Real love doesn’t meet you at your best. It meets you in your mess.
It had been weeks since the trip to Sulani, it was winter now.
Still, Blythe and Ethan saw each other frequently, yet officially were still only friends.
Elias came into view in the mirror behind Ethan, looking over his father, then smirking.
“Another hot date?”
“Just going out to dinner.” Ethan told him.
“With mom?” Eli asked.
“Yes, Eli, with your mother.”
“So it IS a hot date. Well, see you tomorrow morning, dad. Nah, you’re pretty fit for your age, make that tomorrow afternoon.” Eli evaluated, then suggestively wiggled his eyebrows, Ethan sighed as Eli squeezed past him to get a closer look at himself in the full length mirror too.
“I will be home later tonight. Don’t be so immature, Elias. We are just spending time. Like … friends. As adults do.” Ethan sounded unnerved, partially by his son’s obnoxiousness, and in part because he was long ready to be a real couple, but Blythe still held him to the friends thing, which rubbed him wrong, magnified now by his son’s insolence.
“Yeah, sure dad.” Eli’s tone and demeanor made clear that he didn’t believe a word.
“What is THAT supposed to mean?” Ethan asked, getting upset.
“Nothing dad, don’t get all bend out of shape. I’m out too. Meeting Natasha for a hot date. See how easy admitting that is?” Eli grinned.
“Get out, you brat!” Ethan couldn’t hide a smile.
Elias laughed and left, slamming the door, as Ethan gave himself yet another once over in the hallway mirror, then told his own reflection
“No wonder nobody buys it. I don’t know where Blake got the acting talent from, but it sure wasn’t from me. But anything to please the lady. Things we do for love. Love? Yeah, love. I love her. Oh boy, how did I get myself into that mess again?” Ethan mused.
Dinner was nice, the food was delicious and the atmosphere romantic. Ethan drove Blythe home, since he had picked her up and she asked him in for ‘coffee’.
Just like all the times before.
And just like all the times before the ‘coffee’ was everything but. After ‘coffee’ as Ethan was getting dressed again, Blythe helped him with his tie as he looked at her with a serious expression.
“Blythe, when are you finally ready for the next step. We are making fools of ourselves trying to pretend we’re just friends. Nobody is buying it anymore, least of all our son.
I can deny all I want, I can tell he is onto us. Why can’t we at least publicly be a couple already? It’s been months. Then you could come and stay over, not having to park blocks away. And Eli is at college most of the time now anyway, only comes home every other weekend or so. I want more. More of you, and more of us. More of this.”
“More of my bedroom?” she tried to joke and smiled, which he did not return, shaking his head, signaling he was not in a joking mood about this topic.
“At least be my girlfriend. Officially. Give me something. Let’s be open about being a couple. Let’s go on a double date with Nick and my sister. Both have been torturing me about us and I can only straddle the truth for so long. I hate lying to them. Plus Ezzy always had that radar and I know she knows I am lying and she knows that I know that she knows.”
“Say that three times fast …”
“Don’t deflect. Give me an answer, please.” Ethan was still dead serious.
“Aren’t we a little too old to be boyfriend-girlfriend, love? Can ex-spouses even be that? And if everybody knows, why the need to tell them anything?”
“Blythe, what really is behind you dragging this out? I know you. You are not telling me everything.”
“I just do not want either of us to end up hurt again. Not you and not me either. I care too much. I love you Ethan. The same as ever, if not even more.”
“I know you do, and you know I love you just as much. That’s why it makes no sense that the only thing hurting us is you denying us to be together, fully and wholly – and openly. We are not teenagers anymore Blythe. We know what we want. I do not see why this needs to be a secret.”
“We also do not need to be on top of each other 24/7. You have your job, I am looking for work. We wouldn’t see each other then anyway … so all remains the same, just the titles would be different. And there would be talk. Ex-spouses getting back together in a small town … we would be talk of the town here in Willow Creek but most certainly in Brindleton Bay.”
“I don’t care about gossip. You do not need to find a job. Come work with me.”
“In the Archive, huh. No love, thanks, but I graduated from that decades ago. I have a few other leads …”
“Not in the Archives. I still have a borrowed assistant from another department, evidently finding me someone permanent is some great feat. Guess nobody wants to work in a small fishing village for some demanding jerk with long hours. So be my right hand. I am sure you could do it!”
“Ethan, I am not going to become your Grace-replacement. That would be insanely distasteful. I love you, but I do not want to work with you, nor do I want to get sucked into the EC Architects vortex. It’s enough that Elias will go that route, but it is what he wants, so I won’t discourage him. But count me out.”
