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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Chapter 51

WHEN HARRY READ THE NOTE Max had sent me, he was stunned silent. At first, I thought I had hurt his feelings by showing it to him. But then I realized he was thinking.

We had taken Connor to a playground in Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills. Our flight back to New York left in a few hours. Connor was playing on the swings as Harry and I watched her.

“Nothing would change between us,” he said. “If we divorced.”

“But, Harry . . .”

“John is gone. Celia is gone. There is no need to hide behind double dates. Nothing would change.”

We would change,” I said, watching Connor pump her legs harder, swing higher.

Harry was watching her through his sunglasses, smiling at her. He waved to her. “Good job, honey,” he called out. “Remember to keep your hands tight on the chains if you’re gonna go that high.”

He had started to control his drinking a bit. He had learned to pick and choose his moments of indulgence. And he never let anything get in the way of his work or his daughter. But I still worried about what he’d do if left too much to his own devices.

He turned to me. “We wouldn’t change, Ev. I promise you that. I would live in my house, just like now. You’d live in yours. I’d come by every day. Connor would sleep at my place the nights she wanted. If anything, appearances-wise, it might make more sense. Pretty soon people are going to start asking why we own two different houses.”


“You do what you want. If you don’t want to be with Max, don’t be. I’m just saying that there are some fairly good reasons for us to get divorced. And not many cons, except that I won’t call you my wife anymore, which I’ve always been so proud to do. But we will still be as we’ve always been. A family. And . . . I think it would be good for you to fall in love with someone. You deserve to be loved that way.”

“So do you.”

Harry smiled sorrowfully. “I had my love. And he’s gone. But for you, I think it’s time. Maybe it will be Max, maybe it won’t. But maybe it should be somebody.”

“I don’t like the idea of divorcing you,” I said. “No matter how meaningless it might actually be.”

“Dad, watch,” Connor said as she flung her legs into the air, swung high, and then leaped, landing on her feet. She nearly gave me a heart attack.

Harry laughed. “Outstanding!” he said to her, and then he turned to me. “Sorry. I might have taught her that.”

“I figured.”

Connor got back onto the swing, and Harry leaned toward me and put his arm around my shoulders. “I know you don’t like the idea of divorcing me,” he said. “But I think you do like the idea of marrying Max. Otherwise, I don’t think you would have bothered to show me that note.”

* * *

“ARE YOU REALLY serious about this?” I asked.

Max and I were back in New York, at his apartment. It had been three weeks since he had told me he loved me.

“I am very serious,” Max said. “What is the saying? As serious as cancer?”

“A heart attack.”

“Fine. I am as serious as a heart attack.”

“We barely know each other,” I said.

“We have known each other since 1960, ma belle. You simply do not realize how much time has passed. That’s more than twenty years.”

I was in my midforties. Max was a few years older. With a daughter and a fake husband, I thought falling in love again was out of the question for me. I wasn’t sure how it would ever happen.

And here was a man, a handsome man, a man I did rather like, a man I shared a history with, who was saying he loved me.

“So you’re suggesting I leave Harry? Just like that? Because of what we think might be between us?”

Max frowned at me. “I am not as stupid as you think I am,” he said.

“I don’t think you’re stupid at all.”

“Harry is a homosexual,” he said.

I felt my body pull back, as far away from him as possible. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.

Max laughed. “That line didn’t work when we were getting burgers, and it won’t work now.”

“Max . . .”

“Do you enjoy spending time with me?”

“Of course I do.”

“And do you not agree that we understand each other, creatively speaking?”

“Of course.”

“Have I not directed you in three of the most important films of your career?”

“You have.”

“And do you think that is an accident?”

I thought about it. “No,” I said. “It’s not.”

“No, it isn’t,” he said. “It’s because I see you. It is because I ache for you. It is because, from the very moment I set my eyes on you, my body was full of desire for you. It is because I have been falling in love with you for decades. The camera sees you as I see you. And when that happens, you soar.”

“You’re a talented director.”

“Yes, of course, I am,” he said. “But only because you inspire me. You, my Evelyn Hugo, are the talent that powers every movie you are in. You are my muse. And I am your conductor. I am the person who brings out your greatest work.”

I breathed in deeply, considering what he was saying. “You’re right,” I said. “You are absolutely right.”

“I can’t think of anything more erotic than that,” he said. “Than being each other’s inspiration.” He leaned in close to me. I could feel the heat of him on my skin. “And I can think of nothing more meaningful than the way we understand each other. You should leave Harry. He will be fine. No one knows what he is, and even if they do, no one’s talking. He doesn’t need you to protect him anymore. I need you, Evelyn. I need you so badly,” he whispered into my ear. The heat of his breath, the way his stubble scratched my cheek, awakened me.

I grabbed him. I kissed him. I pulled my shirt off. I tore his. I unfastened the belt of his pants, flinging the buckle. I ripped apart the button fly of my jeans. I pushed myself against him.

The way he grabbed me back, the way he moved, made it clear he was yearning for me, that he couldn’t believe his luck to be touching me. When I pulled off the straps of my bra and exposed my breasts, he looked me in the eye and then placed his hands on my chest as if he’d unlocked a hidden treasure.

It felt so good. To be touched like that. To set free my desire. He lay down on the couch, and I sat on top of him, moving the way I wanted to, taking what I needed from him, feeling pleasure for the first time in years.

It felt like water in the desert.

When it was over, I didn’t want to be apart from him. I wanted to never leave his side.

“You’d be a stepfather,” I said. “Do you get that?”

“I love Connor,” Max said. “I love children. So to me, that is a benefit.”

“And Harry will always be around. He will never go away. He’s a constant.”

“He does not bother me. I’ve always liked Harry.”

“I’d want to stay in my house,” I said. “Not here. I won’t uproot Connor.”

“Fine,” he said.

I was quiet. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. Except that I wanted more of him. I wanted the experience of him again. I kissed him. I moaned. I eased him on top of me. I closed my eyes, and for the first time in years, when I closed them, I did not see Celia.

“Yes,” I said as he made love to me. “I’ll marry you.”


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