Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
“What in the world? Ethan?” Grace looked drowsy and shocked when she looked out the window and saw him.
“Can we talk? Please?” he called up to her, careful not to be too loud.
She gestured him to be quiet.
He stood there for a moment, unsure what to do now, when he saw the lights turn on in the house and her coming down the stairs inside through the glass of the door.
She stepped outside to meet him
“What are you doing here?” she whispered.
“I could really use a friend right now. My best friend is married to my sister, so I can’t go to him or the entire family knows …”
“Come in, but please PLEASE be quiet.”
They stood around the hallway awkwardly.
“Can we sit?” he asked carefully.
“Umm, is this going to take longer?”
“I am sorry.” Ethan looked pitiful.
“No Ethan, I am asking, not hinting. Grandma often gets up and wanders at night. She is nice, but very old-fashioned and would not like it one bit if she found you here at night. You know what, come with me.”
She waved him to follow her up the stairs and he did without even giving it a second thought, somehow it felt natural and … safe.
She lead him into her bedroom, shut and locked the door.
“Don’t judge me, please. You came to me and this is the best I have to offer that still gives us privacy. Let’s just pretend this was a home office or something. And that I wasn’t in my sleepwear, okay?” Grace whispered, sat down on the bed, he joined her like it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Grace, I fucked up. Royally fucked up.”
“Is that Daphne-woman pregnant?”
“Gawd, I hope not. Shouldn’t be. I was at least smart enough to do my part. With all of them.”
“ALL of them? Forget it, I don’t even want to know what the current tally is. But, where is the part where you fucked up then?”
“I don’t even know what I am doing anymore, but it seems like I cannot be alone with a female these days without ending up between the sheets with her.”
“OK, concerning, especially considering we are in my bedroom and I am a female.”
“Oh gawd no, I didn’t mean you.”
“And from concerning straight into ouch.”
“Grace, come on, I didn’t mean it like that. You are smart, beautiful … actually you really are gorgeous. Without your glasses your eyes are …”
“Ethan! I am beginning to identify your problem. Stay focused, okay? What is your problem? So you had a two night stand. Or more. That is not so terrible. You’re young, you’re single, not really a big shocker. Unless there is more … Is there more?”
“There IS more. I had sex with my personal trainer. Not intentionally. I mean she initiated it, during our sessions. Many times. I thought there could be more between us, but today I found out she has a boyfriend. Had him for two years. Some huge dude who could roll me up and swallow me whole if he ever found out about this. As if that weren’t bad enough, I went to talk some sense into Daphne and … we did it again. I went to there to tell her we couldn’t have casual sex anymore, and then we had casual sex. How could that happen?! And the girl I am doing all that for, if she found out … she would hate me … and I have been avoiding her. I saw her in the hallways a few times and totally ran away. So much for mature.” Ethan sounded desperate.
“Hey Casanova, wait a minute I am going to need a notepad here to keep up. And did you say hallways? Not as in hallways at work, right?”
“Oh gawd!” Ethan frowned.
“Someone from the archive.” Ethan said resigned.
“There is only one female in the right age range down there. You are not trying to date Blythe Childs, are you?”
“Because she seems like trouble. I mean she is nice enough we greet each other, make small talk and I can see why you would be all over her. But, there is that guy that came to pick her up a few times. Seriously athletic one. Definitely not her brother. Some racy Latino-looking man. You don’t want to have to fight him for her. Not even after few more months with your personal trainer. While actually using the equipment as intended, I mean.”
“What?! She has a boyfriend? She said they were broken up and that he moved in with his wife … Or is that a new one? Hmm, maybe that is her type then, Latino. I definitely don’t check off that box. Maybe he meant nothing, a friend or whatever …”
“OK, office grapevine has it that he recently moved into her home. And I have seen him once. I’d wager there is more … cause he’d be a pretty hot piece of home decor, if I may say so.”
“Hot?” Ethan grimaced. How could Grace find the enemy ‘hot’?
“Yeah, you know, typical Latino lover type.”
“Moved in? Like in her house?”
“I would assume yes, unless she is secretly a fairy and lives in a mushroom castle or something.”
“This is not funny. What do I do now?” Ethan sounded desperate.
“Is that a rhetorical question or are you really asking me?”
“I am asking.”
“Ok, step one: holster your ding dong. Step two: keep it holstered, no matter what. Step three: repeat steps 1 and 2.”
“Why are you making fun of me?” Ethan whined.
