At Kathleen’s breakfast table, Denise sips her Chardonnay and describes her latest unsuccessful job search. Downsized ten months ago, Denise, a crime reporter, despairs of finding another position in journalism. Her newspaper is hemorrhaging money, shedding staff like dead skin cells. She has mined her contacts’ list. Thought that her LinkedIn presence might yield leads, but hasn’t scored an interview, let alone whiffed an offer since her layoff. She’s worked part-time jobs since—freelance writer, Uber driver, Amazon warehouse picker, Starbucks barista, and most recently clerk in women’s apparel at Macy’s during the holiday season. Now the holidays are almost over. Her condo payment is due by the tenth, not to mention her cellphone, cable, and utility bills.

             Kathleen swirls her wine glass and listens without comment. “What’s next?”

            “I have no idea.” Denise appreciates her friend’s sympathetic ear, though she resents Kathleen’s cushy life as a physician’s spouse and mother of one. Especially today. To be sure, her friend’s comfortable circumstances have a big downside, yet her jealousy will not be stanched.

“Maybe,” Kathleen offers, “you could find a spot in TV news.”

Denise chokes on a mouthful of wine. “Kathleen. I’m forty-two—and…” The back of her hand sweeps from head to waist. “…not exactly the TV reporter type.” Barely one hundred pounds at five feet with dark curly hair, she isn’t the tall, willowy, blond type that TV producers favor. Nor would she garner sufficient points on the diversity matrix. “Face it, I’m not TV material.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.”

The more Kathleen tries to salve Denise’s ego, the angrier she gets. “Nah…” She shakes her head. Kathleen’s ignorance of the wider world, the consequence of years as a housewife, is breath-taking. Her friend hasn’t a clue what it’s like to be out of a job, out of unemployment benefits, out of savings, and out of options.

            The backdoor rattles and opens. Smelling of chlorine, Larry, sixteen, sinewy and towheaded like his mother, bursts into the kitchen.

“You’re home early,” Kathleen says. “What’s up?”

“Someone crapped in the pool. Coach Murphy called off practice.”

A brief, but telltale grin crosses Larry’s face. Guilty, Denise thinks. This sort of thing is right up the kid’s alley.

“The dump was humungous.” Larry drops his gym bag. Takes off his knit cap and twirls it on his finger. “Smitty spotted it. We’d just begun our fifty-lap warm-up.”

“How awful.” Kathleen closes her eyes and grimaces.

Larry flings his cap onto the countertop, opens the fridge, and studies the contents. “Whoever it was, the dude did us a big favor. That pool is Artic.”

“Who did do it?” Denise raises her eyebrows and tilts her head in Larry’s direction. “Inquiring minds want to know.”

“No idea,” Larry says, averting his eyes. “Coach was pissed, but no one fessed up.”

Denise doesn’t believe him. She has heard Larry complain about the two-a-day swim team practices held throughout the holiday break. The natatorium and pool are unheated, the air and water freezing. Running the boilers during the three-week vacation, the budget-cutting school board determined, was a waste of money. Larry wants to quit the team, but his father has said no. This stunt has the kid’s MO all over it. In the fall he was suspended for stealing the cafeteria silverware and sending a ransom note to the principal. The note demanded that pizza be reinstated on the menu. One of the assistant principals recognized his handwriting from a forged absence excuse.

“I did call the health department,” Larry says. He slams the fridge door, digs his cell phone from his sweatpants pocket, and holds it up. “Anonymously…to make sure the school has to drain the pool and clean it. Otherwise…”

“Good for you,” Kathleen says.

“Yes,” Denise says, “good thinking.” Now she’s certain Larry is the culprit. Convincing his teammates not to give him up—quite the feat. Larry is clever. Much too clever for his own good.

He makes another pass at the fridge. “Guess there won’t be any more practices this week.”

