my child is me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a gentleman too!

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

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

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

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

“Hi Brendan,” I answered.

Hey,” he said. “How are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hiii, Brendan,” I said.

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

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

“Yes. Are you?” I said.

“I guess so. What was wrong yesterday?”

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

“Nothing. It’s fine now,” I said.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

“Oh,” I said. Deliberately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ohh,” Brendan said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aww, I love her,” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” she asked.

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan laughed and looked at her and she giggled shyly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe,” I said.

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

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

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

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

“She’s right,” Brendan’s dad said.

Uh, duh.

“Thank you,” I said.

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

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

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

“You’re coming tomorrow?” he said

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

“Totes,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ew, I still don’t,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You never snuck out?” I clarified.

“No.”

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

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

Really?” I was so excited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard