Chapter 10


“My therapy bill is big enough,” Ward says to Alina. “And Lord knows this will kill Helene.” Alina, still smiling: “So don’t tell her, then. I’m here to see you.” A pause, then Alina asks, sincerely: “Are you doing ok?” // “Why are you asking about me? Why aren’t you asking about your wife?” // “How are YOU doing, Ward?” He’s stunned. He doesn’t know how he’s feeling, especially given this. “I’m… lost. This all happened just as I was sure I was over everything. I must be going crazy; I don’t believe you’re here, too.” // “I’m sorry that you’re confused about everything. How’s Tracey?” // “Really? You care how she’s doing?” // “Yes. She’s half the reason I’m here, right? Or rather, half the reason I’m not here.” // “She came to the funeral. The cabbie said you two really went at it.” // “What else did he say?” // “He didn’t remember much, just that you two were fighting about something, and you had fired her maybe. I had to act surprised. But Tracey was really shook up. Helene has been very gracious to her. I hope that’s OK. She doesn’t want any bad blood, plus Tracey seems devastated.” // “That’s all fine. Good, actually. But back to you…” // “What about me?” // “You introduced me to her.” // “You were behind on your deadlines!” // “Well how’s this for deadline?” She waves both hands over her spectred self. // “So this is my fault?” // “I’m not saying that, Ward.” // “You can’t just appear here to blame me for this…” His voice raises for a second before he hushes the tone, careful not to wake Helene. Then Alina: “I’m not here to blame you. I’m here to ask your help.”

“I need you to look after her,” Alina continues. “She’s going to let herself go, I know it. She might even do something brash, because she doesn’t see much use in carrying on. Especially now.” // “Of course, Alina. You didn’t even need to ask me that. Of course I’m going to look after her.” // “I’m sorry to burden you with this.” // “It’s not a burden. She’s family to me.” // “I’d probably be writing some stupid mommy blog, married to an idiot banker if she hadn’t come along. I’d rather be dead.” She chuckles to herself. Ward is still too shocked to find any humor in this. “Alina, it’s really nice to see you, albeit unexpected and a bit startling. But, is this… is this going to be a recurring thing?” // “You mean, since you’re trying to escape it at home and this was supposed to be your safe space?” // “Exactly that, actually.” // “Well, sorry. Yes. It’s going to be a recurring thing.” // “Then I’m going to take a Valium, turn out the lights, and put in my ear plugs.” // “I wasn’t finished…!” // Then, sarcastically to himself, as he turns out the lights: “What’s MY point in carrying on?”


It’s late morning by the time Ward wakes up. He slowly opens his eyes, afraid to turn over and see if Alina is still there. He closes them again, takes a deep breath, and quickly turns toward the rest of the room. “Still here,” Alina says at that very instant, crosslegged in the chair. “Jesus Christ,” Ward screams; he half expected this but it startles him nevertheless. From the kitchen, Helene’s voice: “Ward? Everything OK?” // “Yes Helene,” he calls back to her. “Just having a pesky dream.” Alina rolls her eyes and gives him the finger. Helene walks into the room with coffee and a fruit bowl. She can’t see Alina. “You were practically knocked out. I didn’t want to wake you. Here, darling; it’s just what you like.” // “Thank you, love. Sweet of you. I won’t be a bump like this, I promise. Just the one night. It’s me who should be helping you.” He’s trying his best to ignore Alina, to focus entirely on Helene so that she doesn’t suspect anything strange is happening. She takes a couple steps backwards to sit exactly where Alina is. Alina jumps out and moves aside, just in time for her wife to sink into the chair. Then, Helene speaks: “So. Some big news. I’m going to shut down the business. I’m done. I’m done. I’m…,” She fights for the words, closing her eyes as a tear falls. “I’m giving up.” Now Ward turns to Alina, who is leaning against the opposite wall. She’s fighting tears, too.


Ward and Helene walk through the farmer’s market at Prospect Park, stopping between booths to sample and buy food. As she examines some ears of corn, Helene asks a question: “So how are YOU, Ward?” // “Me? People keep asking me that.” // “Well. You lost your best friend, your best client, and if you don’t mind my saying, you don’t have much else going for you without her, do you?” // “I’ve been trying to ignore that fact.” // “So. How ARE you?” // “Are you trying to recruit me to harakiri, or…?” She manages a laugh; he’s happy to see her smile. “I’m just worried about you,” Helene says. “Just as I was done worrying about you. Now, I can’t stop thinking about what you should do.” // “Well? What do you think should I do?” // “I haven’t any conclusions, or else I’d stop thinking about it.” He purses his lips, like “Yeah, hmm,” and we cut back to Helene’s apartment, as she and Ward eat dinner. We hear Alina’s voice, shouting from the couch nearby: “Ask her about my book.” Ward gives her a glare as Helene is distracted by the meal. Alina again: “Ask her!” Ward fumbles for words: “Helene?” She looks up, smiling. He continues: “What would you like to do with Alina’s manuscript? I reckon the publisher will still want to print it.” // “So print it, for God’s sake. That’s a no brainer.” // “Well, it needs rewrites. Lots of them. It’s great but there’s a lot of change in direction.” // “So have Tracey do it. She can work from here. I’d love the company.” Alina, screaming again: “Plot twist!”


Alina, barking loudly as the table gets cleared: “It makes sense! Tracey has the knack. She’s a psycho bitch who better not mess up my final book, but you’ll keep close watch! I’m just glad it’ll get published. And that’ll keep you afloat for a while too, Ward. It’s great, right? Why don’t you look more excited? Everyone wins! And if she works from here, I’ll be able to keep track of her, too…Oooh, maybe I can haunt her?” Alina won’t shut up, even after Ward leaves the living room for the kitchen. Helene is in there, loading the dishwasher. “Are you alright with me going home tonight?” he asks her. “I think I’ll sleep better there.” // “Wow, the tides have shifted, have they? Are you making progress with…everything?” // “Heaps. I’ll be back first thing in the morning, and we can discuss the Tracey thing. If that’s what you want.” // “We both owe it to Alina to help get this book published.” Cut to: Ward pulls up to his Westchester home. Instead of hesitating to go inside, he marches in, but the momentum dies just before the bedroom. After stopping to collect himself, he turns on the light and sees Amanda, who is sitting at the end of the bed, as always. Before she can say anything, he starts: “I’m selling the house.” A long pause, then Amanda: “Where will I go?” // “I’m selling the house.” // “Where will I go, Ward?” // “I’m selling the house, Amanda.” // “Where. Will. I. Go?” // “I’m. Selling. The. House.” // “WHERE WILL I GO?” // “I’M SELLING THE DAMN HOUSE.” He’s boiling now, and seals it: “I don’t care where you go. As long as I never have to see you again.”

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