my child is me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a gentleman too!

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

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

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

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

“Hi Brendan,” I answered.

Hey,” he said. “How are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hiii, Brendan,” I said.

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

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

“Yes. Are you?” I said.

“I guess so. What was wrong yesterday?”

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

“Nothing. It’s fine now,” I said.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

“Oh,” I said. Deliberately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ohh,” Brendan said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aww, I love her,” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” she asked.

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan laughed and looked at her and she giggled shyly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe,” I said.

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

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

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

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

“She’s right,” Brendan’s dad said.

Uh, duh.

“Thank you,” I said.

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

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

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

“You’re coming tomorrow?” he said

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

“Totes,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ew, I still don’t,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You never snuck out?” I clarified.

“No.”

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

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

Really?” I was so excited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard

like a psychopath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t say anything. 

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly my point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Great!” I said, sitting back down.

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

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

“Absolutely nothing,” I said.

“How’s Brady and the baby?” he asked.

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

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

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

“Did you?” Scott seemed surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOL? What was funny about any of this?!

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey!” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean, no?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, she’s not.”

“Yes, she is.”

“No, she’s not.”

“Yes, she is.”

“No, she’s not.”

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

Yes. She is,” Brady said, sternly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yep. We’ll see about that,” he said.

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

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

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

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

“Hi honey!” she answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan looked at me again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s only six thirty,” I said.

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

“Hey,” I said coolly.

“Hey,” he said back.

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

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

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

“If you need any help moving—”

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all just so bizarre. Whatever.

Standard

what exactly is going on??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks. You look…the same,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nope,” I said.

“Yes,” Hunter said.

“Absolutely not.”

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

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

“You coming?”

“Want me to call an Uber?”

“I’m getting in bed, but let yourself in if you want.”

I texted back, “Sorry. Am drunk.” And even though I was completely drunk, I knew not to tell him I was out with Brady and his brother. That would just be asking for trouble.

Eventually, we wrapped up the tab at the bar and walked home. I seemed to be the most drunk and was blabbing about literally nothing and Brady and Hunter were mostly ignoring me. Then I started to slow down because my feet hurt (I was breaking in a pair of new shoes) and after unsuccessfully requesting that I hurry up, Hunter picked me up like the caveman that he is and carried me all the way home. I looked at Brady like, “See? This is what I expect and deserve,” but he just yawned, unfazed. It was a little bit strange being so close to Hunter though, like I’ve never been that close to his face and even though it’s weird to admit since he’s my daughter’s uncle, he’s kind of hot.

I felt like shit the next morning when I woke up. It was after 10am and Brendan had already texted me a few times. I called him.

“I’m hungover,” I explained when he picked up. “I wish you were here to hold my hair back while I puke.”

He laughed. “Same. Did you have a good night though?”

I thought back to gagging while taking shots and Hunter carrying me home. “No. What are you doing?”

He explained that he was meeting his dad and talked to me about fishing or something uninteresting and I was grunting responses. And then he said he and his friends were visiting the family cabin at the end of the month and did I want to come? Brendan has loved a cabin/wilderness moment ever since I’ve known him, so even though I was happy to be included, I couldn’t help thinking this is another one of those things he used to do with his wife. But still, I told him I’d need to check my schedule, but tentatively yes.

After we hung up, I crawled out of bed to see what was going on around the house. I found everyone in the kitchen.

“Get dressed, kid, we’re going to brunch,” Hunter said to me.

Kid?

“Brunch, brunch, brunch, brunch!” Winnie chanted. She was already dressed and hanging onto Uncle Hunter’s neck.

“K,” I said.

I got showered and threw on an Off White sweatshirt, leggings and sunglasses and met them all back downstairs. We piled into my car (but I made Brady drive) and went to the little diner in town. I needed a greasy omelet stat.

I don’t know why I was surprised by this, considering he has several children of his own, but Hunter is so good with Winnie. First of all, she loves him and was glued to his side (Ms. Winnie loves all men), but he got her all settled in her chair and went over the menu with her while I sat there trying not to barf and Brady texted on his phone. It was actually really cute how patient he was and made me think maybe he isn’t quite as awful as I always thought (besides all the cheating of course).

While we were eating and chatting, Hunter asked if I’d lost weight because I looked good. And then he said to Brady, “Doesn’t she look good?”

Brady just looked at me for a moment before reluctantly saying, “Uh, yeah.”

And it’s like, I know I’m hungover, but can’t you pretend? Or at the very least, say something to your brother about being a creep.

And then Winnie said, “Mommy, you are very beautiful.”

So take that, motherfucker.

Immediately after brunch, Brady needed to take Hunter to the airport which was perfect because I needed to gossip with Mel and let her know everything that had happened. And Mel, always very perceptive, said, “Do you think you were flirting with Hunter just to get a rise out of Brady?”

What?” I exclaimed. “I wasn’t flirting, he was! And even if I was, it didn’t work because Brady didn’t give a shit.”

By the time Monday rolled around, I was shockingly ready to go back to work. Mostly because I hadn’t seen Brendan in several days and we had lunch plans. I got to the office early knowing that I had a lot to do and to my surprise, Paige was already there. She came and sat in my office with me for a bit and I brought her up to speed on some stuff and answered her questions.

“And everything’s good with [Brendan’s company]?” she asked.

“Yep,” replied. After the slight kick in the ass, it seemed like Thomas was getting things back on track.

Later in the week, Brendan and I were walking back in the office after lunch (we had a meeting with Mike and a client) and Paige intercepted us.

“Brendan, I’ve been wanting to catch up. Do you have time this week?” she said.

They talked about their schedules for the next few days while I stood there and then they decided on a time. Paige turned to me and said, “Is that cool with you?”

I was like, “Of course, do whatever you need to do.” And then I walked away because maybe she thought I was trying to like, intrude on their conversation or something.

Later, Paige and I were waiting for the elevator together and she said something like, “I wasn’t trying to step on your toes earlier. I know you kinda own the relationship with [Brendan’s company].”

And because I can’t help being a petty bitch, I said, “well, I’ve been owning everything since you’ve been gone.”

What? She started with me.

Anyway, I helped her “ease” back into her job over the next couple of weeks. But she’s still sending me messages like, “Let me know how I can support you to get this done,” so I’m gonna need to talk to Mike.

Meanwhile, almost all of my furniture and decor had been delivered so I was slowly getting everything put together (managing the task rabbits), organized (v much inspired by The Home Edit), and decorated (neutral glam with pops of pink for the living areas, boho chic for baby Winnie and modern Hollywood regency for me). I stayed a few nights by myself (well, with Brendan) to make sure it was perfect, and then I would be ready to get the flying fuck out of Connecticut for good.

Brendan’s little cabin trip fit into my schedule perfectly and in my mind, it was like my last hoorah before being out on my own. I let Brady know that I was going away for the weekend, but didn’t tell him about the apartment. I was too nervous.

When Brendan kept talking about the cabin, I was picturing something cute and quaint, but then we pulled up to this literal castle made of glass and stone and wood. It was beautiful.

“Wait, this is bougie as fuck,” I said to Brendan and Kendall, who’d rode up with us.

“You like?” Brendan said.

I’d packed cabin chic outfits (buffalo plaid, shackets, beanies, Lululemon pants, Doc Martens) and now I felt kind of silly seeing as how this place was nicer than any house I’ve ever lived in.

We got inside and Danielle (Brendan’s sister) and her two friends were already there. The friends were super nice, but Danielle was still being kind of icy to me. Whatever. I’d ask Brendan about it later.

It was still rather early on Friday evening so Brendan, Kendall and I went to the store to get food and booze for later. And I was just thinking, like ugh, I love Brendan. He was so cute and sweet at the store looking at recipes and checking the nutrition information. And then he’d be like, “I dunno if everyone will like gluten free pasta.” And even the few days he stayed with me at my new apartment — he was helping me figure out all the gadgets around the place and helped wallpaper my closet. He is just so sweet.

When we got back to the house, Kendall made drinks, Brendan set up beer pong and Danielle turned on music. By then her friends had opened up to me and were sharing dating stories. They were super cute and wholesome and kind of reminded me of Kendra with how intelligent and uptight classy they are. One of them was like, “OMG, and then at the end of the date, he grabbed my hand and tried to kiss me!”

And the guy sounded perfectly normal and nice to me so I was like, “…so did you kiss him?”

And they both looked at me, appalled. “No!

We played one game of beer pong (that’s all I can handle, I’m too old for games), and then me and Kendall went to make more drinks. We complained about stuff and just chatted for a bit. He wanted to know how and why I’m so good at beer pong so then we were talking about college and stuff.

Danielle walked in. We both turned and looked at her, and she was like, “Sorry, I’m just grabbing a drink.”

I thought it was the perfect opportunity to befriend so I told her what we were talking about and invited her to join us. She seemed to light up talking to Kendall (while ignoring me) and I thought, great, my job here is done.

I left them in the kitchen and went to find Brendan.

“I have a surprise,” he said when I found him on the couch.

“Tell me now,” I demanded.

“I ordered pizza,” he said.

My eyes lit up.

He added, “And garlic bread.”

“Stop it, you’re literally the most perfect person ever!” I squealed, hugging him. I was tipsy by then and pizza sounded amazing. I. Love. Pizza.

So anyway, we ate pizza, the girls went to sleep and Brendan, Kendall and I changed and got in the hot tub with the froufrou drinks Kendall kept producing. I was drunk and chatty and Brendan kept yawning and complaining that he was tired. But I was deep into the story of the first time I blacked out from drinking in high school.

“Come on, let’s go to bed,” Brendan kept whining. Eventually he got out and said he was going to sleep and I assured him that I was right behind him.

But y’all know me. As soon as Brendan was out of sight, I turned to Kendall because it was time to dig. First, I needed to get to the bottom of the Danielle thing.

“So…Danielle?” I said, wiggling my eyebrows.

Kendall looked genuinely confused. “Danielle?”

“You and Danielle?” I didn’t want to have to say it out loud, but I wanted to know if they’d fucked.

“No. God, no. She’s like a sister to me,” he answered.

“Oh.” Well, that was disappointing.

“But I mean, the way things are going with me now, I wouldn’t say no. I’m like, single single,” he said.

“She’s super cute. Would Brendan mind?” I asked.

Kendall shrugged. “Probably not. He knows I’m a good dude.”

And then he was talking about how all of their friends were married or about to get married, but he and Danielle always seemed to be single. He seemingly confirmed what I already knew — that Danielle and Brendan’s ex-wife are close friends — which was the perfect segue because that’s what I wanted to talk about next.

“So is it weird? That [the ex] still hangs out with all of you and they broke up?” I asked.

“Not really,” Kendall said and explained some of their friendship dynamics. And then he’s like, “It’s just so fucked up what she did.”

My ears perked up. “What’s that?”

“Well, she cheated on him, for starters.”

What?” I gasped.

“He didn’t tell you this?”

I shook my head. “Not all of it. He’s been pretty secretive.”

“Yeah, well. I don’t think he’s being secretive, I think he’s just hurt,” Kendall said. And then he explained that she cheated on him once a long time ago when they first got married, but again more recently. Brendan didn’t find out until after she’d already filed for divorce and I chewed the end my hair, trying to decide, based on the timeline Kendall provided, if she retaliated based on what happened with Brendan and me (he told her he liked me and they separated for a few months). And this was more than just her hooking up with someone, I guess this was a full blown affair and she wasn’t even trying that hard to hide it and was taking trips with the other guy and he bought her a car (jealous).

But that wasn’t all, Kendall went on, she was super manipulative and emotionally abusive and used his feelings for her as a weapon. She would make all their friends and family believe that Brendan was the emotionally abusive one and then when people started to question him/their relationship she would pretend she was the only person there for him and everyone was out to get them. Brendan, of course, didn’t know what was happening behind his back so he started working even harder to be a good husband (classic Brendan). And the ex’s parents were really, really controlling and involved in their relationship and would tear Brendan down whenever they got a chance.

“Oh my gosh, and what else? Why did she finally file for divorce?” I needed to know.

“No idea. To be honest, I was relieved when it happened. It was probably her parents’ idea more than anything,” Kendall said. “But yeah. She really did a number on his self esteem and sanity. So you’ve gotta take it easy on my boy.”

And I was like, aww, of course. I didn’t realize how bad their relationship got, but to me it seems like Brendan is handling it pretty well. Especially considering that I saw some of her manipulation firsthand via their text messages and I saw how it affected him.

We talked for a little bit more and then dried off and headed to bed. I got to the upstairs landing and realized I had no idea which room we were staying in. We’d put our stuff in a room earlier, but now the all wood hallway lined with wooden doors looked the same on both sides. Eventually Kendall came up and saw me standing there lost and grabbed my shoulders to guide me to the correct room. He’s so sweet.

“Thanks. Good night!” I called.

The next morning, Brendan woke up early because he and Kendall were gonna workout in the gym downstairs. Cool, I wanted no parts of that (though I should’ve based on the amount of pizza and garlic bread I consumed). I rolled over and went back to sleep. Some time later, he came back and laid back in bed (I didn’t even care that he was still in his gross gym clothes because I love him and he can do no wrong) and we chatted for a bit.

And then we got up to get ready and had sex in the shower. Then I got dressed in all black athleisure with a vest and Nikes.

“Where were you earlier?” Kendall asked when we ran into each other in the kitchen. “Brendan said you’re a beast on the Peloton.”

“I’m literally not that good,” I said modestly.

Danielle walked in to make coffee and listened while me and Kendall talked. So I tried talking to her again (this would be my last time) and to my surprise, she actually started speaking more than two-word sentences to me. Wow, progress! She was mostly just complaining about how cold it got in her room (I wanted to be like, “Kendall, you should’ve gone to warm her up”) and how her back hurt because she’s used to her special mattress at home (“Kendall, give her a massage!”). But I needed to stay in my lane.

One of Danielle’s friends had to leave and then a couple joined us and we all hung out all day. Danielle was being a bit more open/nicer to me and even asked me about Winnie. So maybe we could be friends after all. We bonded over a broken toilet in one of the guest bathrooms so she will probably put that in her toast when Brendan and I get married.

Later that night, we played Cards Against Humanity after dinner (Brendan made a big feast) and it was absolutely hilarious (mainly because we’d been drinking all day). I kept a close eye on Kendall and Danielle because I feel like I put the bug in his ear and he was finally going to make a move. I talked everyone into another hot tub moment and then proceeded to make out with Brendan the whole time — so bad that Danielle said, “Yeah, I’m…gonna go.” And Kendall said, “I’m with you.”

Oops? But maybe I was unintentionally pushing them together and if they end up with each other, I want credit.

After the hot tub, Brendan and I went up to our room and I was just sitting there in my bathing suit talking to him while he cleaned a bit.

I’m not sure why I brought this up considering it didn’t have anything to do with what we were discussing, but I said, “You know what I don’t get? Why you keep pictures of your ex-wife up on your Instagram.”

“Huh?” Brendan said.

“After everything she put you through. She’s the worst. Personally, I would’ve gotten rid of all traces of her after the first cheating incident,” I went on.

“How do you know about that?” he asked.

“Kendall told me,” I said matter-of-factly. “I always knew she was bad, but I feel like she was worse than I ever imagined. I cannot believe you put up with her bullshit.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. So basically I think you should delete all your pictures of her, it’s weird. It’ll show you’re actually ready to move the fuck on.”

“I don’t understand why you had a conversation with Kendall about that,” Brendan said. “Why did that come up?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it just came up. We were talking about relationships and stuff. Kendall just started telling me everything,” I said.

“No but Reese, you know how much I don’t want to talk about…her. It’s private. So why are you talking to my best friend about it?” Brendan was getting really aggravated.

“Wait, why is it so private? It’s me. You tell me everything.”

“Because it’s private! And I don’t want you or anyone else talking about it!”

Wow, okay. I was not expecting this kind of reaction and it definitely seemed like he was blowing it out of proportion. He was like, shouting at me.

“Is it because you’re not over it or her?” I asked. 

