It’s a snowy night in New York; Grace sits on a train with her daughter, Willow, heading to upstate. Willow sits on her knees, staring outside the window. Grace watches her daughter.
Grace: You see all the snow on the ground, Willie?
Willow: *nods* I do, Mommy!
Grace: You’re going to make snowman when we get to daddy’s house?
Willow gets excited and starts to bounce in her seat, which makes Grace laugh. Willow continues to look out the window when Grace’s phone begins to ring. She looks down at her phone to see it’s Emerson.
Grace: Hey, Em.
Emerson: Hey, Grace! I just wanted to see if you’re coming to Cami’s baby shower next weekend.
Grace: Oh, yeah, yeah… I’m still coming…
Emerson: That sounds like you forgot. Come on, Grace, you know this is important to me and Cami.
Grace: *annoyed* Look, I’ll be there. I gotta go though.
Grace hangs up the phone and puts her phone in her bag. She looks towards the window of the train.
The front door of a house opens and Willow runs up to her father. Max picks up his daughter and greets her. Grace walks up the front steps with Willows overnight bag.
Max: Princess! Daddy missed you!
Willow: Hi, daddy! Can we build a snowman?
Grace finally walks up to the front door.
Max: We can build one tomorrow when the sun is out.
Willow: But mommy said I can when we got home.
Grace’s face flushes red. Max laughs.
Max: I promise we’ll build one tomorrow, okay Princess?
Max kisses Willow on the head, and then opens the door wide for Grace to walk in.
Max: There we go, darling.
Max closes the door behind them and finally greets Grace once he puts Willow down.
Max: Hey, Grace.
Grace: Sorry about Willow, I promised her a snowman when we got here and–
Max: *laughs* You’re fine, Grace.
Grace doesn’t say anything, but she immediately looks up when someone walks from the kitchen.
Miriam: I heard a little rascal run in the kitchen– *looks at Grace* Hi!
Miriam wipes her hands on her apron and extends her arm for a handshake.
Miriam: I’m so sorry for not greeting you at the door! I’m Miriam.
Grace looks at the woman in front of her and extends her arm to accept the handshake.
Grace: Hi, I’m Grace; Willow’s mom.
Miriam: Oh I can tell Willow is your daughter from a mile away! She’s practically your clone.
The statement makes Grace laugh.
Max: Hey, she has my traits too!
Miriam looks up at Max.
Max: Maybe when she gets older, she will.
The women laugh as Max rolls his eyes and takes Willows overnight bag upstairs. Grace gets uncomfortable when she’s alone with Miriam.
Miriam: Grace, you can come into the kitchen if you’d like.
While Miriam walks towards the kitchen, Grace slowly follows behind. She enters the kitchen and looks around; it’s been a long time since she’s been in this kitchen, it never looked as organized and lived in as it does now. The cooking smells great, and the kitchen table is already prepared for guest to eat dinner.
Miriam: I’m so sorry if it’s last minute, Max told me a little too late that you were coming by with Willow for dinner.
Grace: Oh, it’s okay, everything looks great already.
Grace takes a seat at the table and looks around. Miriam puts down the kitchen towel and proceeds to sit with Grace.
Miriam: Max has told me so much about you. He told me you run a business?
Grace: *nervous* Uhm, yeah. It’s sort of a family business, and I decided to run it.
Miriam: Wow, that sounds exciting! My parents run a little store near Buffalo; it was definitely a first job that I didn’t tell most of my friends.
Miriam laughs, and Grace smiles back.
Grace: So, you grew up in the Buffalo area?
Miriam: *nods* Yeah. I went to school in Cornell to get away from the border for a couple of years, then took up teaching in Yonkers. Are you from the area?
Grace: Oh, no no… I live in the city; I’ve been here for about 10 plus years already. I grew up in Virginia.
Miriam: Oh wow! You definitely seem like you’ve been in New York City for your whole life!
Grace: People tell me that all the time. My parents were from the city.
Miriam: The city is a beautiful place to visit. Max and I visited the Christmas tree back in December and it’s more beautiful than the pictures do it justice.
Grace doesn’t say anything; she takes in the information that Miriam shared with her. Her and Max never did the cute holiday things in the city when they were together. The only time she went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center was when–
Miriam: Willow is such a wonderful girl, by the way. You and Max are raising a very great girl.
Grace: Thank you, Miriam. Do you have kids of your own?
Miriam: I don’t, but Willow definitely fills the place! *laughs*
Grace laughs uncomfortably, she shifts in her seat.
Miriam: Oh… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that…
Miax walks into the kitchen and greets the two women.
Max: I put Willow down for the night.
Max kisses Miriam on the forehead and takes a seat next to Miriam. He puts his arm around her, and Grace watches on.
Miriam: Grace was telling me how she’s only been in the city for a couple of years!
Grace: *awkward* Heh, yeah… Uhm, so how did you two meet?
Miriam: *smiles* We teach at the same university.
Miriam: Oh no, I teach Chemistry.
Grace widens her yes in shock; Miriam doesn’t look like she would teach such a difficult subject.
Grace: That’s… interesting.
Max: *to Miriam* Grace was in the law business until she took over her family business.
Miriam: Oh! Does your family run a law firm?
Grace doesn’t say anything back right away; she tries to word it as best as possible.
Grace: No, it’s… uhm… a dance business.
Miriam’s eyes widen as she nods her head; Grace immediately begins to feel judged.
Grace: I honestly should get going. It’s a long trip back to the city and it’s getting pretty late…
Miriam: But dinner isn’t ready yet!
Grace: I’m sorry, but I really should go. *to Max* I’ll call you to set something up with Willow next time.
Grace: *to Miriam* It was nice meeting you.
Grace gets up from the table and grabs her bag from the walkway. Before she can leave, Max walks over to her.
Max: Grace, please—
Grace: This has nothing to do with you and Miriam. I think she’s great for you.
Max: Then why are you leaving so early? Something is clearly bothering you.
Grace closes her eyes and slowly opens them before saying anything to Max. She puts on her coat before finally saying something.
Grace: You don’t need to worry about me, Max. I’m okay. Really.
Max doesn’t fight it; he watches Grace open the front door of his house and walk outside into the dark night. She doesn’t look back, but she wipes off a tear falling down her face.
A couple of hours have passed, and Grace finally arrives at her apartment. She drops everything down on the floor near her door, and walks away. She heads over to the sofa and sits there in silence. She squeezes her eyes shut and holds them, immediately screaming in frustration. She doesn’t move from the sofa, she just sinks into it, hoping to fall asleep for the night.