AITA?

My parents decided to come visit for my birthday. I’m not sure if I mentioned it here, but I’ve been avoiding my mother for the past few months. Mostly because the only thing she ever wants to talk about is Brady and the only thing I ever want to talk about is Brendan. She called me one day and suggested the trip and I told her that I’d need to check my schedule and get back to her. I didn’t have any plans yet, obviously, but I wanted to hang out with Brendan.

She kept reminding me to check my schedule and let her know because “Dad needs to ask off work,” and I kept ignoring her. Eventually, a few weeks before the trip she texted me saying, “I went ahead and bought flights for dad and me to come to New York for your birthday. We get it on Sunday and are staying until Wednesday. We’ll get a hotel.”

Ugh. Obviously I was happy that Winnie and I would get to spend time with my parents, but I was so not looking forward to hanging out with my mom. I knew she would have questions that I didn’t want to answer.

The week after the wedding, Brendan tested positive for Covid. After all that, the wedding turned out to be a superspreader event? Thank God I’d been disinvited! Luckily, his symptoms were mild and I hadn’t seen him since well before the wedding so I was fine.

I trotted into the office on Wednesday for a day full of meetings and as I was setting up one of the conference rooms, Mike poked his head in and gave me a funny look.

“Reese…do you need to take a test?” he asked me.

When he first said it I just assumed he meant a pregnancy test and I was thinking, “Wow, I really shouldn’t have eaten so many Pop-Tart bites this morning.” But then I realized he meant a Covid test. Because of Brendan.

“I took one yesterday. I’m good,” I said.

That was the first time Mike acknowledged my relationship with Brendan (to me) and he did it in such a Mike kind of way.

“Okay,” he said.

He was standing in the doorway and Paige slid past him into the room. They both looked at each other blankly as she passed him, but didn’t say anything which felt really weird to me.

“Hey! Need any help?” Paige asked me and over her shoulder I saw Mike walk away.

Wait…Mike and Paige? They’re both married, but somehow it made sense to me. She’s definitely out of his league, but there’s something kind of sexy about his pompous demeanor and Big Dick Energy. I’d hate-fuck him for sure.

“Yes please!” I said. “Ugh, Mike just came in and confronted me about taking a Covid test since Brendan has Covid. I haven’t even seen Brendan in like a week!”

“Any excuse to yell at someone in the morning,” she said. “I’m not even surprised.”

I knew she would take the bait and use this opportunity to talk shit about Mike, rather than anything else. She’s been bad mouthing Mike every chance she gets lately. So that’s something that needs investigating.

By the weekend, Brendan was feeling better but knowing that I would be spending time with my parents and baby soon, I still wasn’t comfortable seeing him. Plus, I needed some time alone to mentally prepare myself. My mom was going to question me about Brady and my weight and my hair and my finances and any other intrusive topic she could think of. So I wanted to be ready for that.

I met them at their hotel and the first place my mother wanted to go to was the Vessel at Hudson Yards which she’s been seeing all over the internet. After spending $4K at the luxury stores in the mall there, we sat down for lunch. My dad commented that he likes what I’ve done with my hair.

“Is that the new look these days?” my mom asked with a big smile.

I haven’t been to the salon in forever so my hair has grown out and half of it is my mousy light brown natural color. I’ve been too lazy to get it done, but I also don’t hate the way it looks.

“I guess so,” I said. 

“And the no-makeup look?” she continued on. She was decked out complete with falsies and lipstick while I’ve been sticking to just mascara and brows most days.

“Yeah. I’ve been focusing on skincare mostly,” I told her.

“Are you using new products or finally getting lasers?” my mom went on.

“Do you think I need lasers?” I snapped at her.

My dad turned to her, amused, to see how she would talk her way out of this one.

“No, not at all. I think your skin looks wonderful,” my mom said. “But do you know what will help you look less tired? Carrots. You need to eat more carrots.”

She blathered about how she can tell that I haven’t been eating any vegetables or anything nutritious and did I want her to look for appointments at the salon so we could do something about my hair? Rude. Then when I wasn’t really biting she said, “So we will do your birthday dinner at 6 on Tuesday. I booked it for 5 in case you want to bring anyone special.”

“Like my boyfriend?” I said with a straight face.

“Brady?”

I scoffed. Who? “Brady? No.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of inviting Brady,” my dad chimed in.

“I’m sure he would want to celebrate with us,” my mom said sweetly.

“I don’t want him there so don’t bother inviting him,” I said.

My mom was already pulling out her phone and said, “I was going to call him back later anyway. We thought we’d spend the day with Winnie tomorrow while you’re at work, wouldn’t that be fun?”

The way my mom changed the subject so fast, I thought she wasn’t going to bring up my “boyfriend” comment. And I wasn’t going to elaborate further if she didn’t ask — my mom has somehow convinced herself that Brendan left his wife for me, even though I’ve told her multiple times that that isn’t the case. After lunch, they wanted to take a stroll down the High Line which took hours because they stopped every five seconds for pictures.

Eventually we dropped my dad and the shopping bags back off and then my mom and I wanted to get drinks before dinner. On the walk there, my mom asked, “So are you dating Brendan now?”

I paused before replying, “Yeah.”

“Well, I’m quite disappointed to hear that,” she said.

“Uh, why? He’s like the nicest person ever and if you got to know him, you’d actually really like him,” I said back.

My mother shook her head. “You shouldn’t be with someone like that.”

“Like what?”

“Divorced, separated, whatever. You don’t want to be someone’s second wife. Because you certainly won’t be his last,” she said, like she knows anything at all.

“What are you talking about?” I exclaimed. I was on the verge of freaking out and my mother stayed calm. “Second wife? We aren’t even there yet.”

“Has he met Winnie?”

What did that have to do with anything? “Yes.”

My mom stopped walking. “I think that’s highly inappropriate.”

I just stared at her.

“Especially if what you’re saying is true and you aren’t talking about being together long term. He’s just some random man to her. There’s no reason they should be getting to know each other and spending time together,” she said.

“What?” I was just so confused. I knew she was going to have a big reaction to Brendan (hence not speaking to her for months on end), but I didn’t expect her to go down this path. Inappropriate? Like I’m fourteen fucking years old?

“And I don’t even understand what happened with Brady. No one ever explained that to me,” she said in a voice like it was all so ridiculous.

“I don’t understand either!” I blew up at her. “All I know is I was depressed all of last year and now I’m happy and finally feel like myself again!”

“Oh, love, I didn’t know you felt depressed,” my mom said, softening.

“Yeah because you were so worried about Brady!”

“I’m sorry about that. I just know how much you both love each other so I wanted to help.”

I squeezed my eyes shut so I wouldn’t cry.

She said, “I’m happy if you’re happy. Do you want me to meet Brendan?”

Was she fucking joking? After all that? She was never going to meet him. “No!”

So needless to say, I was sick of my mom after the first day of the trip. She kept me out until midnight that Sunday because she wanted to skip around the bars in Midtown. After yelling at her earlier, I felt too guilty to tell her I was ready to get away from her.

On Monday morning they called and let me know that they’d coordinated with Brady to pick up Winnie so they could spend the day with her. That was fine with me. I wasn’t able to take off work to hang out with them (nor did I want to, let’s be honest) plus I was having lunch with Brendan.

Brendan texted me just before lunch and let me know that his meeting with the contractors at his new apartment was running long and why don’t I meet him there so I could see the progress? It had been several months since I’d seen the place in person so I gladly hopped in a cab to meet him.

I arrived and Brendan greeted me wearing his used car salesman uniform: polo with his company name on it tucked into slacks. But at least he’d chopped his summer hair off and the fuckboy hair was back. He looked adorbs. The place looked a lot different than the pictures I’d last seen. The flooring was in (a stained oak picked out by yours truly) and the kitchen was completely done (definitely not the all white marble kitchen everyone is doing these days). Because it’s me, I walked around critiquing the completed work (if I’m moving in I’m expecting perfection), he thanked me and then we walked to lunch.

After thinking about it all day, I felt bad about how things had gone with my mom. It’s like, she doesn’t try to be annoying, she just is. So by the time my parents came to get me for dinner at my apartment, I was feeling re-energized. My mom walked in carrying a big white and black bag from Sephora and shoved it at me.

“I picked up a few things for you while we were out!” she announced.

I peeked in the bag and saw boxes from Estée Lauder, Charlotte Tilbury and Tatcha. Really?

“Mom, I don’t need any makeup!” I screamed at her.

“Oh, I know you don’t need it, but I wanted you to have it just in case,” she said, proud of herself.

“I have plenty of makeup, I choose not to walk around with a full face every single day!” I explained.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” she said, finally getting it. “I’m just used to you having a more glam look.”

“God, you’re rude,” I mumbled and she pretended not to hear me.

The next evening was my birthday dinner and my mom made reservations at a chic little Italian restaurant near the Flatiron building. She wanted me to meet her early so we could have drinks at the restaurant beforehand (I reintroduced her to espresso martinis and she’s obsessed). I was starting to forgive her for all her antics this trip, but then my dad, Winnie and Brady walked in.

Mom!” I screamed at her as they walked over.

“What?” she said back.

“I didn’t want him here!” I whined.

“I didn’t invite him, Winnie did,” she sniffled.

Yeah because Winnie knew the time and details of dinner. I felt so betrayed by my mother — I’d even done a full beat for her!

“Hi, Reese,” Brady said, handing me a gift bag. “From Winnie and me.”

And why did he even want to be here anyway? Didn’t he have anything better to do than hang out with his ex’s family? And then he leaned down and hugged me like we’re friends or something.

“From me!” Winnie squealed.

We headed to the table and Winnie, always passionate about seating arrangements, dictated where everyone sat. She sat me across from her and next to my mom and placed herself right in between my dad and Brady.

“I want pasta,” Winnie announced to the group.

“You’re gonna have pasta,” I said, no nonsense.

“You can have whatever you want, honey,” my mom cooed. “And we have a cake coming later for your mommy’s birthday.”

Winnie screamed and danced in her chair at the news of impending cake. I shushed her and my mom elbowed me.

“She’s not hurting anyone.”

It’s like, she’s hurting my ear drums! And since no one wanted to be the bad guy, Winnie was on her worst behavior at dinner. She was whining and hitting and screaming. Very embarrassing. At one point, she was standing up in her chair and reaching to grab something off the table. Brady, who was sitting right next to her, was too busy gabbing with my parents to even notice.

“Uh, can you get her down?!” I yelled at him across the table.

“Oh, yeah. Sure,” he said like he was doing me a favor or something!

And of course Winnie was sad after that and sat in Brady’s lap and pouted. Brady looked at me and shrugged and then when he thought I looked away, he made this goofy smirking face. Really? You weren’t even invited, dude.

And anyway, it was my birthday so why were they paying so much attention to Brady? They were so interested in his job and staff (no one asked me about my job) and it’s like, Brady’s job has never been interesting so stop. I was beyond annoyed with the whole situation.

My parents offered to pay for the meal and then when the check came out, my frugal father started checking it line by line and of course found a mistake. My mom started flagging down the server obnoxiously and I was not about to sit there while they quibbled over the check.

“I’m gonna go outside for a smoke,” I announced to the group. “Winnie, do you want to come with me?”

“Okay, honey,” my mom said, not even batting an eyelash at my smoking comment. I don’t fucking smoke!

“We’ll both come with you,” Brady said. 

I rolled my eyes at him, but didn’t object as he helped carry Winnie and my various gifts outside with us to wait for my parents.

“You look pretty,” Brady said to me as we stood there and it had my mother’s name written all over it. She’d guilted me into putting on a full face of makeup and now Brady was complimenting me? When’s the last time he’s complimented me? She definitely put him up to it.

“Thanks,” I said, not believing him.

“Do you have any other plans for your birthday?”

I side-eyed him. “Actually yes. I’m going on a trip this weekend. But you already knew that, didn’t you, stalker?”

Brady laughed (a little too hard if you ask me) and said, “Stalker?”

“Stalker?” Winnie repeated.

Ugh. So yeah, my parents trip was kind of a disaster. Am I the asshole?

Standard

is he stalking me?

I tried not to take Margot’s comment personally, but obviously that’s exactly what I did. If I didn’t have a child and so much baggage, Margot probably wouldn’t care about Brendan getting into another relationship. And why was it suddenly an issue? I’d celebrated holidays and birthdays with them and gone on family trips with them and they welcomed me with open arms and now suddenly it wasn’t a good time for Brendan to get into anything serious? A bit late for that, Margot!

Despite all that, I was still going to Maine with Brendan and his uncle. I felt uneasy about the whole thing — like maybe I shouldn’t go after what Margot said. But she wasn’t going so I guess it wouldn’t be an issue.

We took Brendan’s uncle’s small plane all the way to Maine and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m not a fan of small planes. Especially now that I have a daughter to live for. It was so claustrophobic and loud and it didn’t help that Brendan’s uncle, who has been bourbon drunk on every occasion I’ve met him, was driving the plane.

“Is this…safe?” I asked as I peeked uneasily out the window.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?” Brendan said.

“I don’t know…what if your uncle suddenly just dropped dead?”

He smirked. “You don’t think I could land this thing myself?”

No idea, but I totally trust whatever Brendan says. Anyway, I guess I don’t need to confirm that even though the plane and driver were a bit dicey, we were fine. Vacation time!

We didn’t really have any plans except Brendan and his uncle would be doing an early morning fishing session the next day, so we grabbed food and headed to the shabby beach cabin. This place was a lot more rustic and lived in than their other family vacation house. Like, Brendan’s bedroom actually had pictures up and memorabilia and personal belongings everywhere. It was so cute!

So we sat down in the kitchen and ate our sandwiches while Brendan’s uncle talked shit about his wife. I love hearing about other people’s relationship drama so I was invested and sat there hanging on to every last word. And then I couldn’t even help myself — I started asking questions and giving a ton of unsolicited advice even though I’m the last person who should be doing so. Oh well.

Later on, when it got dark, we sat outside on the back porch drinking wine while I told them graphically detailed true crime stories.

“…and they said she was practically decapitated and her brains and tissue were everywhere,” I was saying.

“Ugh, Reese, please. You can stop now,” Brendan said.

His uncle chuckled and I sat there, satisfied with my spooky story.

The next morning, Brendan woke me up just as the sun was coming up. He was leaving to go fishing.

“I’ll be back before you even wake up,” he said, kissing me. “Love you.” (🥺🥺🥺)

“Bye!” I said and rolled over to go back to sleep.

But then, after laying there for approximately three minutes trying to fall back asleep, I shot up in the bed. There was so much stuff in the bedroom and I had the sudden, insatiable urge to go through it all. Not Brendan’s little backpack with his work stuff (that would be an invasion of privacy) but everything else was fair game. I flicked on the bedside table lamp and started going through the drawers of the big, old school desk. They were filled with a bunch of bullshit like batteries and old phone cords and books. I was pleased to find a framed picture of Brendan and his ex-wife at the bottom of one of the drawers. Judging by their outfits and her eyebrows, I gathered that it was taken when they were at high school prom. Tragic. She’s honestly very cute, but with her blonde hair and blonde eyebrows, super far apart eyes and big black eyelashes, it was giving Sid from Ice Age. After dissecting the picture for ten minutes, I put everything back and headed to the closet. There I found a big, black safe (a gun safe which I don’t love), coats, sticks used for some sport, another framed wedding photo and a box of condoms shoved in the back. Such a safe king.

Later in the morning, Brendan and his uncle came back and they looked at me like I was supposed to entertain them. I couldn’t help them unless they were looking for another disturbing story.

Brendan suggested a hike after lunch because there were so many things he wanted to show me, but I was like, “No, this is sunbathing weather.” It’s like he doesn’t know me at all. So I changed into an olive green two-piece, grabbed a beach towel, and headed down to the little private dock. It all reminded me a bit of Ozark where everything has a blue/green tint to it. But slightly more chic. I spread my towel out and got comfortable.

A few minutes later, Brendan joined me. He didn’t bother changing into his bathing suit and his hair was pushed back with a headband — he’d grown his hair out a bit which he calls his “summer hair” and I hated it until I realized how much he loves it.

He whistled as he stood over me. “You’re smokin.”

“Thanks, now take off your shirt and join me,” I said.

Brendan peeled his shirt off and got on my towel with me and soon, we were making out. The dock was loosely surrounded by trees so it was fairly private and this was about as nature-y as I was going to get. Brendan hiked my triangle bikini top up so my boob flopped out (anyone with tits knows how unflattering this angle is) and it was very scandalous, laying there exposed while Brendan kissed me all over my body. Like I said, the dock was pretty secluded, but what if Drunk-Pilot-Uncle came out? Not my issue. So I laid there soaking up the sun while Brendan felt me up and kissed all over my body and I was thinking, “This is the life I deserve.” And I really thought we were gonna do the deed right there on the dock, but then Brendan pulled away from my squirming body and pulled the top back over my boob.

“Ugh, keep doing that,” I groaned.

“Later,” he said with a grin.

In the meantime, Brady and I were on speaking terms again. After I went through his messages (hello, 2014) and confronted him about Anna, he ignored me for a week or so and then started being cordial again like nothing happened. And while I was in Maine, he sent me a message that said, “Are you with Brendan?”

Um, excuse me? I was, in fact, with Brendan! I figured he was being silly and cheeky (since I’d asked him questions about hanging out with Anna like it’s any of my business) so I ignored him and thought nothing of it.

But then I noticed every time we talked he brought up stuff that he shouldn’t know, like he’s been spying on me.

“Have you ever shopped at the store Mejuri?” he texted me.

Was it a coincidence that I was just looking at Mejuri.com the night before and the tab was probably still open on my phone? Maybe.

“Yeah. Why? Gonna buy something for aNnA?” I said.

“Nope. Just wondering. I saw an ad and it seems like something you’d like,” he said back.

Weird. Another day, I dropped Winnie off and was asking about what they had planned to do and eat. And Brady said, verbatim, the name of a recipe I’d pinned on Pinterest a few days earlier. Also weird. He brought up search terms I’d used on Zillow (sometimes I like to look up vacation homes and Brady said something like, “When you move into your cottage…”) and a restaurant I’d gone to for a client lunch. It freaked me out. Maybe it’s all just a coincidence or maybe he somehow found a way to track my phone activity. But not only does that seem farfetched, but if he saw some of the horrible, nasty things I text people about him, I doubt he’d ever speak to me again!

