Steal the North: A Novel

Steal the North: A Novel by Heather B Bergstrom

Book: Steal the North: A Novel by Heather B Bergstrom Read Free Book Online
Authors: Heather B Bergstrom
on cloning, two on gays in the military, three on health care reform, four on the death penalty, and, even though it’s almost a new century and I teach in the capital of California, sixteen on abortion. I know exactly what Spencer means. I’ve begun to feel agitated by his constant presence in the apartment—not that I want to be alone and certainly I don’t want him sleeping naked in another woman’s bed. But he can’t replace Emmy. The thought unnerves me. I tried to let him at first. I tried to be a better helpmeet: to cook for him, seek his advice, bring him cold ones, snuggle. But it’s not that simple. Or if it is, it’s not enough. What is wrong with me? Other single moms—single women, period—would bend over backward for Spencer. Maybe that’s just it. If only he were a little chubby or balding, or if he weren’t such a fine craftsman and lover. What can a woman do, really, when a man like Spencer walks into her life? She has to play hard to get. And keep on playing it. Or so I’ve convinced myself.
    He heads to the table for his rolled blueprints. “Emmy’s okay, you know,” he says.
    “How do
you
know?”
    “Well, I’ve been thinking. You swear your sister and brother-in-law are good people, right?” I nod. “So maybe other than that absurd healing ceremony, this summer will turn out to be just what Emmy needs.”
    Ten days ago Spencer was mad as hell at me, and he doesn’t get mad that often, for making Emmy go. Why the about-face? And what does he mean: “just what Emmy needs

? I ask him to elaborate, please.
    He stops gathering up his prints. “Maybe being away from you this summer will force Emmy to grow up a little—a lot.”
    “She’s pretty mature for her age.” I press on the back part of my cheek and jaw to ease the tooth pain. “You’ve said so many times.”
    “In some ways, yes, Emmy’s
too
mature.” He moseys over and sits beside me on the couch as if I’d just popped in a VHS. “And she certainly has direction.” He pauses. “But it’s your direction, Kate. Not hers.”
    I take a deep breath. “This comes from a thirty-five-year-old bachelor. Don’t presume—”
    “I’m not presuming. I
know
Emmy.”
    “You really don’t.” I laugh. “You know her good side. Her cheery, I-want-a-daddy, please-take-me-to-a-ball-game side.” That was cruel, even for me.
    He stands up. “See you later.”
    I didn’t mean to be an ogress. I don’t know
how
to accept advice on Emmy. I search on the coffee table for my tube of Anbesol. It’s been just my kid and me for so long—for always, except for Emmy’s first seven months.
    Spencer takes a few steps, then turns back, as I was hoping. “I know Emmy’s scared-out-of-her-wits side. Her how-can-I-make-it-without-my-mommy side. I saw it at the airport.” He bends and grabs the Anbesol off the floor, where it must’ve fallen, and tosses it at me. “I love your daughter, Kate. She’s going to surprise us both one day.”
    “Us?”
    “Yes,
us
. Fucking
us
. Christ. Did you push away Emmy’s real dad this hard?”
    “Fuck you.” I get to my feet. He’s never dared mention Emmy’s dad, except once, early in our relationship and not in the same context. My bathrobe falls open, and I let it. My body, for whatever reason, seems to hold some power over Spencer. Just as his body does over me. The first time he touched me, I knew there would be no holding back between the sheets with this man. “Fuck you,” I repeat, throwing the tube of Anbesol back on the floor like a child.
    “Not to be crude, Kate, but you’ve been fucking me for four years.” He pulls my bathrobe together and starts to tie the belt. “I need more.”
    I push his hands away and triple knot the belt. “You have no idea about that man, or my past.”
    “You’ve made damn sure of that.”
    He’s right. I have. Spencer knows my body more intimately than I do, which is stirring. But my past, I don’t want to dump that crap on anyone,

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