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The Guy in the Window
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I was in the middle of my divorce when Adam messaged me. I believe his exact words were, “Hi. I think you’re my dad’s brother. Would you like to get to know me?”
My brother and I had never been close, so I’d only met his adopted son a few times when he was very young. Instinct told me to ignore the message, and I did. For a few days. It took an exhausting fight with my soon-to-be ex-wife and half a bottle of whiskey for me to change my mind.
Adam first became “sort of my nephew.” Next, he became the guy who helped me find an apartment in the building next to his. He was a sweet, cheerful young man doing his best to raise his four-year-old daughter, which led to him becoming the guy who wanted to help me patch up my relationship with my own daughter.
Then one night as I got ready for bed, I looked across the alleyway to the next building, where I saw him getting ready for bed too.
I couldn’t look away to save my life.
It was the night he also became the guy in the window.
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“Everett!” Melinda yelled from downstairs. “Do you want that hideous green vase in the dining room? I think it was a wedding present from your grandmother.”
I blew out a breath and scrubbed my hands over my face.
Number one reason people got divorced: marriage.
Marriage was also the reason I’d have more silver in my hair than brown soon.
“Throw it out!” I called back, resuming my efforts in my study. I had hundreds of blueprints Melinda couldn’t wait to get out of her sight.
“I’ll sell it,” I heard her mutter.
Sure, she could sell it.
Once upon a time, she’d gushed over the presents my family had given us at our wedding. But over the course of our twenty-five-year-long marriage, the gifts must’ve lost their shine. Now everything was hideous, awful, ugly, and atrocious.
I was fairly certain she’d looked up the last word in a dictionary.
That’s the bitterness talking again.
I cringed and slumped down in the chair behind my desk, and I dropped my face into my hands. How had we ended up here? Perhaps the fire had died out, but people our age didn’t get divorced for that. They suffered in silence and at least had someone to come home to at the end of the day. They gathered for holidays and put on smiles for their children. What was so wrong with that? It was easy. It was comfortable.
Don’t marry a redhead, a friend once warned me.
I was paying for it now, with this iniquitous affair of divorce and dividing a life into two, in which, oddly enough, I was constantly the villain.
Deciding to check the listings for apartments and condos again, I powered up my computer and logged in. It’d only been a week since Melinda told me she was “done,” but a week was long enough. I had to get out of here soon.
“Everett!” Melinda hollered. “The Xbox—”
“You don’t touch that,” I snapped. It was the one thing I had left that I could share with Grace. When she came home for holidays, she’d teach me some new game, and everything was great for a few hours. My heart hurt just thinking about it.
“Jeesh, you need to relax,” Melinda replied.
I rubbed at my chest in an attempt to ease the pressure and glanced at the picture of Grace and me on my desk. It wasn’t my favorite photo. Taken by Melinda at Grace’s high school graduation. My girl had been over the moon. She’d graduated with straight A’s and was on her way to the West Coast, so far away from Chicago, which explained why my smile in the picture was a bit more subdued.
Where was my favorite picture?
Grace had insisted I put this one on my desk this summer when she’d been home.
I opened my drawers one by one and finally found what I was looking for.
I sighed and leaned back in my seat, and I brushed the pad of my thumb over her hair. She was only seven in this photo. A perfect blend of Melinda and me. Grace’s hair wasn’t red, but it wasn’t brown either. Dark copper, to go with the blue eyes she’d inherited from me. And the cutest nose that looked less like a button now and more like the slightly pointy nose Melinda had.
Grace pulled it off better, in my…well, I wasn’t sure if my opinion was fueled by bitterness or honesty, to be frank. Perhaps a combination of both. Grace didn’t stick her nose in the air in the haughty way Melinda did.
Goddamn, how I missed my daughter’s smiles. When she was little and I was her world, those freckles and that dimpled grin owned me.
My computer dinged with an alert, and I moved the cursor to open Facebook. The only reason I had an account was because Grace sent messages through there. Unfortunately, my two friends from high school also enjoyed tagging me in bullshit, which happened way more often than I received messages from Grace. But since she’d learned about her mother’s and my divorce, she’d texted a few times, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw an unread message.
I clicked the icon, only to frown.
Someone with my last name, who definitely wasn’t my daughter, had messaged. Who the hell was Adam Scott?
Grabbing my reading glasses off the desk, I leaned closer and read the message. Two of them, actually. The last one popped up just then.
Hi. I think you’re my dad’s brother. Would you like to get to know me?
(I know that sounds weird, but it was better than the five-page novella I wrote and deleted before.)
“Adam…” I tested the name and rubbed my mouth absently. Adam, Adam, Adam. Could it be? Christ, I hadn’t seen Adam since he was…five? Six? My brother and his wife had adopted him when he was four; I remembered that much.
I shook my head to myself and closed the window.