“No. If I wanted you to know about all of that, I would’ve told you. But I can’t even count how many times I’ve told you I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay well, sorry. I didn’t know this would upset you so much,” I said.

Brendan didn’t say anything and just started storming around the room, packing his little bag to prepare to leave the next day.

“Uh, are you mad?” I asked because he seemed pretty pissed to me.

“No,” Brendan said, but then continued huffing around and not saying anything.

So…yeah. That pretty much blew up in my face. We went back downstairs to continue drinking and hanging out with everyone and Brendan was being short and not talking to anyone. Kendall even asked if he was okay and he lied and said he was fine.

Later, we got in bed and I apologized again and asked if he wanted to talk. He said it was okay and no, he didn’t want to talk. And then we went to sleep. The next morning, we were driving back to the city. Brendan, Kendall and I hopped in the car and sat in near silence for the two and a half ride back. I was so confused, he was obviously really upset (and I kind of see why, but not really), but was denying it therefore not speaking to me about it. Brendan and I have always been really good at communicating so this was weird.

We dropped Kendall off at his place downtown then Brendan took me to my apartment. He double parked so he could help me take my bag upstairs. He hugged me and kissed me like all was normal, so I was like, “Are you mad at me?”

Brendan said, “No…”

“Okay, but you’re acting mad or like something’s wrong.”

And he said, “I think I’m gonna take some space.”

I didn’t even know what he meant by that, but if he was dumping me I was going to pretend not to be bothered. So I said, “Okay, cool.”

And then he kissed my forehead and left.

So………

What the fuck?

I busied myself for a few hours then headed back to Connecticut to see my baby. Obviously I hadn’t heard from Brendan, but he wanted space so I was going to give it to him. And later that night, I went to check his Instagram and all of the pictures are gone (either deleted or he blocked me/restricted me). And I mean, all the pictures, not just the ones of his ex-wife. I’m like, so confused, but at this point it’s so ridiculous I just want to laugh/cry. What exactly is going on?? And then because I needed something, I went to see what was going on on Brendan’s ex’s Instagram, and she had posted a picture of her and Danielle like an hour before. The caption said something like, “Ride or die for life,” and 🙄. I just can’t. I spent the next hour scrolling through Danielle’s Instagram feed until I got to the beginning.

But I haven’t had a chance to worry about it that much because I’m traveling with Mike for a few days and I need to tell Brady about my apartment, etc. and I’m exhausted. I want to crawl in my bed and never come out.

Standard

he had no business getting me roses.

Shocker: Brady and I didn’t talk about what he said until a couple days later. He wasn’t going to bring it up again obviously and I needed some time to cool off before confronting him about it.

One night I was giving Winnie a bath — which is our girl time where we gossip and talk about fashion and beauty. And suddenly, even though she was deliberately splashing me, I got really sad thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do it all the time once I move into my own place. She looked so cute with her white blonde hair stuck to her scalp, big innocent (ha) eyes and mischievous smirk. It didn’t even make any sense to be sad because Brady bathes her and puts her to bed sometimes anyway.

So I got her dressed and put her in the bed so I could read her one of the three books she likes before she sleeps. And then I got sad again as I sat there because I’d put so much time decorating and putting her room together (I went for a glam boho style that she’ll be able to grow into) and I wouldn’t even be around to see her enjoy. I know it sounds petty, but that’s where my head was at. So I read Winnie her book (the entire book because at this point she has all three of them memorized and if I don’t read them word for word, she will call me out), said goodnight and then went downstairs to talk to Brady. He’s been getting on my fucking nerves lately to say the least and it was making me crazy and physically ill.

“Hi,” I said once I found him in the kitchen. He looked up at me. “Someone rented that apartment.”

“Okay,” Brady said. “What are you going to do now?”

“I have a few more bookmarked that I want to go look at and I’m sure one of those will work out. It’ll probably just take a few more weeks,” I explained.

Brady looked unaffected. “Okay. Cool.”

And maybe this is weird, but a part of me wanted him to tell me again that he didn’t want me to move out again. I wanted to hear him say it and I wanted to know why he would say that to me. But obviously he’s too much of a pussy wussy to bring it up again so I guess I was going to have to.

“But you don’t want me to move out?”

“I’m not asking you to move out,” he clarified. “But if that’s what you want to do then…”

I rolled my eyes.

“I think it would be easier for everyone if you didn’t,” Brady continued. “Winnie is happy here with both of us. She’s used to it and she has plenty of space…she’s not used to living in the city, not even part time.”

“Part time? Is that what you and your lawyer decided on?” I said snarkily.

“No. We aren’t going to decide on anything without you.”

When he said that I wanted to kill him slightly less.

“I think it’d be weird if I didn’t move out. Winnie is going to pick up on the fact that we don’t ever speak and it’ll just be harder for both of us to like, move on,” I said.

And that’s when Brady seemed to catch my drift and he stared at me for a moment without saying anything. He was super still, so still that I saw his chest rising and falling under his shirt.

“Yeah. I guess you’re right,” he finally said. “Once you figure it out, I’ll let you explain it to her.”

Really? I had to explain it even though Brady was the one who was staying back and forth in the city with no explanation. Whatever.

But honestly, it was the most progress we’d made in a while and I was rather satisfied with our conversation. It’s not like I came right out and told him that I was seeing someone else, but clearly he got the message. And we didn’t yell or argue — I’d move out and there would be no drama.

I was feeling so good in fact that I got my ass up early and went to the office for work on Monday. I even had time to stop and get myself a dirty chai on the way. I was sitting in my office, drinking my tea, bookmarking apartments on StreetEasy and reading through the comments on Brendan’s old Instagram posts (this is one of those things I do make myself miserable because Brendan’s ex-wife always commented on every one of his pictures and it was usual overly sappy or super sexually suggestive in nature) when Mike called.

“Come to my office,” he demanded.

I rolled my eyes. “K. See you in a minute.”

I’m still covering for Paige, I guess, even though I’m pretty sure she’s never coming back. All of her job duties have been absorbed by other people (I knew she wasn’t useful in the first place) and Mike keeps changing her return date, but I’m convinced she’s not returning at all. 

Mike wanted to go over the status of our current projects and talk about which ones were behind. He realized that there were construction hold ups on the majority of them and started ranting.

“Why are there so many construction delays? What the fuck is going on at [Brendan’s company]?” he shouted.

“I’m not sure. I know there are a ton of supply chain issues going so maybe that’s why,” I said. Since the pandemic started almost all of our projects have been off schedule so it was weird that Mike was just now getting upset by it.

“I don’t care what the issue is. That’s what they need to figure out. And fix. ASAP. I’m not going to risk my reputation because of their incompetence, I know that much.”

“Right,” I said.

Mike glared at me like this was my fault. “Make sure the message gets back to them and everything gets back on target. There are a lot of contractors in this city so I’m not going to accept this below standard bullshit.”

“Okay, Mike,” I said, suddenly annoyed that I was going to have to relay his message. If Mike is so tough, why can’t he do it himself? And it’s like, duh: he and Brendan are best friends so of course he wants me to do his dirty work.

I had no plans of actually saying anything and didn’t bring it up during any of my conversations with Brendan the next few times I spoke to him. A few days later though, Mike asked for an update.

“We’re working on it,” I told him and later in the day, Sam told me that Mike had her researching different firms to reach out to.

Seriously, Mike? I was so irritated. Mike was the one with the issue so why was I having to deal with this. Eventually, I talked to Thomas about it though (he’s in charge of sales anyway) because I didn’t want to have that awkward conversation with Brendan.

Thomas was like, “Fuck. Do you think Mike would really can us?”

And I said, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, I found another apartment that I liked: a corner unit in a doorman building not far from Central Park. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, 1,300 square feet and only slightly above my budget. It was perfect for me and Winnie. I applied, went and looked at it on my lunch break and signed the lease without telling anyone.

So I officially had an apartment and started ordering things to have delivered there. I had some things I wanted to do before officially moving in and so I was taking my time. After our polite conversation about me moving out, Brady and I started being more cordial and actually speaking to each other in the evenings. I guess we were both just over being mad at each other.

And then on Valentine’s Day, when I brought Winnie downstairs for breakfast there were two bouquets of roses on the island, one a mini version of the other. I was confused at first, wondering where they’d come from (Brendan??) and how they’d gotten in the house. But then I realized they were from Brady. Why? We were barely on speaking terms so why would he get me anything for Valentine’s Day? Winnie was so happy and screamed, “Pretty!” when she saw the flowers though so I told them they were all for her.

I got another bouquet of roses delivered to the office, but these ones were from Brendan. We had plans later (he would be cooking dinner for me at his place), but the flowers were a sweet gesture. In the afternoon though, as I was getting ready to go home to get ready, Brendan sent me a message that said, “We’re still way behind on [major project Mike’s been on our asses about]. Would you be super disappointed if I cancelled tonight?”

And it’s just like, really? On Valentine’s Day? Didn’t he have an entire team that should’ve been taking care of the project while he enjoyed life like a normal CEO? Or maybe the project was fine and he wanted to spend V-Day with someone else (his ex-wife).

“I’m not sure if I’d ever speak to you again,” I said back. I was kind of joking, but mostly serious because I’d already gotten someone to watch Winnie and hello? He should have wanted to spend Valentine’s Day with me.

“Okay. It might be a little later though. I will text you in a bit,” he said. That’s what I fucking thought.

I went home, hung out with my child and then got ready for Brendan to tell me to come over. And then I headed over, let myself in and found Brendan slaving away in the kitchen. He’s so cute.

“It literally smells like Italy in here,” I greeted him (I’ve obviously never been to Italy).

Brendan stopped momentarily to kiss me and point to a glass of wine and then went back to stirring pans and draining pasta noodles. I made him tell me about the project while he finished up dinner and I was relieved that it at least sounded like they were making significant progress. Good. I’d tell Mike.

We took our plates and wine to the table where there was an envelope with my name on it waiting.

“Thanks for making dinner. I didn’t realize you were such a chef,” I said because the plates looked like they could have come out of any five-star restaurant.

Brendan shrugged modestly. “I can whip up a few things. I actually learned this in France. My family took a cooking class.”

The food (and wine) turned out to be really delicious and he told me how much I’d love France (and Italy) and of course the only thing I could think about was how he probably went there with his ex-wife too. Was there any place in the world we could go that they hadn’t already experienced together? Then we talked about his birthday and the birthday dinner his stepmom was having for him over the weekend. I’d finally get to meet his sister (who he is really close with) and some of his friends he grew up with.

And maybe the dinner was going a little bit too well because I decided to blow it up by saying, “Brady got me roses today.”

I think I was still feeling a little bit insecure about him trying to cancel our plans and wanted to throw it in his face.

Brendan stopped chewing. “He did? Why?”

“I don’t know. They were in the kitchen when I woke up. There were some for Winnie too,” I said.

“Oh,” he paused.

“Yeah. I just told her they were all for her, but there was like a mommy and baby version,” I said, making it worse.

“Are you still gonna get your own place?” Brendan asked.

“Yes, of course. I actually signed a lease the other week,” I said.

“You did? But you haven’t moved out?”

“Not yet. I’ve been ordering furniture and stuff though. I just need to go set everything up.”

Brendan was silent for several moments and I could tell that I’d already said too much so I was silent too.

“So am I just wasting my time here?” he finally asked.

“What do you mean? No,” I said.

“I mean, I can’t really compete with that. You guys have history and a baby and live together. And it just sucks because I really, really like you and I’m trying hard…”

“It’s not even like that,” I backtracked. “I think he was just being nice because he’s been so awful to me the past few months.”

“To me it sounds like both of you still have one foot in the door.”

I couldn’t help thinking about the time I got dumped by Chicago Nick because of Brady.

“We don’t. The door is closed and locked. In fact there’s not even a door anymore,” I said, trying to be funny.

Brendan didn’t laugh and rubbed his temple. I was stressing him out, I guess. We cleaned up in silence and then he said, “You can stay over if you want, but I’m gonna head to bed.”

Wait, he was kicking me out? He didn’t wanna hook up? It was Valentine’s Day. Whatever.

“Okay, I’m going home,” I said, hoping he would try to stop me.

“Okay.”

I collected all my things and called an Uber and Brendan grabbed my shoulders and kissed me before I left. But on the ride home, I couldn’t help thinking: that was my fault. Why did I even mention the roses? Was I looking for drama? I should’ve just let him stay at work; at least he would’ve been doing something productive.

When I got home, I relieved the sitter (Brady was still not home) and went to bed. I obviously couldn’t sleep as I was crying about Brendan and listening for Brady. This was *actually* all his fault after all, because he had no business getting me roses anyway.

I woke up at five thirty after getting approximately two and a half hours of sleep, cranky and in a terrible mood. Brady hadn’t come home so I decided to take it out on him.

“I’m glad you got laid last night but you could’ve told me you weren’t coming home. I had plans too,” I said.

Brady opened my message, read it and didn’t reply. I don’t blame him because I was obviously being irrational; he stays in the city all the time. I was just mad.

I got Winnie up and ready for the day and then during breakfast Brendan called. I definitely expected to hear from him at some point, but I thought it’d be in the form of a meme like nothing ever happened.

“Oh, hey,” I answered.

“Hey,” he said back.

I said, “What are you doing?”

Brendan said, “About to head downtown to meet Thomas. You?”

“Just having breakfast with Winnie.”

Next to me, Winnie screamed, “Daddy?? Daddy!”

Really? I turned away from her.

“I’m sorry about last night,” Brendan said. “I don’t know why I acted like such a jealous asshole.”

“You don’t have to apologize, Brendan,” I said, feeling like I might cry. He was apologizing to me?

“I feel like I should. I wanted the night to go a lot differently.”

“Same. I’m sorry too then. I don’t know know why I decided to ruin the night.”

And that was it. Is this what a normal functioning relationship is like? You apologize and talk through your issue and move on? And it’s like, I didn’t even want to continue fighting with him even though I was the one who started it. I secretly love(d) fighting with Brady (he makes it so easy), but anytime there’s any kind of friction with Brendan, I’m super upset. Am I getting boring or just maturing?

So anyway, the following Saturday was Brendan’s birthday dinner. We hadn’t seen much of each other during the week and I really fucking missed him. I let Brady know that I’d be gone for the night (bye!) and got dressed in a pink satiny top with my favorite jeans by Agolde and booties then I headed into the city.

Brendan’s stepmom planned the birthday dinner in the basement of a restaurant near Times Square and there were already a dozen people when I got there including Thomas. Oh, this wouldn’t be weird at all. As far as I knew, Thomas didn’t know about us so he was probably wondering what the fuck I was doing there. Oops. I met Brendan’s childhood best friend, Kendall (gorgeous and gives off Michael B. Jordan vibes), and some other guys from their group. Brendan talks about his friends so much that I feel like I know them all so it seemed weird that I was just now meeting them all.

And then he introduced me to his sister, Danielle, who lives in Pennsylvania for school. She’s a tiny, cute, almost rodent-like sorority girl with long brown hair that is in desperate need of layers. For some reason, I had in my mind that me and Brendan’s sister would immediately hit it off and become besties. I don’t know why I assumed that, but when he introduced us, she gave me an icy, “Hello,” and then turned back to the friend she was speaking to. Oookay. Brendan didn’t mention it though and I figured that must just be how she is. Some people are just naturally bitchy and that’s fine.

We sat down for dinner and I was seated across from Kendall who I actually was hitting it off with. He’s super funny and quick-witted and basically said out loud everything I was thinking. Every time my wine glass was getting close to empty, he would yell down the table, “We’re gonna need a refill for Reese.” We were getting along great and Brendan smiled at me from down the table where he was. 

Without even meaning to, I noticed that Kendall and Danielle were also paying special attention to each other. It was super subtle, but they were sitting next to each other and across from me and every so often they’d hit each other playfully or make faces at each other. It seemed mostly innocent, almost like siblings, but there was something about the way she looked at him. Fascinating! Did Brendan know? I’d have keep an eye on that. And maybe that’s why I caught her giving me a weird look when I was telling Kendall my life story and then she turned to her friend next to her to whisper something in a really obvious way. And it’s like, you should be nice to me because I can be a good wingwoman.

