I guess I should’ve known things were going a little too good for me.
First, Paige came back to work. I knew something was up when I started getting a barrage of emails from Mike beginning at six AM. He was following up on random stuff: paint swatches, shipments, contracts, stuff from last year, stuff that had been resolved months ago. I got out of bed thinking, okay, WTF is this dude on? So I got dressed and headed into the office to confront him. But as soon as I was about to pound on his door, it swung open and he and Paige walked out. Oh.
Paige looked amazing, like she’d spent all of her time off at a spa getting regular facials and drinking celery juice.
“Oh, hey. Welcome back,” I said, trying to hide my surprise.
“Hey! I’ll set up some for us to TB and catch up, k?” she said, all smiley.
Once she walked away, I said to Mike, “Well, that’s a surprise.”
“Yeah. She’s been wanting to come back for a while but I wanted to make sure she was ready,” he said.
“Cool. Is she? It’ll be nice to have some stuff taken off my plate,” I said.
“Let’s let her ease into it. I don’t want to overwhelm her the moment she gets back.”
I was like, really?? Well, that must be fucking nice. I’d love to be able to take a vacation for several months and then get to “ease back” into work while other people handled my job.
But whatever. I’m a team player. As the week went on, she would forward emails to me and say, “Let me know if you need anything from me to complete this in a timely manner.” And it would be things that are a part of her job description, not mine. Excuse me? And every time I’d walk by her office on my way to Mike’s she would be sitting there laughing and typing on her computer like she was doing nothing but socializing all day.
I could not fucking wait for the weekend. I didn’t have any plans, but I was sick of Paige and I was mad at Mike for enabling her. I walked in the house ready to pour myself a fat ass glass of wine, but heard talking and laughing coming from the kitchen. I was convinced I was gonna find Brady in there with some woman and I was excited to meet her and for the potential drama of making Brady feel uncomfortable. What? You would be too.
So I marched in there and found Brady and Hunter standing around like losers with bottles of beer. Brady, who hadn’t noticed me yet, was like, dancing which is weird because Brady doesn’t dance.
“There she is!” Hunter shouted and they both just looked at me.
“Hi. I didn’t know you were coming,” I said.
“Yeah. Just stopping by on my way to Canada,” Hunter said. “You look good.”
I looked at Brady to see if he was gonna say anything about his brother’s blatant flirting, but he just took a big swig of his beer.
“Thanks. You look…the same,” I said.
Hunter laughed and then hugged me. I was confused as to why he was touching me, but I guess he was just being nice. As irritating as Hunter is, he’s always been nice to me (even when I’ve been outwardly indifferent about him).
We all stood around and caught up for a bit (apparently Hunter was going to Canada for a few months to work on a top secret project aka probably sleeping with all of Toronto). And since I was thinking about Hunter hooking up with random women, I said, “Oh my gawddd, remember Lexi?”
And Hunter was like, “No, who’s Lexi?”
Really? As a refresher, Lexi and I were close when I lived in Chicago and she met Hunter one time at Brady’s house and they seemingly hit it off and screwed every time he was in town. They were serious in the sense that they fucked without condoms and he told her he loved her, but then he just ghosted her. She recently got engaged to this older guy and I was excited to tell Hunter since he basically used and abused her.
“Ask your penis. It will remember Lexi,” I said.
Hunter and Brady both started cracking up like I was joking. Hunter put his arm around me and said, “I missed you, little Reese.”
I shook him off. Why did he keep touching me? Whatever. I still had plans of curling up on the couch, guzzling down a bottle of wine and texting with Brendan, but I was talked into going to the little wine bar in town. Since we all seemed to be getting along, I figured why not? We dropped Winnie off at Mel’s and headed down there.
Hunter must have sensed how much we (I) needed it because he ordered us a bottle of rose and a bottle of expensive red wine to drink. So we sat there and talked and got drunk on wine. We ordered another bottle and then when we finished that one, we walked down the road to the next bar.
“Three shots of Maker’s Mark,” Hunter said to the bartender, enunciating really slowly like he was drunk or he thought the bartender was stupid.
“We don’t have Maker’s Mark,” the bartender said and then he and Hunter had a conversation about the whiskey selection.
Meanwhile, I turned to Brady. “I feel like this is going to end badly.”
He put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed me like I was a boxer about to go in the ring. “You’ll be fine.”
