Category Archives: Lucy Harding

What no one knows.

And here is the deepest secret nobody knows: The root of the root, bud of the bud, she would murmur unconsciously when she stopped to think about it, which she rarely did.

Becca had decided to take Travis back.

Second chances were not in her nature, so why the change? It was probably something that sounded like love. Probably, but if you asked her, the animal, self-preservationist part of her brain would stare you down with eyes full of steel and reply matter-of-factly that she was a woman of her word and vow. Unlike some people we could name.

And so, with her mind made up and the dry, unsatisfying taste of second chance rolling over her tongue, Becca drove to the buddy’s house where she knew Travis had been sleeping these days.

A bottle of wine sat in the passenger seat (to new beginnings!), wedged under her purse to keep it from rolling as she took every sharp turn.

The buddy’s windows were dark, but she knocked anyway, predictably to no answer.

She could have called him. For the rest of her life, she would wonder how things might have been different if she’d picked up her phone and just shot off a text telling him, if not exactly where her head was at, that she needed to talk to him about something important. The rest of their lives could have been entirely different with the few taps of a screen.

But Becca, a closet Luddite who was reluctant to let go of paper maps, handwritten thank-you notes, and face-to-face conversation, felt this wasn’t something she could tell first to a machine.

So she waited, lights off, engine off, thinking only of what she would say when she saw him and how long she could keep the radio humming quietly before she killed her battery.

And when the taxi rolled up eight minutes to three in the morning, Just when she was finally letting her shoulders slump an thinking maybe she would come back that afternoon, she still didn’t let herself think anything judgmental about Travis.

Because when Becca forgave, she forgave entirely, and she locked away her resentment and passive aggression to a place inside her that she would never open. And she had forgiven Travis.

Until he lurched from the car, drunkenly extending a hand to Lucy, who rose out of the can after him and stumbled into his chest, clinging to the green wool coat Becca had given him last winter. Becca watched Travis pull away only to pay the driver, and then the two of them fell into each other again in a sloppy, obscene embrace. She watched them slouch up to the apartment building and go inside, but she didn’t wait to see the lights flick on.

As she made her way carefully home through the now icy streets, Becca opened the part of her where she locked away the things she forgave and locked something else in in its place Because now there could be no forgiveness, no amnesia of Travis’s transgressions.

Because as completely as Becca could forgive, she could just a easily never, ever forget.


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No comparison.

Lucy poised her fingers dangerously over the screen of her phone. What difference did it make? If she texted or didn’t? He wouldn’t answer.

Before she could stop herself, she put the phone back in bag, burying it deep in a pocket beneath a cluster of gum wrappers, receipts, and an old compact she’d received for free after subscribing to a magazine she barely paged through anymore.

Where was this guy? Lucy leaned forward on the stiff upholstered bench to glance out the glass door. She ignored the judgmental stare of the hostess. Screw the hostess. Lucy had put her name down for a table for two because, dammit, there would be two of them.

Because this guy would show, right?

She felt her hand reaching almost unconsciously for the phone again. To check the time. Check for missed texts or emails. The guy had her number. He would call if he was running late, wouldn’t he?

Lucy would call. Which wasn’t to say she needed a guy who would do what she would do, she just wanted to know where she stood because God knows dating was awful enough already without the constant doubt that the person you were with even wanted to be with you at that moment or had torn himself away from a particularly good sitcom or was only doing this because his sister said it was time to settle already or who knows what else.

Without realizing it, she had started scrolling through her Facebook feed. There were the same updates as there had been 45 seconds ago (the baby of that girl from high school was still adorable, that old co-worker was still waiting for his delayed flight, that tramp from her old dorm still thought it was appropriate to post photos of herself she had taken in the mirror), and she stopped herself before she got the post that had caught her eye last time. His post.

A completely innocuous “so-and-so has read an article about an oil spill” update. Like she cared. Well, she cared about the oil spill, that was tragic. But she didn’t care who read it. She didn’t care what he read. She couldnt-


Lucy’s head snapped up, her eyes blinking rapidly to adjust to a world not depicted on a 2-by-3-inch screen. (Maybe there was something to those articles saying you couldn’t spend your life on a computer or a smart phone without going blind?)

“Oh, hi! Ralph, right?” She popped up, mentally chiding herself for appearing so pathetically eager, and giggled slightly (another subconscious scolding for that) as she held out her hand to shake his. Did you shake hands on dates? A kiss hello felt too intimate, a big wave too juvenile.

“That’s me!” Ralph confirmed, grinning broadly as he took her hand. “Were you waiting long? Traffic was horrible.”

Lucy smiled, her somewhat dormant dating instincts kicking in and serving her better than she would have thought.

“Oh, only a few minutes,” she said with another breathy laugh. That was a lie. Unless his definition of “a few minutes” was 22 minutes in her car in the parking lot waiting for it to be an appropriate time to go in and another 14 in the lobby on the uncomfortable bench while being silently judged by the oh-no-I’m-just-naturally-skinny hostess.

