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The One & Only(4)

By:Emily Giffin

“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry. Very sorry. For your family. For your loss. I really liked your mom. She was an awesome lady.”

The speech was heartfelt, I could tell, but Lucy refused to cave. I braced myself as she crossed her arms and said, “Oh, puh-lease, Miller. The only loss you ever cared about was the one to Nebraska when you fumbled on the four-yard line because you were so coked up.”

“I wasn’t coked up,” Miller said. “I just … dropped the damn ball. Jesus.”

I bit my lower lip, shocked that Lucy recollected the play, even the yardage. But she got the rest wrong. It was T. C. Jones who failed the drug test after the game, not Miller, who never really did coke, vastly preferring the mellowing effect of marijuana. In fact, based on his glassier than normal expression, there was a distinct possibility that he had smoked this morning. Maybe even on the car ride over.

“Luce,” Neil said, sliding his grip from her elbow to her forearm and gently guiding her to his car. A child psychiatrist, he had a calming effect on the most high-strung children—and the rare ability to soothe Lucy. “Come on now. Let’s go, honey.”

She didn’t reply, just gracefully climbed into the car, crossed her slender legs, and waited for Neil to close the door. As Lawton collapsed into the backseat, Lucy stared down at the pearl bracelet that once belonged to her mother.

“Are you coming with us?” Neil asked me. “Or going with your parents?”

I glanced back toward my mom and dad, walking toward her car. Although long divorced, they had managed to be civil to each other through this ordeal, and, to my relief and surprise, my dad had left his wife back in Manhattan.

Lucy answered for me through her half-open window. “Neither,” she said. “I want her to ride with Daddy. He shouldn’t be driving alone. He’s being so stubborn.” She stared at me. “Okay, Shea?”

I hesitated.

“Just do it. And make sure he wears his seat belt. One death in the family is plenty,” she said as I looked up the hill, finding Coach Carr in a cluster of dark suits.

“But don’t you think he’d rather be alone?” I asked. “I’m sure he doesn’t want to make conversation—”

“Well, you’re different,” she said, cutting me off. “He actually likes talking to you.”


I waited, squinting in the winter sun and watching as Coach Carr talked to the last few graveside stragglers. Lucy was right. They really were insensitive, as everyone knew he didn’t like to talk after losses, and if you didn’t know this, you probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

He finally broke free and walked toward me. My mind raced, wondering how I was going to tell him he had an assigned chaperone back to his house.

“Hi, Coach,” I said when he was directly in front of me. We made fleeting eye contact before I stared back down at the ground.

“Hi, girl,” he said, sounding weary. “You need a ride?”

“Um … Lucy wanted me to go with you … to make sure you wear your seat belt,” I stammered.

I looked up as he shot me a sideways glance. “All right … But am I allowed to dip?”

“I thought you quit?”

Some of his Levi’s still had a telltale imprint of a Copenhagen tin on his back right pocket, but it had been years since I had seen him take a dip. His quitting tobacco was all Mrs. Carr wanted one Christmas. That and a Cotton Bowl victory—both of which she got, along with a diamond tennis bracelet she hadn’t asked for.

“I did quit. I was joking,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, forcing a smile, realizing that the circumstances had dampened my keen radar for his brand of humor.

He gestured toward his car as if granting permission to ride with him but, to my relief, didn’t open the door as he usually did for me. For any woman, including and especially his wife of thirty-plus years. Every single time, Lucy once said when I pointed out the spousal chivalry. I remember the cute way she had smiled, prouder of this fact than she was of any of her father’s on-the-field accomplishments. It was the only thing Lucy had that I ever felt genuinely envious of, my own parents being unified only in their hatred of each other. Only now, bizarrely, I was the lucky one. Because divorce was better than death.

Coach Carr went around to the driver’s side of his old Ford Explorer, and we got in and closed our doors in unison. He started the engine and did an efficient three-point turn while I calculated that we were about four miles from the Carrs’ house. Ten minutes at most, but an eternity when I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Asking him how he was doing didn’t seem like my place, and telling him I was sorry felt like too much of a mammoth understatement. So I said nothing, just watched out of the corner of my eye as he reached for his silver Walker thermos, the same one I had seen Mrs. Carr fill with freshly brewed coffee at least a hundred times over the years. Probably more than that. I wondered who had made his coffee this morning and if he even knew how to work their fancy European machine. Befuddled by modern gadgetry, he was the least handy man I knew in the state of Texas. He still had a flip phone and did without a computer, insisting that it was the only way to avoid all the Monday morning quarterbacks who would inevitably track down his email address. He took a sip of coffee and made a face, replacing the thermos in the cup holder near the dashboard.