Too Good to Be True Page 2

I worry about Skye, I really do. She’s a beautiful girl, but with her … problem … it just seems to be setting her back. I worry about her meeting someone.…

My problem. My fucking problem.

It’s not Nancy’s fault that I dislike her, not if I’m being honest with myself. I can see that now that I’m in a solid place in my life. I have the perspective and the maturity to admit that she never stood a chance with me, not after what I’d been through. It didn’t matter that people said she was bringing color and oxygen back into my father’s being, not when I could still vividly picture my parents dancing to Van Morrison in the kitchen, laughing and kissing like teenagers. Not when the mother I’d lost was a mother like mine. A force as palpable and vital as my own heartbeat, an entire world in a single being. You can’t replace a person like that.

I pull my long blond hair back into a low ponytail. I swipe mascara on my lashes, and Burke comes up behind me, circling his arms around my waist. I press my cheek against his chest and listen to the steady beat of his heart, grateful for its kindness, its openness. Finally, I’ve found someone who sees beyond my problem, someone who loves me in spite of it. And not just anyone—I’ve found tall, dark, and movie-handsome Burke Michaels, a man with a clear conscience and a good job and eyes so blue you can spot them a mile away. I’m suddenly almost excited for brunch at Buvette, fueled by the thought of waving my new ring in Nancy’s face. My dad never even gave Nancy an engagement ring (It was the second marriage for both of us; we thought understated was more appropriate, I can hear him reasoning).

I finger the earrings I’ve chosen for the occasion—my mother’s emerald studs, the ones my father gave her the night before their wedding. A pang of sadness rushes through me, and I miss her more than I can stand.

“I wish your mom could be here for this,” Burke says from behind me, reading my mind. He props his chin on my shoulder so that our eyes meet in the bathroom mirror.

“I was just thinking that. I wish your parents could be here, too.”

“Me, too, Goose.”

I smile at our reflection, the diamond sparkling on my left ring finger. Despite our missing pieces, it is truly a perfect sight. A dream come true. I’ll never be able to understand how I got so lucky.

Chapter Two

Burke Michaels’s Diary


Dear Dr. K,

Her hair is yellow and thick, nothing like my wife’s. Isn’t that awful, that when I first notice an attractive woman, I instantly compare her to my wife? I used to think I was a good person, the kind of man who wouldn’t be struck dumb by the tumble of blond hair down a creamy, anonymous back.

But shit goes out the window, I’ve learned. It goes out the window fast.

This journal was my wife’s idea, by the way. Well, technically it was yours, Dr. K (why I’m shelling out an arm and a leg for couples therapy when money is our central issue, don’t ask). I’m supposed to be writing down my thoughts daily, not to show you or Heather, but just for myself. To get to know ourselves better as individuals, independent from our marriage, as you explained it, Dr. K.

You said that for this journal project thing we could write each entry to you, like a letter of sorts, if that would be helpful. And I do think that will be helpful for me, from a structural standpoint, so that’s what I’m going to do, just so you know. Not that you’re ever going to read this.

Back to the blonde. Here’s what happened: I was standing behind her in the hotel lobby this morning, feeling jittery and impatient to check in even though I wasn’t in a rush whatsoever. I’m taking a weekend in Montauk. Hotel room for one at Gurney’s Resort. I told Heather I had a networking opportunity in the city with some old Credit Suisse colleagues and she didn’t question it, bless her faithful heart. “Just make time to journal your daily thoughts like Dr. K said” was her only response. After twenty-five years of marriage I’m so used to taking orders from Heather that the urge to follow them is drilled into my subconscious. And so here we are. My daily thoughts.

Why am I in Montauk? Good question. The truth is I’m having the worst month of my life, and I needed to get away. Three kids, one in college and one soon to be, a mortgage, and a wife I used to be crazy about. I feel sad when I look at Heather now, because mostly all I see is the absence of what I used to love.

There’s also the astronomical cost of my eldest daughter Hope’s dental implants (she claims she hadn’t been drinking when she fell down a flight of stairs at a frat party and knocked out several of her top teeth last spring). And then, to top it all off, there’s the fact that I was recently fired from my job of over two decades at PK Adamson. I’m sorry, let me rephrase: I was recently let go from my job of over two decades at PK Adamson. According to my ex-boss, Herb, there’s a crucial difference, and one that earned me two weeks’ severance. Two whole weeks’ severance! After twenty fucking years. Can you believe that, Dr. K?

I hope you know I’m being sarcastic. It’s not easy to convey sarcasm in a journal. Anyway, yes, I was recently “let go,” although I suppose it’s not all that recent since I’ve technically been unemployed since April. And if you think I’ve been sitting on my ass for the last four months, you’re wrong. I’ve applied to jobs at every other wealth management firm under the sun, but no one will hire me, not when they see what’s on my record. In 1999, when my old ex-boss offered me the data-entry-specialist position at PK Adamson, he said, “If I don’t give you a shot, I know no one else will.” And he was right. He’s still right. Because in certain situations, time doesn’t ease the grip of the past.

But with twenty-plus years of experience under my belt, I refuse to switch industries. I can’t afford that kind of pay cut. With the mortgage and college tuition and Hope’s teeth and our vital therapy sessions with brilliant, out-of-network you, money is tighter than a virgin’s pussy.

Forgive my crudeness, Dr. K. I’m quite distressed. In case you were wondering, insurance doesn’t cover dental implants, which come in around $3,500 per faux tooth. My daughter is currently making do with dental flippers.

So, here I am. I lost my job in April and I’ve spent the summer working my ass off to find a new one, and no one will hire me, and my wife thinks I’m a worthless piece of shit, and maybe I am, Dr. K. Maybe I am.

But I do know that life is short, and I need this weekend. I need it for my own red-blooded sanity. I confided in my buddy Todd, my colleague—ex-colleague, I should say—and he told me Gurney’s in Montauk is the place. Right now, I need to be at the place.

So, back to this morning. I was making a bet with myself about the blonde in front of me at the Gurney’s check-in desk. A woman can look amazing from behind and then she turns around, and, yikes, the front of her washes your fantasy down the drain. A “butter face,” Todd calls such girls (everything “but her” face).

Anyway, I was really getting into this internal debate, but before I could settle on a firm hypothesis, I got my answer. The blonde whipped around, and her face reminded me of the pretty girls in high school—big doe eyes, supple skin, small nose. A combination that is simple and astonishing at once. She looked directly at me for a split second that jolted my nerves awake, that hushed every sound in the room and in my head so that all I could feel and hear was Yes. Her.

All too quickly she resumed her conversation with her friend, a lanky brunette. The girls (they were more like girls than women; mid-twenties, I guessed) brushed by me with their rolling suitcases in tow, and I caught a whiff of something sweet and young and expensive. I heard the brunette mumble something about Aperol spritzes by the pool.

The man behind the desk at Gurney’s was calling to me. “Sir, please step forward.”

I heard his voice but somehow didn’t register the words until he’d repeated himself a third or maybe a fourth time, and the woman behind me jabbed my shoulder and said, “Go.”

Go. People in New York and the Hamptons always want you to go. To live in this part of the world, you have to keep moving. Maybe that’s why Heather and I never survived here.

If the concierge was annoyed with my delayed reaction, he didn’t show it. He was tan and cheerful and well rested, effusing good health and Matthew McConaughey vibes. All that vitamin D. He checked me in to my Superior Ocean View room, the most basic room Gurney’s offers, and it’s still costing me $1,080 a night. Not a small charge (more than four sessions with you, Dr. K), and if Heather knew what I was doing, she’d send a pack of wolves after me. But like I said, I really, really need this.

Prev page Next page