Illustration by Jia Sung

She told him in February. They were both sitting—both freezing—by the bank of the Charles. His ungloved hands were curled like paws into his jacket sleeves, and wind kept blowing off the fur-lined hood of her coat. He was in the second year of his doctorate. She was a year out from undergrad but had spent the past eight months hanging around, doing research for someone in his department.

They’d been together three years. The first she’d spent waiting for him to commit, the second waiting for him to get past the whole astronaut thing. “Fucking NASA,” she’d complained to Corrie. “This asshole thinks I’m gonna be psyched about him floating around in the ether while I change diapers?” She called him “this asshole” when he wasn’t around, “sweetheart” in his company.

This last year had been better—after watching a six-part docuseries about the real lives of astronauts, he’d given up the fantasy and resolved to stick out his PhD. Just a few more years, she’d told herself, then he would graduate and they could start their lives. They’d talked vaguely of moving West. She’d settled into their temporary existence as one does on a couch with not quite enough room.

Then, New Year’s Eve. He was blind drunk, couldn’t keep his erection, so he rolled off of her but pride compelled him to continue touching her anyway, letting one hand roam over her body. He paused at her belly, spread his fingers wide and whispered, “I want to put a baby in you.” He had never said anything like it before, and suddenly she could see their future stretching like summer before her, long and shallow. A trench. She’d been made to wait too long: her belief in them had curdled. She could no longer reconcile “this asshole” with “sweetheart.” She knew she would have to leave him, but it took her five weeks to get up the courage.

So now they were freezing, their breath making fast-dissolving clouds as they talked and talked in circles until finally she said, “Please, Graham, I’m really sorry, I really am, but I just can’t.”

She quit her research job, moved back to her mom’s in Connecticut. He drove down twice that spring to try and get her back. The degree of his heartbreak surprised them both. He couldn’t sleep, couldn’t focus. He was atrophying, the meat of his arms and cheeks dissolving gradually. It was so hard telling him no because for years his attention was all she’d wanted. There had been another guy at one point—a cheerful, boyish Iowan who’d adored her—but that had come to nothing, really—a nervous kiss, a few long walks. In the end she hadn’t been able to leave Graham, his moon white back with its constellations of freckles, his advice, more Machiavellian the more he drunk he got, and his voice. Just the sound of his voice.

After Graham drove away the second time, she dragged herself up the worn carpeted stairs to her childhood bedroom and literally fell to her knees. There was the black, black floating despair, the void in her center like a blooming wound. There was the burden of being the one who knew there was no saving it. He could only love her because she was gone. She thought of something he’d just said (threatened?) before he left—“I’ll treasure the woman I marry. I’ll give her everything.” Not a chance, she’d thought, not without a lot of therapy. His drama, Jesus. Something she wouldn’t miss.

She worried that he would call and text, but still she didn’t block his number. Surviving the loss of him was the only noteworthy thing she’d done as an adult so far—blocking him felt like cheating.

But she needn’t have worried. He never called.

* * *

Three years later she was living in southern Oregon, working for a rich guy who was crazy about the environment. Her boss knew a lot of other rich people who were spooked by climate change and who wanted to do “something to help” but what exactly they didn’t know, so her job was to bring eco-friendly nonprofits into the conversation and put together modest fundraisers and auctions. Sometimes her boss was a little aggro, but overall she felt lucky to have found something she was good at, something that felt good—when an event ended and catering was packing up and guests were gone and she was picking up tiny pieces of trash on the ground and setting her clipboard aside and every detail she’d been worrying over for weeks was gloriously immaterial. She found herself in one of these tranquil moments, supervising the breakdown of some tables in the backyard of a high-strung hedge fund manager, when her phone buzzed. She stared at the screen. It was a text from Graham:

Hey—know it’s been awhile, but I wanted to wish you the absolute best.

She felt the tug of despair in her belly, saw his taillights receding down her mom’s driveway. Quickly, she recounted all the insufferable things about him: the withholding, the drama, the harem of female “friends” he maintained to bolster his ego. Couldn’t love her until she was gone. Okay, okay, it had been the right thing to break up, even though… And for a moment she saw the other life, where they married, took their children to national parks and he never took her for granted again.

With practiced effort, she closed her mind to this daydream. She reread his text with a critical eye. Why send this now? Then she realized—three years—his dissertation was finished. He was graduating. This message wasn’t to wish her well: it was an announcement. I’m good now, it said, and you’re almost gone.

