The last six-and-a-half months had been a living nightmare. There had been funeral arrangements and memorial services to organize and attend. Then there had been the months of pitying stares. I had become a recluse. I hadn’t wanted to deal with friends and coworkers. I had gone to work then gone home. When I ran out of excuses to avoid their offers, I had occasional meals with them. My life had shattered. Richard had recommended therapy on more than one occasion because I was clearly depressed. Of course I was depressed. The man I loved had died.
Chance had been one of three people who had been directly in the vehicle’s path when it had run through the crowd. After the NYPD investigation, it was ruled an accident. The car’s tire had blown after hitting a metal object in the street, which had caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle. She had tried to regain it but couldn’t. I heard through the grapevine that she was now being treated at an inpatient psychiatric facility upstate after she had attempted suicide. The woman hadn’t been ready for the media scrutiny and the accident’s fallout in her life. Part of me was glad she’d had a mental breakdown, but that was the evil, vindictive side. Another part was sorry for her. As horrible as it was, accidents happened. I saw accidents every day. Some were preventable. Some were not.
I had agreed to another Sunday brunch with Bryce and Richard. I hadn’t wanted to go, but I found myself at their door with a bottle of wine. I plastered on my best fake smile and knocked.
“Just a second,” Richard’s voice rang from the other side. A few seconds later, the door opened. “Darrin, we’re so glad you could make it. Brunch is almost ready.” He ushered me inside the townhouse as he kept talking. “We’re having a quiche I whipped up from scratch. It has a smattering of vegetables with sausage and bacon. I also threw together a mixed green salad and a raspberry tart for dessert.” I handed him the bottle of wine. Richard inspected it and nodded before saying, “Good choice.”
Bryce came from the backroom. “How are you doing?” he asked me.
“I’m doing…” I left the phrase hanging in the air.
“Well,” Bryce said without acknowledging the ambiguity of my statement, “at least you’re up and moving around.”
I forced a smile and followed Bryce and Richard into the small dining room. The table was set for three. As usual, Richard had set an immaculate table that would make Emily Post jealous. Bryce motioned to a chair, and I took a seat as Richard left.
“So, how are things in your world?” I asked, breaking the silence.
“Richard and I are doing well. We’ve been looking into surrogacy again. I think Richard’s biological clock is ticking. He wants a baby.”
“I heard that,” Richard’s voice echoed from the kitchen next to the dining room. Richard walked in with the salad and placed it in the middle of the table. “And don’t let this one fool you,” he said, sticking his thumb in Bryce’s direction. “He wants to be a doting father as much as I do. We have a lot of love to give a little one.”
“Why not adopt?” I asked.
“We talked about that,” Bryce acknowledged, “but ultimately we want to have a little baby. We have thought about having one through surrogacy, then adopting her or him a little brother or sister.”
“Two kids?” I asked.
“Don’t be so shocked,” Richard said, returning to the dining room with the quiche. “I’m doing more and more of my work from home. After the pandemic, the firm has embraced remote work, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect.”
Richard set about serving up the quiche. We spent the next hour talking about a range of topics deemed ‘safe’ by the group.
After an appropriate amount of time once we’d all eaten, I looked at Bryce and Richard and said, “Well, I need to get to the gym before taking a nap. I’m working the ten-to-ten shift tonight.”
“Let me put together a to-go box for you,” Richard said. “I worry that you’re not getting enough home-cooked food.”
Sadly, he was right. Most nights I grabbed takeout or heated something from a box in the microwave. “Thanks,” I said. “It would be much appreciated. You can only eat takeout Chinese so many days in a row.”
When Richard left the dining room, Bryce turned and stared at me. For the first time that day, he put on his serious face.
“I’m worried about you,” Bryce said. “I know it’s only been six months, but you’ve almost completely shut down.”
“I’m still grieving. Is there an appropriate amount of time one should grieve?”
“No, there’s not,” Bryce said hesitantly. “But I worry that you’re not making progress toward getting healthy. Have you reconsidered Richard’s suggestion about therapy?”
“I don’t need a shrink… I need time.” I blinked back tears that had started to swell in my eyes. “I need him back.” I was amazed when the words came out of my mouth.
“I know. We all miss him,” Bryce said. He looked at me for a second, and I could tell he was trying to plan what to say next. “I don’t know how I would react if Richard died, so I won’t presume to tell you how you’re supposed to behave. I won’t. But I will say I’m worried.”
“Thanks…” He meant well. Part of me wanted to come back with a snarky comment, but I held my tongue. “Each day is a little better,” I lied.
“Here’s your to-go box,” Richard said, breezing back into the dining room. He took one look at the serious faces in the room. “Did I miss something?”
“Not at all,” I said, using the break in the conversation to my advantage. “Thank you for an amazing meal and lovely company, but I must get to the gym.”
Bryce looked like he wanted to say something, but he kept his words to himself, which suited me just fine. I said goodbyes and hugged both men before going home to change and head off to the gym.