State of Love & Trust

State of Love & Trust

 A tragicomic novel about love, trust, Detroit, dogs and Pearl Jam fans.

The Raffertys—We’re Fucking Doomed

State of Love & Trust, a novel

The words embroidered on their family crest reflect the hard-won dark humor of Ellie and Clive, twins building their lives on the seismic fault of a tabloid-worthy childhood. It’s all coming together for them, thick and solid as a storm front.

In Corktown, Detroit, Ellie is settled into a relationship with Clive’s best friend. He tolerates her evangelical zeal for Pearl Jam—right down to her refurbished school bus dedicated to the Yield album—even if he does prefer Kiss. But when they get a new housemate who’s true blue to Pearl Jam, patience, fidelity, friendship and truth will be tested from every possible angle.

Meanwhile, Clive has given up his lifelong hobby of worrying about everyone else, fled Detroit’s drama, and married the most together woman on the planet. She runs a heating business; he paints oversized album jacket replicas in their rural northern Michigan bungalow. It’s idyllic—until an invasion of microscopic Rafferty doom unmasks his cowardice. Clive is forced to choose between saving face, and finally facing down his worst enemy: himself.

Ellie and Clive might manage to outrun the Rafferty doom that has dogged them their entire lives, but it’s going to be a whole lot harder to outrun adulthood.

 


State of Love & Trust

Is a tragicomic novel told from the alternating viewpoints of twins Ellie and Clive Rafferty, at locations from Detroit to Presque Isle County and a few places in between. Whether you’re a Pearl Jam fan or simply enjoy a down to earth story about love, loss, betrayal, and redemption, State of Love & Trust is an entertaining read. But don’t take my word for it, check out the review at Amazon.com and on Goodreads.

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State of Love & Trust

 Chapter 1
Pilate

Ellie – Detroit, Mich. – Tuesday, May 20, 2006

I pulled the Yield bus into a rest stop somewhere between Grand Rapids and Detroit. Seeing Pearl Jam three times in four days was the kind of thing I lived for, but at two in the morning after the third show, I was cracked.

“C’mon you guys. Break time, then someone else has to take a turn driving this beast.” I tossed a pillow at the futon where my boyfriend Reece was kicking back, smearing marshmallow fluff onto an Oreo.

“Yo. Lovebirds. You heard the woman. Let’s go.” Reece licked his plastic knife and lobbed the pillow at the other futon where Clive, my twin brother, was snuggled down with his new wife, Becca. It bounced off her head. She snickered and flung the pillow back at Reece.

“Enough with your sass,” she said.

“Sorry, Ms. Becca. I was aiming for Clive,” Reece said. He offered her an Oreo.

“Is there any of my Fiddle Faddle left?”

He shook the empty box. “Oops. It was really good, though.”

She took the cookie, bit into it and dusted the crumbs off her yellow T-shirt with a peeling picture of Marc Bolan crouched on a skateboard. I barely knew her, but I trusted Clive’s judgment and he was thrilled with her. She was a heating technician with her own business up in Rogers City—sharp, with serious eyes and glossy black hair. But they’d fallen in together fast and gotten married before I’d even had a chance to meet her. There was a lot about Clive that I knew he wouldn’t have told her, and it made me nervous for him.

We all got off the bus except for the random fan who’d bummed a ride home with us. He was deep asleep on one of the bench seats, with his long legs slung over the backrest, and his beat-to-crap Doc Martens crossed at the ankles. We’d met in the pit. He’d held my spot on the rail so I could get in the poster line. Before the concert started, we’d gotten so caught up in comparing which shows we’d been to that I never did catch his name. But when he said he’d hitchhiked to Grand Rapids because his tires were too bald to make the trip, I’d offered him a lift back to Detroit.

At the vending machines inside the rest stop, I tried to talk Reece into taking a turn driving.

He dropped some change into the slot and punched the code for a Gatorade. “Sugar, I’m beat. How about I get you a Mountain Dew instead?”

“Blech. Can’t you just drive? I have to work in the morning.”

“Call in sick.”

“Shelby knows we were at a show. I’d never get away with it.”

“You back-seat drove me straight up the wall last time.”

