Darkest Fear Page 4

Still, there had to have been more to it. He and Emily had lasted three years. He had loved her, and she’d been the first to break his heart.

“There a coffee bar near here?” she asked.

“A Starbucks,” Myron said.

“I’ll drive.”

“I don’t want to go with you, Emily.”

She gave him the smile. “Lost my charms, have I?”

“They lost their effect on me a long time ago.” Half lie.

She shifted her hips. Myron watched, thinking about what Esperanza had said. It wasn’t just her voice or her words—even her movements ended up a double entendre. “It’s important, Myron.”

“Not to me.”

“You don’t even know—”

“It doesn’t matter, Emily. You’re the past. So is your husband—”

“My ex-husband. I divorced him, remember? And I never knew what he did to you.”

“Right,” Myron said. “You were just the cause.”

She looked at him. “It’s not that simple. You know that.”

He nodded. She was right, of course. “I always knew why I did it,” Myron said. “I was being a competitive dumbass who wanted to get one up on Greg. But why you?”

Emily shook her head. The old hair would have flown side to side, ending up half covering her face. Her new coif was shorter and more stylized, but his mind’s eye still saw the kinky flow. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” she said.

“Guess not,” he said, “but I’ve always been curious.”

“We both had too much to drink.”

“Simple as that?”


Myron made a face. “Lame,” he said.

“Maybe it was just about sex,” she said.

“A purely physical act?”


“The night before you married someone else?”

She looked at him. “It was dumb, okay?”

“You say so.”

“And maybe I was scared,” she said.

“Of getting married?”

“Of marrying the wrong man.”

Myron shook his head. “Jesus, you’re shameless.”

Emily was about to say more, but she stopped as though her last reserves had suddenly been zapped away. He wanted her gone, but with ex-loves there is also a pulling sadness. There before you stands the true road untraveled, the lifetime what-if, the embodiment of a totally alternate life if things had gone a little different. He had absolutely no interest in her anymore, yet her words still drew out his old self, wounds and all.

“It was fourteen years ago,” she said softly. “Don’t you think it’s time we moved on?”

He thought about what that “purely physical” night had cost him. Everything, maybe. His lifelong dream, for sure. “You’re right,” he said, turning away. “Please leave.”

“I need your help.”

He shook his head. “As you said, time to move on.”

“Just have coffee with me. With an old friend.”

He wanted to say no, but the past had too strong a pull. He nodded, afraid to speak. They drove in silence to Starbucks and ordered their complicated coffees from an artist-wannabe barista with more attitude than the guy who works at the local record store. They added whatever condiments at the little stand, playing a game of Twister by reaching across one another for the nonfat milk or Equal. They sat down in metal chairs with too-low backs. The sound system was playing reggae music, a CD entitled Jamaican Me Crazy.

Emily crossed her legs and took a sip. “Have you ever heard of Fanconi anemia?”

Interesting opening gambit. “No.”

“It’s an inherited anemia that leads to bone marrow failure. It weakens your chromosomes.”

Myron waited.

“Are you familiar with bone marrow transplants?”

Strange line of questioning, but he decided to play it straight. “A little. A friend of mine had leukemia and needed a transplant. They had a marrow drive at the temple. We all went down and got tested.”

“When you say ‘we all’—”

“Mom, Dad, my whole family. I think Win went too.”

She tilted her head. “How is Win?”

“The same.”

“Sorry to hear that,” she said. “When we were at Duke, he used to listen to us making love, didn’t he?”

“Only when we pulled down the shade so he couldn’t watch.”

She laughed. “He never liked me.”

“You were his favorite.”


“That’s not saying much,” Myron said.

“He hates women, doesn’t he?”

Myron thought about it. “As sex objects, they’re fine. But in terms of relationships …”

“An odd duck.”

She should only know.

Emily took a sip. “I’m stalling,” she said.

“I sorta figured that.”

“What happened to your friend with leukemia?”

“He died.”

Her face went white. “I’m sorry. How old was he?”


Emily took another sip, cradling the mug with both hands. “So you’re listed with the bone marrow national registry?”

“I guess. I gave blood and they gave me a donor card.”

She closed her eyes.

“What?” he asked.

“Fanconi anemia is fatal. You can treat it for a while with blood transfusions and hormones, but the only cure is a bone marrow transplant.”

“I don’t understand, Emily. Do you have this disease?”

“It doesn’t hit adults.” She put down her coffee and looked up. He was not big on reading eyes, but the pain was neon-obvious. “It hits children.”

As though on cue, the Starbucks soundtrack changed to something instrumental and somber. Myron waited. It didn’t take her long.

“My son has it,” she said.

Myron remembered visiting the house in Franklin Lakes when Greg disappeared, the boy playing in the backyard with his sister. Must have been, what, two, three years ago. The boy was about ten, his sister maybe eight. Greg and Emily were in the midst of a bloody take-no-prisoners custody battle, the two children pinned down in the crossfire, the kind no one walks away from without a serious hit.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“We need to find a bone marrow match.”

“I thought siblings were an almost automatic match.”

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