So Brendan was right. Winnie doesn’t know what day Christmas falls on so it didn’t really matter what day we celebrated as long as we had a good time. At least that’s what I had to tell myself to keep from having another meltdown.
For her birthday, Winnie had a party at school which was a relief for me because I couldn’t imagine hosting all those little mean creatures off campus. Plus Winnie loves her school, her friends and her teacher so it worked out perfectly. I decided to stop by to see what this little shindig was all about. It was very cute at first with all the kids flocking around Winnie and chasing her around and commenting on her dress. I was thinking “Aww, you little living nightmares aren’t so bad.”
Most times Sometimes I feel like Winnie is the only kid I want, but maybe a little gaggle of children wouldn’t be so bad. I hung out with Winnie’s teacher in the corner and she filled me in on the latest classroom drama and politics (Winnie is the bossy queen bee, who’s surprised?). She was also telling me other stuff she really shouldn’t have, like whose parents were splitting up and who lost their job. I’m like noted, remind me to never tell you anything personal about myself.
One of Winnie’s schoolmates, a cute tyke named Olive, trotted over to us, grabbed my hand with her grimy, sticky one and then spit a mouthful of chewed up cupcake into it. I screamed.
“Olive, we don’t do that, remember?” the teacher said in a disapproving tone.
That was my cue to go. I was going to need an antiseptic bath after that. Ugh, do you see why I dislike children?
Later, Brady FaceTimed Winnie from work so they could open gifts together. I sat there eavesdropping to see if he would mention any details about his surprise party or their upcoming trip. He didn’t and she talked his ear off about everything else. At one point he was like, “Is your mom there?”
“No,” Winnie said without even hesitating. I appreciated her strategy — pretending I wasn’t around to see if Brady would talk shit about me.
“Where is she?” Brady asked, sounding concerned.
We couldn’t keep up the charade without him calling some sort of child protection services so I was like, “I’m right here.”
“Oh,” Brady said, sounding disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to report me.
“Don’t sound so excited!” I said sarcastically.
Later, Brendan came over with a big bunch of flowers in a glass vase. It seems like a weird gift for a three year old, but Winnie absolutely loves flowers. She loves our weekly trips to the flower market to get fresh arrangements for the apartment, has a whole flower garden at Brady’s, and would wear exclusively florals if she had her choice. So the birthday bouquet was a sweet and perfect gesture and Winnie gasped and said, “Awwwee!” She’s so cute.
Later we went to dinner where I attempted to passive aggressively belittle Brady’s family’s little Christmas gathering. I thought I was being subtle, but then Brendan shook his head at me like I should stop. I was like, “Wow, he probably thinks I’m such an asshole.” Especially with the context of his parents’ nasty divorce. And I especially felt like an asshole when I dropped Winnie off on Christmas Eve (Brady’s birthday) and Brady greeted me with a gift bag.
“What’s this?” I asked. It couldn’t have been anything for me because we weren’t exactly in a gift-giving place. I hadn’t gotten him anything.
“Just a gift for you. It’s not a big deal,” Brady said.
“I don’t feel right accepting this since I didn’t get you anything,” I said.
“Who cares?” he said rudely. “I said it’s not a big deal!”
Seriously? I felt less bad after that because Brady is also an asshole. I hate the way he speaks to me, like I’m his annoying child.
Anyway. My mom tried to come and visit me for Christmas, but I bluntly let her know that I didn’t want to see her. No, I wanted to sit around alone, feeling sorry for myself with the option to hang out with Brendan if I wanted to. She was a little bit bummed obviously, but kept excitedly asking me to check my mail because she’d sent me something. I kept being like, “Sure Mom, I’ll go check,” but kept putting it off. It was something big because it wasn’t in our building’s normal package storage and I’d need one of the front desk girlies to get it for me. I figured it was some clothes or makeup or something, and waited until Christmas Eve, when I had nothing to do, to pick it up.
Inside the big flat box was a blown up canvas photo of Brendan and me, one that I’d posted as a story on Instagram one night, but then dirty-deleted the next morning because 1. We were drunk 2. We looked drunk 3. We weren’t really social media official yet and my DMs were blowing up with questions. With the picture enlarged so much my eyes looked wonky and my skin looked like shit and the whole thing was hideous.
