With shaky knees Ethan entered the small cafe in Willow Creek, spotted Blythe the exact moment she saw him too, she waved, smiled as he approached her.
They exchanged the usual greeting, a quick, friendly hug and pecks on both cheeks, before he sat down, studying Blythe.
“Took the liberty of ordering for you. Whole Milk Latte. Hope that was okay.” she smiled.
“Great, thanks. You look … good.” Ethan was glad he was sitting down, feeling like his legs would give out otherwise. She was way to upbeat about the news for his taste, which would probably translate that not having the baby would not be an option for her. Why did he not use protection?! WHY?! Because he never intended to sleep with her that day, that’s why.
She looked up at him, smiling, her facial expression reflecting worry when she told him
“Thanks. You too, all things considered. A little pale maybe. Sorry I went AWOL for a little while. Was with my family at the palace, needed to get away. Probably should have called to check in on you, but thought it might make things worse. I had no idea she knew and what you were going through, nor that it was even possible to get divorced so fast. That was definitely not pretty, you poor thing. I came to show support, and wanted to talk to you after, but then realized just me being there was probably too much already. I did it mostly for Elias. He seems fine, by the way. Surprisingly so.” Blythe sounded genuine.
“That’s okay and I am okay. Feel like a pro if it comes to divorces by now, although that last one really got me wondering why anybody even talks to me anymore. If any of that was true I should be euthanized immediately. Anyway, you look great, the glow suits you, but otherwise you can’t even tell yet. I thought you’d be showing by now.” Ethan said.
“I am sorry?” Blythe smiled confused, shaking her head.
“I mean it’s been what? Three months? Your belly isn’t even big at all.” Ethan said quietly.
“I beg your pardon? Are you telling me I have a decent mom bod? Or is that in reference to the amazing food at the palace?” she was somewhat amused and puzzled.
“No, your pregnancy. Can’t tell.” Why was she playing cat and mouse with him about this? Ethan was straight forward and just got it out in the open, mumbled from between his hands burying his face.
“My … what? Oh, I get it now! Ethan, is that what you thought? Oh my goodness, you poor thing, but that is hilarious! And I wondered why you looked like a scared bunny coming in. Now it makes sense.” she burst into hearty laughter.
“You are not pregnant? Oh, thank God.” Ethan exhaled relieved, closing his eyes.
“No, Ethan, I am not pregnant. Didn’t even occur to me that you could dream that up in your head or I would have been more clear. Last thing you needed in your life was more to worry about. Sorry. But still amusing, I must admit. Especially your clumsy way of getting to the point.” she laughed.
“Yeah, hilarious. Laugh it up. So why did you write it had to do with us and that afternoon? Assume you didn’t ask me here to suggest we have drunk sex again.” Ethan couldn’t help but feel immensely relieved at Blythe’s obvious amusement about the misunderstanding and of course about the disaster averted.
“For heaven’s sake, Ethan, would you keep your voice down!” somewhere between amused and worried she quickly looked around them to see if anyone heard him, before she got more serious and continued.
“And no, not for that. But when we reminisced that day, about our wonderful time in Sulani, it got me thinking. My time at the palace was a change of scenery, but I am sure you’ll recall it is a lot of things except relaxing there. But that’s what I want, what I need, to get away and let loose, relax, and after the rough weeks you have had, I have a feeling so do you. I worry about you, and I have a suggestion for you, I know you are going to tell me now that you are too busy at work and all that, but honestly, when is the last time you went on a vacation, Ethan?” she leaned in, eyes focused on him.
“Blythe, I don’t know. It’s is sweet of you to think of me, but the rumors alone … and I really cannot get away from work now. Besides, Grace would feel confirmed, Ezzy would kill me and Nick would punch me out. It would confuse Elias. Why don’t you ask your sister Blair?”
“Blair can’t get away either, her school-aged kids, her hubby travels a lot for work and tell you a secret, she is pregnant again so her hubby is over-protective and won’t let her go alone. Out of curiosity, why would you care what Grace thinks of you after all that transpired between you two? All I know is that you and I agree we had the best time in Sulani together. I’m going regardless, I’ll fly alone if I have to, but it would be a lot nicer to have you there with me. Like I said, you sure could use it. You do not have to decide right away, but at least humor me and really consider the option.”
To avoid having to reply before he was ready, Ethan took a few sips of his coffee, thinking hard. He was tempted. He wanted to say yes, preferably go straight to the airport from the cafe and just forget about everything else.
Run away and hide.
Sulani sounded dreamy, especially with Blythe.
But he didn’t deserve a nice beach vacation. Not after how he had failed Grace the way he had, and failed as a human being, as a father figure, an example for his sons.
“Look Blythe, I appreciate the offer, am flattered that you thought of me, but I really can’t. There is just too much going on. You should go and have a great time. Think of me while sipping some exotic cocktail and working on your tan.”
“I sure will, your ears will be ringing off your head.” she smiled a gentle smile,, rubbing his arm and Ethan realized that Blythe had always been such a lady.
Her sister Blair too.
You could definitely tell they had both been raised as royalty.
A privilege which she had irrevocably given up to be with him once upon a time, and despite of all, never once complained about.
Later that evening, Ethan sat in his dark living room of his dark and empty house, sipping a glass of dry Merlot staring out the window at absolutely nothing when Elias walked in.
“Hey dad, you okay? Did you forget to pay the electric bill?” Eli joked.
“I am fine, and no, you smart Alec, just wanted to think.”