After dinner, they moved the tables and the DJ started playing so we could dance. And we’d had so much wine and bourbon at dinner that Brendan grabbed my hand and started dancing with me. I was trying to keep it friendly knowing that his family and Thomas were all there. At one point, I headed to the bar and Kendall and Danielle were there waiting for drinks. He had his arm around her (playfully), but removed it when I joined them. 👀

Kendall said something like, “Here comes the dancing queen.”

“Ha. I’m gonna need a stronger drink if I’m gonna keep dancing,” I said and then ordered myself a vodka Red Bull.

Kendall lifted his glass to us before walking away and then Danielle said, “So how do you know Brendan?”

I was surprised that she asked this because I figured he would’ve given her the lowdown on who I was since they’re so close.

“We work together,” I said. “Well, our companies work together.”

Oh.” She took a sip of her drink and kept standing there. “How long have you worked together?”

Umm, why did that matter? “A few years at this point, I guess.”

“Oh, nice,” she said. “What do you do?”

Since she asked, I gave her a thorough description of my job and company. And then I made her tell me what she does. She mentioned school (I think medical school?) and an internship and her sorority. Since it’s me, I asked a ton of follow up questions and made her tell me literally everything.

And then Danielle said, “So are you and Brendan like, dating?”

Had Brendan told her nothing? Why was she asking me this and not her brother? But maybe there was a reason Brendan hadn’t told her anything.

“Um,” I wasn’t sure if I should tell her everything and blow up his spot or deny it and let him tell her if he wanted to. “What do you mean?”

“Just wondering.”

“I mean, we’re really good friends,” I said.

“Oh. Cool,” she said. “How long have you been ‘really good friends’?”

She was fishing for information obviously, asking about timelines and stuff and then it occurred to me that she’s probably friends with Brendan’s ex-wife. Obviously! He always talks about how close their families are so she and the ex are probably BFFs. They probably share their little tiny outfits with each other. Everything I just told her was clearly going to get back to Brendan’s ex-wife.

“We’ve always been really good friends. So…you and Kendall?” I raised my eyebrows suggestively.

“What? No. Bye,” she said and then finally walked away. They’re definitely gonna bone, if they haven’t already.

Later on, after several more drinks and dancing to remixed versions of every hit from 2008-2012, Brendan pulled me into a corner so we could make out. I pretended to push him away, but he just leaned into me harder.

“I’m obsessed with you,” he said and I giggled.

“Literally same.”

We were partially hidden by the bar, but I was still aware that everyone was still around us. I saw Thomas approaching the bar and tried to push Brendan away again with my elbows.

“Thomas is going to see us,” I said.

“That’s okay, he already knows,” he said.

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. What exactly did Thomas know and how long had he known? Who else knew? We hadn’t really discussed it, but shouldn’t we keep our relationship away from people at work? It seems messy to be telling everyone our business. But at least Thomas hadn’t let on that he knew anything so maybe he’ll keep his mouth shut.

“Wanna stay over?” Brendan asked.

“Duh.”

And so I did. The next day, I took him to see my new apartment (and get his help taking all my packages in). He’s the only person who even knew about my apartment at that point and promised to help me make it perfect for me and Winnie to move in.

Standard

i need a shower or fifty.

Obviously I couldn’t tell anyone where I was going or who I was going with so I made up a fake bachelorette party for one of my friends from college. My mom understood when I told her that the plans were made months ago and agreed to stay in case Brady had plans or something. I felt bad about lying, obviously, but what else was I supposed to do?

On the night before I left, Brady and I were in the kitchen together. I didn’t plan on saying anything to him (nothing to say), but then he said, “Excited for your trip?”

“Yup,” I said back automatically.

“Well, don’t do anything stupid.”

Excuse me? “Like what?”

Brady shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Like get black out drunk and do drugs and fight with people like you do with Hunter?”

He shook his head, laughing as he walked out of the kitchen. The audacity of him to tell me not to do anything stupid. I don’t do stupid stuff on vacation, that’s him!

Anyway, when Brendan and I met up at the airport, he was so, so sweet and excited to see me. And I really needed that because I’d been anxious all morning thinking about leaving my child and what Brady said (what the fuck did he mean by that?). Plus, Brendan and I have never really been able to be affectionate in public (we’re always at the office or near the office) so it was nice to have him grab me and kiss me in front of the entire airport.

Spoiler: Brendan booked us first class tickets to the Bahamas and after boarding our flight and getting champagne, he was all over me and couldn’t stop touching me. So maybe he felt the same way about the whole PDA thing. I made him tell me about New Year’s Eve (since he stopped texting me around 8:30pm and I spent the rest of the night spiraling, thinking he was with his ex-wife. He has always been absolutely crazy about her so now I’m just waiting for him to ditch me because she wants him back). He told me about the party his parents hosted and how they played drinking games and played on a VR machine (?) with his sister. So wholesome.

And then he asked all innocently, “Did you end up doing anything fun?”

Fun? “Literally no. I drank a bottle of champagne by myself and passed out at ten.”

“Aww, that’s cute,” Brendan said, squeezing me. Imagine thinking my antics are cute.

I complained to him about my mom and how annoying she was being (taking up for Brady and taking his side about absolutely everything, making inappropriate comments that made me and Brady glare at each other, in general just being extra as fuck) and he said, “It must be nice having her support though.”

So naturally I felt bad about being ungrateful (my mom was the reason I was even able to go on the trip) especially since I know he does not speak to his mother. So I pivoted and started complaining about Brady instead which I’m sure Brendan wanted to hear about even less.

He asked, “Are you still thinking of getting your own place in the city?”

“Yes. The moment I get back,” I said.

“Okay. Let me know if I can help at all.”

“Oh, yeah. Any help would be appreciated.” One of the things holding me back from moving is how intimidating real estate in NYC is. Brady has always handled that kind of thing.

“I don’t know what your budget is, but one of our family friends is renting his place out. He just took it off the market, but they’re living in Florida at the moment. It’s like three or so bedrooms, I think. Midtown East area. So as long as you don’t mind being my neighbor…”

And I knew by what he described the place would be completely out of my little budget, but the thought was cute and I appreciated him. And okay, being his neighbor would be great too.

So anyway, we landed and headed in a car to the resort. It wasn’t until I stepped into the 80 degree sunshine and saw the bright blue beach that I realized how much I needed this vacation. So I was ready to turn the fuck up. Brendan checked us in and we headed up to our suite which overlooked the pool area and the ocean. He explained that we could get changed and go to the pool where we could get food if I wanted it and drinks (I’d been talking about needing a cocktail the whole plane ride).

And it all just seemed really familiar to him so I finally just asked, “Have you been here before?”

“A few years ago—”

And I pounced like the psychopath that I am. “With your ex?”

Brendan, who was already opening his little carryon to change (I brought my entire wardrobe in a checked bag) turned and looked at me.

“If so, it’s not a big deal…it’s just a little weird that you would bring me here if you came here with her,” I said.

“Yeah. We came for my parents’ anniversary. My whole family was here…hers too,” he explained.

“How interesting,” I said sarcastically.

Brendan flopped back on the bed (body!😍) and held out his arms. “Come here. Why are you trying to fight with me already?”

“I’m not. I’ve just been thinking about it and I feel like there are so many places in the world we could have gone to that you haven’t been with your ex-wife,” I said. I knew I was being slightly irrational, but I feel like I can be pretty honest with Brendan no matter how ridiculous it might be.

He grabbed my wrist and made me lay back on the bed next to him. “I’m sorry. That didn’t even cross my mind. The only thing I thought about was how much I knew you’d love it here. I hope you do.”

And…okay. Can’t argue with that. I guess I could get over it. So we changed into bathing suits — I overhauled my entire collection because I feel weird about having my ass and titties on full display these days — and headed downstairs where a pool party was apparently in full swing. There was a DJ and lots of hot people in fabulous clothing who were drinking colorful drinks and twerking. It was like college spring break. And I don’t usually participate in such activities at my ripe old age, but this was vacation. We found loungers and ordered fruity frozen cocktails immediately.

“Okay maybe you were right,” I said as I laid back and took my first sip of alcohol. “Maybe I do love it here.”

So we downed our first few drinks as the party started getting bigger around us. All the girls were like 21 and hot with tiny Kylie Jenner bikinis and posing with their legs wide open for Instagram (I cannot understand this). I kept watching Brendan in hopes of catching him checking one of them out (I will always be authentically me) and he laughed because I was being obvious.

“Stop,” he said.

“You stop,” I said back. “If you want to watch these little girls post pictures of their uterus then just do it.”

Brendan rolled over and pulled me and my lounger toward him so he could put his hands on my knees. “I don’t. You know I only want to watch you.”

“Well, the only thing you’re going to see is me laying on my fat ass getting drunk.” I took a big gulp of my drink.

“I’m definitely cool with that,” he said.

We ordered shrimp tacos for lunch along with a margarita pitcher because that seemed more economical (plus it would be easier for the staff to keep up). At this point we were both loosened up and in vacation mode and flirty and Brendan, in the midst of complimenting me, said something like, “I always thought your boobs were fake.”

“Ughhh,” I scoffed, rolling my eyes. I wasn’t actually offended, obviously, and secretly loved that Brendan had thoughts about my boobs.

“But I know they’re not now. At least I don’t think so. They don’t feel fake,” he continued and I just wanted to punch him because he’s so effing cute.

“Shut up, Brendan,” I said.

“Shutting the fuck up,” he laughed.

“Ugh, I love you,” I sighed playfully and immediately wanted to die. Yes, I was a little bit drunk but not that drunk.

Brendan smiled and opened his mouth to reply to that, but I cut him off.

“Okay, me and my fake boobs are gonna find us more to drink,” I said, standing up and luckily we’d finished the majority of our pitcher so it was a valid excuse. I definitely needed more liquor after telling him I fucking love him. Who does that?

So maybe that’s why I drank so much. It was vacation so of course I was going to drink more than usual, but I drank a lot. I kept going back to the swim-up pool bar (despite having a pitcher in our little cabana area) and ordering fruity drinks and offering motherly advice to the little twenty somethings in their bikinis. Eventually they talked me into dancing (oh God) and I have vague memories of grinding on some other girl in front of where the DJ was playing. Then after hanging out with my new friends, I’d retreat to where Brendan was still sitting and waiting.

“I’m glad you’re having fun,” he said and I sat there and gushed about how appreciative I was that he invited me. Then I dragged him over and made him dance with us. And then I’d whisper to my new friends, “Isn’t he so cute?” and they’d be like, “Oh my gawddd, yes girl, sooo cute!” They probably thought he was some random Tinder date!

The day turned into a bit of a blur. I remember the place thinning out and the sun setting and Brendan mentioning dinner plans. And then I vaguely remember throwing up in some hedges/flowers on the way back to our room and Brendan holding me upright and trying to keep my hair out of my face at the same time.

So that’s how the first day of our vacation went. I guess it’s one thing to drink and act a fool, but who pukes everywhere? Even the twenty year olds didn’t puke. Clearly I’m getting too old for this. And I got all mad at Brady for telling me not to do anything stupid, but what’s the first thing I did? Something stupid. I hate myself.

When I woke up, the room was spinning and I could feel Brendan spooning me which normally I wouldn’t mind, but I was sticky and smelly and gross from the festivities the day before. So I peeled myself off and Brendan grabbed onto me tighter.

“I need a shower or fifty,” I croaked.

“Okay. How you feeling?” he asked as he let me go.

I got out of bed (completely naked, of course) and headed to the bathroom, stepping over my clothes and toiletries and other bullshit everywhere. It appeared that someone (spoiler: me) had ordered room service and there was a barely touched plate of fries and a burger sitting on the nightstand.

“I feel exactly how this room looks,” I said and Brendan laughed.

It took two glasses of water and a forty minute shower to bring me back to life. I poked my head out and let Brendan know that he could shower while I finished getting ready. And then I watched him as he got up and walked toward me to gauge how he felt. Did he still think I was cute?

“Uhh, sorry about yesterday. I didn’t mean to ruin the day,” I said.

“You’re good. The day wasn’t ruined…just dinner,” Brendan said, laughing.

And I was relieved that he could at least laugh about it. Brendan is super laidback, but I just never know when I’ll take it too far.

“And thanks for holding my hair back while I threw up. There was still a ton of puke in it,” I said, trying to make a joke out of it.

“Yeah, I tried my best, but I was kinda grossed out,” he said and started like really laughing, so hard he could barely get the rest out. “There were big chunks of shrimp coming up.”

I groaned and tried to storm out, but he pinned me against the sink.

“It’s fine though, I don’t mind. I mean, the flowers probably aren’t fine…” He started laughing hard again.

“Ugh, I literally hate you,” I said as I tried to push him away.

“That’s not what you said yesterday,” Brendan teased. Of course, he wasn’t going to let me live that down either.

“Okay, well get ready so we can get food. I’m starving,” I said to change the subject.

Back in the room, I saw that Brendan had cleaned up most of my disaster, bless him. I got dressed in a bodysuit, jorts by Agolde and rose gold Birkenstocks that I bought to walk the dog (🥺). So then we headed down to one of the restaurants at the resort and had brunch (sadly no mimosas for me). We didn’t bring up anymore stories about the day before, thank God, because I didn’t need to relive that again. And I was glad that we’d be spending the day in town and on the beach and not going back to that cursed ass pool party.

So yeah, day two was far less problematic. I was coherent enough to check in with my mom and Winnie (I even admitted to my mom how I trashed I was the day before because what else do you do at a “bachelorette party”?). I didn’t even have my first drink until wine at dinner.

And by then I was feeling so good and comfortable with Brendan that I was starting to think we were actually in a relationship and I could see our future. It could really work out. We spent the day doing barely anything after my shitshow performance and it was still one of the best weekends literally ever. We could do this whenever Winnie was spending a weekend with Brady (we’d have a custody agreement figured out) and she’d love her new, fun stepdaddy. There wouldn’t be enough room for me and Winnie at his current apartment, but what about that three bedroom he was telling me about? Or maybe we could buy something together? I’m expecting a bonus this year so I could contribute.

But I needed to calm the fuck down. Was his divorce even final? And I still had so much to figure out with Brady and Winnie. Plus, there’s the whole fact that we work together. Mike couldn’t ever know we’re seeing each other, went on vacation together and definitely couldn’t know if we moved in together. So we’d have to figure that out too.

We headed back to the room hand in hand and I was excited to seal the deal with my man (we hadn’t had sex the whole trip!), but we ran into a group of the 21 year olds from the pool. They were all dressed in psychedelic printed mini dresses (ugly) and let us know that they were going to the rooftop nightclub to dance and we must come. I didn’t particularly want to, but they all looked at me expectantly — including Brendan — and it was the last night of vacation so why not? We’d just go have a drink or two then go back and have sex.

To no one’s surprise, we didn’t just stay for a drink or two. We were up on the roof drinking and dancing until three AM. My feet were about to fall off since I don’t wear heels often anymore, let alone dance in them plus we were drenched in sweat and drunk. We said goodbye to the girls and then Brendan gave me a ride back to the room on his back (did I mention how much I love him?). And by the time we got back to the room we were too tired to do anything except sleep.

And so the next morning, we slept in and stayed in bed and had sex until we needed to leave for the airport. Weirdly, Mike called Brendan while we were in bed (he didn’t pick up), but how awkward and who does Mike think he is bothering him on a Sunday? He probably thinks Brendan has nothing better to do than talk to him.

I was ready to go home and see Winnie, but I was so not ready to leave vacation with Brendan. I had such a good time and I was dreading going back to my awkward house and having to avoid Brendan and sneak to see him every two weeks. I wanted to spend every second with him.

When I got home, everyone was there and my mom whipped up dinner. I made a big deal about them telling me everything they did while being vague about my weekend. Brady offered to put Winnie to sleep and me and my mom cleaned up the kitchen. Then I poured us wine and we took them to the dining room where I planned on clearing my work emails.