A few months later she was FaceTiming with Corrie, who was now engaged to John, a friend of Graham’s. She’d never liked John much. Too slippery. The guy you wouldn’t be surprised to see on the news, arrested on suspicion of some white collar crime. John was super Catholic, and now so was Corrie it seemed. Around her neck lay a thin gold cross.

“Oh,” Corrie said, swooping her damp hair into a bun. “Before I forget. Wait—do you want to know this? It’s about Graham.”

She shrugged. “Hit me.”

Corrie laughed. “Don’t worry, he’s not getting married or anything. It’s just crazy.” Apparently Graham’s dissertation had been passed on to HarperCollins by his advisor. He was getting published. Corrie secured her bun with a tortoise shell clip. “Isn’t that insane?”

It was. A just-graduating PhD, and it wasn’t like Graham was some inspired writer! Many times had she, curled up in the woolly armchair in their old bedroom, scanned Graham’s essays for typos and marveled at his stolid prose. He couldn’t have improved much in three years, could he? And then a curious idea struck her: perhaps this lucky break wasn’t the result of Graham’s talent or lack thereof, but some kind of providential reward.… So, alright, just as a test maybe she would text him back—but it wasn’t time yet.

* * *

A few weeks after talking to Corrie, she interviewed to be the volunteer organizer on a local political campaign. Bailey, the campaign director, asked why she even wanted the job because frankly—and he wasn’t sure how much she was making now, of course, but he was fairly sure this role would mean a significant pay cut for her. She told him that she liked the dynamic nature of her current work but felt her efforts could be better spent. The events she organized only placated the egos of one percenters who, in the end, would choose tax cuts over the environmental policies their fundraisers sponsored. Plus she didn’t have time to spend all the money she made, anyway. Bailey leaned back, took off his round glasses and rubbed his eyes. “God,” he said. “I’m so relieved I don’t have to do any more interviews.”

Bailey broke up with the woman he was seeing and asked her out. The two of them had no downtime at all until the election was over though, and they didn’t really have much afterwards either because soon Bailey was inundated with offers to jump on other races. Late one afternoon they were at her place and Bailey was on the phone in the living room, talking with a candidate in Sacramento who’d been badgering him all week. She was in the kitchen trying to eavesdrop and rinse plates at the same time. Finally, she heard Bailey say he would agree to come on board, but only to co-direct the candidate’s campaign—he wanted his fiancée to be his partner. When she turned around, Bailey was in the doorway smiling at her with a hopeful, whaddaya say shrug.

On the eve of the wedding, Bailey’s parents hosted a dinner in their backyard. Around ten she extracted herself from the party, snuck upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom. She pulled out her phone and called up the app where she’d drafted a text to Graham: Hey—been a long time I know. Just wanted to say that I wish you well in everything.

She was nervous. She imagined Graham checking his phone, seeing her name, how he would feel. But she wanted her marriage to be successful, and good fortune had come to Graham after he’d messaged her. She wasn’t religious, but she did ascribe to a vague idea that maybe there were uncanny connections within the chaotic tangle of existence. Maybe she had stumbled on one. Her heart thumped comically as she pressed send.

Her wedding went well, her marriage even better. Bailey was fair-minded so arguments settled quickly; he knew how to fix all kinds of things; he was genuinely curious about the world and everyone in it, how they lived, and though his curiosity sometimes made her feel selfish, it also reminded her that she’d had the good sense to marry a kind person.

The only secret she kept from Bailey was the thing with Graham. Six months after the wedding, Graham wrote her: Hope that you are strong and happy. She called Corrie and asked in her best casual voice what Graham was up to lately and Corrie said, “So funny—John hadn’t heard from him in forever but he emailed yesterday. Apparently some History Channel producer wants to talk about optioning his book.”

A year later, after she and Bailey put in a bid on a house in Sacramento they really wanted, she wrote Graham back: You deserve every possible happiness. Not long after, he replied: Hope life is treating you kindly. This time she didn’t need Corrie to give her the update: Graham had a public Instagram now. The most recent picture was of himself and a long-necked brunette at the Grand Canyon, and the brunette wore a shining emerald on her left hand.

She and Bailey had been in the new house just a few months before they decided to start trying. They only wanted one baby (they were both only children, so fuck the haters). It was her turn to message Graham: they always alternated by silent agreement.