Anyway, Brendan and Miguel were going to a bachelor party in Mexico so Jasmine and I made plans to get dinner and drinks. After hanging out that one day, we’d been keeping in contact through Instagram — turns out, we’re interested in the same things: talking shit about the Kardashians and influencers, puppies and recipe reels.

We decided on sushi and Jasmine let me know she wanted us to meet up with her friends in the East Village afterwards. Jasmine is like the most beautiful person ever and was wearing denim shorts with a leather jacket (which she later took off and tied around her waist — chic) and throwback Givenchy shark lock boots. I hounded her with questions about Miguel and their wedding and honeymoon plans since we didn’t get a chance to talk about it before. She seemed super nonchalant about it all which I get because people are probably always questioning her like I was.

“Honestly, as long as I get to marry the love of my life, I don’t care what kind of wedding we have,” she said.

Barf, but I guess it was sort of cute. She mentioned that Miguel’s family was paying for everything so she’d basically relinquished control to Miguel’s mom and sister. She doesn’t mind though because they have great taste. Since we were already on the topic of weddings, I thought it was the appropriate time to do what I do best and try to fish for information about Brendan’s ex-wife.

“Well, I only met her once,” Jasmine said, “ And never saw her again so that should tell something.”

That made me feel better, like at least I’d won Jasmine over or something. And I know it’s not a competition or anything, but she did call me a slutty single mom.

After dinner, we took an Uber to the next place which was a packed Asian restaurant/lounge with a DJ. Jasmine’s friends were three dudes who looked like they probably sell drugs and regularly get high on their own supply. I wasn’t aware that it was going to be that kind of night so I turned around to the bar and ordered shots.

“You look like you’re gonna puke,” one of the guys, Ramsey, said after I took a tequila shot. 

“Oh, shut up,” I said, rolling my eyes.

I had no intention of hanging out with a bunch of unsavory dudes so I didn’t pay any attention to them, but that was fine because they were all focused on Jasmine. They were all pawing all over her and fighting over who got the “next round for the girls.” Like I said before, Jasmine is super gorgeous so I was shocked and appalled that I turned around at one point and Ramsey had his arms wrapped around her and was kissing her neck. Huh? Wasn’t she just gushing about the hot love of her life, Miguel earlier? And Ramsey is ugly. All of these dudes were ugly. Ew.

Jasmine rolled her eyes at me playfully, pretending to be annoyed by him, but why didn’t she push him away from her? He had tattoos covering the back of his head, neck and ears and I was skeeved out by the whole thing.

Later on, we went to the bathroom and by then, I’d had enough to drink to let her know what I thought of her weird and not cute friends.

She pouted. “But they have the best coke.”

“Jasmine!”

She was dead serious. And for some reason, I felt strangely protective of her after that, like girl, you are too cool and pretty to be desp for drugs from creeps. Absolutely hate that for her. 

The following Tuesday, Brady stopped by to drop Winnie off. I was so excited to see my baby — I love my crazy girl so much! Brady and I made snarky small talk (it’s just the way we are now) and then he asked, “Hey, you didn’t take Winnie to eat sushi, did you?”

Sushi?

“No, why?” I said back, suspicious.

“I don’t know. She was talking about sushi and I’m not sure where she would’ve heard about it,” he explained innocently.

I glared at him.

“What?” Brady said.

Coincidence or was this motherfucker genuinely stalking me? I avoided my phone all together for about two hours before I forgot and carried on with my life.

A few months ago, Brendan invited me to go to a wedding with him for the same friend who had the bachelor party in Mexico. He mentioned it a few times in passing; a black tie wedding out on Long Island somewhere. I felt like it would be like my official debut to all of his friends so in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to get something new and fabulous to wear, etc. Truthfully, I was just excited to do something with Brendan that made us feel like a real couple and I was secretly hoping he’d get a haircut for the occasion.

One night we went to Brendan’s favorite neighborhood cafe for dinner and then walked back to his place for a nightcap. He poured us delicious red wine from his stash and we took it to the couch. 

We were having such a great time and then Brendan was like, “Oh, I was talking to my stepmom and she thought maybe it’s not a good idea for you to come to the wedding.”

Oh? Why was Margot suddenly insistent on starting beef with me? And we’d just had a conversation a few days prior so what the fuck happened?

“Uh, okay. Why?” I asked.

“Just because it’s very likely that my ex will be there and she thought it might make drama or something. I don’t know.”

Me? Drama? Bullshit! Considering I didn’t even know these people who were getting married nor did I care about the wedding, I was shocked by how upset I felt myself getting about being uninvited. I hadn’t even bothered finding anything to wear!

“Okay…that’s fine. I don’t really care,” I said.

“Okay, good. I’m sorry. I really want you to come, but she’s probably right,” Brendan said.

“And you don’t have to tell me everything Margot says, you know,” I added.

“Oh.” He looked surprised. “Right, okay. Sorry.”

I got up, grabbed my wine and phone and locked myself in the bathroom. I didn’t want Brendan to see me crying about a wedding I didn’t care about for people I don’t know. But I felt so betrayed by Margot. We’d spoken for an hour earlier in the week (mostly about Winnie) so why wouldn’t she have brought it up to me then? Why was she putting ideas in Brendan’s head like a sneaky snake?

Thirty minutes later, Brendan sent me a text that said, “You okay?”

I swung the bathroom door open and walked back out. “Sorry, I fell asleep.”

“Wanna get in bed?” he said, oblivious to my meltdown. He’s so fucking clueless. 

But then we got in bed and he climbed on top of me and patted below my eyes like he was trying to wipe my tears.

“I’d like to go to sleep, please,” I said, deadpan.

“Okay,” Brendan said, climbed off and then didn’t let go of me all night.

Turns out, being disinvited was completely fine because on the evening of the wedding, Kristina had reservations for two to a steakhouse I’ve been wanting to go to. Garrett had to “work” so she invited me to go instead and he even left his credit card on file so we could order whatever we wanted. I hadn’t even met him yet so thanks G!

I obviously kept a close eye on both Brendan and his ex-wife’s Instagram stories all night (he was the one who mentioned drama so I wanted to see it kick off) but he only posted one story the entire night (a group photo with no ex and no haircut) and she only posted two. Uh, hello?

“Where’s Brendan?” Kristina asked.

Thank God she asked because I wanted to talk about it. I told her about the wedding and Margot and “slutty single mom.” She stared at me with wide, surprised eyes.

“So are you mad about what his stepmom said?” she asked.

“No!” Did I seem mad? “I just think it’s annoying that Brendan always blames her when he clearly agrees. I would have more respect if he just said, ‘I don’t think you should come to the wedding and here’s why…’”

We somehow spent $530 at the restaurant and made plans to go to a rooftop for drinks. On the way there, I pulled out my phone and saw that Brendan had texted me. To add salt to the already gaping wound, he’d written, “Wish you were here.” And it’s like, no you don’t because if you did I would be there! He’s so irritating.

The next morning, Brendan called. He was still at the hotel in Long Island and said, “Ugh, I’m so hungover.”

Hungover? But he’s not a big drinker, remember? He was telling me all about the wedding and his friends and the food and oh, it’s a good thing I didn’t come because his ex-wife was there and she was “not in a good mood.” The fuck did that mean?

“I don’t even wanna get into it,” Brendan groaned when I asked.

Of course he didn’t. But do you know who would happily get into it? My bestie, Kendall. I made a mental note to get the scoop the next time I spoke to him.

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don’t compare him to a dog!

Turns out, Miguel is engaged and his fiancée is this gorgeous gorgeous fitness model named Jasmine. So this was absolutely not going to be a problem and I truly needed to get over myself. He talks about her non-stop and refers to her as “mi amor,” so that’s cute. The three of us met up with her one Summer Friday and stayed drinking wine at the bar for four hours. Jasmine and I initially bonded over having the same pair of Gucci sunglasses, but then she told me how she and Miguel met (a one night hookup from Tinder) and we could not stop talking. Honestly, you could put a pineapple in front of me and I’d find something to talk to it about.

But anyway, I love Jasmine! And at one point she gestured towards Miguel and said, “You’ll have to keep an eye on this one for me,” hinting that maybe he misbehaves at work. Miguel turned to me and winked. Uh, I’ll gladly keep an eye!

Eventually I needed to go pick up Winnie, but they wanted to meet back up for pizza later. I was on the fence about it because I really needed to stay home with my child. I knew Jasmine had been sort of on the fence too so I asked her if she wanted to go.

“I’ll follow you to the ends of the Earth, girl so I’ll go if you go,” she said.

So needless to say, Jasmine and I hit it off.

On Saturday, Brendan came over in the afternoon for a sleepover. I was excited to spend the majority of the weekend with him since typically he’s so busy that we can only hang out a few hours at a time. And I don’t know if this is a weird or unnecessary observation, but Brendan and I don’t have sex that often. Probably just as often as before I had my own place and it’s almost always a marathon. Brady and I had sex all the time (and clearly got carried away — hi Winnie!) so it’s just different I guess. Like sex is not the most important element of our relationship.

We spent the night watching TV and eating takeout and he filled me in on what his family and Danielle have been up to (I did not ask). And then we gossiped about Kendall because he’s gone all in with Cassidy — apparently he was hooking up with two other girls previously, news to me! Then Brendan told me he was taking a little Maine trip with his uncle in a couple weeks and did I want to come? There wouldn’t be a ton for me to do, but it’s really pretty and it would be nice to get out of the city and… I really didn’t need that much convincing.

The next morning, we woke up with no plans, but then Lola texted me wanting to go to brunch.

“Can I bring my boy toy?” I asked her.

“Yes, I’m dying to meet him,” Lola said. That was about as much enthusiasm as I’ve heard her have for a man.

I got dressed in vegan leather shorts, an oversized button down and high top Nike Blazers while I briefed Brendan on Lola. She definitely requires a bit of a warning.

“She’s really abrasive, but she doesn’t mean any harm,” I explained. “And she hates all men, not just you.”

“Oh. Great,” Brendan said.

We met Lola in Greenwich Village at a place she’d found with bottomless brunch. The two of us ordered bottomless mimosas and avo toast and Brendan ordered an entree and one Bloody Mary. Lola pounced immediately.

One Bloody? What are you, twelve?” she said.

“Pacing myself,” he said.

“Brendan is like, not a big drinker,” I chimed in. “So he will probably get tipsy from this one drink.”

“Not a big drinker? I can’t imagine what you guys have in common then,” Lola said.

I mean, true. But I think it’s kind of adorable that Brendan doesn’t drink much. It definitely keeps me in check — can’t be trashed all the time by myself!

“We have plenty in common,” I said.

“Like what?” Lola demanded.

“Like…” Wait, why couldn’t I think of a single thing we had in common? It’s like, he enjoys working out and the wilderness and traveling and I spend all my time eating and drinking and stalking people I don’t know on Instagram. Maybe Lola had found a major fault in our relationship.

But then Brendan — who apparently wasn’t having a mini stroke like I was — let Lola know all the things we like to do together.

“Sounds boring, but I dig it,” Lola said.

She told us that she and Kellen are over once again and she’s seeing a new guy. One she describes as “flawless” which is such a bold and reckless statement, especially coming from Lola.

“So I’m just waiting for it all to come crumbling down,” she said.

“Aw, I’m sure it’s not,” Brendan said and offered her some encouragement in his positive Brendan sort of way.

After a while, the mimosas were setting in and Lola and I were screaming and probably being really annoying. Brendan needed to get going anyway because he was meeting up with his sister so he kissed me on the cheek and left us.

“Ugh, don’t you love him!” I couldn’t help squealing.

“Big golden retriever energy. I’ve literally never seen it personified so vividly, oh my god,” Lola said.

“Lola! Don’t compare him to a dog!” I exclaimed.

“What? It’s not bad. He’s adorable. I can see why you like him,” she said.

The next weekend, I got to keep Winnie and Brendan hung out with us all weekend again. On Saturday night, after we put her to sleep, we were laying on the bed talking. He was telling me about the progress on his new apartment (they were finally able to get stuff done after delays getting approval from the association) and a bachelor party he has coming up and etc.

And then, out of nowhere, Brendan mentioned that his stepmom told him that he should take things slow with me and not get into anything serious. You can always rely on Brendan to overshare! Why would he tell me that? And I thought Margot was supposed to be my girl so what the fuck?

“Why would she say that?” I asked.

“Because of the divorce and everything. She doesn’t think it’s a good idea for me to get into another relationship. Like I should be alone or something,” he explained.

“Right, but why does she think we aren’t taking things slow? Did you tell her we’re serious?” I asked.

“No, just how much time we are spending together I guess. And she knows how I feel about you.”

I was ready to strangle him. What was the purpose of telling me this? I was about to freak out.

“Maybe Margot is right,” I said calmly.

“Really?” Brendan said.

“Yeah. I don’t know. What do you want? I can’t imagine you’d even be ready for a serious relationship anytime soon anyway.”

He looked kind of taken aback and then said, “Are we not serious?”

“I don’t know!” I wasn’t about to admit that I already have Pinterest boards dedicated to our wedding, babies, and new apartment. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

“I have pretty serious feelings for you. I think you know that,” Brendan said.

“Yeah, but like, do you even want to get married again? Do you want to be alone for a while? We can cool things off if that’s what you need.” I was spiraling.

“Of course I want to get married again. I mean, not now—”

“Obviously!” I screamed.

Apparently all of this was hilarious because Brendan started laughing. I was about to kill him and his big mouth.

“What is literally so funny?” I demanded.

Brendan pulled me close, still laughing. “You mean everything to me.”

Standard

the queen of growth.

I was agitated. Brendan and I were in a fight which I always hate (and I was mad at him because why would he just storm out like that?) plus I never wanted to go back to work again because I was afraid everyone was gossiping about us.

Luckily, Brady was on his way to drop my baby off and since I’d be working from home, I would be able to spend the day with her.

Winnie squealed and immediately began talking a mile a minute about everything she got into over the weekend. Believe it or not, I think she kind of enjoys splitting her time because then she gets to come back with stories. Brady filled me in on a few things including reminding me that he would be working on Saturday so I’d get to keep Winnie. That was perfect because we were going to have an epic girls day. With our current arrangement it’s rare that I get to spend a full uninterrupted day with Winnie like that so Brady could work on the weekend all he wanted.

“Winnie, I’ll see you later this week,” Brady called out the window. “Love you guys.”

Did you hear that? Love you guys. He had definitely been being nicer the past few weeks, but this was a bit over the top.

“Bye!” I said and we headed inside.

Upstairs, I saw that I had a missed call from Brendan. Oh, now he wanted to fucking talk? Like I said, I was mad at him so I was absolutely not going to call him back. And anyway, Mike had sent a few of his signature scathing emails so I really needed to address those.

About an hour later, Brendan called again.

“Hi Brendan,” I answered.

“Hey,” he said back in a voice that sounded defeated. “I hate fighting with you.”

Oh fucking really? “Then why are you fighting with me? If you hadn’t stormed out like a child yesterday, this would’ve been over.”

“I know. I’m sorry about that.”

“And can you please explain to me how you’re upset when you were the one in the wrong in the first place?”

“I didn’t know it was supposed to be a secret! You never asked me not to tell Mike,” he said, beginning to sound like a baby again.

“Common sense, Brendan!”

He waited a moment and then said, “I’m sorry about yesterday. Are you at your office? Do you mind if I stop by?”

“No, I have so much work to do and quite frankly so do you,” I said.

“Yeah, you’re right. I should probably go.”

I knew I was being hard on him, but you know what happens when you let stuff like that go unchecked! It’s called tough love. I was very surprised though when I hadn’t heard from him by the next afternoon. Yes, I’d yelled at him a little bit (twice) but I thought he was supposedly in love with me. Whatever!

I was sitting in my office (I could no longer hide at home) when an email came in. It was from Thomas.

“Today is my last day at [Brendan’s company]. The last few years have taught me a lot, but I would be lying if I said they weren’t tumultuous…” He’d sent it BCC so I couldn’t see the entire recipient list.

Wait, what was going on? It didn’t make any sense that it was Thomas’ last day. Had he even put in a 2-week notice? Surely I would’ve heard if he did.

A message popped up from Paige. “Omg! Did you know about Thomas?”

“No! Did you?” I typed back.

“No…I wonder what happened.”

So if Thomas was leaving, what was Brendan going to do? Yes, Thomas had been a little menace the past few months, but he was still essentially Brendan’s right hand man. What an inopportune time to be in a fight with Brendan!

Well, no matter. I picked up my phone and gave him a call.

“Hey!” he answered, sounding rather happy to hear from me.

“Oh my gawddd, Thomas?” I said.

Brendan didn’t say anything immediately and from the cars in the background it sounded like he was out and about. “Yeah.”

“What happened?” I had to know.

He explained that it was unexpected, but mutual and that he had a friend from business school who was going to be starting in a few weeks.

“Oh em geee, Brendan, did you fire him?” I gasped.

He laughed but didn’t confirm or deny. “So are you still mad at me?”

“Kind of.” I’d almost forgotten about our fight because I was so focused on the Thomas drama.

“Do you wanna talk about it or do you need more time?” Brendan asked.

Hm, what a straightforward question that I was not prepared to answer!

“I guess we could talk about it later.”

So we made plans to see each other later that day and honestly, I was relieved because I don’t actually enjoy being in a fight with Brendan. And hello? I still wanted more details about Thomas’ departure! I was nosy curious!

“Oh, hi Brendan,” Winnie said nonchalantly when we let him into the apartment a few hours later.

Me and Brendan smirked at each other because clearly she got that from me.

“Hey!” he said back. “I brought dinner. You hungry?”

“Yes, I am so hungry,” Winnie replied dramatically.

I’ve noticed that Brendan and I both speak to Winnie like she’s an adult (she sure acts like she’s a little adult) which leads me to believe we will be great co-parents. Everyone else baby-talks her. What? Just thinking about the future.

We sat at the table and had dinner while Winnie talked our ears off and then watched a movie on the couch. After putting the baby to (reluctant) sleep, it was time to talk. Obviously I was ready to gossip about his company, but then Brendan grabbed me and said, “I’m sorry about the way I left the other night.”

I opened my mouth to say something like, “It’s fine this time, but don’t let it happen again,” but then he added, “But can you understand why I was upset?”

“Ummm,” I said. “Because I yelled at you.”

“Well, yeah. That too,” he said. “But it sort of seems like you’re ashamed of me.”

“What? How?

