What Alice Forgot Page 133
She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship with Nick was the ultimate, the feeling they\d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It\s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you\ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you\ve seen the worst and the best well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.
And quite possibly she could have achieved that feeling with Dominick one day. It was never so much that Dominick was wrong for her and that Nick was right. She may have had a perfectly happy life with Dominick.
But Nick was Nick. He knew what she meant when she said, ’’Oh my dosh.’’ They could look at an old photo together and travel back in time to the same place;they could begin a million conversations with ’’Do you remember when . . .’’;they could hear the first chords of an old song on the radio and exchange glances that said everything without words. Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together, even when they were foolishly thinking they could lead separate lives. It was as simple and complicated as that.
When Olivia started high school, Alice had begun work as a consultant for fund-raising events. Working seemed to give her relationship with Nick a new edge. Sometimes they would go out to dinner after they\d both been working, and she felt an entirely new attraction for him. Two professionals flirting across the table. It had the frisson of an affair. It was so good to find that their relationship could keep on changing, finding new edges.
Nick stopped suddenly beside the bed and looked down at her, his hand pressed to his chest.
’’What?’’ Alice sat upright. ’’Chest pain? Are you feeling chest pain?’’
She was obsessed with chest pain.
He removed his hand and smiled. ’’Sorry. No. I was just thinking.’’
’’God,’’ she said irritably, lying back down again. ’’You nearly gave me a heart attack.’’
He knelt on the bed next to her. She swatted him away. ’’I haven\ cleaned my teeth.’’
’’Oh, for heaven\s sakes,’’ he said. ’’I\m trying to say something profound.’’
’’I prefer you to be profound when I\ve cleaned my teeth.’’
’’I was just thinking,’’ he said, ’’how grateful I am that you hit your head that day. Every day I say a little prayer thanking God for creating the spin class.’’
She smiled. ’’That\s very profound. Very romantic.’’
’’Thank you. I do my best.’’
He lowered his head, and she went to give him a friendly, perfunctory kiss (she hadn\ cleaned her teeth;she was impatient for her coffee) but the kiss turned unexpectedly lovely and she felt that ticklish, teary feeling behind her eyes as a lifetime of kisses filled her head: from the very first brand-new-boyfriend kiss, to ’’You may kiss the bride,’’ to the unshaven, shell-shocked, red-eyed kiss after Madison was born, to that aching, beautiful kiss after she broke up with Dominick and told Nick (standing in the car park of McDonald\s, the kids arguing in the backseat of the car), ’’Will you please come back home now?’’
The bedroom door burst open and Nick jumped back to his side of the bed, grinning. Madison was balancing a tray set for breakfast, Tom was holding a huge bunch of sunflowers, and Olivia had a present.
’’Happy Mother\s Day to you,’’ they sang, to the tune of ’’Happy Birthday.’’
’’We\ e trying to redeem ourselves for last year,’’ explained Madison as she placed the tray on Alice\s lap.
’’I should think so,’’ said Alice. She picked up the fork, took a mouthful of pancake, and closed her eyes.
They would think she was savoring the taste (blueberries, cinnamon, cream excellent), but she was actually savoring the whole morning, trying to catch it, pin it down, keep it safe before all those precious moments became yet another memory.