Sending the text was on her mind as she drove to therapy, where she arrived late by design because her therapist was typically running behind. Today, however, her therapist was ready with iced tea. They always met in her therapist’s backyard when it was warm.

She jabbered on, as her therapist added sugar and lemon to her tea, about the anxieties being a parent raised for her— and actually she felt like she was making some pretty astute observations, but assumed she must be jabbering because her therapist’s expression was noticeably disinterested, which was of course unprofessional but therapists were only human after all, and liked to be entertained, and maybe it was because she was self-conscious about being a cliché (yet another person who was terrified of building a family when her own had fallen apart), and, yes, as silly as it was she did want to be a more interesting client, so that was probably why she told her therapist about the thing with Graham.

Her therapist was suddenly alive with questions: How long had the communication been going on? Did she really, like, did she genuinely believe there was some magical connection between this ex-boyfriend and herself? What was so special about this old relationship? These were easy questions except the last—she couldn’t say what made Graham special.

Her therapist had a definitive take: this text chain was an expression of unhealthy attachment, nothing more. She should definitely not message Graham again. In fact, she should probably block his number.

When she didn’t immediately agree, her therapist leaned forward a little: “Let’s think this through. You believe good things happen to you because you extend these well-wishes, but you just told me that you only responded to Graham the night before your wedding—so things were already good, right? You met Bailey, you guys got engaged, and you didn’t have to text Graham to make that stuff happen. Is that—does that make sense?”

“Yeah, I mean of course,” she said. “Yeah. I see what you’re saying.”

But it took three months before she was ready to block Graham. She trembled as she prepared to do it, too, because she had just discovered she was pregnant. Despite what her therapist had said, she was worried. What if she cut Graham out and she died in childbirth? How common was that? What if the baby got sick? What if Bailey left her, or cheated, or hated being a father−?

The last time she’d seen her father she’d been three or four. Her mother had dropped her for an overnight at his apartment, and she remembered only blips of the evening and the feelings attached to them: the sad sparseness of the place, the frightening introduction to her father’s new girlfriend, the heart-bursting return to her mother’s because she’d done something—peed on the couch—she hadn’t been potty trained. The humiliation: she never saw her father again.

She exhaled. Bailey was not her father. And like her therapist said, the thing with Graham was a crutch to maintain an illusion of control. So, okay. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Okay. “Man up,” she muttered to herself, and even though that was the kind of patriarchal bullying self-talk she and her therapist had mutually agreed was no good, it gave her the nerve she needed. She blocked him.

* * *

They named their son Skye, after the island where they’d once vacationed with Bailey’s parents. Skye was healthy and she was beyond tired yes but no postpartum. Her sex life with Bailey suffered but she didn’t worry because this was to be expected, and after a year or fourteen months things got really, really good, with Skye in his crib, no longer co-sleeping, and she and Bailey in a rhythm, less forgetful of one another. She was back in regular therapy, too, and one afternoon she thanked her therapist for having pushed her to let the whole Graham thing go. Having a baby really made you realize—really, profoundly—that you had to, had to live in the present to survive—to keep your baby alive! Worrying about the future was a luxury she no longer had.

Her therapist, who had no children, agreed, adding that worrying about the future was pointless whether you had a baby or not. “Oh, of course, of course,” she said. She sipped her iced tea and she was pleased because she knew she was through with therapy. She was swimming in the bountiful present, and all her ghosts were gone.

* * *

The older Skye got, the less he wanted to be held. He squirmed away, and sometimes it was embarrassing to her, like on his fourth birthday when she tried to keep him on her lap in front of the cake and he crawled under the table and cried. Other parents put protective hands on their kids’ shoulders while she dove to retrieve Skye, who only cried harder when he saw her coming.

Skye was precocious, too. Reading by age five. He never wanted a story before bed, preferring to read himself to sleep. He liked books about faraway places—but not fairy tales, real places. Australia. Antarctica. Fiji.

On a warm September morning, she and Bailey were trading sections of The Washington Post when Skye, then seven, strode into the kitchen. She pulled an Uncrustables from the freezer and slid it in the toaster.

“Can I be an explorer for Halloween?” Skye asked. He took a seat in the breakfast alcove across from his father.

“Sure, buddy,” Bailey said.

“What do you call someone who explores mountains? Like Mount Everest.” He turned to her: “Mom, can I have—” She raised the Uncrustables wrapper and pointed at the toaster.