Before I could even open my laptop, my mom said, “So tell me about Brendan.”

I tried to hide the visceral reaction his name caused me. “What about him?”

“I’m not sure. Is there anything to tell?” she said. “You said you were messaging with him a lot. Did anything come of that?”

It was obvious she was fishing — Brady probably told her about reading through my notebook and sent her to get more information. They were probably working together. I should have never left them alone for the weekend.

“No,” I lied. “Why?”

“Oh, I was just wondering,” she lied as well. “Is everything okay with you and Brady then?”

“You know it’s not. Why? What did he say?”

My mom, who is an expert at manipulating situations, pretended to backtrack. “He didn’t say anything. I just got the feeling that things weren’t okay. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“He called his family’s attorney and asked them how he could get custody of Winnie so if you could help me with that, that’d be great,” I said, deadpan.

My mom seemed to be genuinely shocked. “That’s terrible! Why would he do that?”

“Because he’s too afraid to tell me he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore. In fact, I found that out because of the lawyer.”

“Oh, Reese,” my mom said sympathetically. “I’m going to talk to him about it.”

“I don’t want you to talk to him about it,” I told her. “I just want to get out of this situation and move on.”

“You don’t want me to talk to him?” she repeated like this was completely crazy.

“No. He does stuff like this and then it’s up to me to fix it. He made it clear how he feels so I just want to find my own place and move out of here.”

“Oh, Reese,” my mom said, looking skeptical. “I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do.”

“What do you think I should do then?” I asked.

“I think you need to see a counselor together,” she said, matter-of-factly. “These issues are capable of being fixed.”

“Yeah, well he refuses to talk to anyone and he has personal stuff he needs to work out on his own anyway,” I let her know. “And I can’t help him with that. So I’m gonna move out — probably to an apartment in the city — and we can each have Winnie every other week. It’s fine.”

My mom continued looking skeptical, but luckily dropped the subject. I should’ve known she was still going to talk to him despite my wishes and she brought it up as I was taking her to the airport the following evening. She told me how broken she thinks Brady is, how he doesn’t know how to express himself, but he has some feelings I should know about. She was being so cryptic.

“What are you trying to say, Mom?” I sighed. “He won’t open up to me and I’m not a professional like you. I tried to take him to therapy and it blew up in my face.”

“I’m saying be patient with him. He tries his best with his feelings, but it’s very hard for him. Very hard, Reese. I’m just starting to make some progress,” she said.

Be patient? How long has it been? Nearly eight fucking years of trying to get him to open up? I can’t possibly be more patient. My mom tried to give me some more words of encouragement and advice, but the moment I dropped her off, all I could think about was Brendan.

I was listening to the songs he played during our vacation (fun fact: I wouldn’t have had a clue who Rihanna was pregnant by, but Brendan listened to a lot of A$AP Rocky while we were getting ready) and trying to count my macros (Brendan is the kind of person who counts his macros and if I’m honest with myself, I have no idea what it even means). My mom kept checking in to see if there was any progress and I would send her apartment listings on Zillow.

I was sort of dragging my feet on the whole finding my own place thing, but when Brady came home everyday and completely ignored me (walk past me without even making eye contact) I knew I had to do something. There was a listing I loved; a gorgeous two bed/two bath high rise on the west side (not totally where I wanted to be, but would work). It was slightly out of my budget range (as was everything), but I’d already asked my dad for help so we filled out the rental application before I’d even seen it in person. I still had some places bookmarked and planned on seeing the place I applied for in person over the weekend.

Spoiler: I didn’t end up getting to see the place and was snowed in with Winnie and Brady all weekend. Brady mostly did work while I played with the baby, did laundry, and talked to Brendan. He ignored me literally all day until Saturday night after the baby was asleep.

“Hey,” he said.

Oh, so I wasn’t invisible? He could see me?

“Hi,” I said back.

He’d cornered me in the bedroom and there was nowhere to escape.

“Your dad said you found an apartment?” Brady said.

Really, Dad? I guess my meddling mother wasn’t enough. I made a mental note to yell at him about it later.

“Yeah, maybe,” I confirmed casually. “It’ll probably be a piece of shit though so I’m keeping my options open.”

Brady paused for a moment before saying, “I don’t want you to move out. I don’t think Winnie wants that either.”

What? That’s when I lost it and burst into tears, collapsing on the bed and full-on sobbing. Seriously? No, but honestly? Was he joking? He’s known for months and months that I’ve been looking to move out so why now, when I actually had somewhat of a plan in motion, did he think it was a good idea to tell me he didn’t want me to?

“Reese?” Brady said.

“You’re crazy,” I told him between sobs.

“What?”

When I didn’t say anything and was sitting there practically hyperventilating, Brady grabbed my wrists to pull my hands off my face. “Reese.”

“Don’t touch me,” I said.

“Why are you upset? I said I don’t want you to move out,” he said because he is the most clueless person ever.

“Because you’re crazy and you’re making me crazy,” I told him and then I locked myself in the bathroom to cry some more, so much that I made myself throw up. I couldn’t fucking wait to talk to my mom about this. But she probably already knew because she probably put him up to it.

Standard

two-faced monster.

To be honest, I was dreading seeing my parents. I hadn’t told them any of what was going on with Brady (not about the lawyer or how mean he’s been or that he probably has another girlfriend). As far as they knew, we were still together and on good terms so I was hoping we could fake it for a few days.

My mom arrived a few days early because she wanted to spend some extra time with the baby and help set up. And I was relieved because I definitely needed the help.

“You’re skinny,” was the first thing she said to me. “Too skinny.”

And I almost blurted out, “Yeah because I’ve been going through hell the past several months!” but I didn’t want to get into it so I just said, “Thanks!” Plus I’ve been working my ass off on the Peloton and actually trying to eat responsibly like an adult so really, it was kind of a compliment.

I was on the fence about having a party for Winnie, but we didn’t do anything last year and she’s getting old enough to form memories now so I thought it’d be good to get everyone together and celebrate. Just something small at the house though. I invited my parents, Carly, Chris and Sloane, plus Mel, her husband and their son who is Winnie’s only friend her age. Brady’s family was more than welcome to come, but I don’t speak to them so I didn’t invite any of them. I figured if he wanted them to come, he’d invite them.

So for the 3 days leading up to the party, my mom and I ran around picking up decorations, balloons, fresh flowers, a two tier cake, a dollhouse and other toys, etc.

I’d ordered a variety of different outfit options for Winnie to wear and because she’s already super opinionated, I let her pick out what she would wear for the party. She decided on a fluffy black and gold dress so I got her dressed with matching shoes and tights, and put her hair half up with a bow. Then I got dressed in a black and gold dress by Zimmermann to match and tried to have a mini photo shoot with my mom, but Winnie could hear people talking downstairs and was more concerned with that.

Brady and my dad were downstairs enjoying the red sangria I made and as soon as Winnie saw her father, she pushed herself away from me so she could be with him. And I was thinking, “That’s completely fine. Brady’s been working so much, at least she still even knows who he is.”

A few minutes later, he came and found me while I was making another pitcher in the kitchen.

“Everything looks really nice. Can I help with anything?” he said.

I side eyed him. Really? “Everything’s already done, Brady.”

“Okay, I just wanted to make sure—”

My mom interrupted us, carrying the baby who looked like she’d been crying. “She doesn’t want to wear the dress.”

Winnie looked at me smugly.

“Okay, well she picked it out.” I looked at my brat child. “You picked it out.”

She just looked at me like she didn’t understand (she understands) and then reached out so Brady could take her.

“So you’re going to wear the dress for the party,” I explained. “And you can change into something else when it’s over.”

And then she started screaming and kicking and losing her goddamn mind. I’ve been trying to work with Winnie on her tantrums and emotional control to hopefully try to alleviate the terrible twos a little bit. So I calmly talked the little hellion off a cliff while Brady watched and we agreed that we’d take a few pictures with everyone and the cake and then maybe she could change.

So then me and my mom went back out to the party and she started sort of lecturing me and letting me know that it was just a phase that Winnie would grow out of. Maybe, but I would be the one who has to deal with it so I wanted to nip it in the bud.

I caught up with Carly and Chris, who’d arrived, and their daughter Sloane who is the most well-behaved child I’ve ever met. She mostly sat at the table quietly eating the seaweed snacks she brought while watching all of the shenanigans going on around her. And she’s so cute and sweet and adorable with her dark hair and thick, dark eyebrows — she looks exactly like Chris. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a child who looks exactly like their father.

Speaking of which, I looked up and saw Brady walking back in the room carrying Winnie, and she was wearing a different outfit than what I dressed her in. And it didn’t even matter that Winnie was now in dotted leggings and a damn tank top that did not match, I was pissed that Brady changed her after he saw what I was trying to do. She doesn’t get her way just because she threw a tantrum. Me and Brady made eye contact and I rolled my eyes at him so he knew that I knew.

I think I’ve mentioned before that Winnie just prefers Brady, but she seemed to have gotten over it since he’s home a lot less often. At the party though, she was glued to his side. It was sort of cute at first, but then she started literally running from me and screaming if I tried to touch her. And it was so fucking embarrassing having my child throw a tantrum if I tried to come near her and shooing me away when I wanted to take pictures of her. Really? Everyone probably thought I was some sort of abusive mommy dearest! My mom and Carly tried to make me feel better and explained that it was totally normal, but my dad thought it was absolutely hilarious and kept cracking jokes with Brady about it.

The final straw came when the party was winding down and we were taking pictures of Winnie sitting in a chair with her demolished cake. I went to get her down (I had visions of her falling off the chair and busting her head open) and she started screaming and kicking because she wasn’t ready to get down. And she kicked me in my chin hard and made me bite my tongue and it actually really, really fucking hurt. My eyes started watering and I felt like I was going to cry. So I sat her down and then barricaded myself in the bedroom so I could cry alone.

And so I stood there in the middle of the room getting angrier and more upset by the second. And maybe I was being slightly irrational but I was upset that I’d done so much to make the party special and perfect and she didn’t appreciate it at all. And then I thought about how stressed and miserable I’d been about the whole lawyer and custody thing and for what? She doesn’t even like me! Maybe I’m not meant to be a mother and I’m really bad at it and Winnie picked up on it and that’s why she was pulling away. Maybe I should just fuck off and let her and Brady do their own thing and send child support and stay out of their lives. Was I really feuding with a two year old? What was actually happening?

I heard the door open and I turned to hide and tried to wipe my tears.

“Are you okay?” Brady asked.

“I’m fine.” I was not about to let Brady see me losing it over the baby being mean to me. I felt Brady’s hands on my shoulders and I tensed up. Why was he touching me?

“You’re a really great mother,” he said as he rubbed my shoulders.

And maybe I just needed to hear that because I instantly relaxed and let him massage my shoulders.

“Thanks,” I said.

“And I know she’s having a great time even if she’s not showing it. I think she’s tired so that’s probably why she’s acting out. I’m going to put her down for a nap.”

“Mmm,” I mumbled.

“We’re going to meet my mom in the city later…if you want to join.”

I finally shrugged him off. “No, it’s fine. She couldn’t make the party?”

“Uh, no,” Brady said, looking all evasive as usual.

What the fuck ever, I thought. I guess this is how it would be from now on — having separate parties and holidays and having to split the baby’s time between both families. So I wasn’t even sure why this made me mad. I walked out.

After everyone left, we all cleaned up together and my mom made this really awkward comment about me and Brady having another baby.

“Mom!” I exclaimed, shocked, horrified and embarrassed.

Brady laughed. “I think one is enough for right now,” and then he turned and gave me a sarcastic smile.

Later on, the baby woke up and Brady got her dressed and came back to the kitchen where me and my parents were.

“You’re sure you don’t want to come with us to see my mom?” he asked all sweetly.

And while I appreciated him going along with the whole charade, I still couldn’t help rolling my eyes at him. “Totally sure.”

When they were gone, my mom started talking shit like, “Oh, is our party not good enough for her? Typical. After everything we’ve done, blah blah blah.”

It would have been a great time to tell them both what was going on — about Brady and the lawyer and maybe even Brendan. But…yeah. I wasn’t ready to drop that bomb. I didn’t even really know how to explain it — they’d think we were both absolutely insane and then my mom would butt her head in and it would be a whole mess.

We went to dinner and when we got back, Brady and Winnie were back at the house. And she walked right up to me and wrapped her arms around me like she missed me. Oh, now we were fucking friends? She’s such a two-faced monster! But I was so happy and relieved that our feud was over and I squeezed my sassy little gremlin and smothered her with love because I missed her too.

After we put the baby to sleep, we polished off a few bottles of wine and then my parents went back to their hotel. At this point, I was exhausted so I put on pajamas and got in bed without even taking my makeup off. Brady came in and sat on the edge of the bed and started telling me about some learning tablet his mom got Winnie and how she’d given some “school” recommendations (we’ve talked about sending her to daycare during the day part time) and in general just talking my ear off. I just kept nodding.

And then Brady said, “You looked really beautiful today.”

Seriously? “Yeah, I wanted to look nice for pictures but we didn’t even get any good ones because our child is spoiled.”

He turned and smiled at me. “Really? I think she just knows what she wants. She’s a lot like you.”

“I think she’s like you. One minute she’s mean and hateful and then the next minute she wants to chat like nothing happened,” I said.

“Mmhm,” Brady said playfully. “And you don’t ever do that?”

“Not nearly as bad as you.” Okay, I’m definitely guilty of losing my shit and then pretending it didn’t happen. “Maybe she’s like both of us.”

“Definitely.”

My dad left the following day, but my mom was staying through New Years. We all got up and had breakfast and spent the day cleaning and organizing things around the house. Brady continued being sweet and nice especially in front of my mom. Meanwhile I was texting with Brendan who was with his family at one of their vacation houses in the mountains somewhere. So I felt kind of weird and bad.

And maybe all the pretending got Brady confused because later that night he came and found me in the closet and sort of boxed me in so I couldn’t leave.

“You can’t just suddenly act like you like me again,” I said.

“What? I’ve always liked you,” Brady said unconvincingly.

“Then why did you tell your lawyer that our relationship was over? You said I make you miserable and you go out of your way to belittle me and make me feel stupid. At this point, you’ve all but made my daughter hate me and I’m sure you and your mom spend the entire time talking shit about me when you’re together.”

He flinched like I’d just slapped him in the face. “What? No. If she hates you it’s because of you, not me.”

And in his defense, it really wasn’t fair for me to blame my entire relationship with Winnie on him, but when he undermines my authority and gives her whatever she wants after I’ve already said no, he becomes easy to blame.

“She doesn’t hate me, don’t say that!” I said.

You said it!”

I elbowed him out of the way to leave the closet and he tried to grab me.

I said, “Fuck off.”

And then this motherfucker sort of laughed and said, “See, you’re the one who’s mean to me, not the other way around.”

“No, you don’t get to pin this all on me just because you changed your personality for this weekend like a sociopath. You’ve been an asshole for months and I’m sick of it.”

Brady continued smiling like the fucking joker or something. “You’ve been an asshole too.”

“Only because you have!” I exclaimed. “You can go back to ignoring me if you want. I don’t mind, trust.”

“Whatever you say, princess,” he said sarcastically and walked out.

What the fuck ever.

So things went back to “normal” where Brady was cordial and had nothing to say to me unless it was about Winnie. He and my mom spoke a lot though and I was just waiting for her to confront me about something he told her. She even went out and got him a birthday cake for his birthday (personally I never wanted to see a cake again) and we spent Christmas Eve together eating and watching Cocomelon and Paw Patrol (we had to turn off the Grinch because it was too scary). And I started to feel really bad because clearly we are the only people Brady has. He was spending his birthday and Christmas with us despite the fact that he was barely even speaking to me. Where was his mom and the rest of his family? Or his girlfriend?

So I felt bad, but not bad enough to apologize and still if I looked at him for long enough I started feeling rage again and felt like strangling him. He didn’t seem to care about a fucking thing.