“I am not. Maybe I am a little bit, but clearly, your problem is that you are not thinking with the right head. I get it, you have some catching up to do. Been out of the dating game, raising a kid. But not like this. This is not you, Ethan. And clearly, each time after the euphoria of the act wears off, you are miserable, proving my point. Ergo, don’t do it again.” Grace explained.
“I am not miserable.”
“You look miserable and you are in your secretary’s bedroom at 1 AM on a work night. You’re right … totally normal.”
“1 AM? Fuck, I need to get my son. Shit shit shit shit!” Ethan was upset.
“Ethan! Do you really think your parents and your two and a half year old boy need to be woken up at 1 AM now too? They managed without you. Send your parents a text, explaining you worked out so much, were sore and fell asleep or something. Then invite them out to lunch on the weekend as a thank you. Or better yet, keep your son the next weekend and give them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant as a thank you. Oh and … keep your little trouser-dwelling Ethan tucked away for a while.”
“Can we please not talk about my … genitals for a while?” Ethan was embarrassed.
“I’d love to, but you came to my home in the middle of the night to talk about just that. Trust me, not my first choice either and pretty sure we broke a bunch of codes from work.”
“You are right. Also, I want to apologize for … everything. For that phone message from Daphne. For snapping at you when you are trying to advice me. I know you mean well and you are great and I should listen to you. And I will.”
“Well, then keep your tool in the box and the dust will settle. Then, when you are ready, you start dating like a normal person. In a chastity belt, if need be.”
“Just had to get one more in on me, huh?”
“Oh yeah. This is too good to pass up. Payback really is a bitch, huh?”
“And I thought you were sweet and innocent.”
“For the most part I am. But sometimes I enjoy torturing my boss. Now, go home, take a hot shower and sleep. Starting today you will make due changes. A new man.”
“I’d say anytime, but really, unless it’s a true emergency, let’s not do this again, okay? I need my sleep.”
Ethan had every intention to follow Grace’s advice.
And he did.
It had been over a week now since their talk. It hadn’t even been very hard, considering Daphne had not called again and Lana acted like nothing ever happened between them other than working out as trainer and client.
Then on a Sunday Amy was scheduled to see Blake again, but called and asked if he would mind coming to her penthouse, her car was in the shop and her husband needed his to go play golf with his friends.
Ethan agreed immediately, if only out of curiosity about where and how she lived now.
When he arrived, he wished he hadn’t.
This was the modern lines Ethan had always loved, which she had hated and refused all drafts Ethan had presented her with when they were about to build their home.
Somehow that annoyed him. He build a house in a style he didn’t like at all – for her because it was what she wanted back then, and she left him to live in a modern home like he would have wanted, while he was stuck in a shrine to her.
Ethan’s mood was low and Blake was still very aloof with Amy, not wanting to talk to her, let alone let her touch him, clinging to Ethan as if for dear life.
When Amy softly spoke to Blake, trying to get him to take her hand and follow him, he only eyed her suspiciously.
He started screamed like he was on fire when she tried to hold him.
Ethan convinced her to give him more time, so she let him play on the floor in the living room, sitting on the couch with Ethan, trying to hide the tears very obviously brewing beneath her eyelids. Ethan comforted her carefully. He did feel sorry for her. Despite of it all. This had to be hard for a mother.
When Blake asked Ethan in a whiney voice to go back home now, Amy burst into tears and ran upstairs, Ethan felt bad. He placed little Blake in a safe play area made just for him and went after Amy.
“Hey, you okay?” he asked when he found her sobbing on the bed.
“He hates me. Hates me!” she sobbed, breaking Ethan’s heart.
“No, he doesn’t hate you. He just … needs more time. He’ll come around. You are his mommy. That means something. And you are very good with him. Just give it time.”
On a whim he sat next to her and put his arm around her, she leaned up against him.
“Do you hate me Ethan?”
“I wanted to hate you. You really hurt me. But I can’t hate you.” Ethan told her.
“I think I still love you, Ethan.”
“It all went so wrong and out of hand and now it’s too late … all because of me. I did everything wrong, every little thing, but I meant to do the right thing … I really did. But it was all wrong….so very wrong.” she was very emotional.
Then suddenly it happened.
It felt so good. So right. So familiar. He felt transported back in time. He closed his eyes and memories of simpler times, before it all fell apart engulfed him. BBQs with his entire family, laughing, kissing Amy. His wife then …
He wanted to go back to that time so badly.
