~Alfred A. Montapert
Ethan fell backwards onto the guest bed at his twin sister Ezzy and her husband and his best friend Nick’s home, sighing, while recapping the current state of his life.
A stack of his best friends’ clothes on the dresser for him to wear, toiletries given to him by his hosts in the guest bathroom, since all he had when he arrived here last night was what he left the house with on Friday morning to go to work, he had come here straight from the office.
The disappointed look Nick gave him was the worst. He should have listened to him. Nick knew it and Ethan knew it too. But he hadn’t and now it was too late.
Ironically, even the alarm clock in the guest bedroom had stopped working, like a description of the current state his life was in, stuck and stopped at the wrong time until someone would help fix it. Luckily it was Saturday and weekends were off work so he had two days to get himself together.
He sat up. Pondering.
He felt too exhausted to even breathe and at the same time it felt like a million ants were filling his veins, a constant feeling of uneasiness.
Facing yet another divorce, his third. And most certainly a terrible dirty laundry fest. Publicly.
As if on cue, the doorbell indicated someone at the gate of Nick and Ezzy’s nice estate. They weren’t home. Just him. At their home. All alone.
Ethan sighed again, before he went to answer. It was Elias, his 18 year old son. The talk he didn’t want to have was going to happen now.
Ready or not …
Inhaling deeply before opening the front door, right as Eli’s car pulled up the long driveway from the gate by the street.
Eli wasn’t alone, Blake was with him. Both of Ethan’s sons came up to him. He’d have to tell both of them that their father cheated on their step-mother. Oh dear Lord. Ethan stiffened up.
Blake wordlessly pulled him into an embrace, Ethan gratefully returned the gesture, felt tears well up when Blake said quietly
“We all got you, dad. You’ll be fine. We’re here for you.”
“Yeah, sorry dad. Why didn’t you call me sooner? When aunt Ezzy called asking me to come here I thought it was to kumbaya around Chris and Bonnie’s twins again, so I wasn’t in a rush and slept at Brian’s as planned. No offense and all, but kids are not really my thing. Then Blake called this morning and told me what really was going on … man, dad. Seriously?” Eli added quietly.
“Wait, what? How do you know about it?” Ethan was shocked. It all just happened last night. That was insanely fast, even for the Cameron grapevine. The three Cameron men went inside.
“Ally gave me a heads up. She knows someone working at Grace’s attorney practice from law school and her friend alerted Ally that Grace went for it yesterday, so Ally called me to check on you. So sorry, dad. And she kicked you out of your own home, huh? That’s ice-cold.” Blake told his father as they walked over to the dining room table.
“Does that mean I cannot go back either? All my stuff is there, and I am meeting the others at Everett Heights later and need my swim trunks and some other shit.” Eli’s teenage mind took over. 18 years old may be an adult on paper, but sometimes the boy wasn’t.
“Dude, seriously? Our dad is hanging in the ropes and you think of clothes and partying? No, you cannot go home, you can borrow from me.” Blake told his younger brother.
“Yours? Fantastic, they should barely cover my butt cheeks, you shorty. Just playin’. Hey, any chance I could get that guitar too? Just for the day …”
“Eli, seriously?! What’s wrong with you?!” Blake glared at him.
“What? I cannot change this situation anyway. So dad’s getting divorced again. Not like shit hadn’t been sideways with Grace for a long time anyway …”
“What?” Blake looked discombobulated.
“Yeah, what?” Ethan joined the boys’ exchange, surprised.
“OK, am I still supposed to pretend here? All I am gonna say is ‘Cory’. When you kicked out Grace’s weirdo son, it all went downhill and stayed that way. You were two nuns living together, not a married couple. No wonder you went back to mom, at least she has a heart and a pulse!”
“Eli, for realz. Shut up, man.” Blake told him.
“Oh my God, I think I will go drown myself now.” Ethan dropped his head onto his arms before him on the table.
“I’ll drown Eli instead so he’ll shut up and you and I will talk.” Blake told his father, shooting warning glances at his younger half-brother.
“Fine, I’ll shut up …” Eli rolled his eyes, shrugging.
“Thank you! Dad, come on, I’ll make us some coffee and we’ll talk. We need to figure out some next steps. Assume you’ll have uncle Nick handle your divorce?” Blake offered.