“A mountaineer,” Bailey said.

“I want to explore in places that haven’t been found yet,” Skye said in a louder voice, as if this were the point he’d really wanted to make all along.

“Not a lot of those places left, puppy,” she said.

Skye gathered his thin lips together and then popped them open: “Why?”

“I mean, I’m sure there are some, but most of the world is pretty known by now.”

Skye wilted. She thought to let it be, but Bailey put down the Post and leaned across the table. “But not the sea, buddy. That’s still a big, big mystery. And space and the universe—there are lots of things we still don’t know.”

“I could be an astronaut!” Skye exclaimed.

“No chance,” she snarled. It was a reflex. She had never used this tone with her boys before, reserving such harshness for when she appraised her body before a shower, her shapeless thighs—not ugly, but undisciplined, she paid for that virtual Pilates membership but she never used it, lazy, lazy, she had twenty minutes a day, there was no excuse.

Skye was looking at her with untrusting eyes while Bailey, behind him, held up his arms in a frozen shrug, like they were on a football team and she’d just fumbled an easy play.

“It’s too far,” she said, with a scrabbling feeling in her throat, trying to hurry past the bad thing she’d said to something better. “If you were in space you’d be gone too long. Mommy would miss you too much.”

Skye was not mollified. He slipped silently off his chair and moped from the room. Bailey stood to go after him.

“Wait,” she said, and she crossed to the toaster, pulling out Skye’s Uncrustables. She wrapped it in a paper towel and handed it to Bailey, who nodded at her with a half-smile. With this small gesture she had reminded him that she was a thoughtful, unselfish mother, which was what men needed to believe of mothers.

It wasn’t until later when Skye was asleep and Bailey too that she stood in the kitchen drinking her way through a bottle of red wine and allowed herself to think about the morning. She knew what had made her snap. She’d smelled a rat ever since that fourth birthday party: she’d been watching Skye closely since. And this year, first grade, she saw him in all of Skye’s instincts—Graham. Skye liked to play earthquake, for example, himself playing the hero who rescued everybody. But most devastating was Skye’s avoidance of any intimacy with her. It was so eerie—how, in seven years, had this kid built emotional walls of such adult proportion? Not once had Skye shyly hid behind her legs when a stranger approached. Only grudgingly did he hold her hand when they crossed the street, and he let go as soon as he was able. Just a couple months ago, she’d had to pick Skye up early from school because some psychopath fourth-grade fuck named Aaron had slammed Skye’s head against a metal pole on the playground. Apart from a headache, Skye had appeared unbothered on the drive home from the hospital. Did he want to talk to Mommy about what happened, she’d asked? Was he feeling scared about going back to school? Skye had shrugged. “Aaron will get expelled,” he’d said, and in the rearview she’d caught his expression: it had been Graham all over, looking at her like, what else do you want me to say?

And so she knew she had been wrong to heed her therapist’s advice and blow off her cosmic connection with Graham, but she also knew the damage was done. Skye had been born under this sign and now here he was, haunting her, Graham reincarnate…. Well, so be it.

As the years passed, Skye’s physical resemblance to Graham became uncanny. All those freckles. Sometimes she worried Bailey would come across a picture of Graham—that someone would tag her in a throwback photo where she and Graham were hugging or something. Would Bailey think she’d cheated, that Graham was Skye’s real father? She ran through the script of how she would explain. “It’s my fault he’s so like him,” she would say. “But not how you think. Trust me—I would much rather Skye took after you.” But then that sounded like she didn’t love Skye as he was. And yet if she did accept him as he was, didn’t that…didn’t it condone Graham somehow? All these years she’d maintained that Graham was shitty. Dramatic. Grandiose. Narcissistic. If she relaxed on this point—she couldn’t relax on this point. The volcanic despair she’d felt during their break-up was still inside her and, though dormant, it was important to maintain her position. Vilifying Graham was her bulwark against his absence. And so this proxy, this twin, her son— she was always at war with herself, both loving him and, in her fear, smothering that love.

By the time Skye was seventeen, he was 6’1. “The beanstalk,” Bailey joked one morning, because Skye had to duck slightly to step out of the breakfast alcove now. “Couple more inches and you should try walking on to the basketball team next year.”

