Life and Other Inconveniences Page 1

Author: Kristan Higgins

Genres: Fiction , Romance



“You don’t have a brain tumor,” said my best friend, who, conveniently, was also a neurologist.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes, Emma. Don’t look so disappointed.”

“I’m not! I just . . . you know, my vision was wonky last night. Then I spaced out driving into the city today.” Granted, last night I’d accidentally turned on the superbright flashlight while it was aimed right at my face, but still . . . the retinal afterimage had taken some time to subside. As for spacing out, I drove into Chicago a few times a week, so it was normal that I didn’t take note of every detail on the forty-five-minute drive. Still, I couldn’t help asking, “Are you sure it’s not parahypnagogia?”

“Stop looking up medical terms,” Calista said. “You’re healthy. You’re not dying. Riley will not grow up motherless, and besides, she’s sixteen, and if you did die, I would adopt her and raise her as my own. Screw her baby daddy.”

“I did screw him. Hence our child. But I’ll make sure you get custody. She does like you better.”

Calista smiled. “Of course she does. Are we still on for drinks Thursday?”

“We are. Thanks for checking me out.”

“Stop staring into flashlights.”

“You put it that way, it sounds so stupid,” I said.

“It is stupid, hon. Now go. I have actual sick patients.”

I kissed her on the cheek and walked out of her office. Yes, I was a hypochondriac. But I was also a single mother, so my death did figure prominently into my daily musings. As a therapist, I knew that was a normal fear—leaving my daughter, the upheaval it would cause her. She’d have to live with her father back in Connecticut, and he had two other kids (and a wife). And what would happen to my grandfather, who’d taken me in when I was a knocked-up teenager? We still lived with him, and I didn’t want him to be alone. I’d lost my own mom at a young age . . . Would Riley be as screwed up as I’d been?

Calista was right. I had to get over this. I knew I was healthy, but diagnosing myself with all sorts of horrible diseases was kind of a hobby. After all, the Internet was invented for a reason.

But I trusted Calista, who was brilliant and my friend. Feeling considerably cheered, I walked out onto Michigan Avenue, blinking in the spring sunshine. The Magnificent Mile glittered, washed clean by two days of bone-chilling rain earlier this week, but in typical midwestern fashion, we suddenly seemed to be in the middle of summer, even if it was only May.

No brain tumor. Hooray. Also, drinks with Calista, which still sounded cool and adult, despite our being thirty-five. Unlike me, Calista was single with no kids and had her act completely together, whereas I still felt like I was faking the adult thing.

Except where Riley was concerned. I was a good mother, that I knew. Even if she was struggling a bit these days, I was on it. I was there. I stalked her social media accounts and read her texts (don’t judge me . . . she was still a minor child, after all). Tonight was Nacho Night at our house, and even if Riley had been a little sullen these days, nachos would surely cheer her up.

The twisting skyline of the City of Big Shoulders glittered in the fresh air. I loved being in Chicago proper. Today, before my brain tumor check, I’d seen a client in the shared office suite I leased with a group of therapists. I was still new to the profession and grateful to have access to the posh space. Most of the time, I worked from home, doing online counseling for people who didn’t want to be seen walking into a therapist’s office. TheraTalk, the secure Skype-like software that let me see patients online, was less than ideal, but that was okay. I found I counseled the really troubled people better with a little distance.

Pain was always hard to see up close. If I teared up online, or wanted to smack a client, it was easier to hide.

But the office made me feel like a proper therapist, and my client today, Blaine, was an easy case. She had adjustment disorder, which was the general diagnosis that allowed me to get paid by her insurance. Blaine had never adjusted to her in-laws and liked venting about them. I’d suggest ways to answer that didn’t involve curse words or the throwing of wine bottles, which was Blaine’s fantasy, and she’d nod and agree and come back next month with a new story. Easy-peasy and actually kind of fun to hear the tales. Her real issue was feeling confident enough to contradict her mother-in-law, and not backing down, but we were getting there.

Maybe I’d swing by the Ghirardelli shop and get some ice cream. Then again, we had ice cream at home, if Pop hadn’t eaten it all, and I couldn’t justify spending six bucks on a cone.

I walked past an empty storefront, then jerked to a halt. Turned around and looked. My hands and feet tingled before my brain caught up.

Yep. That was a harbinger of doom, all right.

To the untrained eye, it looked like a pink leather handbag, adorably retro but with a sassy blue tassel sexing it up a bit. Nevertheless, I knew what it was. A pink purse of doom.

Shit, shit, shit.

For a second, I forgot where I was, transported instantly to my childhood, when I always felt like an outcast, like a stupid, unwanted kid, like I’d done something wrong just by breathing.