“Blake, stop! I appreciate you trying to take care of me, but I am nowhere near any of that. I need to try to manage one straight, logical thought before thinking about the divorce, I haven’t even been served yet and can’t do anything until that happens anyway. Right now I need to try to figure out how to salvage my reputation for EC Architects’ sake. I need a new assistant. Grace quit cold turkey and I am too busy to be without one longer than a few days.” Ethan said.
“OK dad. Let me talk to Hailey. She has a lot of office experience, I am sure she’d help you out until personnel can get you a new assistant or reassign someone. Maybe Hailz and I can help you write some sort of statement, for the staff. Bullshitting audiences is what I made my money with at some point, Hailey writes for a living, might as well put it to good use to help you. And I am sure you and Eli can stay here with Aunt Ez and Uncle Nick for a while. House is huge, you won’t even cross paths if you don’t want to. I’d offer, but have no guest room at the Beach House as you know, but if you want the couch, it’s yours.” Blake sounded firm and decided.
“Wow Blake, when did you become such a solid young man? It seems like only yesterday I was sitting with you and your grandpa at their dining room table, my father trying to mediate between us, while you literally hated me. And now here we are and you are so understanding and trying to save your old man’s butt.” there was honest admiration and gratitude in Ethan’s voice.
“First of all, I never hated you dad. I may have said that to hurt you, but I never meant it. Grandpa had a lot to do with what I have become, but so have you. You and grandpa have always been my role models.”
“Some role model I am …” Ethan deflated.
“No worries, I would never ever cheat on Hailz. After all the chasing she and I did, I am never letting go. The love she gives me and the son she gave me are the greatest gifts to me, my reason for being.” Blake smiled.
“You are gonna make me cry, Blake. Like I need to be any more proud of my wonderful boys and embarrassed by my own actions.”
“So cry. It wouldn’t be an inappropriate reaction, all things considered. I don’t think showing true emotions is weakness. Your marriage practically just ended. Maybe it’s sad, definitely didn’t go the way it should have, but maybe you were never meant to be to begin with.”
“You are now the third person to tell me that. Why did nobody bring that up before Grace and I got married?!” frustration sounded in Ethan’s words.
“Grandpa did.” Blake told him.
“You are right, he did. And once more, I didn’t listen to my father when I should have.”
“No worries, I am sure he’s wherever he is now saying ‘told ya so!’.”
“I miss my father so much. I miss my mother. Man, I could so use them now. Look at me, fifty years old and crying for my mommy and daddy.” Ethan could not seem to stop beating himself up verbally.
“I still miss them all the time. I cry. I am 28 and I still miss my mom and grandparents.”
“And I am 18, have plans for later today and say we’re all not gonna miss Grace … not after everything she’s done. So, are we all better? Think Nick and Ezzy would mind if I used their pool? Or if I invited Natasha over?” Eli said, receiving glares of disbelief from his older brother and father.
“What? Just asking .. guessing it’s a no?” he shrugged.
“Dad, unless you want that muppet around, I am taking him home with me. You’ll sleep on the couch, man, and you’ll like it!”
“I don’t care where I sleep. But you can show me how to mix tracks in your basement studio then …”
“Damn, Eli …”
Grace had pulled the carpet out from underneath Ethan on a Friday, he had the weekend to wrap his head around the new situation.
Come Monday morning at work Ethan was served with the divorce papers and Grace hadn’t been lying when she told him it would sting. She asked for a lot. Ethan had hoped she’d not go through with it. Staring at the stack of stapled documents took away the last hope.
Ethan took Hailey and Blake’s offer for help, Hailey helped him out as his assistant for about two weeks until someone new was assigned, Blake helped him write a statement to address the staff about the divorce before it became public knowledge.
Some weeks and various failed settlement meetings between Ethan, Grace and their attorneys later, the divorce had already become a court docket before a judge, handled as some sort of hardship case since Grace’s lawyer made it sound that any moment more of her having to be linked to Ethan was nothing but sheer cruelty, painting him in the worst light as some cold workaholic incapable of any emotion except lust, therefore humping any female available.
Ethan was humiliated having their dirty laundry aired before an audience, it pained him to see Grace so bitter, listening to the half-truths told about him, while her ex-husband and son watched from audience smirking gleefully, no doubt they had done their part to help instigate some of this. And he watched his best friend Nick, now in the function of his attorney, argue a lost cause without any possible winners, no matter the ruling.