He looked down and around and honestly, kind of insecure. “I don’t know. Just the way you kept saying it would make you look bad and that you were embarrassed.”

I felt horrible that he thought that’s what I meant. I had to explain to him (again) that it wasn’t about me or him necessarily and it was the situation that looked bad and maybe it was my fault for not being the one to tell Mike. I can’t believe Brendan thought my blow up was because I was ashamed of him — he really is naive sometimes. And what was it that Kendall said? “Our boy is sensitive.” I really need to keep that in mind.

“Okay, thanks for explaining, I get it now,” Brendan said. “I just want you to feel the same way about me as I feel about you.”

The guy sure does need a lot of reassurance. So I did the unthinkable and told Brendan that I love him. Can you imagine me telling a man I love him first? I mean, of course he’s alluded to it before, but he had never said it outright like I had. It’s called growth and I’m clearly the queen of it. And then when he looked elated and relieved and said it back, I demanded to know if he considered me his girlfriend. Guess I needed a bit of reassurance too!

So that was our tiny little fight. Stupid, but not totally pointless I guess. At least now all of our feelings are known. And even if I knew they were secretly still judging, no one seemed to care about Brendan and me and Paige is the only one who brought it up (to ask what we had planned for the weekend, like she cared).

A few weeks later, Brendan brought his new employee in to meet our team. Miguel. Oh my God. He looks like a supermodel or something — Andrea from Summer House vibes. He was tall and gorgeous with broad shoulders, light eyes and a shirt unbuttoned so you could see a hint of chest hair. Excuse me? I think I gasped when he walked in. Brendan never mentioned that his friend from business school looked like that. And then when he shook my hand, he didn’t let it go while he asked me questions about myself and pinned me to the wall with his eyes. I hoped this wasn’t going to be a problem.

We went into the meeting and he sat there like a boss and sweet-talked the pants off ole Mike. And Mike seemed happy (as happy as Mike can seem) so maybe Miguel would be good for all of us.

After the meeting, Brendan followed me to my office and Miguel came with us. They were talking to me about all the projects and what the priorities were and did I want to walk with them later in the week? Brendan sat in one of my chairs, but Miguel leaned against my desk so I had a clear view of his butt and it was all a bit much. And ever since our fight, Brendan had been being overly professional with me at work. So Miguel kept turning around and joking with me and smiling and it occurred to me that Brendan hadn’t told him about us since I blew up at him last time I found out he told someone. Was this, and I stress, going to be a problem?

One Saturday, Winnie and I hopped in the car to go to Brady’s. Brady and I had been getting along splendidly and surprisingly staying in touch a lot throughout the week. Usually our routine on Saturdays was: arrive in Connecticut between 8 and 9 AM, get Brady up to speed on what had been up the past few days then I’d leave before lunch. This particular Saturday though, Brendan was busy and I didn’t have any plans so I got comfortable and hung out for a bit. The three of us had bagels and OJ and then played in the backyard until Winnie was exhausted. Brady went upstairs to do some work in his little office while I got Winnie comfortable on the couch with the iPad. After a while she fell asleep and I should’ve said goodbye to Brady and gone home, but I didn’t. Winnie was using Brady’s iPad since hers stays at our place in the city. And do you know what’s on Brady’s iPad? All of his messages, of course!

I really shouldn’t have, but I picked up the iPad and started scrolling through his message threads like old times. I was just curious to see who he had been talking to. None of them really jumped out at me except Anna, who I haven’t thought about in years. Anna is Brady’s ex before me and she’s weird.

I started reading through the messages and started to see texts from her that said things like, “I can’t wait to see you later,” and “Do you want to come over tonight?” Oh? All of their texts were like that — making plans for him to go see her and then talking about how they are looking forward to hanging out. So they were hooking up? A bit of ex-sex? One message exchange went like this:

Anna: “Can’t wait to see you later tonight!”

Brady: “Me too.”

Brady (a few hours later): “I’m on my way.”

Anna: “Cool. And Madeline is here :-)”

Brady: “Even better.”

Wait. Who was Madeline? Why would she be there? Was this a threesome? Those two are complete freaks. I kept scrolling and reading until the iPad was snatched from my grubby little hands. Brady was standing behind the couch over my shoulder.

“You have no right to do that,” he said calmly as he locked the iPad up.

“Okay.” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly embarrassed that I’d been caught snooping, but it was just Brady and now I knew what he was getting up to. And I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit icky. I don’t know why. It has literally nothing to do with me. I left after that.

Needless to say, Brady and I didn’t keep in touch the next week like we had been and he was short with me again at drop off on Tuesday. So the following Saturday, after a week of reflection, Winnie and I headed to Connecticut to Brady’s house. Brady was clearly still annoyed with me and didn’t say much, so I followed him into the kitchen and said, in my sweetest voice, “Are you hanging out with Anna this weekend?”

At first I thought he wasn’t going to answer me because he was quiet for a while, but then he said, “You know, Winnie had been telling me about her friend for a few months and I thought she had made it up; an imaginary friend. But then I finally figured out the name she was saying.”

I already knew where this was going.

“Brendan.”

“Yeah, they’re close,” I said, not missing a beat. “Definitely not imaginary.”

“Cool,” Brady said coldly and walked past me out of the kitchen.

So…at least it was all out there. What was unsettling though is that the following week, I had a missed call from Brady’s mother out of the blue. I haven’t spoken to that woman in like a year so who the the hell knows what she wants to talk about. I haven’t heard from her since and it’s not like Brady and I were on good terms for me to ask him about it.

Standard

has he never had an affair?

Slutty single mom? Like she knows anything about me? I don’t understand where she got the audacity. How would she know if I’m slutty or not? What had Danielle told her to make her think I’m slutty? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I was obsessing over it. So much so that I kept messaging Kendall to ask for more information and context and he would say, “It really was not that deep.” But it was totally that deep! Clearly she hit a nerve with her comment.

So while I was excited to spend the weekend with Brendan and his mostly sweet family, I was not excited about Danielle, who had found her way onto my shit list.

I dropped Winnie off with Brady early on Saturday and made sure he knew I had big important plans for the weekend.

“And what are you and Winnie going to do?” I demanded.

Brady shrugged and said, “No plans yet. Probably the pool, weather permitting.”

“Ew.” I hated the thought of my child at a shared, public pool where Brady would probably use her to hit on the MILFs in the neighborhood. I guess I couldn’t exactly be mad at that, but it was still gross.

Lucky for me, Danielle was only staying at the cabin for one night and she was with a friend (she always has a friend in tow) so it’s not like I would have to interact with her at all. But y’all know me.

“Heyyyy, Danielle!” I said super sweetly when Brendan and I arrived at the cabin.

She looked at me with disdain over her shoulder (I realized that she reminds me of Olivia Rodrigo, but obviously nowhere near as cute or cool) and said, “Hi,” boredly.

Really? And that would be my only attempt to be nice to her that weekend.

Brendan’s dad had been nerding out about his outdoor oven all day so we made pizza that night and sat around the back patio drinking wine. Super chill. Danielle said something about being “funemployed” which might be the most interesting thing she’s ever said. I mostly just sat there talking to Margot and Danielle’s friend (I forgot her name, but she was really nice) while Brendan and his dad coddled jobless Danielle.

We all went to bed fairly early and Brendan and I just made out all night. He didn’t try anything, probably because his parents were down the hall and it would be weird. I was somehow convinced to go on the little boat/lake trip the next morning so we got up and ready and I helped Margot pack a cooler with booze and snacks. We had to drive a bit to get to the lake and in the car on the way there, Brady called. I immediately freaked out because why would he be calling me unless it was an emergency? Brady never calls me — only texts *sometimes* — and I’d told him that I had plans this weekend. So naturally, I assumed Winnie was hurt and I’d need to get home immediately.

“Hi, is everything okay?” I answered, while trying to make eye contact with Brendan’s dad in the rearview mirror because he was gonna have to turn this car around.

“Yeah, everything is fine,” Brady said casually. “We can’t find Winnie’s white pants and she wanted to wear them today.”

Really? “We probably didn’t pack them. She has a skirt she can wear instead,” I told him.

“Okay, I’ll look for it. My mom is on her way. She wanted to have lunch with us…” And he just kept going on. He just wanted to chat. Telling me what Winnie requested for lunch and how his mom asked about me. And he was being so nice, like extra nice in a way that made me slightly suspicious. And I was trying not to engage too much in conversation considering I was in the car with Brendan and all of his family.

Eventually, I was like, “Okay, well I have to go.”

“Oh.” Brady sounded disappointed.

We hung up and of course Brendan said, “Is everything okay?”

And it’s like, yes, everything is absolutely fine, Brady is just bored and lonely and thirsty.

Anyway, I don’t really have anything else to share from the rest of the weekend. Margot and I cried together after a lot of wine (this was after yet *another* school shooting), Brendan and his dad competed about absolutely everything and Danielle sent her friend to get information (I assume that’s why the friend was suddenly interested in Winnie’s whereabouts). I don’t think I need to mention that I absolutely love Brendan’s parents though. They’re just like, so cool. They’ve always been so nice and welcoming to me with no hesitation even though it was probably a little weird. I’ll even forgive his dad for sending me into a panic by telling me there were snakes in the lake (I found out that he was he was “kind of” joking).

The next week, it was back to reality. Brady dropped Winnie off bright and early on Tuesday morning and was it just me or was he being super short and distant? I was trying to ask him about the weekend and the normal stuff we talk about and he acted like it was such a bother. Because I rushed him off the phone when I told him I was going to be busy?? Whatever!

He was back to texting me the following evening though so I guess he got over it.

On Thursday, Paige organized this brainstorming meeting with herself and Mike, plus me, a couple of our designers and Brendan and Thomas and their team. Paige loves to throw a meeting on the cal to try to pretend she’s doing something. This time I didn’t mind though because it would be one of the only times I got to see Brendan before he went on a fishing trip for the weekend.

The entire meeting was pretty useless (of course) and uneventful except for when Thomas followed up something Brendan said with, “That’s a really stupid idea.”

Excuse you? Who says that to their boss, in a meeting, in front of a ton of people? I would’ve been offended even if he didn’t say it to someone I care about. Thomas is absolutely out of control.

Brendan said, “Okay, it was just an idea.”

“Yeah, not a very good one.”

And I couldn’t not say anything. It’s not like Brendan was going to stand up for himself.

“Do you have any ideas, Thomas?” I asked in my sweetest voice.

“I’m still thinking,” he replied.

“Okay, well I don’t think it’s productive to shoot down ideas when we don’t have any of our own,” I pointed out.

“I agree,” Mike said.

Imagine Mike agreeing with me! When has that ever happened? He turned to me and nodded, like I’d done something good.

Paige immediately messaged me saying, “Lol, awkward.”

You’re telling me!

It didn’t help that all of our projects were off schedule and delayed (mostly due to construction, but for multiple different reasons) and Mike was always in a rage. The following Monday morning, he sent a nasty email to some of us asking about the delays. I got up and marched right into Paige’s office to discuss.

“Someone woke up in a bad mood,” she said.

“He’s literally going to hurt himself getting this riled up so early,” I said.

Paige laughed. “I know. I have to agree with him about this one though, the construction either has to get on schedule or we need to think about finding additional partners to work with.”

“We would run into this issue no matter who we work with though. The issue is getting fixtures and supplies,” I pointed out.

“Well, I talked to Thomas last week and he said that Brendan has been making him get approval for literally everything he does so it takes longer.”

Oh, really? Is that why Thomas was suddenly acting like a spoiled child? But judging by all the chaos he causes with his mistakes, I can’t really blame Brendan for micromanaging him.

“I mean, it is his company so…”

Paige shrugged and put up her palms like she didn’t want to get involved. “I don’t know, but if they can’t figure it out, I’m going to recommend alternatives.” And then to my shock and horror, she added, “I know you and Brendan have your thing going on…sleeping together or whatever.”

Sleeping together? What? Who would say that? I mean, it wasn’t exactly inaccurate, but it sounded so…sleazy. I was too surprised to say anything at first, but then duh, she’d been talking to that slimeball so of course.

“Did Thomas tell you that?” I asked.

“No, Mike told me.”

Mike? Mike was gossiping? And how did he know about Brendan and me? From my vague drunken speech at dinner in Chicago? And he was confident enough about that to go telling people?

“I don’t know why Mike would tell you that,” I said. And then because I felt really exposed and awkward, I got the fuck out of there.

As much as I wanted to confront Mike about gossiping about me, with all of his recent rants, I didn’t think it was a good idea. And anyway, Brendan texted me in the afternoon wanting to hang out later so I’d just ask him. Maybe he would know why his bestie Mike was running his mouth. I wasn’t mad (at least I didn’t think I was mad), I just felt weirded out that Mike knew about me and Brendan and hadn’t talked to me about it.

Brendan bounded over to my apartment a few hours later and by then I’d worked myself into a bit of a state. I couldn’t stop thinking about Paige saying, “sleeping together.” It hit me the same way the “slutty single mom” thing did — it was just so degrading.

“Aww, I missed you,” Brendan said, scooping me up into one of his big bear hugs.

“Literally same,” I said back. He looked cute in his head to toe athleisure and baseball hat and even with the hat on I could see that he’d gotten some sun on his face during his fishing trip. I was ready to climb him and love all over him, but I needed to get to the bottom of something first. “Did you tell Mike about us?”

We’d barely even pulled away and Brendan kept my hands in his. “Yes, I did.”

“What?” I hadn’t expected that answer — especially with a big smile still on his face. “Why would you tell him?”

“Huh? I just wanted him to hear it from me. Is that not okay?” Brendan said.

No!” I exclaimed. I tried to stay calm. “Why would that be okay? He’s my boss, Brendan!”

Poor Brendan looked genuinely confused. “I figured he’d find out anyway. I told him months ago. I didn’t think it was a big deal, he doesn’t care.”

“It’s a huge deal! Because now he’s telling people and it’s weird and embarrassing!” I explained.

“Embarrassing?”

“And what did you tell him anyway?” I went on. “That we’re ‘sleeping together’? It’s not like we’ve ever really talked about what we are so I can’t even imagine what you would’ve told him months ago.”

“I didn’t tell him that!” Brendan said, becoming visibly upset with the conversation and finally letting go of my hands.

“You shouldn’t have told him anything! I don’t get why you’re telling everyone — it’s unprofessional and it looks bad!”

“Why does it look bad?”

Had this dude never had an affair with someone at work??

“Because it looks bad! I don’t want everyone knowing our business, especially because I know they’ll be really judgemental about this,” I said.

“Why do you think anyone would judge or even care?” he asked.

“I don’t know, Brendan, maybe because you were married not that long ago and everyone knows and probably thinks I’m a homewrecker now. And Mike cared enough to tell Paige and I’m sure she’s told everyone in the office!”

“Wow. I didn’t know you felt like that.”

I could tell then that he was very, very upset with everything I’d said so I needed to backtrack. It probably would’ve been fine if I hadn’t brought up his marriage since that’s such a sensitive subject for him. He turned away from me like he was going to leave.

“Brendan.” Really? I’ve always praised him for being so mature and able to talk about his feelings, but here he was acting like a baby.

“No!” he said with finality and stormed out.

Standard

spiraling single mom.

The following week, Paige continued bossing me around like I was her assistant or something. She started sending me things she wanted me to do with no context (big pet peeve) and leaving papers in my office with a sticky note asking me to complete it. So she was on the top of my extensively long shit list.

The only bright spot was that I’d finally gotten Winnie into a cute little boutique daycare where she’ll be going part-time. Honestly, thank God. It’s hard to get anything done being home with her all day plus Winnie is such a social child and she needed some friends. You won’t believe this, but Brady’s mom helped us get in. I haven’t spoken to that woman in months and months, but Brady got the information and contact from her. So thanks, I guess.

Mike called me in his office so he could interrogate me about a bunch of our projects. After that, I complained about Paige and made him tell me what each of our roles were. He gave a typical man answer (a manswer, if you will).

“Your role is to work together to make sure all of our projects are completed on time and to 100% standard,” he said.

“Yeah, but what are our specific tasks?” I asked.

Mike rolled his eyes at me. “I’ll have Paige set up some time with you to discuss that. I’m not going to get involved in the minutia,” he said.

Of course. And do you think Paige ever reached out for that meeting? She always claimed to be sO bUsY and frequently misses our regularly scheduled touch bases. She, for some reason, started being overly nice to me though and would chat with me to complain about work and Mike and would make eye contact with me to roll her eyes when he started acting crazy in meetings.

Brendan came over to hang out with me and Winnie on Friday night. The two of them whipped up dinner while I minded my business on the couch with a glass of wine. Winnie put on the whole helpless girl act and pretended she was clueless in the kitchen even though we’re in there together ever night. She pretended she couldn’t get off her step stool so Brendan had to pick her up and let her down. And I totally shouldn’t have found it as cute and amusing as I did — she’s just like me! We’ll address the possible manipulation at a later date.

Brendan would be spending the rest of the weekend in Pennsylvania because his sister was graduating. Winnie and I headed for Brady’s the next morning and I stopped at Starbucks to get snacks and drinks for us and a coffee for Brady. I literally can’t believe how nice I am to him after everything that’s gone down.

“You must need something,” Brady said when I handed him his coffee.

“Excuse me? I don’t need anything from you. I’m just being nice. But if that’s going to be an issue with you then I won’t,” I said with an attitude. I guess he couldn’t believe it either.

“No, it’s not an issue. I’m just surprised, I guess,” he said.

When he said that I felt kind of bad. Yes, he’s a complete asshole, but we’ve been getting along so well lately that I didn’t want to ruin it. On Mother’s Day when Brady took Winnie to the baseball game, he sent me a ton of pictures and we had basically been texting everyday since then. Mostly about Winnie and her new daycare, but I also complained to him about Paige and Mike.

“Anyway. Winnie has been concerned about her flowers all week so we’re gonna go check on them,” I said.

The three of us spent the majority of the day in the backyard with all the plants and toys. At one point, I went inside and made myself a mimosa (had to get through the day somehow) and came back outside.

“Oh, nothing for me?” Brady asked playfully.

“Ughh,” I rolled my eyes and handed him the mimosa and went back in to make another.

Winnie and Brady are so cute, I must admit, and I’m obsessed with watching them together. It’s hard to imagine that the gentle dad who was patiently following her around the yard and helping her down the slide into the paddling pool was the same man who yelled at me and threatened to bankrupt me in court. I couldn’t think about that for too long or I’d be ready to fight him again.