“In other words we are going to continue living separate lives and just go out to eat every now and then, and sometimes I come over, we fuck and then you send me home? Not sure I like that long term.” Ethan’s mood took a steep decline and he was visibly angry.
“Please don’t be vulgar. At least from my side it is a lot more than just bedroom pleasures, as much as I admittedly enjoy that part of our union. If you want to stay over, stay over.”
“I think I will. Got a toothbrush? I am not joking, Blythe, I want to be more than someone to entertain you and look at over dinner or a cheap vibrator replacement you can send away when not needed.”
“Goodness Ethan, calm down, will you? This is not just about sex and dinners. I enjoy being with you. Talking to you, laughing with you, spending time with you. Please don’t lessen all this just for ammunition to get me to oblige. I love you. You know that I do. This is real.”
Ethan reached for Blythe, pulled her close then whispered into her ear
“Move in with me. Give me something. Show me you mean it. Rent this place out again.”
Blythe wiggled free, looking at him uncomfortably
“No, darling. Not yet. I am not saying not ever, just no for now.”
“Give me one good reason. Operative term being ‘good’.” Ethan deflated, visibly upset.
“I have given you reasons.”
“You have been feeding me excuses.” he retorted.
“Fine. You want a good reason? I am afraid. There.”
“Afraid? Of what?” he looked at her as if she had grown another head.
“Of me? What?!” Ethan’s voice was about to tip over out of sheer horror at the weight of her words.
“Afraid of your impulsiveness. Afraid that whatever triggers your desire turns off for me again and on for another woman. Afraid because you are still wearing your wedding band, even after all you and Grace put each other through. What am I supposed to think? A very ugly divorce and many months later and you are still somehow hers. It does not instill me with boundless confidence. There, I said it. Sounds needy and insecure, but it is the truth.”
“Blythe, what the … ? Honestly, I didn’t even realize I was still wearing that goddamn ring! Why didn’t you say something sooner, if it bothers you this much?! And ‘whatever triggers my desire’? That sounds like Grace’s attorney’s closing statement. I am not some brainless sex maniac, steered solely by lust! This is so much more than just sex to me, Blythe! I thought you realized that by now!” Ethan angrily pulled the ring off his finger, his eyes dangerously aglow with anger and frustration, as he threw the piece of jewelry across the room where it landed in some corner with a light metallic sound. Blythe remained absolutely calm despite his outburst.
“Ethan, nobody is calling you a sex maniac. But you are a very successful, handsome, sexy man in the prime of his life, unattached. Those baby blues and your deep, masculine voice and that hunky body can get you whatever you want with a lot of women. I do not want to be the collateral damage when you figure that out for yourself.”
Ethan just stared at Blythe, his mouth moving like a fish under water, but no sounds coming out, so Blythe continued to try to diffuse their fight.
“Ethan, baby, I am not trying to be mean. But you have never been in this position before. Straight out of college you were tossed into running a company, practically already married. You always had a child to take care of, most of the time by yourself. Now you are free from that responsibility for the first time in your life, single and the company does not need you round the clock anymore. It would only be natural for you to want to live and enjoy that freedom before plunging into something tying you down again.”
“You have GOT to be joking, Blythe. That’s what you me as? Some late bloomer with the mind of a hormone-raged college stud out to break some record for most lays?” Ethan’s light blue eyes seemed brighter than usual against his naturally bronzy skin, now deepened by the reddish tint of his anger written all over his face.
“Ethan …” Blythe tried, but could read by his reaction that there was no use.
“I think I’ll best go home. You’re right, I now do want to enjoy solitude and simmer on your enlightening evaluation of me for a while. I’ll call you tomorrow … maybe, unless I end up too horny to dial a phone by then!”
Ethan rushed out, Blythe called after him but realized it was probably best to let him go.
The next morning.
A knock on the door.
With Elias off at college, he went to answer right away instead of hoping his son would get it.
It was Blythe.
“Good morning. May I come in?” she greeted him.
“Sure.” Ethan was short and abrupt with her and it was clear to Blythe that he was still upset.
“No kiss?” she asked.
When there was no reaction by him, she just kissed his cheek, he let it happen, but didn’t engage himself like he normally would. A telltale sign.
“Hey, don’t be mad. I didn’t mean what I said yesterday in a bad way, just wanted to be truthful with you. I think you are amazing, inside and out. If I didn’t, would I even bother with you again? Think, baby.” she pleaded.
