I watched from my spot in the foyer as Charlotte let herself out silently, avoiding my eye as she turned to give me a quiet “goodbye” before shutting the door. From the door’s four-paned window, I saw her practically sprint to her car, throw herself into the driver’s seat, and pull her phone out of her purse. Within seconds, her phone was up to her ear and she was talking animatedly with someone on the other line, no doubt telling them of the horrible experience she’d just had.
After a minute or two, watching began to feel like spying, so I gave Charlotte her privacy and headed to the kitchen to start my routine with John. We’d been here so many times before that it almost felt like I should pencil the dramatic encounter into my meticulous planning binder; but I always hope that this will be the time that he won’t screw it up. This will be the time we finally seal the deal.
I set two glasses on the counter and poured wine into each of them, aware that John was watching my every move, gauging my reaction to what had just happened. I was furious, of course, but I wasn’t going to let him see that. I calmly carried the glasses and bottle from the counter to the island and set one glass on either side, taking a seat at one of the breakfast barstools, and watched as he did the same.
John drummed his fingers against the marble countertop, so gently that they didn’t make a sound, and waited for me to speak.
I finished my first glass in silence, watching the way John’s shoulders rose and fell in a steady rhythm. It was hypnotic, timed perfectly with the ticking of my watch, and I only half-focused on his figure in front of me, my mind wandering to yet another failed meeting we’d just been through.
“Why did you do that?” I asked as I poured a second glass, practically shouting in the deafening silence of the house. “Why? Now I have to start over. Again.”
“I didn’t like the way she nitpicked,” John said, peering over his glass. He hadn’t touched his wine, as usual. “There’s no way in hell I would be able to put up with that day in and day out.”
“You’ve got to learn to be more personable,” I said, throwing back the rest of my glass of wine. “Really, being less picky might do you some good.”
John stared at me, sadness heavy in his eyes. If he were anyone else, I would have reached out to touch his shoulder, anything to comfort him. But I’d learned that this was one of the many things that would just make things worse.
“Easy for you to say,” John said, standing up from his spot at the counter. “When you go home at the end of the day, you don’t have to deal with them.”
“At the rate we’re going, we’ll be at this forever,” I said as I picked at a stray thread on my pinstripe skirt. “Last week she was too noisy, the week before you didn’t like her laugh, and the week before that you said he gave you ‘the willies’. We’ve been at this for five years. Since the day you finally drove Jake and the kids away. Where do you draw the line? This is like trying to find a girlfriend for Chandler Bing.”
“I like what I like,” John replied, arms crossed. “You do have to take my feelings into consideration in all of this you know. This was your idea afterall.”
“I’m just doing my job,” I said, rolling my eyes. We’d had this arguement week after week. No one was good enough for John. But I guess I couldn’t really blame him.
“Who says we have to pick anyone at all?” John asked with childlike defiance. “Can’t I just stay here alone? It’s my house. I don’t see why I need to share it.”
“You are going to be alone forever,” I said bluntly, shaking my head as I picked my keys up from the counter. “I’ll be back tomorrow. I need you to think long and hard about this, okay? We’ll find someone. I promise.”
“Fine,” John said, his grey mustache bristling as he pursed his wrinkled lips. “But you need to be a little more selective with who you bring around here. Forever’s a long time to not be alone also.”
Unsure of what else I could say to persuade him, I turned my back to him to give myself a moment to collect my thoughts. When I turned around again, I was surprised to see him still standing in the same spot.
“I understand that you’re in this house,” I said calmly, trying to keep my tone sincere even though I wanted nothing more than to reach out and shake him by the shoulders. “You were born here. You lived here your entire life, and your children’s lives. I get that. But maybe it’s time to think about someone other than yourself. Maybe it’s time to give someone else a chance to make a lifetime of memories within these walls. You’re the one who chose to stay here; this is on you, not on me.”
“Maybe,” he said slowly, not blinking. “Or maybe it’s time for someone else to take on the sale of this house.”
I nodded, my mouth drawn into a thin line.
“I’ll be back in the morning,” I said quietly, turning my back to the door. “We’ll figure it out then.”
There was nothing more I could say to him. How could you argue with a man who had been dead longer than you’d been alive?