Home > More Than Words(14)

More Than Words(14)
Author: Jill Santopolo

“That makes sense,” Nina told Tim. “But do we want to get married because it makes sense?”

Now Tim’s face was starting to pale. “Do you not want to marry me?” he asked.

“No!” Nina said, putting down the dish and taking his hand. “I just . . . I guess I was hoping for a proposal that was more about us than about my dad.”

“Of course it’s about us,” Tim said, kissing Nina on the top of her head. “I thought that was a given.”

Nina wrapped her arms around Tim and heard his heart beat. Say yes, it was saying, over and over. Say yes, say yes, say yes. She was about to, but he spoke before she did.

“I think I bungled this,” Tim said. “Let’s forget we had this conversation, and I’m going to get the ring from your dad, and then I’ll propose for real. A night out, the tasting menu at Per Se, a speech about how much you mean to me, a diamond hidden in your dessert. Okay?”

Nina laughed and nodded. “Okay,” she said.

Tim smiled. He looked so relieved that Nina rose up on her tiptoes to kiss him.


Tim and Nina had made plans with his friends from work that night, but Nina felt too drained to put up a good front.

“Would it be okay with you if I skipped?” she asked Tim. “I just . . . I can’t.”

He squeezed her shoulder. “Do you want me to skip, too?” he asked, concern on his face.

She shook her head. “No, it’s fine. You go. Have my share of fun, too.”

Tim laughed. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I can stay with you.”

“It’s okay,” she told him. “I don’t want you to miss out because of me.”

Tim looked at her for a moment, as if he were trying to make sure she was telling him the truth. He must’ve decided she was, because he said, “All right. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

And then he kissed her and headed downtown.

The ride home to Tribeca seemed like too much for Nina, so she decided to sleep on Central Park West that night.

She straightened up the kitchen and then took out her phone to call Leslie, to try to make sense of the on-hold marriage proposal. But then she put her phone down. She didn’t know what she would say. Didn’t know her own feelings enough to explain them to anyone else. She contemplated calling Pris to make plans to go out later this week and celebrate Rafael’s win, but she didn’t do that either. Instead she sat on the couch with Carlos. She wanted to escape her own life a little, so she picked up her dad’s copy of the New Yorker and was flipping through it while Carlos read something on a Kindle. After losing her place in an article for the third time, Nina put the magazine down and asked him if he wanted a drink.

Carlos asked for a beer, and she poured herself another glass of scotch. Not the Macallan, though. She felt like she’d need to ask her dad’s permission for that. And then she realized, like a punch to the gut, that once he was gone, whatever was left in the bottle would be hers. She wouldn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to drink it. She closed her eyes for a moment. Paper clips. Staples. Floor tiles.

When she opened her eyes, Carlos was looking at her.

“You’re in the middle of it now,” he said, putting his beer down on the table. “I know it doesn’t seem like your life will ever be okay again, but it will. I promise.”

Nina swirled the scotch in her glass and watched the little cyclone she created rage and then dissipate. Were the answers there? In the shimmering amber?

“I know,” Nina said, not believing it.

Then the two of them sat in companionable silence, Carlos reading again, and Nina lost in her own thoughts, until she decided to turn in for the night.

“He’s usually better in the mornings,” Carlos said, as she got up from the couch.

Nina nodded and headed down the hallway to her childhood bedroom, still decorated, so many years later, with the same pale-yellow chevron wallpaper Caro had chosen when Nina was eight. The same queen-sized four-poster bed she’d picked out when she turned ten. There was a picture on her dresser of her and Tim from about that time, too, both of them hanging upside down on a bar at the Dinosaur Playground in Riverside Park, their smiles looking like frowns, her father just inside the frame focused on the two kids, as if he was ready to spring into action the moment he saw either of them wobble. He wasn’t around to take her to the Dinosaur Playground often, but when he was, she was the center of his world.

Nina looked at the picture. She thought about all of the moments in her life she’d shared with Tim. The big ones, the small ones. No matter how great something was or how awful, having Tim there made it better. It always had.

She should marry Tim.


