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16 E L I Z A K E N N E D Y

“I never use the toilet after some old lady.”
“Seniors,” I say. “They’re so tidy.”
“They’re filthy sluts,” she informs me.
I slap her leg. “Lola, you crack me up!”
“What do they give a shit about STDs? They’re basically dead! My

great- aunt Rita, she’s eighty- four? She’s got a colostomy bag, and, like,
rickets? Had gonorrhea three times!”

“Poor lady!” I say.
Lola snorts. “Auntie Rita ain’t no lady, honey.”
Will sticks some kind of bran muffin from hell in my face. “Why

don’t you try to eat something?”
Looking at it makes my stomach churn all over again. “I don’t think

I can.”
“One bite?”
I take one bite, to please him.
“He’s a keeper,” Lola announces. “He’s a prize.”
I rest my head on his shoulder. “I know.”
“Mine impregnified a stripper at his father’s bachelor party,” she con-

“Wait,” I say. “His father’s bachelor party?”
“Fourth marriage,” Lola explains.
“Sounds like my family. Was this before you guys met, or . . . ?”
“Nah. Benny and me been together since high school. But he made it

up to me. See?” She shows me her engagement ring.
“Beautiful,” I say.
“Big- ass,” she agrees.
“What happened to the baby?”
“Cordelia’s almost three,” Lola tells me. “So cute! Gonna be the

flower girl.” She picks up her phone. “Lemme see if I got a picture.”
We have a layover in Miami. Our plane to Key West is smaller, and

the rows have only two seats. I have no one to talk to but Will, and his
nose is buried in a book.

I nudge him. “What are you reading about?”
“Epictetus,” he says, not looking up.
“The suburb of Cleveland?”
Will turns a page. “That’s the one.”

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I T A K E Y O U 17

I nudge him again. “I’m bored. Talk to me.”
“Why don’t you read a book?”
“I’m not that bored. Tell me about Epictetus.”
He closes his book and adjusts his glasses. “He was an ancient phi-

losopher. A Stoic. He was born into slavery in the first century AD, in
what’s now Turkey. But he lived most of his life in Rome and Greece.”

I snuggle into my seat. I love listening to Will talk about his intellec-
tual interests. He’s so adorably precise and methodical. Long, compli-
cated sentences roll right out of him. It’s kind of like being engaged to
an audiobook.

I pick up one of his hands and start to play with it.
“Epictetus believed that our capacity for choice is our greatest

strength and the source of our freedom. It allows us to recognize the
very limited number of things in life that are within our actual control.”

I like Will’s hands. They’re strong and calloused— from all his field-
work, I guess. He’s got long fingers with big knuckles. Bony wrists. I
hold one of my hands up and compare them, palm to palm.

He breaks off midsentence. “Are you trying to distract me?”
“Of course not!” I let go of his hand. “Why, is it working?”
“Always.” He smiles down at me. “Where were we?”
“Choice. Freedom. Control.”
“Right.” He collects his thoughts. “Epictetus believed that all human

suffering is the result of our futile attempts to control things that are
not within our power to control. Our bodies, our possessions. External
events. Other people.”

“Epictetus was anti- suffering?” I say. “What a coincidence— I’m
anti- suffering!”

“Only by renouncing our desires and attachments can we obtain a
measure of inner peace and live in harmony with the universe.”

“I’m really thirsty,” I say. “Would you mind renouncing your attach-
ment to that orange juice on your tray?”

“Why don’t I renounce it onto your head?”
“I don’t think that would be harmonious with the universe, Will.”
“True,” he agrees. “But it would provide me with some much- needed

inner peace.”
By the time we land in Key West I’m feeling a thousand times better.

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I T A K E Y O U 3 3

“You obviously didn’t tell him this is your first time back,” Ana adds.
“Does he know why you left?”

“No,” I admit.
Gran scowls and throws up her hands.
“Ladies, ladies,” I say breezily. “Aren’t you being a bit dramatic about

“No!” they all cry.
“Will and I are great together. Can’t you see that? We have chemis-

try. We have good patter.”
“Patter,” Ana repeats. “You’re marrying him because you have good

“He’s cute. He’s sweet. He . . . he cooks!”
“Lily.” It’s Jane’s turn to lock her eyes on mine. “Be serious, for a mo-

ment. Why are you doing this? Why marry someone you barely know?”
I don’t answer.
“We think we have the right to ask,” she adds.
I try to explain. But I have a hard time gathering my thoughts. Fi-

nally, I say, “Will is a really nice person. He’s fun to talk to. We have a
great time together.”

“Those sound like reasons why he’d make a fine boyfriend, Lillian
Grace,” Gran says, with uncommon gentleness. “But they aren’t reasons
to marry him.”

“Do you understand what marriage means, honey?” Mom asks. “It’s
not some joke. We’re very concerned. We don’t want to see you turn out
like your—”

“Don’t, Mother,” I warn her. “Don’t say it.”
“You need to be honest with him about who you really are,” Ana

tells me.
“Or we will be,” Jane adds.
I smile sweetly and give them the finger.
“Enough.” Gran stands up. “We’ve said our piece. Please do us the

courtesy of thinking it over.” She heads for the kitchen, but stops. “By
the way, I asked around about your future mother- in- law.”

“Watch yourself. She’s a killer.” With that, Gran vanishes through

the swinging doors.

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