.”

"I’m trying to picture your mother fishing,” I snicker. Adam’s mother isn’t really the type to get her hands dirty. She’s not even the type to get her feet coated in sand, despite owning a beach house, unless the reason you’re on the sand is to sip cocktails out of expensive glasses while allowing your expensive sandals to dangle from one hand. And even then, it’s only worth doing if you have a fresh pedicure to show off.

"Rachel, I don’t even think my mother has ever purchased uncooked salmon much less prepared a whole fish. That’s what the help is for.”

I’ve learned by this point in our relationship that when Adam is making the punches, it is fine to laugh. He uses these comments almost as a way of defining us; of pointing out how different we are from his society-obsessed parents. Neither of us mind the finer things in life, but we’re also equally okay just squeaking by with our greatly reduced salaries in order to pursue our interests.

It’s a different story when I do it—when I point out something ridiculous his father said or how his mother doesn’t "do rest stops.” (Instead, when they have to travel I-95, they have a series of towns they pull off in that have suitable rest rooms in private establishments.)

At least that dichotomy existed back when we were first married, when he could joke, and I could not. During the later years of our marriage, I didn’t waste my energy trying to joke with Adam, and we haven’t seen them much since we got back together. I can count the number of times we’ve seen either set of parents on one hand, and I haven’t seen his sister, Lisbeth, at all. But we’re not exactly there yet in our relationship; where I can tease him openly about his parents. That is comfort that can only be built over time.

But tonight, it’s Adam pointing out the fact that he has now spent more time in the kitchen than his mother, and I laugh while I mix together the olive oil, mustard, and soy sauce for the marinade. I finely mince the garlic, dragging my blade across the bits to form a paste for good measure and then add it to the bowl, giving the mixture a quick beating with the whisk. I can pretty much ignore everyone else at their respective stations when Adam and I find our rhythm between the counter and the sink. Adam gently tugging out the pin bones I refuse to touch while I prep our ingredients for the cellophane noodle salad we’ll tackle next.

This is that connection I craved all those years ago when I waited for Adam to come home from the office every night. Both of us completely spent on anything but each other.

Oona flits by, offering us a shot glass of root beer schnapps, a vintage white gold bracelet studded with blue stones visible with her sleeves rolled up. I accept the drink, pausing to tap the piece of jewelry before tossing back the schnapps.

"This is really gorgeous, Oona,” I tell her, coughing from the alcohol.

"Every girl should have a piece of jewelry that makes her feel like a princess,” Oona advises, executing a fancy dance step before moving on to the next kitchen.

While our salmon marinates and our noodles boil, I eavesdrop on the tense conversation volleying back and forth over the low wall between the UN worker and the poem-typer-and-correspondence-answerer. From what I can gather, the poet couple’s child was accepted off the waiting list into an elite Manhattan private school that will ensure safe passage into his father’s alma mater. The UN worker’s child was denied entrance to the same exclusive private school, a fact that she not only takes personally, but apparently believes is the indirect fault of the academic space-hogging poetry couple, accusing them of doing something underhanded to grease their way off the waiting list and into the school for this coming fall. If they hadn’t been waiting for the same slot, UN worker’s child would have certainly landed his body in the school’s navy blue uniform.

Adam murmurs to me that we’d leave the city if it ever came down to that; truck our bodies over to Westchester if we can’t stomach the attainable education options, and I nod, not just to confirm that we’re on the same page in terms of keeping up with the Joneses, but that I’d never snipe at a friend for taking what I thought of as our slot. That we’re both adult enough to hold our rage against the institution and not a life-long friend. Then again, being so far apart in age, Beckett will never be competing with our future child for a school slot, so it’s easy for me to stand on my moral high ground, judging the two other couples as they bicker over the wall between their kitchens.

And, of course, as much as I agree to Westchester right now, I would be nauseated if we ever had to eat our words and trek down the Saw Mill River Parkway. Currently, I am clinging to Manhattan by my fingernails when it would make more sense to save some money and live in Brooklyn.