“You cannot think with some lights on?”
“Turn on the light then, if it makes you feel better.”
Eli did, then sat down next to him, studying his father, the men’s eyes met and while looking at his son’s face Ethan felt as if he was looking at a mirror reflection of himself from some decades and many heartaches ago.
“Dad, you are not fine. You have always been there when I had problems, no matter how big or small. I am not a kid anymore. Why won’t you let me help you? Is this about Grace? Work? Mom?”
When his son guessed his mother, Blythe, Ethan’s head jerked ever so slightly, he felt exposed as if Eli had just guessed a great secret.
“In a way. Why lie to you? Your mother asked me today to spend a week in Sulani with her.”
“OMG, are you and mom getting back together? How awesome is that?!”
“And this is exactly why I told her no. We are NOT getting back together. If I were to go, your mom and I would be just friends chillaxing on some beach together.”
“Chillaxing? Man dad, you sound really old sometimes. But you should go.”
“Really? You think so?” his son’s response and reaction surprised Ethan.
“Why not? You deserve it. Grace and her two freaks with their horror show almost sucked all the joy out of you. I mean, we both know her ex and Cory are total failures as humans, Grace is a deranged psycho. I mean, sure, you screwed up, but what she pulled off was total BS. I’d be livid if Natasha were to cheat on me, but I wouldn’t go all nuclear on her. Dump her and move on. All Grace managed with all of it is that everyone thinks she is a bitch on wheels now. Literally everybody I know.”
“Thanks for that odd pep talk, kiddo. It’s tempting, but not a good time to leave EC Architects now.”
“Dad, it’s NEVER a good time to leave the company. I can count the times you and I have gone on vacation on one hand. Not complaining, I really get it, but at some point you have to think our yourself. I am not some moron without compassion. I know things have been shit for you.
How about this: I’ll check in on EC Architects and report back to you and mom via daily texts so you can both rest easy knowing I am not celebrating orgies or robbing banks while you two are away and the office still functions.
You are gonna have to learn to trust me anyway, in a few weeks I’ll be living in some dorm way out of your reach. So you totally should go. You know what, you ARE going. I am putting my foot down.”
“Agh Eli …” Ethan sighed.
He noticed his son move, then saw his cell phone light up and shortly after heard Eli talk
“Hey mom. Just wanted to let you know that dad is going with you, just book him a ticket and whatever and I’ll make sure his butt gets to the airport on time. Yeah, he was super-busy sitting in the dark staring at the walls at home so I am making him go. Text me the details. Nope, he WILL go, I swear. If he gives me any grief I’ll get aunt Ezzy involved. Cool, yeah I’ll be fine. Love you too, mom. Bye.”
He hung up.
“Am I really that old and feeble that my son is making my decisions for me. I am afraid now to go to Sulani or even just down the street, fearing I’d be hauled off straight to a nursing home after you had Nick declare me incompetent …” Ethan felt a strange sense of relief and excitement.
“Don’t be silly. I’d just hire a hitman and have you not come back at all, much easier that way with the inheritance and all. Joking aside, aunt Ezzy always says that sometimes you need tough love. So, you’ve been toughly loved. You are going and you’ll have fun, with mom, that’s an order.”
“Are you gonna pack my bags for me too, kid?”
“I don’t get paid enough for that kinda stuff. Pack your own or go commando, father dearest. I did my part.” Eli got up off the couch, grinning down at his father.
“Eli, did your mom say when we are leaving?”
“Nope. You can text her and ask while you pack. I am going fishing with Blake, Parker, Hailey and Chase at the butt crack of dawn tomorrow, so I am off to bed. I’ll be back in time to take you two to the airport, if you need it, assuming mom isn’t having you leave first thing so you can’t back out. Night dad.”
Elias went to his room, Ethan finished his glass of wine, then went upstairs to his bedroom as well, where he texted Blythe.
‘YOUR son is a brat. Just so you know.’
‘I do know. He has that from his father. :)’
‘Nice try. Hey, did you book yet?’
‘Sure did. Don’t tell me you got cold feet. I’m calling Nick and Ezzy on you.’
‘No, just need a date and time. Hopefully not tomorrow at noon or something. :)’
‘Of course not. But tomorrow evening. The red eye out. LOL :D’
‘Oh jeeze, Blythe. Not even a full day to prep? How am I supposed to get away so fast?’
‘Not my problem, dear. I am already packed and ready.’
‘I am nowhere near getting started.’
‘Need me to come over and help you pack? ;)’
‘Elias would get a kick out of that. He is way too much into this idea for my taste. Smells like ulterior motives.’
‘Not our sweet little boy. ;)’
‘Blythe, are we really doing this?’
‘We sure are. I am excited. It will be great. Remember that small booth with the weird bartender who made best cocktails ever? Think that’s still there?’
‘No telling. Hard to believe that was 18 years ago. Time really flies. Was it really just 4 years ago you and I got divorced? Now I am already divorced again.’
‘Ethan, don’t let yourself slide down that slippery slope. Focus on the good. Like that Sulani waterfall. Do you remember? I have never seen anything prettier.’
‘Pretty sure that is still there, so you’ll see it again. Those tend to stay put … ;)’
‘No telling. You know tourists and their sticky fingers … ;)’
Ethan laughed out loud, for the first time in a long time. Only for a moment, but it felt cleansing.
Yeah, this was gonna be good for him.
Screw the rumor mill.
-to be continued-