Always the Last to Know Page 2

“I’m thirty-two.”

“Your most fertile years are behind you.”

“Thanks, Carter.”

“Miss Frost? I need you for a second,” Carter said loudly. “Mazel tov, sweetheart,” he added as Bridget brushed away more glittering tears.

We left Bridget’s cheery classroom and went to the now-empty teachers’ lounge, where we teachers discussed which kids we hated most and how to ruin their young lives (not really). Carter posted the occasional Legalize Marijuana sticker somewhere, just to torment our principal, the venerable and terrifying Sister Mary.

I was the art teacher here. No, I could not support myself on a teacher’s salary at a Catholic school in New York City, but more on that later. I loved teaching, though it hadn’t exactly been my dream. Just about every kid loved art. If I didn’t have the same stature as the “regular” teachers, I made up for it by being adored.

“So you’re thinking about marriage and why you’re still single,” said Carter, pulling out a chair and straddling it.

“Yep.” I sat down, too, the normal way, like a human and not a cowboy.

“So propose already.”

“What?”

“Propose marriage to your perfect boyfriend.”

“Meh.”

“Why should men have to do all the work? Do you know how hard it is to buy the perfect ring, pick the perfect moment and place, say the perfect words and still have it be a fucking surprise? It’s very hard.”

“You would know.” Carter had been married several times, twice to women, once to a man.

“Listen to your uncle Carter.”

“You’re not my uncle, unfortunately.”

“Some men need a shove toward the altar, honey. Shove him. Do you really want to go out into the Tinder world again?”

“Jesus, no.”

“Don’t become a statistic. Kids are getting married younger and younger these days. Your window is closing. Match and eHarmony worked fifteen years ago, but now they’re filled with criminals. As you well know.”

“He was a minor felon, and it wasn’t exactly listed in his profile. But yes, I see your point.”

Alexander (not a felon) and I had been dating for a couple of years. Ours had been the classic rom-com meet-cute. I turned around on a wine night with my friends and sloshed my cabernet onto his crisp white shirt. He laughed, asked for my number, and called a few days later. We’d been together ever since.

We had a marriage-worthy relationship by any measure. Maybe it was the distance factor—he was a traveling yacht salesman (someone had to do it)—so we weren’t bothered by the slings and arrows of daily life together. He was constant—we saw each other almost every weekend. He brought me presents from his travels—a silk scarf printed with palmetto leaves from the Florida Keys, or honey from Savannah. He’d met my parents, charmed my mother (not an easy task), chatted with my father and wasn’t in awe of my older sister, which was definitely a point in his favor. Alex had great stories about his clients, some of them celebrities, others just fabulously wealthy. He was, er . . . tidy, a quality that shouldn’t be undersold.

Alexander lived on the Upper East Side, which I tried not to hold against him. His apartment was impressive but soulless. Every time I stayed over, I felt like I was staying in a model home—a place that was interesting and tasteful, but not exactly homey. He’d bought it furnished. Some of his art came from HomeGoods, and since I’d been—correction, was still—an artist, that did make me wince.

Sex was great. He was good-looking—his hair a shade I called boarding school blond, which would get nearly white in the summer. His eyes were blue and already had the attractive crow’s-feet you’d expect for a guy who sold boats. In a nutshell, he looked like he’d stepped out of a J. Crew catalog, and why he was dating me, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure. “You have no idea how hard it is to find a nice girl,” he said once, so I guess it was that.

But I wasn’t really a girl anymore, not like Bridget. Already past my prime fertility years, according to Uncle Carter, who did tend to know everything.

“Hello?” he said, scratching his wrist. “Sadie. You’re in vapor lock. Make a move.”

Another fair point. I’d been at St. Cath’s for eight years, painting on the side, living in a nine-hundred-square-foot apartment in Times Square, the armpit of Manhattan. “Yeah,” I said. “Sure. I could do it. We’re seeing each other tonight.”

“See? Written in the stars.” He winked at me. “Now, I have to go wash the grime from these little motherfuckers off me because I have a date. A sex date, I want you to know.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“Josh Foreman,” he said, referring to the security guard who worked at St. Cath’s.

“Please stop.”

“His hands are so soft. That smile. Plus, he screams like a wildcat in bed.”

“And . . . scene.” I brought my hands together, indicating cut. Carter grinned and left the teachers’ lounge.

More evidence of Alexander’s plans to marry me someday flashed through my head. Once he’d said, “Margaret’s a nice name for a girl, don’t you think? I wouldn’t mind a daughter named Margaret.” Another: “We should look at property on the Maine coast for a summer place. It’s so beautiful up there. And Portland has a great art scene.”

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