“I think he’s done,” she said. She knew Skye wouldn’t grow anymore. Graham was 6’1. “Love you buddy,” Bailey said. “Good luck.”

“Yup,” Skye said, and as he pulled his backpack from the ground he glanced at her. It was his last day of finals, last real day of high school, and she knew there were mothering things to say now. Instead, she just nodded. Skye smiled back with closed lips.

* * *

Allison had caught up with him after finals. She’d gone down on him in his car, even though he’d warned her beforehand that nothing would change, they’d still be broken up. She’d said, “I know, I just want to,” but now she was looking out the window sadly, wiping her mouth on some clean Dairy Queen napkins he’d had in the glove compartment. The good feeling in his body drained away and he became annoyed, because this was a trap to make him feel guilty.

“Will you miss me?” she asked finally.

“When?”

“Next year. When you leave.”

“Yeah,” he said, and it was true enough, because Allison had been a perfect girlfriend for his senior year. But he wouldn’t miss her the way she hoped he would, because although he had very sad feelings sometimes, he did not have them about people. Usually, his moods were triggered by some reminder of time lost: his childhood was gone, the Earth was dying, and here came Death with his scythe like a wry smile.

“When do you go live out your pastoral ideal?” She was fitting her earrings back on.

“Three days.”

“Right after graduation?”

“Yup.” He was to spend the summer WWOOFing—traveling farm to farm, volunteering in exchange for room and board. The plan was to work his way East and go straight to college in August. His father had struggled with the idea of his leaving home two months before it was necessary—had teared up, in fact, behind his round glasses. His mother, on the other hand, had stared at him with her frozen look. “Well,” she’d said. That was all.

He dropped Allison at home and tried to kiss her in a way she would remember. He hoped she’d gather from this tender goodbye that he did not want to interact at graduation. As he drove home, he thought about all the girls he might encounter this summer and all the girls he’d meet next year at school. One might be petite, which he liked, another might be more severe, black hair and heavily-drawn eyebrows, one might be bookish, musical, she might’ve suffered early and survived, might be his soulmate. He thought of Allison and how she laughed and rubbed his back and always wanted to fuck. He’d text her again once he got to school. Lay the groundwork for a Thanksgiving reunion.

When he got home, his mother’s Chevy was in the driveway. He went to the kitchen and found some jalapeño chips in the pantry. He was snapping the bag open when his mother came in, talking on the phone in the honeyed voice she used for work.

“Okay. Alright. Okay. Thanks, Greg, thanks. Alright. Okay—thank you. In a few days. Yes. Alright, talk then.” She pulled off a tiny red stud from the middle of her earlobe and set her phone on the counter. “Greg says congratulations.”

“Thanks, Greg,” he replied, twisting open a Gatorade.

“Went well today? Oh—I called Tom and Lisa, invited them all for your graduation dinner.” He groaned.

“Ah,” she said, understanding. He never confided in his mother, so he couldn’t understand how she seemed to read him so well. Growing up it had always been his mother and not his father who’d known when he was lying, or which girl he liked. She could instantly spot a person who might annoy him, like when they’d gone out to dinner recently and this waiter with a septum piercing and hand tattoos had approached their table, she’d looked at him mischievously and whispered uh-oh, incoming. “You broke up with Allison,” she said.

“Yup.” He wolfed a handful of chips.

“Well, she didn’t tell her parents either, because Tom and Lisa said they’d love to come.” She exhaled. “I’ll call them— unless you think it’ll be fine, is it bad between you guys?”

“No, but I still don’t want her coming over.”

“Well, look, if they’ve told her already, it’s just one night. Think you can roll with it?”

“No. It’s not my fucking fault you invited them.” Lately he’d been experimenting with speaking roughly like this, like a real asshole. He had made Allison cry. But his mother, to his surprise, was gazing at him as if he’d just made an outstanding point.

“You know, maybe I will tell them not to come. Maybe that’s better.”

He wasn’t sure what to say, so he took a big gulp of Gatorade and looked away. Then she said, “I hope this means you’re planning to stay away from her.” He suppressed the urge to laugh. His mother thought Allison was bad news? “Is that what you’re planning?” she pressed.

“I don’t know. Not forever. I’ll…talk to her at some point. When I feel like it.” The sun had gone behind some clouds and the light in the kitchen was shifting, but even so it was a very strange shadow that crossed his mother’s face in that moment. It was as if she wore his features, so different from her own.

