Caroline anticipated an easy breakup with Calvin. It had only been a few months, and though Calvin was a nice guy, Caroline wasn’t in love with him. They’d had a nice enough time together, but Caroline wanted something more than just a nice time. She wanted excitement and passion. Drama, even. She and Calvin had never had a fight, and Caroline realized she missed fighting. Caroline’s main concern about the break-up was that she kept a pricey moisturizer at his place, and she didn’t want to forget it after she told him goodbye.
When Calvin opened the door to his condo, his eyes were red and moist. Caroline wondered if she’d managed to break up with him telepathically, somehow, but she really didn’t think this would be his reaction.
“Cal? What is it?”
He wrapped his arms around her. He buried his face in her neck, and she could feel the wet of tears. This type of hug, so naked in need, made Caroline feel like she was the only person in the world. He had never made her feel this way, and she couldn’t decide if she liked the feeling. He let her go and leaned against the door frame, as if he would collapse without it.
“They set an execution date. It’s in ten days.”
“William Boyd. The man who killed my parents.” At the word parents, Calvin lurched back against her, hugging her again.
Shit, Caroline thought. I should have broken up with him last week.
Caroline found out about Calvin’s parents before their first date. She’d done a standard pre-date internet search and when all the results were about murder her first thought was that Calvin was a killer. But no, it was William Boyd who murdered Doug and Louise Ingram 15 years ago.
The Ingrams had been visiting Calvin in Atlanta; he’d just finished his undergrad at UGA and had a summer internship at Deloitte that would eventually turn into full-time employment. The three of them spent the day buying and assembling furniture for Calvin’s first apartment. His parents took Calvin out to dinner and then left Atlanta for their home in Clayton, two hours away. Doug and Louise stopped for gas in Gainesville and went into the station to find William Boyd, gun and money in hand. The man behind the counter was already dead.
Boyd forced the Ingrams back into their car and they drove to four ATMs, taking out cash. Boyd then took the couple—him a real estate agent, her a high school teacher, married 26 years, parents to one child—to a grocery store parking lot and shot them both in the head. He’d tried to press the gun into Doug’s hand, to make it look like a murder-suicide, but he’d shot Doug in the back of the head. A security guard had heard the shots and called the police. Boyd’s defense was that he had been on so many drugs that he hadn’t known what he was doing. The prosecutor asked for the death penalty and the jury gave it to him.
Caroline knew all this before Calvin picked her up for dinner. She was more awkward than usual for a first date, talking too much when he asked her questions so that she wouldn’t have to ask him any in return. Most of her questions were about his job, which he was happy to talk about in great detail. He talked about running marathons and his training regimen, to explain why he could only have one glass of wine. He paid the bill and the valet brought the car.
On the way back to her place, he brought it up, his eyes never leaving the road. It was well-rehearsed, Caroline realized, something he had said to others before.
“There’s something you should know about me. When I was 22, my parents were murdered. The guy is on death row. I went to a lot of therapy. I still go to a therapist now if I feel there’s something I need to work through. But it was a long time ago. It’s shitty, but I try not to dwell on it. Okay?”
And Caroline said okay, because there was nothing else to say. She was glad she’d stalked him online, because if she hadn’t, she would have had a million questions, but she knew all the answers and they didn’t talk about it again. She was impressed that he’d brought it up, and he really did seem fine. He was a few years older than her, so maybe, she thought, that’s what maturity looked like. He still told stories about his childhood and his parents, but he never cried or teared up or seemed upset. He was focused on getting ahead at work and focused on beating his personal best at his next race, and that was about it. And that was why Caroline had wanted out; she’d realized she would never rank as high as consulting or running.
That Friday night, instead of breaking up with Calvin, Caroline rubbed his back as he sat on the couch in silence. He occasionally sniffled. Caroline asked him if he wanted to talk, and he said no. She asked him if he wanted to be alone, and he said no. She ordered Chinese delivery, and Calvin ate fried food, which was a sign that he was really upset, since he was in training. He asked her to sleep over, and while Calvin was usually a guy who only wanted a sheet to touch him while he slept, that night he rested his head on her shoulder and put his arm around her. Maybe the past few months had been a warm-up, and now, finally, she was going to get the real Calvin. She wondered if that was enough to change her mind. She also wondered how long you had to wait to dump someone in this situation. A week after an execution? Two?
She woke to find Calvin gone, because Saturday mornings were for long runs. She called her mother in North Carolina, who said she should keep Calvin company and make sure he ate enough. She called her best friend, who said it would probably be good for Calvin to have someone to talk to. She polled a few girlfriends and close coworkers on the etiquette of breaking up with someone in crisis, and got one response that said, Definitely not this week! Don’t you want to see what happens?
When Calvin came back from his run, sweaty, music blaring from his earbuds, he went straight to the shower, with nothing more than a wave in her direction. In his absence,