“Guess it’s true what they say then, truth hurts. Want some coffee?” he asked politely but distant.
“I’d love some.” she told him.
She followed him to the kitchen, he got out a cup, filled it with coffee, prepared it just the way she liked it and sat it down in front of her.
It made her smile, the old familiarity between them.
“You really are cute when you are pouting.” she winked at him.
“I am not pouting!” he replied annoyed.
“Want me to cook you some breakfast?”
“I can cook my own breakfast. Have been doing it for years.”
“You ARE pouting.”
“Dammit Blythe no! I am livid. Pissed. And confused. So confused.” his build up anger finally erupted. He must have simmered in it all night, probably had barely slept.
“You’ll be even more confused when you hear this: Grace bought her grandma’s old house back in Willow Creek. Means I see her at the grocery store on and off. Awkward! Saw her twice now, with a baby in a stroller. Have to wonder where she got that from so fast. Think she stole it from someone?” Blythe giggled for a second.
“What the hell, Blythe?! Quit deflecting! I do not care if Grace had ten babies.” he roared, annoyed.
“You really don’t, do you? You really are over her.”
“What? Blythe, is all this a joke to you?”
“Of course not! Ethan, pardon me saying so, but you do not have a good track record with being faithful. For the sake of both of us I just wanted to make sure I am what you want. Really want.”
“Beginning to ask myself that.” his tone was grumpy.
“Why? Because your confession of love and invitation to play house failed to sweep me off my feet instantly? I malfunctioned?” Blythe sounded slightly unlike her usual composed self now too.
“No, because you keep bringing completely unrelated issues into this. I know I fucked up plenty of times through the years, thank you very much, there have been times I didn’t keep my pants on when I should have and things went sideways for me often because of it. But – and this is the key part – never with you. Not one single time in the 15 years – let me repeat that, FIFTEEN YEARS – have I even for one millisecond thought of another woman while we were together. Not thought of, not looked at, not touched, not fantasized. Not then, and not now. Let alone cheated on you. Never even close! Nor would I ever. You are my weakness, Blythe, always have been. Us getting divorced was a mistake. Marrying Grace was a mistake. Running after Amy was a mistake. But being without never was, nor is, a mistake. You are my weakness just as much as you are my reason for being.”
Blythe watched him, it was blatantly obvious that the was very hurt. She walked over to him and kissed him passionately.
“You think that is going to settle this?” Ethan asked, still upset, but already a lot less grumpy.
Blythe smiled, turned around to leave the kitchen, not before giving him a seductive look over her shoulder.
Then she was gone from view and Ethan heard her heels on the stairs going upstairs.
Where the bedrooms were.
“Oh, damn you woman!” he snarled grinning, then ran after her.
“This is not going to make it all go away, you know that, right Blythe?” he told her laying in bed together afterwards.
“Made your Grinch face go away. At least for the time being.”
“Go on a double-date with Nick, Ezzy and me. I want to be out there, flaunting you, flaunting us. I do not want to hide anymore. If you need more time to consider moving in, fine, I’ll have to accept that. But I need this to be something real. Give me something.”
“Thought I just gave you plenty. Okay, fine. Maybe you are right. Let’s not hide anymore. Us laying low was never meant to hurt or upset you, but clearly, it did. So, all right then. Let’s shout it from the rooftops. And let’s go on that double-date with Nick and Ezzy. That’ll be fun. I can totally do with a healthy dose of Nick.”
“Healthy dose of Nick?! Hello?! What about me?”
“I just had lots of you. Nick is witty and smart and always so positive. And he doesn’t pout.” she winked at him.
“As opposed to me?” Ethan gently laid her down on the bed and slid off it, sitting up.
“Yes, you’re a big pouty-face and definitely more the serious type, more of a thinker.”
“Good to know. I think I’ll be in the shower then.” he already sounded grumpy again.
“Not pouting again! Come on. You cannot possibly be jealous of Nick now …”
“For the last time, I am 50 years old, I do not pout! And of course I am not jealous. Not of Nick and not of anybody else!”
He stomped off to the bathroom, Blythe couldn’t help but giggle, even more so when after the water had been running for a while, he suddenly poked his head into the bedroom and asked impatiently
“So, are you coming or what?!”
“On my way!” Blythe called to him and whispering to herself while climbing off the bed added only destined for herself “… definitely jealous AND pouting, you big little boy in a sexy hunk body.”
-to be continued-