The Last Thing He Told Me

2.9 One Year Ago


“You think you can just pop in here whenever you want?” I said.
I was joking. But I was surprised that Owen snuck up on me, showing up at
my workshop unannounced, in the middle of the workday. He didn’t usually do
that. He spent his days at the o􀏩ces in Palo Alto, sometimes heading to
downtown San Francisco for a meeting. He was rarely home on a weekday,
except when Bailey needed him for something.
“If I popped in whenever I wanted, I’d be here constantly,” he said. “What are
we making?”
He rubbed his hands together, happy to be in the studio with me. He loved
my work, loved being a part of it. And every time I saw how genuinely he felt
that way, it was another small reminder how lucky I was to love him.
“What are you doing home so early?” I asked. “Is everything okay?”
“That depends,” he said.
He lifted my face shield to give me a kiss hello. I was in my work clothes—
which consisted of a high-necked jacket and that face shield—a combination
that made me look like I belonged in the future and the past at the same time.
“Is my chair 􀏯nished?”
I kissed him back, draping my arms around his shoulders.
“Not quite yet,” I said. “And it’s not your chair.”
It was a Windsor chair I was making for a client in Santa Barbara, for her
interior design o􀏩ce, but as soon as Owen had seen it in progress—the dark,
chiseled elm; a heightened hoop back—he decided we couldn’t let it go. He
decided it was meant for him.
“We’ll see about that,” he said.
This was when his phone buzzed. Owen looked down at the caller ID, his
face darkening. He clicked decline.
“Who was that?” I said.
“Avett,” he said. “I’ll call him later.”
He clearly didn’t want to talk about it, but I couldn’t leave it there—not
when I felt the heat coming o􀏦 him. Not when he was getting this worked up
just from a call he didn’t take. “What’s going on with him?
“He’s being a little irrational. That’s all.”
“About what?”
“The IPO,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”
But it was 􀏲ashing in his eyes—a mix of anger and irritation. Two things he
rarely displayed. Two things he had displayed more recently. And, of course, he
was standing in my workshop as opposed to in his own o􀏩ce.
I tried to choose my words carefully, wanting to help, but not wanting to
undermine him. I didn’t have to work in an o􀏩ce, didn’t have to deal with the
politics of having a boss I had to answer to—someone, like Avett Thompson,
with whom I might not agree. And yet, I wanted to 􀏯gure out how to say it—
that I saw Owen’s stress level rising. That it was just a job. That, as far as I was
concerned, he could always 􀏯nd another.
Before I said anything, the phone buzzed again. AVETT showing up on the
caller ID. Owen looked down at his phone. He looked down at it, like he was
going to pick it up, his 􀏯ngers hovering there. But he hit decline again, pocketing
his phone instead.
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter how many times I say the same thing.
Avett doesn’t want to hear it,” he said. “What we need to make this all work.”
“My grandfather used to say that most people don’t want to hear the thing
that will make it work better,” I said. “They want to hear what will make it
“And what did he say to do about that?”
“Find other people. You know, for starters.”
He tilted his head, took me in. “How do you always know what to say to
me?” he said.
“Well, it’s really my grandfather saying it, but sure…” I said.
He reached for my hand, a smile spreading across his face. Like nothing
happened, or at least like it wasn’t as important as he’d thought it was.
“Enough about this,” he said. “Let’s go see my chair.”
He started pulling me to the door, toward the backyard and the deck where
the chair was drying—sanded, newly polished.
“You know you can’t have that chair,” I said. “Someone commissioned it. She
is paying us a lot of money for it.”
“Good luck to her,” he said. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”
I smiled. “What do you know about the law?”
“Enough to know if I’m sitting in that chair,” he said, “no one else is going to
take it.”

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