“So,” Denise says, “how are you and Coach Murphy getting along these days? You know he can’t swim, don’t you? Not one stroke.” Murphy coached the boys and girls swim teams when Kathleen and Denise were in high school. Denise was on the team.

The refrigerator is a snack-less wasteland. Larry shakes his head and turns. “We all know, Denise. Who the fuck cares?”

“Shower,” Kathleen says, “before you take cold.”

With a forearm shiver, he slams the fridge door and picks up his gym bag. “Whatever.”

* * *

Around 7:00 that evening, Arthur arrives home. Kathleen and Denise have moved from the kitchen to the family room. Kathleen hasn’t given a thought to dinner. Time has gotten away from her. Denise is sitting in her customary chair, feet propped up on the coffee table next to an empty wine bottle. Glass in hand, Kathleen guards the couch. Listing slightly and shedding its needles, an abandoned Christmas tree occupies a corner under a skylight.

Arthur pecks Kathleen, nods at Denise, and turns away quickly. Later on, when they’re alone, Kathleen can expect his customary lecture: You’re becoming an alcoholic. Denise is a bad influence. Why do spend so much time with her? Find other friends. Get out of the house. Larry needs your attention. Yada, yada, yada.

“Denise is staying for supper.”

Arthur shrugs off his overcoat and throws it onto the couch beside her. “Do tell. What a surprise.”

“I’ll take some New York strips from the freezer and thaw them in the microwave. Why don’t you start the grill?”

“Kathleen, I did seven surgeries today. I’ve been on my feet for twelve hours. Besides, it’s too cold to grill outdoors.”

“Okay, Arthur. Start the grill,” Kathleen says, “and I’ll cook the steaks.”

“I’ll start it.” Denise disappears through the glass sliders to the patio.

“Is Lawrence home?” Arthur insists on calling their son by his given name. He fantasizes that the boy will become a serious student one day, that Lawrence will follow him into medicine. But Larry shows absolutely no interest. And if Larry watches how hard his father works and wants no part of it, if he aspires to live a more normal, balanced life, that is more than okay by Kathleen.

Arthur perches on the arm of the couch and checks his cell.

Blowing on her hands, Denise returns. “Grill’s heating up. I’ll put on the steaks in a few minutes.”

Kathleen rises. “I’ll throw a salad together.”

“Larry came home from swimming practice way early,” Denise says. “Seems someone had a bowel movement in the pool. No one knows who did it. Kinda funny, though. Have to hand it to the kid who thought that one up.”

Arthur looks up and sets his phone on the coffee table. “Are you accusing Lawrence?”

“Nooo,” Denise says. “Of course not. He’d never do such a thing.”

“Lawrence has his issues, but—”

“Absolutely,” Denise says.

“When I insisted that he go out for swimming, he pushed back. But now he likes it.”

“Loves it.”

“All boys crave structure.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Denise says.

Kathleen slows to watch this Tom and Jerry cartoon—Denise the voracious cat, Arthur the crafty mouse. Or vice versa. Any moment the tables may turn. Arthur hates when Denise challenges him, especially when the subject is Larry. On this point Kathleen concurs. What does Denise know about children? Easy to be a critic when you’ve never been a parent.

Kathleen continues on into the kitchen. She strains to listen to their conversation, but silence settles in. Thank goodness. In the crisper she finds a green pepper, radishes, greens, and carrots. She finishes the salad, then yells at Denise to put on the steaks.

Kathleen returns to the living room. Arthur looks up from his phone. “Did you press Lawrence to reveal the culprit? He must know.” His voice is matter of fact, his expression neutral. Dealing with patients and staff, he’s perfected the demeanor of the imperturbable professor. Only Larry trips his wire and sends him into a rage. Kathleen wishes Arthur cared enough to yell at her once in a while. Their fights feature subtle digs, double meanings, long silences, and sarcasm. Especially sarcasm.

“Claims he has no idea who did it,” Kathleen says.

“Okay, then.”

“Okay, what?”

“I’ll have a chat with him.”

