Home > The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(2)

The Sixth Wedding : A 28 Summers Story(2)
Author: Elin Hilderbrand

Cooper’s most recent ex-wife, Amy, is a psychologist in the District, and in order to find someone who isn’t a close colleague of Amy’s, Cooper has to look in northern Virginia. Fairfax, as it turns out, where he makes an appointment with a woman named Dr. Theron Robb. Whereas Amy is known as a “touchy-feely” therapist, Dr. Robb is cool and reserved. Cooper appreciates this. He doesn’t need someone to empathize with him; he needs someone to tell him what’s broken and how to fix it.

Dr. Robb is in her late forties, Cooper would guess. She’s tall, Black, and as slender and graceful as a ballerina—but Cooper must think of his therapist as a person, not a woman.

“You lost your parents in a tragic car accident in 2013 and your sister to cancer in 2020. You’ve been divorced five times.” Dr. Robb pauses. “That’s a lot of loss.”

Cooper nods.

“It’s no wonder you proposed to Stacey,” Dr. Robb says. “I’m sure you were driven by a primal instinct for permanence. Someone who would stay.”

“Maybe?” Coop says. “I’m not completely alone. My nephew, Link, is living with me this summer, doing an internship at Brookings. We’re close.”

“But he’ll go on to have his own life,” Dr. Robb says. “He won’t be with you forever.”

“True.” Cooper doesn’t like to think about this. Link is the only family he has left and Cooper loves the kid like a son, always has.

“Why did your marriages end?” Dr. Robb asks.

“Various reasons,” Coop says. “Sometimes it was them, sometimes me. The most recent divorce was me. I wanted out.”

Dr. Robb studies Cooper frankly from behind her glasses. He would love to know what she’s thinking. “When was the last time you were happy?” she asks. “When was the last time things felt right? Can you take me back there?”

“I’m not completely obtuse,” Coop says. “I’ve given this exact question a lot of thought. The mistakes started on Nantucket Island in 1993.”

Dr. Robb laughs, startled. “I hadn’t anticipated that kind of archaeological dig, but I’m game. What happened on Nantucket in 1993?”

“I left my own bachelor weekend,” Coop says. “My sister, Mallory, was cool enough to invite me and my two best friends to visit her over Labor Day. And then she had her best friend from growing up come as well, so there were five of us around the dinner table. I can remember when we all hoisted our glasses, thinking how lucky I was. That moment was…golden.” Coop sighs. “Then, later that night, my fiancée, Krystel, called to demand that I come home. She was jealous, she was threatened…”

“Controlling,” Dr. Robb says.

“And I left,” Cooper says. “I abandoned my sister, I abandoned my friends. But most of all, I abandoned myself.”

Dr. Robb nods.

“So I guess if I could go back to any point, I would choose that night.”

“I see.”

“A bunch of things happened that weekend after I left,” Cooper says. “Crazy stuff, like from a novel or a movie. And I set them all in motion by leaving. If I had stayed on Nantucket in 1993 instead of going home…my sister’s life, my friend Jake’s life, and my friend Fray’s life all would have been different.”

“That’s a pretty big statement,” Dr. Robb says.

“I know,” Cooper says. “But it’s true.” He drops his head into his hands. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could go back and do it over.”





On Sunday evenings, Ursula stops working long enough to make two phone calls—the first to her daughter, Bess, and the second to her ex-husband, Jake McCloud.

This is what passes for Ursula’s family life these days.

Bess lives in Washington, DC, at the Sedgewick in Dupont Circle, just like Ursula herself did thirty years earlier. She works for the National Council of Nonprofits, an umbrella organization that consults with and advises nonprofits across the country, and it’s her dream job; Bess has always wanted to save the world and empower the disenfranchised, and in this job she doesn’t have to choose between the homeless and hungry children—she helps everyone who’s in need. Ursula sends Bess money for rent and living expenses, and if and when Bess decides she wants to go to law school, Ursula will pay for that as well.

“How was your week, sweetie?” Ursula asks.

“Long,” Bess says. “I’m working with the Red Cross on their national campaign.”

“That sounds exciting,” Ursula says.

“The director basically offered me a job,” Bess says.

“I’m not surprised,” Ursula says. More likely than Bess going to law school will be one of the nonprofits she’s working with snapping her up as executive director. She has always been more like Jake than Ursula. “Did you do anything fun this weekend?”

“I had a date Friday night with some guy who works for the Nature Conservancy,” Bess says. “I had to spend two hours pretending to be outdoorsy while he described climbing Denali. It was painful.”

“DC is filled with men, sweetheart,” Ursula says. “Find yourself a hot young lobbyist.”

“I am not dating a lobbyist,” Bess says. “But you’re right, those guys are the hottest. Honestly, it’s like hotness and social conscience are inversely proportionate.”

“Except for your father,” Ursula says. “A do-gooder and hot.”

“Ew, Mom, please.”

“You’re still so young,” Ursula says. “You should wait at least another five years before…”

“I know, I know,” Bess says. “How was your weekend, Mama? Did the great UDG do anything fun? Depose the bagel guy, maybe?”

Ursula smiles. She’s standing at the floor-to-ceiling windows in her living room that overlook Central Park. She feels like she could dip her toe in the Bethesda Fountain. She’s still in her running shorts and lululemon tank, both damp with sweat. She did four laps around the Reservoir as soon as the beastly heat of the day eased a bit. “I went for a run in the park,” Ursula says. “So I’m feeling very outdoorsy. And I’m going to order up from Marea after I talk to Dad. The lobster and burrata salad. I’ve been thinking about it all day.”

“You should start dating too, Mama,” Bess says. “I can make you a profile on Firepink? That’s the new one for olders.”

“Ha!” Ursula says. “Every man in this country already knows my profile. That’s what happens when you run for President. You lose your mystique on the dating apps.”

Bess laughs. “I love you, Mama.”

“I love you too, baby,” Ursula says. “Talk next week.”

They hang up and Ursula stays at the window, watching the sky turn purple, and tries to judge how Bess sounds. A bit too much like Ursula herself: lonely, and working too hard.

Ursula and Bess hadn’t always been this close; Bess’s adolescence had been a battlefield. Bess challenged Ursula’s political views and called her out on her relentless ambition. Achieving is the most important thing to you. It’s more important than love, Bess said when she was fifteen years old. And wow—Ursula had felt that comment like a slap to the face.

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