the nerve of that guy.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I was that Brady was annoyed with me. I was less than 15 minutes late, for starters, and his first instinct was to be mad at me — but what if I was hurt or something was wrong? I could’ve been dead in my apartment for all he knew! And since I was back on good terms with Brendan, I had nothing but time and energy to fight with Brady.

That afternoon I texted him, “I hope you enjoyed yelling at me this morning. Since that’s the way you want to be, any and all contact needs to be made through my publicist.”

He read my message immediately, but waited until later that night to like my message but not reply. Brady didn’t reply at all and I knew things would be awkward on Saturday when I went to drop Winnie off. Like I mentioned before, Brady and I were on like, the best terms and would text all the time throughout the week. My suspicions were confirmed on Saturday when I dropped Winnie off and Brady wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. Leave it to Brady to be weird!

“So what are y’all getting into this weekend?” I asked nicely, trying to smooth things over.

Brady shrugged. “Not sure.”

“Okay, she’s been wanting to watch this new movie on YouTube so maybe you can watch that with her,” I suggested.

He nodded and said nothing.

“Also, we discovered she loves cantaloupe this week so definitely get some when you go to the grocery store. She’ll probably remind you,” I added.

Brady walked past me silently. So I rolled my eyes and followed him.

“Why are you being weird? I was joking when I texted you.”

“I’m not being weird,” he finally said.

“Okay, well are you mad about Brendan? Because—”

Brady made a face and said, rudely, “What? No, I’m not mad about Brendan. I don’t give a fuck what you do, you know that.”

“God, you’re an asshole,” l said.

I stormed the fuck out of there and added him back to the top of my shit list.

That night, Brendan and I went out for dinner and drinks at his favorite restaurant on the corner of his street that we always go to. We were there for hours just talking about everything and drinking glass after glass of wine. He mentioned that he hadn’t heard from his mom at all since she went home to Florida, but she and Danielle still talk regularly. Brendan mentioned that he thought she was overly critical for someone who has been out of his life for so long which I thought was a shady, but real thing for him to say. This got us talking about our relationship and our little hiatus, which we hadn’t discussed in depth yet (just “I missed you,” a ton). Brendan said he was afraid that maybe he truly wasn’t ready to move on and everyone was right — and that’s why he thought space was good too.

“What? Afraid?” I repeated. Why was I just hearing of this?

“Yeah. I was with my ex for most of my life so it would make sense that I’d need time before I was ready to move on to another relationship,” Brendan explained. “But it was so bad at the end that I was ready to move on a long time ago.”

I was glad to hear that at least. I asked him to clarify what he meant when he said “it was so bad at the end,” thinking he was going to shut me down. But to my surprise Brendan actually started telling me about it: fighting about any and every thing and then Reagan would tell her father every little detail and then the dad would confront Brendan about it (an example he gave was one night asked her not to leave the Nespresso or something out and she asked why and he said “because it annoys me.” The dad called him the next morning to lecture him about why that is the wrong thing to say to your wife. V petty). He said she’d go away without him a lot (no invite obvi) and he found himself feeling relieved that he would have a break from her and all the bickering. He said he had a feeling she was hooking up with someone else (because he heard stories 💀) but he could kind of understand since they hadn’t been “intimate” since the whole lying about birth control/trying to get pregnant scheme. I know Brendan is much more understanding than me, but huh?? He could understand getting cheated on after she lied? And then he went into what I thought was the juiciest part: she refused to give her engagement ring back after the divorce so Brendan was keeping a Rolex she got him as a gift one year.

“Obviously the ring is worth way more than the watch, but I guess it’s all I can do,” Brendan said.

Obviously? Wait, how much was this ring worth? It’s not like Rolexes are cheap or even affordable. This was the most interesting part of everything he revealed to me. She refused to give the ring back? You can just do that?

At this point we were the last customers in the restaurant and the staff was stacking the chairs on top of the tables. But Brendan is the kind of guy who goes out of his way to talk to all of the employees and chefs and stuff so they all know and love him there.

“She sounds, like really awful. Does it bother you that your sister is still good friends with her?” I said.

Brendan shrugged. “I don’t want anyone to have to pick sides. They’ve always gotten along really well.”

Again, way more understanding than me. What about loyalty? I don’t have siblings, but if I did and they insisted on still hanging out with my terrible ex, it would be war! Can you imagine?

The first thing I did when I had a chance was go straight to Instagram to try to find this ring that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Reagan had curated her Instagram feed like she’s Kim Kardashian or something, but I was able to scroll back and find a picture where she was sipping from a mug and the ring was on full display. It was really gorgeous — no surprise there — solitaire diamond (huge) with a skinny band. I wanted it for myself and resented her for holding it captive.

Winnie and I spent Thanksgiving in Houston with my family. She’d never been to my hometown and hadn’t met a good chunk of my extended family so I figured it was time. It was an overall pleasant trip — my mom was on her best behavior and only pried a few times — aside from Winnie being scared of one of my grandmothers because she was mean to her. There aren’t any other small children in the family so my grandmother isn’t used to being around a brat. She said something like, “Put that back,” to Winnie in an adult voice and Winnie burst into tears. It’s kind of funny when I think about it now. She’s just like me.