All the groups finish around the same time, our salmon grilled and garnished, our cellophane noodle side dish brightly hiding slivers of red pepper, and our cucumber salad decorated with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. We bring our respective dishes to the group table that Alex the chef has set up with the non-descript white dishes of the cooking school. Oona busies herself with pouring wine—a chilled white that the cooking school buys in bulk.

Even though we could mix ourselves together and eat the same meal, we usually divide up by couple, even more so tonight when such an odd tension separates the warring couples from the rest of us. Jared raises his eyebrows at us, as if to indicate they too are relieved that they currently don’t have a child to push through the Manhattan private school system.

"No, thank you,” the UN worker icily tells Oona as she leans forward to fill her glass.

"Such a pouty face tonight,” Oona exclaims, getting away with her bluntness either due to age or charm. "What terrible thing has happened to keep you from drinking wine?”

"Our son,” she growls, "didn’t get into the school we wanted.”

Oona clicks her tongue to tell everyone at the table that she finds this ridiculous. I’m assuming once you live through something like World War II, it gives you a perspective on things such as school admissions. Oona and Xavier told us during dinner on the first class that they met a few years after the war while still living in Europe—a Jewish Holocaust survivor without family and a Belgian Christian—an unlikely couple that somehow sweetly worked. They have four children and eleven grandchildren, a fact, Oona informed us, that was piss in the eye of the Nazis who tried to exterminate her. I am fairly certain that the last thing she stressed about in this lifetime was school admissions.

"He’ll go to a different school,” Oona tells her, filling Jared’s glass and then setting the empty bottle on a side table. "Children are resilient, and he’ll make the best out of wherever he is. Or he won’t. Either way, life will take him where it takes him.”

"This affects his whole life,” the man-who-looks-like-a-bad-guy barks. "How is he supposed to go to a good college like Harvard if he couldn’t even get into a middle school?”

"Good college?” Xavier repeats, echoing his wife’s sentiments as he always does. "He’ll get in where he’s meant to go. No one can control these sorts of things simply by going to a certain middle school.”

"I went to Dalton,” Mike, Jared’s boyfriend, tells us. "And I didn’t get into Harvard. It’s not a guarantee.”

"But you did get in and attended Princeton, sweetie,” Jared reminds him.

"What I’m saying is that these schools try to sell you on the idea that they’re a one-way ticket to the Ivy League. But the reality is that unless the college admissions officers have become puppets of the private school system, there’s no way they can make good on that statement,” Mike continues.

"Well, it makes everything up until this point a complete waste,” the man-who-looks-like-a-bad-guy snarls. "An utter, complete waste. The private school, the sports lessons, the music lessons, the language lessons, the mini-debate club, the travel. All of it. A complete waste.”

I stare at my plate, suddenly not at all interested in either trying the meal nor photographing it for the blog. It seems unfathomable to be sharing a table with a couple who are so blind in their rage that they would describe their son’s childhood as a waste. The other couple, silent through this whole exchange, looks stricken. Even Oona—normally flitting around the table like a greenhouse butterfly—is staring sadly at the UN worker’s face, her mouth a straight, disappointed line.

"It is very hard to hear you call your son’s entire childhood a waste,” I say softly, speaking more to my grilled salmon. "There are so many people who don’t have children—who can’t have children—who would do anything to have a child to parent. It is hard to hear you not appreciating what you have.”

The spy man scrapes his chair back, tossing his napkin next to his untouched meal. "We’re not hungry tonight,” he says, his wife following his lead. "Thank you, everyone, and we’ll see you next week.”

Alex the chef rubs his eyes with the heel of his hand as they slam out of the cooking school. "I think we should go too,” the poem transcriber says softly. "I’m sorry we caused this tension.”

"Please stay,” Jared implores. "This isn’t your fault.”