He was trying my patience even if he did sort of have a point. I had a hard time letting go when Reece drove my refurbished school bus. But I’d put everything into it. Painted it red and white, sewed the ticking stripe curtains myself, installed the futons and bolted the mini fridge to the floor. Clive, who had a natural talent for art and calligraphy, had lettered Push Me, Pull Me on the back, and painted a Sacred Heart of Jesus style image that was actually Stone Gossard. It brought on two varieties of commentary in the arena parking lots: Why not Eddie? and, Oh my God, Stone, hell yes.

“This time, I promise. I won’t even look. C’mon, Reece’s Pieces,” I said.

Clive came up to us and Reece started rubbing his shoulders. My brother groaned. Those futons saved us a fortune in lodging, but we hadn’t nicknamed them Satan’s beds for nothing. Clive relaxed into Reece’s impromptu massage, letting his head hang forward and his wild mop of thick brown curls swing free. He was short, but deceptively powerful. I’d watched him smoke Reece at basketball many times.

Reece worked an elbow into Clive’s back. “Do me a favor. Take over for Ellie at the wheel, and I’ll be your best bud forever.”

“Pfft.” Clive straightened up and pulled his hair away from his face. “You’re going to need to seriously sweeten the pot, my man.”

“I’ll get you a Cherry Coke.”

Clive motioned for more with his hand.

“And Doritos,” Reece said.

He kept motioning. “And?”

“What?”

“And?”

Reece dug around in his pockets and passed something small to Clive.

“See?” Clive slipped the contraband into his wallet. “I knew you were holding some flowers out on me. Now, don’t forget my Doritos and stuff.”

Becca came out of the ladies room and headed in our direction, drying her hands on the thighs of her Levi’s. She smoothed down the large bandage across her palm from some kitchen mishap on their recent honeymoon in Canada.

Reece forked over the promised Doritos and pop to Clive. “We good?”

“Stellar. As a matter of fact, at this moment I’m the happiest man alive. I mean, would you look at her?”

“Oh,” Reece said. “You know I have.”

Back on the bus, I settled onto a futon and tried to concentrate on my latest embroidery project. Clive cranked up a playlist of Pearl Jam covering The Who, and we lurched onto the highway. He sang along with Getting in Tune in a baritone that could rival Barry White’s. Reece made his way up to the front and joined in at the top of his lungs. What my boyfriend lacked in harmony he made up for in volume.

The singing woke up the random fan. He stretched his slender body from a grab bar and gave me a wide smile. His eyes were round and dark with heavy lids.

I waved at him awkwardly with my embroidery hoop. “Hey, by the way, I’m Detroit Ellie.”

“Saint,” he said.

“Is that like, your real name?”

He plopped back down in his seat and shrugged. “Real as Detroit Ellie, right?”

Fair enough.

“Can I check out your ink?” I asked.

I meant the lettering down the inside of his left forearm, a
guitarist’s tattoo for sure. I’d noticed it at the show but couldn’t tell what it said. Instead, he turned his back and peeled his Mother Love Bone tank shirt upward. The entire first stanza of Whipping was inked in a neat typewriter font on his shoulder blade.

 

Don’t need a helmet

Got a hard, hard head

Don’t need a raincoat

I’m already wet

Don’t need a bandage

There’s too much blood

After a while seems

To roll right off … hmm

 

That had to have hurt.

“I have seen a lot of Pearl Jam tats over the years, but that one is possibly the baddest yet,” I said.

He yanked his shirt down and turned to face me. “My favorite lyric. Do you have any PJ tats?”

I lifted the edge of my batik skirt to show off the Stickman on my ankle. “It’s way mainstream compared to yours.”

“That’s classic. Don’t ever apologize for it. I almost got that one too, but ended up spending all my cash on this.” He showed me Tremor Christ tattooed down the inside of his left forearm in Brad Klausen-style poster lettering. That was the one I’d wanted to get a better look at. It was fantastic, all in golds and rich browns.

“So you must be a Vitalogy fan,” I said. “It’s a great album, but we hold pretty fast to Yield around here, obviously.”

