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After We Fall
Author:Melanie Harlow

After We Fall by Melanie Harlow





One




Margot



I didn’t throw the pie.

And really, I think that’s what everyone should be focused on: the supreme restraint, the Buddhist-like control, the fucking regal nature with which I glanced at the award-winning Cheery Cherry Delight and decided against it. (Just so you know, that was only because of the shirt he wore. Furious as I was, even I could not bring myself to desecrate a snowy white, crisply starched Brooks Brothers button-down. I’m not a monster.)

Not that hurling a tray full of scones—one at a time, with admittedly poor aim—at your ex-boyfriend is behavior to be commended. I completely understand that. And anyone who knows me will tell you it was utterly out of character. I, Margot Thurber Lewiston, pride myself on my ability to control my emotions. Maintain grace under pressure. Keep calm and carry the fuck on. My composure rarely slips, and it certainly doesn’t slip in a room full of donors to my father’s Senatorial campaign.

Honestly, I’ve never thrown food in my life. I’ve never thrown much of anything, which is probably why I had a bit of trouble hitting the target (I have apologized profusely to Mrs. Biltmore about the singed linen. Also the Belleek vase), and I certainly don’t throw things indoors.

Because I was raised with manners. Good old-fashioned, old-money manners. We believe in modesty, courtesy, and—above all—discretion.

No matter what, we do not Cause a Scene.

According to my mother, Margaret Whitney Thurber Lewiston (known to all as Muffy), nothing says poor taste—or worse, new money—like Causing a Scene.

She tells me I have caused one that people will be talking about for years to come.

This is probably true.

I can explain.



It was a text no one wants from an ex-boyfriend at one in the morning on a Tuesday night. Or any night, really.

Tripp: I need to see you. I’m outside.

Me: It’s so late. Can we talk tomorrow?

Tripp: No, it has to be tonight. Please. I need you.

Frowning at my phone in the dark, I wondered what this could be about. We’d broken up well over a year ago, and though we’d maintained a cordial if stiff relationship since then, we hadn’t had a private, in-person conversation since the night we split. While I was considering how to politely handle this request, he texted again.

Tripp: Please, Gogo. It’s important.

I softened slightly at the nickname, not because I liked it that much, but because it reminded me of better days. We’d known each other a long time, our families were close, and once upon a time, I’d thought we’d spend the rest of our lives together. I could be gracious.

Me: OK. Give me a minute. Front door.

I used the minute to yank out my ponytail, put on a bra under the Vassar t-shirt I’d been sleeping in, and slip into a pair of pink silk pajama pants. A heavy summer rain drummed against the roof of my townhouse, so I hurried down the stairs to open the front door, but of course, Tripp was perfectly dry.

“Hey,” I said, standing back as he closed his dripping umbrella and entered the foyer. Hot, humid air followed him in, and I quickly shut the door against the heat, then snapped on the light.

“Hey.” He set the umbrella in the stand near the door and ran a hand through his neatly trimmed dark blond hair. He wore a pink button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and it was tucked in to a pair of white shorts with kelly green whales embroidered on them. He had pants with little embroidered whales on them too, in multiple colors. My eyes lingered on his familiar Sperry deck shoes. No socks.

“Thanks for letting me in,” he said.

“What’s going on?” I twisted my long hair over one shoulder and crossed my arms over my chest.

“Can we sit down? I need to talk to you.” On his breath, I detected a whiff of scotch, and upon closer inspection of his face, I noticed his eyes were bloodshot.

“Can’t we talk right here?”

He fidgeted. “Look, I know the way things happened with us wasn’t cool.”

“That was last year. I’m over it, Tripp.” It was mostly true. Sometimes I still felt a tug of sadness when I thought about the three years we’d spent together and the hopes I’d had we’d be engaged or even married by now, but my therapist had me mostly convinced it wasn’t so much about the loss of him as it was the loss of the dream life I’d envisioned for us. Secretly, I still wasn’t sure what the difference was.

“Well—what if I’m not?”

I shook my head, taken aback. “What?”

“What if I’m not over it, or over us?”

“What do you mean? That makes no sense, Tripp. You were over us before I was. It was you who said you didn’t want to marry me. I was ready.”