Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Consolation Prize—Chapter 18


November faded quickly and entirely into December, and the nippy fall weather fell victim to the biting cold of winter, and that—when Scottie really dissected and analyzed everything that happened—was when everything started to fall apart. If her life thus far had taught her anything it was that the good things never ever lasted long.

As the seasons changed, Will for his part, had always loved winter as a kid, but after getting paralyzed, the winter presented challenges that weren’t always surmountable. Snow never stuck to the New York City streets for long, but it was the piles that accumulated on the sidewalks, veritable walls of dirty ice, that impeded him the most. Curbs were indisposed and forget about curb cuts—those were usually covered up completely. Finding parking was incredibly difficult. His wheels had terrible traction on ice, not to mention that his hands got soaked, dirty, and were constantly cold. 

The good news though, was that Will’s shoulder was in much better shape. He was on a routine of icing and heating intermittently, was seeing a physical therapist for it—on top of his regular weekly physio—and had a low-grade pain killer in his medicine cabinet for days when it was really bad. The bad news on the other hand, was that his doctor was an idiot. Much to Will’s dismay, had asked him—no, encouraged him—to consider getting an electric wheelchair as he got older. He used the phrase, “Now that you’re 30 and entering the next stage of your life, your body isn't going to hold up the same.”

Will, feeling like a cornered and caged animal, had reacted poorly to the suggestion, declaring—in a voice that no one in their right mind would describe as calm or kind or measured—that he’d have to lose his fucking arms, too, before he considered that. And though he was regretful of the tone he took when he snapped back, he didn’t have an ounce of remorse for what he had said where he said the doctor could shove it. A bulky power chair would significantly limit his independence. Plus, he didn’t fucking need it. Having completely lost half his body, he was eager to dive into any movement and physical activity he could, and pushing and transferring himself were part of that. A power chair felt like a punch in the gut, and he just simply wouldn’t do it.

But there was something that overshadowed his dread for the coming winter months, and it was the love of his life. He’d been working up the courage to ask her if she’d maybe possibly consider potentially moving in with him. He knew it was soon, but he also knew that he’d never felt surer about anything or anyone in his entire life.

Pete was also hurriedly planning to move into Lise’s apartment on Wall Street at the end of the month. She preferred to stay in Manhattan and had a two bedroom that would get them through the next couple of years. They weren’t quite ready to find the place they’d settle down with long term. They still hadn’t announced their pregnancy to the larger family but planned on doing so over Christmas. Will was excited for their mom to take over the worrying rather than Pete. He was an absolute wreck with anything that came to Lise, even though she was perfectly fine and only in her first trimester. It really did bring out an entirely new side of his brother that Will would never have wagered was there. Pete's nails had been the biggest victim of his anxiety thus far. 

Lise had insisted on being the one to tell Scottie, as they’d grown quite close over the last few months and, as expected, Scottie couldn’t have been happier. She was practically bursting at the seams with excitement. Much to Cory and Nora’s disappointment, the four of them often opted out of their old weekend ways—dinner out and bar-hopping—to get together and lay around Pete and Will’s apartment every Friday and Saturday night. The cold weather, coupled with the impending move-out and secret pregnancy, had them all holed up by the time each weekend rolled around. They fell into the comfortable rhythm of going through a bottle of red, of which Lise would just have a glass, arguing about nothing, and watching the worst movies ever made. Nora and Cory, after a few weeks, much to their relief, simply stopped asking.

The week that things started to fall apart it had been Pete’s pick. He’d chosen the darling of the 1930s film scene—Reefer Madness—and had just hooked his laptop up to the TV to play the illegally downloaded 1936 classic. Scottie had just settled into the corner of the sectional, feeling slightly guilty about taking the best spot but not guilty enough to give it up to her pregnant friend or disabled boyfriend as they both separately tried to persuade her.

Will eventually forfeited and situated himself on the couch next to Scottie with his head in her lap and his legs laid out straight in front of him. She absently stroked at his hair gently as Pete started the movie and refilled glasses. He also expertly rolled a joint—special for the occasion—and passed it over to Scottie. Lise, predictably passed, and Will was on the fence. Scottie inhaled a few times deeply and exhaled, settling into the herbaceous scent. It was a weirdly comforting smell. Smiling, she passed it to Will who took a small hit before passing it back to Pete. Scottie was just about to take a sip of the rich red wine when her phone started buzzing underneath her. She shifted uncomfortably and fished for it, jostling Will in the process. Finally, she freed from the cushion quicksand just as Will started to settle back in. It was Nora.