Arthur climbs the stairs. Larry is in for a thorough cross-examination. Unlike Kathleen, her husband won’t accept Larry’s denials. He’ll ask the follow-ups that Kathleen didn’t. Questions she didn’t ask because, in her heart, she knows Larry is the culprit. This nonsense is his specialty. But Kathleen is happy to leave the dirty work to her husband. Happy that Larry will put the negative hash mark in his father’s column instead of hers. And the marks are adding up.

* * *

The following Tuesday, the second day of school after the holidays, Mr. Hodges, the high school principal, phones: “Rumors that Larry was responsible for the pool incident spread throughout the high school. Under pressure from Coach Murphy, several of Larry’s teammates have turned state’s evidence. Coach Murphy wants me to expel Larry.”

“I don’t appreciate Coach Murphy’s attitude,” Kathleen huffs.

“Never mind Coach Murphy,” the principal says. “This is about Larry and what he did. Before I hold an expulsion hearing, I need to discuss the situation with you and your husband. Removal from school is exactly what Larry wants—to cement his already considerable reputation among our student body as a prankster and nonconformist. Perhaps he intends to embarrass you as well.”

“We’ll come,” Kathleen says, “but when we asked Larry about the incident, he denied being involved. Told us separately that he didn’t do it.”

“Larry and the truth are often strangers.”

“Our son is a liar? We’ve fallen down on the job?”

“Not at all,” Hodges says. “No need to be defensive. How we got here isn’t as important as next steps.”

“Perhaps.”

 “Regardless, I’d rather not fulfill Larry’s wishes. Let’s explore alternatives before I call Larry in. Say 2:30 tomorrow afternoon in my office.”

Kathleen phones Arthur. “Can’t go,” he says. I have a full schedule of surgeries.” Kathleen begs him to clear his calendar for the meeting, but he tells her he can’t let his patients down. “Besides, this is your fault, Kathleen, and your problem to solve. You’re at home with him. Instilling proper values in Lawrence is your responsibility. And you’ve failed miserably.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“He spends hours alone in his room on his laptop. Do you even bother to check on him? No, you do not. Do you make sure he does his homework? No, you do not. Teenaged boys need constant supervision. You’re too busy hanging out with your friend. It’s no wonder he gets into trouble.”

Arthur’s condemnation is chilling. He hangs up before Kathleen can find the words to respond, before she can remind him that he, too, was unable to get the truth from Larry. Afterward, she thinks of plenty she could’ve and should’ve said—about the jointresponsibility of parenting, about how Larry needs love as much or more than he needs discipline, about how he acts out to get his father’s attention.

As she struggles to hold back tears, Kathleen tells Denise about Arthur’s scolding. “He has left me to face this alone. I’m not sure I can.”

“I’ll go to the meeting with you,” Denise offers. “I’m worried about Larry too.”

       * * *                                                 

The dreariness of the January afternoon matches Kathleen’s mood. She has attended many conferences with Larry’s teachers and principals, but she’s never been able to take these meetings in stride. Each is a fresh humiliation, a reaffirmation of her deficiencies.

She is running late. There’s barely enough time to swing by Denise’s condo to pick her up. Patches of lingering ice and snow dot their street. Trees are barren, the sky solid slate. Street salt has turned her beloved navy Volvo white. She is thankful for the heated seats and the all-wheel drive. The Swedes know a thing or two about how to get through a tough winter.

As Kathleen pulls up to the condo, Denise bursts out of her front door. She’s barely seated herself, straightening her coat beneath her and fastening the seat belt, when she says: “I’m concerned, Kathleen. I see how Arthur treats you. How long can you take it?”

Where did this come from? “Hello to you, too…Look, I’m not in the mood—”

“For?”

Kathleen pulls up to the Stop sign at the end of the street. “I’m concentrating on Larry. Thinking about the conference.”

“It’s one ball of string, isn’t it?”

