On Second Thought(12)

By: Kristan Higgins


To each her own. Ainsley was glowing as she made her way to Eric, and that was what I should focus on. I adjusted my lens subtly, hoping to catch the moment.

“Everyone, raise your glass to Ainsley,” Eric said.

Nathan was still waiting at the makeshift bar. He’d have to hurry so I could toast my sister. I’d sucked down that first glass fast to help me deal with that damn collage. There was a picture of his scrotum, pre-and post-op, with a little infomercial text underneath it. A quick wine buzz had been required. Even now, the scrotal sac photo seemed to beg me to look at it.

Behind me, I heard my mother sigh. She had a very distinct sigh, years of practice. Dad wasn’t here; he was calling a game somewhere out West. A shame. Ainsley, product of the wife he truly loved, was his favorite.

Eric took my sister’s hand. “Babe, I couldn’t ask for a better woman in life. Ever since we met, I knew you were special, but my cancer journey has shown me that you’re not just special...you’re extraordinary.”

Did the word cancer have to be in every other sentence? Still, Ainsley’s chest was hitching; I could imagine how hard it was for her not to cry; she could cry at Antiques Roadshow. She bit her lip and smiled, her mouth wobbling a little. Sweet kid. Well, she was thirty-two. Sometimes I forgot, since she seemed so...naive.

Eric gazed out at the crowd. “Everyone, a toast to the woman who is not only kind and generous and strong and beautiful, but also...” He reached into his pocket, and I raised my camera. “But also the woman I want to spend the rest of—”

There was a little cry of surprise from behind me, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a movement.

Nathan.

He tripped. That was embarrassing, right at the big moment.

It was just a flash of a second. Wine sloshed over the rim of the glass Nathan was carrying. A woman jerked as it splashed on her back. Nathan stumbled, and someone stepped neatly out of his way, and he fell.

There was a thunk, and I couldn’t see my husband anymore.

A ripple of laughter rolled through the crowd. “Someone’s cut off,” a Wall Streeter said.

“Shame to waste good wine.”

“Make sure he pays for that!”

My camera was still pointed at Ainsley. I looked at her, and she wasn’t smiling anymore.

Her face was white.

Her boss, Jonathan, knelt down where Nathan had fallen.

I felt my heart roll. Get up, Nathan. Get up.

“Call 911,” Jonathan barked, and then my camera hit my side as it fell from my fingers, the strap yanking against my neck.

Nathan was lying facedown.

Wait.

He’d only tripped. He wasn’t a drama queen, not like Eric.

But he was just lying there.

A seizure?

Ollie the dog barked.

“Honey?” I said, but my voice was thin and weak. My wobbly legs carried me closer.

Jonathan rolled Nathan over, pressed his fingers against his throat.

Was he checking for a pulse? Why? Nathan just tripped, that was all. Big deal. Maybe his legs were a little weak because, yes, we’d done it against the wall not more than two hours ago, and it wasn’t as easy as it looked on TV.

Jonathan started CPR.

Oh, Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, this couldn’t be happening. This had to be a mistake. I’d never seen anyone do compressions before. It looked painful. Would Nathan’s ribs be okay? Should Jonathan ease off a little? “Honey?” I said. I was on the floor all of a sudden, on my knees. Please. Please. Please.

Nathan’s eyes were only open a slit. “Nathan?” I whispered.

“Help him,” someone said. “Call 911.” But that had already been said. 911 had already been called.

I could smell chardonnay.

“Help him!” my mother barked. “Somebody, breathe for him!” And somebody did, one of the frat brothers, the one who made the left nut joke.

Someone was saying “Nathan? Nathan?” in a high, hysterical keen, and I was pretty sure it was me. The dog was still barking. Then my sister’s arms were around my shoulders, and she was telling people to step back, make room, get a blanket.

But a blanket wouldn’t help him.

Nathan was dead.





Chapter Four

Ainsley

I’d never seen anyone die before. Cross that off my bucket list. Not that it was ever on it, God!

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