Monthly Archives: December 2016

photo of a laptop on the bed at night

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 3: Spreadsheets in Bed | Any Other Way But Together

“Babe… have you talked to Esthie about her timeline for moving out?” Xavier Rivas asks his wife, careful not to make it seem to Isobel that he’s dying for his sister in law to move out. He is laying in bed wearing navy pajama pants with his bare feet hang off the edge of their bed while he reviews their family finances on his laptop. The reclaimed wood headboard behind his white pillow goes all the way up to the ceiling, with mason jar lighting fixtures on either side of the bed. The walls are painted sage green and the room remains otherwise empty, aside from their rustic gray nightstands and the wicker hamper Iso tosses her broccoli-stained denim shirt into.

“I don’t wanna talk about my sister right now, Babe,” she says before taking a sip of the red wine that Xavier had just poured for her on the nightstand. “But don’t let that stop you from telling me everything Dominick said at lunch today.”

Xavier laughs, spilling some of his red wine onto his small patch of chest hair. “Dude, your sister’s still obsessed with him, I don’t know why she doesn’t just figure out whatever she needs to figure out already.”

“Well, what does he think they need to figure out?” she asks.

“Bro, he’s not the one that woke up one day, dyed his hair purple and moved out on her after four years together. She’s the one that needs to figure things out.”

Annoyed by her husband’s oversimplification of the situation, Isobel rolls her eyes and takes another sip of her wine, one of the few indulgences she allows herself on weeknights. She likes having Esthie around so much that, for the moment, she’s willing to overlook the fact that he has a point. Their parents, retired college professors, visit often from their home in Naples, but she misses having them around and Esthie helps fill that void. Feeling exhausted from her day and not quite ready for her shower, Iso cuddles up to Xavier while he works on his spreadsheets.

Looking over his college loan payoff schedule, Xavier is trying to figure out how to make room in his young family’s monthly budget for the kids’ college funds. If somebody had told him when he was a senior in high school that he’d be contributing to four college tuitions while still in his twenties, he probably wouldn’t have went to college in the first place. The whole thing feels like a scam to him, but he wants his kids to have all the opportunities he had.

He runs his hand through his salt and pepper hair then rubs his brown eyes, which are swollen from lack of sleep. Xavier puts his arm around his wife and breathes in the sweet, calming energy that made him fall for her during their freshman year of college, when he would lay in bed with her all day ordering takeout and binge watching tv shows.

These days, Xavier feels lucky to get one full night’s sleep in a month. His career in luxury real estate requires a lot of networking and between that and his growing household, he’s happy when he’s able to unwind after a long day. Feeling like he can’t make sense of numbers anymore, he closes the spreadsheets and opens a listing for a sailboat he had bookmarked earlier that day. Xavier always dreamed of raising his family in Coconut Grove with aspirations of teaching his kids how to sail just down the road from their home.

“Check this out. This guy’s only asking a few grand. Tell me that’s not a beautiful boat.” Xavier flashes her a smile, hoping to bring her along on this journey.

“It’s gorgeous,” she says. “The only problem is that my kids aren’t getting on a boat without learning how to swim first,” she flashes a toothy smile back at him. “Just sayin’.”

“So that’ll be a few grand, plus…” Xavier look at his wife for an estimate. Iso places her wine glass on the nightstand and grabs the laptop. She searches for children’s swimming lessons in Miami and shows him the pricing.

Xavier laughs. “So I need to sell about a million dollars in real estate next year to make this happen, is what you’re saying.”

“Basically,” Isobel says. She kisses him on the side of the lips, making her way into their bathroom with her wine and bluetooth speaker, tossing her bra into the laundry basket on the way.

As soon as Xavier hears her turn on the shower, he closes the laptop he pulls his phone off the charger. He knows Iso would be upset if she finds out who he’s texting, but he can’t help himself.

Part 2: Two More Bites   Contents   Part 4: Take Care of Skimbleshanks For Me

photo of vintage looking kitchen

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 2: Two More Bites | Any Other Way But Together

Greeted by the scent of roast chicken and broccoli casserole, Esthie walks into the cool interior of her sister’s home and takes off her muddy sneakers. Even though she’s hungry, she walks toward the tufted leather couch in the formal living room to grab her smartphone before heading to the kitchen for dinner.

No new messages.

Esthie’s heart sinks. She felt so strong when she decided to break up with Dominick. She loved him, but she felt that she needed to spend some time away from him to figure out what she wants. Everything seemed to be going fine until she ran into him over Labor Day weekend. As soon as Esthie saw him again she realized how much she missed him and a few cocktails led to a drunken hookup and an awkward morning, after which she hadn’t heard a word from him.

