My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Page 43)

While he’s here, everyone assumes he’ll cook—because Chris is a better cook than all of us combined. Each night I come home to find that he’s saved me a plate, knowing that I’m never hungry when my dad eats at four thirty. I might have to reward him with a rooster-themed golf club set at the end of this trip. “You. Are. Awesome.”

He tilts his chin to me in acknowledgment. “I know.”

“I thought it smelled like farts when I walked in.” I poke at a brussels sprout. “I assumed it was Ed.”

Ed starts to argue with this, but seems to decide it isn’t worth it.

I recognize the warmth spreading in my chest, and am not such an emotional idiot that I don’t know it’s gratitude, but I’m also working on being more vocal about these things. Expectant silence spreads through the room.

“Thanks for dinner,” I tell Chris. “As usual, it’s super yummy.”

He nods in acknowledgment, but the silence remains. We all know the quiet wasn’t about my dinner gratitude, anyway.

“So, I brought it up with Dad today,” I begin, “about feeling like I wanted to be closer to him.”

“And?” Reid asks. He knows how nervous I’ve been about broaching these heavier conversations with my dad.

“He knew what I was going to say, immediately.” I lean back into Reid, taking comfort in the broad weight of him behind me, the way his arms are banded firmly around my middle. “He talked—super openly—about what it was like for him when Mom died. It was hard, sort of, because I realized what a burden we were? Not that he ever said that. But, I mean, he was just broken, and on top of that, he knew he was failing us.” I press my hand to my cheek. “I don’t think I ever really thought about it like that before. But I told him, ‘Look at Elly. Look at me. We are fine. We’re successful, and happy, and not murderers.’ ”

“See?” Ed interjects. “Murder kink.”

“Anyway, he seemed to get it,” I say. “I think he is relieved to see that I really am okay, and not a nutcase.”

Alex clears his throat.

“Okay, not a complete nutcase.”

Reid speaks quietly against the side of my head. “The craziest thing about parenting must be that it’s this huge experiment and you have no idea whether it’s successful until, like, decades later.”

I turn around and kiss him. “You are so sublimely dorky.”

After this, everyone is quiet for a few seconds. I realize how weird it must be for them to see me going through this, and I think I should probably say something about how much I love that they’re here or what it means to have a family like this for the first time in my life. But then Alex rips an enormous, stinky burp, and Chris groans and stands up to open a window, and Ed starts pretending to beat Alex with the tiny lead pipe, and I think, These idiots.

Reid spreads his hands across my rib cage, with a quiet meaning. I love when he does that, when he spreads his hands wide like he wants to cover as much of me as he can. Heat pools low in my belly even though the rest of the room seems to be breaking into twelve-year-old-boy chaos of belching full sentences and jokes about lead pipes.

“I’m proud of you,” he says quietly.

“I’m proud of me, too,” I say. “And I really like that you’re here.”

“Do you think we can sneak out of here unnoticed?” he asks, lips pressed gently to my ear. “I’d like to go have sex now.”

I nod. “On the count of three.”

“One,” he says.

“Two,” I say.

“Three.”

We stand, slowly backing away from the table. Alex has Ed in a headlock. Chris is leaning out the window, trying to reach the shoe that Alex just launched outside.

Reid and I manage to tiptoe all the way down the hall to the master bedroom before our absence is noticed.

“Don’t think we didn’t see that!” Alex yells.

“We’re turning the music up tonight!” Ed says. “Don’t be weird!”

“We’ll do our best!” I call back.

Last night, I barked like a dog just to freak them out.

Tonight, we might make a lot of fake spanking noises.

But then we’ll climb between the covers, pull them over our heads, turn on a flashlight, and make each other laugh with stupid stories that we never seem to run out of. I’ll tell him I love him too many times, and he’ll kiss me to shut me up. And from there, it will all go quiet, and sweeter than I could have ever imagined.

We’ll get an entire night—every night, for the rest of our lives if we want it—and for those perfect eight hours, we can forget there’s anyone else in the house, the city, the world.

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