“What chance does she have? An even fifty-fifty?”

He laughed uncomfortably because what I’d said was awkward and sharp. But I couldn’t regret the edge to my tone. “God, no, Ruby.”

“But you’re going,” I reminded him, aghast. “I mean, we’re talking zero chance of reconciliation with your ex-wife, right?”

His expression straightened as if he hadn’t really thought about it this way. Clearly, he’d only considered it a courtesy. But if it was just a courtesy, and there was no chance he would take her back, then why wasn’t the answer too-little-too-late? Why not just tell her that his girlfriend had just left his flat in a bit of a hysterical state and could she fill him in later—over the phone?

“Well, I can’t imagine being with her again—”

“So you’re going only as a gesture?”

He closed his eyes, exhaling a gust of breath. “It sounds terrible when you say it like that.”

“So you’re not just going as a gesture?”

“Just tell me!” I cried. “Because right now it sounds like you’re telling me that you slept with me last night and tonight you’re going back to your ex-wife?” I felt tears burn across the surface of my eyes and by now I was too fucking tired to bother wiping them away.

“Ruby, I’m not having dinner with her tonight to go back to her.”

He closed his eyes. “I can’t imagine that I would, no. But Ruby, I know you’re young and that you’ve n—”

“Don’t,” I said, my voice frightening, even to me. Unconsciously I had balled my hands into fists; I was at the dead end of my patience with his wishy-washy game. “Don’t do that. This isn’t about my age. I’ve never acted naïve with you. I’ve only been understanding while you work through your enormous pile of . . . baggage.”

He cleared his throat and nodded, looking appropriately contrite. “You’re right, I’m sorry. What I mean is that it feels cruel to not at least have the conversation I’ve felt we needed to have for so many years. You of all people, who are so good at expressing things, must understand this. It might relieve something in both of us to simply discuss things for once.”

My heart hurt so horribly that I could barely pull in a full breath.

He leaned forward and took my hand but I pulled it out of his grasp. The pain in his eyes was nearly unbearable. What was he doing? We had such a good thing. Had I scared him off this much?

“Darling,” he said calmly, and something in my brain crawled over the word, trying to excavate any condescension there. “I want to ease your anxiety somehow, but I don’t want to be flippant about what it means to meet with my ex-wife to hear her out. I realize now it would feel dishonest if I told you it was nothing and then I still went and listened to her with an open mind.”

“Do you have an open mind?”

His answer broke my heart. “I suppose I’m trying to. I owe her that, at least.”

I nodded, remaining silent. I could see his torment in this moment and my heart hurt for him, too, but it hurt more for me. He wanted to talk to her to ease something in him, to achieve closure. But I knew there was a tiny part of him, the part that couldn’t hear her out over the phone, which also wondered if maybe she had changed enough. If they might be able to find something comfortable together, and better than what they’d had before.

“I’ll see you here tomorrow, then?” he asked. “Perhaps we could do lunch?”

I nearly laughed at the absurdity of it, of “doing lunch” almost like one would with a client. I’d essentially forfeited my job so I could stay with him, and he was going to have dinner with his ex-wife to discuss reconciliation.

Was this really happening?

I nodded, jaw tight, unable to even look at him. “Sure.”

Tilting his head, he asked, “Could you tell me what happened with Tony? We exchanged words earlier. He urged Richard to put a rather strongly worded letter in my file. Hopefully I’ve borne the brunt of what happened between us in New York.”

Between us. In New York.

Not last night. Not the night I pushed you so far you’re considering going back to a woman who made you miserable, but left you alone in your shell.

“Oh, yeah,” I said absently, sinking into an odd numbness. I stood, walking toward the door. “He basically just gave me a letter, too.”

Despite my suggestion that we meet somewhere neutral, Portia insisted I come to her flat—our old flat—for dinner. I’d had an odd weight in my gut since talking to Ruby, some residue of regret about the conversation. I’d texted her as I left the office, saying I would call later, or come ’round if she liked, but she hadn’t answered. I knew she was a bit offended that I wanted to talk to Portia at all, and I couldn’t exactly blame her. But I hoped, too, that she understood the intent behind it. After all, I wasn’t here hoping to reconcile with Portia; I was with Ruby now. We were an us.

But Ruby made a good point: then why was I meeting my ex-wife for dinner? Could I honestly say the only reason I agreed was to let Portia speak her piece so we could both truly move on? Was there a part of me—no matter how small—that wondered if we could find a better place together, with more communication? We knew each other’s rhythms, after all. It would be easy to slip back to it.