Eventually Winnie was cranky and ready for a much needed nap which was my cue to leave. I wasted time trying to sober up while Brady put her down because after three or four mimosas, I was feeling toasty. He came back and was complaining about how she refused to sleep unless he sang to her. Like, a song.

“Wait,” I said as I pulled up my phone camera and tried not to laugh/cry. “What song is that? Sing it again.”

Brady started singing again (imagine Brady singing!!!!) and I discreetly recorded. I only got like half a second of footage until he stopped and I was keeled over on the floor in tears by then.

“I’m dead!” I squealed. “I’ve never heard you sing before!”

“Delete that now,” Brady said, smiling.

“Literally no. That made my week. I’m sending it out to everyone I know.”

“Don’t!” he said and tried to grab my phone from my hand. I snatched it away before he could get to it.

He chased me around the kitchen island for a little bit trying to get my phone from me then I ran toward the dining room and Brady grabbed the back of my shirt really hard and I heard a big rip.

“I’m sorry,” Brady said immediately.

What the fuck? I reached around, trying to assess the damage. “Did you actually rip my shirt?”

“Uh, it isn’t that bad,” he said.

I stormed past him to the full length hallway mirror and saw that the strap from my top was indeed splitting from the rest of the fabric. A tailor could probably fix it, but who has time to go to a tailor??

“I can get you a new one,” Brady said as he joined me in the mirror.

I glared at him. “The designer doesn’t make this top anymore so that would be impossible.”

“Oh. Can you get it fixed?”

“I don’t know, Brady, I’ll need to check. Maybe next time don’t grab me so violently.”

“Ugh, I’m sorry,” he said, starting to get aggravated at me. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

I ignored him and gathered my things to leave. Now he was on my shit list too right under Paige.

On Sunday, I sat around and did nothing except troll through Instagram. Brendan had called and texted a few times throughout the day to check in and see what I was up to and ask if I wanted to hang out with him and his family for MDW. He wouldn’t be back in the city until way later since he was helping move his sister back. And confession: I’d been stalking his ex’s Instagram (why yes, I did create a Finsta so I could watch my boyfriend’s ex wife’s Instagram stories) to see if she was at the graduation as well. On Sunday afternoon, she posted pictures with Danielle in her cap and gown, confirming my suspicions.

Omg, so they were all together? As far as I understood, they hadn’t seen each other at all since the divorce. She posted pictures with Danielle and with Danielle and what I assume are her parents and with Brendan’s parents. Brendan himself was nowhere in sight. I kind of thought she might post a picture of him with a broken heart emoji like she used to, but nope. And then as I was tapping through watching her videos and Boomerangs of all the festivities going on and I spotted Kendall. Kendall!? She posted a Boomerang of him opening a champagne bottle. There was so much going on. Why was Kendall there? Where was Brendan? He was probably like a foot away. Were they talking? Should I be worried? Was he dumb enough to go back to the girl who cheated on him and played with his mind?

I got even more concerned when Brendan sent me a short text at the end of the night saying he was tired and going to bed. He wasn’t even going to call me? He always calls me before bed. In my mind, he was definitely with her. They’d rekindled things or were at least trying and he was going to break the news to me in person at lunch the next day.

When I woke up, I had 26 new emails that had come in overnight, mostly from Mike and Paige, forwarding things along for me to fix and figure out. I groaned as I scrolled through them. Why the fuck were they both sending emails between ten PM and six AM? In Bethenney Frankel’s words: GO TO SLEEP!

I got up and ready and headed into the office. The day was super busy, of course, since I was in charge of putting out everyone’s fires. Paige sent me a message that said, “He’s at it again,” and it’s like, girl, you are too!

It didn’t even occur to me that I hadn’t heard from Brendan all day until he texted me in the afternoon. He sent a video of his parents’ dog “speaking” on command. I guess to show Winnie since he was telling her about the dog and showing her pictures last time we all hung out. And it’s like, who gives a fuck, what about your ex-wife??

“Cutie❤️” I said back and then he didn’t reply.

Cool. Great talk.

Later that night, I noticed that Brendan’s Instagram miraculously popped back up and he posted a picture with Danielle with a long caption about how proud he was of her for finishing school. Interesting timing. Suddenly after seeing his ex he was back on Instagram where all of their pictures and sappy love letters were still posted? And why did he have time to write a thesis on Instagram, but hadn’t even bothered to call or text me? I was ready to kill him and wished I’d never gotten caught up in their entanglement.

“You okay?” Brendan finally texted me as I was laying in bed.

Really? Didn’t I tell him to stop saying that to me? And no, I wasn’t okay, I was spiraling and it was his fault!

“Just fine,” I said back.

“Wanna come over?” he said.

And now he was trying to booty call me?? I was mentally adding him to my shit list right between Brady and Paige.

“No, it’s late and I’m in bed,” I said.

Brendan said, “Okay. Miss you.”

He was probably thinking, “That’s never stopped you before,” because I used to always go hook up with him late at night. But I’ve grown from being that girl.

The next morning Brady dropped Winnie off. I went downstairs to wait for them and I’m not gonna lie, I was in the mood to be mean to Brady. He did rip my shirt, after all.

“Good morning to Winnie and literally no one else,” I greeted them.

“Good morning to you too, Reese,” Brady said over his shoulder.

“Whatever,” I scoffed and flipped my hair at him.

“You’re still mad at me?” he said.

“I don’t have the time or energy to be mad at you. And I don’t care if you have a good morning or not, so…”

Brady laughed. “Jeez, okay.”

I spun around to storm away and Brady called me back. I’d made sure that we had Winnie’s bag so what did he want now?

“What, Brady?” I said, sounding impatient.

He launched a bag at me hard, aiming for my face I think, but I caught it.

“The fuck? What is this?” I asked.

The asshole drove off. I typed a text to him as we all walked back into the building.

“If that would’ve hit me you’d be paying for my rhinoplasty and facial reconstruction surgery, you dweeb.”

But then when we got upstairs, I saw that in the bag was a top NWT from Intermix, that was the same designer as the one he ripped. Not the same style, but similar enough. Now I really wanted to kill him because how did he do that? How did he know? And why was it kind of cute?

I sent him another message, this one more sweet and affectionate than the last: “You’re so annoying.”

I spent the day running “errands” aka moving things from site to site. Sometimes if you want something done, you have to just do it yourself! A ton of projects were delayed because the crew couldn’t figure out logistics — if something they needed was at point A they had no idea how to get it to point B. I just started grabbing shit and loading it in the back of my car.

“Oh damn, do you want me to carry that for you?” one of the adorable 22-year-old workers asked as I teetered around with a big, loud box filled with metal. 

“No!” I screamed at him. If he wanted to help, he would’ve helped before!

“You want lunch?” Brendan texted me as I arrived at my third stop of the day.

Ugh. Obviously yes, I wanted lunch and to finally find out what was up, but there was no way I’d be able to since I was in the absolute trenches. I sent him a message explaining that and he was like, “Cool, fine, sorry you’re doing all that.”

When I got back to the office though, I ran into him and Thomas in the downstairs lobby.

“Oh hey! Good to see you guys!” I said.

Brendan stepped forward and pulled me into a big hug, one that could not be passed off as platonic. When he let go of me, I tried to like, push him away, but he held onto my hands.

“Okay, text you later, bye!” I said, removing myself from his grips. We were going to need to talk about his out of control PDA, among other things.

I was relieved later when he invited himself over to hang out with Winnie and me. Perfect. From the way he was acting, I didn’t really get the vibe that he was talking to his ex again, but I was still dying for more information.

So I made him tell me about the weekend and Danielle (Brendan lovesss his sister which is so perplexing to me because she’s not even nice or fun) and the graduation. He’s really excited that she’s living in the city again and he will get to see her more often. So then I had to pretend to care about Danielle a little bit before innocently (y’all know me) asking who was at the graduation. He rattled off some names of their family, Kendall, and then his ex-wife. I barely even let him finish.

Really? And what did she have to say?” I asked, feigning surprise.

“Nothing to me,” Brendan said. “Her dad said hi, but that was it. So it was kinda weird.”

“Oh.” Nothing at all? That’s so rude. You know what doesn’t make sense to me? How Brendan is super close with his sister who is super close with his ex-wife. If the ex is as terrible as everyone is making her out to seem then how can his sister continue being besties with her? Something is not adding up. But I knew better than to ask questions because the last time I brought up his ex-wife, it exploded in my face.

So Brendan changed the subject and started talking to me about his family’s Memorial Day cabin jaunt and how we’d be able to go out on the lake and did I want to bring anyone and etc. And I love Brendan so much, but he’s going to have to understand that I am not into lakes or nature or the wilderness. I would get in that outdoor hot tub with a glass of Pinot Grigio, but that was it.

We were good after that. Busy, but good. Brendan continued complaining about Thomas, who was being a little menace. Thomas would take Brendan off email chains (petty) to try to do things without him and I would add him right back in. Don’t try it with my boo!

We took Winnie to (early) dinner on Friday night — Brendan was going to help Danielle build a desk or something, but promised to come back and spend the night with me later. I totally expected him to cancel or flake because he was tired, but he was true to his word and came back and snuggled with me. The next morning we woke up to fool around (basically just touch each other everywhere) and talk about where we wanted to go for dinner later (2 dinners in a week? A rare treat!). Winnie screamed in the other room. Sometimes Winnie wakes up and screams at the absolute top of her lungs and she’s fine and it’s fine, I explained. 

“Oh my god, that freaked me out,” Brendan said and I laughed. Time to get up! Baby was ready to see her daddy.

A while later, Winnie and I were back at ole Brady’s. I hung out with them for a while and pretended to still be mad about him ripping my shirt and nearly taking my eye out with the new one.

At one point he made a big show of stepping aside so I could walk past him and I said, “Oh, are you not trying to rip my clothes off today?” I didn’t even realize the innuendo until it was out of my mouth.

“Not unless you want me to,” Brady said back with a smile.

I had to turn my head because I was smiling too. Excuse me?

“No I don’t,” I said, not facing him. “But you can keep buying me a new wardrobe if you want.”

I got the hell out of there soon after that.

Brendan and I got dinner later that night before we were meeting Kendall and his other two friends nearby. I texted Kristina to join us, but not Lola because I wasn’t ready for her to scare Brennie off yet. My outfit for the night was a skort with a long sleeved bodysuit and platform, chunky heels. On the walk over, I kept reminding myself that I couldn’t ask Kendall about the graduation or the ex-wife because you know that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Nope, I was not going to bring that up at all!

We hung out around the fire pit of this third floor rooftop. Kristina was like, “Omigawd, heyyy Brendan, imagine seeing you here!” We ordered a bottle of rosé and she was complaining about how she’s getting old and now she’s ready to get engaged to Garrett. Mind you, she’s like 28 and has only been with this dude for a few months. But she insisted she’s ready to start popping out kids so she and Garrett needed to get a move on. It reminded me of Carly, who was so quick to get married to Chris, but then once the commitment hit her she started messaging guys on Tinder. But that’s none of my business.

Kendall was telling me about this girl he’s been talking to and how she might meet up with us later. I’m just gonna say it. Kendall is so hot. He’s like if the actor Michael B. Jordan and Trevor Noah had a hot, muscular love child. And he’s really touchy-feely — not in a sexual way, but in like, a European way (he’s not European). He’s so nice. He greeted me by saying, “There’s my girl!” and gave me a big hug and I was like, aww, I didn’t know I was his girl! I think he works as a personal trainer or physical therapist or something involving other people’s bodies. That’s where he met this new girl.

“So…not Danielle?” I said, half joking.

Kendall laughed at me and put his arms around me and I’m sure I don’t need to mention that he smells really nice. I was really going to need sexy Kendall to stop trying to make me fall in love with him.

The boys went off to play cornhole (I refuse to play a game with such a name) and Kristina and I sat there double fisting rosé and aperol spritzes. She was telling me about her freelance jobs and I was just nodding, feeling myself getting tipsy.

Kendall’s girl arrived and she was hot and exuded sexual energy in a way that made me wonder if I wanted to sleep with her too. She had big, shiny curly hair and clearly does a lot of Pilates or something because her arms were incred. And we’re around the same height, but somehow her legs went on forever and she was wearing Vans! Sorry, but Danielle has nothing on her. My bad. Her name is Cassidy and I was immediately obsessed with her. I would even forgive her for only being 25.

Later on, I squeezed next to Kendall in one of the Adirondack chairs.

“Okay, I approve,” I told him.

“She’s cool, right?” he said back, proudly. And then he was telling me that they weren’t official, they hadn’t even really gone on a date yet and were mostly just having sex. Honestly, that somehow made them both hotter. 

We got up to go to the bar and finally being alone and away from Brendan, I said, “You have to tell me about the graduation.”

“Danielle’s?” he seemed completely unsurprised about my line of questioning and was stalling.

“Yes. Brendan said his ex-wife was there.”

“Yeah.”

“Did she say anything to you? Was it awkward?” I practically jumped down his throat and I’m surprised he was even entertaining me after last time.

“Kind of, yeah,” Kendall said and then thought about it. “Actually yeah. At least she was.”

“Tell me everything,” I demanded.

He hesitated before saying, “This is between us, right?”

I mean, probably not, but I nodded. “Duh.”

“She cried to Danielle and me because seeing him was harder than she expected. Like, a full on meltdown.”

“The nerve!” 

“I know, I just walked away. That’s all on her,” he said.

“Ugh. Did Brendan say it was hard seeing her? Do you think they’ll try to work things out??”

Kendall laughed. “Absolutely not. She came in so hot before that. You wanna know one of the first thing she said to me?”

“Yes I do!”

“She said, ‘Is Brendan seeing that slutty single mom’?”

“Kendall.”

“I know. I assume she was talking about you, I don’t know who else she would be talking about.”

Of course she was talking about me! Who else fits that description besides me? And I guess maybe it was kind of accurate, but it was still mean. I said, “Oh, she’s nasty.”

“Yeah, sorry. See what I mean though? I shouldn’t have told you any of that and Brendan doesn’t know so don’t say anything,” Kendall said.

“My lips are sealed,” I said, unenthusiastically. 

I told myself I wasn’t going to let the comment ruin my night because who is Brendan’s ex-wife in this world? *Yolanda Foster-Hadid voice*

You know it ruined my night though.

Standard

clearly this was his fault.

Honestly, I was so surprised at how well Brady and I were getting along and handling our custody arrangement. Drop-offs were becoming seamless and we even went from cordially saying hello and goodbye to actually chatting and joking around with each other. Brady stopped getting out of the car and just waited for me to come get Winnie out which I obviously gave him shit for and then Eddie, one of the doormen, started waiting outside so he could open the doors for us and Brady said with a smirk, “Somehow you always find a man to do things for you.”

“Oh, shut up,” I said because what was that supposed to mean?

But then the next week, he and Winnie stopped for breakfast and he actually brought me something as well so he was feeding (no pun intended) right into what he was accusing me of. Whatever!

Meanwhile, Brendan was busy hanging out with his family and traveling with his friends so we didn’t see each other for a few weeks. He was going to Maine with his dad and uncle and to see his sister in Pennsylvania and going fishing with some other friends etc etc etc. It was completely fine though because Lola wanted to drink and get brunch and I invited Kristina (who I had been unintentionally ignoring for the past twelve several months) to tag along with us.

We met up in Lola’s hood (East Village, where she and Kellen are living together) and went to this tiny little garden spot.

“Ohmigosh, Garrett would love this place! It’s so cute!” Kristina squealed.

We were like, “Who’s Garrett?”

And she told us about her investment banker boyfriend, Garrett, who she met on Hinge. They’ve only been together for a few months — which is a long time for K — and are “getting serious.” Meaning, he’s actually taking her out on dates before midnight. He’s super busy, as investment bankers are, she explained. Me and Lola exchanged a look because that didn’t sound right.

“So guess what?” I said, mostly to Kristina.

“What?” they asked.

“Me and Brendan…I think we’re like, dating,” I said.

Kristina gasped and squealed and gushed about how long she had been waiting for this to happen.

“It was only a matter of time,” she said. “What happened with his wife?”

So I got into all the details about Brendan and Brady while Lola watched me with raised eyebrows. Kristina would interject every so often: “I mean, he never talked about her, I’m not surprised they were on the rocks,” “I feel like he was always obsessed with you,” and “Lola, you should’ve seen them. They used to sit in the corner and act like no one else existed.”

Eventually, Lola said, “Okay, let me see this dude.”

So I pulled up a picture of Brendan (screenshotted from Instagram because his still seems to be out of service) and showed the girls.

“Cute,” Lola said, “but he looks like he’s going to try to sell me cryptocurrency.”

Kristina laughed and I put my phone away with a huff because Brendan actually is kind of into cryptocurrency.

“But anyway, yeah. Things are good,” I said.

“I’m happy for you. We have to do a double date!” Kristina said and then added, “A triple date!”

“I don’t do that shit,” Lola said.

We all laughed and clinked our glasses. After we ate and had mimosas, we walked to Aritzia and it was packed to the brim with girls who looked like they’re probably famous on TikTok. I went around pointing out things for K and Lola to try on, but then when we saw that the line for the fitting rooms was out the door we took our stuff to the register and got the fuck outta there.

I got back to my apartment with my big bag of clothes and the hot guy I met in the elevator was at the front desk talking. He turned around to leave as I was walking in and said, “Hey Reese.”

“Hey, how are you?” I said back automatically. We passed each other and I turned around and said, “What’s your name, by the way?”

He turned around and smiled at me. “I’m Theo.”

Theo! What an adorable name!

“Cute,” I said.

He smirked. “Thanks.” I turned to leave and Theo added, “Hey, we’re having a little party on the roof later. Like 8. Feel free to stop by.”

“K,” I said. My building has a not fully fleshed-out rooftop deck (there’s a few strands of string lights with blown out bulbs and some rickety picnic tables). I was absolutely not planning on going to Theo’s little shindig, but Lola texted me asking what we were doing that night. So rooftop party it was, I guess. I changed into one of my new tops from Aritzia with my favorite Agolde jeans and packed a sparkly bag by Cult Gaia. Lola came over and we made drinks before heading upstairs.