“AHHHHHH!” I screamed and took the whole box directly to the garbage chute. She’s SO embarrassing and extra. Was this her way of saying she supports Brendan and me now? Why couldn’t she just say that? I know she means well, but she has to stop with the theatrics.
Speaking of Brendan. He felt bad that I was spending the holidays alone and kept insisting I come to his parents’ to spend it with them. I felt weird about joining them for Christmas — especially after all Margot’s comments — and I didn’t want to impose. So I turned my phone on DND, poured some wine and put on Ina Garten. I wanted solitude and to sulk.
The next morning everyone called and texted wishing me a Merry Christmas except Brady and Winnie. Brendan wanted to know if I was coming over. I FaceTimed Brady and he didn’t pick up so I waited a bit and tried again, but this time he declined and said, “We’ll call you later.” Really? It was Christmas morning! It was so rude and inconsiderate — I always allow him to FaceTime the baby whenever he wants. I threw my phone across the room in frustration, but then went to pick it up a few minutes later in case they called back.
I ignored all of Brendan’s texts, (“You coming over?” “Want me to come and pick you up?” “My stepmom is asking about you.”) all of my mom’s texts, (“Merry Christmas sweetie!” “Did you get the picture? I thought it was so cute!”) and just laid in bed mindlessly scrolling TikTok. How was y’all’s Christmas?
Eventually there was a knock on my door and I already knew it was Brendan. Who else would it be — my hot neighbor, Theo? No, it was obviously Brendan — he’d previously charmed the security staff so they always let him up. At least he wasn’t going to just sit around letting me be dead or ignore him.
“Oh, hi,” I said, letting him in.
“Hey! I’m freezing!” Brendan said and I could literally feel the cold radiating off him.
“Come get in bed with me. I’ll warm you up,” I said. I was still unshowered and in pajamas at this point.
Brendan followed me and blabbed about his family and then took off his pants and got in bed with me without hesitation. I love him literally so much. I complained to him about my ignored FaceTime calls and he talked me through it like he always does. I really need to stop acting like such a spoiled, ungrateful wench to him because he always puts things into perspective and then I feel like a total asshole. Oh well.
“So are you coming to my parents’? I’m parked in a bad spot and I feel like I might get a ticket,” Brendan said.
“Yeah, I’ll totally come over,” I said since now I didn’t want to leave his side all day.
Then we proceeded to make out and fool around in the bed for an hour and then I needed to shower, get dressed and put on makeup. And then we headed to Brendan’s parents’ chic house for the rest of Christmas!
I thought it’d be awkward and I’d feel like an interloper at Brendan’s family house, but it was fine and they all welcomed me with open arms…like they literally always do. Margot had a little pile of gifts waiting for me (and one for Winnie) and they all watched while I opened them which was a little weird for me, but kind of sweet. Even Danielle sat there and let me know which things she picked, like she even knows me or likes me! I guess she’s finally getting used to me though because we had an in depth conversation about her career journey and job search while picking at the beautiful charcuterie board Margot made. She was telling me about her degree program — a PhD in…something — but was starting a job on Wall Street in January. Danielle is like, kind of endearingly awkward, I realized and I felt bad for assuming she was a bitch. She’s the kind of girl who makes a ton of self-deprecating jokes even though she clearly knows she’s smart and objectively pretty.
Later on, we were all sitting around drinking wine and I made Danielle tell me about her dating life because this is me and above all else, I am nosy. I asked her what her type is in a partner and she was like, “Ehhh, well,” *awkward cringe/shrug* “I can show you my ex.”
I said, “Oh, perfect!”
And she pulled up a picture of a perfectly handsome guy of Asian descent who was standing on top of a hill. Danielle is such an enigma to me that she could’ve shown me a picture of Marcel the Shell and I would’ve been like, “Yeah, sounds about right!” I don’t know!