In the last couple of months, Scottie had retreated slightly from her friendship with Nora. There were so many intertwined and stupidly loaded reasons why, Cory being just one of them, but she knew she needed some distance as she tried to build a life here in New York—as she tried to build a life with Will. That being said, Scottie would never let go of Nora completely. They’d been through too much together. Nora had pulled her up when she didn’t think she could stand. Scottie owed Nora more than she cared to admit. That being said, talking to her just as they were settling in felt like an unnecessary evil. She let it go to voicemail.


Nora called again, and Scottie hesitated but didn’t pick up.Then Nora called again, and this time, even Will nudged her.


“You should probably pick up, right?” he asked tentatively. Scottie shrugged noncommittally but knew he was right. She slid the call open and held it up to her ear.


“Nora?” she asked. What she heard on the other end was completely unintelligible—a kind of rising mess of whimpering, heavy breathing, and garbled sobbing. Scottie bolted up straight, bumping Will forward in the process. He scooted into a sitting position, positioning his legs over the side of the couch, worry marbling his features. Pete paused the movie. Scottie’s cheeks flushed as she realized three pairs of eyes were on her.


“Nora,” Scottie demanded, “Nora. What’s happening? Nora. I need you to calm down.” There was a mess of fumbling and rustling, then Nora made a sound like a kicked puppy. Scottie swiftly felt incredibly high.


“Nora.”


“I need you to come over,” she murmured, her voice as jagged and tattered. The line went dead abruptly, and Scottie pulled the phone away from her face, staring at the home screen, the ghost of Nora’s raw pain hovering in the air.


“I have to go to the Upper West Side,” Scottie stated as if she were in a trance, dropping her phone down on the couch, her eyes glazed over. Her stomach was cold with anxiety.


“What?” Will asked, exasperated. “What happened?” Scottie shook her head and stood, stepping toward the kitchen, unsure of what she even needed to grab before she went. Will quelled his frustration at not being able to follow her quicker. Exhaling his irritation, he scooted his butt to the edge of the sofa and transferred to his chair, arranging his feet crookedly on the plate in uncharacteristic haste. He wheeled over to her side as efficiently as he could manage.


“Let me drive you,” he said firmly, pushing past her to grab his shoes and coat. He slipped his coat on to the tune of her protests, but he insisted. It was late—almost eleven—and the Upper West Side was incredibly far from Williamsburg. He didn’t want to send her out into the cold alone to take the subway or a cab. And he could have disconnected his hand controls in his car, but the way that Scottie was shaking didn’t inspire too much confidence in her driving ability.


“You should have heard her,” Scottie whispered to the floor of the elevator as they rode it down to the garage. She was twisting her hands. “I’ve never heard her like that.” Will reached for her hand. It was clammy and damp. He held on anyway.

<> 

They arrived at Nora’s building almost 40 minutes later. The traffic had, predictably, been a nightmare.

“I feel terrible that you drove me here,” Scottie whispered as she undid her seatbelt hesitantly, turning to look at him out of the side of her eyes. Will smiled faintly and leaned toward her, brushing her hair out of face. The lingering effects of the marijuana made her feel fuzzy. 

“I don’t mind at all,” he assured her. “Now go. Make sure she’s okay.” Scottie nodded hesitantly and looked up at the building on the right, taking a deep breath. The park was a great dark mass out Will’s window and it unsettled her. “I’m going to find somewhere to park on this block where I can get out easily just in case. If you want me to come up I’m there in a second.” Scottie nodded again, but Will wanted to make sure she understood. He leaned over the middle console and put his hand on her thigh. She turned to look at him with lips quivering and eyes glassy. “I’m there in a second, you hear me?”

“Yes,” she replied numbly, opening her door. The icy breeze rushed into the previously warm interior and a shiver ran through Will as he watched her step out onto the sidewalk.

“I love you,” he said as she leaned down to get one more shot of courage from his blue-eyed gaze.

“I love you more,” she replied and slammed the door, full of fear for what she was about to encounter.

