four . . .

Five . . .

My period was due five days ago.

Oh.

My.

God.

Chapter 5

Denial is a skill I mastered at a young age.

Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Suck it up.

Choke it down.

I didn’t cry the night my father died.

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Not when Sherriff Mitchell came to our door to take us to the hospital, or when the doctor told us they’d lost him. I didn’t shed a tear during the wake—or at the funeral.

Thank you for your condolences.

Yes, I’ll be strong for my mother.

You’re so kind.

Eight days after he was laid in the ground, my mother was working in the diner downstairs. I was in our kitchen, trying to open a jar of pickles.

I walked into my parents’ bedroom and called my Dad for help. And that’s when it hit me—staring at their empty room. he wasn’t there. he’d never be there again. I collapsed on the floor and sobbed like a baby.

Over a jar of pickles.

It’s that same skill set that gets me through the rest of the night at the Evans’. I smile. I chat. I hug Mackenzie good-bye. Drew and I go home and make love.

And I don’t tell him.

You don’t yell fire in a movie theater unless you’re sure there’re flames.

have you ever seen Gone with the Wind? Scarlett O’hara is my idol.

“I can’t think about this now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

So that’s my plan. At least for the moment.

Tomorrow comes quickly.

And apparently God has a sick sense of humor. Because everywhere I turn, I’m surrounded by pregnancy.

Take a look: The dog walker passing me on the sidewalk, the police woman directing traffic, the man on the cover of People magazine at the newsstand, the fellow executive in the cramped elevator who looks like she’s smuggling a contraband medicine ball under her blouse.

I cover my mouth and keep my distance, like a tourist trying to avoid the swine flu.

Eventually, I make it to my office. I sit at my desk and open my trusty daily planner.

Yes, I still use a paper-based calendar. Drew bought me a Blackberry for Christmas, but it’s still in the box. I don’t trust any device capable of banishing my work to the unknown abyss with the touch of a button I like paper. It’s solid—real. To destroy it, you have to burn it.

Usually I’m pretty anal retentive. I write everything down. I’m a banker—we live and die by the schedule. But lately I’ve been distracted; preoccupied by exhaustion and the overall feeling of crappiness. So I missed the fact that I’d started a new pack of birth control pills, but never got a period for the last one.

And speaking of birth control pills—what’s up with that?

Ninety-nine-point-nine percent effective, my ass.

It’s the same statistical accuracy of those pee-on-a-stick pregnancy tests—so I’m not going near one of those. Instead, I pick up the phone and call the office of Dr. Roberta Chang.

Remember those four other students who Delores, Billy, and I lived with off campus in Pennsylvania? Bobbie was one of them.

her husband, Daniel, was another.

Bobbie’s an amazing person. her parents emigrated from Korea when she was just a baby. She’s petite—tiny enough to shop at GAP Kids—but she’s got the personality of an Amazon.

She’s also a brilliant ob/gyn. That would be a baby doctor for you guys out there.

Bob and her husband moved to New York just a few months ago. I haven’t seen her in years, but ours is one of those friendships that can go a decade without contact; then when we finally do get together, it’s like we haven’t missed a day.

I make an appointment and automatically mark it in my planner.

Bob—7:00.

I close the book and place it next to the phone on my desk.

Then I glance at the clock and realize I’m late for a meeting.

Shit.

I grab a folder and head out the door.

Still not thinking about it . . . in case you were wondering.

When I get back two hours later, Drew is sitting at my desk, tapping a pen impatiently against the dark wood. We usually eat lunch together—order in—and share it in one of our offices.

“hey.”

he glances up. “hi.”

“Did you already order, or were you waiting for me?”

he looks confused. “huh?”

I perch myself on the edge of the desk. “Lunch, Drew. That’s why you’re here, right?”

he shakes his head. “Actually, I wanted to check in with you about dinner. A new place opened in Little Italy, and I could really go for some pasta. I was going to make reservations for us tonight. At seven.”

I freeze.

I don’t have a lot of practice with lying. Not since high school, anyway. Even then, there weren’t a lot of outright lies. More . . .

omissions of activities my mother would have blown a gasket over.

When it was necessary to lie, Delores was my go-to girl, my alibi.

That hasn’t changed.

“I can’t tonight. Delores wants to have a girl’s night. We haven’t had one of those in awhile.”

Let’s pause for a moment. This is important.

Can you see his face? Look closely or you’ll miss it.

For just a second, there’s a flash of surprise. A touch of anger . . . maybe hurt. But then he catches himself, and his expression smooths back out to neutral. I missed that look the first time around. You should remember it. It’ll make a lot more sense in about ten hours.

Drew’s voice is flat. Like a detective trying to trip up a perpetrator. “You just saw Delores last night.”

My stomach gurgles like Pop Rocks in soda. “That was different—everyone was there. Tonight it’ll just be the two of us. We’ll grab a few drinks, eat some fattening appetizers, and then I’ll come home.”

Drew stands, his movements hurried, tense. “Fine, Kate. Do whatever the f**k you want.”

he tries to walk past me, but I grab onto his belt. “hey. Don’t be like that. We can go out to dinner tomorrow night. Don’t be mad.”

he lets me pull him closer, but he doesn’t say anything. I give him a flirty smile. “Come on, Drew. Let’s do lunch. And then afterward, you can do me.”

I rub my hand up his chest, trying to soften him up.

But he doesn’t give. “I can’t. I have some work to finish. I’ll talk to you later. ”

he kisses my forehead, and his lips seem to linger a moment longer than normal. Then he pulls back and walks away.