Brady and I slowly got back on good terms. I don’t mind the occasional disagreement, but not speaking for weeks and months on end is just uncomfortable for everyone. Once I decided I was done fighting with him, I started buttering him up until he finally started laughing at my jokes again and texting me back. We didn’t get back to the way we were before (which is probably good considering the whole kitchen makeout and all), but we were both being super flexible and accommodating about our unofficial schedule — he had plans one weekend and I happily kept Winnie, stuff like that. How it should be! When we agreed on our schedule months ago, we said we wouldn’t change the schedule for holidays, but we’d reevaluate that as needed. So at the beginning of December I started asking Brady how he wanted to handle the holidays. To me it made sense for Brady to celebrate with Winnie during the week (+her birthday) and I should get to spend Christmas weekend with her. The only family he really has is his mother and he doesn’t even like her so… Is that mean?

Brady kept being like, “Yeah sure, holidays, we can figure it out once it gets closer.”

This should’ve been a red flag — Brady is not a “figure it out as it gets closer” kind of person. But I thought nothing of it. And I guess worst case scenario, we could just celebrate all together like we did last year.

I got a text message from Anna. I don’t remember ever exchanging numbers with her or saving hers, but the message popped up with her full name.

It read, “Hi Reese! Hope you’re well. I’m reaching out because I’m hosting a surprise birthday party for Brady later this month and wanted to make sure I extend the invite to everyone important to him. Can you think of anyone to be sure to invite? Of course you’re more than welcome to come and bring along anyone you’d like. Here are the details…”

What? First of all, I’d forgotten all about Anna, as I always do (What? She’s forgettable), because it’s not like Brady ever talks about her. So were they officially together? Why would she ask me to help with the guest list? It’s like, I don’t fucking know who to invite, we aren’t friends! I was sitting at happy hour with Brendan and Miguel when the message came in and Brendan said, “You look upset. You okay?”

“I’m fine!” I said brightly and put my phone away. I hadn’t spent any time with Brendan in a few weeks because he was so busy and this was not about to ruin my night.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. Anna was throwing Brady a surprise birthday party. Would he even like something like that? I couldn’t picture it. Maybe he would and that’s why he loves Anna so much more than me. And why did she have the audacity to invite me to the surprise party like I wanted any fucking part of that?

I wasn’t even going to reply, but later on I couldn’t help myself. Brendan and I were laying in bed after I’d bossed him around during sex and then he got a phone call that he needed to take from his computer. As soon as he left the room, I pulled out my phone to text Anna back.

“What made you think it was a good idea to ask me who to invite? Brady and I are barely friends and I don’t know anything about his life since we broke up. Invite whoever you want, it has nothing to do with me,” I said.

She didn’t reply. Obviously. There was nothing she could say back to that. It was silly to ask me!

The following week, Brady casually let me know that he and Winnie had Christmas plans with his family and it would require travel so he wouldn’t be able to make any changes to our schedule.

“Uh, okay? Were these last minute plans because I’ve been trying to get you to make plans with me for weeks?” I said.

“Nope, they aren’t last minute plans,” Brady said defiantly.

“Why are you just now telling me then? Because of Anna? Are you mad about that?”

“Mad about what? What does Anna have to do with anything?”

Oh. It made sense that Anna hadn’t told Brady about our conversation since it was all about his surprise. And I wasn’t cruel enough to ruin it for him so I pivoted.

“Where are you going anyway?” I asked.

He said that they were going to Massachusetts to meet Hunter and his family — and they were leaving early on Christmas Eve morning so please be on time.

“Oh, fuck off. I’m always on time,” I said. The nerve of that guy.

It took until the next morning for the realization to set in that I wouldn’t be spending Christmas with my daughter. And there was really nothing I could do about it. Of course this was always going to be a dilemma since Brady and I share custody, but I hadn’t prepared myself. We’d decked out the apartment, had a fully dressed pink and white tree, gifts galore and we weren’t even going to enjoy it together. Brendan was already on his way over since we were going to a class together and as soon as I started telling him what happened, I started crying. Like, full meltdown sob-crying. Y’all know me. Brendan was saying the only things he could say, the only thing that made sense like, “At least you get to spend her birthday with her,” “You can celebrate with her on another day,” “What about next year?” “You can spend Christmas with me and my family.”

And it’s just like, that’s not the point. Of course, I started whining about how unfair it is considering Brady didn’t even want Winnie and he doesn’t care about holidays or family and he was only doing it to be hurtful.

Brendan said something like, “I know you’re upset, but I don’t think that’s the case. Just know she’s going to have a good holiday whether she’s with you or not and I think that’s all you should be concerned about.”

I rolled my eyes. I didn’t ask him to come through with facts and level-headedness.

“You’re right,” I sniffled. “I’m still sad though so I think I need to skip rowing today.”

What? I fucking hate that stupid class!

Standard

i didn’t ask for boundaries.