The doorman waved her up, as he knew her—she’d spent enough time at this apartment over the years—both with Nora and Cory and just Cory. Guilt rushed through her like a passing train, as quick as it came it was gone. 


The elevator up to the 10th floor was hell. A combination of outdated mechanics, neglect from management, and her bubbling anxiety made the ride slow, erratic, and unnerving. The doors finally opened, and Scottie stumbled dazedly toward 10C at the end of the hall. She knocked aggressively but found the door to already be open.

“Nora?” she called as she stepped into the entry way and closed the door quietly behind her. All the lights seemed to be off and there wasn’t any sign of her. Cory and Nora lived in the apartment that Cory had inherited from his parents, who now lived in Boca. The same apartment that Nora had hated, and subsequently made fun of, when she first met him. Oh, how malleable people become when they want to fit into a round hole, Scottie thought bitterly. Then she chased the criticism from her mind. Nora was clearly in distress. Now, unfortunately for the list she'd been keeping, wasn’t the time to find fault. 

“Nora?” Scottie asked the dark room again, stepping into the hall and flipping on a light. Nothing. She continued walking, peeking into the large open kitchen to the left and the small powder room to the right. Nothing.

“Nora?” Scottie shouted this time, stepping into the living room. The wide windows overlooked the park—a great mess of darkness—quite a novelty in New York City. Flipping the lights on Scottie found herself standing in the middle of another great mess. A half empty bottle of Grey Goose sat on the glass coffee table with a snarl of cigarette butts smashed into what looked like a porcelain bowl. There were papers and shards of glass scattered all over the expensive carpet. Scottie knelt down carefully and picked up a picture frame that was face down, flipping it over and coming face to face with Nora and Cory on their wedding day at Wave Hill. The warmth of that afternoon still thick in Scottie’s mind, the feeling of Will’s skin under her fingertips as she covered up his black eye. She didn’t even know him then. She was caught up in the amazing serendipity of it all—this man in front of her would change her life.


The glass was jagged around the edges and Scottie stared at the photo knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that it had been thrown by Nora—volcanic anger was her MO. Whether it was thrown into the empty room or aimed at Cory’s head was still a question.


“Happiest day of my life, right?” The voice came from behind Scottie, the tone was so flat and numb that it sent a violent shiver through her. Rounding on Nora, Scottie was struck by how exhausted she looked. Leaning heavily against the door frame with her whole left side, she tilted her head, so it was also supported by the wall. She looked terrible. Her arms were crossed loosely over her chest as if she didn’t have the strength to hold herself any tighter. A white robe hung open over a grey bra and black polka dot pajama pants. Her usually creamy skin held an eerie light, so white that it was almost see-through. Her eyes were hollow and sagging and her hair was tied in a messy ponytail. She’d missed a considerable chunk and it hung limply by her right shoulder in a knot. She heaved a great shuddering breath and turned into a deflated balloon as she exhaled.


“You’re drunk,” Scottie said carefully, knowing that look in Nora's eyes from college, and rising up from her crouch and gently laying the picture on the coffee table next to the vodka.


“Of course, I’m fucking drunk,” Nora answered, salt now saturating her tone. There was fire under the initial monotone. Her anger was on the rise. 


“Come sit,” Scottie beckoned, stepping toward the couch. Nora gave a great shuddering sigh and threw herself down on the couch, sprawled out, leaning her head back on a pile of throw pillows. There was no room for Scottie, so she gingerly sat on the edge of the glass coffee table. 


“Nora,” Scottie prodded gently after a moment, leaning a bit closer. Nora had her hand draped dramatically over her eyes. “What happened here? Where’s Cory?” The questioned lingered like smoke as Nora batted blindly at the table for a cigarette. Scottie grabbed the pack and pulled one out, handing it to her with the lighter. Nora sat up slowly, put the cigarette in her quivering mouth, lit it, and inhaled deeply—as if it were providing her with the very will to carry on. Scottie hadn’t seen Nora smoke since college. 
                 
“Where’s Cory?” Scottie asked again. Nora shrugged and puffed on the cigarette. Turning to exhale she stared absently out the window. Scottie signed and rubbed her face. “I’m trying to help.”

“He’s out of town for work,” Nora replied, interrupting Scottie. “He left this morning for a conference. He won’t be back until Thursday.” Scottie nodded slowly.

