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He clears his throat. “I didn’t want to have to tell you this, but”
“Tell me what?”
“The thing is, Cade has developed a pill addiction.”
“Pills? What are you talking about? Cade is completely antidrug. I’ve never seen him take anything.”
“Then he does a damn good job of keeping it from you.”
“I don’t believe this,” I continue. “How do you know?”
“One of the interns found a stash of Vicodin and Percocet in his drawer. She was looking for a stapler and instead discovered a year’s worth of narcotics.”
“This makes no sense,” I say, but at the same time I worry that it does. Cade hasn’t been himself lately. I asked him why his hands were shaking the other day. He said it was just low blood sugar, but could it have been because of drug use?
“I know,” James replies. “But what also doesn’t make sense is allowing this pattern of behavior to continue.”
“Did you talk to him about it?”
“I did,” he says. “Of course he denied everything.”
“Well, maybe someone set him up?”
“Impossible,” James continues. “I know this is hard to take, but I wanted you to know so you could be there for him after we dissolve the partnership.”
For once, Cade is speechless. He’s never seen me like this.
“I have to,” he says. “The company leadership voted, and we’ve decided to buy him out. It won’t be much, but then again Element isn’t worth much right now.”
“There’s no way he’s going to agree to that,” I say.
“We’re going to strongly encourage him otherwise,” James replies. “Maybe you could encourage him, too?”
“Encourage him to give up the company he founded for pennies on the dollar?”
“Cade’s time at Element has come to an end,” James says. “He can either take our buyout package or he can drain his savings and hash this out in court, where any reasonable judge will see that his actions have hurt the business. Kailey, the label has grown into something that Cade doesn’t even want anymore. He should go on to do things he loves.” He sighs. “And he should get some help.”
I place my hand on my belly lightly and keep the phone to my ear until I hear the operator’s recorded voice: “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”
I don’t bother to call before driving over to Cade’s apartment. What has happened to him? To us? Surely, we can make a plan. If he needs help, I’ll stand by his side. My mind churns with ideas about rehab and talking James out of this ridiculous buyout scenario. And the baby…We are having a baby. We’ll talk about that, too. We’ll talk about everything.
I feel a surge of nausea as I park my car and round the block to Cade’s place. It’s well after noon, and when he shows up at the door his eyes are bleary and there’s a crease from a pillow on his cheek, making it obvious that he’s just rolled out of bed.
“What time is it?” he asks, rubbing his eyes groggily.
“Almost one,” I say. I hate that my words sound accusatory, like I’m a bitter wife, but I’m jarred by my conversation with James.
“It was a late night,” he says, yawning.
“So you went out last night?”
“Yeah, just with a few band guys.”
“You never called,” I say, hurt.
“Sorry, baby,” Cade replies, raising a hand to his forehead. “I have a killer headache. You don’t have any Advil, do you?”
“No,” I say, folding my arms across my chest. “But I hear you might have something heavier in one of your desk drawers at the office.”
His face freezes. “So you talked to James.”
I follow him inside, where he rummages through a cabinet in his kitchen, producing an orange pill bottle. He opens it and pops two tablets into his mouth. “You know I have back pain, Kailey.”
I let out a long sigh. “Cade, I don’t know what to believe anymore. You stay out late. You drink yourself into a stupor, and then you sleep away the days. You haven’t been yourself for months.”
He reaches for my waist, but I pull away, pausing when my voice starts to falter. “I don’t even know how you feel about…me.”
He reaches for me again. “Kailey, honey, you know that I love you. I love you more than life itself. Please don’t let anything James says make you think otherwise.” He cringes at the light streaming through the blinds in his living room. “Damn this headache.”
I look away, heart beating fast, thinking about our past, our future, the tiny life growing inside me.
“Look,” he says. “I know I need to make some changes, and I will. For you. For us.” He rubs the tattoo on his shoulder. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
I look away.
“Let’s go to Mexico,” he says. “Cancún. We could leave next week.”
I shake my head. “Mexico? Next week? Cade, I have work. Are you completely out of touch with real life?”
He looks hurt, and I instantly wish I could retract my words. “I mean, I”
“It’s okay,” he says. “It’s just this city.” He pauses and rubs his forehead. “I just need to get away.” He looks over his shoulder as if someone might be watching him, which is when I notice a fresh bruise under his left eye.
“What’s that?” I ask, touching his face lightly.
“It’s nothing,” he says, looking away.
