Staring up at my house—a simple two-story, two lights on in the bay window, front door framed by potted plants—I let the unwinding work its way through me. As much as I traveled, I was a homebody at heart, and fuck if it didn’t feel good to be so close to my own bed. I didn’t even feel privately embarrassed that the call of takeout delivery and Netflix made me feel a little drunk.
The house lit up with the flick of a single switch, and before I did anything else, I unpacked—if for no other reason than to hide the evidence that I’d been traveling and would no doubt have to fly again soon. Denial, you are my favorite lover.
Suitcase unpacked, dinner ordered, Netflix loaded and ready, and, as if on cue, my youngest sister, Ziggy—Hanna to anyone outside our family—opened the door with her set of keys.
Like she had no reason to knock.
Like she knew I’d be sitting right here, in sweats and slippers.
“Hey,” I said, watching as she threw her keys toward the bowl on the table near the door and missed by at least two feet. “Nice shot, loser.”
She smacked my head as she walked by. “Did you just get home?”
“Yeah. Sorry. I was going to call you after I ate.”
She stopped, turning to look at me quizzically. “Why? Am I your ‘Honey, I’m home’ call?”
She turned away and I stared at her back as she retrieved a beer for me and a glass of water for herself.
When she returned, I grumbled, “That’s a terrible thing to say.”
“Is it inaccurate?” She flopped down next to me on the couch.
“Why are you even here?”
Ziggy was married to my best friend of more than fifteen years, Will—of Aunt Jessica fame—and the two of them lived not five minutes down the road in a house much bigger and much more lived-in than this one.
She pulled her hair over her shoulder and grinned at me. “It has been suggested that I ‘stomp around the house,’ thereby ‘making it difficult to have work calls at night.’ ” Ziggs shrugged and sipped her water. “Will has some big conference call with someone in Australia, so I figured I’d hang here until I get the all-clear.”
She nodded. “You must be tired.”
“I’m sure a quiet night sounds good. I’m sure there’s no one you’re dying to see now that you’re home.”
With my beer tilted toward my lips, I froze, sliding my eyes to her. “Stop it.”
To be fair, my entire family tended to be overly concerned with the goings-on in each other’s lives, and I would admit to playing the protective older brother on more than one occasion. But I didn’t like having my youngest sibling stepping into my game.
Knowing exactly how big a brat she was being, she turned and looked at me. “She scrapbooks, Jensen. And she offered to help me organize the garage.”
“That sounds pretty friendly to me,” I said, scrolling through the channels.
“This is her before marriage, Jens. These are her zany days.”
I ignored this, trying not to laugh and encourage her. “Emily and I aren’t really a thing.”
Thankfully, she decided not to push or make some sex joke. “Are you coming over tomorrow?”
Ziggy glared at me. “Seriously? How many times have we talked about this?”
I groaned, standing up and trying to think of a reason I needed to leave the room. “Why are you laying into me? I just got home!”
“Jens, we’re hosting Annabel’s third birthday tomorrow! Sara is ready to pop with their seventieth child, so she and Max couldn’t handle throwing it at their place. Everyone is coming up from New York. You knew about this! You said you’d be home in time.”
She stared at me. “There’s no stopping by. Come hang out, Jensen—how wonderfully ironic that I’m the one telling you this. When was the last time you went out with friends? When was the last time you were social, or went on a date with someone other than Softball Emily?”
I didn’t answer this. I dated more than my sister knew, but she was right that I wasn’t all that invested. I’d been married once. To sweet, playful Becky Henley. We’d met my sophomore year in college, dated for nine years, and then been married for four months before I came home to find her packing her things through a haze of tears.
It didn’t feel right, she’d said. It never really felt right.
And that was all the explanation I ever got.
Okay, so at twenty-eight I’d had my law degree and was newly divorced—turns out there’s not a lot of that going around—so I’d focused on my career. Full steam. For six years, I made nice with the partners, climbed the ladder, grew my team, became indispensable to the firm.
Only to find myself spending my Friday nights with my baby sister, being lectured about being more social.
And she was right: it was ironic that she was the one having this conversation with me. Three years ago I’d said the exact same thing to her.
“Jensen,” she said, pulling me back down onto the couch. “You’re the worst.”
I was. I was absolutely the worst at taking advice. I knew I needed to get out of this work rut. I knew I needed to infuse some fun into my life. And as averse as I was to discussing it with my sister, I knew I would probably enjoy being in a committed relationship. The problem was, I almost didn’t know where to start. The prospect always felt so overwhelming. The longer I was single, the harder it seemed to compromise with someone.