Later that night, Nina woke up at three A.M. in a panic. In her dream, she was playing hide-and-seek with her father. She was two and thirty-two at the same time, and she was running around the apartment and couldn’t find him anywhere: under the table, behind the curtain, in the bathtub. She started shouting for him to come out, panicked the way she was when she was nine and they went to the Union Square Holiday Market to buy presents for the people who worked in his office. It was the first Christmas after her mother died—the holiday itself would mark one year exactly without her mom—and Nina hadn’t wanted anything to do with it.

“I’ll get you hot chocolate with whipped cream,” he’d said. “An apple cider donut. Both of them. Anything else you want.”

“How about both of those and a candy cane that’s bigger than my arm?” she’d asked. Her friend Melinda had brought one to school and everyone thought it was the coolest.

“Deal,” he said. And so they went, bundled up against the cold, Nina’s scarf tucked tightly around her neck.

They were in a booth filled with finger puppets, and Nina got distracted by the one that looked like a giraffe and lost track of her father. Or maybe he’d lost track of her, one tiny head that had gotten swallowed up in a crowd of much taller ones.

When she realized he wasn’t standing next to her, Nina’s heart started racing. “Dad!” she’d yelled. “Dad!”

Ever since her mom had died, she didn’t like it when she didn’t know where her father was. He had even given her a copy of his meeting schedule to take with her to school, so she could always find him if she needed to. Checking it was the only way she could quell the panic that overtook her when she least expected it. At recess, in the middle of art class, in the car ride home from school with their au pair. But now? Now he had disappeared and nothing on the schedule would help her.

“Dad!” she’d shouted again, not sure what to do. “Find me!”

Just as she yelled that, her father pushed through the crowd. He lifted her up, and, even though nine was way too old for your father to pick you up like you were a baby, Nina felt so grateful to be in his arms.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, when he put her back down. “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t realize you’d stopped walking.”

“I didn’t realize you’d kept walking,” Nina said, blinking hard, so that the tears she felt forming in her eyes wouldn’t get any farther than her eyelashes.

“It was my fault,” he said, noticing her tears. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” Then he held her hand, and her tears stopped, and the two of them continued walking through the Holiday Market. They said thank you to the people who wished them a Merry Christmas and kept shopping until they’d bought something for everyone on her father’s list.

Years later, when Nina thought about that day, she understood the blame he’d internalized when they’d become separated. He was a single father, and her well-being rested completely on his shoulders. Even with other people around helping him take care of her, he was still her only living parent.

* * *

• • •

When Nina was startled awake by her dream, her T-shirt and pajama pants were damp with sweat. Her heart raced just like it had that day she got lost by the finger puppets so many years ago. She’d heard about people who dreamed that a loved one had died and awoke to find it true. What about dreams where you couldn’t find the person you loved? Did those mean anything? Nina reached for her glasses and started walking down the hall in the dark to check on her father. But the distance seemed too far. Soon she was running, her panic growing with each step.

When she got to her father’s bedroom, she knew something was wrong. The panic snapped from synapse to synapse, filling her brain, her body. Her father wasn’t breathing. His chest wasn’t rising. It wasn’t falling. He was still. So still.

“Dad!” she yelled, the way she had at the Holiday Market. “Dad!”

She ran to his bed, tears already falling. “Dad, no. No. You can’t.” Her hands were on his cheeks, then pushing on his chest, trying to get his heart to start again. “No! What if I need you to find me?”

But she knew. She knew, like she knew every contour of his face, that he’d never be able to find her again.


After Carlos wrote down a time of death that Nina knew might have been off by minutes or hours, she wasn’t sure what to do. All she could think about was an article she’d once read about a doctor from Massachusetts who did an experiment in which he tried to figure out definitively if human beings had souls. He put a dying man on a table and measured his weight constantly in the hours before he died. At the moment of death, the man lost three quarters of an ounce. The doctor posited that the three quarters of an ounce was his soul departing his body.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» More Than Words
» Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck #3)
» Sidetracked (Mindf*ck #2)
» The Risk (Mindf*ck #1)
» The Risk (Briar U #2)
» The Chase (Briar U #1)
» Say You Won't Let Go (Return to Me #3.5)
» Say I'm Yours (Return to Me #3)