Today's Reading

She gets up before I do. By the time I walk into the kitchen, Millicent is organizing breakfast, school lunches, the day, our lives.

I know I should tell her about Petra. Not about the sex—I wouldn't tell my wife about that. But I should tell her that I made a mistake and that Petra is right for us. I should do it because it's a risk to leave Petra out there.

Instead, I say nothing.

Millicent looks at me, her disappointment hitting like a physical force. Her eyes are green, many shades of green, and they look like camouflage.

They are nothing like Petra's. Millicent and Petra have nothing in common, except they've both slept with me. Or some version of me.

The kids tumble down the stairs, already yelling at each other, fighting over who said what about so-and-so at school yesterday. They are dressed and ready for school, just as I am dressed for work in my tennis whites. I am not and never have been an accountant.

While my kids are in school and my wife is selling houses, I am outside on the court, in the sun, teaching people how to play tennis. Most of my clients are middle-aged and out of shape, with too much money and time. Occasionally, I am hired by parents who believe their child is a prodigy, a champion, a future role model. So far, they have all been wrong.

But before I can leave to teach anyone anything, Millicent makes us all sit together for at least five minutes. She calls it breakfast.

Jenna rolls her eyes, taps her feet, anxious to get her phone back. No phones are allowed at the table. Rory is calmer than his sister. He makes the most of our five minutes by eating as much as possible, then stuffing his pockets with whatever doesn't fit in his mouth.

Millicent sits across from me, a cup of coffee perched at her lips.

She is dressed for work in a skirt, blouse, and heels, and her red hair is pulled back. The morning sun makes it look like copper. We are the same age, but she looks better—always has. She is the woman I should not have been able to get.

My daughter taps my arm in a pattern, like the beat to a song, and she continues until I pay attention to her. Jenna does not look like her mother. Her eyes, her hair, and the shape of her face come from me, and sometimes this makes me sad. Other times not.

"Dad, can you take me to get new shoes today?" she says. She is smiling, because she knows I will say yes.

"Yes," I say.

Millicent kicks me under the table. "Those shoes are a month old," she says to Jenna.

"But they're too tight now."

Not even my wife can argue with that.

Rory asks if he can go play his video game for a few minutes before school.

"No," Millicent says.

He looks at me. I should say no, but now I can't, not after I said yes to his sister. He knows this, because Rory is the smart one. He is also the one who looks like Millicent.

"Go ahead," I say. He races off.

Millicent slams down her coffee cup. Jenna picks up her phone.

We are done with breakfast.

Before getting up from the table, Millicent glares at me. She looks exactly like my wife and, at the same time, nothing like her.

***

I first saw Millicent in an airport. I was twenty-two and on my way back from Cambodia, where I had spent the summer with three friends. We got high every day and drunk every night, and we never shaved. I left the country as a clean-cut kid from the suburbs and returned as a shaggy, bearded man with a deep tan and some great stories. None compare to Millicent.

I was on a layover, my first back in the country. I went through customs and was heading to the domestic terminal when I saw her. Millicent was sitting in an empty gate area, alone, with her feet propped up on her suitcase. She was staring out of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the tarmac. Her red hair was knotted into a loose bun, and she was wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. I stopped to watch her as she watched the planes.

It was the way she looked out the window.

I had done the same thing when I set off on my trip. My dream had been to travel, to see places like Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam, and I did. Now I was back on familiar ground, back to where I had grown up, but my parents were gone. Although I am not sure they were ever really there. Not for me.
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