“No. When I need help,” Kathleen says, “I’ll go to a marriage counselor.”

“But that’s the problem. You’ll go but Arthur won’t.”

“My marriage, my problem, Denise.”

Kathleen wonders if her friend is being honest about wanting to help. She suspects that, subconsciously at least, Denise desires the opposite, to hasten the failure of their marriage. She guesses that Denise, whether she realizes it or not, yearns for a friendship with Kathleen unfettered by Arthur’s presence and disapproval.

Kathleen and Denise arrive at the high school five minutes late and sit shoulder to shoulder on a bench outside the principal’s office. Students come and go. The secretary performs her role as traffic cop, directing this one to a counselor’s office, that one to an assistant principal, still another to the school nurse. Kathleen’s hands shake. She feels light-headed. Whatever might be decided this afternoon, Arthur won’t approve. Her husband is a master of the second guess.

“What’s wrong?” Whispering, Denise shields her mouth with a hand.

Kathleen waits for two students to leave, for the secretary to return to her desk. “If Hodges throws the book at Larry, Arthur will say he’s unfair. If he’s lenient, Arthur will say Larry beat the system…again. I don’t know if I should plead for mercy or tell Hodges to do whatever he thinks is right.”

“Arthur could’ve been here.”

“Obviously.”

“Isn’t it time to stand up for yourself?” Denise puts her hand on Kathleen’s and leans against her. “I mean really stand up for yourself?”

“But I do.” Denise is wrong. Kathleen isn’t bashful. She complains about Arthur’s long days and nights at work and his emotional absence. Even about their pitiful social lives. In private Kathleen has backbone aplenty.

Denise shakes her head. “But nothing gets resolved, am I right?”

“I suppose.”

“How long can this go on?”

“I don’t know, Denise.” Her friend’s meddling is unwelcome, especially here and in this moment. “Who made you such an expert?”

“Have you ever thought of making other arrangements? Or threatening to?”

“Other arrangements?”

“Seems to me that Arthur is about finished with your relationship. Or will be soon. I know the signs. Perhaps you should leave on your terms, before he makes his move. Maybe you should issue an ultimatum. Things must change. Or else.”

“Ladies.” Youthful and energetic, with a guileless face that has not yet succumbed to the ravages of cynicism, Principal Hodges introduces himself and extends his hand. Kathleen explains that her husband is unable to attend because he has surgeries to perform. Her friend Denise has come instead for moral support.

“Your husband’s absence is most unfortunate,” Hodges says. “Because of student privacy regulations, your friend will have to remain here. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, okay,” With a curt wave, Denise signals her acquiescence. “I get it.”

Hodges follows Kathleen into his office and closes the door. He takes his time settling in behind a metal desk covered with manilla folders, magazines, computer printouts, dog-eared legal tablets, a beer stein full of pens and pencils, and books laced with sticky notes. A sign on his desk reads “Best Dad Ever.”

“I talked with Larry last night. My son will apologize to Coach Murphy and the team. He’ll serve however many detentions you deem appropriate.”

Hodges shakes his head. “Of course he must apologize, but an apology and detentions are insufficient. Larry is at a crossroads. We have to work together to get him back on the straight and narrow. I’m sorry, but given Larry’s history, his prior suspension for the silverware incident, multiple detentions for disrupting his classes, expulsion is a forgone conclusion. So, we have to talk about options.”

“Options? He’s in school or he’s not.”

“Larry can continue his studies in our online digital academy while he’s serving out the semester’s expulsion. Or perhaps you might want to transfer him to the Christian high school, where he could make a fresh start.”

“We’re not churchgoers. I don’t think…”

“Also, Larry needs counseling, and perhaps a behavior coach as well. I have a list of qualified psychologists and social workers. He’s not a bad kid, not really. Working together we can help him.”

There you go. The words Kathleen has heard before. The idea that, working together, they can remake Larry, mold him into a solid citizen. The idea that never works out. She thanks the principal for his concern. “We’ll give your suggestions serious thought. You’re certain there’s no way around an expulsion?”