"I am sorry that I opened the door to that temper tantrum with a question,” Oona sighs. "You can never predict what people will do. People are the most wonderful and terrible animals on earth.”

After another minute or two of awkwardness, everyone recovers simply because Xavier commands us to recover. "It’s selfishness,” he says, winking at me. "I want to try this salmon if I picked out all of those bones. I will be angry if all of this food goes to waste.”

I pick up my camera and snap a few close-ups utilizing the macro feature on my point-and-shoot. I like that the cooking school uses plain white plates and plain white linens. It makes photographing all the dishes simple.

I set back down the camera and take a bite of my fish. It has gotten cold, but the marinade is still a perfect blend of salty and sweet, the soy sauce practically candied by the grill. I look away from the conversation now ramping up again, a deconstruction of a movie Oona and Xavier saw at a film festival—a safe topic after the pre-meal verbal storm. Adam has yet to touch the food on his plate, his face a mixture of seriousness and anxiety.

"Are you okay?” I mouth.

Adam nods once or twice, looks at the poet, and then back at his plate. He finally picks up his fork and starts shoveling in his food without speaking, something that makes me suddenly feel decidedly uneasy. I think back through all the words I’ve spoken since we left the school kitchen. I mentioned that some people desperately would like to parent a child... did I freak out Adam with stating this publicly? Even if he brought up the topic of children earlier in the evening?

He looks so uncomfortable pushing the food around his plate that I wonder if he’s having second thoughts about children in general. I mean, after seeing how gut-wrenching something as simple as school applications can be, I’m not sure I’m up to the task. But I’m also not the one who started this conversation in the first place. I only answered Adam’s question, which makes me feel as if I were told that I passed a test only to discover later that the teacher changed all the answers and has now demoted me to a failure.

The group never quite recovers from the argument, and when Alex tells us to leave our plates on the table instead of busing them, we all comply, beating it out of the school in twosomes with the look of mourners exiting a funeral. Adam and I walk home, barely saying anything, the only indication that things are somewhat okay between us is the fact that Adam takes my hand as we walk back through the park.

We enter the apartment in a comfortable quiet, and I decide not to broach the topic of babies again—to not pick at the subject by asking if his silence is tied to how many times I asserted tonight that I want to be a parent. Maybe he’s just thinking about what an ass the man-who-looks-like-a-bad-guy is. Maybe he’s just constructing imaginary blog posts in his brain, as I often do when I get quiet on a long subway ride. In fact, I would love to post about this evening, but one of the drawbacks to having a popular blog is that everything you write could possibly be read by the subject. And I’d hate to be on the receiving end of the man-who-looks-like-a-bad-guy’s wrath.

"I’m going to take a shower,” I tell Adam, dropping my purse on the floor.

"You are?” Adam asks in a voice that makes me wonder if I unknowingly just said something completely different from the fact that I intend to bathe.

"Are you sure you’re okay?” I ask him.

"I’m fine.”

Despite my internal promise not to pick at the subject, I put on my best I’m-seriously-not-pressuring-you-for-a-baby face and lean on the kitchen counter. "You’ve been sort of weird since the couple left.”

"No, I haven’t,” he insists. "That was really awful, right?”

I nod in agreement, study his features for a moment to see if they reveal anything happening internally, and unable to discern the root of his weirdness, retreat to the bathroom to shower the experience out of my pores before I sit down to write my blog post.

What I really want to write about is whether every other male in the world gets this weird once they bring up the topic of babies. It’s like an arachnophobe begging to be brought to the science museum and then running like crazy once they actually have to face the spiders in their glass cages. If men don’t want to talk about babies and commitment and all other things that they see as taking away their freedom, they shouldn’t broach the topics in the first place. I’m certain that if I post about it, I’ll get 800 comments of agreement from other women, all saying the same thing: their boyfriends bring up the topic of marriage and then start pushing them away, their husbands bring up the topic of babies and then act weird the rest of the evening.

