Eighteen years ago, Samantha walked away from her fiancé so he could marry the one-night stand who was going to have his baby. She took all the blame, and gave him their hometown, their friends—everything. Now he emails that he’s coming to her town, Washington, DC, as chaperon for his teen son’s class trip. Does she really want to meet up?
I’m in your town for a couple of days this week. Meet me at the Natural History Museum tomorrow noon?”
She pushed back from the computer screen, rolling the chair off the plastic carpet-protector. No, twenty-four hours’ notice wouldn't prepare her to slice open a wound that had been neatly sutured eighteen years ago. Besides, she had a meeting scheduled for lunch tomorrow. It would be rude to the other researchers to reschedule it. Who was he to drop her an email and expect her to jump?
She unfolded her arms from around her chest and shook her head. The question wasn’t whether she’d jump, but how high. She could never say no to him. Well, except for the one time, and hadn’t that gone well?
He held a power over her she'd never been able to define. Pheromones? Voodoo? Even when she’d been eighteen and thought she knew everything. Now at thirty-six, she realized nothing had changed.
She dashed off a reply.
“Noon by the elephant? How will I recognize you? I’ll be wearing a paisley skirt.”
The reply came almost immediately.
“Sounds good. You won’t be able to miss us.”
Us? He wasn’t alone? Sam smacked her forehead hard with the base of her palm. Always ask the follow-up question. Now she would have to see the wife, too.
He'd always done this to her, leading her to believe one thing and then flipping the chessboard. “Scientific thinking, it gets you in trouble every time,” he’d tell her, but really it was him. He avoided confrontation by simply not mentioning the fine detail, like the potentially explosive device for physics class he’d had in the trunk of the car when they went to the drive-in one summer night.
He hadn’t changed.
Well, neither had she. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard, ready to recant. She hit reply and started to compose the sentence in her head. “I regret that something has come up.” “My dog died.” “I refuse to stand in the same room as your baby-mama.”
She canceled the message. What was the use of making up your mind to do a thing if you changed it ten seconds later?
He had her again.