Our office was open during the week before Christmas and New Years, but most people had taken the week off. Brendan was out of town until Thursday and asked to meet up for lunch when he got back. 100% yes.

Ugh. I just love Brendan. It was refreshing to see him after the last few days. He said he had a gift for me and I freaked out for a second thinking it might be something super expensive and extravagant and I’d feel bad, but we both got each other something small and sweet and it was fine.

So we told each other about Christmas and stuff (I left out the details about how bipolar Brady had been) and he told me stories about his dad and stepmom and sister and bourbon and their cabin. He even mentioned that he got to see the dog he and his ex-wife got together during the time when they were trying to work things out. This piqued my interest because did that mean he’d been with her (the ex)? Did they spend Christmas together? Should I feel weird about that because I kind of did? But of course, I wasn’t about to ask for details, not when I’d deliberately not told him anything about Brady.

And then he confirmed with me that I’m available the first weekend in January (this weekend coming up) because he’d previously said he wanted to do something with me that weekend. I confirmed (my mom is not leaving until next week) and so he told me what he has planned: a weekend getaway to a tropical place I’ve never been to. A little mini vacation together. And my first thought was all the pictures he and his ex-wife used to post of them traveling around the world and frolicking on beaches looking like they belonged in travel magazine. Surely Brendan has more tact than to take me somewhere he’s taken her.

So here’s what I think. This will be the first time Brendan and I will be doing a lot of things together, like taking a trip, waking up together (I never sleep over, we just have sex all night and then I leave), eating all three meals together. It’ll be the most time we’ve ever spent together. So it’s kind of make it or break it. If all goes well, I will make a move after this trip. I’ll get my life together. I’ll tell my parents what’s going on, I’ll tell my mom the truth about Brendan (she asked about him the other night), I’ll figure out my living situation, I’ll work out an agreement with Brady. Obviously I need to do this regardless of Brendan, but one thing at a time. I want to at least be able to enjoy this trip without so much drama at home.

Anyway, Merry New Year everyone. This is the year we finally get our shit together!

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BIG UPDATE — PART FIVE.

“Hi,” Brendan greeted me as I stepped out of the Uber. He was waiting by the door, watching for me, which is just so Brendan.

I breezed past him like I owned the place and he grabbed the bun on top of my head playfully. So this definitely felt like a college-era booty call.

We both stepped inside and I took in the place again. It was dark and moody, with most of the light coming from the fireplace.

“Want something to drink?” Brendan asked.

“Obviously,” I said back as I set down my things and kicked off my shoes.

“Wine?”

“Sure.”

“Red or white?”

“Whatever you’re having.”

“I just finished a bottle of Sancerre so I was thinking of opening this new Volnay my stepmom got me. Is that okay?”

“Brendan.” I gave him a look as I joined him in the kitchen. He’s just way too nice and accommodating. “Whatever you’re having.”

“Okay.”

I checked him out while he opened the bottle of wine and didn’t even try to hide it when he caught me.

“You look cute,” I told him.

Brendan smirked as he poured wine in our glasses. “Thanks. That’s always my goal: to be ‘cute.’”

I gave him a sassy eye roll as I picked up my wine and turned to leave, but then he grabbed me by one of the belt loops of my baggy jeans to stop me. I immediately got goosebumps all over and he’d barely even touched me.

“Cheers. Thanks for coming,” he said.

I hope I wasn’t the only one coming, I thought as we clinked our glasses together.

Brendan said I could pick out the movie and I flipped through until I found Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion — an absolute classic. And then we got settled on the couch: him on one end and me on the other, with my feet in his lap.

And while I wanted to focus on Romy and Michele because the movie is superb, I was more interested in talking to Brendan. We talked a little bit about work and I made him elaborate on a story he’d started earlier, about how Thomas had ordered six pallets of materials to the wrong job site. And then I watched him, amused, as he tried to hide his frustration because this was not the first time Thomas had done something like this and Brendan is too nice to hold him accountable. If I owned a company and someone made a mistake that cost us thousands of dollars, they’d only make that mistake once, I told him. Thomas is good at a lot of other things, he explained, and that he had to pick his battles because his dad had picked the wrong ones and that was part of his downfall. I made him tell me more about how he took over he company from his dad because we hadn’t really talked in depth about that and it’s fascinating to me. Brendan went to business school with the intention of being some startup genius, but instead got roped into running his family’s business.

We talked a bit more about his family and then he made one mention of his ex-wife and I pounced — literally getting up on my knees to be right next to him. He was being so open so maybe he was in the mood to share more about their relationship. I still didn’t even know why they officially broke up. I knew that they’d basically grown up together and that their families are close, but I wasn’t aware that his ex’s dad is the one who encouraged him to go to business school and helped him get in. And when he started his business when he was in his twenties, his ex’s dad fronted all the money. He didn’t even really need it, but the father insisted — clearly as a control tactic. So he told me how this was always a pain point between him and his ex; her family — mainly her father — was super involved in their lives and relationship and she relied on them for everything.

“So do you still talk to her family?” I needed to know.

Brendan squirmed. “I don’t wanna talk about her anymore.”

Denied.

“Okay…” I said, “What do you want to talk about instead?”

He glanced down at my boobs (to be fair, they were kinda in his face), put a hand on my lower back and kissed me. Finally. Brendan and I hadn’t been physical at all since that kiss I can barely even remember and I was beyond ready to get it on and poppin. I climbed into his lap and straddled him so I could kiss him like I really wanted to and okay, so I could gauge his excitement level. 

It wasn’t long before we were fully making out; his arms were wrapped strongly around my waist and I was grinding myself back and forth on what felt like a nice sized boner. And I wish I could take that moment and bottle it up: the relief of finally kissing him — like scratching a hard to reach itch, the feeling of his hard body under me, even the way he smelled… like fucking soap and man.

“Should we go to your room?” I asked eventually.

Brendan stared up at me curiously. “You sure you wanna do that?”

There was literally nothing I wanted to do more. “Uh, yes.”

So we got up and I followed Brendan down the dark hallway to his bedroom. As soon as we got in the room, I started to undress, beginning with my jeans. I watched as Brendan went to the nightstand and slowly emptied his pockets and took off his Apple Watch. And then with his back to me, he took his shirt off and folded it up nicely. I hesitated, wondering if we misunderstood each other, and he thought I wanted to come in here to go to sleep.

Brendan turned around and faced me and started undoing the buttons on his joggers and… yeah. Clearly we were on the same page. I peeled my tank top off, thinking vaguely about the fact that Brendan would be the first guy to see me naked (besides Brady 🙄) since I had a baby. But technically, I was in the best shape of my life (aka the thinnest) so it was fine I guess.

“Come here,” Brendan said and I met him where he was sitting in his boxer briefs on the edge of the bed. “You are unbelievable.”

And then we started kissing again and I got on top of him and pushed him back on the bed and you know, tried to move things along. Brendan put his hands on my shoulders and pulled back slightly.

“You sure?” he murmured.

Seriously? “Brendan.” I wanted to let him know that I didn’t travel all this way to watch a movie from 1997 and gossip about his ex-wife’s family — as much fun as all that was.

“Okay.” He used one hand to reach around me and dig into the nightstand to pull out a full box of condoms. At least he was prepared.

And so then… I helped him out of his boxer briefs, he watched me watch him put the condom on and then I hopped on.

So this was really happening. Brendan was inside me and there was no going back now. It took a second for my body to get adjusted (it had been awhile!) and so we just stared at each other. Brendan and I were having sex. Finally. I actually didn’t think it would ever happen.

But then I stopped being sentimental and got on with it because if this was going to happen, I was going to make it worthwhile. I put one hand flat against his chest and rode him like my life absolutely depended on it. Brendan grabbed onto my hips and tossed his head back and I had goosebumps everywhere and it was so incredible. Then he sat up so we were chest to chest. At this point we were both hot and sticky with sweat.

“I want to kiss you,” he said.

And it’s like, really? At a time like this? But it was really intimate, having sex with him looking me in the eye like that. All of my dreams about sex with Brendan were rough and dirty where we’re both agressive and impatient and desperate to get off after years of brewing sexual tension. But I guess this was nice too and something about the chest to chest positioning created friction and his face right in my face just made me completely explode.

And then after I came, Brendan flipped us over so he was on top of me, pinned my thighs apart, and fucked me hard, just like I imagined. And this is terrible, but I always think about how Brendan said his ex-wife is the only person he’s ever been with. So did he fuck her like this? Why did my mind go there? He probably didn’t even mean it like that.

And then we were done and Brendan got up to use the bathroom and I wondered if I should make a run for it. We’d just had sex and it was probably going to be really fucking weird because he’s my good friend and we had no business doing that. But then he came back to the bed and snuggled behind me (of course Brendan is a post-coitus spooner).

“You okay?” he asked and I rolled my eyes even though he couldn’t see me.

“You have to stop checking on me.”

And then he didn’t say anything and I was oddly worried that maybe I’d hurt his feelings. I make it a point not to give a shit about men or their feelings.

I thought maybe I’d rest a bit and then take my ass home, but then we just kept having sex after that: the way I always envisioned where my face was smashed into the pillows and my ass was in the air, but then Brendan would plant light kisses all over every inch of my body and I wanted to slap him because it felt too good but instead I’d push him down and climb back on top because at that point I just wanted him inside me again and…yeah.

That lasted until 5 AM. My phone started chiming with morning promotional emails and we hadn’t gotten any sleep and I really needed to go home.

“Don’t go,” Brendan said as I peeled myself out of the bed.

“I need to sleep and shower and eat and check in with my child,” I said.

“You can sleep here,” Brendan said as I started getting dressed. “And then you can walk to your office.”

Obviously that was not an option because imagine me doing the walk of shame in front of Mike? Plus, after all that, it would definitely be a WFH day for me. So I finished getting dressed and when Brendan saw that I was serious, he got up and put on pants. He offered to call an Uber and as we waited, he proceeded to talk about his to-do list for the day and how he was meeting with Mike in the afternoon to discuss an upcoming project and no pressure, but did I want to join? And it’s just like dude, we’re still awake from yesterday because we were banging all night — and it clearly shows — I do not want to talk about work or my boss right now.

The Uber arrived and I tried to rush out, but Brendan grabbed my arm, pulled me back into the doorway and kissed me. And it was really cute and I spent the whole ride wondering what the fuck because now I really, really, really liked Brendan.

I had every intention of going home, soaking in a scalding bath and then sleeping the rest of the day, but when I double-checked my calendar to make sure I didn’t have anything to do, I saw an in-person meeting with some architect that Sam set up. See, that’s why you check your calendar before scheduling a booty call. But it was fine; the meeting wasn’t until later in the day so I could still sleep a little bit.

But just as I was tucking myself into bed, I got a text from Mike.

“Hit me up when you get in today,” he said.

Hit me up? Mike, really? But of course, my initial thought was: he knows. He and Brendan are best friends so of course he found out what happened. And now he was going to confront me because maybe there was no written rule stating that what I did was wrong, but it was certainly unprofessional.

I wasn’t about to tell him that I had no plans of coming in today because you don’t say that to Mike. I dragged my ass out of bed, got ready (making good use of my Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer) and schlepped to the city. Mike wasn’t even in the office when I got there so I caught up with emails and Sam. And then Mike finally strolled in with a huge coffee and told me to meet him in his office. I walked down there like an actual zombie.

“What’s up?” I said as I sat down, trying to act natural.

“Reese. What are you working on?” he said, not bothering to look up at me.

Sometimes Mike asks this, especially during times when it made the least amount of sense, so I always have an answer prepared. And it’s not like he actually cares what I’m working on, it’s his way of being polite. So I rattled off a bunch of nonsense.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed Paige hasn’t been around,” Mike said.

And I’d been so up my own butt that I actually hadn’t noticed that I hadn’t heard from Paige in a while.

“Yes.”

“She’s on a leave of absence so she’ll be out of the business for a few weeks. Stress or some stupid bullshit. She thinks I’m too hard on her. She can’t handle it,” he explained.

Wow, wow, wow. Stress? She barely does anything!

“Okay,” I said, still processing the information.

“You’re going to have to step in since I’ll need your help these next few weeks. She left most of her stuff here so we can divvy it up, but you know I don’t have much time to spare.”

And it’s like, you think I do? And I know for a fact that Paige makes considerably more than I do so was I getting a raise for covering her while she relaxed at home? Seriously? But what was I supposed to do, refuse?

“K. I don’t really have a ton of spare time either, but I’ll see what I can do,” I said.

And then Mike finally looked at me with his cold, beady eyes and didn’t say another word. I got up and left since apparently I was dismissed.

So that’s what I did for the rest of the day: worked with Sam to try to make sense of Paige’s shit. To literally no one’s surprise, Paige is not in the least bit organized. I made it to my meeting with the architect, dragging Sam along with me because I was barely functioning, and came back to the office to finish up for the day. It was only three, but like I said… your girl was a zombie. 

I was walking back to my office after raiding Paige’s pigpen and at that moment, Mike, Thomas and Brendan walked out of Mike’s office, directly opposite. And seeing Brendan there, dressed for casual Friday in joggers, a fitted tee and a puffer jacket by NorthFace, I suddenly got hot and itchy and nauseous thinking how I knew how he looked and felt under all those clothes. And was it just me or did he look like he’d gotten a full night’s rest and showed no signs of the debauchery we’d gotten into the night before? He looked so fucking good.

Brendan lifted his hand to wave and I shut him down before he could start.

“Hi,” I said quickly, rushing past them.

I just… I was in no mood. I had no intentions of seeing Brendan that day and I especially didn’t want to interact with him in front of Mike in case things were weird. So I went back to my office, packed up and snuck the fuck out of there.

Brady and Winnie came home and I was glad to have my baby back, but also happy to have them as a distraction. Brendan and I weren’t speaking. I thought he might text me after we saw each other in passing at the office, but I heard nothing — we just sent a few memes back and forth on Instagram. And I didn’t want to fixate on it, but had hooking up ruined our relationship? I was used to Brendan texting me all the time, even when I was being moody or acting like a bitch so why not now? Maybe I’d been weird in the office, but he was being weird by not texting me like he always does. And I certainly wasn’t going to text him first. Every time I saw his face in his tiny profile picture pop up in my Instagram messages I got excited and sad at the same time.

So it seemed like a good time to pick a fight with Brady.

“So are you just going to move all of your stuff to the city so you don’t have to keep going back and forth?” I asked.

He avoided eye contact. “I’m not sure.”

“What did your lawyer say to do?” I said, snarkily.

He looked at me then. “My lawyer said it’s fine if we’re both fine.”

“I’d rather not be stuck in fucking Connecticut, you know,” I said, bringing up old shit, even though I’ve gotten used to Connecticut by now.

“Okay…”

“So maybe you should stay here while me and Winnie prance around the city.”

Brady threw his hands up. “Why are you doing this? What do you want, Reese?”

“I don’t know, I just feel like you moved us out to the fucking suburbs and then abandoned us when things got hard. You didn’t even want Winnie so you should’ve just left a long time ago,” I said.

It was such a cruel and unnecessary low blow and I could tell by Brady’s face that it really upset him. In my defense though, he should’ve known that I would throw his reaction to my pregnancy in his face one day. He didn’t say anything and stormed out of the kitchen. And later, I cried because I felt so bad for being mean.

So that made the rest of the weekend tense. I tried to smooth it over and pretend nothing happened, but Brady wasn’t having any of my shit. And I guess I couldn’t blame him. Then on Monday, Brady set up his laptop and stuff and started working from home — something he hadn’t done in a long time. He had every right to (the majority of the bills are still being paid by him) but it was still like, ugh. I’m used to him not being around.

On my way to the office, I checked my email and I saw one from Brendan.

“Reese, thanks for all the follow through. Can you please let me know when this is complete?”

And it was just so weird because that’s not even the way we speak to each other. So I spent the entire day overthinking it and analyzing everything that had happened. Was it because I told him not to check on me? Was it because I didn’t stay and sleep with him at 5AM? Was he offended by one of the memes I sent? Had his ex-wife come crawling back? What the fuck?