“Yeah, I figured. I got it for my puppy. That’s his name,” he said.

“Tremor Christ? It makes him sound tough.”

“He’s a big boy, but really still a baby. I’m working on teaching him some manners.” He reached for my embroidery hoop to see what I was making.

I handed it over, then watched him try to make sense of my highly textured crewel embroidering of a four-leaf clover with jagged edges where the lower leaves were torn away. They lay crumpled at the base of a brown stem. The Raffertys curved across the top in elaborate lettering. At the bottom I’d stitched We’re Fuckin’ Doomed.

Saint studied it for a long time before giving it back to me. “What is it?”

“A late wedding gift for my brother, the guy who’s driving right now. Clive. And her, too.” I tipped my head toward Becca, who was sprawled on the other futon, reading a Superman comic.

“Is that his personal motto?” Saint asked.

“Close. It’s our family crest.”

“Oh.” He shoved a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. It was gelled into something that wasn’t quite a pompadour. More like a pompa-oops. “That’s pretty grim for a family motto. Is it meant as a joke? Or do you guys actually live by it?”

I thought about it before answering, “Both. It’s one thing to accept your reality, and it’s another to be able to laugh in its face.”

State of Love & Trust

Chapter 2
Corduroy

Ellie – Detroit, Mich. – Sunday, June 25, 2006

I rang up three soft pretzels with five sides of melted cheese and a mega large Diet Pepsi for a lady who was paying in rolls of nickels. My shift didn’t end for another fifteen minutes, but Reece had already parked his Buick Roadmaster in front of Mr. Salty’s House of Pretzels. Shelby Williams, my manager, frowned on early departures. She also didn’t like employees having visitors.

We’d called that car the Roadbastard since before Reece’s dad sold it to him. It was a freaking yacht, a shameless gas hog, a rolling representation of why Detroit was all but out of business. Old Mr. LeFanch still got misty-eyed about that car. Water droplets glimmered on the front bumper—Reece had the car ready for his dad to inspect. I, on the other hand, was hardly ready to choke down my least favorite meal of the month, Sunday dinner at the LeFanch’s.

I swiped at the mustard stain on my polyester Mr. Salty’s
uniform and hoped Reece remembered to throw a clean T-shirt in the car for me. I already had shorts on under my work pants, even though they made my butt look lumpy.

Shelby pulled her nose down in disapproval when Reece walked in. Sometimes I spied her practicing that look while polishing fingerprints off the door after dark.

“Hey there, Ms. Shelby,” Reece said. “Your pretzels smell heavenly. I’ll take two, with cinnamon.”

“They’ll ruin your appetite,” I said, though he wasn’t talking to me.

“That’s barely enough to whet it. Shelby, do you ever think about rolling pretzels in caramel and pecans?” He licked his lips.

“It’s a franchise.” She smoothed her hands over her already perfect magenta hair and adjusted her bright blue visor. “We can only sell what corporate tells us. But boy do I adore pecans. And caramel.”

“And toffee,” Reece said. “Toffee’s pure awesome.”

I bugged my eyes at Reece and dragged a finger across my neck. My boss and I had enough issues without Reece flirting with her. She wrapped two cinnamon pretzels in waxed paper and pushed them across the counter to him. “No charge. Save ‘em for dessert.”

He didn’t. He ate them sitting crossways in a booth while I worked to the end of my shift. I didn’t take the free pretzel I was entitled to after my four-hour shift because Reece would eat that one too. Then Marjorie LeFanch would pout when her baby boy didn’t take seconds and she’d probably blame me for spoiling his din-din.

 

 

Reece’s folks lived in an aluminum-sided one-story in Hazel Park, which we called Hazeltucky.

Today their house smelled like green apple ReNuzIt, corned beef and cabbage.

“I made it especially for you,” Marjorie LeFanch said. “There’s plenty of veggies.” After four years, she’d finally quit putting meat on my plate and lecturing me about iron. Tonight she’d serve me limp cabbage with overcooked potatoes in meat juice, with a side dish of boiled celery. Like being a vegetarian made me the rabbit in Fatal Attraction. I should have eaten a pretzel.

