By Jane Thayer

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Dentists,” she offers. “Spiders. ” “Ovens? ” “And small spaces,” she says, a bit more quietly. He tilts his head to one side. ” Hadley shrugs. ” “Not a bad tactic,” he says with a laugh. ” She doesn’t answer, struck by a small flash of alarm. It’s almost worse when she forgets about it for a moment, because it never fails to come rushing back again with renewed force, like some sort of demented boomerang. ” He nods at the plastic knife in her hand, which is caked with mayonnaise and bread crumbs.

They rose early each morning to get up the mountain before the slopes were too crowded, sat silently with their mugs of hot chocolate in the lodge afterward, played board games at night in front of the fireplace. But the truth was, they spent so much time not talking about Mom’s absence that it had become the only thing either of them could think about. Besides, Hadley wasn’t stupid. You didn’t just pack off to Oxford for a semester, spend your days teaching poetry classes, and then suddenly decide you wanted a divorce without a good reason.

He’d broken their trust, he’d broken Mom’s heart, he’d broken their family. And now he was just going to marry this woman, as if none of that mattered. As if it were far easier to start over completely than to try to put everything back together again. Mom always insisted they were better off this way. All three of them. “I know it’s hard to believe,” she’d say, maddeningly levelheaded about the whole thing, “but it was for the best. It really was. ” But Hadley’s pretty sure she understands already, and she suspects the problem is that it just hasn’t fully sunk in for Mom yet.

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