Playing favorites

A couple years ago during NaNoWriMo, I wrote what is probably my favorite scene ever. My main character has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her current husband, who is the first person narrator here, and her ex-husband have a pleasant little chat about it.


        I couldn’t think of a way to start this conversation that wouldn’t piss him off, so I figured I’d just jump in.

“I’m sorry.”

Kyle snorted. “Seriously, fuck you.”


“You think you can apologize for what you did? Are you kidding me?”

“Of course I don’t think that. I was told to apologize, first of all.”

“Fuck Alex too at this point.”

“By all means, go ahead and say that to her. Just once, treat her the way you’re treating me.”

“You can’t tell me how to handle any of this, Noel. You ruined my life. I’m going to be angry, and you’re not going to talk your way out of that. Neither is she.”

“I’m not trying to talk you out of being angry at me. I’m hoping that I can talk you into being civil for the next couple of months. After that, you can hate me all you want. It’s not like we’re ever going to see each other again.”

“You’re right about that.”

“It hasn’t been easy for us either, you know.”

“I’m sure it’s been really rough.”

“It was months before she and I interacted as if we were a couple. Before we went on dates. Before we could even talk about what happened with you and her.”

“Oh my God. Seriously, I don’t care. I don’t care if your life has been a living hell for the past seven years. I don’t care if she’s fucking twenty other guys behind your back. I don’t care if it’s been hard for you. All I know is that it’s been impossible for me. I lost my wife, Noel. I lost my best friend. My children lost their mother. Do you have any idea what that must have been like for us? And you want me to feel bad because you and Alex didn’t sleep together until the divorce was final? Are you kidding?”

“We aren’t proud of what we did.”

“You shouldn’t be.”

“Alex has been hurting a lot since she left. In case you think it made her happy or something.”

“It made her happy eventually.”

“Well, not exactly. I mean, she certainly isn’t happy now.”

“She doesn’t deserve to be, Noel. Neither do you. You guys are truly horrible people. I don’t know what you did to her, because she wasn’t like that when I knew her. The woman I knew for thirty years vanished when you showed up. And you’re welcome to this one, because she sucks.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Of course I do.”

“Then why are you so angry with me? With her? If you really hated her that much, it wouldn’t matter that she left.”

“I don’t want your Alex back. I want my Alex back. She’s gone, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.”

“If it makes you feel better, I won’t have my Alex much longer.”


“You’re angrier than she thinks.”

“Probably, yeah.”

“Why don’t you say any of this to her?”

“She has fucking cancer, Noel.”

“Seriously? I hadn’t heard.”

His body twitched, and I realized that he was possibly about to spring across the room and strangle me for that one. Alright, now I knew where the line was.

“I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.”

Kyle shook his head. “You’re not sorry. Alex isn’t sorry. If you were sorry, she could come home with me and forget all of this, the way she did with us.”

“Are you going to hate us forever?”

“Probably. I mean, I’m going to hate Alex until she dies. Because I’m not a couple months away from forgiving her. And I don’t really see a way for me to forgive you. So, yeah, I’m probably going to hate you forever.”

“Neither of us likes what we did.”

“Fine. I don’t like it either.”

“There was a long stretch of time when we regretted it.”

“Sadly, it wasn’t the four days she spent thinking about leaving me.”

Nor was it the thirty seconds I spent thinking about asking her to leave him. Then and now I told myself that I wasn’t asking her to leave him, I was asking her to let me go. I couldn’t watch her be married to him. I thought she’d send me away. She should have, really.

“Are you done?” Kyle asked. “I’d really like to get back to pretending that you don’t exist.”

“I told her I’d tell you that I’m sorry, I did that. So, yeah, I guess I’m done here.”

I don’t know exactly what it is about this conversation that I enjoy so much, other than that Kyle is very much out of character. He’s a staid, boring, old money type, and seeing him let down his carefully constructed façade is fun. Even the most straight-laced person would lose their mind if their spouse left them, so while it’s a bit unusual for him, it’s spot on for how a normal person would normally react.

In any case, a lot of fun to write.


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