 “What happened?”

“He’s cheating on me,” Nora said, and her voice was matter-of-fact, so snarky and sharp that Scottie was sure Nora knew about her and Cory. She was absolutely sure of it. But then, Nora sighed again and shook her head, ashing her cigarette in the expensive bowl in the center of the table. “I mean, I don’t know for sure, but it has to be the only explanation.”

“Explanation for what?” Scottie ventured cautiously. She still wasn’t convinced she was in the clear. Nora laughed coldly and reached for the Grey Goose, swigging directly from the bottle.

“I was trying to pull a book down from that shelf over there,” she gestured vaguely to the other side of the room and Scottie followed her hand to a pile of books that had clearly fallen from the top shelf, along with a large blue and white vase that was now shattered into a handful of tiny pieces. “I’m trying to read more, you know,” Nora continued numbly, inhaling on the cigarette and sitting up a little more. Scottie didn’t try to push or interrupt. “Well I knocked that vase down as you can see, and well, I was quite upset at first. Ran to get a dustpan and glue. I stupidly thought that maybe I could fix it,” she laughed hollowly and took another sip of the vodka. “It was his grandmother’s you know, so he’ll be plenty upset about it when he gets back. I’m looking forward to it.” Nora stopped short and tossed her cigarette in the bowl and reached for another one. Scottie’s phone buzzed and she chanced a glance at is as Nora lit the new cigarette.

WILL: Everything okay?

Scottie felt herself warm. It was a comfort that Will was outside just in case. Nora was staring into space, so Scottie typed back a quick response then stowed her phone again.

 SCOTTIE: She thinks he cheated. Gathering intel. Will report back.

Her phone buzzed again but she didn’t look. Nora was returning, inhaling deeply and absently fingering the hair she’d missed for her ponytail.

“I found a key,” she replied finally, her voice like a child’s.

“A key to what?” Scottie asked. Nora laughed again.

“I finally found out to what. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but I never knew the top drawer of his desk locked, but lo and behold, it does. I went in there to put the key on his desk. I wanted to confront him about it later this week, or at least just ask. And then I saw the lock.” Nora’s eyes glazed over again, and she shook her head like she was trying to shake her thoughts loose.

“What was in the drawer?” Scottie questioned, unsure she wanted to hear the answer. There was still a pit of panic in her chest that Nora knew. Irrationally, she wondered if Nora knew if she would go as far as to try and kill her. Crazy? Right?

“Checks,” Nora replied. Her tone had hardened and she inhaled severely.

“Checks?” Scottie repeated, confused.

“Checks,” Nora reiterated.

“I’m confused.” Scottie twisted her hands in her lap. The edge of the coffee table was digging into her upper thighs, but she didn’t shift positions. It all felt too precarious.

“Checks from a checking account I didn’t know about. I didn't know he had it. And records of checks written for thousands of dollars over the last I don't even know, five, eight, ten years. Thousands and thousands of dollars, Scottie,” Nora, said, voice cracking at the end.

“I don’t understand,” Scottie admitted, and she didn’t. Why would Cory be writing secret checks for thousands of dollars.

"He's been writing checks to an Angela K. King. All of the checks are to this Angela K. King person. And he's still writing them. The last one was dated from last week,” Nora continued without acknowledging Scottie at all. The cigarette needed to be ashed, but Nora seemed too caught up to notice and some of the grey soot ended up on the couch. Normally she would care—immensely. But she didn't even flinch. “She lives in New Jersey. Not too far from here. I fucking found her, and I’m going to go there and rip her fucking hair out.”

“Nora,” Scottie started but stopped abruptly—if looks could kill, Scottie would be dead. Nora’s anger was overtaking the very air in the room.

"It’s got to be a love child,” Nora continued with reckless abandon. “Why else would he be sending her thousands of dollars a year? Huh?” Scottie shook her head, feeling oddly empty and betrayed herself. “It’s been going on for years, Scottie. Years.” She dragged out the last word with venom and it dug and burrowed and burned under Scottie’s skin. She felt tears prick the corners of her eyes and wiped at them angrily, trying to center herself. This wasn’t about her—was it?


