On Second ThoughtBy: Kristan Higgins
If I had known how things would play out on the evening of April 6, I would’ve brought my A-game that morning.
I would’ve set my alarm early so Nathan and I could make love. We’d been married for only four months, so that wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I would’ve brushed my teeth first and my hair. Afterward, I would’ve kissed him lingeringly, cupped his face in my hands and said, “I love you so much. I’m so lucky to be your wife.” This would’ve probably caused him to give me the side-eye, because such gooey proclamations weren’t my style, but the feelings were there just the same.
I also would’ve added, “Don’t get me that second glass of wine tonight, by the way.”
Instead, I did what I’d been doing almost every morning of our marriage; when Nathan’s alarm went off—at 6:00 a.m., mind you, a cruel hour—I pulled the pillow over my head and muttered darkly. Nathan got up every day to spend forty-five minutes on the elliptical, which proved the old “opposites attract” theory, since I viewed walking down the block to get a coffee as my daily workout.
As I grumbled, Nathan laughed because my hatred of predawn wake-ups had yet to grow old for him.
However, I did get up after he finished dressing, and I stumbled down to the kitchen in my plaid flannel pajama bottoms and NYU sweatshirt, the thrilling, awkward sense of newness at seeing my husband off to work still with me. I loved him like crazy, despite his addiction to exercise. At least he was healthy. (The Fates laughed merrily, the capricious bitches.)
He was already at the kitchen table.
“Morning,” I said, tousling his still-damp hair. Hard to believe I’d married a ginger, which had never before been my type. And yet we’d had fantastic sex just last night. I leaned down and kissed his neck at the memory. See? I wasn’t exactly in a coma, even if it was still too early to blink both eyes simultaneously.
“Hey,” he said with a smile. “How’d you sleep, honey?”
“Great. How about you?” I took out a mug and poured some life-giving coffee, wondering if the fact that I still liked the smell meant I wasn’t pregnant.
“I was very happily exhausted,” he said with a smile. “Slept like the dead.”
Nathan put his cup in the dishwasher, which he emptied every night before bed. He always used the same cup and put it in the same place on the top rack. He was an architect. He liked things neat and square, and his house was a showplace, after all. A literal showplace of his workmanship.
“We have Eric’s party tonight, right?” he asked.
“What? Oh, yeah. His ‘To Life’ party.” I took a long pull of coffee and suppressed a grimace. Eric, my sister’s eternal boyfriend, was celebrating his cancer-free status, and while I was obviously glad he’d recovered, the party seemed to smack of hubris. His health status wasn’t exactly news, either—he’d kept us all up-to-date in searing detail on his blog, Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, Tumblr and the Pinterest board with photos of himself, his IV bag during chemo and, yes, his affected, er, area.
“He’s a good guy. I’m so happy for him,” Nathan said.
“I wonder if he’ll run through a photo of himself, like they do on that weight-loss show,” I said. Nathan laughed, his eyes crinkling with attractive crow’s-feet, causing a warm tightening in my stomach.
Our togetherness still occasionally caused me a slight prickle of alarm. It was like waking up in a hotel room, that second when you don’t know where you are before realizing you’re on a wonderful vacation.
We looked at each other a minute, and the mood shifted slightly. Don’t ask if I’m pregnant, I ordered telepathically. My gaze shifted to the window to dodge the unspoken question. Outside, a lion’s head sculpture spit water onto a pile of rocks. I can’t say I was comfortable living in a house that had “water features” just yet.
In a few weeks, we planned to survey my stuff, currently in storage, and see what we wanted to bring here. But for now, the house was Nathan’s, not mine.
Nathan, too, did not yet feel like he was mine. After all, we’d known each other less than a year, and yet we’d vowed to love each other till death did us part.