“I don’t know,” she said, slicing cucumber with gusto. “I mean, it’s none of my business, but it’s interesting that you can run with Will on the weekend and you’re free tonight, being last week you told Pippa you were working nonstop.”
“I told Pippa what now?” I asked, pulse tripping before thundering down my limbs.
“Well, not in those exact words,” she said, somewhat mollified. “And, obviously, I’m so glad you’re here. But that you were too busy for dinner with her and yet”—she looked dramatically around the kitchen—“here the three of us are.”
“Is there wine?” I asked Will, who reached for a glass and an open bottle and put them both on the counter in front of me. I poured myself a good amount, took a long drink, and then set it down again.
“I have no idea where this is coming from,” I said, “or how you know what I said to Pippa. But this—being here? It isn’t work for me to come over and hang with you guys. If I don’t feel like talking I can stare into my plate and eat and thank you for dinner and head home. It’s not the same, even with Pippa, even if things were good. And I did have to work, by the way,” I added. “I was still at work when Liv sent me a text that you weren’t able to get hold of me.”
Ziggy turned to look at me like I’d said something absurd. “I don’t understand why you’re always—”
“Oh my God,” I said, putting my head in my hands. “Can we have dinner before we get into this? At minimum another glass of wine? It’s been a really shitty day.”
My sister seemed to deflate and looked immediately apologetic.
“Don’t do that,” I added quickly, guilt filling my chest like a balloon. Ziggs was only trying to help, I knew that. Her intentions were good, even if her method was maddening. “Just, let’s at least get some food in us, and then you can yell at me all you want.”
Will had made a roast with baby red potatoes and brown-sugar-glazed carrots, and as I sat there, eating the best meal I’d had since leaving Vermont, I felt a little cheated that he’d learned all this now and not when we were still roommates in college.
As usual, dinner was relaxed and easy. We talked about my parents and their upcoming trip to Scotland. We talked about our family’s traditional after-Christmas-before-New-Year’s trip we usually took together. With the babies due in December, I’d been given a reprieve of sorts for this year, but I steeled myself for the inevitable discussion about next year’s destination choice—Bali—and, in the event that I couldn’t get away, whether we’d have the But poor Jensen will be on his own conversation.
By the time I’d finished my first helping of roast, the subject had moved to Max and Bennett and the beloved text thread filled with Chloe the Saint and Sara the Monster stories.
Will turned to me after confirming that, yes, both women were still behaving suspiciously. “How’s your reentry going?” he asked, stabbing a bite of roast.
“This international merger I’ve been overseeing is a mess right now,” I told them. “And even though the things that went wrong don’t have anything to do with our office, it still reflects badly on the team. Just going to take some extra work to clean up.”
“It is, but it’s the job.” I took another drink of my wine, feeling the warmth work its way through my bloodstream. “So what about everyone else, they get back okay?”
Ziggy nodded. “Niall and Ruby left the day after we got back from Vermont. Pippa left last Sunday.”
I stilled. How had I not realized Pippa left four days ago?
“Oh,” I said, busying myself cutting a piece of meat. “I didn’t realize . . .”
“Well, you might have known her schedule if you bothered to see her before she left,” my sister said in flat challenge.
I picked up a hot roll and tore it open, letting the steam escape. I took a bite and chewed it slowly before swallowing. It settled like a ball of flour and glue in my stomach. “Actually, I did see her.”
Ziggy froze with her water glass almost to her mouth. “When?”
Nodding down at my plate, I tried to sound as casual as I could. “She was there when I got home from work last Wednesday. I think she came over after having dinner here.”
“Oh,” she said, and then smiled slowly. “Well that’s great, then! Are you two doing the long-distance thing or—?”
“I don’t think so.” I pulled the butter dish toward me, spreading some over my roll.
If anything, this only annoyed her more. “There are seven days in a week, honey. Twenty-four—”
My sister put her fork down and braced her forearms on the table, leveling me with a steely look. “You realize this is exactly why you’re single, right?”
“I’m assuming that’s a rhetorical question?” I asked, and took another bite of my dinner. It went down worse than the last. I knew I was goading her; she hated my calm exterior and wanted some kind of reaction out of me, but I didn’t care.
“You meet someone you like and you can’t find a way to carve out even a bit of time for her? To cultivate—”
“Cultivate what?” I said, voice raised, surprising myself with my own anger. How many times did I need to explain this? “We live in different countries, want different things. Why would either of us work to prolong the inevitable?”