“Clearly it’s something.”
He nods. “I got into it with an old friend.”
“Who? Do I know him?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he says, shaking his head.
“Cade, it does,” I say as he pulls me to him. “I’m worried about you.”
“Things will get better,” he says. “I promise.”
I shake my head. “James is going to force you out of the company.”
“He’s going to do what?”
“He said the board agreed, and they’re going to offer to buy you out.”
Cade’s face looks ashen as he sinks into the couch. Eddie leaps onto the cushion beside him. Like a child of divorce, he has spent as much time at my apartment as Cade’s.
“They can’t make you do anything,” I say softly, sitting beside him, then scratching Eddie behind the ears.
Cade just stares ahead. “He’s right. I’m a drain to them all,” he says. “It would be better if I just left.”
“No,” I say. “You know that’s not true. Cade, you have to”
We both look up when we hear a knock at the door. Cade doesn’t budge, so I answer the door for him. Outside is a woman, barely twenty-one, if that. She smacks her gum, adjusts the pink bra strap on her right shoulder, and looks at me in surprise. “Oh, sorry. I must have the wrong place.” She takes a step back, looks at the address on the side of the brick building, then checks the scrap of paper in her hand. “Yep, this is it.” She pauses, then laughs to herself. “Wait, you’re not his wife, are you? Because that would be…awkward.”
Cade appears behind me.
“Hi,” the woman says, taking a step forward.
Cade looks both confused and embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I don’t remember you.”
“We met last night,” she says. “At the bar. I’m Alicia. You said I could come over and look at your record collection. I love records.” She has bleached-blond hair and a bubbly voice, the kind of girl who probably went to church youth group all through high school, then in community college got a nose ring after dating a boy in a band. The easily corruptible type.
“I’m sorry,” Cade says again. “I really can’t place you. I, I…”
“Okay,” she says, spitting her gum out onto the sidewalk. “I see that you’re…busy. Well, you have my number.” She points to his pants and smiles. “In your pocket.”
He looks down at his pocket, then back at me.
“Call me sometime.”
Her words echo, escalating the hurt I feel into a blind rage. I pull Cade back inside.
“In Big Sur, you promised to spend the rest of your life with me. I didn’t know that included strangers in pastel lingerie.” I reach my hand in the right pocket of his jeans and find the scrap of paper with her number on it. Call me, Alicia xoxo, it reads beneath the digits she scrawled.
“Wow,” I say, setting it on the coffee table.
For once, Cade is speechless. He’s never seen me like this.
I want to go on, to rail at him for his unforgivable behavior. But as quickly as the anger comes, it is replaced with sadness. My eyes fill with tears. “I get it,” I say. “I’m not enough for you.”
“Oh, Kailey,” he pleads. “You are more than enough for me. You are everything to me.”
“Then what was that?” I cry. “Who was she?”
“She was nobody,” he says. “Look, I had a few business deals go south and maybe I’ve been drinking too much.”
“Maybe? Cade, you’re drunk by noon every day.”
He sighs. “Okay, I had too much to drink last night. But nothing happened. You have to trust me. Girls come on to me all the time. It’s the music biz. You know that. Have I ever acted on it?”
I throw up my arms. “How should I know?”
“But you do know,” he says, reaching for my hand. “You know my heart.”
I shake my head. “No, I used to know your heart,” I say, reaching for Eddie’s leash and attaching it to his collar. “Now I hardly recognize it.”
I turn to the door with an awful feeling of finality. It surges through my veins like adrenaline-fueled poison.
“Kailey, wait!” Cade cries. “Please, don’t go. Not like this.”
I look at him once more. His blue eyes, so sad, pierce mine. I love him with every ounce of my being, and I always will. But I have to go now. Cade is lost, and I can no longer light his way. I can no longer be his map. He has to find his own inner compass.
Tears stream down my cheeks as I reach the end of the block. Before I round the corner, I turn back once more, hoping to find Cade in the street running to me, calling my name, but he’s not there. He’s nowhere. I touch my belly lightly, and Eddie and I walk on.
DECEMBER 13, 2008
Ryan takes my hand as we step off the plane in Cabo. I’ve never been to Mexico, though I’m struck with a sudden memory of Cade that final day at his Pioneer Square apartment. He asked me to go to Mexico with him. To Cancún. If I had, would it have changed history? I take a deep breath and walk ahead. The air is warm and arid, and I’m glad I opted for my white linen sundress as opposed to the jeans I almost slipped on. When I turn my phone on, it buzzes with a few voicemail notifications, but I ignore them, determined to stay in the moment and focused on Ryan.