So we took a shot of whiskey, I gagged and vowed not to take another shot. We ordered more drinks and it started to feel like old times. Like, I was having a good time with them and Brady and I hadn’t had a good time together in forever. I didn’t even know the last time I’d really seen him laugh and it kind of touched my heart.
At one point, they went outside to smoke and I pulled out my phone to see what I’d missed. I had a text from Brendan that said, “Wanna come over?”
“YES!” I said back and then added a string of emojis.
Brady and Hunter came back inside and Hunter ordered more shots.
“Nope,” I said.
“Yes,” Hunter said.
He gave me puppy dog eyes. “Pretty, pretty please? For me?”
Ugh, fine. It’s not like he’s in town very often so I guess I could appease him. So I took the shot and tried not to throw up. More time passed and I checked my phone and Brendan had been messaging me.
“Want me to call an Uber?”
“I’m getting in bed, but let yourself in if you want.”
I texted back, “Sorry. Am drunk.” And even though I was completely drunk, I knew not to tell him I was out with Brady and his brother. That would just be asking for trouble.
Eventually, we wrapped up the tab at the bar and walked home. I seemed to be the most drunk and was blabbing about literally nothing and Brady and Hunter were mostly ignoring me. Then I started to slow down because my feet hurt (I was breaking in a pair of new shoes) and after unsuccessfully requesting that I hurry up, Hunter picked me up like the caveman that he is and carried me all the way home. I looked at Brady like, “See? This is what I expect and deserve,” but he just yawned, unfazed. It was a little bit strange being so close to Hunter though, like I’ve never been that close to his face and even though it’s weird to admit since he’s my daughter’s uncle, he’s kind of hot.
I felt like shit the next morning when I woke up. It was after 10am and Brendan had already texted me a few times. I called him.
“I’m hungover,” I explained when he picked up. “I wish you were here to hold my hair back while I puke.”
He laughed. “Same. Did you have a good night though?”
I thought back to gagging while taking shots and Hunter carrying me home. “No. What are you doing?”
He explained that he was meeting his dad and talked to me about fishing or something uninteresting and I was grunting responses. And then he said he and his friends were visiting the family cabin at the end of the month and did I want to come? Brendan has loved a cabin/wilderness moment ever since I’ve known him, so even though I was happy to be included, I couldn’t help thinking this is another one of those things he used to do with his wife. But still, I told him I’d need to check my schedule, but tentatively yes.
After we hung up, I crawled out of bed to see what was going on around the house. I found everyone in the kitchen.
“Get dressed, kid, we’re going to brunch,” Hunter said to me.
“Brunch, brunch, brunch, brunch!” Winnie chanted. She was already dressed and hanging onto Uncle Hunter’s neck.
“K,” I said.
I got showered and threw on an Off White sweatshirt, leggings and sunglasses and met them all back downstairs. We piled into my car (but I made Brady drive) and went to the little diner in town. I needed a greasy omelet stat.
I don’t know why I was surprised by this, considering he has several children of his own, but Hunter is so good with Winnie. First of all, she loves him and was glued to his side (Ms. Winnie loves all men), but he got her all settled in her chair and went over the menu with her while I sat there trying not to barf and Brady texted on his phone. It was actually really cute how patient he was and made me think maybe he isn’t quite as awful as I always thought (besides all the cheating of course).
While we were eating and chatting, Hunter asked if I’d lost weight because I looked good. And then he said to Brady, “Doesn’t she look good?”
Brady just looked at me for a moment before reluctantly saying, “Uh, yeah.”
And it’s like, I know I’m hungover, but can’t you pretend? Or at the very least, say something to your brother about being a creep.
And then Winnie said, “Mommy, you are very beautiful.”
So take that, motherfucker.
Immediately after brunch, Brady needed to take Hunter to the airport which was perfect because I needed to gossip with Mel and let her know everything that had happened. And Mel, always very perceptive, said, “Do you think you were flirting with Hunter just to get a rise out of Brady?”
“What?” I exclaimed. “I wasn’t flirting, he was! And even if I was, it didn’t work because Brady didn’t give a shit.”
By the time Monday rolled around, I was shockingly ready to go back to work. Mostly because I hadn’t seen Brendan in several days and we had lunch plans. I got to the office early knowing that I had a lot to do and to my surprise, Paige was already there. She came and sat in my office with me for a bit and I brought her up to speed on some stuff and answered her questions.
“And everything’s good with [Brendan’s company]?” she asked.
“Yep,” replied. After the slight kick in the ass, it seemed like Thomas was getting things back on track.