Reece and his dad sat down to watch the Tigers game. I counted Marjorie’s thirty-nine doilies, seven crucifixes, and three parakeets. I started in on the framed photos encrusting the walls. Twenty-two of Reece and his four older sisters who’d fled to New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle. My favorite was blond baby Reece laughing with one tooth. He was the youngest, the only boy, and their prize. I tried to count the pictures of all of the LeFanch grandkids but lost track around thirty-seven.

A wedding photo of Reece and his ex-wife leered at me from a fussy pie table. What had possessed Marjorie to move it from the guest bedroom? I used to hate the ex because she got their brick ranch in Warren in the divorce, plus a ridiculous settlement that I still didn’t understand. She was the reason he’d ended up moving into his last piece of income property in Detroit, at the edge of Corktown where the houses were crammed together so close you could stand between any two and touch them both without stretching.

But I couldn’t hold a grudge against someone I hadn’t met, and I respected that Reece never trash-talked her. Whatever had happened, they’d moved on. Everyone had moved on except Marjorie, apparently. And the divorce lawyer Reece was still paying off on an installment plan.

All of that, by the way, was why we invited Saint to rent our spare bedroom. We’d run into him again at the Pearl Jam show at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and it all just kind of fell together from there. He had a steady job as a busboy at a fancy restaurant at the Ren Cen and was out a lot of nights playing gigs at the local bars. At least he kept most of his guitar stuff in his room where we didn’t have to trip over it. But his dog was no puppy, and that was sort of getting to be an issue.

Reece spotted me looking at his old wedding picture. He got up, walked over to the little table and set the photo face down.

“It doesn’t bug me,” I said. Partly true. His previous marriage didn’t bother me, but the photo’s new location did.

Reece leaned over me and whispered, “You are exactly nine-point-two times hotter than she’ll ever be.” As a junior accountant at Tax Break, Reece could be precise like that.

He grabbed an armload of beers from the kitchen fridge, one for himself, one for me and two for his dad. Marjorie didn’t touch anything but mixed drinks with cute names. Already she was sipping a fuzzy navel and baby-talking to her parakeet.

“There’s what’s wrong with this country,” Mr. LeFanch said, pointing one of his beer bottles at the Volvo commercial on TV.

Reece nodded, but I knew it was only because he didn’t want to argue. Whatever was wrong with our country, I was pretty sure it wasn’t on Volvo. Besides, I liked the idea of a safe car that would last. Lasting safety was something I’d never had. I didn’t even own a car, just the Yield bus. It was impractical, but it justified its existence every time we loaded it up and took it to a Pearl Jam show. Otherwise, it quaffed gasoline and was a post-apocalyptic nightmare to park, so I walked, rode my 10-speed, took the SMART bus or got rides from Reece. Earlier today, Saint had given me a lift to work in his rusted purple Geo Tracker with fresh whitewalls that must have been on special at Belle Tire. He’d been pretty excited about them, but Reece had laughed his ass off at how ridiculous they looked on the Tracker.

At the dinner table, Marjorie pestered Reece about going to Mass with her. “It’s the family thing to do. Even if you are living in sin.”

“Don’t push it, Ma. I’m still paying off that last piece of paper.”

“Things didn’t have to turn out that way. Counseling. If you two had gotten counseling. She was a smart girl from a nice
family.”

My cheeks burned. I didn’t go to Michigan State like Reece and his ex. Or any college. But I wasn’t stupid, either. I had my GED. Maybe Clive and I didn’t come from the best family. To be honest, we pretty much came from no family at all. But we stuck together and we were good people, nice as anyone Reece had ever divorced, for sure.

Reece squeezed my thigh under the table. That meant a lot.

His mother said, “Prayer. A couples’ retreat. You should have tried harder to work it out with her. I still believe that.”

I pushed a limp chunk of cabbage around my plate and changed the subject. “Dinner was special. You know how I adore vegetables.”

“Especially cabbage,” Reece said. “Cabbage rocks, Ma. We’d love it if you’d package up some of the leftovers.”

Later, I elbowed him as Marjorie spooned the leftovers into a plastic container for us. I was already planning to forget them on the pie table, right atop the face-down wedding photo.