I knew I left Brendan thinking, “What the fuck?” but truthfully I was thinking the same thing. It’s hard to describe how I felt, but space seemed good. I told myself I’d take a day or so to try to get my thoughts and feelings together and then I’d reach out. Fights with Brendan always feel so devastating and final, but they never are.

A couple hours later though, Brendan texted me. He said, “I’m sorry I didn’t say more earlier, but I agree with you. Take all the space you need.”

Uh, excuse me?? Now I was really confused. I definitely wanted to be on the same page, but I hated the idea that he was allowing me to take all the space I needed. No! Grovel and beg for me to come back! So now I was really mad at him — not that he would’ve known since we weren’t talking. The ball was in my court I guess, but I really felt like he should be the one trying to get in touch with me.

The following week, things were still silent and Winnie wanted to know what was up.

“Brendan is at his house. So he can’t play with you,” I explained.

Winnie gave me a skeptical look like, “Wow, so you scared another one of my favorite people away?”

It was absolutely fine though because Winnie and I probably needed to spend some quality time together (without the buffer of a man) anyway. I could pretend that her bad attitude and behavior had nothing to do with Brendan’s absence. After I put the baby to bed, I sat on the couch, pulled out my phone, and sent a meme to Brendan on Instagram. It was my way of showing him that while I was still mad, I wasn’t that mad and I was waiting for him to reach out to me.

But he didn’t reply. He didn’t even open it. Not even the next morning when he was firing off work emails. Oh, so he was alive? Was I being ignored? I was suddenly angry again — it was like he was the one who wanted space and if that was the case, why didn’t he just ask?

I spent the weekend incessantly checking Brendan’s Instagram for signs of life, feeling sorry for myself and unsuccessfully trying to pick a fight with Brady. On Monday morning, I sent an email and got an out-of-office bounce back from Brendan. Oh? It was one of those vague ones like, “I’m currently away and have little access to email. For urgent matters please reach out to Miguel or Yesenia.” So where the fuck was he? He never mentioned a vacation to me.

Miguel showed up to the office in the afternoon. He wanted to talk about this project that has been giving us nothing but trouble and I was like, “I thought I was working with Brendan on that,” snottily.

“He’s out of the business right now so I can help you with that,” Miguel explained like I am three years old. “Is it cool if I help you?”

“Yeah, totally,” I said, feeling bad. I wanted to ask him exactly where Brendan was, but Mike was standing right there.

Later on in the afternoon, Miguel was in a separate meeting that I wasn’t in and I texted him, “Want to get a drink after this?”

A few minutes later he texted back, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

Don’t ask me what I was doing because I don’t know. I think because I missed Brendan and wasn’t speaking to him, Miguel and his proximity to him was as good as I was gonna get. We walked to a nearby bar, one that we had to walk down some steps to get to, and Miguel put a hand on the small of my back to guide me. Hmm. As long as he didn’t get the wrong idea it was fine.

We ordered drinks and I started interrogating him about his wedding and his relationship and the usual. Y’all know me. He was just giving the same old generic answers so then I was asking what his least favorite thing about Jasmine is and what they normally fight about. Basically, I needed to know if he was aware that Jasmine liked to let sketchy men grope her for drugs — not that I was going to blow up my girl’s spot if he didn’t know.

“To be honest with you, Reese, I don’t have any complaints. I couldn’t wish for a better relationship,” he said.

Oh please!

“I know it sounds crazy, but I always told myself I wouldn’t get married unless I felt like this. And you know it took me a long time to find her…”

It was sweet, I guess, if it’s all true. I would love for someone to speak about me the way they speak about each other. Speaking of which, eventually I was like, “So where’s Brendan?”

“Brendan? I don’t know. He didn’t tell me where he was going, just that he needed some time off. I think he’s getting burnt out,” Miguel said.

“Oh. So he didn’t go on vacation somewhere?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Want me to text him and ask?” 

“No!” I exclaimed. Was he crazy? Don’t even tell him we hung out!

“Uh, okay,” he said.

The next morning I woke up hungover. I nearly forgot about hanging out with Miguel, but then I checked my phone and saw that he texted me.

“I hope you’re feeling better. Let me know if you want to talk,” he said.

Feeling better? Talk? And then I remembered crying on Miguel’s shoulder all night (literally crying) and complaining about my life. He’s so sweet, he just sat there and listened to me. He even offered to cancel his plans with Jasmine to stay and hang out with me, but that was my cue to go. How embarrassing and awkward.

I thought at least word of my tantrum/meltdown would make it back to Brendan and he would finally call me. I figured he’d probably want to know why I was hanging out with his business colleague and making him uncomfortable.

But nope. Nothing. Nothing! If I wasn’t so upset with him I would’ve been concerned that he actually was dead or something. But I knew he wasn’t dead — clearly — he just didn’t want to talk to me. I started having a recurring dream about our last conversation and with each iteration Brendan would get increasingly more mean and nasty. I’d wake up in a cold sweat.