We catch a cab to the hotel, where we’re greeted by a concierge who holds two salt-rimmed margaritas. He takes us to our room, a third-floor suite with an ocean view.
“This is truly gorgeous,” I say to Ryan as we walk in, in awe.
“I thought you’d like it,” he says.
“It’s perfect,” I say, having a look around the room. And it is. Sleek and modern but warm at the same time. The bed, with its turned mahogany posts, looks luxurious topped with a white starched duvet and pillows with pink and turquoise-blue embroidery. The adjoining bathroom, separated by a curtain, features an elaborate bathtub for two and a steam shower. Perfect, and yet I can’t help but feel an ache in the pit of my stomach when I think about the way people live on the streets, the way Cade lived for so long. A divided world, one part beauty and the other darkness, with a line drawn right down the middle.
On the bar is a complimentary bottle of high-end tequila, limes, and a dish of salted cashews. Ryan pours us each a shot and walks out to the balcony, which features, as promised, our own private infinity plunge pool. He slips on his swim trunks, I quickly change into my blue bikini, and together we slip into the warm water.
“To us,” Ryan says, smiling.
“To us,” I repeat, throwing back the shot. It burns my throat but feels warm and comforting at the same time.
I gaze over the balcony and watch the waves crashing onto the shore. They’re fierce and mighty, pummeling the sand again and again without relenting. I’m in awe of their power, in awe of forces beyond our control. The way the sun sets and the moon rises. The way the tide ebbs and flows. And I think about how we’re drawn to people, too. How I was drawn to Cade so many years ago. Our attraction was magnetic, undeniable.
I was drawn to Ryan, too, of course, from the very beginningbut in a different way. Ours is a quieter attraction, a gentler pull. Does that make it better, more lasting? I love him intensely, but our waves have always been softer. It’s safe to swim in our sea. With Cade? The tidal wave conditions would close down the beach. I nod to myself.
Ryan nestles closer to me and wraps his arm around my waist. I take comfort in his presence the way I always do, and I nuzzle my head into the crevice of his neck, breathing in his love for me, soaking it up, resting in it.
“I’m glad we’re here,” he says, popping a cashew into his mouth. “Sometimes you have to get away to appreciate home.”
I turn to him. “You don’t think I love the life we’re building together?”
“It’s not that, exactly,” he says. “We dream together about this future of ours. It’s like a house we’ve been designing for so long. You picked the windows; I picked the front door. We’ve argued about the trim and the tile in the bathroom, but somewhere in the process we found a compromise. And now we’re ready to break ground. The permits are all in. Cement trucks and bulldozers stand by.” He pauses and looks deeply into my eyes. “But I don’t think you’re quite ready to pour the foundation.”
He’s right, and he knows it. And for the first time, I realize that I may lose this beautiful, wonderful man if I’m not careful.
“The beach looks rough. Want to head down to the main pool?” Ryan asks. “The rock waterfall looked amazing in the magazine spread. I can’t wait to see it in person.”
“Sure,” I say. “You go ahead. I’ll meet you down there. I just want to change and unpack a few things.”
“Whatever you want, baby,” he replies with a grin.
Mexico is beautifully lonely. I think about that as I lie on a chaise by the pool, watching Ryan swim laps as the bartender mixes us two more margaritas. Yet even the perfection of this place can’t soothe the ache in my heart.
Next to me are two empty chaise lounges. “Mind if we take these?” a voice asks.
I look up to see a couple about my age approach. She’s wearing a white bikini with a black mesh cover-up wrapped artfully around her waist. The man beside her is tan and tall, in navy-blue swim trunks and a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers.
“No, no,” I say. “Go right ahead.”
“Thanks,” the woman says. “I’m Allie.”
“Hi, I’m Kailey.”
She smiles and takes a sip of the fruity blended cocktail in her hand. “Are you on your honeymoon, too?”
Ryan sits down on the chaise beside me and smiles at the couple.
“No,” I say. “We’re just on a…vacation.”
Ryan leans into the conversation. “We’re getting married soon,” he says. “So I guess you could call this a practice honeymoon.”
Allie laughs. “I wish Dalton had thought of that,” she says, looking at the man beside her. “We got married last weekend.”