We backed the Roadbastard onto the street, pretending not to see her rushing after us, Tupperware in hand.

 

State of Love & Trust

Chapter 3
Pilate

Ellie – Detroit, Mich. – Friday, June 30, 2006

Saint caught me dangling his codpiece over the kitchen wastebasket. He stomped in and snatched it from my hand. “You wouldn’t dare.” He half smiled, clutching it to his chest.

“Yeah, actually I would.”

“Harsh. You know I need it.” His round eyes were all innocence. “You were really gonna toss it?”

“Yup. Don’t leave it on my counter again. Man, that’s just gross.”

“Sorry. I only set it there for a second.”

“One second too long, friend.”

He was only twenty-one, but c’mon. A codpiece. On my counter. That’s just … ew. If he was ever going to work out as our roomie, I had to get him trained. Pronto.

He strapped the leather piece over his skinny jeans. It was a weirdly intimate process to watch so I made a point of looking at Reece’s collection of Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings refrigerator magnets. Saint buckled on thick leather arm guards and a wide, studded collar then yanked open the door and pounded down the back steps without another word. I didn’t get how he could love a dog that he needed to armor up against.

I one-hundred percent hated Tremor Christ already. Sure, the Rottweiler/pit mix was named after a truly great song and I could respect that. But the admiration stopped there. The dog was a hundred and fifty pounds of muscle and teeth, with yellow eyes far too wise for a creature I might need to outsmart. Rescued from a kill shelter after three or four failed re-homing attempts, he was more of a wild beast that could momentarily pretend to be tame than he was a pet.

I peeled carrots at the sink, the window providing a decent view. I shoved it open, letting in the soft summer air and the scent of warm grass. All the commands Saint used were in German. Sitz, platz, hol, aus, packen, nein, varous. Everything. He’d told me there were two good reasons he trained Tremor Christ in German: it sounded more forceful than English, and it prevented strangers from commanding the dog.

That didn’t seem like the greatest idea to me. I’d flunked German before I dropped out of high school. If I ever had to command Tremor Christ what would I do? I’d probably panic and say gesundheit. Volkswagen. Tannenbaum. Heil Hitler.

Face it. If that dog ever got loose, I’d be screwed.

I never went out to my bus after the dog took over the yard. He was always chained, sure, but I didn’t trust him. Not after what he did to Judas, the neighbor’s yellow tabby. Oh, Reece thought it was real funny about their names. But there had been fur and guts all over the chain link fence, blood spattered on the side of my bus, and Judas’s ear stuck to the step on the deck. That rescued monster of Saint’s was pure evil.

Saint had apologized to the neighbors and even offered to buy them a kitten, but the whole incident burnished our white trash reputation on our street of tightly packed old houses.

Every time I stood peeling vegetables or washing dishes while Saint worked with Tremor Christ, his thoughtless courage floored me. This might be it, the time the dog didn’t obey him. The time an ambulance would come to take Saint away, sirens silenced.

I left cold water gushing from the tap while Saint held his arm high and commanded the dog to packen. Tremor Christ jumped and clamped his massive jaw on Saint’s leather arm guard. No matter how many times I witnessed this exercise, I’d almost pee my pants.

Reece squeezed my hips from behind, his lips and razor stubble tickling my neck. “What’s for dessert, sugar?” It wasn’t a question. Dinner wasn’t even on the stove yet.

Saint threw this week’s woobie for Tremor Christ. It was a sock monkey I’d picked up at a rummage sale for him a few days earlier. Already it was torn and filthy, spinning lazy circles through the air. Tremor Christ loped after it over our carpet of dandelions, jumped skyward and snatched it in his teeth. He shook it hard.

“Phooey,” Saint commanded the dog. At least, it sounded like phooey to me. Tremor Christ released the limp monkey atop Saint’s boots.

I’d have to try to remember that command.

“He’s such a freak,” Reece said.

“What do you mean?”

“Just look at him. Studded collar. A fucking codpiece? Get real.”

Reece took my hands out of the sink and kissed them. They were dripping wet and covered in bits of carrot peelings. The orange specks clung to his chin. I let him lead me away from the window, from the kitchen, from Saint.

