“Absolutely.” Turning back to his laptop, he clicked a few buttons and then started reading aloud, with mock seriousness, the latest business news from overseas.
Now she was the one to roll her eyes. But she found Darius’s low, deep voice soothing, even when he was describing boring tech developments. Sipping orange spice herbal tea, she nibbled on the sugar cookies she’d made earlier that
afternoon. She’d been eating so much lately she felt nearly as big as a house herself.
But Darius didn’t seem to mind. Her cheeks grew hot as she recalled how he’d made love to her all over the house. Even the bathrooms—those with showers, at least. Almost forty rooms.
“We have to make this house ours,” he’d growled, and she’d loved it.
Now as she felt his gentle hand resting on her belly, she grew drowsy listening to his low voice reading news stories to their baby and punctuating them with exclamations when he felt the baby kick.
“Letty,” Darius said in a low voice, “are you awake?”
“Barely.” She yawned. “I was just going to head up to bed. Why?”
He was quiet for a long moment, then said quietly, “Never mind. It’ll wait. Good night, agape mou.”
The next morning, she kissed Darius goodbye as he left for lower Manhattan, as was his usual schedule Monday through Thursday. He’d set up an office for a new business he was excited about, to create software that would teach math and coding skills. Each day, Darius hired more employees, paying for their salaries out of his own pocket. There hadn’t been any profits. “And there might never be any,” he’d confessed sheepishly. But he wanted to make a difference in the world.
She’d never been so proud of him. He had a new spark in his eyes as he left Fairholme for his ninety-minute commute to the office.
Letty went up to the nursery, her favorite room, to fold all the cute tiny baby clothes one more time and make sure everything was ready. She’d had a dull ache in her lower back all morning. She went down to the kitchen, intending to ask Mrs. Pollifax if she knew of any natural remedy for back pain.
Instead she found the housekeeper crying.
“What’s wrong?” Letty cried, going up to her in the enormous, gleaming kitchen. “What’s happened?”
“My friend.” The woman wiped her eyes with the edge of her apron. “He’s dying.”
“I’m so sorry,” Letty whispered.
Mrs. Pollifax’s eyes looked at her accusingly. “You should be. Since it’s your own father.”
Letty stared at her in shock. For a long minute, she couldn’t even make sense of the words.
“I’m sorry—I can’t be silent any longer,” the housekeeper said. “Whatever caused you to be estranged from him, you’re wrong to let him die alone. You’ll regret it the rest of your life!”
“My father...?” Letty said slowly. “Is dying?”
Mrs. Pollifax’s expression changed. “You didn’t know?”
Shocked, she shook her head. “There must...must be some mistake. My father’s not sick. He’s fine. He’s living without a care in the world...going to the park every day to play chess...”
“Oh, my dear.” Coming closer, the housekeeper gently put her hand on Letty’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I judged you wrongly. I thought you knew. He collapsed a few weeks ago and has been in the hospital ever since. When I visited him yesterday, he didn’t look well. He might have only weeks left. Days.”
A loud rushing sound went through Letty’s ears.
“No,” she said numbly. “It has to be a mistake.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“You’re wrong.” Shaking off the housekeeper’s hand, Letty reached for her phone. She dialed Darius’s number first. When it went to voice mail, she hung up.
She took a deep breath. Her hands shook as she deliberately broke her vow to her husband for the first time. Her father had always hated cell phones, disparaging them as “tracking devices,” so she called him at their old apartment number.
That, too, went to voice mail. But it was no longer Letty’s voice on the phone greeting. Her father had replaced it with his own. For the first time in two months, she heard his recorded voice, and it sounded different. Fragile. Weak.
Terror rushed through her.