A couple hours later, we were up on the roof doing shotskis with Theo and his 25 year old friends. I guess I didn’t realize it was that kind of party. The 25 year olds were all from Long Island, fast-talking bankers, and super intrigued by Lola and me. Well, mainly Lola because she looks like Goth Barbie and was unimpressed with all of their talk of recreational drugs. They were all coked out, she informed me.

“Yeah and I was at Coachella, tripping on acid and…”

Lola rolled her eyes and dug around in her purse looking for a cig.

We were sitting on a splintery bench between Theo and his friend, Patrick, who was equally as tall and hot as Theo, and across from some of the other dudes.

Patrick was firing off questions at me.

“Do you prefer cats or dogs?” he asked. 

“Dogs,” I replied. 

“Summer or winter?”

“Fall.”

“Do you sleep with socks on or off?”

“On.”

“Naked or in pajamas?”

“Naked.”

“Do you masturbate in bed or in the shower?”

“At my desk at work.”

I was barely paying attention to him as I watched everyone else at the party.

“Spit or swallow?”

Really?

My phone started ringing in my lap and I saw that it was Brendan calling. What timing! It’s like he knew exactly what I was doing. I sent him to voicemail and then turned to Lola.

“Should we get the fuck out of here?”

“Yeah, let’s go to the bar downstairs,” she said.

The following Tuesday, Brady dropped Winnie off in the morning. He looked cute in glasses and smirked as Eddie and I got to the car to get the baby.

“Nice shoes,” Brady said.

I kicked up my foot. “Oh my gawd, you like?” I was shocked that Brady even noticed my new $900 shoes, let alone complimented them.

“No,” he laughed as he shook his head.

He’s such an asshole.

“Well, that’s too bad because you bought them!” I said snarkily. It wasn’t entirely true, but according to my dad, he was supposed to be sending money monthly for Winnie’s “expenses” and I was happy to pretend I was spending it frivolously.

I spun around to storm off, but then Brady called me back because I’d forgotten Winnie’s overnight bag.

“Thanks!” I said sarcastically as I snatched it from him through the window.

“You’re welcome,” he said back just as sarcastically.

Daddy! Bye, Daddy!!” the baby waved.

Upstairs, I got Winnie settled with a juice and the iPad and then started working. I had a couple calls and then Paige forwarded me an email.

“Reese, please see below. Can you please go to these two sites? Mike wants pictures and feedback by end of day. Can you also mount the floorplans the team worked on and leave them on my desk? I need them for a meeting in the morning. Thanks. P.”

Wait. Was this bitch serious? She knew I was working from home because of the baby so how did she expect me to run all these errands like an intern? While I was rereading her email, I got another one from Mike.

“Paige told me you’d be visiting these two sites today. Can you also stop by [a third site that is an active construction zone] and give me an ETA on the floors and tile? Haven’t been able to get a clear answer.”

I was typing back a message to Mike letting him know that none of this would be possible but then Paige forwarded me another message about how a vendor was trying, unsuccessfully, to deliver to another site.

Okay, what the fuck? Why was everything falling apart today and why couldn’t anyone else figure anything out?

I sent Paige a text politely reminding her that I had the baby — who wasn’t starting her daycare for another few weeks — so I wouldn’t be able to run around to all these sites at the moment.

She said, “I’m not sure what to tell you. This is your job and if you want a job, you should probably prioritize it.”

Ughhhhhh!” I screamed.

Winnie didn’t even look over as she sat on the couch dancing. Paige was being such a bitch, unnecessarily. I’d already explained my situation to Mike and he agreed that I’d be home Tuesday through Friday for the time being. And now even he was acting like he forgot.

So I had to disrupt Winnie’s dance party, pack her up in the car and drive her all the way to Connecticut to the sitter. Then I rushed around the city, taking pictures and arguing with delivery men and coaxing construction crews to work faster and etc etc etc. I got back to the office just before 4 and it was dead. I knew Mike had probably gone home for the day, but where the fuck was Paige? Surely she hadn’t dipped out that early after sending me to hell and back all day.

Unable to help myself, I sent her a message saying, “Headed to the office. Are you still there?”

“No, I’m WFH today,” she said.

Seriously? She’s so fucking lazy.

Brendan called while I was driving back from Connecticut and I was so frustrated by the day that I just started crying. Plus, he was in Miami for the week and it had been a couple weeks since we’d seen each other. Even though we talked on the phone almost every night, it wasn’t the same and I just wanted him to be there to comfort me.

“Mom?” Winnie called from the backseat. She exclusively calls me, “Mommy,” so I really needed to get my shit together.

Speaking of which, it didn’t occur to me that Sunday was Mother’s Day until Friday evening. I sent Brady a polite text asking to please keep Winnie through Sunday so we could spend the day together. We could have a bougie spa day or go shopping in New Jersey or something. I don’t know. I just thought it’d be nice to spend the day with my baby. I figured it would be a no-brainer. It’s not like the schedule was set in stone. 

Brady replied, “No, we already have plans.”

Uh, really? What fucking plans did they have? And now that he knew it was Mother’s Day and I wanted to spend it with my child, couldn’t he cancel or reschedule? I mean, that would be the human thing to do. I absolutely wasn’t above guilt tripping him so I sat there trying to draft up something good.

Then he added, “Sorry.”

He sure fucking seemed sorry! I cracked my knuckles to tell him exactly this, but Brendan called. He was back in the city and offered to come by and see us. I felt oddly relieved that he was coming and suddenly relaxed and calm. He always just makes me feel better. Winnie and I ran around lighting candles to set the mood and then sat on the couch to wait for our man.

The three of us played in the living room for a bit until I put Winnie to bed (with zero issue because I’d let her stay up past her bedtime and she could barely keep her eyes open anyway). Then I poured two glasses of wine and demanded Brendan tell me how much fun he didn’t have without me over the week. He was telling me about meetings with Thomas and Yesenia and how he and Thomas have been kind of butting heads lately because Thomas has started slacking and in general just being defiant. It always makes me sad when Brendan is having issues with Thomas because I know they are good friends and I think it would be really hard if Thomas left the company. I wish he would pull himself together though. I feel like he’s putting Brendan through it every few months.

He told me that he had to get up really early in the morning because he was doing something with Kendall and I tried not to scream because I thought he was going to leave already. Why didn’t he want to hang out with me? But then we finished our wine and he made no movement to leave. So we went to my room.

Okay, I know I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m going to anyway. Sex with Brendan is so different than with mainly Brady, but also everyone. With Brady, it sometimes seemed like sex was the only thing we connected on. It was like our relationships in bed and out of bed were so different and had nothing to do with each other. Whereas with Brendan, it’s like an extension of our relationship. The way he makes me feel in our relationship — comfortable and safe and loved — is exactly how he is in bed. I don’t really know how to explain it. He takes his time and is intentional, not just racing to get off, you know? It’s just the way he — no matter what position we’re in — puts his arm under me to support me and finds my hand so he can hold it and kisses me everywhere he can. It just feels really intimate.

Anyway.

Brendan’s alarm went off right as the sun was coming up.

“Ew, turn it off,” I groaned. But actually, I did need to get up because Winnie knew she was going to her dad’s so she’d be up and ready to go soon. And I needed to get Brendan out before she saw him.

“Are you doing anything later? I might be around. We could get dinner or something,” Brendan said.

“Hmm.” Besides dropping Winnie off and getting my crusty nails done, I didn’t have a single plan. But I needed to at least pretend I had a life outside of him. “Yeah, maybe.”

A bit later, we pulled up to Brady’s. Usually I stay for a bit (I don’t just drop the baby off and flee like Brady does).

“So what plans do you have tomorrow?” I asked bitchily.

“Very important plans,” he said back.

“Oh, I’m so sure. You’re probably just going to see your mom,” I said.

Brady smiled all smugly. “Nope. We’re going to a baseball game.”

“Oh.” See? Always doing fun stuff without me. Not that I’m into sports or anything, but Winnie was going to love it and I wanted to be there. “What a convenient day to decide to go to a baseball game.”

“What? I always have her on Sundays. I didn’t know you’d want her on Mother’s Day,” Brady said.

“Really? Why wouldn’t I? You could’ve asked me, you know.”

“Ugh, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about it.” I could tell her was getting defensive which obviously made me want to egg him some more.

“Well if you’d think about someone other than yourself you would’ve thought about it!” I said.

Brady smirked, not taking me seriously. “I think about you as much as you think about me.”

“So literally never?” I said back.

“Exactly,” he said and then he put his hand on my shoulder and kind of pushed me playfully.

The fuck? Naturally, out of pure reflex, I pushed him away from me with both hands. “Don’t fucking touch me!”

“Okay.” Brady put his hand in his pocket.

“Okay, I’m leaving,” I said.

“All right,” he said. “I was going to suggest you stay and hang out with her today instead. Since we have plans tomorrow…”

Oh my God. So I screamed at him for not giving me that option before I drove all the way to Connecticut. He let me berate him for a little while before putting up his hands and saying, “Nevermind. Forget about it then.”

“No, I’m going to take her for manicures,” I said and walked off.

And so I went to round up Winnie and when I came back to tell Brady we were leaving, he was still standing there with his hand in his pocket looking all sad.

I rolled my eyes. “Did you want to come with us?”

“Sure,” he said back with no hesitation.

And I should’ve known better than to invite him to our mom/baby outing because with Brady around, Winnie wanted nothing to do with me and treated me like I was the guest. She refused to leave his side or walk on her own. She made him sit in the manicure chair while she got her nails done so she could sit on his lap. We stopped for coffee/tea/Frappuccino and she didn’t even want it unless Brady gave it to her. I glared at him because clearly this was his fault; whatever he was doing during the weekends was making her a brat. So I regretted inviting him.

I didn’t hear from Brendan until later that evening and he let me know that he was too tired to hang out, but would be available tomorrow after plans with his family. I’m just not used to dating someone who is so much busier than me. It was completely fine though because I was three years into Nick from Chicago’s wife’s Instagram and I was very entertained by that.

Standard

my child is me.

After Brady and Winnie left and then my dad left, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I haven’t lived alone in so long. I tidied a bit, stared out the window and then placed a very, very large grocery order. I changed into a matching set by Skims, threw a shacket over it and headed down to get my food. I chatted with the doorman, Vito, for a bit (I’ve obviously gotten to know the door staff and I love them all) before he put me and my one zillion bags in an elevator. At the last minute, he put his hand between the doors to stop them from closing.

“You’re the man,” a very deep voice said and when the doors opened back up, a gorgeous giant was standing there with Vito. This dude was hot. He was tall, even taller than Brendan, with big shoulders and sexy wavy, dark hair. Dimples. Hello.

“Whoa,” he said when he saw the elevator full of my shit. He was so loud. “Any room for me?”

“Plenty of room. Reese doesn’t bite,” Vito said and then waved us off.

“You must’ve just moved in,” the guy said.

“Did my massive grocery haul give it away?” I said back.

“Yeah and I guess I haven’t seen you before. Where are you coming from?”

“Everywhere,” I said. “Most recently Connecticut, but I’m from Texas.”

The huge hottie smirked at me. “I thought I heard an accent.”

“I do not have an accent.” I literally don’t. But I felt my cheeks straining from trying not to smile because clearly he was just trying to flirt with me.

We stopped on his floor and he said, “Are you gonna need a hand with all that?”

And a gentleman too!

“Thanks, but I’ve got it. It’ll teach me not to buy out the entirety of the grocery store next time,” I said.

He smiled at me again. He was so hot. “Gotcha. I’ll see ya around, Reese.”

I could not fucking wait to talk to Vito to get the scoop on this guy because who the hell was that?

I managed to drag my loot to my apartment and as I was standing there in the foyer, wondering where to begin, my phone vibrated. When I pulled it out of my waistband I saw that it was Brendan. He must have sensed that I was flirting with my hot new neighbor.

“Hi Brendan,” I answered.

Hey,” he said. “How are you?”

“No complaints except I spent $600 on groceries and now I have to put it all away,” I said.

Brendan laughed. “Do you want me to come help you?”

I made a McKayla Maroney face. Did I want him to come help? Obviously. But like. I don’t know. He hadn’t talked to me in a week and now he was going to come over like it was normal?

“Actually yes,” I said. “That would be nice.”

Brendan said he’d be right over — he’d just gotten home from running errands and seeing his parents. Did I mention that Brendan and I live less than 20 blocks from each other now? It wasn’t intentional, but it’s quite convenient.

I called Vito to ask him to let Brendan up, freshened up and then I started putting the frozen food away. By the time there was a knock on my door twenty minutes later, almost everything was organized and put away.

Brendan smothered me in a hug as soon as I let him in. It’s like, did you miss me? Whose fault is that? He pulled away and kept his hands on my chin and we just stared at each other. He was wearing a baseball hat pulled low and a fitted tee.

“Hiii, Brendan,” I said.

He grinned and scooped me up in a hug again. Ugh, okay. I guess I missed him too. We haven’t gone that long without talking since…I guess since we first started hooking up.

“You okay?” Brendan asked when we pulled away.

“Yes. Are you?” I said.

“I guess so. What was wrong yesterday?”

Oh, yeah. When I’d spent the entire meeting on the verge of tears. That seemed like forever ago now that it was all resolved! I didn’t even want to get back into it.

“Nothing. It’s fine now,” I said.

Brendan wasn’t about to pry so he grabbed my shoulders and kissed me on the cheek. “Okay, I’m glad.”

“What about you? What’s been wrong the past week?” I said. I couldn’t not ask.

“Yeah…I guess I owe you an explanation, don’t I?” he said.

“Yes.”

Brendan held onto my hands in front of us and his face got all serious under his hat. “Okay, well. I wasn’t mad at you. I was caught off guard and didn’t know how to handle you knowing things I deliberately hadn’t told you.”

“Oh,” I said. Deliberately?

“And that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with you so I’m sorry for not making that more clear.”

I nodded. At least he wasn’t mad at me, I guess.

“I don’t want you to think I’m hiding anything from you, but the only way I can explain it is I’m not ready to talk about that yet,” Brendan said.

“Okay.” I suppose that was fair. “But now I feel like I’m going to be walking on eggshells around because I don’t want you to not talk to me for a week again. And we talk about literally everything.”

Brendan actually smiled like this was amusing to him. I would’ve slapped him, but then he said, “I’ve been in love with you since the moment I met you basically so just be yourself.”

Oh? I wasn’t even going to point out this was an issue because he was definitely very married when he met me. He wasn’t ready to talk about that yet, remember?

So I made us wine spritzers (my spring/summer go-to: white wine, club soda, citrus peel and a splash of fresh fruit juice). We were just making small talk in the kitchen for a while, talking about what had happened during the week. I told him about Chicago and Mike and how Scott showed up.

“Scott, my old boss, always acted like a mentor to me, but really he just wanted to get in my pants,” I described.

“Ohh,” Brendan said.

We finished putting the rest of the food away and I showed him my Instagram-able food organization. And then I invited him to come over for dinner the following week (my first dinner party!). Winnie was going to love having a hot man over for dinner.

We made a second round of drinks and took them to the couch. By that point, I was feeling more loose and I just wanted to hug and kiss him and love all over him. He mentioned that he had a surprise, but he wasn’t going to tell me because he didn’t want to jinx it. I love a surprise, but I can’t stand suspense so then I was mad he wouldn’t just fucking tell me.

“I should be able to tell you soon and you’ll be excited, I think,” Brendan said. “Don’t be a baby.”

I was still riding the high of him saying he’s in love with me and I didn’t even care that he said I was being a baby (I was, to be fair).

I just assumed Brendan would stay and hang out the rest of the day and spend the night with me, but then he said he had dinner plans with some friends. And it didn’t appear that I was invited to tag along. I just figured he’d want to hang out with me after our little disconnect or whatever it was. I was thinking, “How can I chain this man to my couch so he can’t leave?”

But it was fine. Just because I don’t have a social life doesn’t mean he shouldn’t either. I stayed up all night watching season 2 of RHOA and pinning healthy, but not too complicated dinner recipes I could make for Brendan. At this point, I’ve convinced myself that I’m the female Bobby Flay, but Brendan is *actually* a really good cook so I wanted to be able to impress him.

Sunday was boring. I realized I don’t have much of a life outside of work and my baby and Brendan, I guess. We texted a bit throughout the day, but he was working on something with his dad and wasn’t able to hang out. I turned on the Food Network and did a little bit of work since no one else was texting me back (not even Lola, who I thought would be thrilled to have her day drinking buddy back). Eventually, I was so bored that I texted Brady, “What’s Winnie up to?”

I assumed he would ignore me just to make me miserable, but then he replied with a rather artistic picture of my baby sitting on the couch wearing her Sherpa hoodie and looking like an adult with her hair in a ponytail. She’s so cute.

“Aww, I love her,” I replied.

“Yeah, she’s pretty great,” Brady said and then added, “We went to the garden center earlier to get stuff to plant in the back.”

Ugh, I wanted to do that. I actually started tearing up, imagining Winnie picking out flowers and herbs and vegetables. Why were they doing all the fun stuff now that I was gone?

So I guess my first weekend in my new apartment didn’t go exactly as I hoped. I pictured me and Winnie going for walks and shopping and doing afternoon tea at bougie hotels (Winnie is going to live out my Eloise dreams, tysm).

But as it turns out, Winnie was not nearly as excited about our new place as I was. Brady dropped her off on Tuesday morning and we chilled. She let me work and napped and played and behaved like a big girl. After dinner though, she was like, “Is Daddy coming?”

I’d already explained this to her, but I’d need to explain again. “No. Daddy is at home. At his house in Connecticut. This is our house in New York.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because we live separately now. That’s why you got a new room, remember? You’ll go back to daddy’s on Saturday,” I said.

“Okay.”

But then she started losing her goddamn mind starting at bathtime. She refused to do anything, especially sleep in her (gorgeous) new bed so she slept with me. I figured it was just like, first night nerves.

But the next day, the same thing happened. She was okay during the day, but started asking about Brady in the evening and throwing herself off furniture. She was suddenly afraid of the elevator and the windows and refused to eat. It was ridiculous. On Thursday evening, she started it again and I just gave in and FaceTimed Brady so she could talk to him. I really didn’t want him to know I was struggling with Winnie (he would definitely get satisfaction out of that), but I had to do something.

He picked up our call and it looked like he was at work. Brady looked…dare I say, hot? I mean obviously he’s always been handsome, but I haven’t thought that about him in so long because he’s been such an asshole.

“Sorry, she really wanted to talk to you,” I said.

“That’s okay,” he said. “I want to talk to you too, Winnie.”