Scottie took a deep breath to help quell the drowning sensation that was threatening to overtake her. She’d been hit violently with the realization that even when she thought her relationship with Cory might go somewhere, he had this secret mistress with a secret child. What a terrible thought. She was willing to throw away her friendship with Nora for a guy who kept those kinds of secrets. But why? Why keep this a secret? It all felt too cliche for Cory. Too passé. She felt like she needed these answers more than Nora did. Something went even deeper here. It had to.


Nora took another swig of vodka and smacked her lips callously. Scottie flinched as Nora handed her the bottle, but she took it in her trembling hands, hesitating for only a second before tipping it back, this bitterness of the alcohol a welcome sting. The air was severe on the back of her throat as she took a deep breath and tipped the bottle back again.


What’s one more?

<> 


Scottie woke to the sun streaming in the living room windows. Blinking slowly, she furrowed her brow at the light and sat up slowly. The ache in her back from sleeping in an armchair was apparent and she tried to stretch it out, but the pain latched on and hardened. Standing up, she ran her fingers through her hair. Her mouth was stale with vodka and tobacco, her head boasting the kind of thrumming she used to be used to. But she hadn’t been this hungover in a long long time. She could hear the shower running in the other room. Nora must have found the will, somewhere, to pull herself out of her cigarette haze.

Stumbling carefully around the shards of glass and porcelain, Scottie made her way to the kitchen, filling a cup of water from the sink and opening cabinets looking for ibuprofen. Swallowing the pills made her feel a bit better, just knowing she had relief to look forward to in the near future. Last night she’d told Will to go home. He offered to sleep there, but Scottie knew all too well that Will couldn’t be as spontaneous as he wanted to be. She didn’t think he’d had time to pack his medications or anything he needed to use the bathroom, and really, Nora just needed someone to make sure she didn’t throw herself out the window. Scottie could handle that on her own, right?

After Nora had finally passed out on the couch, Scottie covered her with a blanket and grabber her own, curling up in the armchair that she and Cory had once had sex on when Nora was out of town. 


Nora had declared she wouldn’t be able to stay in the apartment, and Scottie had offered the apartment she was still trying to sell. She wasn’t trying very hard, but it was time to pack up the place that reminded her too damn much of her mother and grandmother. Plus, she could use the money. Nora staying there for a few weeks wouldn’t mess anything up, though. She needed some space to work through everything—and a place to retreat when she finally confronted him and learned the truth. Scottie anticipated ugliness.

Her phone vibrated just as the shower stopped. Will was on his way to get them and Scottie hadn’t told Nora that he was their ride to the West Village. She bit her lip just as Nora came into the kitchen in nothing but a towel. She had the Grey Goose bottle in her hands. There was nothing more than dregs left. She dumped the rest in her mouth and dropped the bottle in the sink.

“Scuse me,” she snapped and nudged Scottie out of the way, reaching up to the cabinet over the stove. Scottie recoiled and stared as Nora grabbed an unopened bottle of Patron.

“Do you want a mixer?” Scottie asked quietly as Nora turned on her heel back toward the bedroom, red hair leaving a trail of water behind her. 

“Nope,” she replied flatly.

“You’re packing a bag?” Scottie asked timidly.

“Yep,” she answered loudly.

“Will’s going to pick us up in a half hour,” Scottie replied carefully. There was silence then a huff.

“Fucking brilliant,” she snorted and slammed the bedroom door. Scottie felt like she might throw up, but instead she just stood there and stared down at the puddle Nora’s sopping wet hair had left on the tile.

<> 

Will met them downstairs. Nora blanched when she saw him as the elevator doors opened. Scottie knew Nora and Will had a contentious relationship, partially because Nora didn't think Will was good enough to date her best friend, but she could never quite pinpoint where it all began. She doubted, sometimes, if they even knew.

“I told you he was driving us,” Scottie said quietly so Will wouldn’t hear them as they crossed the expansive lobby.

“I guess I forgot,” Nora replied, feeling insecure that Will knew she was practically falling apart at the seams. It was weirdly invasive and embarrassing, especially after how she’d treated him at their wedding. She’d seen him since then, obviously, but she’d never been vulnerable. And now she was as vulnerable as she’d ever been, and he’d always had a knack for seeing through her bullshit. It irked her. And now, here he was, sitting in her lobby, looking better than he’d ever looked, despite the wheelchair, about to help her up when she was down. She didn’t like the dynamic at all.

