Chapter 13


A moving truck drives away from Ward’s home. Inside, he’s surveying each room one last time, to check for leftover belongings, or maybe for nostalgia’s sake. Lastly, his bedroom: Amanda is there. She’s standing where the bed used to be, sad, confused, broken. “Why have you sold our home, baby? Why are you putting me away?” Ward doesn’t answer. He studies her, his eyes welling with water, as her questions continue and her volume grows. He turns and walks away as she shouts after him: “AREN’T YOU ASHAMED? YOU KILLED ME ONCE ALREADY, YOU CAN’T DO IT AGAIN.” He exits the apartment, holding his breath, and exhales as he pushes the front door shut. Instantly, her voice is gone. We can hear his heavy breathing, his heart beating.


A portly, sage-looking man waits in the driveway next to a minivan. Ward walks over to him and, without a word, nods to the guy. It’s a cue of sorts, and the man walks into the house. We still don’t hear Amanda, but instead hear Ward whispering something to himself as he waits in the driveway. He’s nervous, staring at the front door, waiting a minute or two before the man emerges. After he does, he walks slowly to Ward, and nods. “All clear,” he says. Ward closes his eyes and collects himself, as relief and resolve wash over him.


Ward unpacks his new home. Helene stops by with wine and helps arrange his living room and kitchen. They order takeout and eat on the couch, with packed boxes still surrounding them. “Did you think we’d end up together, Helene?” he asks. “I always knew it’d be us,” she jokes back. She looks thinner yet, and she’s coughing every minute or two, but she seems genuinely happy. “I hope you take advantage of this bachelor pad,” she says. “How long since you’ve been laid?” // “Mmmm, I haven’t been.” // “Ward. Still? Oh gosh, now you’re gonna put yourself out there, right? Are you gonna date, or just get lucky?” // “I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to do both of those things, Helene.” Then, he turns it back on her: “How’s your… Tracey thing?” Helene blushes. “It’s very good. She’s like Alina in so many ways, even in bed. Is that terrible? I swear it’s more a coping mechanism or something. She can’t possibly be into me, can she be?” // “Who in their right mind wouldn’t be into you?” He’s not about to get catty with Helene, so he stays positive on the subject: “Maybe you’ll inspire her work as well. Maybe it’ll help her channel Alina, for the book.” He might have just convinced himself of this, too.


Ward walks Helene home. She grabs on to him every few paces: “I keep feeling like I’m going to fall over,” she says. “This bout has come with a vengeance.” // “You sure I can’t call you a cab?” he asks her. “It’s freezing.” // “No. I think it feels quite nice.” A pause before Helene changes topics: “Do you think it’s wrong, what I’m doing?” // “What’s that?” // “I mean, dating Tracey. Do you think it’s an insult to Alina? It kind of feels like I’m cheating on her, partially because it’s her assistant, and partially because I feel like I should be mourning more.” // “You’re not mourning?” // “In my own way, I suppose. It still doesn’t feel real. Or fair. I’ve been ready for death for a few years now. I wasn’t ready to lose her first.” Another pause, then: “I had stopped taking my painkillers,” Helene confesses. “WHAT? Helene!” // “Relax, relax. I’m back on them. I just… felt like I should be feeling some sort of agony, and I wasn’t. And now I’m… overcome with guilt. For letting her go, then making her fight her way back, and then losing her. And then… going numb. But now, Tracey is helping me to atone for some of that, to get the feeling back. I guess I see it as an appreciation to Alina. If I’m going to die in the next year, then I’m going to do it with a little fire in my eyes.” Another pause, then Ward: “You’re not going to die in the next year. But I guess it isn’t wrong, what you’re doing. And… I think Alina would agree.”


Ward and Helene enter her apartment. Everything is as it should be, with one exception: There’s no sign of Alina. Ward scans the room a few times over, certain she should be there. “You looking for something?” Helene asks as she hangs her coat. “No, no,” he responds. “Got a little nostalgic, I suppose.” He does one final scan as she slips into the restroom. We can read the bittersweetness on his face as he accepts that Alina is gone. Helene returns and he hugs her goodnight. As he leaves the building, Tracey walks up the path. She goes tense, but he gives her a warm smile. “She just got back,” Ward says. “Hope you two have a nice night.” // “You haven’t told her about…?” // “Told her about what?” He says this in a way that assures her everything is OK; he hasn’t told Helene about Alina and Tracey’s affair. “Good night, Tracey.” // “Good night.” Ward walks home, he goes into his new apartment—his silent apartment—and very happily, he brushes his teeth and washes his face, he changes into his pajamas, and he tucks himself in for the evening.

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