I went to the kitchen to give them some privacy, but I heard Winnie talking his absolute ear off. That child’s vocabulary is quite impressive (even if she’s just repeating things she heard me say earlier in the day). She said, “The deadline is Monday!” and I could hear Brady on the other end of the FaceTime cracking up.

Luckily she seemed to calm down after speaking with her dad and we were good the next two nights. When I dropped her off with Brady on Saturday morning, she was actually kind of sad that I wasn’t staying. I hung out with them for about an hour and gave Brady the lowdown on Winnie’s behavior.

“Well, what did you think was going to happen when you just plucked her out of her normal life?” Brady said. And he must have seen the smoke coming out of my ears because he added, “But she’ll get used to it. I’ll see if I can help explain what’s going on.”

On my way back to the city, I called Brendan. We hadn’t seen each other or talked much throughout the week and so we made plans to meet up. I was so fucking giddy to see my man! 

We spent the entire weekend together, mostly at my place, but then I dragged him to Nordstrom to try on shoes and to brunch in Harlem and dinner in Soho. We were at brunch on Saturday when he finally revealed his big secret. He bought a house! Well, an apartment I guess. I obviously demanded photos immediately, but he only had the floor plan. It looked huge: three bedrooms and an additional flex room, too many bathrooms to count, separate dining area, massive living space. At least 2,000 square feet if I had to guess. In New York! Not far from his place now! In this economy? How? I can barely afford a parking spot.

“My dad helped me get a really good deal,” Brendan explained. “I’ll take you to see it. It’s a complete gut job, but it’s gonna be sick when it’s done.”

And then he started telling me his ideas, like knocking down walls here and there and turning one of the bedrooms into a huge en-suite/closet.

He said, “You’re gonna help me, right?”

“Duh.” I was already pulling out my phone to make a Pinterest mood board. 

I’m really excited for Brendan. Especially because from what he told me, I kind of gathered that he reno-ed their townhouse and then lost it in the divorce (aka her family owns it) so it must mean a lot to him to have a place of his own now.

Brendan said he “wasn’t ready to talk about that yet,” but he kept dropping nuggets of information about his ex-wife and their relationship. Later, we were talking about Winnie and parenting and having kids before you’re ready (hello, Winnie was an accident). Brendan brings up kids quite a bit so I feel like he’s really excited to be a dad one day.

He was like, “That’s the thing. I thought we were trying for a long time, but she lied about stopping her birth control. She told my stepmom she didn’t want kids yet, maybe at all.”

Wait. So he was just blowing loads inside her thinking they were making a baby? While she was probably fucking three other dudes? I could do without that visual. Maybe I wasn’t ready to talk about it either.

Luckily, Brady was right and by the next week, Winnie was loving our new living situation. Like me, she was getting to know the door staff in our building and enjoyed going on walks so she could talk to people. I hung out with her between conference calls and we made dinner together each night (I got her a little step stool 🥺). So that Thursday, I invited Brendan over for dinner with us. Since I was working remote most days, we weren’t doing our daily lunches and I was seeing less of him.

“Just be prepared. A two and a half year old is going to tell you her life story,” I warned him. Brendan still seemed game.

We made an heirloom tomato salad and roasted salmon with farro for the occasion. I let Winnie know that Brendan was on his way over and she kept repeating, “Brennan, Breenie, Breenan,” over and over like she didn’t want to forget his name. Do y’all do that? Meet someone and repeat their name over and over so you remember their name? My child is me as fuck!

Brendan arrived looking hot in a windbreaker and I introduced him to Winnie in the foyer area.

“Winnie, do you remember Brendan?” I said. Because if you recall, the two met when Brendan was helping with our bathroom remodel.

Winnie suddenly froze and seemed really nervous. She nodded slowly with big, surprised eyes. And then my child did the absolute cutest thing. She turned to him and spread her arms out to hug him. Winnie, be more cute!! Brendan was confused at first and then realized that she wanted to hug him. So then he kneeled down and they hugged. I genuinely teared up because it was so sweet.

The three of us sat down to eat and after making a big fuss about seating arrangements, Winnie insisted Brendan sit next to her.

“If the farro’s underdone, it’s Winnie’s fault,” I said.

Brendan laughed and looked at her and she giggled shyly.

“Winnie, did you help cook?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah,” she said with a sigh, like she’d been slaving away in the kitchen all day. “Everyday I cook! Pasta and noodles and carrots. My daddy? He makes waffles. I make them everyday with cinnamon and eggs. My papa makes waffles…” She was going on and on, telling Brendan about her daddy and papa, Connecticut, mashed potatoes, her flowers, etc etc etc. He was nodding and following along like he had any idea what she was talking about. It was cute. And I’m glad it wasn’t too like, weird. Not that I thought it would be, I just didn’t know how she’d feel having another man in the house when she loves her dad soo much.

After dinner, we threw everything in the dishwasher and went to the living room. Winnie started climbing all over Brendan and draping herself from his neck (clingy just like mom). I asked her to stop so she grabbed Brendan and dragged him down the hall so she could show him her room. They went past me and he just shrugged like, “Sorry, I can’t help that your kid likes me more than you.”

I watched from the doorway as she gave him a tour of her space (aka showing him all her toys) and they sat down in front of her little dollhouse. And what was I supposed to do? It’s not like the three of us could comfortably fit in her teeny, tiny bedroom.

So naturally when it was time for bed, Winnie threw an absolute fit. She screamed at the top of her lungs and refused to get in bed. I’d already let her stay up past her bedtime since we had a guest, but she was not having it.

“If you keep acting like this, you’ll scare Brendan away and he won’t come back,” I said. Truth.

But that seemed to do the trick and she rolled her eyes and flopped back on the bed like an angsty teenager.

“Can Brennie play with me tomorrow?” she asked like she was so fed up.

“Maybe,” I said.

On Saturday morning, I dropped Winnie off in Connecticut and then I had a date with Brendan and his dad to see his new place! I was obviously dying to see it, but on our way there Brendan warned me that it was in bad shape and I would need to use my imagination. Not a problem!

He was not lying though. The place was a disaster. I joked about needing a hard hat and his dad said, “Do you want me to go find you one?” So sweet. Brendan laughed and explained that I was joking.

But anyway, the place was a disaster, but good bones! Great location on the first couple of floors of a prewar walk-up and so huge. I think I counted four bathrooms. The dirty red and brown carpet and entirely linoleum kitchen could be overlooked. Brendan and his dad walked around with the blueprint talking about the changes they were going to make: rip up the carpet, stain the (original) hardwood dark, tear down a wall to open the kitchen to the dining room and add an island, etc etc. Meanwhile I was using my imagination to envision where me and Winnie would fit in. What? Like you wouldn’t? Brendan doesn’t need that big place to himself so he was probably thinking the same thing. And to be honest, he probably has a year of work ahead of him so in a year’s time it won’t even be that crazy. I imagined Winnie’s room would be the one right next to the primary suite — the room Brendan was talking about turning into a walk-in closet/bathroom situation.

“If you get rid of the bedroom, it will decrease the resale value,” I pointed out.

“She’s right,” Brendan’s dad said.

Uh, duh.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Yeah, you’re right. See, that’s why I brought you,” Brendan said.

And then we walked through the existing closet and bathroom and mapped out how to make it work. My shoes would look great in there!

We stood in the foyer saying goodbye to Brendan’s dad and the dad pointed at me.

“You’re coming tomorrow?” he said

The next day was Easter and Brendan’s parents were having a family brunch at their place.

“Totes,” I said.

“Yeah, you should bring Winnie. There’ll be other kids there she can play with,” Brendan said.

Oh, he was ready for Winnie to meet the fam? Things were getting serious! But Brady had already told me that they were going to Massachusetts to go to church with his mom. And this was all part of our agreement so it’s not like I could just go and pick up Winnie because I found more fun plans for her.

Brendan’s parents live on the west side in Chelsea, kind of near where Brady and I used to live. We pulled up to an amazing brick brownstone and it was only then that it occurred to me that this was the house Brendan grew up in. Like. Can you imagine? If I grew rich and in a city, I would have been out. of. control. Winnie-bear is gonna love it!

Inside the house reminded me of Gossip Girl or something. So chic. Brendan’s stepmom (let’s call her Margot) shoved drinks in our hands and Brendan introduced me to people. There were some cousins and their children (and they were *actually* nice unlike Brady’s ugly, pretentious cousins) and Margot’s friends and their children. Margot is like, the best. What I like most about her is that I can say literally anything that comes to my head and she’ll be like, “Oh yeah, same,” and not make me feel weird about it. And I tell her some weird shit. At Brendan’s birthday dinner we had a whole conversation about what plastic surgery procedures we would have.

Three mimosas in and I was telling Margot and her friends how Brendan and Winnie met/spent time together for the first time.

“Oh yeah,” Margot said. “When I met James [Brendan’s dad] he had two kids and I didn’t even like kids at the time.”

“Ew, I still don’t,” I said.

So I feel like I can tell her everything. I also like Brendan’s cousin, Daphne, and her husband, Jake (he’s a bit of a Wall Street douche, but I like them as a couple). They’re a few years older and have two kids and Daphne kept bossing her husband around and they would bicker and then he’d come back with a mimosa and give her a kiss. I don’t know, I just feel like I can relate.

After a while, I was ready for Brendan to show me around (mostly, I was just curious to see his childhood bedroom). All the action was happening in the kitchen, living and dining rooms so we took the stairs to the second floor.

He showed me Danielle’s sickeningly pink bedroom and then we walked down the hall to an office/library. I didn’t even know I wanted an office/library in my dream home until that moment. It had one wall of floor to ceiling bookcases — completely styled and perfect, thanks to Margot I’m sure. And another wall was a gallery wall full of family pictures in black frames, including a big photo from Brendan’s wedding. There were a bunch of other pictures of Brendan and his ex too.

“They probably still have all of my school projects somewhere in here,” Brendan said.

“What were you like in school?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Just normal, I guess. Why? What were you like?”

“A complete psycho bitch so nothing has changed. Did you party and go clubbing in the city?” Brendan is the kind of person who always follows the rules so I needed to know he at least misbehaved in high school.

“Not really. Sometimes I had friends here. I mean, nothing crazy though obviously. My parents would kill me.”

“You never snuck out?” I clarified.

“No.”

Ugh. “Did you at least hang out with older kids and drink and do drugs?” I was grasping at straws here because obviously straight laced Brendan hadn’t.

“Yeah, me and my friends used to buy ecstasy and blow from the dealer on 42nd,” he said.

Really?” I was so excited.

Brendan laughed. “No! What are you even asking me?”

“Whatever.” I pranced over to the collage of pictures and pretended to see Brendan’s wedding album for the first time. “Awww!”

He looked to where I was pointing — the blown-up version of a picture I saw on his Instagram (before he blocked me/deleted everything): him and his ex-wife sitting in front of a fountain, looking serious. They looked cute, I guess.

“That’s why I didn’t have any fun in high school,” Brendan said suddenly. “Busy worried about her.”

Of course. Should’ve known that girl was responsible for sucking the fun out for him too.

“Yeah, I spent all of high school worrying about people who didn’t matter too,” I said to make him feel better. “So if you wanna go on a bender just let me know.”

Standard

like a psychopath.

Mike had a trip to Chicago planned and I insisted on tagging along. I haven’t been back in way too long and I was already messaging Kendra so we could meet up.

“Let me talk to John and see if that’s a good idea,” she said.

And I was like, “Really? You have to ask your husband if it’s okay to see your *best friend*?”

She said back, “There’s still a pandemic going on and I’m still pregnant.”

I could totally hear the know-it-all tone she was using. A few days later, she let me know that she’d be able to meet me for lunch, but it had to be at a specific place and she only had 45 minutes. Thanks for making me a priority!!!

Obviously Mike had meetings scheduled back to back to fucking back from the moment we stepped off the plane. But I was able to step away for my 45-minute lunch with Kendra.

Kendra and I don’t talk nearly as much as we once did, mainly because I decided to see what would happen if I stopped reaching out to her. And I discovered that if I don’t reach out to her first then we won’t talk at all. I kind of confronted her about it last year and she made up all these excuses about how busy she is as a mom, wife and career woman. And to me, it’s just like, if you can’t make time to text your oldest friend then you just don’t want to make time.

She waddled into the restaurant clutching her bump like it might fall off. She’s due next month and she’s thrilled because they’re having a boy. Apparently John has always wanted a son and they were trying for over a year.

“Once we have this baby boy, we’ll be done and our family will be perfect,” Kendra said.

Speaking of which. I really needed to vent about Brady and tell her about the apartment and stuff and she’d already taken up thirty minutes of our allotted time. I knew exactly what she was going to say: you need to communicate with Brady, you have to get a lawyer, what do you genuinely think is best for Winnie? So I blabbed about everything that’s been going on as of late (excluding all details about Brendan) while she rubbed her tummy and nodded along.

“So when do you plan on telling him about the apartment? You have movers coming on Saturday!” she exclaimed.

“Like as soon as I get home! It’s not like we’ve seen each other or talked that much,” I said.

“But you haven’t even discussed a plan for Winnie? He’s going to be blindsided,” Kendra continued.

“He’s not going to be blindsided. He knows that I’ve been trying to move out for months. Brady will be fine,” I explained.

“I don’t know. There’s a reason you’ve waited until the last minute to tell him. I just don’t see this ending well.”

I didn’t say anything. 

And then Kendra added, “Wow. I always knew you and Brady didn’t have the greatest relationship, but I never thought this would happen.”

Really? I should have known Kendra was going to make me feel even worse about the situation. I wished I hadn’t brought it up. 

Kendra ended up staying for a full hour and then she claimed she really had to go (she had so much work to do before going on maternity leave for half the year). As we walked out of the restaurant, she said, “I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m always here if you need to talk.”

“It sure doesn’t feel like it. You hardly ever text me back,” I said.

She had already whipped out her phone and was no longer even paying any attention to me. “Hang on a sec. John’s calling me.”

Exactly my point.

Anyway, I met back up with Mike and we had several more back to back meetings. After lunch with Kendra, the only thing I could think about was everything she said and I was suddenly super anxious about talking to Brady about the apartment. I spent the remainder of the meetings peeling my nail polish off, chewing my cuticles until they bled and worrying about everything that could go wrong.

Mike wanted to go to this Italian place for dinner which was perfect because I definitely needed a drink. I went back to the hotel and changed, grabbed my Burberry trench and we headed to the restaurant. We had to wait for our table so we got drinks at the bar. We ordered vespers (it was that kinda night) and I started firing off questions about his family. Basically, I just wanted something to focus on besides myself and as long as I’ve known Mike, he’s never really told me anything about his life. So now was the perfect time to find out how he met his wife, how old his kids were, what extracurricular activities they were in, etc. And talking so much about Mike’s family made me think of Brendan’s family and Brendan, who was still “taking space.” I needed another drink.

By the time our table was ready, I was slightly toasted and really needed to eat something (I was too busy talking at lunch to eat). As I was sliding into one side of the corner booth, Mike let the host know that we were waiting for one other person. Oh? What other person? I assumed it would be a woman, like a mistress or something, but then on cue, motherfucking Scott walked in.

Y’all remember Scott? My old boss? I don’t have the energy to explain it all, but basically we used to have a thing several years ago. He helped me get the job with Mike, but we don’t ever talk anymore. I had not seen Scott in so long and I was strangely sort of happy to see him.

“Oh hi! What are you doing here?” I greeted him. I stood up to hug him and noted that he still smells exactly the same, like Tom Ford’s Oud Wood. A ton of memories came flooding back: making out with him in his office on the daily and then his wife showing up with a big pregnant belly.

“Thought I’d catch up with some old friends!” Scott said and kissed my temple.

“Great!” I said, sitting back down.

They each sat on either side of me and we all talked about the shitty weather and New York and some of the meetings we had that day. The waitress stopped by and we ordered the entirety of the antipasti menu along with a bottle of red wine.

Scott waited until I had a full glass of wine in front of me before saying, “Reese. It’s so good to see you. What’s new?”

“Absolutely nothing,” I said.

“How’s Brady and the baby?” he asked.

“Brady?” I scoffed. These two were about to get an ear full. “I’m sure he’s fine. We broke up and I’m moving the fuck out of Connecticut this weekend.” Mike looked at me and I added, “Pardon my French.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,” Scott said.

“Don’t be. It’s his fault.” I took a big swig of my wine. “And besides, while he was neglecting me for months on end, I fell in love with someone else.”

“Did you?” Scott seemed surprised.

“Yeah, but he’s not speaking to me at the moment. That’s a story for another day. What’s new with you?”

Scott told us about his cute red-headed daughter and how she would be starting school this year and how his wife started her own company. Scott always pretended to be single when we worked together, while his wife was at home pregnant, and now it seemed like he was actually claiming her. Good for them! So glad he’s growing up.

“So who’s this new guy? What’s he like?” Scott asked me.

“Ugh, I love him,” I blurted out. “He’s literally the best person I know. He’s so sweet.”

I was actually tearing up thinking about Brendan and him not talking to me.

“He must be pretty incredible if you’re talking like this,” he said.

“Oh my God, he is,” I said and then blabbed for the next seven minutes about how amazing and kind he is.

Scott turned to Mike and said, “Well, I’ve known Reese a long time and I’ve never seen her like this.”

I’d forgotten Mike was sitting there and as I gulped down my wine, I tried to think if I’d said anything that would give away that I was talking about Brendan. But did it even matter anyway? I kind of didn’t care if he knew. If Brendan and I are going to be together then Mike will have to know eventually.

The food came out and we ordered another bottle of wine and I let the two of them talk shop for a bit before bringing the attention back to me. I hadn’t even given them the full scoop on Brady yet!

After dinner, Scott asked me (just me) to go to a bar with him. And I would’ve, but I thought if Brendan knew our history, he probably wouldn’t like that. And even if he wasn’t speaking to me, it just felt weird and icky and like something I shouldn’t do.

The next day, I thought I felt better. I’d go home that night and let Brady know the deal and it would be fine. But I was still picking at the skin around my nails and I was bleeding everywhere and beginning to look like I was on meth. So clearly I was still anxious. I went through the motions all day while imagining every different scenario that could happen. Eventually I talked myself off the ledge — what was the worst that could happen? It was just Brady and he knew my intentions. What could he say?

By the time we got to the airport, I’d convinced myself it would all be fine. And so I pulled out my phone, opened Instagram, and sent a message to Kendall.

