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Fairy Tales

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Corona Barmaid
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Fairy Tales

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Scotch Neat
Wednesday evening, in between bites of chicken, Warren asks, as casually as can be, "I've got my kids this weekend. Do you want to meet them?" My head promptly explodes, leaving blood, brain matter, and bone fragments all over Warren's dining area, and ruining the rest of his chicken.

"I'm working Friday and Saturday nights," I reply, playing with my broccoli rabe.

"I know, I just thought maybe during the afternoon Saturday or something. It doesn't have to be anything big, just come meet us in the park for a walk."

"Can I see how I feel after Friday night's shift?" I'm already pondering a visit to WebMD.com to see if there's any such thing as a crippling six-hour flu.

"Of course! I think they'd really like you." I smile, because the flattery is meant well.

The sex that night is really good, if maybe a little slower and more tender than it's been our first several times, less fierce and hungry. Variety is good, I think to myself as I sit in his living room watching television for a few hours after he falls asleep, victim again of our divergent schedules. I'd work on my novel, but Warren told me to leave my laptop at home.

My grandfather on my mother's side died when I was about eight, and my grandmother less than two years later. I don't recall anything specific being wrong with her, just that her health started failing after Grandpa died. I remember more than one relative telling me at the time that Grandma died of a broken heart, that sometimes two people are so much in love with each other that after one of them dies there's simply no reason for the other to go on.

As a ten year old, I thought that was a beautiful, romantic concept. Sometime after I turned eleven, it hit me how unfair it was that I could end up dying early just because my stupid husband had eaten a bad clam and gone first. And when I was thirteen, and my mother left, I worried that my father would literally drop dead from grief. It was only when he didn't that it finally dawned on me what a pile of crap I'd been handed a few years earlier.

Despite that, though, and despite how my parents' marriage ended, I think I remain a romantic. I cry at romantic movies, and I still believe that there's someone out there for me to share my life with. I just don't know if I have what it takes to be a good mother. As I've said here before, I don't even know if I want to try, given how disastrously my own mother failed. I love kids, and I know people who are going to make outstanding parents someday, I just have strong doubts about whether I'm one of them.

Thursday morning after Warren has gone off to work, telling me I should sleep in if I want to, I lay awake staring at the photo of his kids on his nightstand.

Late morning I'm sitting at home eating a Sausage McMuffin and reading e-mail, when in pops one from Jessica. It's information about flights, hotels, transportation, and various events for her wedding weekend in San Francisco in May. I've clearly received the "wedding party" version of the e-mail, as it includes things like final fittings, hair and nail appointments, the bachelorette party, and a rehearsal dinner. I imagine myself in the amazing dress Jessica picked out for her bridesmaids, I imagine Warren in his tux, I imagine the assembled crowd watching us dance gracefully to the wonderful music, and then I imagine Warren's two children tugging at his pant legs in the middle of our dance, wanting to go potty.

I shove the remaining quarter McMuffin into my mouth like the delicate lady that I am, and look for my phone.

"Hello?"

"I'm not ready."

"Debra?"

"Yeah. I'm not ready."

"For what?"

"To meet your kids. I'm not ready to meet your kids."

There's a pause. "Okay, you're not ready. There's no rush."

"Good, yeah, because the thing is I'm not ready."

There's a longer pause. "Are you okay?"

"What? I'm fine. I'm going to go take a nap. Have a good day, okay?"

"All right, you too. And have a good shift tonight."

I hang up, finish my orange juice, and scan my bookshelves. The photo album is at the bottom. I start at the end, and flip backward through the pages slowly. A bunch from the Bar, including Jessica and me in our evening gowns for New Years Eve. A few of me with guys I've dated over the last few years, or out with groups of friends. Peter and me while we were dating. A bunch of New York City when I'd first moved here. Before that, college - Dad and me at graduation, my sorority sisters, assorted boyfriends, UNH and Durham in the snow, a few of the hockey team beating Cornell in the national quarterfinals. High school graduation, again with Dad. Me at the prom. Me on the high school tennis team. And then finally I get back far enough.

Dad, Mom, and me. I think it must have been visiting day at the day camp where I taught tennis the summer before I started high school. Between being bat mitzvahed that spring and being in charge of a bunch of little girls, I felt so grown up, and I thought my parents were so proud of me. It was a beautiful day, and the photo's a really good one, if you don't look too closely, or if you don't know what was about to happen. I'm in the middle, beaming for the camera and holding my tennis racquet. My father is on my right, with his left hand on my left shoulder. My mother is on my left, using her right hand to shield her eyes from the sun. My father is smiling, but he isn't looking at the camera, he's looking at my mother. And my mother is looking away, and not really smiling much at all.

I pull the photo out of the album, and look closely at my father. I ask him in my head what I've never asked him out loud: Would you have married her if you'd known?

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