“I didn’t say it was a magic power,” Eliza said. “I said it was a skill I honed alone in my bedroom in middle school, and yes, as I say that, I realize this was not the skill I should’ve been working on alone in my bedroom in middle school. Maybe that’s why the rest of my classmates seemed so relaxed.” And before Henry could even formulate a response, she’d grabbed his right hand.
His stomach flipped. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d touched him so casually.
“Hi,” he said, idiotically.
“Hello to you.” She smiled, acknowledging the weirdness.
He blushed, and hoped it wasn’t obvious in the low lights of the bar.
“OK so,” she started, tracing a finger lightly over his palm. “You have great lines.”
“You realize I’m almost in middle age territory? Far too old to fall for your parlor tricks.”
“I realize you’re the skeptical type, but trust me on this, I’m never wrong.”
“What do you see?” he asked in spite of himself.
“Well, you had a kick-ass childhood with a strong maternal figure.”
“That’s hardly fair, I’ve talked about my mother many a time.”
“I know, far more than you should be as a grown-ass man ‘approaching middle age’. Anyway, let’s see what else. You’ve got a weak heart line that gets stronger as you go along.” She pointed to a line on his hand, or maybe several. “See how you have these circles? Each of those is a major breakup in your life. Who are these women?”
“I hardly think this is appropriate.”
“If you don’t tell me I’ll just harness the power of social media.”
“Well, that’s Jane— she was my college girlfriend, Sung-min was grad school—”
“That must’ve been a bad one. I can see it right here. Are we talking slashed tires and broken windows and an anti-Henry facebook group?”
“I didn’t have a car at the time, and I think you know this would predate facebook, but I suppose it was rather intense, in retrospect.”
“It happens to the best of us.”
“Anyway, after that, I took a break to focus on my career, but started seeing Amanda— that was a bad breakup too, I guess.”
“Then I went on a series of blind dates interspersed with speed-dates, but I didn’t get serious with anyone until Julia.”
“I’d hardly call Julia a major breakup,” Eliza said, a little sharply.
“I thought I might marry her,” he said.
Eliza’s mouth twisted at this, and she dropped his hand. He felt unexpectedly cold without her. She took a long sip of her beer, and he expected she’d pull out her phone and instagram her hair and that would be the end of things.
She surprised him instead by offering her hand, which he took immediately, mirroring the way she’d examined him earlier. “Here’s my love line,” she said, tracing a line. “There’s one major breakup,” she said, indicating a point on her palm. It looked to Henry like one of many, but he just nodded. “This is Freddy, obvi.”
“How do you feel about that?” he asked, tactfully as he could.
“Engagements end every day, Henry. It’s not my favorite thing, but… it wouldn’t have worked. And of course I would’ve preferred he called it off literally anywhere else besides at the altar, up to and including in a tweet that was retweeted one million times, at a Target over the loudspeaker, and as a tattoo done up just above his—“
“That’s enough,” Henry said, shaking off the image. Instead, he recalled Eliza in that church, looking as lovely as she ever had in sleek silk, announcing to the congregation and the internet at large that Freddy had hashtag-hightailed it outta there.
Then she’d handed her phone off to Henry, and disappeared for a few weeks, avoiding the internet entirely. When she returned, she refused to say anything about where she’d been. She’d told him, “I needed time alone to think.”
“All the new followers I got as a result weren’t worth all the money I lost on that reception,” she said, regret tinged in her voice.
“I meant because he left you at the altar, not because you couldn’t fully fund your 401k for the 2016 fiscal year.” he said.
“It wasn’t Freddy. I mean it was him, but it was mostly me. I told him I couldn’t marry him,” she whispered.
Henry squeezed her hand, waiting.
“Because I looked at his palm and I didn’t see me on there. Our paths diverged one hundred percent.” She twisted her palm back up. “He was going to have a long life with three kids and a hot blonde wife and a Mazda Sport.”
“I really think you’re stretching incredulity that a hand can indicate the hair-color of—“
“And when I looked at my palm, all I saw was yours.” She flicked her wrist, holding his hand again.
Against his better judgment, he glanced at her, their eyes locked.
Slowly, she leaned in.
He pulled back, breaking away from her grasp.
She stared at her hand for a moment.
Before he could apologize, she fled.
Henry knocked. He waited the appropriate amount of time before knocking once more, then once again. “Eliza, I know you’re in there. You checked into your living room, which you called Chez Chaise Lounge for some reason, three hours ago on Foursquare.”
“I don’t for one second believe you figured that out on your own,” Eliza said from somewhere inside. “Did you ask some neighbor kid to stalk me?”
Henry had in fact paid a fifteen year old twenty bucks. “Can we talk?”
“Just for a few minutes, I promise. Please.”
“And why should I let you in?”
“Because I behaved poorly yesterday.”
Eliza threw open the door at that, letting him in with a wave of her hand.
She was wearing those silly animal pajamas, and her hair was half-up in a messy bun. She wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup—apparently, underneath all the face creams, she was even paler than he’d guessed.
She looked wonderful.
“Have you been enjoying your, er, Netflix party?” he asked, looking over at the couch, which had pile of blankets topped off with a bowl he knew contained buttered popcorn mixed with M&Ms.
“That’s #Netflixticating. I’m trying to get it to trend. Why’re you here? Didn’t get enough enjoyment making me feel like crap in my fourth favorite bar? Now you have to ruin my #SundaySanctuary?”
“I panicked,” he said, cutting straight to the heart of the matter. “Last night, I mean. You were clearly going to kiss me, and I thought, what if I muck this whole thing up?”
“You can’t screw up kissing. At least, not without braces, and even then, that requires specific angles.”
He shook his head. “Keep in mind, as you had pointed out just moments before, I’ve broken up with a lot of women, all of them highly accomplished, logical people. And here you were, looking at the hatchmarks on my hands, telling me that it meant I was terrible at relationships.”
“Hatchmarks are this whole other thing.” She sat down on the couch. “I might’ve harped a little harshly.”
Tentatively, Henry sat down too, bypassing the popcorn. “And you’re my best friend.”
“You’re my best friend too.”
“And I wanted to kiss you, but— you’re a force of nature. And if we broke up, it would be my car and my house and maybe somehow thirty percent of my vision.”
“Absolutely not. Because if we broke up, I would curl up into a total shame spiral. Because if I can’t make it work with you, the guy I respect more than anyone who else excluding those who have been unfairly passed over for a Grammy, then who could I make it work with?”
“I really like you, Eliza, but you’re barely three months into the mourning of your broken engagement.”
“I broke it off with him. I’m over that, cross my heart and hope to fly exclusively on Spirit Airlines with only a laptop bag.”
“I never did finish reading your palm,” she said.
He leaned closer, palm outstretched.
“You’re going to be healthy, which is good,” she said. “Because according to this, you’re going to have two kids, twins from the looks of it.”
“Twins run in families.”
“My mom is a twin,” she said. “And since my perfect sister didn’t get them on her first try, that means I’m basically guaranteed them.”
“I take it you see yourself as the mother to my twins then,” he said.
Eliza grabbed his tie and pulled him close. “I already checked. At some point in the vague indefinite future, we’re going to have beautiful redheaded Korean babies. But first, I’m going to kiss the crap out of you.”