The Last Thing He Told Me

2.17 Eighteen Months Ago

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“Is there anything else I should know?” I asked. “Before this plane takes o􀏦?”
“Are we talking metaphorically or actually? Like the actual mechanics of the
plane? Because I did do a brief stint at Boeing when I 􀏯rst got to Seattle.”
We were on the 􀏲ight from New York to San Francisco, a one-way ticket for
me. The Shop had sprung for 􀏯rst class for both of us because Owen had been in
New York for business in preparation for The Shop’s IPO. Owen had stayed on
for the initial reason he’d been planning to be in New York that week—to help
move me out of it.
We had spent the last few days packing up my apartment, packing up my
studio. And, when we landed, I’d move into his home. His and Bailey’s. It would
become my home too. And, soon, I would be his wife.
“I’m asking you what you left out. About you.”
“While you can still get o􀏦 the plane? We haven’t started taxiing yet. There’s
probably still time…”
He squeezed my hand, trying to make light of it. But I was still jumpy. I was
suddenly too jumpy.
“What do you want to know?” he said.
“Tell me about Olivia,” I said.
“I’ve told you a lot about Olivia,” he said.
“Not really. I feel like I know only the basics. College sweetheart, teacher.
Georgia born and bred.”
I didn’t add the rest… that he lost her in a car accident. That he hadn’t been
involved, seriously, with anyone since.
“Now that I’m going to be in Bailey’s life, in a serious way, I want to know
more about her mother.”
He tilted his head, like he was considering where to start.
“When Bailey was a baby? We all took a trip to Los Angeles. It was the
weekend that a tiger escaped from the Los Angeles Zoo. A young tiger, who had
been at the zoo for only a year or so. He didn’t just escape his cage, but the entire
premises. And he ended up in a family’s backyard in Los Feliz. When he got
there, he didn’t hurt anyone. He curled up under a tree and took a nap. Olivia
was consumed with this story, which is probably how she found out the other
part.”
I smiled. “What’s that?”
“The family whose backyard the tiger had curled up in had gone to the zoo
only a few weeks before and one of their two young boys had been obsessed with
the tiger. The boy had cried when he had to leave the tiger, not understanding
why he couldn’t take the tiger home with him. How do you explain that the
tiger ended up at this boy’s home? A coincidence? That was what the zoologists
decided. The family lived pretty close to the zoo. But Olivia thought it served as
proof. That sometimes you 􀏯nd your way to the place that wants you most.”
“I love that story.”
“You would have loved her,” he said. Then he smiled, looked out the airplane
window. “There was no way… not to love her.”
I squeezed his shoulder. “Thank you.”
He turned back toward me. “Do you feel better?”
“Not really,” I said.
He laughed. “What else do you want to know?”
I tried to think of what I was asking for—it wasn’t about Olivia. It wasn’t
even about Bailey. Not exactly, at least.
“I think… I think I need you to say it out loud,” I said.
“Say what?”
“That we’re doing the right thing.”
That was the closest I could get to it—the closest way to express what I was
actually worried about. I wasn’t used to being a part of a family, not since I lost
my grandfather. And that didn’t exactly feel like a family. That felt like a
twosome, plowing our way through the world, just me and him. His funeral was
the last time I even saw my mother. Her calls on my birthday (or somewhere
around my birthday) were our only form of communication at this point.
This was going to be something di􀏦erent. It would be the 􀏯rst time I was a
part of an actual family. I felt completely unsure of how to do it properly, how to
count on Owen, how to show Bailey she could count on me.
“We’re doing the right thing,” Owen said. “We’re doing the only thing. I
swear to you, on everything that matters to me, that’s how I feel.”
I nodded, calmed. Because I believed him. And because I wasn’t really
nervous, at least not about him. I knew how much I wanted him—how much I
wanted to be with him. Even if I didn’t know everything about him yet, I knew
that he was good. I was nervous about everything else.
He leaned in and put his lips against my forehead. “I’m not going to be that
asshole who says you kinda have to trust someone at some point.”
“You’re going to be the asshole who says it without saying it?”
The airplane started backing up, jolting us, before it turned, slowly heading
toward the runway.
“Apparently,” he said.
“I know I can trust you,” I said. “I do. I trust you more than anyone.”
He locked his 􀏯ngers through mine.
“Metaphorically or actually?” he said.
I looked down at our 􀏯ngers, locked together like that, just in time for
takeo􀏦. I stared down at them, 􀏯nding comfort there.
“Here’s hoping they’re the same thing,” I said.


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