To Live Again

By: L. A. Witt

Chapter One


“Well, that part’s done.” I dropped onto a barstool at the island in Rhett and Ethan’s kitchen. “Thanks again for all your help.”

“Don’t mention it,” Ethan said.

Rhett nodded. “Just let us know if you need help moving it all from the storage unit to your new place.”

“Will do,” I said. We’d just killed an entire Saturday lugging a million pounds or so of my stuff into my storage unit, and a handful of boxes into their downstairs bedroom, where I was living for the moment. When they’d found out that I was living in a hotel while I made arrangements to move into an apartment, they’d insisted I stay with them, and they’d been a godsend when it came to the grunt work. “Question is, what now?”

Ethan grinned. “Clearly, you need a beer.”

“That goes without saying,” Rhett said. “I think we all could.” While Ethan pulled three bottles from the fridge, Rhett watched me across the island. “So, you doing all right?”

I shrugged. “I’m not really sure what counts as ‘all right’ in this situation.”

Sighing, he nodded. “Yeah, I get that.” As Ethan uncapped each of the bottles, Rhett rested a hand on the small of his back. “When we were separated, I just felt completely lost for a while.”

“Me too.” Ethan looked at him, and their eyes locked for a second. I could almost feel the brief spike in tension, as if they’d both been hit by a sudden wave of shit, what if we’d never fixed that? at the same time. Then they shook it off, and Ethan kissed Rhett’s cheek before turning to me again. “It’s not easy.” He slid the bottle across the counter. “And we’re serious—you’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to. We both know damn well how long it can take to find your bearings.”

“Thanks.”

He sipped his beer and rested his other hand on top of Rhett’s. My chest tightened, and I pulled my gaze away from their hands.

“Well.” I took a deep swallow of beer. “I’m afraid I don’t see me and Becky putting things back together like you two did. I think… I think I’m just still in shock.” Pressing the bottle against my forehead, I muttered, “Maybe I should’ve seen it coming.” I lowered the bottle. “Be honest. Am I an idiot for being surprised?”

“No, but…” Ethan shifted his weight. He turned to Rhett, eyebrows up as if to say help me out here.

“Well…” Rhett hesitated. “No, I don’t think you’re an idiot. It’s a lot easier to see things from the outside than the inside.”

“Speaking from experience,” Ethan said quietly.

I drank a little more beer. “So, did you guys see something I didn’t?”

Rhett fidgeted beside his husband. “To tell you the truth, neither of you have ever seemed particularly happy. Not as long as I’ve known you.”

“He’s right.” Ethan’s voice was unusually gentle. “I don’t think I ever saw you argue with her, but you both seemed…well, pretty miserable whenever I saw you together.”

Staring into my beer bottle, I sighed. They were right, and I’d known for a long, long time that something was wrong. I’d just imagined us working it out, maybe seeing a counselor or whatever. Once the kids were grown and the chaos of raising them was over, we could focus on us. That was how it had played out in my head, anyway.

But then, our youngest went off to college, and suddenly we had an empty nest, and my wife decided it wasn’t empty enough.

Ex-wife. It wasn’t final yet, but…ex-wife.

Tomorrow was twenty-five years since we said, “I do.” Today was three weeks since she said, “I’m done.”

Happy anniversary, honey.

“Well…” I exhaled, thumbing the label on my beer. “I really appreciate you guys letting me crash here. Hopefully I’ll be out of your hair before too long.”

“No rush,” Rhett said.

“Thanks.” I swallowed and then looked up at them. “If you don’t mind my asking, what did you guys do when you were first separated?”

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