He felt a familiar touch, another kiss …
… and another …. and suddenly he felt his shirt being unbuttoned. He opened his eyes and looked into beautiful green ones, a familiar smile. Everything so familiar, it was intoxicating.
He knew what was about to happen, Grace’s words resounded but he pushed them out of his mind entirely. He wanted this. He deserved this.
She wanted it too and it happened.
After they reached the climax, both almost instantly realized it had been the wrong thing to do, but neither spoke.
Both got dressed quietly, Ethan nodded a goodbye, then grabbed Blake and went home.
He never thought he’d do a walk of shame leaving his ex-wife while carrying their son. Life really could be very strange.
When Ethan arrived at work the next morning, it was Monday, Grace was already there, like most mornings, smiling as he entered from the hallway.
Ignoring her friendly greeting, Ethan just demanded with urgency
“Grace, can I see you in my office real quick?” Ethan’s tone was hurried and pressing.
She got up right away and followed him
“Am I being fired?” she smiled, half-joking.
“What?! Of course not!” he completely missed her joke and was not in the mood for joking.
“Then what is it? You look like you have seen the ghost of Christmas past.”
“I slept with her!” he told her bluntly.
“Gawd Ethan! Who this time?”
“Wife?” Grace was confused.
“What the hell Ethan!? The ex? And a married woman?! Have you lost your mind now?”
“I don’t know how it happened …”
“Well, if THAT is your problem, I can go over that with you. And then maybe, just maybe you finally manage to keep your little friend ..”
“…holstered. Please, not again, Grace. I am coming to you because I have nobody I can go to with this. Not even my best friend. He’d probably punch me out.”
“Sounds like a good plan. Give me his number.”
“Not sure that I was even joking. Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now. It’s between her, her conscience and her husband now. The current one, just so there are no misunderstandings.”
“She told me she loves me. Still. She said that. And I think she even initiated what happened. Or maybe I did. But I think I still have feelings for her too. Do you think there is a chance she will come back to me now?”
“Seriously? You cannot go around screwing and falling in love with every woman you see. Starting to wonder when it’s my turn. And the rest of the female staff’s, since we are so conveniently located. Is there a form to sign to waive being added to your list?”
“Not you, Grace. I don’t want to sleep with you. But I need your advice.”
“Oh, I didn’t make the list? How come? Because I am single? Is that the qualifier? Not enough drama for you?”
“No. You are … are … different. Safe.” Ethan knew it sounded dumb, but it was the truth.
“Yeah, I feel … safe when I am with you. Shielded. Like a blanket or an embrace. Like another sister. Safe.” Ethan tried to explain something he didn’t even understand.
“Safe? Blanket? Sister? You realize that’s kinda insulting to a woman, right?”
“Never mind. All I know is we are done with the therapy sessions, Ethan. I cannot do this anymore. Whatever I say, any advice I give you, you take a big fat dump on, then go screw the next candidate, while I am over here being a safe little blanket to dry your tears after the next failure. You have a family, go to them, they are probably a lot better equipped to sort out the mysterious workings and intricacies of an Ethan Cameron. Because I sure as hell am at my wit’s end with you.”
“Grace, please don’t. I need you. Don’t leave me.”
“I am not ‘leaving’ you, Ethan, I am going back to work, for that is what I am here to do and what I get paid for. I am your assistant, about time we both behave like that again.”
“I thought you were my friend…”
“You know, against better judgement, so did I. Before you, I used to like to keep work and professional life separate. With you I made an exception. And I do not like where it landed me. So, we are gonna go back to the way it should be. Oh, and also, friends are there for each other. It shouldn’t be a one way street. While you were out adding your ex-wife to the growing list of Ethan’s Fuck-Conquests, I had to explain to my grandma why that – quote/unquote ‘ lovely, handsome and well-mannered young man’ – meaning YOU, stood her up for her birthday party. Kinda hard to play down since you were the only guest, like I told you. Thank you for that. She cried for an hour straight. I honestly thought you had something going on with Blake, since he was sick last week. Come to find out you stood us up for yet another piece of ass, that you seemed to have coming to you on a conveyor belt these days. That’s really hurtful and insulting. If you didn’t want to come, you should have just said so from the get go.”
“Oh shit! Grace, I am so very sorry, I ….” Ethan hated himself at this moment.
Grace was done and already storming out of his office. Ethan just wanted to die.