One True Loves

By: Taylor Jenkins Reid

I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiancé when my husband calls.

It is my father’s sixty-fourth birthday. He is wearing his favorite sweater, a hunter green cashmere one that my older sister, Marie, and I picked out for him two years ago. I think that’s why he loves it so much. Well, also because it’s cashmere. I’m not kidding myself here.

My mother is sitting next to him in a gauzy white blouse and khakis, trying to hold in a smile. She knows that a tiny cake with a candle and a song are coming any minute. She has always been childlike in her zeal for surprises.

My parents have been married for thirty-five years. They have raised two children and run a successful bookstore together. They have two adorable grandchildren. One of their daughters is taking over the family business. They have a lot to be proud of. This is a happy birthday for my father.

Marie is sitting on the other side of my mother and it is times like these, when the two of them are right next to each other, facing the same direction, that I realize just how much they look alike. Chocolate brown hair, green eyes, petite frames.

I’m the one that got stuck with the big butt.

Luckily, I’ve come to appreciate it. There are, of course, many songs dedicated to the glory of a backside, and if my thirties have taught me anything so far, it’s that I’m ready to try to be myself with no apologies.

My name is Emma Blair and I’ve got a booty.

I am thirty-one, five foot six, with a blond, grown-out pixie cut. My hazel eyes are upstaged by a constellation of freckles on the top of my right cheekbone. My father often jokes he can make out the Little Dipper.

Last week, my fiancé, Sam, gave me the ring he has spent over two months shopping for. It’s a diamond solitaire on a rose gold band. While it is not my first engagement ring, it is the first time I’ve ever worn a diamond. When I look at myself, it’s all I can see.

“Oh no,” Dad says, spotting a trio of servers headed our way with a lit slice of cake. “You guys didn’t . . .”

This is not false modesty. My father blushes when people sing to him.

My mother looks behind her to see what he sees. “Oh, Colin,” she says. “Lighten up. It’s your birthday . . .”

The servers make an abrupt left and head to another table. Apparently, my father is not the only person born today. My mother sees what has happened and tries to recover.

“. . . Which is why I did not tell them to bring you a cake,” she says.

“Give it up,” my dad says. “You’ve blown your cover.”

The servers finish at that table and a manager comes out with another slice of cake. Now they are all headed right for us.

“If you want to hide under the table,” Sam says, “I’ll tell them you’re not here.”

Sam is handsome in a friendly way—which I think might just be the best way to be handsome—with warm brown eyes that seem to look at everything with tenderness. And he’s funny. Truly funny. After Sam and I started dating, I noticed my laugh lines were getting deeper. This is most likely because I am growing older, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s because I am laughing more than I ever have. What else could you want in a person other than kindness and humor? I’m not sure anything else really matters to me.

The cake arrives, we all sing loudly, and my father turns beet red. Then the servers turn away and we are left with an oversized piece of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

The waitstaff left five spoons but my father immediately grabs them all. “Not sure why they left so many spoons. I only need one,” he says.

My mother goes to grab one from him.

“Not so fast, Ashley,” he says. “I endured the humiliation. I should get to eat this cake alone.”

“If that’s how we are playing it . . .” Marie says. “For my birthday next month, please put me through this same rigmarole. Well worth it.”

Marie drinks a sip of her Diet Coke and then checks her phone for the time. Her husband, Mike, is at home with my nieces, Sophie and Ava. Marie rarely leaves them for very long.

“I should get going,” Marie says. “Sorry to leave, but . . .”

She doesn’t have to explain. My mom and dad both stand up to give her a hug good-bye.

Once she’s gone and my father has finally agreed to let us all eat the cake, my mom says, “It sounds silly but I miss that. I miss leaving someplace early because I was just so excited to get back to my little girls.”

I know what’s coming next.

I’m thirty-one and about to be married. I know exactly what is coming next.

“Have you guys given any thought to when you might start a family?”

I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. “Mom—”

Sam is already laughing. He has that luxury. She’s only his mother in an honorary capacity.

“I’m just bringing it up because they are doing more and more studies about the dangers of waiting too long to have a child,” my mom adds.

There are always studies to prove I should hurry and studies to prove that I shouldn’t and I’ve decided that I will have a baby when I’m goddamn good and ready, no matter what my mother reads on the Huffington Post.

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