My landlord Mr. O’Brien is the only one who knows Nico’s gone. He left last Sunday, exactly twenty-three days after giving me the ring. Packed all his belongings in the back of his pickup during halftime and drove off near the end of the fourth quarter, minutes after Tom Brady was sacked. Mr. O’Brien watched the whole thing from his living room window. After Nico drove away, he came out to the walkway where I was standing, trying not to cry. He pointed to an oil spot where Nico’s truck had been. “If he comes back, you tell him no more parking in the driveway.”
“Jillian, are you still there?” my mother asks.
I take a deep breath and relax my shoulders. “We haven’t set a date yet.”
“I guess it will depend on the reception hall.” I hear pages turning and imagine her flipping through a calendar. “Dad and I are thinking of coming next month. I have a list of places we can visit.”
“Next month’s not good.” I can feel my underarms getting sticky. “Work is really busy, for me and Nico both.”
“You work too hard. Can’t you take some time off?”
Outside the sound of a snow blower starting startles me. I walk to my bedroom window and lift the shade. There are about five inches on the driveway that Mr. O’Brien and his grandson Zachary are clearing, and it’s still coming down. I didn’t know it was supposed to snow. I guess I haven’t been paying attention to the forecast, or anything else, since Nico left. “Come in the spring when the weather is better. Nico will get Dad Red Sox tickets. Up on the Green Monster.” Nico produces BS Morning Sports Talk, a local radio show. Tickets are a perk of his job.
“I think he’d rather see the Bruins,” she says.
“We’ll take him to a game at the end of the season.” Hockey goes for another three months. Nico will be back long before then. He is coming back. I’m sure of it because his favorite coat is still hanging on the back of the kitchen chair. That worn brown leather jacket is as much a part of him as his ever-present razor stubble. He never would have left it here if he didn’t plan to return.
“How is Nico?” my mother asks. “Excited about getting married?” Outside, the snow blower stops.
“Nervous.” That’s not a lie. Why else would he do what he did?
She laughs. “Can I talk to him?”
In the nineteen months that Nico has lived with me, she has never once asked to speak with him. My shirt is now soaked under the arms. I’ll have to take a shower when I hang up. “He’s not here,” I manage to say.
“Where is he?”
“At his sister’s.” Also true. He called Monday after he left to tell me he’s staying with her, his two-year-old twin nieces, his three-month old nephew, and Baxter, the miniature schnauzer. My doorbell rings. “Mom, I have to go.”
I disconnect and rush to open the door. Mr. O’Brien stands there shivering in an unzipped Red Sox winter jacket and his grease-streaked blue baseball cap with the red “B.” I hold the door open for him to come in. He doesn’t move. I swear he’s looking at my ring. What he’s thinking is so clear that there may as well be a thought bubble floating over his head: Why are you still wearing that? He’s gone and not coming back.
Now, I totally want to know what Mr. O'Brien is doing at the door. In a way, I hope Nico doesn't come back. She deserves way better!
Now here's a peek at Diane's new release:
Now thirty-six, Gina’s Mr. Right is nowhere in sight—until the day she’s stranded in a snowstorm, and rescued by the last type of Ethan she expected. It’s very romantic, yet surprisingly not. This Ethan is sexy, and clearly her hero. Still, instead of her “Aha” moment, Gina’s confused. And when Ethan is happy to discover she’s single, does Gina dare tell him, It’s because I've been waiting for you? But the bigger question is, does she dare question destiny—by taking it into her own hands? And is she brave enough to handle what happens once it’s time to stop waiting—and start living?
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kensington Books
Diane Barnes is a marketing/corporate communication writer. She lives in central Massachusetts, where she participates in two monthly writing groups and regularly attends novel writing workshops. Read more about her at www.dianembarnes.com or on Twitter at @FenwayScribe.