“I talked to Brendan about what you told me and now he’s not speaking to me.”

Kendall replied, “Yeah, he asked me about it. I thought that conversation was between us. I didn’t think you’d go and bring it up to him LOL.”

LOL? What was funny about any of this?!

“But I didn’t know he’d get mad at me about it!” I said back.

Kendall began typing and I waited, sipping my glass of wine.

“He’s not mad. Don’t stress. You know our guy is sensitive.”

Even though Brendan hadn’t spoken to me in like five days, I just knew we would talk again and go back to normal. The whole thing was confusing, but I was willing to be patient while Brendan figured it out. There was no way something this small and stupid would ruin us.

So I got back, said goodbye to ol’ Mike and Ubered home to Connecticut. It was approximately 7:00 and Brady was working in his little office with the door open. Perfect. I put my stuff down and then went to ambush him.

“Hey!” I said.

Brady turned and looked at me like I was disturbing him. That was fine. I’d make this brief. “Hi.”

“I got a super cute apartment in the city and I’m moving out. It’s all furnished and everything so I have movers coming on Saturday just to help move my clothes and Peloton,” I explained.

Brady looked completely unfazed, per usual. See? What was I stressing about? “Okay.”

“I was thinking Winnie can stay here Saturday night, but then I will pick her up Sunday. I want to show her around the new neighborhood; there’s a cute little park and a ton of dogs. And she’s going to love her new room,” I went on.

“Okay. I mean it all sounds great, but you know this is still going to be her primary residence right?” Brady said.

“Uh, no. Obviously she’ll have two primary residences now. I’m not sure how often you’d want to switch off, but I was thinking every other week plus weekend,” I said.

Brady swiveled in his stupid little chair so he was facing me fully. “No.”

“What do you mean, no?”

This is her home. She’s going to live here. You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to let you take her to live in the city with you.”

I blinked a couple of times. Excuse me? What was with the hostility?

“Brady,” I said calmly. “I’m her mother.”

“And I’m her father. You know I bought this house specifically for her to grow up in and it’s the only home she knows. You can do whatever you want, but Winnie is staying here.”

“What are you saying? You sound insane. You can’t just hold her hostage in Connecticut.”

I thought Brady would be kind of annoying about all this, but I didn’t think he’d try to shut me down so quickly.

“And you can’t just uproot her for fun, Reese. She’s staying here. That’s it. This isn’t something you’re going to win,” Brady said and turned around like I was dismissed.

Oh fucking really? Like this was a game? I went to the side of the desk so he couldn’t escape. “I’m not understanding how you think this is fair. She’s my child.”

I must have hit some sort of nerve or something because that’s when Brady blew up. Mind you I was being super cool and calm up until this point, and he was the one being unreasonable all along.

“Are you kidding me? Do you think it’s fair to just randomly get an apartment in the city with no explanation for no reason and then expect everyone to be okay with it?” he shouted.

“It wasn’t random! You know I’ve been looking for months!”

“And you haven’t bothered to discuss it with me at all! I really don’t care what you do at this point, but Winnie is staying here,” Brady said.

“No, she’s not.”

“Yes, she is.”

“No, she’s not.”

“Yes, she is.”

“No, she’s not.”

If it wasn’t such an important topic, this would’ve been really stupid.

Yes. She is,” Brady said, sternly.

“Okay, what’s she going to do while you’re working for fourteen to eighteen hours a day? She only goes to school one day a week so are you just gonna leave her with the babysitter the rest of the time?” I asked.

“Probably. She can’t stand being around you half the time so I’m sure she’ll be fine with the babysitter,” he said.

And he said it so calmly, like a psychopath. How cruel.

“Really? Fuck you,” I said. “I was going to be nice and try to work with you on this, but forget it. I’ll bring her over every other weekend, but only if she wants to.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen. You may as well accept that now. Like I said, this isn’t something you’re going to win,” Brady said.

“Oh my God, stop saying that! This is not a fucking game!” I screamed.

“Then stop acting like it’s one!” he shouted back. “Think about someone other than yourself for once!”

“What are you even talking about? You’ve treated me like shit for months and now you’re like, punishing me for wanting to get out of this house? Are you serious?”

“I’m not punishing you! I’m telling you that my daughter is staying in this house with me — end of story. You can try to fight me on it if you want, but I’m warning you, you’ll waste your time and probably go bankrupt!” Brady said.

I think in the back of my mind, I always knew Brady was capable of this. He’s a cold, emotionless robot so of course he was okay with being this vile and callous. I had a brief flashback of being pregnant and Brady rubbing my belly and I felt tears stinging my eyes. But y’all know me. I don’t back down.

“Oh, please. You’re not the only one who has money so you need to get over that,” I said, pretending to be calm.

“Yep. We’ll see about that,” he said.

I wanted to murder him. I was close enough that I could lunge forward and gouge his eyeballs out. Or wring his neck until I cut off his air supply. Or maybe I could open the window and push him out and hope he broke every bone in his body on the concrete (I’ve been listening to too much true crime, clearly).

Finally, I said, “You’re a piece of shit.”

As I was walking out, l heard him say, “You are too.”

As soon as I hit the hallway, I was in absolute tears and by the time I’d made it to a corner of the walk-in closet I was borderline hyperventilating. I pulled out my phone and called my mom.

“Hi honey!” she answered.

I wailed into the phone. Of course, she started freaking out and assumed someone died or something. So I needed to calm down. I managed to get out the main points of what happened, but had to repeat myself a few times because I was sobbing.

Finally my mom gasped, “He said what? Do I need to get on a plane and come up there?”

“No, you don’t have to do that,” I sniffled. “I just can’t believe he’s acting like this.”

“You tell him that I said if he threatens you again, I’m going to stick my foot in his ass,” she said (I wasn’t going to tell him this). “Your dad is going to flip when he hears about this.”

She said we needed to find a lawyer ASAP because clearly this was about to get ugly (depressing). We hung up and I showered then got in bed. I could hear Brady moving throughout the house, going up and down the stairs and in my mind I imagined he was taking Winnie and fleeing. So I got up and made sure she was safe in her bed. She was sleeping soundly (to her sleeping playlist to drown out the screaming, perfect) and I went back to bed. My mom called me back because my dad was home and he wanted to know what happened. She already told him, of course, but he wanted to hear it from me.

“That little weasel doesn’t know who he’s messing with!” my dad boomed. My dad never yells. “I’ll be there tomorrow and I dare him to say that to me!

“Daddy, you don’t have to come here,” I said. But the thought of my dad coming to support me made me feel a zillion times better. Daddio could fix anything.

He told me to write down everything that had happened from the beginning and we hung up again. And so I wrote everything down in my Notes app starting when Brady got home from his trip to Florida last year (that’s when this all began, remember?). I worked on it for a few hours (the blog helped) and I was flip flopping between being angry and sad about everything that was happening. The fact that I loved Brady so much for so long and was so desperate to marry him and have a life with him. And this was how it was ending…it was sort of surreal.

I woke up on Friday morning after sleeping for a cumulative 45 minutes with a face swollen from crying. It was 5:30 and my mom called; she couldn’t sleep either because she was so worried. So that made me feel bad. She said she wished I would’ve told her what was going on sooner — which I did, but I didn’t feel like arguing. There was no point anyway.

As much as I wanted to stay in bed and hide, I actually had an important meeting in the office that I couldn’t miss. While I was in the shower, I tried to think of a realistic, valid excuse to be able to miss it, but I knew Mike would have my ass if I wasn’t there. I couldn’t have everyone mad at me.

Brady was walking out of the kitchen with his laptop bag when I walked in. He gave me a death glare, but didn’t say anything and neither did I. And then after I heard him leave and lock the door, I started crying again.

I strolled into the meeting late, still sniffing and my chin trembling uncontrollably. Between that and my torn up cuticles, I truly looked like I needed rehab of some sort.

Mike, who was sitting at the head of the table, said, “Reese. Thanks for joining us.”

Fuck you, Mike. Everyone turned to look at me, including Brendan who was sitting right next to Paige. Brendan. I was suddenly irrationally mad at him for “taking space” when I needed him. He continued watching me after the meeting started and I could feel he was trying to make eye contact with me.

The meeting went on for just over an hour and I sat there saying nothing and trying not to cry. I usually have so much to say and apparently Mike noticed too because at the end he sighed and said, “Reese, nothing to add?”

I shook my head. “No, nothing from me.”

Brendan looked at me again.

I jumped up to leave before anyone could stop me or ask me any questions (bitches love to ask me for things) and beelined for my office. I felt like I was going to burst into tears again at any second. Plus I wanted to see if my mom had called with any updates. Just as I got to my office door, Brendan appeared and tried to grab my hand. I snatched it away — first of all, we were at work so what the fuck was he doing?

“Not now,” I managed. Our issue about me bringing up his ex-wife seemed so insignificant now. I can’t believe he got mad at me (or “not mad” whatever the hell he was) for that and I was so over it.

Brendan opened his mouth to say something, but Mike called his name from down the hall. And then he just turned and walked away from me to go talk to Mike. It was slightly devastating watching him walk away because for some reason at that moment, I felt like this might be the end for Brendan and me. But I had other things to worry about so who gave a fuck?

My mom and dad had called me a few times so I grabbed my stuff and peaced out so I could call them back in privacy. Plus I wanted to get home and make sure Winnie was okay. I waited until I was in my car and on my way to Connecticut to call my mom. She let me know that she’d already spoken to a few lawyers, but no one could meet me today. One of them said there was an emergency motion we could file in court and is that the route we wanted to take? I mean, yes, but it sounded so horrible. I told her I’d call her back.

I spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon with Winnie, continuing to hype up our new place and watching Cocomelon on the iPad. Brendan called. Oh, he’d had enough space? I watched my phone ring and debated if I was ready to talk to him, but I was going through a crisis so no, I was not ready to talk to him. I sent him to voicemail.

Since it was Friday night, I told Winnie we could order takeout and she picked pizza (baby girl loves a carb). So I ordered us a four-cheese pizza and stuffed shells. What the fuck was Brady talking about, she can’t stand being around me? We were having a great time.

Winnie was sleeping, sprawled on top of me on the couch, when I heard the front door unlock and open. It was clearly past her bedtime, but I guess I wanted to prove to Brady that she does like being around me. But when I peeked over the back of the couch, I saw my dad and Brady walking through the door. I guess he was serious.

I got up with the baby still attached to me and whispered, “What are you doing here?”

“Aww,” my dad cooed, stroking Winnie’s hair. “Put her to bed. We’re all going to talk now.”

Oh, okay, straight to the point then. I took Winnie upstairs (she was stirring and squeezing her eyes shut), put her in her bed and turned on the music. And then I found my dad and Brady in the kitchen. My dad was sitting at the island and it looked like Brady was making coffee.

“Hi daddy!” I said, hugging him. “I said you didn’t need to come.”

He hugged me and I sat down next to him. Then he said, “So what is going on?”

Brady and I glanced at each other — he had much less hatred in his eyes now — and then back at my dad. I’d already told him my side of the story so I didn’t say anything.

“I don’t know. Can’t agree, I guess,” Brady said.

“It’s not like you even tried to agree,” I said. “It was your way or nothing, so…”

My cute, calm dad yelled at us for waiting until the last minute to talk about things especially Brady since he “made sure” Brady knew about my intentions. He yelled at us. Can you imagine? I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve been in trouble with my parents (which is probably why I turned out the way I did) so this was weird. He was like, “You two are worried about yourselves and not that sweet little girl upstairs!” It was so embarrassing.

After making us feel like complete assholes, my dad made us sit there and come up with a custody plan. They downed coffee and Brady and I talked through our schedules and what would work for Winnie. It went surprisingly really well — having my dad as a mediator helped. You’d think he had experience doing this sort of thing. Every time either of us started getting heated, he stepped in and humbled us. And it worked!

Eventually, we had a plan fully fleshed out. Winnie would spend Tuesday mornings through Saturday mornings with yours truly and then I’d drop her off in Connecticut with Brady for the weekend. He’d bring her back to me on Tuesday morning and we’d start again. And y’all know Brady loves to work on a weekend, so my dad made him estimate how often this would happen (twice a month max, he said). And so for those weekends, Brady would get her on Sunday and she’d stay through Wednesday instead. For now, we wouldn’t modify the schedule for holidays, but we’d revisit the conversation in a few months. Perfect.

After that, we all sat and chatted and drank coffee (tea) until I could barely keep my eyes open because I was so exhausted. I went up to bed while they stayed up and talked. I was so relieved that we were able to come to an agreement that I actually didn’t even want to kill Brady anymore. He could stay in Connecticut and the fuck away from me.

I woke up early the next morning. It was moving day! Plus Winnie was running through the house screaming and playing with her papa (🥺).

“Oh, you’re finally up!” my dad said when I found them in the hallway.

“It’s only six thirty,” I said.

The movers were coming at eight so I showered and got dressed then I headed downstairs. I could hear Winnie in her room talking my dad’s ear off (gets it from her mama). Brady was on his laptop at the kitchen island and I kind of wasn’t sure what to say. Yeah, we’d been cordial last night, but it’s not like we were suddenly friends.

“Hey,” I said coolly.

“Hey,” he said back.

That was all I planned on saying to him at that point, but then he added, “I’m really sorry about the other night. The things I said.”

Okay, what was with the sudden 180? First, it was “Winnie hates you, she can’t live with you and I’m going to bankrupt you,” and now he was willing to split time and was sorry about everything? What the hell had my dad said to him?

“It’s fine,” I said. I couldn’t even think of anything snarky or funny to say back.

“If you need any help moving—”

“The movers will be here in 15 minutes,” I cut him off.

And 15 minutes later, the movers were there — three of them — and they were slightly confused because the only things they had to load were an exercise bike, a closet full of clothes, shoes, and bags, and a couple of furniture pieces. They had it all in the truck in about twenty minutes. Obviously I needed to go meet them on the other end to receive my stuff and my dad suggested we make a thing out of it. I planned on showing Winnie the new apartment and my dad wanted to see it too and at that point Brady may as well tag along to bring Winnie back to Connecticut. Annoying.

So we took our two separate cars into the city and I gave them the grand tour. I didn’t really care what anyone thought except Winnie and she has great taste like her mother so she was a big fan. She absolutely loves her new room: the canopy daybed, the egg chair, the wicker basket full of toys, etc. Brady walked around with his hands in his pockets, saying nothing.

We all hung out for a bit (my dad continuously questioned my decision to buy a white couch) and then grabbed lunch before Brady and Winnie went back to Connecticut. I spent the next few hours with Daddio before he headed home. We FaceTimed my mom and showed her the place and he was telling her all about the arrangements we made. And then right before we left for LGA, my dad mentioned something about Brady giving me $2K a month to help with expenses. ‘Scuse me? I don’t need any of his fucking money.

“I knew you weren’t going to like that, but it is what it is. Put it in a separate account for Winnie if you need to,” my dad said.

It’s all just so bizarre. Whatever.

Standard

what exactly is going on??

I guess I should’ve known things were going a little too good for me.

First, Paige came back to work. I knew something was up when I started getting a barrage of emails from Mike beginning at six AM. He was following up on random stuff: paint swatches, shipments, contracts, stuff from last year, stuff that had been resolved months ago. I got out of bed thinking, okay, WTF is this dude on? So I got dressed and headed into the office to confront him.  But as soon as I was about to pound on his door, it swung open and he and Paige walked out. Oh.

Paige looked amazing, like she’d spent all of her time off at a spa getting regular facials and drinking celery juice.

“Oh, hey. Welcome back,” I said, trying to hide my surprise.

“Hey! I’ll set up some for us to TB and catch up, k?” she said, all smiley.

Once she walked away, I said to Mike, “Well, that’s a surprise.”

“Yeah. She’s been wanting to come back for a while but I wanted to make sure she was ready,” he said.

“Cool. Is she? It’ll be nice to have some stuff taken off my plate,” I said.

“Let’s let her ease into it. I don’t want to overwhelm her the moment she gets back.”

I was like, really?? Well, that must be fucking nice. I’d love to be able to take a vacation for several months and then get to “ease back” into work while other people handled my job.

But whatever. I’m a team player. As the week went on, she would forward emails to me and say, “Let me know if you need anything from me to complete this in a timely manner.” And it would be things that are a part of her job description, not mine. Excuse me? And every time I’d walk by her office on my way to Mike’s she would be sitting there laughing and typing on her computer like she was doing nothing but socializing all day.

I could not fucking wait for the weekend. I didn’t have any plans, but I was sick of Paige and I was mad at Mike for enabling her. I walked in the house ready to pour myself a fat ass glass of wine, but heard talking and laughing coming from the kitchen. I was convinced I was gonna find Brady in there with some woman and I was excited to meet her and for the potential drama of making Brady feel uncomfortable. What? You would be too.

So I marched in there and found Brady and Hunter standing around like losers with bottles of beer. Brady, who hadn’t noticed me yet, was like, dancing which is weird because Brady doesn’t dance.

“There she is!” Hunter shouted and they both just looked at me.

“Hi. I didn’t know you were coming,” I said.

“Yeah. Just stopping by on my way to Canada,” Hunter said. “You look good.

I looked at Brady to see if he was gonna say anything about his brother’s blatant flirting, but he just took a big swig of his beer.

“Thanks. You look…the same,” I said.

Hunter laughed and then hugged me. I was confused as to why he was touching me, but I guess he was just being nice. As irritating as Hunter is, he’s always been nice to me (even when I’ve been outwardly indifferent about him).

We all stood around and caught up for a bit (apparently Hunter was going to Canada for a few months to work on a top secret project aka probably sleeping with all of Toronto). And since I was thinking about Hunter hooking up with random women, I said, “Oh my gawddd, remember Lexi?”

And Hunter was like, “No, who’s Lexi?”

Really? As a refresher, Lexi and I were close when I lived in Chicago and she met Hunter one time at Brady’s house and they seemingly hit it off and screwed every time he was in town. They were serious in the sense that they fucked without condoms and he told her he loved her, but then he just ghosted her. She recently got engaged to this older guy and I was excited to tell Hunter since he basically used and abused her.

“Ask your penis. It will remember Lexi,” I said.

Hunter and Brady both started cracking up like I was joking. Hunter put his arm around me and said, “I missed you, little Reese.”

