FRANCESCA CALLED TODD at his office to tell him the news as soon as she got home. She told him she expected to have the money, or a good part of it for him, in the next few weeks. Her father had promised that Avery would write her a check for Todd’s share of the gallery the next day. And Avery said that the gallery would give her a check for the first three paintings within the month. Todd was more than comfortable with that.
“I guess that means I’d better start looking for an apartment,” he said sadly at the other end of the phone. “I’ll check some out this weekend,” he promised, and it felt like a knife in her heart. Although they’d been talking about his moving out for months, and he was never there on the weekends now, it suddenly felt all too real. It was over.
“There’s no rush,” she said softly. They had loved each other and thought they would be together forever, and they were both sad that it hadn’t worked out. It was easier concentrating on the business details about the gallery and the house than talking about the loss to both of them. It was the death of a dream. They had both survived other failed relationships before, but neither of them had ever lived with anyone else. Suddenly, it really did feel like a divorce. She wondered what they would do about all the things they had bought together-the couch, the lamps, the dishes, the living room rug they both liked. It was painful to think about that now. But sooner or later they would have to face pulling their common life apart. She hated the thought. And he wasn’t happy about it either.
“I’ll let you know what I find,” he said, and had to hurry into a meeting, which was a mercy for them both. She wondered when he would start dating, and how soon he would meet someone else, or if he already had. She didn’t ask him what he did on weekends, but she didn’t think he was seeing anyone. They hardly saw each other at the house now. He came in late at night, and he was sleeping in a guest room on another floor.
Talking to him reminded her that she had to start looking for roommates, since she was going to be able to keep the house. In one sense, it was a huge weight off her shoulders, and in another sense, she was suddenly unbearably sad. They didn’t hate each other, they just didn’t get along anymore, and they wanted different lives. He had said something about moving uptown. That was more his world than hers. He had moved downtown for her, and now he was going back to his old familiar world. Maybe her father was right, and he had only been a tourist in her life, like moving to another country for a few years, and then deciding you wanted to go home again. She didn’t blame him, she was just very sorry for both of them that it hadn’t worked out.
She had a long talk about it with Avery that night. She was so wise.
“You can’t make someone be something they’re not,” Avery reminded her. “He wants all the things you don’t. Or he says he does. Marriage, kids right now before he gets any older, Wall Street, the law not art, and a much more traditional world and life. If he’s calling you bohemian, that’s not what he wants.”
“I know,” Francesca said quietly. “I’m just sad. It’s going to be hard when he moves out.” But it had been hard for the last year too, fighting all the time. They weren’t arguing anymore, the way they had for months. They hardly talked to each other now, except about the details of burying the relationship they’d had. It felt like a death even more than a divorce. In the last five years, she had forgotten how hard it was to see a relationship end. Avery felt sorry for her, and she was glad that Henry had agreed to help her with the gallery. At least she had that, and the house. It wasn’t a total loss.
Francesca had told her she wanted to look for new artists when she had time. There was so much she wanted to do to keep the gallery moving forward, and she felt as though she had her father to answer to now, although he had assured her he wasn’t going to be too involved. He was busy, and currently preparing a show for the spring. She had his support, but he had no desire to interfere with her. She knew what she was doing, and they both understood that getting the gallery profitable was going to take time. He accepted that a lot better than Todd, who wanted to see results. Art galleries just didn’t work like that. Her father was right, Todd had been a visitor in her world. And now he was going home.
She looked at ads in the newspaper that night, and on the Internet, for people who were looking for roommates and places to live, and none of the descriptions fit. And then she decided to place her own ad. She had already figured out that she was going to divide the house on Charles Street floor by floor. On the top floor there was a sunny little living room with an even smaller bedroom and a tiny bath, but it was big enough for someone to live. Todd was sleeping up there now. On the floor below it was her own bedroom, which she had shared with Todd. They had a dressing room, and a marble bathroom they had installed, and she had a small home office off their bedroom, where she worked when she was at home.
Below them was the dining room, which she was going to turn into a living room, and conveniently it had a guest bath, and a library she could turn into a bedroom for whoever rented that floor. And on the main floor was the main living room that she planned to keep for herself. The kitchen was one floor below, on the garden level. It was large and sunny with a comfortable dining area that she and her tenants could all use. And next to it there was a spacious storeroom where Todd had kept his gym equipment. It looked out over the garden, had a decent bathroom, and could be used as a studio unit for a third tenant. It was going to be tight, but there was enough space for four of them, as long as they were all respectful, considerate, and polite. She had the top floor and the floor below her bedroom to rent out, and the studio unit next to the kitchen. She was determined to make it work.
She wrote out a description of each area on her computer that night, and she described the house. She thought of only renting to females, but she didn’t want to limit it, she needed all the eligible tenants she could find. So she made no mention of females only and decided to see what she would get in answer to her ad.
She was just editing it one last time when Todd knocked on the door of her office, and stood there with a serious expression.
“Are you okay?” He was worried about her. He still didn’t think she could manage on her own, and thought she should sell the house. But he knew she wouldn’t do that, and was stubbornly determined to make it work, even if it meant taking strangers into her home. It seemed foolhardy to him and concerned him for her.
“Yeah, I am,” she said, sounding tired. “What about you?”
“I don’t know. It feels weird, doesn’t it? Pulling our lives apart. I didn’t expect it to hurt so much.” He looked vulnerable and sad. It reminded her of everything she loved about him, which made it worse.
“Neither did I,” she said honestly. But neither of them could imagine putting it back together now either. It had gone too far, and all their differences were still there. Irreconcilable differences, as it said in a divorce. But it hurt anyway, no matter how bad it had been for the past year. “I’m going to hate your leaving. Maybe I’ll go to my father’s in Connecticut, so I don’t have to watch.” He nodded and said nothing. He was ready to move on, but sad to leave her behind. She was just as beautiful as she had been five years before, just as appealing and warm, but they seemed like different people now. They no longer belonged to each other and were already pieces of each other’s pasts.
“If I can do anything to help after I move out, you can always call me. Mr. Fix-It at your service. I’m going to be a plumber in my next life.” He smiled ruefully, and she smiled back. He was tired of doing their repairs, but he was willing to lend a hand. The best and worst of it was that they didn’t hate each other, which made it that much sadder now. It would have been easier if they were both mad, but neither of them was. “I’ll leave you my tools,” he promised. He was happy to leave them behind and never have to use them again.
“Thank you,” she said, and laughed. “I’d better learn to use them pretty quick.”
“What if one of your roommates turns out to be nuts, or a criminal or con artist, or ransacks the house?” he asked. But even as he worried, he knew Francesca was a strong woman, and she was aware of what she wanted. She had survived thirty years without him before he came along. He correctly assumed that she would manage without him once he left. But he would miss her anyway. As it turned out she wasn’t the woman for him, but he loved her as the very special person she had been in his life. He would always care about her, and hoped she’d be okay. And she wished the same for him.
“If they’re nuts, I’ll tell them to leave,” she said firmly.
He went upstairs then to the room where he slept. And she finished the ad. She was planning to submit it to the paper, and put it on the Internet the next day. And then God knew who would turn up. It was hard to imagine living in the house with three strangers. It was going to be a whole new world. She was planning to check their references diligently, and they couldn’t move in until Todd found an apartment, but it seemed like a good idea to start looking for roommates now. She had no idea how long it would take to find three people to live in the house with her.
It all felt very strange as she got into bed that night. She was anxious for Todd to go. It was too painful waiting for the other shoe to drop. And odder still to wonder about who would turn up to move into the house. 44 Charles Street was about to become a very different place, and so was her life without Todd.