So, yeah. Probably a lie.

Lucy was somewhat gratified to see the hostess’s eyes widen in appreciation at the sight of Ralph. Even Lucy had to admit Ralph was attractive. Tall, muscular, great head of hair. He could be downright dreamy in the right context. Certainly made up for that dismal name.

They slid into the booth the hostess indicated with a limp gesture. Lucy shot her a victorious smirk before sipping politely on the glass of water a busboy filled in front of her.

Lucy mentally steeled herself for what would happen next. The initial assault: small talk on a first date.

“I was reading the most interesting article today at lunch,” Ralph started. She admired someone who could start a conversation without waiting for her to say, “So, [insert name here], what do you do?”

“Oh?” She looked up from the menu, hoping her expression conveyed genuine interest.

“It was all about those horrible oil spills down south.”

And there it was. Him. Again. Thrown in her face. Accidentally, she had to assume, based on the fact that Ralph didn’t know Him or how He had been part of Lucy life. Ralph couldn’t know. But the fact was, Ralph had officially invited him to dinner, and Lucy would spend the next hour and a half making comparisons Ralph couldn’t help but lose.

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Winsome Wins Some

“She’s sort of…winsome. Very lovely.”

Lucy turned her head sharply to eye Travis carefully.

“Winsome and lovely?” she repeated, an edge of disgust creeping into her voice. Who was this man? Her friend Travis didn’t use words like “winsome.” And he wouldn’t be caught dead near anything lovely.

Something of the edge in her tone must have caught on Travis’s consciousness because he snuck a guilty glance at her.

“You know, she’s…pretty. She has…prescence.”

More like himself, but there was still something amiss. Before she could help herself, Lucy felt a pang of envy through her sternum.

“Yeah, everyone loves Becca,” she heard herself say flippantly. As if loving Becca were something common. Base.

“Yeah?” he responded halfheartedly. He hadn’t torn his eyes off of her yet, which was tearing Lucy apart.

“Oh, for sure. She’s had a zillion guys after her.” She wasn’t entirely sure what she meant to accomplish by telling him that. Make him think the competition was too stiff? Make him think he’d never stand out, so why bother trying? Either way, it made him finally turn to her.

“Yeah?” God, did he know any other words? Oh yes, “winsome.” And “lovely.”

“Oh, ga-zillions,” she emphasized. She had his attention, so she felt the impulse to keep talking. “Remember Matt?” She watched Travis’s eyes roll slightly to the upper left as he struggled to recall this name.

“The band guy?” he said finally.

“Yes!” she pounced. “He was ga-ga over her. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure at least three of his new songs are about her. And she didn’t even date him!”

It dawned on Lucy that she might not be helping herself. She’d managed to paint Becca as some sort of etheareal goddess with men throwing themselves at her feet and writing songs in her honor. Hell, she would date that. Shouldn’t she be mentioning the fact that Becca never covered her mouth when she coughed or that she had this weird wart on her left foot or that she always mixed up “they’re” and “their”?

“But I mean, it’s not like she’s perfect,” she finished lamely. A warmth grew in Travis’s eyes.

“Well, not everyone can be perfect like Lucy,” he said with a grin, putting his arm around her shoulders.

There was no romance in the arm. Lucy knew that. But she let herself drift for a moment, reveling the touch as she settled back into the crook of his arm.

“Well, it is very difficult,” she said softly.

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You say tomato

Lucy sat at the worn wooden table watching her aunt slice tomatoes. The methodical back and forth was mesmerizing, as the silky skin of the fruit gave way to the finely sharpened blade. Always the sharpest knife, her mother had always recited, or you might as well be slicing them with a mallet.

“Did your mother ever tell you how she and I used to try to predict your future?”

Startled by her aunt’s simultaneous thought of Lucy’s mother, Lucy jumps a bit. “Huh?”

“Well, not really predict, just kind of speculate a little. You know, about what kind of job you’d have, how your love life would turn out.” A graying wisp of chestnut hair flutters to her aunt’s forehead and she shoved it aside with the back of her hand, her fingers dripping with tomato innards.

“I’m sure that was a colorful conversation on my mother’s part,” Lucy scoff, settling herself back down in her chair.

“I always thought you’d marry a musician or an artist, but your mother always predicted something more…tumultuous.” Her aunt chooses this word as kindness. Lucy has no doubt her mother had shown no such gentleness in her damning of Lucy’s future prospects.

“Well, she would know.” Lucy tried to keep her voice bright, the education you do when you look for the good in the dead, even though there was no good to be found while they lived.

Her aunt sets the knife doubt and gives Lucy one clean, Sharp look, slicing through her like a ripe tomato.

“Your mother raise you the way she should have, Luce, but she was sick. She couldn’t-“

“I know!” Lucy snaps. “I’m not throwing a pity party, I know-“

“Now let me finish!” Lucy can recall maybe four other occasions when her aunt raised her voice, so she is instantly silenced. “Your mother was sick, but it wasn’t catching. You are not broken.” She moves to the table and grabs Lucy’s ARM in one slushy vice. “And it’s time to stop making excuses.”