Later in the week, Brendan and I were walking back in the office after lunch (we had a meeting with Mike and a client) and Paige intercepted us.
“Brendan, I’ve been wanting to catch up. Do you have time this week?” she said.
They talked about their schedules for the next few days while I stood there and then they decided on a time. Paige turned to me and said, “Is that cool with you?”
I was like, “Of course, do whatever you need to do.” And then I walked away because maybe she thought I was trying to like, intrude on their conversation or something.
Later, Paige and I were waiting for the elevator together and she said something like, “I wasn’t trying to step on your toes earlier. I know you kinda own the relationship with [Brendan’s company].”
And because I can’t help being a petty bitch, I said, “well, I’ve been owning everything since you’ve been gone.”
What? She started with me.
Anyway, I helped her “ease” back into her job over the next couple of weeks. But she’s still sending me messages like, “Let me know how I can support you to get this done,” so I’m gonna need to talk to Mike.
Meanwhile, almost all of my furniture and decor had been delivered so I was slowly getting everything put together (managing the task rabbits), organized (v much inspired by The Home Edit), and decorated (neutral glam with pops of pink for the living areas, boho chic for baby Winnie and modern Hollywood regency for me). I stayed a few nights by myself (well, with Brendan) to make sure it was perfect, and then I would be ready to get the flying fuck out of Connecticut for good.
Brendan’s little cabin trip fit into my schedule perfectly and in my mind, it was like my last hoorah before being out on my own. I let Brady know that I was going away for the weekend, but didn’t tell him about the apartment. I was too nervous.
When Brendan kept talking about the cabin, I was picturing something cute and quaint, but then we pulled up to this literal castle made of glass and stone and wood. It was beautiful.
“Wait, this is bougie as fuck,” I said to Brendan and Kendall, who’d rode up with us.
“You like?” Brendan said.
I’d packed cabin chic outfits (buffalo plaid, shackets, beanies, Lululemon pants, Doc Martens) and now I felt kind of silly seeing as how this place was nicer than any house I’ve ever lived in.
We got inside and Danielle (Brendan’s sister) and her two friends were already there. The friends were super nice, but Danielle was still being kind of icy to me. Whatever. I’d ask Brendan about it later.
It was still rather early on Friday evening so Brendan, Kendall and I went to the store to get food and booze for later. And I was just thinking, like ugh, I love Brendan. He was so cute and sweet at the store looking at recipes and checking the nutrition information. And then he’d be like, “I dunno if everyone will like gluten free pasta.” And even the few days he stayed with me at my new apartment — he was helping me figure out all the gadgets around the place and helped wallpaper my closet. He is just so sweet.
When we got back to the house, Kendall made drinks, Brendan set up beer pong and Danielle turned on music. By then her friends had opened up to me and were sharing dating stories. They were super cute and wholesome and kind of reminded me of Kendra with how intelligent and
uptight classy they are. One of them was like, “OMG, and then at the end of the date, he grabbed my hand and tried to kiss me!”
And the guy sounded perfectly normal and nice to me so I was like, “…so did you kiss him?”
And they both looked at me, appalled. “No!”
We played one game of beer pong (that’s all I can handle, I’m too old for games), and then me and Kendall went to make more drinks. We complained about stuff and just chatted for a bit. He wanted to know how and why I’m so good at beer pong so then we were talking about college and stuff.
Danielle walked in. We both turned and looked at her, and she was like, “Sorry, I’m just grabbing a drink.”
I thought it was the perfect opportunity to befriend so I told her what we were talking about and invited her to join us. She seemed to light up talking to Kendall (while ignoring me) and I thought, great, my job here is done.
I left them in the kitchen and went to find Brendan.
“I have a surprise,” he said when I found him on the couch.
“Tell me now,” I demanded.
“I ordered pizza,” he said.
My eyes lit up.
He added, “And garlic bread.”
“Stop it, you’re literally the most perfect person ever!” I squealed, hugging him. I was tipsy by then and pizza sounded amazing. I. Love. Pizza.
So anyway, we ate pizza, the girls went to sleep and Brendan, Kendall and I changed and got in the hot tub with the froufrou drinks Kendall kept producing. I was drunk and chatty and Brendan kept yawning and complaining that he was tired. But I was deep into the story of the first time I blacked out from drinking in high school.
“Come on, let’s go to bed,” Brendan kept whining. Eventually he got out and said he was going to sleep and I assured him that I was right behind him.