Deflated, she walks toward the kitchen where Isobel Egret is feeding her young children.

“I’m full, Momma,” Emilia says to Isobel, who instructs her three year old daughter to have two more bites. With her light brown hair in a messy ponytail and the sleeves of her light denim shirt rolled up, she is standing in front of her one year old son, Rudy, with a spoonful of casserole.

Her kitchen has modern appliances like a stainless steel fridge and induction range mixed in with more traditional elements, like cream colored cabinets that displayed her porcelain cookware and antique copper pots through glass windows. A large white sink sits in front of a bay window that overlooks an empty backyard. She and her husband don’t have the energy to spend on a yard renovation project, so their current plan for the yard is to put off planning for the yard until the kids are a little bit older. Eventually, Isobel would like to plant a row of white bougainvilleas along the fence in the backyard so that she can admire them from the kitchen window while she cooks. She dreams of hosting dinner parties for friends and family under the night sky, with string lights twinkling over a long table decorated to perfection with flower arrangements and candles surrounding a home cooked meal.

While Isobel finishes feeding the baby, Emilia, or Emmie as she was dubbed by her little brother when he learned his first words, turns away from her plate of food and looks through the gaps in the wooden dining chair she’s sitting in toward the hallway, waiting for her father to save her from the last bites of broccoli on her plate.

“Daddy!” Emmie suddenly screams as Xavier, Isobel’s husband, walks in. Standing on her chair, Emmie leaps into her father’s arms as soon as he is within reach.

“Hey Princess,” he says, giving her a kiss on the forehead.

Iso knows that once the kids are out of their chairs greeting their father she has no chance of getting their attention again, so she rinses their plates off as Xavier grabs Rudy with his free arm.

“How’s my baby boy?” With a kid on each arm, Xavier leans back and gives his wife a kiss on the lips. “How’s your day been, Babe?”

Feeling like she’s intruding on an intimate moment between Isobel and her husband, Esthie sits on the counter next to the crockpot and quietly eats her dinner. Meanwhile, Isobel glances at Esthie’s toned legs hanging off her counter and immediately regrets the carbs she just ate. She and Esthie are technically identical, but Iso feels like Esthie’s older sister after becoming a mom, mainly due to the baby weight and bags under her eyes that never seem to go away.

“Good, Babe,” Isobel says, letting her husband know that there’s a breast for him in the oven. Xavier possesses a charm that, when combined with his classic looks and baritone voice, makes him irresistible to his wife. Even after long days of shuttling their kids around the city, cooking and doing laundry, she looks forward to lying in bed and reconnecting with him at night, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Xavier serves himself chicken and opens the red slow cooker next to Esthie, who cracks a smile when she remembers that he had lunch with Dominick earlier. He also cracks a smile, knowing exactly why she’s suddenly interested in talking to him. “So, I hear you had a nice weekend,” he says.

“Babe, don’t get involved!” Isobel says to him as she ushers the kids toward the hallway for bath time.

“And what is it that you heard, exactly?” Esthie asks, giving her sister the side eye and hoping her brother in law will ignore her advice.

Part1: Mercury in Retrograde    Contents   Part 3: Spreadsheets in Bed

Any Other Way But Together Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 1: Mercury in Retrograde

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 1: Mercury in Retrograde | Any Other Way But Together

Raindrops sprinkle down from a large banyan tree as the sun sets over Miami, bringing the tuesday after Labor Day into twilight. The humid air feels thick and smells like a combination of wet asphalt, car exhaust and freshly cut grass as Esthie Egret cools down in the shade. She is waiting to cross Douglas Road, one of the busier streets in an otherwise quiet neighborhood in Coconut Grove. It’s the unofficial end of summer and Esthie can already feel the holidays approaching, a time of year she had been looking forward to until the events of the long weekend clouded her perception of the present.

Beads of sweat and rainwater are trickling down her temple, circling under her light blue eyes that are puffy from a weekend spent drinking, dancing and crying. Esthie pulls her wavy hair out of a low, messy bun. Shoulder length, it goes from light brown at the root to blonde and lavender at the tips. She added the lavender after going through an existential crisis that ended with her breaking up with her boyfriend over the summer. It should be noted that both the break up and the existential crisis just happened to follow her twenty-ninth birthday.

With the curtains closing on her twenties, Esthie questions every decision she’s ever made. And with an identical twin sister to compare all of her life choices to, she finds it very difficult to look at them objectively. Esthie and Isobel are identical only in DNA, with dichotomous personalities that took them in very different directions after high school.

