She was gone. He pauses before putting the key in the lock, and I watch him standing there, staring at the door. He doesn't know what to do anymore than I do. I feel the breeze against my bare legs. She was gone. The funeral made it real. They kept saying her name. We haven't said her name since it happened. She was gone. We really put all our eggs in one basket with this one he used to joke to his friends, more prolific friends, friends with broods of loud children.
Only child they called her. She was gone. He opens the door, take three steps inside and stops, slumped. He takes his phone out of his pocket, glances at it and puts it on the counter. I follow him inside, close the door and put my arms around him from behind, like I used to. He pulls away, like he does now, only I thought today might be different.
“I need to go to the bathroom” he says, and walks out of the room.
Gone. Beverly. The name stings in my eyes. Beverly, with your father's eyes, so piercing. You didn't get my beady eyes, forever behind glasses or covered with makeup. Beverly, with my frizzy ringlets, so much prettier on you, a curly frame for those eyes. Gone. I wasn't supposed to outlive you. What a godawful deal for you, Beverly, six measly trips around the sun on this stupid rock. I don't want to be here anymore.
Beverly, my middle name. I was shy of my middle name, swearing close friends to secrecy, the only people with whom I shared it. It's a pretty name, they would say, why do you hate it? I hear muffled sobs from the bathroom. He never cries in front of me, only I thought today might be different.
She was gone. I feel my body shake, it wants to cry, but there's nothing left. I told him my middle name on our first date. He asked and I told him without a thought. When he looked at me with those eyes, I couldn't lie. That never changed. But he doesn't look at me as much anymore. God, what is wrong with me? Where are these thoughts coming from? Why am I worrying about this today? She was gone. Couples grow apart. It's time to face facts. She was gone. My body shakes again, still nothing.
A buzz from the counter interrupts my thoughts, his phone, never away from his side on any other day. I look at it without thinking and see a message from a nameless number.
<Darling, I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how awful this must be for you. I want to make you feel better. I want touch you and hold you in my arms and console you. Text me when you can get away.>
Wrong number. It has to be a wrong number. I glance toward the hall. I never look at his phone. I never wanted to be a jailer. You have to trust people. It's a wrong number. It has to be. He always says there's only me. You have to trust people...don't you? Before I know it I've unlocked the phone and there they are, messages, so many messages, back and forth, words, intimate words, to someone else... my darling... I need you right... when can you... she doesn't understand... I'm waiting in my bed, my body is...
Gone. This conversation is real. It is right here in front of my eyes. It is real. I can't see around it.
He has turned on the fan in the bathroom. Either he really had to go, or he's just buying more time. Time to cry alone. He won't cry with me. He's waiting for someone else. This isn't real. Couples drift apart. That's what everyone says.
But this isn't drifting. This is just apart. And it's not as if things have been all bad. I thought we were just in a lull. We were always so busy. But these words he says to another. These words he used to say to me. How can he talk to someone else this way? This isn't just sex. This is a whole relationship. I feel sick, light-headed. Everything is wrong. I close his phone and put it exactly where it was. It didn't happen. I just imagined it.
Beverly, I'm glad you're dead so you'll never know your father's a cheater.
I thought there was nothing left, but the tears take hold of me again and I sink to the floor. I feel my skirt tear as I collapse, we never dress up anymore, what a reason to finally do it. I can't believe those words that went through my head. Oh Beverly, I didn't mean it! Beverly, you can't be gone. I hate him so much. How could he look at me and say those words to someone else? How could he sleep next to me and say those words to someone else? I loved him. I loved his eyes, Beverly's eyes.
I can't stop crying. My body hurts and I feel like I could vomit, and I can't stop crying. Beverly you can't be gone. I hate him.
I hear the toilet flush, then the water running. He is so fussy about washing his hands, he has beautiful hands, hands that knew every bit of my body, hands that touch someone else now. Gone.
I don't move. My eyes are blurry. I can't look at him, at those eyes, Beverly's eyes. You can't be gone. Only child, my beautiful daughter. I hear his footsteps and feel his hands on me, his gentle hands, helping me stand. He puts his arms around me. Holds me like he used to, one hand around my waist, the other stroking my hair.
He breaks the desperate silence finally, whispering in my ear, “at least we still have each other.”