But y’all know me. As soon as Brendan was out of sight, I turned to Kendall because it was time to dig. First, I needed to get to the bottom of the Danielle thing.
“So…Danielle?” I said, wiggling my eyebrows.
Kendall looked genuinely confused. “Danielle?”
“You and Danielle?” I didn’t want to have to say it out loud, but I wanted to know if they’d fucked.
“No. God, no. She’s like a sister to me,” he answered.
“Oh.” Well, that was disappointing.
“But I mean, the way things are going with me now, I wouldn’t say no. I’m like, single single,” he said.
“She’s super cute. Would Brendan mind?” I asked.
Kendall shrugged. “Probably not. He knows I’m a good dude.”
And then he was talking about how all of their friends were married or about to get married, but he and Danielle always seemed to be single. He seemingly confirmed what I already knew — that Danielle and Brendan’s ex-wife are close friends — which was the perfect segue because that’s what I wanted to talk about next.
“So is it weird? That [the ex] still hangs out with all of you and they broke up?” I asked.
“Not really,” Kendall said and explained some of their friendship dynamics. And then he’s like, “It’s just so fucked up what she did.”
My ears perked up. “What’s that?”
“Well, she cheated on him, for starters.”
“What?” I gasped.
“He didn’t tell you this?”
I shook my head. “Not all of it. He’s been pretty secretive.”
“Yeah, well. I don’t think he’s being secretive, I think he’s just hurt,” Kendall said. And then he explained that she cheated on him once a long time ago when they first got married, but again more recently. Brendan didn’t find out until after she’d already filed for divorce and I chewed the end my hair, trying to decide, based on the timeline Kendall provided, if she retaliated based on what happened with Brendan and me (he told her he liked me and they separated for a few months). And this was more than just her hooking up with someone, I guess this was a full blown affair and she wasn’t even trying that hard to hide it and was taking trips with the other guy and he bought her a car (jealous).
But that wasn’t all, Kendall went on, she was super manipulative and emotionally abusive and used his feelings for her as a weapon. She would make all their friends and family believe that Brendan was the emotionally abusive one and then when people started to question him/their relationship she would pretend she was the only person there for him and everyone was out to get them. Brendan, of course, didn’t know what was happening behind his back so he started working even harder to be a good husband (classic Brendan). And the ex’s parents were really, really controlling and involved in their relationship and would tear Brendan down whenever they got a chance.
“Oh my gosh, and what else? Why did she finally file for divorce?” I needed to know.
“No idea. To be honest, I was relieved when it happened. It was probably her parents’ idea more than anything,” Kendall said. “But yeah. She really did a number on his self esteem and sanity. So you’ve gotta take it easy on my boy.”
And I was like, aww, of course. I didn’t realize how bad their relationship got, but to me it seems like Brendan is handling it pretty well. Especially considering that I saw some of her manipulation firsthand via their text messages and I saw how it affected him.
We talked for a little bit more and then dried off and headed to bed. I got to the upstairs landing and realized I had no idea which room we were staying in. We’d put our stuff in a room earlier, but now the all wood hallway lined with wooden doors looked the same on both sides. Eventually Kendall came up and saw me standing there lost and grabbed my shoulders to guide me to the correct room. He’s so sweet.
“Thanks. Good night!” I called.
The next morning, Brendan woke up early because he and Kendall were gonna workout in the gym downstairs. Cool, I wanted no parts of that (though I should’ve based on the amount of pizza and garlic bread I consumed). I rolled over and went back to sleep. Some time later, he came back and laid back in bed (I didn’t even care that he was still in his gross gym clothes because I love him and he can do no wrong) and we chatted for a bit.
“Where were you earlier?” Kendall asked when we ran into each other in the kitchen. “Brendan said you’re a beast on the Peloton.”
“I’m literally not that good,” I said modestly.
Danielle walked in to make coffee and listened while me and Kendall talked. So I tried talking to her again (this would be my last time) and to my surprise, she actually started speaking more than two-word sentences to me. Wow, progress! She was mostly just complaining about how cold it got in her room (I wanted to be like, “Kendall, you should’ve gone to warm her up”) and how her back hurt because she’s used to her special mattress at home (“Kendall, give her a massage!”). But I needed to stay in my lane.
One of Danielle’s friends had to leave and then a couple joined us and we all hung out all day. Danielle was being a bit more open/nicer to me and even asked me about Winnie. So maybe we could be friends after all. We bonded over a broken toilet in one of the guest bathrooms so she will probably put that in her toast when Brendan and I get married.
