The Last Thing He Told Me

2.3 Three Months Ago

chapter
Chapter

It was 3 A.M., and Owen was sitting at the hotel bar, drinking a tall glass of
bourbon, straight.
He felt my eyes on him and looked up.
“What are you doing down here?” he said.
I smiled at him. “I believe that’s my question for you…” I said.
We were staying in San Francisco, in a boutique hotel across from the Ferry
Building. There had been a terrible storm. It was the type of rainstorm that
didn’t happen in Sausalito too often and it had forced us to evacuate our home,
our 􀏲oating home, due to 􀏲ooding risks. It forced us to take refuge on the other
side of the Golden Gate Bridge—the hotel 􀏯lled up with other 􀏲oating home
expats. Though apparently Owen wasn’t 􀏯nding much refuge at all.
He shrugged. “Thought I’d come downstairs to have a drink,” he said. “Do
some work…”
“On what?” I said.
I looked around. He didn’t have his laptop with him. No papers lying
around. There was nothing on the bar at all, except his bourbon. And one other
thing.
“Wanna have a seat?” he said.
I sat down on the barstool next to him, wrapping my arms more tightly
around myself. I was chilly in the middle-of-the-night coolness. My tank top and
sweatpants weren’t much of a match.
“You’re freezing,” he said.
“I’m okay.”
He pulled o􀏦 his hoodie, putting it over my head. “You will be,” he said.
I looked at him. And waited. I waited for him to tell me what he was really
doing down here, what was worrying him enough that he left our room. That he
left me in the bed, his daughter on the pullout couch.
“Work is just a little stressful. That’s all. But nothing’s wrong. Nothing I
can’t handle.”
He nodded, like he meant it. But he seemed stressed. He seemed more
stressed than I’d seen him before. When we were packing our bags to come here,
I found him in Bailey’s room, packing up Bailey’s childhood piggy bank, putting
it in his du􀏦el bag. He’d looked embarrassed when I saw him and explained that
it was one of the 􀏯rst presents he’d gotten her. He didn’t want to risk anything
happening to it. That wasn’t the weird part—Owen was packing up all sorts of
sentimental things (Bailey’s 􀏯rst hairbrush, family photo albums) and dropping
them in his overnight bag. The weird part was that the other thing on the bar,
besides his drink, was Bailey’s piggy bank.
“So, if you’ve got it handled, why are you sitting here by yourself, in the
middle of the night, staring at your daughter’s piggy bank?”
“Thinking of breaking it open,” he said. “In case we need the money.”
“What’s going on, Owen?” I said.
“Do you know what Bailey said to me tonight? When I told her we had to
evacuate? She said she wanted to go with Bobby’s family instead. That they’re
staying at the Ritz and she wanted to be with him. It turned into a whole, big
thing.”
“Where was I?”
“Locking down your workshop.”
I shrugged, trying to be gentle. “She’s growing up.”
“I know, it’s totally normal, I get it, but… the strangest thing happened when
I told her no,” he said. “I watched her stomp after me toward the car. And I just
kept thinking, she’s going to leave me. Maybe it’s being a single parent all this
time, just trying to keep the two of us above water, but I don’t think I ever fully
thought about the fact… or maybe I just didn’t let myself.”
“So that’s why you are downstairs, looking at her piggy bank in the middle of
the night?”
“Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a strange bed,” he said. “Can’t sleep.”
He picked up his bourbon, held it near his lips.
“When she was a little girl, when we 􀏯rst got to Sausalito, she was scared to
walk down the docks. I think it was because the day after we moved in, Mrs.
Hahn slipped and fell and Bailey saw her almost go down, almost land in the
water.”
“That’s terrible!” I say.
“Yeah, well, for those 􀏯rst couple of months, she would make me hold her
hand the whole way down the docks. From our front door, all the way to the
parking lot. And she’d ask as we went, Daddy, you’re going to keep me safe, right?
Daddy, you’re not going to let me fall? It took us like six and a half hours to get
from the front door to the car.”
I laughed.
“It drove me crazy. The hundredth time I had to do it, I actually think I went
a little crazy.” He paused. “And you know the only thing worse than that? The
day she stopped.”
I put my hand on his elbow, held him there. My heart exploding a little at his
love for her.
“There is going to come a time when I won’t be able to keep her safe
anymore, not from anything,” he said. “I won’t even be able to tell her no
anymore.”
“Well, I can relate to that,” I said. “I can’t even tell her no now.”
He looked over at me, bourbon still in hand, and laughed. He really laughed
—my joke breaking his sadness, splintering it for him.
He put down his drink and turned toward me. “On a scale of one to ten, how
weird is it that I’m sitting here?”
“Without the piggy bank?” I said. “It would be a two, maybe a three…”
“With the piggy bank? Am I breaking six?”
“Afraid so.”
He put the piggy bank on an empty stool, and motioned for the bartender.
“Would you please make my wonderful wife here the drink of her choice?” he
said. “And I’ll take a cup of co􀏦ee.”
Then he leaned in, put his forehead against mine.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Don’t be. It’s hard, I get it, but it’s not happening tomorrow, she’s not
leaving tomorrow,” I said. “And she loves you so much. She’s never going to
leave you completely.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“I do.”
He kept his forehead there, touching mine. “I just hope Bailey doesn’t wake
up and 􀏯nd us gone,” he said. “If you look outside, you can see the Ritz.”


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