Brady never FaceTimed me back on Christmas which really pissed me off because I would never do that to him. I’m convinced he does this kind of stuff on purpose. And of course, they finally FaceTimed me back at the most inopportune time the next morning when I was giving Brendan head in the shower. 🙄
The week between Christmas and New Years was chill and relaxing. I spent most of my time baking random things from Pinterest with Winnie (new obsession: focaccia art) which required lots of trips to the store and lots of cleanup. I went to Brendan’s favorite rowing class with him a couple times and I realized why I hate it so much and possibly why Brendan likes it so much. There’s an instructor girl there who loves him and is always screaming out, “Yesss, Brendan!!! Absolutely killing it in the front row!” in the middle of class. Which I get is just a part of it, but still. And then after class, she always bounds over and gushes, “Oh my gawd, you smashed it today, Brendan, wow!” It’s like, yeah of course he did, he comes here all the time and look at him. And I guess it wouldn’t even be that bad, but she does it when I’m standing right there and says nothing to me. It’s weird and I hate it.
On New Year’s Eve, instead of dropping Winnie off in Connecticut, Brady asked me to meet him in the city.
He didn’t make eye contact with me as he got Winnie out of the car.
I was like, “So do you have big plans for tonight?”
“Yeah, we do,” he said, still not even looking at me.
Interesting. “Ohh, what do you have—” I started, but then Brady interrupted me and said he didn’t have time to talk because they needed to get going. And then he mumbled something as he walked past and shook his head.
Uh, okay. Again, so unnecessarily dismissive. And why was he so annoyed with me anyway? He’d been acting like this with me during our last few interactions and I hated how he still has the ability to make me feel insignificant and small and question all of my life choices. I wanted to just be like, “Fuck Brady, who cares if he hates me?” but I don’t want him to hate me and I definitely don’t want to have a bad relationship with him.
I allowed myself a few hours to cry about it in bed and then I was feeling a little better. And anyway, Brendan’s parents were having people over for New Year’s Eve and Margot wanted us (me) to come over early to help set up and pregame. It was kind of mostly my idea because Margot is like, the ultimate hostess and I was eager to see her in action. She’s always throwing Tulum-themed dinner parties with her girlfriends and Gossip Girl style charity brunches.
One of Margot’s tips about hosting that always sticks with me is that you should always try to have a signature cocktail or two that you can make in a large format and then you don’t have to worry about having a bartender or open bar or anything. So I was in charge of the red and white sangria and by the time the guests started arriving, I was quite tipsy and having a photoshoot with Brendan on the stairs. I’d wait to post these so my mom didn’t get any ideas. I ditched Brendan and went around introducing myself to everyone and mingling with all of Margot’s stay-at-home wife/blogger friends (I want them all on the RHONY reboot, stat).
A little bit later, I was standing with Brendan’s uncle, judging people’s outfits. To be as wealthy as I assume they are, Brendan’s dad and uncle are really humble and down to earth and remind me of my family.
“I’d hate to know how much that dress cost,” Brendan’s uncle said, referring to a woman in emerald green sequins.
“I feel like it’s Stella McCartney, in which case she definitely paid too much,” I said and we cackled.
Brendan came over and found me. Earlier in the day he mentioned going to a different event that some of his friends and Danielle were going to be at and he came to see if I still wanted to go. Danielle was asking.
“Yeah, sure, I guess!” I said, drunk.
“Or we can stay here if you like. I don’t mind,” Brendan said.
“No, let’s totally go!” I was suddenly eager to hang out with people our age and listen to better music.
I threw on my cropped down puffer by Mackage, a cashmere beret and we hopped in an Uber to Soho. The whole time Brendan was texting with Danielle to let her know we were on our way and our ETA. Upstairs at the event, the first person we ran into was Kendall, who intercepted us at coat check.
“Hiiii!” I exclaimed.
“Hey!” Kendall said and then put his arm around Brendan’s neck and like, pulled him to the side. I noticed Kendall subtly whisper something to Brendan and they both glanced at me quickly. I was suddenly insecure and thinking, “Omg, I know I’m drunk, but am I that visibly drunk? I thought I was keeping it cool.”
“You look like someone who needs a drink. Let’s go to the bar,” Kendall said to me.
“God, yes,” I said. Guess I wasn’t being cut off…yet!
Brendan took my hand and we followed Kendall further into the venue where all the partygoers were. Directly to the right of the entrance was a raised up little balcony area looking down at the rest of the party and I looked up to see Reagan, Brendan’s ex-wife, and a hunky Ken Doll type staring down at us. Oh? A second later, Danielle popped up between them and she stared down at us too. Oh.