Lumped together as ‘The Egret Twins’ from kindergarten through senior year, Esthie and Iso chose to attend different universities so that they could experience freshman year as individuals and not as a genetically exotic curiosity. Their years apart during college allowed them to explore areas of their personalities that would ultimately inform the women they would become in their twenties. Iso is a married mother of two who is taking a break from her career to stay at home with her young children. Esthie is a recently single creative professional with big dreams, a small budget and an even smaller window of time to make them come true before giving up on them entirely.

Esthie hasn’t lived with her sister since they were teenagers, but after breaking up with Dominick, her boyfriend of four years, she decided that it was better to share a bunk with her three year old niece than to stay in a relationship that wasn’t headed in the right direction. Esthie fell in love with Dominick after meeting him on a yoga tour of India. His endless fascination with the world was infectious and it made Esthie gravitate toward him immediately. She had every intention of continuing her education after that trip, but was inspired to develop her creative talents instead. As soon as they got back from India, she quit her job and became a certified yoga instructor, spending all of her free time focusing on her passion projects and her blossoming romance.

One of those projects, making rag dolls to resemble famous artists, generated enough interest at local street fairs to convince Esthie to pursue it as a small business. She learned how to sew while holed up in her dormroom during her first winter in New England. She had never experienced snow before and she had never been away from her sister for so long, two things that she was excited about at first but began to hate as soon as the novelty wore off. Lonely and cold, she wanted to move back home after the holidays, but her mother, Marge, wouldn’t hear of it. She flew up for a couple of weeks to teach her daughter how to quilt and cook her way through the isolating days of winter. While the cooking skills fell by the wayside some time after graduation, Esthie took the sewing skills she learned back then and used them to improve her life once again.

After two years of developing a social media presence and visibility in the local marketplace, Esthie makes just enough money selling her dolls to stay in business but not enough to earn a living wage in Miami. The success of her startup has been her main focus since moving in with her sister. It’s what gets her through the nights when she wakes up in her young niece’s room and wonders if she’s made a huge mistake in breaking up with her boyfriend. As she approaches Iso’s charming gray home, tucked away behind green foliage and a white porch, she begins to feel the weight of her decision to leave Dominick.

This afternoon jog was supposed to help her forget about what happened when she saw Dominick over the weekend. She even left her smartphone inside so that she wouldn’t feel compelled to check for messages for the duration of her run, but that only gave her more time to analyze every single interaction she had with him.

Her brain tells her that breaking up with him was the right decision. They had fallen into a dynamic that put career ambitions before family and when she realized that she would be turning thirty within a year, Esthie began to wonder if she and Dominick were making a mistake by not starting a family of their own. Although she didn’t think she was ready to have kids right away, she wanted to know that their relationship was at least headed in that direction before it was too late.

Her heart still breaks every time she sees him. When Dominick is in front of her there’s nowhere else Esthie wants to be. As soon as she sets her eyes on him she forgets everything that doesn’t work in their relationship and can’t focus on anything but the way she feels his arms wrapped around her. Terrified that she may have just broken up with the love of her life, she rushes toward the front door, hoping to find a text from him that would to prove to her that what happened between them over the weekend wasn’t a mistake.

Prologue    Contents   Part 2: Two More Bites

photo of young woman

Prologue | Any Other Way But Together

On the Sunday morning after her twenty-ninth birthday celebration, Esthie Egret is in a beauty supply store in South Beach looking for a bottle of lavender colored hair dye. After teaching a yoga class and spending a few minutes on the sand, she can’t shake the panic that set in when she realized that she would be turning thirty in less than a year. Feeling a strong desire to shake things up in her life, she decided to begin with her hair color.

Her identical twin sister, Isobel, is married with two young children and living in the suburbs while Esthie can’t get her boyfriend of fours years to commit to more than sharing a cat and an apartment with her. She loves her life with Dominick, but they’ve never really talked about starting a family. She’s been anxious to start that conversation, but she feels like initiating a conversation about having kids would be premature considering that they’ve barely even talked about marriage.

When her sister gave birth to her first child, Esthie realized that what was once her nuclear family had become her extended family. Isobel is now a mother of two under five and in her new role as Aunt Esthie, the more independent Egret sister has suddenly started to think about what her own family will look like. She doesn’t want to rush into starting one, but the perfectly choreographed birthday dinner her sister hosted for their almost-thirtieth birthday made Esthie think about motherhood more and more with the each candle that was added to her cake.

What she decides to do at any given moment can dictate what the next decade of her life will look like. Esthie has this paralyzing fear that life is going to fly by before she’s able to make any of her dreams come true. She and her sister always dreamed of raising their children together and she feels like this is the moment to decide whether or not to give up on that dream to pursue another one. At the moment, the only thing Esthie feels she can hold on to is the bottle of lavender hair dye in her hands.

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day