“Wait…seriously?” I gasp.
Georgia hands me her phone with a picture on it. It’s in color, so Georgia likely copied it from a website. The politician, Warrick Sanders, looks like he’s around forty-something, and he has the same distant smile most politicians have. He’s waving to a crowd of people who are gathered nearby. At his side is a tall blonde woman with striking green eyes and a pleasant smile on her face as she threads her arm through her husband’s.
It’s been ten years, and she looks older than my memories paint her. But I still recognize my ex-wife.
“Whoa,” I say, sitting back, stunned.
“Hasn’t changed a bit, has she?” Georgia comments, taking her phone back. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s just really fucking surreal, you know?”
“A little,” Georgia agrees. “To think, she lives fairly close, all things considered, and she’s married to a politician… I guess we don’t pay enough attention to the news since we never saw her and her husband doing their campaigns.”
“I’ve got too much on my plate to trawl news sites,” I groan.
“True,” Georgia says. Her eyes flash. “Which reminds me…at some point, we will be talking about this loan you think you’re applying for.”
I look at her, startled. How the hell does she know about that? Then, abruptly, the answer comes to me. I told her myself last night when she came in to find me drinking.
“Right,” I sigh. “Later. I can only handle one thing at a time.”
Georgia’s face softens. “Well, I do want to apologize, before anything else. I heard Lily ask you for that computer…but I didn’t think to ask how you felt about it. I knew you couldn’t afford it and just put the issue aside. Sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” I said instantly, shaking my head. “You don’t have to consider those kinds of things, you know. Just concentrate on your stuff.” I give her a small smile. “Stop trying to take my worries on your shoulders. It isn’t fair for you.”
Georgia looks startled. I vaguely remember saying something similar to her on Saturday night. But, in case I didn’t, I want to say it now. I’m grateful that Georgia is trying to make things easier on me. But I need to be able to handle my own worries. And she needs to stop taking on that burden, otherwise she’ll never be happy.
Georgia opens her mouth to reply. Before she can, however, a knock sounds at my door.
And, instantly, panic explodes. I was doing really well until right at that moment. I glance at the clock and my shoulders tense.
“She’s ten minutes early!” I hiss.
“Okay, breathe, Ethan,” Georgia says. “Do you want me to open the door?”
Yes. I’d also like her to let me curl up in my bedroom while she conducts the meeting with Polly for me. But that can’t happen. I take in two very deep breaths and stand, trying to control the trembling in my hands.
I don’t want to do this.
“No, I need to,” I say.
I lift my chin and walk to the door. It feels oddly far, as though my tiny house suddenly got a lot bigger. I can see a shadow through the frosted windows next to the door, and I draw in another deep, calming breath before pulling the door open.
Then, there she is.
As soon as I open the door, Polly smiles hesitantly at me. The nervous look on her face is nothing like the calm, confident woman I saw on the photo Georgia showed me. The clothes she’s wearing are clean and expensive-looking, as are the diamonds at her throat and on her ears, and she’s fiddling with a shiny purse. But, otherwise, it feels like I’ve gone back in time ten years.
“Hello, Ethan,” she says.
“Polly,” I respond, and I congratulate myself for keeping my voice calm and even, despite feeling anything but. “Come in.”
I step aside and allow her into my house. I see her looking around, as well as the slight curl of her lip that says she finds my home lacking. I stiffen defensively; I do the best that I can. But she says nothing and I lead the way to the kitchen.
When we get there, however, Polly stops short.
“What is she doing here?” Polly demands.
Right, Georgia warned me about this. She said Polly would not like her being here. Georgia looks up from where she’s setting up three mugs.
“Coffee?” She asks pleasantly, but there’s a dangerous glint in her eye.
“Yes, please,” I say.
Polly narrows her eyes.
“I assumed that this was a meeting between you and I, Ethan,” she says.
“It is,” I affirm. “Georgia is here for support.”
“Support?” Polly asks incredulously. It’s almost funny, seeing the way her nostrils flare and a high, red flush appears on her cheeks. This is the way she used to look when she was angry back then, too. “Why the hell do you need support?”