When we got to Kendall’s table, Brendan leaned over to me and said, “Kendall told me that my ex is here.”
“Uhh, yah! I just saw her!” I exclaimed.
“I did too. Sorry, we don’t have to stay. I didn’t know she’d be here,” he said.
“Danielle didn’t tell you?!” I said, louder than necessary.
“No. She didn’t.”
So this was a set up, I realized. Was Danielle the drama all along? Why would she have pressured Brendan and me into coming, but not mention that his ex was there? I wasn’t sure if I was more offended or impressed. I had no idea she was capable of that or what she was even trying to do. Just when I thought Danielle and I were becoming friends.
“Oh well!” I turned around and Reagan was still staring down at us. Like she’s the queen and we are the village peasants or something. So this was going to be fun!
Brendan passed a drink to me and glanced in the direction of his ex-wife. “You wanna leave or are you good?” he asked.
I scoffed. “I’m good.”
“That’s my girl!” Kendall said, fist bumping me. It’s like, what did these people think? Because Brendan’s ex was there I was supposed to go run and hide like a little bitch? And why was everyone always so shook by her mere presence? At the time I was thinking, “It looks like she’s with her man, I don’t think she’s worried about us.” Spoiler: it was not her man.
One of Brendan and Kendall’s friends joined us: Alexander, who is one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen. It might be because (through research) I discovered he had a huge glow-up and didn’t get hot until a few years ago. In pictures, he was always the chubbier kid with bad hair and acne, and now here he was in a maroon tailored suit, sleek hair and a full beard, looking like a snack. And he had a quiet and mysterious look about him (kind of like Brady). I loved him. He had just gotten back from an extended stint in South America so I needed to talk to him about that. Speaking of Brady!
“Someone I used to be close to is obsessed with South America and spent like four months in Peru even though it was only supposed to be like a month or something. And this someone probably wasn’t even in Peru the whole time because they are shady as shit,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Alexander, not following. “I mean, I get it because Peru is great. Patagonia…”
Anyway. I could feel Reagan’s eyes on the back of my head and I ignored her for as long as I could, but then finally, I turned and looked back up at her. You know how when you get caught staring at someone, you look away because otherwise it’s weird? Yeah, Reagan didn’t do that. She saw me catch her, we made eye contact and she continued staring. Even when the plastic looking man she was with began talking to her. Was she trying to be intimidating? Because it wasn’t working. It was maybe slightly aggressive, but I was not intimidated. With her big blue eyes and sparkly cocktail dress, she was far too adorable to be intimidating.
I was still having a full blown conversation with Alexander, I realized, and he was telling me about his pregnant-yogi wife who he went backpacking through South America with.
“She sounds like a badass,” I said.
Eventually Alexander had to leave (to go home to be with his pregnant wife, of course) and by that point, Kendall’s “sneaky link” had shown up. She was super cute and apparently ditched her friends to come hang out with us. When I first met Kendall, he would always complain about being single and woe is me, but he has a new hottie every month.
I turned to face Brendan and realized that I was very drunk.
“We should get champagne for the countdown,” I suggested.
“Yeah, I can go grab a bottle and bring it back,” Brendan said.
“No! Don’t leave me!” I exclaimed. It’s not that I was intimidated by the staring, but I did not want Brendan to leave my side…just in case.
“Aww, okay,” he said and grabbed my hand, thinking I was being cute.
We started to weave our way to the bar and we were ambushed by Reagan’s boytoy.
“Heyyy Brendan,” he cooed. He was walking back from the bar and I could tell that Brendan did not plan on speaking to him. Up close, I could see that he was super tall (taller than Brendan) and had poreless skin, stiff hair and over the top veneers. 1000% gay.
“Oh, hey Henderson,” Brendan said, visibly uncomfortable. “How’s it going?”
Henderson! What a chic name!
“Fantastic! I just started a job at a new firm and it’s been kicking my ass, but I’m obsessed with it,” Henderson said.
“Ohh, nice,” Brendan said politely.
“I talked to Danielle. I can’t believe she got that amazing gig! I mean, I can believe it because she’s a rock star, but still! You know?” Henderson went on.