“Just don’t treat your presence like a gift she’d be lucky to get back.”

It took a moment for the cruelty of this declaration to land as it did, like a sharp arrow in his gut. She was saying Allison was better off without him. Weren’t mothers supposed to spoil their sons with adulation, to see them through foolish eyes? And while other boys might not be, wasn’t he worthy of such wild praise, as smart as he was, and he was attractive, and winning—yeah, pretty much until this very instant, even though she didn’t openly dote on him, he had always imagined his mother thought him to be better than the rest because he was hers, and that had made him feel…safe. But he’d been wrong—clearly—and so what else might he be wrong about? Suddenly there was a nakedness to the road ahead, a poison in the water of this summer and next year and everything after, and the further ahead he traveled in his mind the more the path seemed to bend back to this unalterable moment.

Her phone rang. He saw the ID. His father. He looked at her face and she was all herself again, though her makeup looked cracked and she was rattled, extremely rattled. She let the phone ring four times before she picked it up, silenced it, and padded into the other room.

* * *

He left three days later, having endured the party and Allison’s sulking and her trying to get him alone upstairs and her total end of the night breakdown. He’d allowed his father to pack his trunk that morning, and, when it came time, to wrap him in a very close, very long hug. He and his mother had both pretended like they’d said their goodbyes already—neither of them had wanted to upset his father. The truth was, he and his mother hadn’t spoken at all since their conversation (their argument?) in the kitchen.

As he drove North, he allowed the program on his phone to DJ; it took in his location and played music to match. There was a lot of Johnny Cash as he passed exits for Truckee and Reno and eventually Elko. By the time he got to Wells it was early evening, and Golden Carr was singing “Friend of the Devil.” A few months ago, he and Allison had a fight about Golden Carr—well, only because Allison asked who he thought about when he masturbated and he told her, lots of people. “Lots of people? Like who?” She interrogated him—“Give me one example.” He decided it was safer to name a celebrity than someone they knew from school, so he said Golden Carr. Allison fired back that celebrities were actually really homely-looking a lot of the time, it was just that they got rich and could afford trainers and stem cell facials and whatever. She insisted she was completely, totally fine with Skye being attracted to other women—she just, in her opinion, thought masturbating to Golden Carr was weird and wrong and almost immoral, like jerking off to an AI or something.

Skye snorted at the memory. Allison really could be pathetic. Then he thought of his mother’s face in the kitchen, her cold appraisal of his character. “End song,” he said abruptly, and the music shut off.

A few minutes later, he saw the exit for a rest stop and moved into the right lane. He was hungry. He wished there were a Dairy Queen nearby.

He parked by a Jack in the Box, got out, stretched, and exhaled. It had been invigorating to spend the day speeding past lives, but it was also satisfying to stop—to pull off and linger awhile among strange adult faces with problems he didn’t have yet—medical conditions, debts. He was light; he was free. And yet behind his exhilaration…he couldn’t shake it, this new, nagging uncertainty. Ever since that confrontation in the kitchen it had dogged him, a menacing presence that now whispered that the highway was a lie, and he was driving in a circle.

He ate his burger in silence. The sun was beginning to set. He threw the wrapper in the back and was plugging in his night’s destination—Twin Falls, ID—into the navigation when he got a text from his mother. His stomach gurgled. He felt a small bubble of bile in the bottom of his throat, which he cleared away with a cough.

He clicked on the text. “Audio mode,” he mumbled, because he couldn’t bear to read the words. From his phone came his mother’s message, read aloud in her own voice.

Decades later, he would remember the miracle the message performed. How it rid him of his dread in a way he could never have explained to another person—and so he never did. But he would come to believe that, were it not for that text, all the good things that came later—getting Coppel as a roommate, doing the play on a lark and meeting Laura and going to Zurich, the trip that inspired his first real composition, the one that got him some traction—none of it would’ve happened. Yet in the moment the message confused him, because his mother had never spoken to him like this, so vulnerably. Her voice was tremulous when she declared that she wanted the best for him, wanted him to be happy, but if completely happy meant he would forget her then she hoped he would settle for something less.

Alana B. Lytle

Alana B. Lytle is a screenwriter and television writer in Los Angeles. She's worked on Hulu's The Act and Netflix's upcoming Brand New Cherry Flavor, and recently co-wrote a psychological horror film with Nick Antosca. "Absolute Best" is from a short story collection in progress.

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