Later that night, we played Cards Against Humanity after dinner (Brendan made a big feast) and it was absolutely hilarious (mainly because we’d been drinking all day). I kept a close eye on Kendall and Danielle because I feel like I put the bug in his ear and he was finally going to make a move. I talked everyone into another hot tub moment and then proceeded to make out with Brendan the whole time — so bad that Danielle said, “Yeah, I’m…gonna go.” And Kendall said, “I’m with you.”
Oops? But maybe I was unintentionally pushing them together and if they end up with each other, I want credit.
After the hot tub, Brendan and I went up to our room and I was just sitting there in my bathing suit talking to him while he cleaned a bit.
I’m not sure why I brought this up considering it didn’t have anything to do with what we were discussing, but I said, “You know what I don’t get? Why you keep pictures of your ex-wife up on your Instagram.”
“Huh?” Brendan said.
“After everything she put you through. She’s the worst. Personally, I would’ve gotten rid of all traces of her after the first cheating incident,” I went on.
“How do you know about that?” he asked.
“Kendall told me,” I said matter-of-factly. “I always knew she was bad, but I feel like she was worse than I ever imagined. I cannot believe you put up with her bullshit.”
“Yeah. So basically I think you should delete all your pictures of her, it’s weird. It’ll show you’re actually ready to move the fuck on.”
“I don’t understand why you had a conversation with Kendall about that,” Brendan said. “Why did that come up?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it just came up. We were talking about relationships and stuff. Kendall just started telling me everything,” I said.
“No but Reese, you know how much I don’t want to talk about…her. It’s private. So why are you talking to my best friend about it?” Brendan was getting really aggravated.
“Wait, why is it so private? It’s me. You tell me everything.”
“Because it’s private! And I don’t want you or anyone else talking about it!”
Wow, okay. I was not expecting this kind of reaction and it definitely seemed like he was blowing it out of proportion. He was like, shouting at me.
“Is it because you’re not over it or her?” I asked.
“No. If I wanted you to know about all of that, I would’ve told you. But I can’t even count how many times I’ve told you I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay well, sorry. I didn’t know this would upset you so much,” I said.
Brendan didn’t say anything and just started storming around the room, packing his little bag to prepare to leave the next day.
“Uh, are you mad?” I asked because he seemed pretty pissed to me.
“No,” Brendan said, but then continued huffing around and not saying anything.
So…yeah. That pretty much blew up in my face. We went back downstairs to continue drinking and hanging out with everyone and Brendan was being short and not talking to anyone. Kendall even asked if he was okay and he lied and said he was fine.
Later, we got in bed and I apologized again and asked if he wanted to talk. He said it was okay and no, he didn’t want to talk. And then we went to sleep. The next morning, we were driving back to the city. Brendan, Kendall and I hopped in the car and sat in near silence for the two and a half ride back. I was so confused, he was obviously really upset (and I kind of see why, but not really), but was denying it therefore not speaking to me about it. Brendan and I have always been really good at communicating so this was weird.
We dropped Kendall off at his place downtown then Brendan took me to my apartment. He double parked so he could help me take my bag upstairs. He hugged me and kissed me like all was normal, so I was like, “Are you mad at me?”
Brendan said, “No…”
“Okay, but you’re acting mad or like something’s wrong.”
And he said, “I think I’m gonna take some space.”
I didn’t even know what he meant by that, but if he was dumping me I was going to pretend not to be bothered. So I said, “Okay, cool.”
And then he kissed my forehead and left.
What the fuck?
I busied myself for a few hours then headed back to Connecticut to see my baby. Obviously I hadn’t heard from Brendan, but he wanted space so I was going to give it to him. And later that night, I went to check his Instagram and all of the pictures are gone (either deleted or he blocked me/restricted me). And I mean, all the pictures, not just the ones of his ex-wife. I’m like, so confused, but at this point it’s so ridiculous I just want to laugh/cry. What exactly is going on?? And then because I needed something, I went to see what was going on on Brendan’s ex’s Instagram, and she had posted a picture of her and Danielle like an hour before. The caption said something like, “Ride or die for life,” and 🙄. I just can’t. I spent the next hour scrolling through Danielle’s Instagram feed until I got to the beginning.
But I haven’t had a chance to worry about it that much because I’m traveling with Mike for a few days and I need to tell Brady about my apartment, etc. and I’m exhausted. I want to crawl in my bed and never come out.