“No. I’m sorry. We have rules and procedures.”

“I understand.”

“Let me know what you decide.”

“I’ll talk with my husband.” In a way Arthur’s absence is a blessing. Counseling? A behavior coach? Computerized learning instead of regular classes? Transferring Larry to a new school? She can well imagine his reaction.

That evening Arthur says he’ll hire a lawyer to contest the expulsion. What Lawrence did was wrong, but it was, after all, merely an unfortunate stunt, misconduct that doesn’t justify his removal from school. Arthur will reimburse the district for the cost of cleaning the pool, but Lawrence will remain in class where he belongs. If Hodges wants a battle, Arthur will give him one.

* * *

Two weeks later, Denise decides that it’s time to have a serious conversation with Arthur. She’s been investigating him. He won’t meet her alone, so she invites him with Kathleen to dinner at her apartment. He tries to duck the invitation, but Denise will have none of his dissembling. She calls his cell and leaves a voicemail: “I know some stuff about you, Arthur. I haven’t shared what I’ve discovered with Kathleen. But I will if you don’t show up. Like I used to say when I was a reporter—you’ll have a chance to tell your side of the story.”

Arthur surprises her with a phone call. He goes on and on about how Denise has been a horrible influence on his wife. Because of Denise, she drinks too much and neglects her household duties. Because of Denise, Kathleen pays Lawrence scant attention. “Lawrence is none of your business and my relationship with Kathleen is none of your business. Piss off and leave us alone.”

Denise lets Arthur unwind. “So? Are you coming to dinner or not?”

“Tell me what you think you’ve found out about me.”

“No.”

“I guess I’ll be there, but only if you tell me now what it is you’re going to say.”

“No sale, Arthur. No preconditions. Show up or not. It’s up to you.”

* * *

Kathleen is in Denise’s kitchen. She’s helping her friend fix a vegetarian meal—spaghetti squash with mushroom marinara sauce, cooked spinach with shallots, and a quinoa salad. As usual, Arthur is late. Kathleen had to drive herself. She is curious. She’s been to Denise’s apartment plenty of times, but never with Arthur. This dinner is a first and she knows Denise. Her friend has an agenda. The evening is no mere social occasion, though Denise insists otherwise.  

As if to underscore the inconvenience, Arthur arrives in his blue hospital scrubs. His head swivels as he does a visual of Denise’s small condo. “Can we eat soon? I’ve had a tough day.”

A vase with sun flowers sits on the linen tablecloth. A plain manila envelope hangs over the table’s edge.

They sit down to dinner. Arthur picks up the envelope and begins to open it. “Assume this is why I’m here.”

Denise snatches it from him. “Not yet.”

Kathleen, too, wonders about the envelope. Denise hasn’t clued her in. Photos of Arthur and some woman is an obvious scenario. The clichéd physician/nurse affair perhaps. She can almost picture Denise hiding in shrubbery to photograph Arthur’s infidelity. Her crime reporter friend would relish the opportunity.

“How’s Larry dealing with the expulsion?” Denise says.

“Our attorney,” Arthur replies, “is appealing it to the school board. From the board to court, if necessary.”

Your attorney, Kathleen thinks.

“Remember the time we got in trouble for crashing the junior prom?” Denise says. “Freshman weren’t allowed, but we went anyway. In borrowed dresses with corsages fashioned from flowers we bought at the grocery store. We danced together until one of the parent chaperones ushered us out of the gymnasium. We were rebels like Larry.”

“Nonsense.” Arthur shoves his plate toward the center of the table. “There’s no equivalency.

Appealing to his better nature, Kathleen gives her husband a cautious smile. Asks him without asking him not to ruin the evening.

“You got off with a warning. I’ve paid the school district thousands in restitution, not to mention the legal fees.”

“Is the lawyer what Larry wants or what you want?” Denise asks.