But then in the afternoon, I heard Brendan in the hallway laughing with Mike. He had no meetings in our office — I’d checked — so I wasn’t expecting him. I froze. There was a knock on my door.

“Come in,” I called.

And Brendan stepped in, shutting the door behind him. My armpits began to sweat.

“Hiiii,” I said, saccharinely.

“Hey,” he said, smirking at my tone.

“That invoice is closed out, by the way,” I said and he raised an eyebrow. “The email you sent earlier.”

“Ah, yeah. Thanks.” We just looked at each other. He then sat down in one of my chairs and said, “Did you have a good weekend?”

Oh, you mean trolling your Instagram and fighting with my baby daddy? It was fantastic. “Yeah, good. Yours?”

“Good, too. Do you wanna talk?”

And even though I knew exactly what he was referring to and I was dying to talk about it, I said, “What about?”

“You know what about,” Brendan smiled, knowing me too well.

“I mean…” Was this really the right time and place to have this conversation?

“Are we…good?”

“You tell me. You’re the one being weird,” I said.

Brendan looked genuinely taken aback. “Me? No, you’re being weird.”

“How? You’re the one who never texted me back,” I said. And technically this was true (Brendan sent a message on Friday morning to make sure I got home okay and I’d let him know that I had), but it’s not like I’d given him anything to text back to.

“Well, after we saw each other here on Friday and you practically ran from me, I thought you needed some space,” he said.

My mouth opened and I just laughed because I couldn’t even deny it. “I was busy. Paige is on a LOA, I’m sure you’ve heard.”

“Yeah, but…okay. I just wanted to make sure you aren’t like, freaked out about what happened.”

“Brendan, please,” I said. “There’s no reason to be freaked out. We’re both adults.” 

I had, in fact, been freaked out all weekend.

He leaned back in the chair and I had to force myself not to blatantly check him out. “Okay, good. I’m sorry, I just wanted to back off a bit because I like you so much and…”

All I could focus on was him saying, “I like you so much.” And I was elated to hear him say he felt that way, but why did he have to say it to me? I’ve always been so impressed with how adeptly Brendan is able to express his feelings, but couldn’t he keep this one close to his chest? Of course we liked each other, it was obvious, but couldn’t we pretend we weren’t so sure? I was not ready to admit my feelings and especially not to him.

Anyway, we were able to squash the tension and my plan was to back off a bit because I didn’t want to develop further feelings for the dude. We went back to our normal texting, memes and lunches for a few weeks. Flirty of course, but nothing crazy. We didn’t even talk about our hookup again. At the end of the day, he was still my close friend, you know? It helped that I was swamped with work (all of Paige’s work since Mike was obviously no help) and trying to keep Winnie’s life as normal as possible.

But then one night, Brendan sent a picture of his bare leg in bed sticking out of his comforter and I jokingly texted, “I’m literally on my way.” And he sent back a virtual key to get into his apartment and…I couldn’t not go. Winnie was sleeping and Brady was in his little office working so why not? They wouldn’t even know I was gone.

So I got to Brendan’s, let myself in and found him in the bed. And then…we were up all night having sex again. It was just so amazing…to explore each other’s bodies…to find out where we liked to be touched and kissed…to be on the receiving end of Brendan’s generosity…to compete to please each other.

And…yeah. I guess that’s where we are now: being flirty friends most of the time and then having a rendezvous at his place about twice a month. No one has a clue that anything is going on, they’re so used to us being together that they can’t tell that anything has changed. Yeah, Brendan brings me tea and lunch nearly everyday, but that’s just what friends do!

And at this point, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m in love with Brendan. I love him; what do you want me to do about it? I would never tell him that, of course, not unless he said it to me first, but it’s true. It’s the way he treats me and the way he treats others, how he always leads with empathy and compassion. He’s just so kind.

And all the shit I’m used to pulling? Picking fights and yelling and acting like a petty bitch? That just doesn’t work with him. This might be terrible, but it’s almost as if you can tell he’s been married before because he will never go to sleep mad, and isn’t that like a golden rule in marriage? One time, while we were in his bed and he was kissing various parts of my body, he asked if I wanted to have more kids. I kicked him off and flipped out (who just asks that??) and he apologized and calmed me down and made me talk to him about why it was so upsetting to me. I realized that I was triggered — Brady used to talk about marriage while he was balls deep in me but never any other time so of course I didn’t want to have these conversations while being intimate.

This just feels different. I’ve never been with someone who makes me want to be a better person. Seeing how Brendan reacts to things makes me feel ridiculous, like when this girl he works with sent an aggressive email and he replied super sweetly and politely and I said I would’ve dragged her and gotten her together, he was seriously just like, “Why? What would that solve?” And it’s like, good point. Maybe I’m just getting older or I’ve learned from my mistakes, I don’t know. I realize it sounds like I’m gushing or trying to hype him up like he’s perfect. I’m not. He’s not. He can’t be, not with how we got together and how his marriage ended. He has baggage and flaws and unpredictable emotions just like I do, but I feel like at this juncture, he’s a solid match for me. I love him.

As for Brady…I don’t know. Maybe I’ll talk about him more in my next post. He’s completely shut me out and always has and I don’t think he will ever be happy until he addresses his trauma and sees a fucking therapist. Or maybe he just needs to find someone who brings out a better side of him because that definitely isn’t me.

I have one more *dRaMa* story to share, but I’ll lump that into the next post too. It’s Winnie’s birthday and Brady’s birthday coming up and my family is flying in so I’m sure I’ll have stories to talk about from that.

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BIG UPDATE — PART FOUR.

After his dad died, Brady became a huge asshole. Like, even more so than usual. At first, I thought my mom had talked to him even though I begged her not to. I figured she talked to him, he knew about Brendan and he was punishing me for it. But she assured me that she hadn’t said a word because she trusted me to handle the situation on my own. So this was just how he wanted to be.

Basically he was going out of his way to ignore me/saying what he wanted to say to me Winnie in a passive aggressive tone (ex. “I wonder if your mother is ever going to learn where the corkscrew goes”), coming home from “work” clearly stoned and acting like I was crazy when I mentioned it, deliberately being secretive on the phone (and I’d eavesdrop only to find out he was talking to someone about work), bringing home food for just Winnie and himself, and other petty things like that.

And honestly, I didn’t even care. I guess I figured I deserved it, after making out with Brendan in the back of a restaurant. Plus, his dad had just died — and maybe this was the only way he knew how to grieve.

Meanwhile, I was focusing on myself; putting in more effort at work (while keeping things with Brendan strictly professional), taking pilates classes geared toward working moms (eye roll), and spending time catching up with my friends. It helped that Brady was working his usual insane schedule and when he came home with an attitude, I just rolled my eyes and ignored him.

One night though, Brady was in a better mood and chatted with me about a meeting he had at work and the three of us ate dinner together and played all evening. Finally! This is how things were supposed to be. I was apprehensive, but hopeful…maybe we could be a normal family and Winnie could actually have two parents who liked each other.

Later, after the baby was asleep and we were getting ready for bed, Brady came up behind me and grabbed my hip and tried to pull me to him. I immediately jumped away because it had been so long since he’d touched me.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He looked at me curiously. “What? I can’t touch my girlfriend?”

“I mean, you haven’t in months so I’m not exactly used to it. It’s weird.” And then it occurred to me that he only spent time with me that evening because he wanted to get some. The fucking nerve!

“Yeah? Why do you think it’s weird?” he said.

I started to say something snide back, but then Brady kept going.

“Is it weird because you wish it was Brendan instead?”

I just stared at him. Brendan? Brendan and I weren’t even on that level and I wasn’t even thinking of him like that (that much) so where was Brady getting this from? Had my mom finally opened her big ass mouth?

“What are you talking about?” I finally asked.

“You left your notebook out,” he explained simply.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I keep a little pink Moleskin that I use to write my entire life down: lists, schedules, thoughts, ideas, etc. It’s sort of like a catch all journal and it’s super messy and personal and holds a ton of secrets (possibly even stuff about this blog) and who even fucking knows what I wrote down in there in regards to Brendan? And I almost always left it in or on my bedside table so it’s not like I “left it out.”

“You went through my notebook?” I exclaimed. 

“I didn’t know it was secret,” Brady smirked.

“Of course you did!” I screamed. “You knew exactly what you were doing and it’s such an invasion of my privacy. I feel so violated.”

I actually started crying, thinking of Brady sitting there reading my darkest thoughts.

“I didn’t mean to violate you,” Brady said, sounding matter of fact and not at all sincere. “It was just sitting out. And it’s not like you’ve never gone through my things before.”

I guess at least he hadn’t gone through my phone and text messages because if he’d read through the things I was talking to some of my friends about (and Brendan, if he scrolled back far enough), this would have been a much bigger deal.

The next morning, I reluctantly went back through my notebook to see what exactly Brady had seen. And I wanted to punch myself for not only documenting the things I did, but also leaving it out for Brady to see. But he’d never gone through my things before and I didn’t even know it was an issue.

Anyway, we had that big fight and then went back to ignoring each other. I was sure to keep my notebook close at all times and even changed all of my passwords, just in case.

I started talking to Kendra and Carly a lot more. They were both so busy in happy relationships that I didn’t really hear much from them, but with me not talking to Brady or Brendan really, I had time to actually put in effort. One day, I was talking on the phone to Kendra before Brady came home and she mentioned something about Brady contacting a lawyer and had I done so? Did I need recommendations?

“What are you talking about?” I asked, confused. “What did Brady talk to a lawyer about?”

She explained that Brady had consulted his family’s attorney about Winnie and what he could and should do about our current situation and what rights he had. He’d told John everything.

“Kendra!” I exclaimed. “Why are you just now telling me about this?”

“Sorry, I completely forgot until right now,” she said.

“This is a huge deal!” I went on, realizing that Brady was going to use his family connections to try to take the baby away from me. “How can you forget?”

“Well I’m sorry, I guess it’s pregnancy brain,” she snapped back. “I’m pregnant, by the way.”

And this announcement would’ve been a lot more exciting if she hadn’t just dropped a bomb. So I said a quick congratulations before making her go back to everything she knew about Brady and the lawyer. She went over everything again: Brady contacted his family’s lawyer, told them our relationship was most likely ending and what did that mean for our baby? Oh fucking really? Our relationship was ending, but he hadn’t even bothered to talk to me about it. What a coward.

“I think you should talk to a lawyer too,” Kendra said. “If y’all do break up, you’ll hopefully settle something out of court, but I’d talk to someone just in case especially since Brady did.”

When Brady came home that night, I couldn’t even help myself. I screamed at him as soon as he walked through the door. I can’t even remember what I said, I was livid. And to my surprise, he actually stood up for himself and fought back.

“Of course I contacted my lawyer and this is exactly why!” he shouted. “We’re both miserable and if we keep this up, our kid will be too! Stop it! God!”

And even though he was totally right, it hurt to hear that being with me made him miserable.

“You’re so pathetic,” I said and then continued spewing the meanest things I could think of at him. And he just nodded his head like, “Yep, this is exactly what I’m talking about.”

The next morning, Saturday, I woke up with an emotional hangover. Brady was up and in the kitchen feeding Winnie. And lucky for him because I was ready to lay into him again.

We avoided each other as we navigated through breakfast and then Brady said, “I’m going to go into work.”

As if I gave a fuck.

“And then I’m going to stay at my parents’ in the city,” he went on, not making eye contact with me.

“Great,” I said.

“I’ll probably stay for a few days. I’m not exactly sure yet.”

“Of course,” I sneered. “Always running and hiding like a little bitch.”

You would’ve thought the threat of Brady’s family attorney would be enough to make me be a little more pleasant, but instead it made me more indignant.

Brady left and I was happy for space, but upset about everything that had transpired. I felt exactly what Brendan had described about the end of his marriage: things were said and done that cannot be taken back. There was no way Brady and I would come back from this. And as I began speaking to family attorneys, I couldn’t help feeling depressed that this was what my life had come to.

The next few weeks were rough with Brady on and off staying at her parents’ and I could tell Winnie was feeling it. And that made me even more pissed at him. And then one day he asked (super, super nicely) to take her overnight because his mom wanted to see her and wanted to take her shopping and etc. And this sent me into sort of a tailspin because I couldn’t say no — I couldn’t keep Winnie away from her daddy, she wanted to see him — and I felt guilty that we couldn’t get along and that the baby would be alone with Brady and his mother and I couldn’t protect her and who knows what Brady had told his mom and she was probably going to talk shit about me and my family and Brady for sure would not stop her. I could not believe this was happening.

So I agreed and Brady let me know they’d be back in two days. I tried not to read too much into it, thinking by “we’ll be back” he meant he was coming home and we’d be a family again, especially because I was so angry at him.

That same day, I went into the office because there was no way I could stay in the house alone. I needed to throw myself into work so I didn’t self-destruct. And since I hadn’t been in the office in a few weeks, everyone was all over me and wanting to chat, including Mike and Paige. And the distractions were welcome.

Toward the end of the day, Mike stopped by my office.

“We are going for drinks. Would you like to come?” he asked.

“Yes.” 100% I was going. I hadn’t been out for “drinks” in ages and Brendan would most likely be there — Mike always invites him out. Brendan would be the perfect distraction.

So Mike, Paige, Sam and I walked a few blocks to a small, dark cocktail bar and tapas place. And sure enough, Brendan, Thomas, and two of their associates, Aaron and Yesenia, were in a booth waiting for us. We all greeted each other and Brendan gave me a really nice, warm hug and I was suddenly so happy to be there. But as I said, things have been nothing but professional and platonic with Brendan so we all sat and chatted and drank wine. Paige, who is annoying, dominated the conversation and told stories about her husband and all the vacations she wishes they were taking. And me, I was uncharacteristically quiet, to the point where Brendan was asking me questions to try to get me involved in the conversation, sort of like he did when we first met.

Eventually though, I needed a break so I made Paige let me out of the booth so I could get up. I headed to the restroom and checked my phone, for some reason hoping to hear from Brady and Winnie. But nope, just Kendra.

“What did your lawyer say?” she asked. I’d talked to her earlier about Brady taking the baby for a few days and she told me that I should talk to the lawyer about it. Which, of course, I hadn’t because I hadn’t even hired a lawyer yet. So that completely shattered my mood and I thought maybe I should take my ass home and try to find a lawyer instead of being out drinking.

I walked out of the bathroom and Brendan was in the little, dark corridor, seemingly waiting for me.

“Hey,” he said. “You okay? You seem upset.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

I tried to push past him, but he put his hands on my shoulders to stop me. “You’re not. What’s going on? Talk to me.”

I was already on the verge of tears and I was dangerously close to breaking down with him in my face like that. And if it was anyone else, his persistence would have annoyed me, but it was Brendan and I knew he genuinely just wanted to be there for me.

“It’s fine. Just…drama. I don’t really want to get into it,” I said.

“Okay…” he let me go and stepped back a bit. “How have you been otherwise?”

“Not great,” I mumbled and that’s when I burst into tears. Ugh. I should have never agreed to drinks, knowing the state I was in.

Brendan laced his hand in mine and guided us to the leather bench against the wall. And so we just sat there sitting on the bench holding hands. I felt so ridiculous for crying, but once I started I couldn’t stop. Eventually I sniffled up enough snot to choke out what was going on. I didn’t go into detail, but let him know about the lawyer stuff.

“Damn,” Brendan said. He was still clutching my hand. “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

“It’s okay, I just feel bad for Winnie. She’s going to be so confused and traumatized. She probably already is,” I said and the thought made a fresh wave of tears begin.

We sat there for a few minutes not saying anything and then Brendan spoke up.

“My parents split when I was really young. But before they did, they fought all the time and it was really, really bad. It’s hard for me to remember a night when my mom wasn’t screaming at my dad or threatening him with a kitchen knife. And she would drag us into it, telling me and my sister to come listen and take sides.” He reached up to scratch his face with our hands still conjoined. “The police had to come a few times and… I’ve always sort of resented her for it.”