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Cause and Effect

It was no surprise that when Lucy’s heart broke, she took a clinical approach.

She wondered why that happened. What flow of blood could create the sensation of wrenching, crushing, tearing in her heart valves?

She imagined it was probably a nervous system thing, not actually having anything to do with the vital organ. It was probably an involuntary tensing of nerves. An anxiety-driven reaction of her subconscious.

Lucy would do deep-breathing exercises, wait for the panic to pass. Instead it would deepen when she realized it wasn’t helping.

Your heart cannot literally break like glass, she would tell herself. Chastising her body for being so…female. Such a cliche.

Your heart cannot literally break like glass. She would repeat the empty mantra as she scoured online medical resources, typing her ambiguous symptoms into narrow search boxes, her eyes scanning the resulting links critically. All the while the pressure, the tearing would grow worse.

Lucy would obsess over the symptoms, the effect of the breaking. The one thing Lucy would not let herself think about? The cause.

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Forgive me, and other things we don’t say

Becca sat across from Lucy. She was folding her paper napkin again and again, making sharp creases with her fingernail.

“It’s really nice to see you, Bec.”

Becca glanced up at her sharply before her eyes melted into a kind of cruel pity.
“Is it?”

The unsaid, “Because it’s not at all nice to see you,” hung thickly in the air, clotting Lucy’s throat momentarily. She coughed without realizing it.

“It is.” She had to act stronger than she knew she was. Becca had the upper hand, obviously, but the time for apologies and cowering had passed. Three years ago. “How are things for you?”

Becca sighed resignedly. She was stuck here; she may as well enjoy the free lunch.
“I got married.”

Lucy glanced involuntarily at the giant rock on Becca’s third finger. As if she hadn’t noticed.

“That’s so great! What does he do?”

“He’s a lawyer. He actually assisted on…the divorce.” Becca laughed a forced, breathy sound. “Ironically.”

Lucy made herself laugh too, but it was a bit more strangled sounding. “Ha, that’s great.”

“Great” probably wasn’t the right word.

There was a beat while both women did everything but look at each other. Lucy’s heart hurt. This used to be her best friend. What had happened to the ease of speech, the flow of laughter, the almost eerie psychic connection they had shared?

Of course, she knew what had happened. She’d stamped it out herself. Carelessly chopped the cable and left the wires to fray mercilessly.

Becca sighed deeply. “Why am I here, Lucy?

Lucy hated her for that. For not even wanting to pretend. Didn’t Becca miss her at all?
No, she realized. And why should she?

“I just…I just wanted to make sure you’re all right.” The words fell lamely on the table in front of them. Even Becca smirked. As if Becca was the one that needed to be worried about. Pitied. Becca had come out on top, as she always did. As she had probably known she would even when her world was falling apart.

“Well, I’m fantastic, Lucy. But you know what? I just remembered that I have an appointment, so I’m not going to be able to stay for lunch.” As if the lie hadn’t been clumsily transparent enough, the glisten in Becca’s eyes made it clear she hadn’t made other plans. She had come here – intentionally – hoping for something.

Something Lucy wasn’t able, or brave enough, to give her.

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Pleasure’s all mine

Mostly though, Lucy hoped she was wrong.

“So you’re the famous Sam,” she said wryly, forcing herself to shake the grinning blonde warmly by the hand. He shrugged and grinned back.

“I guess so! Lara has told me so much about you.”

That was probably true. Lara had a habit of oversharing, so it wasn’t unlikely that she had blabbered a few things about her elder sister.

“Well, I hope it was mostly good things!”

Thankfully (at least for Lucy), the hostess called her last name before she had to worry about continuing the banter. She saw Lara and Sam lock fingers out of the corner of her eye and involuntarily rolled her eyes.

Her sister. In love. With a Beach Boy.

As soon as they had settled in at the table, Lara took over the conversation. Lucy could tell her sister was nervous. She probably knew that Sam was the type of guy Lucy would scoff at and mock mercilessly. And here she was.

No one had mentioned the glittering rock on her finger yet.

Lucy waited until their drinks had arrived. She took one long, slow drink, feeling the vodka tingle in her forearms. Then she locked eyes with the handsome stranger.

“So you’re going to marry my little sister, huh?” She smiled as she said it. Only would Lara recognize the edge to her voice. She saw her sister stiffen in her peripheral vision, never taking her eyes off of Sam.

To his credit, Sam held his ground. He was clearly the type of man who took pride in  not being intimidated. Polite, but firm. That was Sam.

“I am,” he said, his voice not quite gentle and not quite brash. Not quite.

Lucy let the moment hang for just a second. Maybe a breath too long. Then she grinned broadly and raised her glass.

“Well, I think it’s wonderful! We’ve never known Lar so happy.” She turned in time to see the relief flood into her sister’s face and almost felt pity for Lara’s desperation to believe this would all be so much simpler than she had feared.

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