Meanwhile, Mike and Paige were pissing me off. We were under pressure to wrap up our projects before the end of the quarter and they were hounding me about every little detail. I was a bit…distracted and having trouble keeping organized. I found myself scrambling before meetings as I tried to quickly gather information and follow up with people. I tried to help myself by deleting Instagram from my phone (so I didn’t sit there scrolling through Brendan’s, Danielle’s and Reagan’s profiles), but it didn’t actually help because I’d just open a private desktop tab and do it there.

That Saturday I dropped Winnie off with Brady and since I didn’t have anything better to do I stayed hanging out with them until after dark. Brady was being particularly nice (and he had been since crashing my birthday dinner) and ordered dinner for us. We watched movies and played games on the floor and honestly, it was a good distraction. I didn’t even think about Brendan until I was headed back to the city. Kristina texted wanting to hang out but I ignored her.

The next week, I guess I was getting used to the new normal. Brendan and I weren’t speaking and, as far as it seemed, over, but that didn’t stop me from checking his Instagram and LinkedIn every hour on the hour. I was barely staying afloat with all of my work and my inbox was out of control (I normally organize my messages by project or sender or urgency and… that wasn’t happening). Every time Mike or Paige asked for something that should’ve been done days or weeks before, I’d have to drop everything to quickly do it, but then I’d still stop and check Brendan’s LinkedIn to see if anything was updated. It never was and I was driving myself insane.

On Wednesday morning, Brendan finally emerged from hiding. He sent a one word reply to an email with the signature “Sent from my iPhone.”

It’s like, oh you’re alive? Well, fuck you! I read it forty three times trying to decode a secret message or his whereabouts, but to no avail. And since the message wasn’t particularly insightful and wasn’t addressed to me, I couldn’t even reply.

Trying to get additional scoop, I texted Miguel. I wasn’t going to outright ask, but was Brendan now “back in the business?” He provided no clarity and was like, “Let me know if you want to get drinks later. Jasmine and I have a ballroom dance class tonight and I wouldn’t mind being a bit buzzed for that.”

Hmmm. No. As fun as that sounded I was not about to risk humiliating myself again. I didn’t reply. Hopefully Miguel found a shot or two of whiskey on the way to the dance class.

On Saturday, Winnie and I hopped in the car and headed to Brady’s. We’d gone to breakfast at Starbucks and grabbed a to-go coffee and pastry for her dad. I wasn’t thrilled about having to drop her off for the weekend (usually I don’t mind a bit of a break), but at least they wouldn’t care if I hung out with them for a bit.

It started off like always where Brady asked Winnie about her week and I criticized the state of the home (“Oh, you still haven’t been to the grocery store?”) Brady was asking me if I’d heard about things on the news and I was being mean to him like usual. We turned on a movie and Winnie fell asleep and I should’ve left, but then Brady and I continued sitting there talking. We weren’t even talking about anything at all interesting, but I was glad I at least didn’t have to go back to my lonely apartment right away.

We took our conversation to the kitchen so Winnie could sleep I guess. I don’t even know why Brady wanted to talk to me since I was all doom and gloom and being a bitch. But secretly I think he sort of likes me being mean to him because he kept grinning and laughing and we were kind of flirting.

So we were standing there drinking pamplemousse La Croix and I could feel that Brady was standing dangerously close to me.

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” I said to him.

“Okay,” he said.

And then he leaned in and I put my hand on the back of his head and we started making out. Huh? What the actual fuck? Brady? What was happening? And my body was acting like this was normal (the hand on his head, pulling him closer). I think I just wanted to feel something after moving like a zombie for the last few weeks. But I still felt absolutely nothing. It felt like making out with my hand. It was like that Ava Max lyric: “She’ll kiss your neck with no emotion.” That was me. I could feel Brady getting a boner against my stomach and he continued leaning into me so the edge of the counter cut into my lower back and that was all I could focus on.

Eventually I pushed him away from me.

“What are you doing?” Brady whined like a child.

“I’m leaving,” I said.

“Now? But why?” he continued whining.

“Because I want to go home,” I said with no explanation.

So then I left Brady and his boner and headed back to the city. I didn’t feel particularly bad or guilty or anything really, just zombie-like. Lola sent a selfie of the two of us with the caption, “Miss you!” I ignored her.

I spent most of Sunday in bed even though I told myself I was going to catch up on work. I had been avoiding my inbox and I was not in the mindset to address it. I ordered Shake Shack for lunch, but took one bite and lost interest.

On Monday morning, I got up and dressed and headed into the office for another miserable day of work. But to my surprise, Brendan, Mike and Miguel were standing in the lobby of our suite. Mike looked small and ugly compared to Brendan and Miguel, but they all looked like they meant business. I waltzed right over to them and said, “Hi Brendan!”

“Hey Reese,” he said back, smiling at me.

“Reese, we were waiting all day on Friday for an answer from you and we still haven’t gotten a reply,” Mike said to me.

What the fuck was he talking about? I had no idea.

“Okay, I’ll reply now,” I assured him.

“That would be great,” he said, no-nonsense.