I am rinsing the conditioner out of my hair when I hear Adam enter the bathroom and sit down on the top of the closed toilet seat, one of my least favorite things that he does. I don’t want to have a conversation while the water is running, and I can barely hear. And beyond that, I hate stepping out of the shower, dripping and water-spotted, and have someone looking at me before I can wrap a towel around myself.

I don’t say anything to acknowledge him until I’ve turned off the shower head. "Do you need something?” I call out through the curtain.

Adam is silent, which makes my body go still, as if my arm hairs can sense that something is very, very off. I have a sickening feeling that he’s going to tell me that he has suddenly realized that this is all wrong. That one of us needs to move out again—find somewhere else in the city to set up shop and rebuild our lives for the second time in the last 500 or so days.

My hands start shaking as I wring the water out of my hair, trying to control my breathing because I am suddenly becoming enraged. Absolutely, beyond-able-to-calm-myself-down enraged. How dare he bring up babies and then act uncomfortable? I call out his name a second time, noting how shaky my voice sounds, and I take a moment to internally remind myself that I am in the right. Adam is in the wrong, and I am in the right.

When he doesn’t answer again, except with a small throat-clearing cough, I take a deep breath and pull back the curtain to, first and foremost, yell at him about starting any sort of serious conversation with me when I’m showering, and then point out that he is the one who brought up children tonight, so he has no right to turn commitment phobic.

Adam is holding my towel and hands it to me so I can wrap it around my body, tucking the end sloppily over my right breast and crossing my arms to hold it up. I scowl at him and then look at the door.

"You know I don’t like it when you come in the bathroom when I’m getting out of the shower,” I tell him.

"I know that,” he agrees. "But technically, you were still in the shower.”

"That’s even worse.”

"I didn’t know that,” he says softly, looking down at the curled edge of the bath mat. "I thought it just annoyed you when I timed it as you were opening the curtain.”

"What do you want?” I ask, wiping a rivulet of water off of my forehead before it drips onto my nose. "Can this conversation wait until I’m dressed?”

"No,” Adam admits. "It can’t wait. I know it has only been five months or so, but I really don’t want to wait any longer. I wanted to do this earlier tonight while we were at the cooking class, but everything got messed up.”

He digs into his pocket and takes out a red silk pouch. A very Me&Ro-looking red silk pouch, the kind that jewelry from my favorite jewelry store comes from—the sort that Adam has never purchased for me in the past. In fact, the only item I own is the ring I bought for myself to replace my wedding band, the very same ring that Adam gently tugs off my finger, his own hands shaking so violently that I’m afraid he’s going to tear off my digit in the process.

He pulls out of the pouch three hammered gold rings—simple bands with no adornment. Everything is starting to sound very far away, almost tinny, and I am acutely aware of how steamy the bathroom is as I suddenly can’t breathe. I hold onto Adam’s shoulder for support, because in the meantime, he has sunk down to the bath mat, his knee holding down the curled edge.

"The first band is for our first marriage,” he says carefully, slipping it onto my finger. "The second band is for our time apart. Our divorce is part of who we are now as a couple, and I like to think that the break has healed us into a stronger relationship. This last band is for our future. Knowing how the world feels when I’m apart from you, I cannot imagine living one more second of my life without us permanently tied to each other. Rachel Goldman, will you marry me again and continue to be Rachel Goldman?”

Adam looks up at me, his dark brown eyes unblinking. I focus on the tiny gap between his eyelashes on his lower right lid. It is barely noticeable; I doubt anyone else in his life has ever paid attention to this detail. But I have. I consider my hand, the one gripping his shoulder. Time passes in blinks. In tiny jumps from moment to moment, object to object. He’s waiting for my answer, his eyes never leaving my face as mine travel around the room.

I do what every deer-in-headlights woman does, letting her voice go to autopilot, letting her lips move by their own volition. I say yes.




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