Home > Fall by Winter

Fall by Winter
Author: Cara Dee

One

 

 

I took a sip of my wine and bobbed my head to the beat of the music pouring out from the living room, and I surveyed my kitchen. I was pretty much done here. I’d gotten my cozy, French-country-style kitchen. Significantly smaller than the space I was used to, but I was no longer cooking for four.

Small had become the theme for this next chapter of my life. I’d thrown away so much crap before I’d left the old house a few blocks over. Now I had my very own picturesque two-bedroom house on the street right next to the marina. Smaller kitchen, smaller living room, smaller backyard, smaller everything. Fewer rooms to clean.

Sometimes I felt guilty for being happy. For feeling so free.

Other times, not so much. I’d earned this, and I needed the change. From the house down to the color of my hair. I’d dyed it chestnut last time at the salon, and I’d be getting my daughter’s opinion on it in… I checked my watch. About ten minutes.

I suppose I should put on some better clothes. These days, I lived in sweats or cotton shorts and a tank top when I was alone.

It was fucking amazing.

As I set my wineglass in the sink, I saw William pulling up to the curb in front of my house, but Aurora wasn’t with him. He stepped out of the vehicle on his own.

He spotted me in the window when he opened the picket fence gate and smiled politely.

I headed to the hallway after turning off the music and opened the door for him. “If you sold our daughter, I expect fifty percent of the profit.”

He snorted and chuckled. “Since when are children profitable?”

“Touché.” I opened the door wider.

He raised his brows a fraction and gave me a once-over on the way in.

“What do you think?” I asked. “Can I be a brunette?” It wasn’t a far cry from my original color. Well, plural these days. Caramel with a touch of gray.

Men had it easier there. Women loved silver foxes, and William was slowly turning into one. The silver was pronounced by his dark hair. He had some in his beard too.

“Your hair.” He zeroed in on it, as if he hadn’t noticed it before. “Ah, you changed it. I liked the old color.”

I sighed. “You always know what to say, honey.” I patted his chest and trailed into the kitchen. “So, what brings you by if you’re not dropping off Aurora?”

Wedding announcement, perhaps? He’d recently gotten engaged to the love of his life—another man. Kelly.

I was the kind of ex-wife who had helped pick out the rings.

Oh, I had some scars…

“Something she said has been bothering me.” William followed me into the kitchen. “For the record, when women open the door with a new hair color and no bra, don’t expect men to see the difference between two shades of brown.”

I spluttered a laugh and took my seat at the island. “You’re gay, though. You’re not supposed to notice any of it.”

He gave me a look. “Lis, we’ve talked about this. I don’t like it when you diminish the meaning of our marriage.”

Oh boy. I needed more wine. I headed straight for the fridge and grabbed the bottle I’d opened yesterday. “I don’t need another spiel about gay versus bisexual, William.”

“Clearly you do.”

No, I seriously didn’t. Okay, I had been plagued by doubts for months and months after we got divorced two years ago, but he had made me realize the truth. More than that, he’d made me believe it. Our marriage hadn’t been a sham, despite everything he’d hidden from me. Our marriage was definitely the biggest reason my life was complicated and why I’d probably never venture out into the dating jungle again, but it’d been ours, and it’d been real. In a way. In a complicated way.

No one would understand.

“It was a slip, okay? I know you’re bi.” I poured myself a new glass and took a big swallow. Phew. “Tell me what’s up with Aurora.”

He eyed me for a beat with his calculating slate gaze, and I could tell he was ready to psychoanalyze me, an occupational hazard from what he did for a living. But I wasn’t one of the children he worked with. I was his ex-wife, so I jutted my chin and silently willed him to mind his own business.

“Fine,” he conceded reluctantly. “She’s been talking more about college lately. This weekend, there were pamphlets and printouts all over my condo. And she thinks she wants to go to a school on the East Coast.”

I adjusted my glasses and waited for the punch line. Aurora had just started her sophomore year of high school. College was three years away.

“That’s okay with you?” he asked in disbelief.

I frowned. “Am I missing something? It’s a good thing that she’s researching schools. She’ll have plenty of time to decide, then.”

“But all the way across the country?” he pressed. “We’ll never see her.”

Oh, bless. “You and I attended college far away from home,” I pointed out. We’d met in Chicago, him from Washington, me from DC.

“And you’re living proof that college kids tend to settle down far away from home if they get their education out of state,” he stated. “It starts with four years, and then she meets someone there.”

She’s already met someone, I replied internally and took a sip of my wine. While this mother had hopes the crush would pass, I had a feeling it ran deep enough to be one of the reasons Aurora wanted to get away from Washington in three years.

I also had a feeling it would be the reason she eventually returned to us. To show this older crush of hers that she’d grown up. Because right now, he saw her as a kid.

It was teenage drama, but I was thankful for having a daughter who confided in me.

“It’ll be her choice, William.” I set down my glass and leaned back against the counter. “Was there anything else?”

He opened his mouth to respond, only to shut it and frown at me.

“What?” I waited.

He pursed his lips. “You’re going through a lot of changes.”

“I am.” I smiled and shrugged. “I’ve had my mourning period—and don’t misinterpret that.”

His gaze softened. “I know. I won’t.”

It wasn’t the unraveling of our marriage I’d been mourning for so long. It was the loss of myself. Out of our twenty years together, we’d had ten happy ones. It was something we’d discussed at length and agreed on. The first ten had been genuine and happy. Then everything had slowly started to come apart at the seams, and I’d lost sight of who I was.

“I’ve held you back for too long,” he murmured. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Don’t do that, William. Stop blaming yourself all the time.”

He let out a breath and smiled ruefully. “Maybe one day. And you can joke about my not noticing things, but you’re wrong, Lis. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable before—or eyeball you—with, uh—” he cleared his throat and gestured toward the hallway “—back there. With how you’re dressed. I’m just paying attention for once, and I like what I’m seeing. You’re more carefree and relaxed these days.” He paused. “You’re not holding an entire household together on your own anymore, and it suits you.”

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