I lingered for a few seconds waiting for someone to talk to me before eventually going to my office to see what Mike was talking about. I was sure to leave my door wide open, just in case anyone wanted to stop by and see me. I sifted through my email and found the chain from Mike. He and Paige were asking if a vendor partner would be able to work with our extremely tight project timeline — a vendor I hadn’t even contacted yet. Oops. So I needed to figure that out asap. I kept an eye and ear on the door while I tried to get an answer for Mike and several agonizing hours went by.

Eventually, Brendan popped his head in my door. I was just sitting there staring at the door so it kind of startled me. He looked cute with his little backpack on.

“Hey, good seeing you. I’m heading out,” Brendan said. Behind him, I could see Miguel lurking and talking on the phone.

I glared at Brendan because really? Good seeing you? After nearly a month, that’s all he had to say to me?

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing. Goodbye!” I said.

“Okay. Bye.”

Obviously that tripped me up and I couldn’t concentrate for the remainder of the work day. I figured out the answer for Mike so at least that got him off my back but my inbox continued piling up.

As I was leaving the office at 6, I texted Brendan saying, “We need to talk.”

I had been waiting for him to reach out to me, but of course that motherfucker was still acting mute.

“I would love that,” Brendan said, which I appreciated. I left him on read while I tried to think of how I wanted to handle this and then he said, “I’ll be home later if you want to stop by.”

I definitely did. So I dropped my work stuff at home, went to an express Pilates class then came back home to shower and change. Then I called an Uber Black to take me to Brendan’s apartment. I don’t know what I was expecting from our conversation, but considering I’d been depressed since the last time I was at his place, I hoped we figured out something.

My virtual key was apparently still working so I let myself in and found Brendan and Kendall sitting on the couch playing a video game on the PlayStation or Xbox or whatever.

Reeeeese!” Kendall said excitedly without even looking up from the TV.

“Hi,” I said.

Brendan looked at me out of the corner of his eye and nodded, but didn’t say anything. Whatever. They were playing some sporting game and I watched from the armchair.

“How’ve you been?” Kendall asked me.

“I’ve quite literally never been better,” I lied and he grinned, again not even taking his eyes off the TV.

Brendan kept glancing at me out of the corner of his eye and I was getting antsy so I took a few laps around the apartment. Nothing looked out of place and there were no stray panties or anything so that was good.

Finally the game ended, Kendall hugged me goodbye and then Brendan and I were alone. He was sitting relaxed on the couch wearing a Fear of God Essentials hoodie and kept looking at me timidly.

“I thought you wanted to talk,” I said bitchily even though I was the one who suggested it.

“I do. I thought you did too,” Brendan said.

And then I just broke down and started bawling like the crazy insane psychopath that I am. Like full blown chest-quaking sobs. Brendan finally got up from the couch so he could hug me and comfort me.

Neither of us said anything while I tried to calm down and then finally I managed, “I don’t understand. Why. You haven’t talked to. Me,” all hiccupy and sobby.

“Uh, because you said you needed space,” Brendan said, confused.

“I did and you agreed! But don’t you think you had enough space by now?” I said.

“I have, have you?” he said.

Yes!” I screamed. “But you didn’t even act like you wanted to talk to me!”

“I was giving you space, Reese,” Brendan said calmly. “I don’t know how else to do that besides give you space.”

“For three weeks?!”

“I…didn’t know how much time you needed. I deliberately didn’t reach out to you when I wanted to so I could respect your boundaries,” he explained.

Brendan and these boundaries! I don’t remember asking for my boundaries to be respected.

“But you agreed! You wanted space from me? Why?” I demanded.

Brendan explained that he thought he made me uncomfortable or overwhelmed with how he expressed how he feels about me (maybe a bit but I love it) so he wanted to back off. I let him know that I didn’t appreciate going from 100 to 0 and I missed him and was very unhappy (understatement of the century) when we weren’t speaking.

“Well, now I feel like shit about that,” he said.

I totally shouldn’t have let him feel shit about it when I was equally at fault, but…oh well. I felt like shit too.

Eventually Brendan was like, “So what do you want? You have to really spell it out for me because I’m apparently not good at reading your mind.”

I smirked and let him know that I want to be with him for literally ever and didn’t want anyone questioning that and I definitely didn’t want to go 3-4 weeks without speaking. He was like yeah totally, I agree with everything you said, but am I freaked out about that?

I shouted, “Obviously!”

Ugh. I was so relieved to have made up with him. It’s kind of scary how off the rails I was when we took a break and I don’t know what to do about that. I mean, I guess I could’ve just been upfront about my feelings and wanting to talk to him, but I wanted the space and I think my reaction told me everything I needed to know.

We stayed up all night talking and having makeup sex and eating chocolate in bed. I closed my eyes at five thirty so I could get a couple hours of sleep before I needed to go home and meet Brady and Winnie. I woke up with Brendan spooning me and my phone blowing the fuck up. Eddie, my doorman, had called, Brady had called and texted, left a couple voicemails and was actively calling again. Apparently he was outside my building.

“OMW!” I texted him back and then screamed and cried, jumping out of the bed.

“Are you okay? What happened?” Brendan asked, thinking someone had died probably.