I shook him off. Why did he keep touching me? Whatever. I still had plans of curling up on the couch, guzzling down a bottle of wine and texting with Brendan, but I was talked into going to the little wine bar in town. Since we all seemed to be getting along, I figured why not? We dropped Winnie off at Mel’s and headed down there.

Hunter must have sensed how much we (I) needed it because he ordered us a bottle of rose and a bottle of expensive red wine to drink. So we sat there and talked and got drunk on wine. We ordered another bottle and then when we finished that one, we walked down the road to the next bar.

“Three shots of Maker’s Mark,” Hunter said to the bartender, enunciating really slowly like he was drunk or he thought the bartender was stupid.

“We don’t have Maker’s Mark,” the bartender said and then he and Hunter had a conversation about the whiskey selection.

Meanwhile, I turned to Brady. “I feel like this is going to end badly.”

He put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed me like I was a boxer about to go in the ring. “You’ll be fine.”

So we took a shot of whiskey, I gagged and vowed not to take another shot. We ordered more drinks and it started to feel like old times. Like, I was having a good time with them and Brady and I hadn’t had a good time together in forever. I didn’t even know the last time I’d really seen him laugh and it kind of touched my heart.

At one point, they went outside to smoke and I pulled out my phone to see what I’d missed. I had a text from Brendan that said, “Wanna come over?”

“YES!” I said back and then added a string of emojis.

Brady and Hunter came back inside and Hunter ordered more shots.

“Nope,” I said.

“Yes,” Hunter said.

“Absolutely not.”

He gave me puppy dog eyes. “Pretty, pretty please? For me?”

Ugh, fine. It’s not like he’s in town very often so I guess I could appease him. So I took the shot and tried not to throw up. More time passed and I checked my phone and Brendan had been messaging me.

“You coming?”

“Want me to call an Uber?”

“I’m getting in bed, but let yourself in if you want.”

I texted back, “Sorry. Am drunk.” And even though I was completely drunk, I knew not to tell him I was out with Brady and his brother. That would just be asking for trouble.

Eventually, we wrapped up the tab at the bar and walked home. I seemed to be the most drunk and was blabbing about literally nothing and Brady and Hunter were mostly ignoring me. Then I started to slow down because my feet hurt (I was breaking in a pair of new shoes) and after unsuccessfully requesting that I hurry up, Hunter picked me up like the caveman that he is and carried me all the way home. I looked at Brady like, “See? This is what I expect and deserve,” but he just yawned, unfazed. It was a little bit strange being so close to Hunter though, like I’ve never been that close to his face and even though it’s weird to admit since he’s my daughter’s uncle, he’s kind of hot.

I felt like shit the next morning when I woke up. It was after 10am and Brendan had already texted me a few times. I called him.

“I’m hungover,” I explained when he picked up. “I wish you were here to hold my hair back while I puke.”

He laughed. “Same. Did you have a good night though?”

I thought back to gagging while taking shots and Hunter carrying me home. “No. What are you doing?”

He explained that he was meeting his dad and talked to me about fishing or something uninteresting and I was grunting responses. And then he said he and his friends were visiting the family cabin at the end of the month and did I want to come? Brendan has loved a cabin/wilderness moment ever since I’ve known him, so even though I was happy to be included, I couldn’t help thinking this is another one of those things he used to do with his wife. But still, I told him I’d need to check my schedule, but tentatively yes.

After we hung up, I crawled out of bed to see what was going on around the house. I found everyone in the kitchen.

“Get dressed, kid, we’re going to brunch,” Hunter said to me.

Kid?

“Brunch, brunch, brunch, brunch!” Winnie chanted. She was already dressed and hanging onto Uncle Hunter’s neck.

“K,” I said.

I got showered and threw on an Off White sweatshirt, leggings and sunglasses and met them all back downstairs. We piled into my car (but I made Brady drive) and went to the little diner in town. I needed a greasy omelet stat.

I don’t know why I was surprised by this, considering he has several children of his own, but Hunter is so good with Winnie. First of all, she loves him and was glued to his side (Ms. Winnie loves all men), but he got her all settled in her chair and went over the menu with her while I sat there trying not to barf and Brady texted on his phone. It was actually really cute how patient he was and made me think maybe he isn’t quite as awful as I always thought (besides all the cheating of course).

While we were eating and chatting, Hunter asked if I’d lost weight because I looked good. And then he said to Brady, “Doesn’t she look good?”

Brady just looked at me for a moment before reluctantly saying, “Uh, yeah.”

And it’s like, I know I’m hungover, but can’t you pretend? Or at the very least, say something to your brother about being a creep.

And then Winnie said, “Mommy, you are very beautiful.”

So take that, motherfucker.

Immediately after brunch, Brady needed to take Hunter to the airport which was perfect because I needed to gossip with Mel and let her know everything that had happened. And Mel, always very perceptive, said, “Do you think you were flirting with Hunter just to get a rise out of Brady?”

What?” I exclaimed. “I wasn’t flirting, he was! And even if I was, it didn’t work because Brady didn’t give a shit.”

By the time Monday rolled around, I was shockingly ready to go back to work. Mostly because I hadn’t seen Brendan in several days and we had lunch plans. I got to the office early knowing that I had a lot to do and to my surprise, Paige was already there. She came and sat in my office with me for a bit and I brought her up to speed on some stuff and answered her questions.

“And everything’s good with [Brendan’s company]?” she asked.

“Yep,” replied. After the slight kick in the ass, it seemed like Thomas was getting things back on track.

Later in the week, Brendan and I were walking back in the office after lunch (we had a meeting with Mike and a client) and Paige intercepted us.

“Brendan, I’ve been wanting to catch up. Do you have time this week?” she said.

They talked about their schedules for the next few days while I stood there and then they decided on a time. Paige turned to me and said, “Is that cool with you?”

I was like, “Of course, do whatever you need to do.” And then I walked away because maybe she thought I was trying to like, intrude on their conversation or something.

Later, Paige and I were waiting for the elevator together and she said something like, “I wasn’t trying to step on your toes earlier. I know you kinda own the relationship with [Brendan’s company].”

And because I can’t help being a petty bitch, I said, “well, I’ve been owning everything since you’ve been gone.”

What? She started with me.

Anyway, I helped her “ease” back into her job over the next couple of weeks. But she’s still sending me messages like, “Let me know how I can support you to get this done,” so I’m gonna need to talk to Mike.

Meanwhile, almost all of my furniture and decor had been delivered so I was slowly getting everything put together (managing the task rabbits), organized (v much inspired by The Home Edit), and decorated (neutral glam with pops of pink for the living areas, boho chic for baby Winnie and modern Hollywood regency for me). I stayed a few nights by myself (well, with Brendan) to make sure it was perfect, and then I would be ready to get the flying fuck out of Connecticut for good.

Brendan’s little cabin trip fit into my schedule perfectly and in my mind, it was like my last hoorah before being out on my own. I let Brady know that I was going away for the weekend, but didn’t tell him about the apartment. I was too nervous.

When Brendan kept talking about the cabin, I was picturing something cute and quaint, but then we pulled up to this literal castle made of glass and stone and wood. It was beautiful.

“Wait, this is bougie as fuck,” I said to Brendan and Kendall, who’d rode up with us.

“You like?” Brendan said.

I’d packed cabin chic outfits (buffalo plaid, shackets, beanies, Lululemon pants, Doc Martens) and now I felt kind of silly seeing as how this place was nicer than any house I’ve ever lived in.

We got inside and Danielle (Brendan’s sister) and her two friends were already there. The friends were super nice, but Danielle was still being kind of icy to me. Whatever. I’d ask Brendan about it later.

It was still rather early on Friday evening so Brendan, Kendall and I went to the store to get food and booze for later. And I was just thinking, like ugh, I love Brendan. He was so cute and sweet at the store looking at recipes and checking the nutrition information. And then he’d be like, “I dunno if everyone will like gluten free pasta.” And even the few days he stayed with me at my new apartment — he was helping me figure out all the gadgets around the place and helped wallpaper my closet. He is just so sweet.

When we got back to the house, Kendall made drinks, Brendan set up beer pong and Danielle turned on music. By then her friends had opened up to me and were sharing dating stories. They were super cute and wholesome and kind of reminded me of Kendra with how intelligent and uptight classy they are. One of them was like, “OMG, and then at the end of the date, he grabbed my hand and tried to kiss me!”

And the guy sounded perfectly normal and nice to me so I was like, “…so did you kiss him?”

And they both looked at me, appalled. “No!

We played one game of beer pong (that’s all I can handle, I’m too old for games), and then me and Kendall went to make more drinks. We complained about stuff and just chatted for a bit. He wanted to know how and why I’m so good at beer pong so then we were talking about college and stuff.

Danielle walked in. We both turned and looked at her, and she was like, “Sorry, I’m just grabbing a drink.”

I thought it was the perfect opportunity to befriend so I told her what we were talking about and invited her to join us. She seemed to light up talking to Kendall (while ignoring me) and I thought, great, my job here is done.

I left them in the kitchen and went to find Brendan.

“I have a surprise,” he said when I found him on the couch.

“Tell me now,” I demanded.

“I ordered pizza,” he said.

My eyes lit up.

He added, “And garlic bread.”

“Stop it, you’re literally the most perfect person ever!” I squealed, hugging him. I was tipsy by then and pizza sounded amazing. I. Love. Pizza.

So anyway, we ate pizza, the girls went to sleep and Brendan, Kendall and I changed and got in the hot tub with the froufrou drinks Kendall kept producing. I was drunk and chatty and Brendan kept yawning and complaining that he was tired. But I was deep into the story of the first time I blacked out from drinking in high school.

“Come on, let’s go to bed,” Brendan kept whining. Eventually he got out and said he was going to sleep and I assured him that I was right behind him.

But y’all know me. As soon as Brendan was out of sight, I turned to Kendall because it was time to dig. First, I needed to get to the bottom of the Danielle thing.

“So…Danielle?” I said, wiggling my eyebrows.

Kendall looked genuinely confused. “Danielle?”

“You and Danielle?” I didn’t want to have to say it out loud, but I wanted to know if they’d fucked.

“No. God, no. She’s like a sister to me,” he answered.

“Oh.” Well, that was disappointing.

“But I mean, the way things are going with me now, I wouldn’t say no. I’m like, single single,” he said.

“She’s super cute. Would Brendan mind?” I asked.

Kendall shrugged. “Probably not. He knows I’m a good dude.”

And then he was talking about how all of their friends were married or about to get married, but he and Danielle always seemed to be single. He seemingly confirmed what I already knew — that Danielle and Brendan’s ex-wife are close friends — which was the perfect segue because that’s what I wanted to talk about next.

“So is it weird? That [the ex] still hangs out with all of you and they broke up?” I asked.

“Not really,” Kendall said and explained some of their friendship dynamics. And then he’s like, “It’s just so fucked up what she did.”

My ears perked up. “What’s that?”

“Well, she cheated on him, for starters.”

What?” I gasped.

“He didn’t tell you this?”

I shook my head. “Not all of it. He’s been pretty secretive.”

“Yeah, well. I don’t think he’s being secretive, I think he’s just hurt,” Kendall said. And then he explained that she cheated on him once a long time ago when they first got married, but again more recently. Brendan didn’t find out until after she’d already filed for divorce and I chewed the end my hair, trying to decide, based on the timeline Kendall provided, if she retaliated based on what happened with Brendan and me (he told her he liked me and they separated for a few months). And this was more than just her hooking up with someone, I guess this was a full blown affair and she wasn’t even trying that hard to hide it and was taking trips with the other guy and he bought her a car (jealous).

But that wasn’t all, Kendall went on, she was super manipulative and emotionally abusive and used his feelings for her as a weapon. She would make all their friends and family believe that Brendan was the emotionally abusive one and then when people started to question him/their relationship she would pretend she was the only person there for him and everyone was out to get them. Brendan, of course, didn’t know what was happening behind his back so he started working even harder to be a good husband (classic Brendan). And the ex’s parents were really, really controlling and involved in their relationship and would tear Brendan down whenever they got a chance.

“Oh my gosh, and what else? Why did she finally file for divorce?” I needed to know.

“No idea. To be honest, I was relieved when it happened. It was probably her parents’ idea more than anything,” Kendall said. “But yeah. She really did a number on his self esteem and sanity. So you’ve gotta take it easy on my boy.”

And I was like, aww, of course. I didn’t realize how bad their relationship got, but to me it seems like Brendan is handling it pretty well. Especially considering that I saw some of her manipulation firsthand via their text messages and I saw how it affected him.

We talked for a little bit more and then dried off and headed to bed. I got to the upstairs landing and realized I had no idea which room we were staying in. We’d put our stuff in a room earlier, but now the all wood hallway lined with wooden doors looked the same on both sides. Eventually Kendall came up and saw me standing there lost and grabbed my shoulders to guide me to the correct room. He’s so sweet.

“Thanks. Good night!” I called.

The next morning, Brendan woke up early because he and Kendall were gonna workout in the gym downstairs. Cool, I wanted no parts of that (though I should’ve based on the amount of pizza and garlic bread I consumed). I rolled over and went back to sleep. Some time later, he came back and laid back in bed (I didn’t even care that he was still in his gross gym clothes because I love him and he can do no wrong) and we chatted for a bit.

And then we got up to get ready and had sex in the shower. Then I got dressed in all black athleisure with a vest and Nikes.

“Where were you earlier?” Kendall asked when we ran into each other in the kitchen. “Brendan said you’re a beast on the Peloton.”

“I’m literally not that good,” I said modestly.

Danielle walked in to make coffee and listened while me and Kendall talked. So I tried talking to her again (this would be my last time) and to my surprise, she actually started speaking more than two-word sentences to me. Wow, progress! She was mostly just complaining about how cold it got in her room (I wanted to be like, “Kendall, you should’ve gone to warm her up”) and how her back hurt because she’s used to her special mattress at home (“Kendall, give her a massage!”). But I needed to stay in my lane.

One of Danielle’s friends had to leave and then a couple joined us and we all hung out all day. Danielle was being a bit more open/nicer to me and even asked me about Winnie. So maybe we could be friends after all. We bonded over a broken toilet in one of the guest bathrooms so she will probably put that in her toast when Brendan and I get married.

Later that night, we played Cards Against Humanity after dinner (Brendan made a big feast) and it was absolutely hilarious (mainly because we’d been drinking all day). I kept a close eye on Kendall and Danielle because I feel like I put the bug in his ear and he was finally going to make a move. I talked everyone into another hot tub moment and then proceeded to make out with Brendan the whole time — so bad that Danielle said, “Yeah, I’m…gonna go.” And Kendall said, “I’m with you.”

Oops? But maybe I was unintentionally pushing them together and if they end up with each other, I want credit.

After the hot tub, Brendan and I went up to our room and I was just sitting there in my bathing suit talking to him while he cleaned a bit.

I’m not sure why I brought this up considering it didn’t have anything to do with what we were discussing, but I said, “You know what I don’t get? Why you keep pictures of your ex-wife up on your Instagram.”

“Huh?” Brendan said.

“After everything she put you through. She’s the worst. Personally, I would’ve gotten rid of all traces of her after the first cheating incident,” I went on.

“How do you know about that?” he asked.

“Kendall told me,” I said matter-of-factly. “I always knew she was bad, but I feel like she was worse than I ever imagined. I cannot believe you put up with her bullshit.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. So basically I think you should delete all your pictures of her, it’s weird. It’ll show you’re actually ready to move the fuck on.”

“I don’t understand why you had a conversation with Kendall about that,” Brendan said. “Why did that come up?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it just came up. We were talking about relationships and stuff. Kendall just started telling me everything,” I said.

“No but Reese, you know how much I don’t want to talk about…her. It’s private. So why are you talking to my best friend about it?” Brendan was getting really aggravated.

“Wait, why is it so private? It’s me. You tell me everything.”

“Because it’s private! And I don’t want you or anyone else talking about it!”

Wow, okay. I was not expecting this kind of reaction and it definitely seemed like he was blowing it out of proportion. He was like, shouting at me.

“Is it because you’re not over it or her?” I asked. 

“No. If I wanted you to know about all of that, I would’ve told you. But I can’t even count how many times I’ve told you I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay well, sorry. I didn’t know this would upset you so much,” I said.

Brendan didn’t say anything and just started storming around the room, packing his little bag to prepare to leave the next day.

“Uh, are you mad?” I asked because he seemed pretty pissed to me.

“No,” Brendan said, but then continued huffing around and not saying anything.

So…yeah. That pretty much blew up in my face. We went back downstairs to continue drinking and hanging out with everyone and Brendan was being short and not talking to anyone. Kendall even asked if he was okay and he lied and said he was fine.

Later, we got in bed and I apologized again and asked if he wanted to talk. He said it was okay and no, he didn’t want to talk. And then we went to sleep. The next morning, we were driving back to the city. Brendan, Kendall and I hopped in the car and sat in near silence for the two and a half ride back. I was so confused, he was obviously really upset (and I kind of see why, but not really), but was denying it therefore not speaking to me about it. Brendan and I have always been really good at communicating so this was weird.

We dropped Kendall off at his place downtown then Brendan took me to my apartment. He double parked so he could help me take my bag upstairs. He hugged me and kissed me like all was normal, so I was like, “Are you mad at me?”

Brendan said, “No…”

“Okay, but you’re acting mad or like something’s wrong.”

And he said, “I think I’m gonna take some space.”

I didn’t even know what he meant by that, but if he was dumping me I was going to pretend not to be bothered. So I said, “Okay, cool.”

And then he kissed my forehead and left.

So………

What the fuck?

I busied myself for a few hours then headed back to Connecticut to see my baby. Obviously I hadn’t heard from Brendan, but he wanted space so I was going to give it to him. And later that night, I went to check his Instagram and all of the pictures are gone (either deleted or he blocked me/restricted me). And I mean, all the pictures, not just the ones of his ex-wife. I’m like, so confused, but at this point it’s so ridiculous I just want to laugh/cry. What exactly is going on?? And then because I needed something, I went to see what was going on on Brendan’s ex’s Instagram, and she had posted a picture of her and Danielle like an hour before. The caption said something like, “Ride or die for life,” and 🙄. I just can’t. I spent the next hour scrolling through Danielle’s Instagram feed until I got to the beginning.

But I haven’t had a chance to worry about it that much because I’m traveling with Mike for a few days and I need to tell Brady about my apartment, etc. and I’m exhausted. I want to crawl in my bed and never come out.

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