“He’s not grown-up enough to know what he wants—” Arthur’s fingers thrum the table. “—obviously.”

Denise sets down her fork. “It isn’t obvious to me.”

“Enough about Larry for tonight,” Kathleen says.

Kathleen and Denise resume eating. An uneasy silence prevails. Staring at the envelope, Arthur folds his arms. “Stop your little drama, Denise.”

Kathleen agrees. Denise’s act is wearing on her.

“Not eating?” Denise wipes her mouth and takes a sip of wine. “How do you have the energy and concentration for your twelve- to fourteen-hour days in the operating room? On your feet most of that time. I can’t imagine. I worked at Macy’s during the Christmas rush. By the end of the shift, my dogs were barking like angry Pekingese. And I couldn’t stuff my face fast enough when I got home.”

Arthur balls his napkin and tosses it at his plate. “I’m not up for this. Whatever it is you want to tell me, say it.”

“Please,” Kathleen says.

“Very well then.” Denise picks up the envelope and fingers the clasp. “I’ve been following you and doing some research. I just couldn’t imagine a husband neglecting his wife like you do and not having a mistress. A big-time surgeon with a big-time reputation and an ego to match—it’s only natural. Only a matter of time till you got involved with one of the hospital staff who worship you. Or a grateful patient.”

Arthur points a finger at Denise. “But I haven’t been—”

“—I’m aware.”

“My marriage is sacred.”

Denise snorts. “That’s rare, Arthur. No affair, but no job either. You’ve been unemployed for months. All this time you could have been home with Kathleen and Larry, could have attended the meeting at the principal’s office, you’ve been pretending you had to work late at the hospital. You’ve been deceiving them.”

Denise opens the envelope and hands a paper to Kathleen. She scans the document. The state medical board has suspended Arthur’s license to practice for one-hundred-eighty days on the grounds of negligence. He mistook a woman’s inflamed fallopian tube for her appendix and removed it. Three days later the patient died from septicemia.

Denise crosses her arms. “When I discovered you were spending your mornings at Starbucks, your afternoons at the library, the gym, or at the community college taking a ceramics class, I got curious. Made a few phone calls to some old friends at the state licensing board. I’m not sure how you kept this out of the press, but I guess it’s pretty much like keeping an affair under wraps. It helped that Kathleen isn’t a suspicious person.”

Kathleen has never been a jealous person. All that gets you is the heartburn of negativity. Maybe she is too trusting. Better too trusting than the opposite.

“You had no right…”

“True enough, Arthur. I’ve exposed your little secret and you’re unhappy. You intended to ride out the suspension, hoping that Kathleen wouldn’t find out. You were ashamed, too embarrassed to tell Larry or Kathleen. The great surgeon with the big reputation screwed up.”

“I was very tired that day. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Sure,” Denise says. “But that’s not what matters.”

Kathleen is angry, but not at Arthur. Her friend has gone too far. “How dare you meddle in our lives?”

“How could I not? You’re my best friend. Your marriage is in trouble. You aren’t doing anything about it, so I had to find out why Arthur was behaving like such a dick. To help if I could. I thought he had a girlfriend.”

“You’ve crossed the line, Denise.” Yet, Kathleen is secretly relieved at the news, even slightly excited by it. Arthur isn’t perfect after all. Perhaps now he’ll have some empathy for her and for Larry. At the very least she’ll have leverage. For that she can thank Denise, though she’s in no mood to condone her friend’s snooping.

That night, Kathleen and Arthur are sitting up in bed. She vows not to break the quiet, to let him squirm until he feels what she’s felt all the times he’s taken her to task and then lapsed into icy muteness.

“I’m sorry,” he says finally. “What I did was wrong.” He looks at her expectantly—perhaps hoping that she’ll accept his terse apology and they’ll move on. But she isn’t having it, not this time.

She pauses, looks up at the ceiling, then back at him. “And what?”