“William,” she offered sullenly.

“Let me take your bag,” Will offered kindly, without a hint of malice or smugness in his voice, despite the overpowering tequila wind that Nora brought with her. His tone surprised Nora so much that she actually let him take the bag. Putting it on his lap, he led the way out of the building, pushing the button to use the handicapped door to the left of the revolving door. Scottie carried Nora’s other bag because putting each foot in front of the other and pulling her jacket tight around her was all she could do to keep from passing out.

Nora watched Will ease himself down the ramp, keeping his wheels at bay by using the friction of his hands. Her bag bounced as he bumped onto the sidewalk, but it remained, securely in his lap. Nora climbed into the back seat of his car—which was parked about a half a block away, and pulled her coat even tighter around her against the December chill. Christmas. She hadn’t even thought of how the timing of this really fucking blew. She’d probably have to spend the holiday with her family. Or better yet, alone. Anywhere she went she’d be alone. Cory had his secret family that he’d probably make up some lie about in order to spend it with them. She felt bile rising in her throat and swallowed hard to keep it at bay.


Scottie loaded the bags in the trunk and Will scooted himself out of his chair and into the front seat, turning the car—and the heat—on before he pulled his legs in. Turning around he looked concerned as he caught Nora’s eye.


“Scottie,” he said as she slammed the trunk closed. She cocked her head around the back of the car and raised her eyebrows. “Would you mind? I don't want to crowd anyone,” he asked. She smiled tenderly—a smile that Nora had never seen from her before—and walked over to Will, nodding and planting a soft kiss on his mouth. Then she took his chair and stowed it in the back as Will shut his door.


“So, you’ve got her taking care of you now?” Nora said, failing to keep the drunken nastiness, rising out of a visceral kind of jealousy, out of her voice. Will flinched as if he’d been slapped, but he didn’t have time to react, because Scottie climbed into the front seat. He didn’t want to drag her into this.


“Ready?” she asked both of them, oblivious to the tension. Nora crossed her arms over her chest and pressed her face against the cold glass, hating herself and her uncompromising compulsion to be a bitch. Will swallowed hard and put the car in drive, wishing he'd chosen to break down his chair and hit Nora over the head with one of the dirty wet wheels. He searched for the hand controls so he wouldn’t bang his fist on the dashboard. Pulling out of the space, he made his way over to the West Side Highway, resentful of the fact that he was helping Nora with anything at all. He wanted to kick her out of the car and leave her on the curb. But instead, he took a hard left and merged with the downtown traffic.


He didn’t know all of the details—Scottie had mentioned that Cory had been cheating on her, and there was substantial proof—but he found himself unsurprised at the way that their marriage had panned out. He’d rather have been married to a rabid raccoon than married to Nora. And that, as well as how lucky he felt to have Scottie, were two things he knew for sure.

8 comments:

  1. I had to read this chapter about 4 times before I could gather my thoughts on it. Your description made my heart stop when I read it at 5 this morning lol. I was worried there was going to be problems between Will and Scottie. I really don't think I could handle that! HAHA. Anyway, although there wasn't near enough of Will in this one, I actually liked it. I love that Will, Scottie, Pete and Lise are so close and I loved the little private party they had and their weekends together. I also love the interactions between Will and Nora. I really hope this doesn't cause problems for Will and Scottie. Like I said, I don't think my heart can take it. I love those two so much and you make them feel so real. All of your characters seem real. You do an amazing job!! Can't wait to find out about Corey's secret! As always, I hope this story goes on forever! <3<3 ~Nikki

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  2. Nothing like well written, alcohol-fused drama, and characters you love. Your story has it all!

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  3. I think I meant alcohol infused . . . but at 4am, who knows? LOL

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  4. High drama & loving it! Cant wait for next thursday where we can see more Will & Scottie

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  5. I didn’t get around to commenting last week. I think I was overwhelmed! So much going on this week. Loved the movie nights on the couch and Will of course, taking her to Nora’s - always the gentleman. I was so scared, when you opened with “things start to unravel”. I’m still worried about what that means for Will and Scottie but of course still dying to read tomorrow! Keep it coming!

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    1. Also that was me, Beth, but it wouldn’t let me put my name in. ��

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