The Last Thing He Told Me

1.12 What Don’t You Want to Remember?


I go inside, honoring Bailey and her request to be left alone. I have no desire to
push her. I have no desire to demand she come inside. She is confused and angry,
wondering if her father is who she thinks he is—wondering if she can still trust
in the person she has always known him to be. Stable, generous, hers. She is
angry that she has to question that—angry at him, angry at herself. It is a feeling
I can relate to.
Protect her.
But from what? From what Owen was involved in at The Shop? From what
he let happen there? Or does Owen want Bailey protected from something else?
Something I can’t see yet? Something I don’t want to see yet?
I pace back and forth in my bedroom. I don’t want to antagonize Bailey, but I
feel an urgent need to pull at any thread I can 􀏯nd. It’s all I can think to do—to
reconsider (to ask her to consider) our foggy, gentle memories of Owen. To
juxtapose them against these last twenty-four hours. Where do they meet?
Suddenly, one way they meet comes 􀏯ring back. Austin. Something else I
know about Austin and Owen. Shortly before I moved to Sausalito, I was
o􀏦ered a job there. A movie star who lived there was redoing her house, a ranch
house on Westlake Drive, hugging Lake Austin.
She wanted help getting rid of her ex-husband’s aura. Her ex-husband had
loved everything modern and hated anything rustic. Her interior designer had
suggested my woodturning pieces. But she wanted to be involved, which meant I
needed to go to Austin for two weeks and go through the process with her.
I asked Owen to come with me, and he shut the idea down. He was upset
that I’d want to go anywhere that would delay my move to Sausalito—that
would delay us beginning our lives together in the real way that we had been
planning for.
I was anxious to get to California too—and less-than-anxious to work side by
side with the increasingly demanding client. So I turned down the job. I clocked
his strange behavior though. It was out of character for Owen to react that way
—needy, controlling. When I raised it with him, he apologized for reacting
badly. He said the move was just making him nervous. He was nervous about
how Bailey would adjust to having me in her home. It always came down to
Bailey for Owen. Any changes that upended her were going to upend him. I
understood the anxiety. I let it go.
But I think about the other Austin red 􀏲ag. When I asked him to come with
me to Austin for my woodturners symposium, he went dark for a minute. He
didn’t balk at the suggestion, but he pivoted. He did pivot. So maybe it wasn’t
just about Bailey. Maybe it had something to do with Austin itself. Something
he didn’t want me to run into there. Something he had run from.
I reach for my phone and call Jake, a diehard football fan: college, the NFL,
classic games on YouTube at eight in the morning.
“It’s late where I am,” he says, instead of hello.
“What can you tell me about the Austin football stadium?” I say.
“I can tell you it’s not called that,” he says.
“Do you know anything about their football team?”
“The Longhorns? What do you want to know?”
“Their colors?”
I wait.
He sighs. “Orange and white,” he says.
“You positive?”
“Yes, burnt orange and white. Uniforms, mascot. Goalposts. The end zone.
The entire stadium. It’s midnight. It’s after midnight. I’m sleeping. Why are you
I can’t seem to tell him the truth, which sounds crazy. The U.S. marshal who
showed up at our house is based out of there. Bailey remembers being there.
Maybe. And Owen got weird about the idea of us going there, two di􀏦erent
times. Two di􀏦erent times I can now recall.
I don’t want to tell him that Austin is all I have.
I think of my grandfather. If he were alive, and sitting here with me, I could
tell him. He wouldn’t think I was crazy. He’d just sit there and help me go
through it all until I 􀏯gured out what I needed to do. That’s why he was good at
his job—at helping me understand what my job was. The 􀏯rst lesson he ever
taught me was that it wasn’t just about shaping a block of wood into what you
wanted it to be. That it was also a peeling back, to seeing what was inside the
wood, what the wood had been before. It was the 􀏯rst step to creating something
beautiful. The 􀏯rst step to making something out of nothing.
If Owen were here, he would understand that too. I could tell him too. He
would look at me and shrug. What do you have to lose? He would look at me,
and see it—what I’d already decided.
Protect her.
“Jake? I’ll call you back,” I say.
“Tomorrow!” he says. “Call me back tomorrow.”
I hang up, and I go back outside. I 􀏯nd Bailey where I left her, staring out at
the bay, sipping on my glass of wine, like it belongs to her.
“What are you doing?” I say.
The glass is almost empty. It was full when I left it. Now it is almost empty.
The wine covers her lips, the corners of her mouth stained red.
“Can you not?” she says. “I just had a little.”
“I don’t care about the wine.”
“So then why are you looking at me like that?” she says.
“You should go and pack a bag,” I say.
“Why?” she says.
“I was thinking about what you said, about the wedding. About Austin. And
I think we should go,” I say.
“To Austin?”
I nod.
She looks at me, confused. “That’s crazy. How is going to Austin going to
help anything?” she says.
I want to give her an honest answer. If I try to quote my grandfather and tell
her this could be the peeling back, will she be able to hear that? I doubt it. And if
I tell her what I’ve put together so far—a wobbly formulation at best—she will
rebel and refuse to go.
So I tell her something that she can hear, something that is also the truth.
Something that sounds like what her father would say.
“It’s better than sitting here,” I say.
“What about school?” she says. “I’m just going to miss school?”
“You said you weren’t going tomorrow anyway,” I say. “Didn’t you just 􀏯nish
saying that?”
“Yeah,” she says. “I guess.”
I’m already heading into the house. I’m already on the way.
“So pack.”

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