I explained what was going on and how Brady and Winnie were going to kill me and he offered to drive me the 18 or so blocks back home to meet them. I felt like such an asshole pulling up with Brendan, but I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that Brady and I were making out in his kitchen a few days earlier.

When we arrived, Brady and Winnie were standing outside his car with Eddie standing guard and I barely let Brendan put the car in park before I hopped out.

“Reese, are you fucking kidding me?” Brady greeted me.

“Oh my God, I am so sorry! I don’t know what happened,” I said.

Brady glanced behind me and said, “Oh, really? You don’t know what happened?”

Brendan, not reading the room or atmosphere whatsoever, had followed me out of the car and said, “Hey, good to see you,” to Brady.

I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I wanted to die! Brendan and this “good to see you” bullshit!

Winnie was apparently more excited to see Brendan than me and hopped over to hug him.

“You too,” Brady said politely and then gave me a disappointed look like I’m his child. “I’m late for work now so thanks.”

“Sorry,” I said meekly.

I turned around and Brendan and Winnie grinned at me — at least everyone didn’t hate me.

Standard

feeling some type of way.

Brendan and I went to Miami to celebrate my birthday and the end of summer. Brendan loves Miami for some reason and I realized that I really don’t enjoy Miami. Our accommodations were lovely (a high rise condo in Brickell) and we ate a ton of amazing sushi, but the vibes were completely off. Is it me or is everyone in Miami very fucking weird? Their faces are all blown up with fillers and they vape at dinner and don’t even attempt to recycle. One night we were sitting at a restaurant bar, drinking espresso martinis and people watching. And even though the bar was full, the bartender girl (whose boobs were in danger of falling out of the bottom of her crop top), only wanted to talk to us. It’s not like we were being extra talkative or fun or anything so why us? She wanted to know where we’re from and where we went for dinner and to know if we needed recommendations for where to go later after the bar? She was going to a lounge a few blocks away that plays hip hop music, she let us know multiple times, and it’s like, girlfriend, the only thing I’m doing later is going upstairs to love all over my man.

Another night we stayed in, opting not to go out after dinner (probably because of how much I complained about everything and everyone the night before). It was perfect: sitting on the balcony with good wine and my boyf, breathing in fresh air and not blueberry and cotton candy flavored smoke!

And I guess it was a bit too perfect so I brought up his ex-wife because I know they used to go to Florida/Miami together a lot. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Brendan taking me places he used to go with his ex. He told me how her family has a house in Boca or something and it was an easy go-to. He was telling me about how they’d spend a ton of time on all the boats and jet-skis and blah blah blah. 

“How fascinating!” I said. “So what happened at the wedding? You said she was in a bad mood, what does that mean?”

Brendan said, “Is that really what you wanna talk about?”

“Yes. Why do you always get so cagey about your ex? I think it’s weird,” I said.

“I don’t know. I think I still have some guilt about the end of our relationship.”

“Why would you feel guilty? Isn’t she the one who cheated on you?” I pointed out.

Brendan said, “And I care about her and respect her enough not to talk about that kinda stuff, you know?”

Really? She cheated on him and fucked him up emotionally but he still cares about her? I felt myself getting worked up and I took a sip of wine.

“I hope that’s okay. I just think it’s best if we don’t get into the details,” he went on.

Was it okay? I don’t know, but it didn’t seem like I had much of a choice. When I talked to Kristina about it later, she suggested that maybe he’s not allowed to talk about it. His ex and her family probably don’t want everyone knowing about her indiscretions. They’re apparently so rich, maybe they paid for him to keep his mouth shut. I don’t know.

So that was Miami. I hated it.

After I got over my uneasiness about his ex, Brendan and I had an amazing few weeks. He was spending a lot of time at my place with me and Winnie and I was thoroughly enjoying playing house. And maybe Brendan was too because one night he came up behind me and put his hands on my stomach like we were having a maternity shoot or something.

“Stop,” I said, pushing him off. 

And even though I was laughing, it’s like, no literally stop, don’t even joke like that.

One day at the end of September, Brendan called me randomly in the middle of the afternoon to tell me that his mother was in New York. This was around the time that big hurricane hit Florida so she had to evacuate and was spending some time in the city. Brendan never talks about his mom (except that one time he shared the wild story of her pulling a knife on his dad) and as far as I knew, they don’t have much of a relationship.

“Oh,” I said once he shared the news. “Is that a good or bad thing?”

“I don’t know,” Brendan said back. “I just haven’t seen her in so long. I had no idea she was coming.”

“Like how long?” I asked.

“I haven’t seen her since my high school graduation…so like 15 years, I guess?”

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. I know I don’t see my parents as often as I should, but 15 years?? (God, we’re old) In my head, I started calculating just how much time that was. He had gone through two other graduations since then, not to mention gotten married and probably a ton of other important life events. And it’s not like she lives on another continent — she lives in Florida! No wonder Brendan sounded so weirded out.

“I know. It’s super weird. We’re all supposed to go to dinner later and I’m not sure if I want to go,” Brendan said.