And while I’ve never threatened Brady with a sharp object and I always try to make sure Winnie is not around when I yell at him, I wondered, is that me? Was I literally traumatizing my baby? She’s very perceptive and smart for her age. She probably knew exactly what was happening.

“So I think, even though it sucks now, if the two of you are fighting and don’t get along, this might be the best decision. I know it’s a tough position to be in.”

“I just never thought I’d be in this position. I always thought I’d find a husband and we would have babies and be married forever,” I admitted. “So I guess this is my own fault. I tried to force it and Brady has always been like this. It’s not like he changed. It was never going to work out the way I wanted.”

“That’s okay. You’re supposed to have faith in the person you love…” He went silent and I wondered if he was speaking from experience on this too — he had faith in the relationship with his wife too, knowing it was never going to work out.

“He went through my planner and saw all the stuff I wrote about you and wasn’t happy about that,” I blurted out.

Brendan hesitated and I knew he was wondering if he should ask me to elaborate. Then he asked, “What did you write about me?”

“Just…” I shouldn’t have brought it up. It was honestly really embarrassing. “I don’t know, just stuff. Getting way too excited to have lunch with you, I guess.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Brendan smile and he squeezed my hand in his.

“You know, I’m still available for lunch anytime you want,” he said.

I smiled too. “Good because I’m going to need an old-fashioned lunch date soon.”

For some reason, after my pep talk with Brendan, I felt so much better — like the world wasn’t actually ending. Which is crazy because even my mom, a therapist, could never make me feel better. When Brady and Winnie came back, I was super happy to see them — both of them — and had them tell me about what they’d done. And my good mood put Brady in a better mood and we actually had a somewhat pleasant conversation. I wasn’t going to fight with him and coparenting didn’t need to be hard. We could handle it like adults.

So when he packed up his things the next day for another stint at his parents’ in the city, I let him know that it was unnecessary; our house is big enough for all of us and we wouldn’t get in each other’s way. And he got all squirrelly after that, mumbling something about being closer to work.

When I told Kendra about it, she said, “It might be something his attorney suggested. To try and separate himself if he’s going to try to get custody or something.”

And while this idea was frightening, I had another theory in mind. I figured he was seeing someone. It made sense — why would he willingly stay in the city, away from his baby, unless he had to? He had a girlfriend and she lived in the city. And maybe he wasn’t even staying at his parents and was staying with her. Maybe they’d been dating each other for a while and that’s why Brady was being an asshole. Maybe it was fucking Sydney. That was completely fine with me, to be honest. Brady could have a new girlfriend as long as she was nowhere near my child.

Meanwhile, I was obsessed with Brendan again. He texted me a few times to check in after drinks (he’s so fucking nice) and I wanted to cash in on that lunch date, but I was still kinda embarrassed about opening up. So I didn’t push it. We just exchanged a few texts and memes here and there.

One day though, Brendan texted me. “I’m in your neck of the woods. Wanna grab lunch?”

And clearly, he’d done some research (Reese style) and it wasn’t a coincidence that he was in my “neck of the woods” on the one day I was in the office.

“Yes.” And I immediately closed down my computer so I could get ready to meet him.

We sat down and he was polite and friendly, but way too apprehensive and formal — I was ready for things to go back to the way it was before I retreated when Brady’s dad died.

So I blurted out, “I think Brady has a girlfriend.”

Brendan looked taken aback. “Really? Why do you think that?”

I explained the whole staying in the city situation and how awkward Brady had been about it.

“I didn’t realize you’d broken up,” Brendan said.

“I mean.” I shrugged, rolling my eyes. “I guess neither of us said it, but the relationship has been over for months. We both know it.”

“Wow,” he said, still looking shocked. “Well, how do you feel about that?”

“Fine, I suppose. I don’t really feel anything. I guess if I can’t make him happy, he should find someone who does.”

“I feel like this is maybe something you should actually talk to him about. You mentioned the two of you aren’t good at communicating, but the end of a relationship seems like a pretty important thing to discuss,” Brendan said.

I waved him off, knowing he was right and wishing I hadn’t brought it up. Actions speak louder than words. Clearly the relationship was over. “I know. We will…eventually.”

“Are you really okay with him possibly having a girlfriend?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Why? Would you not be okay with your ex seeing someone new?”

“I mean, I don’t know. I would be surprised that she would be ready to move on,” Brendan said.

“Why?”

“Just…because of things she’s said.”

Recently? I wanted to ask. Were they still speaking? If they were, why did that make me feel a certain way? I had no right to feel anything.

So I changed the subject. This was not the silly, lighthearted lunch I was looking for. We didn’t talk about Brady or his ex-wife the rest of the lunch and went back to our usual banter.

Later that night, he texted me to explain himself. Their divorce wasn’t quite final yet, and she would not move on yet — because it would look bad and she’s all about optics. And so I asked if he was ready to move on.

“For the right person, yes,” Brendan said back.

I didn’t reply because I didn’t want to think about the right person being anyone other than me.

The next few weeks, things ramped up. We’d talk and text all night, go to lunch and flirt incessantly, take our Peloton classes and exchange pictures afterward. We went to lunch so often that Paige, who is hardly even in the office, noticed and commented on it. And that should have been a sign to stop, but instead I worked harder to be discrete about it.

And Brady, he was still staying back and forth in the city during the week which was completely fine, and I even started helping him pack his little weekender bag. He’d spend the weekends with us and we were cordial and friendly and it was fine. We were mature coparents. We fell into a bit of a routine and occasionally he would take Winnie overnight so she could spend time with his mother. And I was okay with that — it’s not like his mom would be around forever and I wanted Winnie to get to spend at least a little bit of time with her grandmother. Grandparents are the best.

On one of those nights, I sat around alone, texting with Brendan, doing a little bit of work and sipping wine. Our conversations were always really flirty and like…hypothetical. Like we’d talk about things we wanted to do, knowing we would never actually do them. He’d just figured out how to light his fireplace so come over to snuggle and watch a movie? Definitely! Not today, but one day…

But then he texted me, “Do you wanna come over?”

And it was 10PM on a Thursday night so no, I should stay home and behave. But before I could stop myself, before even asking any questions, I said, “Yeah.”

He got my address and ordered an Uber for me and I hopped in the shower to freshen up and then slathered myself in Brazilian Bum Bum Cream by Sol de Janiero. Was this a booty call? I thought as I got dressed in baggy jeans inspired by Emily Ratajkowski and a tight tank top with no bra. Had I just made a “dick appointment?” It was clear what was going to go down. But at no point, not while getting ready or during the 38 minute Uber ride, did I stop and think, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this.” I was doing this.

**Hi, sorry to leave another cliff hanger. I know I said last time that I would only need one more post to catch you up, but I took a longer break than intended and I don’t want this post to get too long. This already took a lot out of me. I’ll try my hardest to get the finale up later this week. xo

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BIG UPDATE — PART THREE.

It took me several seconds to realize what Brady said. His father just died.

“So I’m going to stay here tonight,” he continued.

“Oh my God, Brady. I’m so sorry. Are you okay? What happened?” I said back.

“I’m fine.”

“Do you want me and Winnie to come be with you there? Where are you? I can drive—”

He cut me off. “No, that’s completely unnecessary. I’m in Massachusetts and I don’t want to drive in the dark. I’ll be home tomorrow.”

God. Even in a situation like this he was so cold and logical and emotionless. We hung up and I sat there trying to process what he just told me. Brady’s father, who I had spent a good chunk of time with, had passed away. How? I knew he was sick, but I didn’t know it was that bad. But once I thought about it, how would I know? I hadn’t seen him in some time and it’s not like Brady would tell me.

How was Brady handling it? And his mom? She must be devastated. As much as I don’t like her, I felt awful at the thought of her being widowed. I hoped she and Brady were at least helping each other through it. And what about Winnie? She loved Brady’s dad. Just thinking about that made me burst into tears. I could not imagine how Brady must be feeling.

He came home the next evening and I immediately started peppering him with questions. He was vague with details — dad collapsed and had to go to the hospital — but was sure to let me know that Hunter would be coming and may stay with us for a couple of days. And then I demanded to know how he felt. Brady was acting almost robotic — not outwardly sad or upset; just stated the facts. Did he care? Had he already cried? Had it not sunk in?

“You know I wasn’t very close with him,” he said.

And that caught me off guard. Brady has never hidden the fact that he isn’t that fond of his parents, but his dad was dead! No matter what, it’s still his dad. And it’s not like they were estranged; we spent a lot of time with his parents. And if he supposedly wasn’t that close with his dad, why did he drop everything to drive to Massachusetts? It didn’t make any sense.

Over the weekend, I kept asking more questions. When was the funeral? How was his mother doing? Was she alone? Should we go be with her? Should we send her flowers? What should we tell Winnie?

“Not sure.”

“She’s okay.”

“No.”

“She doesn’t like flowers.”

“The truth.”

Eventually, I was sick of the short answers and ready to punch him in the face. I understand that everyone handles grief differently, but this was ridiculous.

“Do you like, not care about this or are you in shock? Or do you not want to talk about it with me?” I said.

“I’m not in shock. His health has been declining for several years and he was stubborn about treatments. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react,” he said coldly.

“You kind of sound like an asshole,” I couldn’t help saying.

Brady was silent for a moment and then he said, “Thanks Reese,” and walked away.

So of course, I felt bad after that. After I made dinner and we all ate together, I apologized.

“Don’t apologize if that’s how you feel,” Brady said, which was honestly one of the smartest things he’d said in weeks.

“I just feel bad about your dad and I wish you’d let me be there for you,” I said.

“I feel bad too but there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

Seriously? I was so frustrated all I could do was cry. And then on Monday morning, he went to work like everything was normal. I assumed he’d take at least a few days off so I was surprised when I woke up and saw that he was gone.

“You didn’t take the day off?” I texted him.

“No. Why would I?” he said a few hours later. I just wanted to fucking shake him. Because your fucking father just died, that’s why you’d take the day off! It’s called bereavement. What the fuck?

The week went by in a bit of a blur. I felt like a zombie. I called Brady’s mom to offer my condolences and she didn’t answer, of course, and never called me back. My mom insisted on sending flowers (even though apparently she doesn’t like them) and I had her add my name to the card since Brady’s mom had no interest in talking to me. I’m probably the last person she wanted to speak to with everything going on and I don’t really blame her.

The funeral was scheduled for Friday of the following week. Brady took that Wednesday off, mainly because Hunter was arriving from California and he wanted to meet him. Of course. He let me know that they’d probably stay in Massachusetts, but he’d be back the next day. And this is completely awful, but I couldn’t help thinking that this was going to be a repeat of Florida. I really needed to get over myself.

But out of sight, out of mind I guess. Once Brady left I finally texted Brendan back. He’d reached out a few times the past few days, but I was so preoccupied with everything else that I hadn’t responded. So I made up some excuse about being busy with the baby because I didn’t want to share Brady’s business. Plus I needed an escape. I’d already cried six times thinking about Brady’s dad. Brendan was both the last person and only person I wanted to talk to and somehow, without even knowing what was going on, he made me feel like everything would be okay.

My parents came for the funeral and I was so excited to see them and especially that they were staying with us through the weekend. With everything going on, I needed my parents.

The services took place at a beautiful church in Massachusetts. I was surprised to see Brady’s mom stoically greeting everyone – politely laughing and smiling. Meanwhile, I could barely keep it together and sobbed throughout the service. I mean, how could not? It was so sad and I seemed to be the only one sad. Brady just sat there like a robot, although eventually he did put his arm around me and rubbed my shoulder to try to console me. It was the first time he’d touched me in weeks — months even.

And my demon child, who was sitting in my lap, continuously rolled her eyes and told me to stop crying. I wanted to say, “If you had any idea what was going on, you’d cry too! But you don’t! And you’re the one who cries when you’re sleepy instead of just going to sleep so I don’t want to hear it!” The nerve of that girl.

Brady didn’t shed a tear.

We all went to Brady’s parents’ afterwards. It was all a little awkward mostly because Brady’s family is awkward and my mom couldn’t read the room and was over the top in the delivery of her condolences. It’s like, I think they get it. Winnie got to see her uncle Hunter, which was pretty cute even if I hate him. Oddly his wife and kids didn’t make the trip, which he said was due to covid. Doubtful. She probably finally left him and he was too embarrassed to admit it.

It started to get better though because someone (Brady’s grandmother, I’m pretty sure) opened wine and champagne. Thank God. I chugged that shit like it was going to disappear.

Later that night, we came back to our house with my parents in tow. I put the baby to sleep and then the grown ups stayed up a little longer having wine and catching up. And Brady and I sat there talking and joking around with my parents like nothing was going on between us. As if we hadn’t given each other the cold shoulder for months. And seeing him actually smiling made my chest tighten. Maybe we really did like each other! Or maybe he was just so miserable being around me, he needed a buffer. That made sense too.

My mom and I made plans to go the grocery store in the morning and whip up a big southern breakfast for everyone. Then we all went to bed. And me and Brady did our normal bedtime routine — changing into pajamas and brushing our teeth in silence — and then we got in bed. I wanted to say something, not just go to sleep like I normally would. But I didn’t know what to say.

But then Brady rolled over in the dark and said, “Are you up?”

“Mmhm,” I said.

“Just wanted to say thanks for your support. I know it’s been hard,” he said.

And it’s like, what support? I’ve been a blubbering mess for a week and not exactly a stable person to lean on. So I felt guilty about calling him an asshole and assuming he was doing something bad with Hunter and about Brendan. Still unsure what to say, I pushed myself over so I could hug him. And it’s like he was waiting for me to because he put his arms around me and pulled me even closer. It was cute. He made it hard to be there for him, but at least he appreciated my efforts. And Brady definitely has trouble expressing himself with words so even just a hug seemed to say a lot.

We stayed like that for a while, not saying anything, and I thought he’d fallen asleep. But then I felt that he was getting a boner. Really? At a time like this? But I guess he couldn’t help it and at least that confirmed he was still somewhat attracted to me. What? Getting ignored for weeks on end can really take its toll on the self esteem.

And so he pulled me even closer and nuzzled my neck and then…I guess we had sex. Which I didn’t mean or plan to happen. We didn’t even kiss or say anything else — we just had a quickie and went to sleep. And afterwards, I for some reason felt guilty because I felt like I was cheating on Brendan. How would he feel about me sleeping with my boyfriend? My little fling with Brendan was only okay as long as Brady and I weren’t speaking.

The next morning I got up and met my mom and Winnie in the kitchen. I must have looked like shit because my mom said, “Oh, babe. Are you okay?”

I shook my head and told her I’d tell her all about it later. She knew something had been going on between me and Brady (the house hunting trip to Houston was a good clue) but we hadn’t fully discussed it. My dad and Brady joined us and as he walked past me, Brady swatted me on the butt like everything was normal. And then when I looked at him like he was insane, he grinned at me with little hearts in his eyes.

What. The. Fuck.

So my mom and I hopped in the car to go to the grocery store and as we walked through the aisles, I told her what was going on with Brendan. She already knew about him, of course, but I’d downplayed everything previously. She didn’t know the full details of the separation or about the divorce or the kiss. I explained how our relationship seemed to ramp up on its own especially after Brady pushed me away. And I told her how I actually might have real feelings for Brendan.

“Do you see Brendan outside of the office often?” she asked.

“Only for lunch. We just text a lot. Like, all day and all night.”

And then finally, she said, “Oh, Reese. I’m so disappointed.”

Which is not the response I was expecting. Usually when I tell her about my stupid decisions, she just offers up advice with no judgement. “Disappointed? Why?”

“Because Brady loves you,” my mother said.

“Does he? Why do you think that?”

“Because he tells me. All the time. He loves you and Winnie so much.”

Naturally, I burst into tears. My mom stopped pushing the cart and just stared at me.

“Maybe he said that,” I managed to choke out. “But he definitely doesn’t act like it.”