“Yeah, I’m really proud of her.”
I stood there waiting to be introduced, but Henderson kept talking a mile a minute like he’d been dying to catch up. Brendan kept inching toward the bar, but Henderson wouldn’t take a hint.
“So that was my biggest sale to date. I was floored when the offer came in, like what?” Henderson was saying.
“Congrats, that’s really awesome. Especially in this market,” Brendan said.
And that’s when Reagan slithered over and joined us. First she glanced down at my hand in Brendan’s and then she took the glass of wine from Henderson and started sipping. She didn’t say anything to anyone and I almost wasn’t sure if Brendan even noticed she was there. I’d actually never been this close to Reagan in person. And up close, her eyes were huge, like cartoonishly big, like a Disney princess or something. And she was so tiny. Ridiculously thin with spaghetti arms that had zero fat or muscle definition. My mind went to the engagement ring she was hanging on to — and how it probably wouldn’t even fit on Winnie’s chubby fingers. What?
“If you know anyone who’d be interested, send them my way. I need to give you my new email, don’t I?” Henderson was saying to Brendan.
I felt Reagan staring at me again, but she looked away this time when I caught her. I was so annoyed that she had been watching me all night, but now that I was in front of her she wasn’t going to say anything. She wasn’t even going to introduce herself?!
“Hey, I was looking for you guys!” I heard Danielle say as she joined our group.
Oh, for fucks sake.
Brendan gushed and hugged all over his sister, and it’s just like, dude I know you love your sister so much, but you do realize she set this whole thing up hoping for disaster, right?
Finally, with Brendan distracted, I turned to Reagan and said, “Hi, I’m Reese.”
She paused before saying, “Reagan [her non-married last name].” Her voice was raspier and sexier than I imagined.
“I’m Henderson [last name]!” Henderson said, like he hadn’t been ignoring my entire existence for the past several minutes.
Why were they giving me their full names like I was supposed to Google them later (which I absolutely was going to do)?
“Well, it’s so nice to meet you guys,” I said, sweetly.
“Likewise,” Henderson said. “And cheers! Hopefully next year is just as spectacular as this one.”
“Speak for yourself. Some of us had pretty shitty years,” Reagan said, looking pointedly at Brendan.
It’s like, what could Brendan have possibly done to make her have a shitty year? As far as I knew, the divorce had been done and dusted the prior year so if she had a bad 2022, she needed to look inward.
Henderson put his arm around her and started petting her.
Danielle and Brendan joined back in our conversation and Henderson was like, “So how do you two know each other?”
Before either of us could say anything, Danielle piped up, “They work together,” like it’s the most apparent thing in the world. Funny how someone who normally has nothing to say was suddenly so outspoken about other people’s business!
I couldn’t even help myself. “Yeah, I’m the bimbo with a baby from work.”
“What?” Brendan said, putting his hand on my back and chuckling awkwardly.
Reagan made a face — a half smile, half grimace — and I wondered if she got my reference. Slutty single mom remember?
“Oh my god,” said Henderson, laughing. What the fuck was he laughing at? Did he even get it?
We all looked at each other, saying nothing.
Maybe she did get what I was referring to because moments after my comment, Reagan spun around and walked off without saying anything and Henderson followed her. Danielle told Brendan that they were going to another party and we were welcome to join.
“I think we’re probably good,” Brendan said, laughing.
“I think you’re probably good too!” Danielle giggled.
What was that supposed to mean? She was the one who started all this!
I was sort of on edge the rest of the night waiting for something else to happen. Everyone had hyped Reagan up to be this big bad wolf and besides a bit of a staring problem, she seemed fine to me? She and Brendan didn’t even acknowledge each other or look at each other.
But nothing else happened. Brendan, Kendall, his girl and I continued getting wine-wasted until 1 o’clock in the morning. I loved kissing Brendan at midnight and I said some mushy, gushy stuff to him that makes me want to cringe now. But not really because I freaking love him so much. In the car on the way back to his place, I vaguely remember Brendan apologizing for all the awkwardness and me yelling at him because it wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t even that awkward! And stop apologizing! You know, typical Brendan/Reese behavior.