I had a ton of questions, mainly why hadn’t he seen his mother in 15 years — was it a conscious decision? If so, on whose part? As a parent, I can’t imagine not seeing my kid for that amount of time. It’s like, half of his life almost! But Brendan didn’t need me interrogating him, he just needed my support.

So I was like, “You should definitely go. It’s been so long! It’ll be nice to see her and catch up!”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll go,” he said, not sounding completely convinced.

I made him come over after dinner to tell me all about it. It went a lot better than expected, he said, and I was right (duh) — it was nice to see her and catch up. He explained a bit about why they stopped communicating: at first it was because he was a kid and felt abandoned when his parents split up and his mom moved away. But after a while, his mom just stopped reaching out. I’m not in any position to judge anyone obviously, but yikes.

“I hate that,” I couldn’t help saying.

“I know, but it’s cool. I think she’s trying to make up for lost time now so that’s good,” Brendan said. 

“She’s aware that the lost time is her fault, right?” I said.

“It’s not just her fault, it was definitely both of us.”

And it’s like, how could it be his fault? He was a literal child. But it was not my battle to fight. Brendan is way more understanding and forgiving than I am. I was still icing my own mother out for how she behaved during my birthday. We both can’t have mommy issues.

Brendan and I didn’t see each other for a few days and then that weekend, he invited me to a late lunch with his sister and his mom. Oh? They must’ve really been hitting it off! I was like let’s do it then, I was totally down to meet her. I walked in thinking, “This lady should probably thank me since I talked Brendan into repairing his relationship with her.” I went in all confident, thinking I was going to be the queen of lunch.

It started off really nicely. Brendan’s mom called me “beautiful” and hugged me which is a stark contrast from my own mom telling me that I needed to put on my makeup and get my hair done. Granted, I had actually put on a bit of makeup and gotten highlights by then.

“He won’t stop talking about you so I figured I may as well meet you!” Brendan’s mom said. Somehow, she was exactly what I expected. Sporty and pretty with thin Florida eyebrows and shiny skin that has gotten way too much sun.

“Oh,” I said, feeling like it wasn’t exactly a compliment.

Danielle was short as usual, but I wasn’t even worried about her because I feel like that relationship is beyond repair and the ship has sailed.

We all sat down and the girls were fussy about everything; the placement of the table, the QR code menu, the temperature of the sparkling water, etc. And even though it was annoying, I thought it was kind of cute how similar they are. They’d bonded over being high maintenance!

We mostly small-talked while we waited for the food with a few what I thought were innocent questions sprinkled in here and there.

“I heard you have a baby. How old is she?” Brendan’s mom, Tracey asked.

“She’s almost three,” I said and told them stories about my silly, crazy child. Even Danielle cracked a little giggle when I told them about Winnie’s new favorite move — gasping and clutching her chest at every minor inconvenience, which gets Brendan every time.

“I always think something bad happened,” he piped up.

“In her world, it did,” I said.

“Where’s her dad? Were you married?” Tracey asked.

I thought it was a bit of a personal question, but my mom is nosy too so I get it.

“Oh, no. We were never married. He lives in Connecticut. Winnie spends most weekends with him,” I said.

Tracey said something like, “Good thing you didn’t waste your time getting married,” and I was like, “I know right!”

We went on talking about Winnie a little bit more and then we started talking about work and I did what I do best: gossip about others.

“No one can be scandalized by me and Brendan anymore when Mike and Paige are clearly hooking up,” I said.

“I really don’t think they’re hooking up,” Brendan said.

Tracey then began asking about Brendan’s company and asking if he still enjoys it (questions I never thought of asking and I learned that he only thinks “it’s okay”) while subtly getting the timeline of when we started dating. I didn’t realize what she was doing until after the food came out — she and Danielle both sent meals back and it had to be re-delivered, I was mortified — and then she said, “So you two got together fast.”

“That’s what I thought too,” Danielle chimed in.

It’s like, excuse me girl, you suddenly know how to speak?

“I don’t think it was that fast,” I said. I’m not even sure how they came to that conclusion based on anything we told her — especially considering Brendan and I were friends for years before anything happened.

“I mean so fast, Brendan, you’re probably wondering if that baby is yours!” Tracey said and started scream-laughing. Danielle started cracking up and Brendan and I stared at them, horrified.

“Uh, no,” he said.

“She looks exactly like her dad — who is not Brendan,” I said, getting defensive.

Tracey took a moment to settle down and then noticed we didn’t find her little comment funny. “I’m only joking.”

“I thought it was fast because Reagan was going to invite you to Napa, but you were already dating her,” Danielle said.

“Her” has a name.

Tracey leaned toward Danielle and whispered, “Oh, I just love Reagan.”

Reagan is Brendan’s ex-wife, if you hadn’t caught on. And it’s like, you’ve been gone for 15 years lady, do you even know Reagan?

“I do too,” Danielle said.

“We weren’t together then,” Brendan said.

“But wasn’t she at Dad’s birthday?”