“Have you told him what you need from him?” my mom asked as if this wasn’t the most obvious thing in the world.

“Only a million times. He knows. He doesn’t like to communicate and he has no feelings and our relationship is toxic—”

My mother cut me off. “And you think a relationship with this Brendan would be better? As soon as he thought he had a chance with you, he kicked his wife to the curb. And you don’t think he’d do the same to you if the opportunity came up?”

It seemed unnecessary to correct her — the wife had actually kicked him to the curb — so I just stood there sniffling.

“Think about Winnie. Do you want her growing up in a broken home?” my mom said.

“Yeah because growing up with parents who hate each other is better,” I mumbled. And no offense, but growing up with parents who didn’t exactly like each other is probably how Brady turned out like he did. I wasn’t about to say that out loud.

“Well, I’m going to talk to Brady about this,” she said after a few seconds of silence.

“What are you going to say?” I exclaimed. Really? It’s like she was just dying to share my business.

“I’ll tell him what we discussed and see what he wants to do. If the relationship is as toxic as you claim and you went and got involved with someone else then we need to fix it. Or at least get the baby out of there. She’s more than welcome to stay with us in Houston.”

My mother and her big fucking mouth.

**Thanks for all of your messages and comments! The past few months have been a lot. I think I’ll have one more update post to get you up to date on my current situation. Love you all!**

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BIG UPDATE — PART TWO.

Despite looking like he hadn’t gotten much sleep, Brendan still looked fantastic. He was in a preppy cream colored sweater and jeans.

“Hi!” I said.

He smiled warmly. “Hey. Can I come in?”

“Of course!” It was like we had reverted back and now he was asking for permission just to come into my office. He stepped in and shut the door behind him.

“Are you busy?” he asked as he sat in one of my chairs.

“Extremely, but definitely not too busy for you. One sec.” I finished sending my email then closed out to give him my undivided attention. “What’s up? How are you?”

Brendan shrugged. “I’m sure you heard.”

I nodded, confirming, but not giving Thomas away. “You okay?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. Things haven’t been good for a while, but I thought she was willing to work through it. That’s what she said a few months ago. I think someone got in her head,” he said.

I nodded again, afraid to ask what exactly happened. Brendan and I were nowhere near as close as we used to be, but I would absolutely die if our friendship had anything to do with their divorce.

“It’s just weird,” he went on. “She’s the only person I’ve ever really been with. We were together forever. So it’ll be an adjustment, for sure.”

As in, his wife is the only person he’s ever slept with? How weird, but kind of cute I guess? But all the more reason to see what else is out there.

“So there’s no chance for reconciliation?” I asked.

Brendan shook his head. “No. Things were said and done that can’t be taken back, you know?”

Oh, I knew. “Yeah. So what now?”

“Business as usual, I guess. There’s still some stuff that has to be figured out, but I just got a place in Murray Hill so I’m happy.”

“A bachelor pad?” I teased.

“Hardly,” Brendan grinned. “Wanna come check it out? It needs some work, but I’m settling in.”

“Definitely.” There was no way I would go to see his new place. What a bad idea.

“Anyway. What’s going on with you?”

“The same shit. Everyone is pissing me off. You have to see what Paige just emailed me,” I replied.

Despite being terrible at her job, Paige had been on my ass about the stupidest bullshit. That day, she’d sent a message that said, “I don’t care how you do it, but this needs to be figured out today.” And it’s like, instead of demanding shit get done, why don’t you actually help? She’s a bitch and she’s annoying and it doesn’t help that she works from home every single day and answered a Zoom call from her bed one day. Really?

“Man,” Brendan said, laughing. “The two of you just can’t get along, can you?”

“No because she’s a cu—”

And then my door flew open and Sam rushed in. Brendan jumped up like he was caught doing something inappropriate. Sam, of course, stopped and looked back and forth between us.

“Sorry to interrupt…” she started to say.

“You’re fine. Do you have the samples?” I said back.

Meanwhile, Brendan waved and snuck off behind her out of my office. Not suspicious at all, dude. I didn’t see him again the rest of the day, but that evening he texted me saying, “Sorry I had to run. Wanna grab lunch this week to catch up?”

I knew I shouldn’t so I waited an entire day to say, “Sure! How’s Friday?”

So at least that gave me something to look forward to. On Friday, I got dressed in a brand new cute outfit; not so much to impress Brendan or anything like that, but because I’d spent the entire pandemic shopping online and I was excited to wear my new clothes.

And okay, so maybe I was a little too excited to be having lunch with a newly single guy when I was having so many issues in my own relationship. But we’d already decided that the only thing we’d ever be is friends so it was fine.

As soon as we sat down and ordered at the cute bistro near the office, I blabbed about what was going on with Brady. The only person I’d really talked to about it was Kendra and she, of course, sided with Brady.

“I mean, why were you spying on him? If John overheard some of our conversations, I know he wouldn’t be happy. And I’m sure Brady wouldn’t be either,” she said.

She’s so annoying. Sometimes I wonder how and why I’m still friends with her.

“Don’t you think you should talk to him?” Brendan said after my spiel.

“And say what? I’ve already told him exactly how I feel and he’s said nothing. The ball is in his court now.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “It just seems weird that you haven’t talked about it at all.”

“Welcome to my life!” I burst out. “This is what I’ve dealt with for years.”

“I’m sorry, Reese,” Brendan said, sounding sincere. “I guess we’re both having some issues in the relationship department.”

That was an understatement. I considered what he said though, and thought maybe I should bring it up again. It made zero sense that we were walking around the house ignoring each other when we could just talk about our problems. When I got home that afternoon, Brady was already home and in the kitchen with Winnie.

“Hey,” he said, barely looking up at me.

“Hello. You’re home early,” I said.

I put my stuff down and saw that he’d picked up the mail and it was all sitting on the counter. And right on top was a postcard from one of the places I’d looked at in the city with a note saying something like, “Greetings from your new home.”

“Yup,” Brady said. And then he started talking to Winnie and pretending I wasn’t there. So that got me even more mad. Clearly he’d seen the postcard and knew I was looking to move out and he wasn’t even going to say anything? He didn’t care? Typical.

Anyway, that was the new routine. Brady and me ignoring each other, looking for places to live around the country and meeting Brendan for lunch once a week. But that quickly turned into lunch 2-3 times a week. And then when we weren’t hanging out, we were in constant communication; binging shows on Netflix together, signing up for the same Peloton rides, exchanging pictures of our respective dinners, etc. And it was bad, like back to before I got pregnant, but even worse now that he was single and I was basically on my way to being single. It wasn’t like super subtle flirting that could be passed as friendly banter. The pics he sent after our Peloton rides were not exactly platonic. And neither were some of the conversations we had while we were texting in bed.

The last thing I needed was to get involved with Brendan — a very recently divorced (had the papers even been signed?) coworker. Not when Brady and I had so many unresolved issues and a needy toddler in the mix, but I didn’t care. I knew it would all blow up in my face eventually, but I’d cross that bridge when I got to it. For now, I’d enjoy the fruits of my bad decisions.

One day, we decided to go to lunch and then we would visit a site with Thomas and Mike afterwards. We opted for just green smoothies and as we sat there sipping, Brendan asked about Brady. We hadn’t really broached the subject since my first venting session, mainly because the situation hadn’t changed at all.

“He’s fine,” I said. “He’s been working from five am until like nine or ten so I usually don’t even see him. I’m sure he prefers it that way.”

“Do you think he’s really working all that time?” Brendan asked.

I just stared at him and so he continued.

“I mean, you’re the one who alluded to him doing something in Florida. I don’t know.”

Honestly, I hadn’t even considered that Brady was being sketchy in that way at all — he’s always been a workaholic. But perhaps he was getting into something/someone else. Maybe he was meeting up with Sydney in Brooklyn after work everyday and spending the evening with her. Or even someone else I didn’t know about.

“I’m sorry,” Brendan said when he saw the wheels turning in my head. “I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sure he’s not.”

“I have no idea,” I admitted. “But that’s my point. I don’t trust him.”

As if I had any room to talk.

Thomas called as we were leaving the shop to tell Brendan he’d lost his keys.

“Thomas is good at a lot of things, but he would lose his head if it wasn’t attached to his body,” Brendan said once he hung up. “I need to grab the spare set from my place. Do you mind?”

And I was mostly just eager to see his apartment because I’m nosy so I let him know I didn’t mind. We hopped in a cab and headed over there. To no one’s surprise, Brendan’s new bachelor pad is a hip, beautifully decorated brownstone just off Park Ave.

“I thought you said you were still settling in,” I said as we entered the fully furnished living space.

“My stepmom has been helping me. Just give a sec while I find the keys. You can look around if you want,” he said.

Which I was going to do anyway. I gave myself a tour around the living area and kitchen, noting the very expensive furniture and original art pieces. I wondered if he inherited some of it from the divorce since the ex-wife is supposedly “loaded.” I went through the hallway to look at a spacious bathroom and a guest bedroom that actually did need a little bit of work. I stopped just before I got to the open door of what I assumed was the master suite. Brendan was coming out and we stood there staring at each other.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“It’s okay,” I lied. His place was stunning and clearly a lot nicer than he originally let on. “When you’re ready, I can help you revamp some things.”

Brendan smiled. “Thank you.”

And then, something about being in such close quarters when all I could think about was his sweaty shoulders and body after a Peloton ride made my body clammy.

“Did you find the keys?” I said to change the subject.

“Yep. We can get going,” he said.

And then I didn’t immediately turn to leave because some wicked part of me still wanted to see his bedroom. It wasn’t until Brendan began to walk toward me that I turned and hustled out of there.

He must have read my mind, because later that night he sent me a picture of his modern white and grey bedroom.

“You didn’t get to see, but still working on my room. I need art for above my bed,” he captioned. 

The picture was of the entire room and I couldn’t even fully see the bed. Which was completely fine. I didn’t need to be thinking about his bed anyway.

So that’s how things were for the next few weeks — lots of texting and lunches and flirting. But…it wasn’t just that. I realized that I actually really fucking liked the guy. I loved how open he was about his feelings about his ex and his divorce and how he was working through them. I didn’t exactly want to hear about her, but I enjoyed the fact that he’s not afraid to be vulnerable and he’s well adjusted, not emotionally unavailable like someone else in my life. And I love that when I complain about the most random and stupid shit, he always asks, “Is there anything I can do to help?” And it’s like no, I just want to complain. But at least he tries and he listens.

It sort of felt like we were in a long distance relationship. Like we were a couple, but lived on opposite coasts and that’s why we weren’t intimate. So when he invited me to his dad’s birthday dinner in Manhattan, I immediately said yes. It was on a Thursday night and I knew Brady would be working late so I arranged with the sitter to watch Winnie. I put on high rise light wash jeans by Agolde and a skimpy tank top and then threw a blazer over it in case my future in-laws his parents were conservative (but from everything Brendan told me, I didn’t think they would be). And that’s when it hit me that I was meeting his parents and maybe this was all really weird? Was I ready to meet his family? What had he told them about me? Did they think I was his date? But I’d already agreed and I didn’t want to back out at the last minute. It’d be fine.

The birthday dinner was at a bustling restaurant in Hudson Yards and Brendan’s family took up the back half of the space. I got really nervous going in, thinking about Brendan’s ex and his family and what they would think of him bringing another girl to his dad’s birthday dinner. But then I was introduced to the cute dad who was clearly a few drinks in and I suddenly felt fine. The stepmom rushed over and pulled me into a hug.

“I’m so glad to finally meet you! Brendan has told me such amazing things,” she said. And then pulled away, still holding onto me. “And he was right — you do have great style. Who’s the blazer by?”

So obviously we were pretty much inseparable after that. Brendan is really close with her and she’s super cute and active on Instagram; posting her outfits and tablescapes and makeup looks (we follow each other now obvi). I think she’s a bit younger than his dad, who is also fun. He ordered bourbon for the table to go with dinner and told inappropriate jokes all night. His brother — Brendan’s uncle — and his wife were also there along with two other couples. It was a boisterous group, but it was so fun and so normal. Obviously the booze helped, but I loved them all.

Dinner wrapped up, but a few people wanted to stay and drink at the bar. I debated staying since I was having fun and it wasn’t that late yet, but I felt bad about leaving Winnie at home so I decided that I should to get going. I went to the restroom and came back out, looking for Brendan to tell him I was leaving. He found me as I was walking out.

“Heyyy, I was looking for you. Wanna have another drink?” he said.

“I wish, but I need to get home to my brat,” I said back, rolling my eyes.

“Aww,” Brendan said, still coming toward me. We were in a tiny pocket of space next to the stairs partially hidden by a wall. “Well, thanks for coming. I hope you had fun.”

“Definitely. I’m expecting an invite to every birthday dinner going forward,” I said.

Brendan kept coming closer until I was backed into the wall. “You know I can make that happen. Everyone loves you.”

“Duh.”

He tossed his head back and laughed. “Do you need any help getting home? Can I call you a car?”

I let him know that I’d called an Uber. 

“Okay. Will you be around for lunch tomorrow?”

“Brendan.” I gave him a look because we’d already had lunch together three times that week. “Don’t you have work to do?”

“Yeah, but I can always find time to eat with you.”

At this point his face was like an inch from mine and clearly we’d both had too much bourbon. But something about him saying, “I can always find time to eat with you,” made me want to fucking melt. So naturally, I put my hand on his chest and shoved him away.

“Please. You’ll be too hungover to even get out of bed tomorrow,” I said.

Brendan grabbed my arm and laughed and just stared at me for a moment. And then he said, “Can I kiss you?”

I should’ve said absolutely not, WTF did he think this was? But I just stood there like a goddamn tit. And so he leaned down and kissed me and without me telling it to, my hand reached up and entwined itself into the back of his hair like this was at all normal. Brendan wrapped his arms around my waist and leaned into me, and there we were: in the corner of the restaurant making out. It felt like years and years in the making. We both reeked of bourbon and I knew would immediately regret it, but fucking finally. The moment he began to pull away, I pushed past him.

“I feel like my Uber is here,” I said and then I rushed out of there.

By the time I got home, I was overwhelmed with guilt and ready to jump off a bridge. Brady was home, working on his laptop, and didn’t even say hi to me or ask where I’d been. That made me feel a little bit less like an asshole, but I still felt like shit — not just from all the bourbon, but because I wanted to kiss him again. Maybe I didn’t feel all that guilty. I dry-heaved and cried all night.

I didn’t hear from Brendan until late the next morning. I decided against going into the office, mainly so I would have an excuse not to have to face him at lunch. As much as we’d been flirting, we’d never been physical. And I wasn’t sure how things would be after that.

“Hey. I’m sorry about last night. Needless to say, I had way too much to drink. And you were right, I’m too hungover to meet for lunch,” Brendan texted me.

He was such a gentleman about it that it made me melt a little bit more. So I didn’t reply. We avoided each other for a few days, but found time to get lunch the following week. We skirted around the dinner/kiss, but still fell back into our usual conversation and any awkwardness we felt went away.

The following weekend, Brady didn’t go to work and the three of us had breakfast together. We’d exchanged a few one word sentences, and I planned on going to get mani pedis with Mel in the afternoon. Brady got a phone call — which I didn’t eavesdrop on — but I heard him say, “Wow. I’m on my way.”

And then he grabbed his car keys and beelined for the door. We made eye contact briefly, but he didn’t bother telling me where he was going. I thought nothing of it and that he’d be back soon. But several hours went by and since I was home with the baby, I couldn’t leave to get mani pedis with Mel. I was thinking, what the actual fuck, Brady? Where the fuck was he and why did he leave knowing that I had plans? I wasn’t even going to bother texting him, I’d save my rage for later. I assumed he was doing something nefarious with Sydney or one of the girls he loves at work. And that was fine, I guess, now I’d definitely leave him for Brendan.

But then he finally called. It was eight PM and I was absolutely seething. Where the absolute hell had he been all day?

“Hi,” I answered boredly, ready to hear whatever he had to say.

“Hey,” Brady said. “My dad just died.”

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