“I’ll change.” He fumbles the words. “Try to.”

“And?”

“Isn’t that enough?”

“No.”

He reaches for her hand, but she pulls it away. Her gesture seems to surprise him. “I don’t…want to lose you.”

“Really?” He is telling her what he thinks she wants to hear. He speaks as though reading the words for the first time from a script. Needing a moment, she rearranges the bedcovers. “Then tell me what you’re prepared to do?”

He takes a deep breath, holds it for several seconds, and lets it out with a hiss. “Meaning what?”

“Not to lose me…how will you go about it?”

“How?”

“Yes, Arthur.”

‘Prove myself? Is that what you mean? Really, Kathleen? Has it come to that after all these years?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. I won’t deceive you again.”

“Good start. And?”

“I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

“I suppose you will.” She moves to the edge of the bed, as far from him as she can without falling onto the floor. “Don’t wait too long…to get back to me.”

“Sounds like a threat.”

“Take it however you’d like.”

He pulls his hands from beneath his head and rolls onto his side to face her. “But what Denise did…”

She turns her back to him. “I don’t want to discuss what Denise did. Not now. Not ever.”

In the morning Kathleen calls Denise. “Last night’s ambush stinks, Denise. Playing junior detective. Coming between Arthur and me. I intend to forgive him. Eventually. If he agrees to work on our marriage and does so. Words aren’t enough. Not this time.”

“But you, Denise” Kathleen says, “committed the bigger crime.”

“I’m sorry you feel this way.”

Kathleen doubts that Denise’s remorse is sincere. To be sure, her actions don’t excuse what Arthur did. But…“You’re a big problem in our marriage. I’ve known it for a while now. When I look at our friendship through Arthur’s eyes, I understand his point of view.”

“What is it you’re telling me, Kathleen?”

 “I need to take a break from you. If Arthur and I can repair our marriage, maybe one day you and I can be friends again.”

Abruptly, Kathleen says goodbye.  

* * *

Denise feels like Saint Joan, who, having saved the French people in battle, was burned at the stake as a heretic. No good deed goes unpunished and all that.

Denise doubts the possibility Kathleen held out for an eventual reunion, but she clings to it nonetheless. And now that Arthur and Kathleen are attempting to patch things up, what, she wonders, will happen to Larry? The boy is on the cusp. He needs a father, not a lawyer. Perhaps Arthur will become a proper parent after all. She’s heard, contrary to her own experience, that people do change—even men like Arthur.

In the palm of her hand, Denise’s cell phone is still warm. As if to hear Kathleen’s voice one last time, she holds it to her ear. The phone grows cold. She double-checks the screen. Kathleen’s image stares back at her. Should she remove the photo? Admit what she knows to be true? She studies the glass for a moment, sighs, then tucks the cell phone away in her jeans pocket. Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that she’ll delete Kathleen, wipe her away likeness with the stroke of a fingertip. No need to hurry, though. Memories fade. Wounds heal. All in good time.

In the palm of her hand, Denise’s cell phone is still warm. As if to hear Kathleen’s voice one last time, she holds it to her ear. The phone grows cold. She double-checks the screen. Kathleen’s image stares back at her. Should she remove the photo? Admit what she knows to be true? She studies the glass for a moment, sighs, then tucks the cell phone away in her jeans pocket. Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that she’ll delete Kathleen, wipe her away likeness with the stroke of a fingertip. No need to hurry, though. Memories fade. Wounds heal. All in good time.

In the palm of her hand, Denise’s cell phone is still warm. As if to hear Kathleen’s voice one last time, she holds it to her ear. The phone grows cold. She double-checks the screen. Kathleen’s image stares back at her. Should she remove the photo? Admit what she knows to be true? She studies the glass for a moment, sighs, then tucks the cell phone away in her jeans pocket. Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that she’ll delete Kathleen, wipe her away likeness with the stroke of a fingertip. No need to hurry, though. Memories fade. Wounds heal. All in good time.

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