Okay, I’m not sure exactly what they were talking about (Reagan wanted to invite Brendan on a trip across the country????), but Brendan’s dad’s birthday dinner was hardly when we started dating. Yeah, we might have gotten drunk and made out, but I was definitely still hooking up with Brady after that. The dad’s birthday dinner was in the summer and Brendan and I got together in the fall.

“All I know is, I had to see a psychiatrist before I could start dating after my divorce,” Tracey said. 

“That’s not a bad idea,” I mumbled.

“I really don’t like this salad,” Tracey said.

“I don’t like mine either,” Danielle agreed.

I turned to Brendan. “I can’t.”

“Can’t what?” he asked.

I nodded toward the little trolls across the table. “It’s completely rude. Like Winnie could be your baby?”

“I’m pretty sure she was joking,” Danielle said though I was not talking to her. It’s not like I was really trying to whisper, but still.

“Yeah, that wasn’t cool,” Brendan said, agreeing with me.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Tracey said. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. It was a silly joke.”

“It’s fine,” I said.

It was not fine.

Needless to say, there was a bit of tension in the air the rest of lunch. I didn’t know if I was more mad at Tracey, Danielle or myself. And honestly, I was embarrassed. Here I was thinking I was going to waltz in there and have Brendan’s mom fawning all over me and instead she made it clear she was judging our relationship, like just about everyone else. And her opinion shouldn’t have mattered (15 years, remember?) but I was totally feeling some type of way.

Once we finished lunch Tracey invited us all to visit her in Florida and said, “I’m sure Brendan told you that I just got a place on the water!”

I wanted to be like, “Nope, the only thing we’ve talked about is his trauma after you abandoned the family.” Or maybe Reagan wanted to go visit her in Florida. She jUsT lOvEs ReAgAn. Then she gave me her business card because she sells essential oils in an MLM. No fucking thx. 

Brendan and I had plans of walking a few blocks to meet Kendall and a new girl he was dating (not the hottie 25 year old to my disappointment) for drinks. Brendan invited Danelle to tag along and she declined, thank God. 

“My girllll!” Kendall said, hugging me.

“Oh, I’ve had a day!” I said dramatically.

I hadn’t seen him a while at that point and I was dying to gossip with him about Brendan’s mom, Danielle and Reagan. But it, of course, wasn’t the time or place. I conducted myself like normal all night (well, as normal as a girl like me can be in a craft brewery).

“You okay?” Brendan asked at one point.

“Yeah, but this beer tastes like sperm,” I said with a smile.

“Okay,” he said with an awkward Chrissy Teigen face.

We stayed out until about midnight then headed back to Brendan’s. Then we proceeded to stay up all night having marathon sex. Brendan’s alarm went off early in the morning because he’d finally talked me into going to a rowing class with him. He got out of bed to shower and I laid there like a cadaver until he got out.

“You’re so cute,” Brendan said, getting back in the bed to snuggle with me. I continued just laying there and he was like, “You okay?”

“No,” I said.

He pulled away so he could look at me. “What’s wrong?”

I’d been thinking about it all night so I just blurted out, “Should we cool things off for a while?”

“Huh?”

I continued on. “I feel like it’s probably too much too soon.”

“Do you think so?” Brendan asked.

“Yeah. I mean, everyone keeps saying it — your mom, Margot. And honestly, that’s why I didn’t want you to meet my parents a few weeks ago because I knew they’d say the same exact thing.”

“Oh, I didn’t realize you didn’t want me to meet them.”

I continued on. “And don’t you think it’s weird that just last year you were married to someone else — who as of January 17th, you still thought was the love of your life — and now you say that same shit to me!” I was tempted to tell him about my mom’s second wife comment, but figured it was unnecessarily cruel.

Brendan pulled away from you and sat back on the bed. He looked cute in his head to toe Lululemon. “Yeah, I get it. It’s weird.”

“Right.”

“So you think it’s too fast? Because of what my mom said? If I would’ve known what my mom was gonna say, I would’ve never suggested lunch,” Brendan said.

“It’s not just about your mom. It’s about everything,” I said.

He watched me while I finally got my ass up and began to get dressed. “So what do you want, space?”

“Yeah, I think so.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted, obviously. 

“I’m kinda confused right now. I don’t really know what to say except I’m in love with you.”

“I mean, literally same Brendan, but that’s the problem. It’s freaking me out.”

“Uh, ooookay,” Brendan continued watching while I gathered my things to leave and then finally said, “Are you leaving right now? Do you want me to call you a car?”

“No, I can walk!” I snapped at him, irrationally angry that he didn’t talk me off the cliff.

I think between my mom’s visit, all of Margot’s various comments, Brendan refusing to talk about his ex-wife (but admitting he cares about her/what was this Napa thing??) and then his mom showing up out of nowhere, I was feeling insecure about our relationship. And it seemed like he was just letting me feel that way. He didn’t do anything wrong necessarily, but he wasn’t exactly helping either (letting Margot talk shit about us and then grabbing my stomach like he wants a baby!!). So yeah, I needed space to think. I left him there confused and walked home looking like sex and last night, but at least I got out of that rowing class.

**I’ll be back super soon to continue, I have sooo much more to say! Love you all!!**

Standard

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.

Standard

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