 

 

State of Love & Trust

Chapter 4
All or None

Clive – Belknap Township, Mich. – Friday, June 30, 2006

The happiest man alive. That was me from the snowy day last March when Becca had agreed to marry me, until this very moment in the blazing heat. I should have known something like this would happen. I had my reasons, I swear, that one little word could double me over with the force of a gut punch right there in our backyard garden.

I stumbled backward and stepped on a rotting tomato. Embryonic slime oozed warm between my toes. I scraped my bare foot in the rough crabgrass while she continued kneeling in the dirt. Steady. Stable. Oblivious to the earwig flailing in her water glass. She quit looking at me for a reply and forced her weed digger
between twin dandelions.

“Maybe we should have planted popping corn,” Becca said, as if she hadn’t just detonated a neutron bomb.

I stood there, fists involuntarily clenched, mind scrambling to grasp the implications. Cicadas played an alien battle of the bands in the cedars lining our deep lot. The stench of cow manure wafted from a neighboring pasture. Her beagle, Cubby, continued snoozing peacefully in the thin shade of my weeping willow.

We’d been careful. So damned careful. She was on the patch.

“Please. Don’t change the subject,” I said. “How did this even happen?”

She tugged off her flowered gardening glove and showed me her palm. The stitches were gone but the fresh scar, where the boning knife had slipped through the avocado and pierced her hand, was still a deep shade of red. “I’m thinking it was those Canadian antibiotics.”

The week before the Pearl Jam shows, we’d taken a belated honeymoon at her brother’s bed and breakfast in Montréal. That’s where the stupid knife mishap occurred. It was completely my fault. I never should have asked her to make guacamole for me.

She shrugged. “I guess they deactivated my birth control.”

I was trying to be patient. Trying to understand. Sweat rolled down the backs of my knees. I weighed what to say next to this woman I adored, who’d taken a chance on a broke-ass artist from Detroit when every busybody in Presque Isle County was sure she should have married the Hollywood-handsome foreman from the quarry.

“We talked about this. Remember? You said, ‘Maybe in ten years.’ And I said that seemed soon but I was open. Was I dreaming, or did we not have basically that exact conversation?”

She pushed her sunglasses on top of her head and squinted up at me. “Yeah, you’re right. We did.”

I went for it. “So you don’t plan to go through with it or anything.”

“Seriously? I think, I mean, now that it’s happening, why wouldn’t we?”

I swallowed. The bitter taste of fear burned in the back of my throat. “Are you ready for this? Because I’m sure as hell not.”

She stabbed the earth and worked a furious circle with her weed digger. “It was an accident, but it’s something. You know? It’s ours.” She wrestled a dandelion from the dirt and pointed its wicked white root at me. “You’re giving me a knee-jerk reaction. An automatic hell no.”

“Someday. Alright? Someday we’ll try this. I’ve already promised you that. But this wasn’t part of our plan. A dumb accident that’s nobody’s fault doesn’t mean we have to totally abandon our plan.”

The plan was that I’d continue growing my business, Retro Replicas, from my home studio while she gradually expanded the service territory of Crowe & Father Home Heating, the business she’d inherited when her dad died. A surprise baby that would probably arrive in time for our first wedding anniversary did not fit anywhere into that plan as far as I could tell.

Becca took a sip of her water and spotted the drowning earwig. She jumped to her feet and flung the glass across the yard. It smashed against a stump near the fire pit. “Crap. I’ll get that. Oh!” She put her hands to the sides of her head, blinked hard and swayed.

I grabbed her by the waist and steadied her. “Hey? Bec? You alright?”

“I’m fine. Jeez. I’m just hot. I stood up too fast.” She stumbled toward the hose coiled at the side of our peeling white bungalow. Her sunglasses fell to the grass as she splashed water on her face.

My inadequacy at this husband gig nauseated me. What was I supposed to do, though?

She dried her cheeks with the bottom of her tank top, her belly button a tall O centered at her narrow waist. Her shirt fell into place, rumpled and wet. “So, I know it’s not perfect timing, I’ll give you that. And believe me, I’m as scared about this as you are. But you freaking out on me hardly helps.”

