Chapter no 22

The Locked Door

“Nora,” Brady says.

I can’t take my eyes off of it. I shake my head. “Tell me what this is.”

When he told me this was his office, I expected to see a desk. A computer. Maybe some file cabinets. But this alleged office has none of that.

Instead, it has a bed. A twin bed with a pink bedspread. And stuffed animals lined up along the wall. The pillow has a picture on it of a cartoon character I can’t identify. And pushed up against the other wall is a small pink dollhouse.

“Nora.” Brady is rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m sorry. I…” “What is this?”

He looks over at the blindingly pink bedroom, then back at me, guilt etched into his features. “It’s my daughter’s room.”

“You have a daughter?”

“Yeah.” He shifts between his bare feet. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I just… I don’t know. It didn’t feel right.”

I’m not entirely sure how to feel right now. He’s been lying to me, even though it was partially a lie of omission. Well, not entirely. He told me this is his office, while it is clearly a small child’s bedroom.

“What’s her name?” I ask.

“Ruby.” He manages a ghost of a smile. “She’s five. She mostly lives with her mom, but she stays here every other weekend. Do you want to see a picture?”

I nod, although mostly to make sure this child actually exists. I have no interest in cooing over how cute his daughter is, especially after he lied to me about her existence.

He retrieves his phone from the bedroom and quickly brings up a photograph on the screen. It’s a photograph of a little girl, who has his nose and chin, with brown hair pulled into adorable little pigtails. She’s missing one of her front teeth, which is also adorable. He watches eagerly as I examine the photo.

“Cute,” I say flatly.

“Uh, thanks.”

I hold out the phone to him and he takes it back. “I think I’m going to head out,” I mutter.

“What?” His face falls. “Nora, come on. Don’t leave. Please?”

I shoot him a look. “Why did you lie to me about having a daughter?” “I don’t know.” He drops his head. “Look, I’ve only been divorced for

a year and it’s all kind of new to me… you know, this situation. I don’t want her to get to know anyone who’s going to just be around for a week or two. And honestly, the other night I thought it was just a one-night thing. I didn’t want to talk about Ruby.”

I plant my hands on my hips. “So basically, you didn’t trust me enough to tell me you had a daughter.”

“Well, if we’re going to be fair about it, you did leave about five seconds after we had sex.”

I snort. “And hey, look at that, I’m doing it again.” “Nora…”

But it’s too late. I push past him into the living room, where I retrieve my purse, jacket, and shoes. Brady follows me, his brow furrowed. He still has his shirt off, which is mildly distracting, but it doesn’t keep me from achieving my ultimate goal of getting the hell out of here.

“Nora, I’m really sorry,” he says. “I was going to tell you tonight. I swear.”

“Right. I’m sure you were.”

“Look, it doesn’t change anything, does it?”

I yank my arm through my coat sleeve. “It doesn’t change anything. It just tells me what you think of me. So much for me being ‘the girl who got away,’ huh? Nice line, by the way. Very effective.”

His shoulders sag. “It wasn’t a line. I meant it.”

I turn to face Brady. He looks miserable. I’m sure he’s sorry he didn’t tell me about his daughter in the first place, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. He was right not to tell me. If I knew it before the first time we were together, I never would have slept with him in the first place. I don’t need that kind of complication.

“Goodbye, Brady,” I say.

“Let me walk you to your car.” “No.”

For a moment, the sadness on his face is replaced by a flash of anger. “Look, I was planning to tell you about Ruby—this isn’t that big a deal. I feel like you’re just using this as an excuse to leave. Again.”

“That’s not true.”

He arches an eyebrow. “Isn’t it?”

I shake my head. He doesn’t get it. There’s a reason he never told me about his daughter. It’s the same reason he liked dating me so much. It’s because I scare him. I gave him the same thrill he got from watching the slasher films back in college. He doesn’t even know about my father, but he knows there’s something about me. He senses it.

He’s afraid of me. Just a little bit. And that’s why he didn’t want me to know he had a child.

“Goodbye, Brady,” I say.

And when I walk out, he doesn’t follow me.

When I get outside, the cool night air clears my head. I didn’t realize how stifled I felt in that tiny apartment until I left. I look back at the house, and Brady’s landlady is out on the porch. Rocking back-and-forth slowly. Watching me.

I hug my arms to my chest. I’m glad I’m never coming back here.

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