His memory of the divorce from Blythe stood in stark contrast to this mess, it had been a very brief, smooth and painless transaction with no drama or arguments whatsoever. Even the one from Amy had been a lot more humane.
This one between him and Grace reminded him of some scripted reality TV drama.
Originally Ethan had agreed to give Grace the house which she asked for, along with many items they purchased together and two hefty severance packages, one for her long time function at EC Architects the other as spousal support, followed by generous monthly alimony payments, but she changed her mind, declined the house and asked for a large percentage ownership part of EC Architects instead.
Undoubtedly to get him where it would hurt the most.
Grace knew full well that the company was sacred to Ethan and he would never give up even a single percent of the ownership without a fight. Her argument was that for nearly 30 years she had been one of his most loyal employees, involved in the most confidential parts of the business.
Luckily Nick fought like a lion and averted disaster, Ethan kept the company but lost most of his lifetime savings.
He felt numb after the final ruling was spoken.
Even more so as he watched the once so gentle Grace walk away with her son and ex-husband Alex, then to sit on a bench in animated discussion on a pretty sunny day like a family out for an afternoon stroll, not a nasty divorce, while Ethan felt he had been through the wringer.
His entire family had been there and he was avoiding them.
Ethan could not stop staring at Grace, Alex Pritchett and their son Cory, nor help but wonder when exactly that miserable man had weaseled his way back onto Grace’s good side and managed to poison her this much against him.
Their son had hated him all along.
Ethan remembered back to the time immediately following his and Grace’s wedding.
It had been hell with no end from the moment Grace’s son moved in with them.
Cory had been downright mean and spiteful to Ethan and especially towards then 14 year old Elias, who had tried to be friendly and welcoming, but ended up spending most nights over at his friends homes just to avoid Cory.
That eventually lead to pretty bad fights between the newlyweds, after several months with no improvement in Cory’s dismal behavior Ethan demanded that her son move back in with his father, leaving Grace upset and bitter that it was her son who had to leave, while she was ‘stuck’ raising her step-son Elias.
Maybe that had already been the beginning of the end without either of them realizing it.
Maybe the writing had been on the wall for a long time.
And maybe his transgression with Blythe had only been the tip of the iceberg.
Or maybe it was years ago when Grace started dropping hints about wanting a baby with Ethan, which he had stoically ignored.
That worked okay for him until it didn’t anymore, since that one night Blake and Hailey stopped by to tell them that they were pregnant with now 3 year old Chase, which triggered severe baby fever in Grace.
She put the proverbial baby gun to Ethan’s chest immediately after the door shut behind Blake and Hailey.
At first Ethan had tried to reason with her, when she just wouldn’t let it go, it finally reached it’s crescendo when after a nice lunch out she dragged him to a maternity story, he refused to go in, and told her straight out that he would have a vasectomy before running the risk of fathering another kid at his age, it lead to one of their worst fights ever, for days she was upset and heartbroken about it.
Ethan felt justified.
Grace was the same age as him, 47 years at that time, both 50 now.
Even at 47 it would have been complicated for her to get pregnant without expensive and complicated treatments, if even possible at all.
Ethan remembered almost losing his sister during complications with her first pregnancy and he wasn’t going to let Grace do that to herself, or him.
Besides that, Ethan was just not too keen on raising another child, having ended up being a single dad for most of both his sons’ lives.
He loved his boys, but it had been too rough too many times.
Ethan was glad that both boys were adults now and in one piece, and the very last thing he wanted was a repeat. And he also wasn’t to keen on raising a child that would be younger than his grandson Chase, Blake and Hailey’s son.
Sadly, Grace never saw it that way, instead she felt like a lesser human being, a failure as a woman, due to her husband declining her wish of repeated motherhood.
It caused a big tear in their relationship that never fully healed, instead was ignored.
Just more head in sand moments to add to the charts.
One afternoon Ethan was engulfed at work when his cell phone beeped with a text message. Grateful for the interruption to the monotony he looked at it and saw it was from Blythe. He smiled.
‘Can we meet for coffee later or dinner tonight? Have something to discuss.’
‘Sure. Discuss what?’
‘Not over texts. Meet me, please.’
‘Can I get a hint?’
‘It has to do with us and that one afternoon when Colin passed away.’
Ethan nearly dropped his phone. His smile was long gone.
This could only mean … oh God no!
-to be continued-