Water burbled from the hose. She kicked off her rubber gardening clogs and rinsed her feet. “Fine. I get it. It’s a screw-up, and it changes our plans. But we’ll get by. I mean, it’s just a baby. It will be small. It won’t eat all that much.”

“Don’t call it that. Right now it’s a little clump of cells.”

“That may be.” She dropped the hose. Her onyx eyes narrowed. “But it’s my clump.”

“Bec, please. Don’t do this to us. Not like this. Not right now.”

“It happened. It’s done.”

“These things can be undone, you know.”

Ignoring my last remark, she refastened her sweat-damp ponytail into a sloppy bun. Water continued to pour out of the hose. She wouldn’t even look at me. Usually, she was so reasonable. But this, this was different. There had to be some way to get her to reconsider. I picked up her sunglasses and handed them back to her, then tried appealing to her practical side.

“We’re in a one-bedroom house. Where’s it supposed to sleep?”

“Two-bedroom.”

Ouch. That other bedroom was my art studio.

“Seriously, Becca. I mean, come on. Are you really going to go there? My replicas are bringing in good money. If this is your new plan, you won’t be expanding your business anytime soon. Can you show me your thinking on this?”

She chewed her lip and looked away. This had to be sinking in. Bringing up her business was a good angle.

“Who do you imagine is going to take care of it while you’re off fixing boilers?”

“Simple. You’re always home. You’ll be a stay-at-home dad.”

Jesus. I could just see myself painting Houses of the Holy with a baby on my hip.

“Try to be realistic. This is my livelihood you’re messing with. You’re going to leave a baby here and just go off and work. And the kid, it’s going to be crawling around the studio knocking over jars of turpentine. Think of someone other than yourself.”

“That’s exactly what I am doing. You should try it sometime.”

I toed the deepening puddle of cold water in the grass and swished my foot around until the last of the tomato goop washed away. Me, a stay-at-home dad. I stepped out of the puddle onto the dry grass and made another pass at reasoning with her. “They’re not cute.”

“What is that even supposed to mean?”

“Alright, so maybe they’re cute.”

“That’s irrelevant. Cute or not. We’re talking about our kid. You’re saying you don’t want it because it might not be cute? I feel like I don’t even know you right now.”

That wasn’t what I’d meant. I tried again. “Well, obviously it’d be cute. What I’m saying is, so what? That doesn’t stop them from crying and barfing and crapping. They’re helpless. Needy. Fragile. Their whole lives depend on you. It’s exhausting. And if you fail, you can never forgive yourself.”

“You talk about having kids like you think you know something. You didn’t even have little brothers or sisters. Just you and Ellie. Where do you even … how can you just?” She flapped her hands in frustration.

She was flat out wrong about that, but this was hardly the time to lay it on her about how Ellie and I were, or were not, raised and how many siblings we’d actually had.

The nachos I’d eaten for lunch were rioting in my stomach and about to organize a protest march right out of my throat. I staggered forward and grabbed the garden hose. I needed to be doing anything other than discussing this doomsday scenario with the woman I loved. I did love her, really, despite any apparent evidence to the contrary.

I let the hose water splash against my feet until my bones ached from the cold.

“You’re upset,” she said. “It’s a lot to process, I know. But let me say this. There’s a tiny piece of you stuck inside me now. And I’m its mother. I don’t think I’d know how to say goodbye to that.”

Pressure welled against my esophagus. I made for the sliding doors and staggered through the house and into the bathroom. My knees smacked the floor tiles. I clutched the toilet rim as wave after wave of the nacho brigade stampeded out of me.

 

End of State of Love & Trust excerpt

 

State of Love & Trust. Copyright 2016 © Grace Ombry. All rights reserved,
including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form what­soever without the written permission of the author.

Whipping

Words and Music by Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Michael David McCready and Dave Abbruzzese Copyright (c) 1994 INNOCENT BYSTANDER, SCRIBING C-MENT SONGS, WRITE TREATAGE MUSIC, JUMPIN’ CAT MUSIC and PICKLED FISH MUSIC

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State of Love & Trust