Walking into the Literatti offices the day after the bloodbath was like walking into a ghost town. Desks and offices that just the morning before were filled with cute girls in Banana Republic pencil skirts and guys in skinny ties were now empty and silent.
“Yeah,” I said. “He stopped it because he respects you. I don’t think that’s bullshit.” I heard the elevator doors ding again. The office was waking up. “Come on ya little huss, let’s go change before anyone sees us.”
“What’s a huss?” Kate asked as she followed me into the bathroom. “And do I want to be one?”
Nina, Ashley and I used to call each other ‘huss’ in college. Like, ‘You hussing tonight?’ It’s similar to being on the prowl, except it isn’t only applicable to hooking up. It’s just about bringing it no matter where you go and what you do. You can huss at the gym, you can huss in class, you can huss on the dancefloor. Why, you can huss anywhere! (That’s the sound of Dr. Seuss rolling over in his grave right now).
I don’t know why we stopped, but today I was bringing back the huss! My position at Literatti had been spared and I was going to huss like I’d never hussed before to keep it that way. I was also energized by this news that Richard and Kate hadn’t slept together—not because it meant there was still a chance for us, because that would be bigger disaster than Anthony Weiner’s mayoral run, but because it meant that he did have a decent bone in his body, and I didn’t have to stop being friends with him. Kate and Richard are the two real friends I’ve made since moving to the city, and they are incredibly important to me. Richard made questionable decisions when it came to his dating life, but I’d be prettyyyy hypocritical if that was the reason I decided to cut him out of my life.
I decided to just give the whole thing with Richard a few days, then text him to see how he was doing. That is, if I didn’t hear from him first. Since Richard had put the kibosh on hooking up with Kate, I honestly didn’t see a reason to tell her about what had happened. Maybe I really could sweep this little incident under the rug and move forward with no collateral damage? Famous last words if I ever heard them. Go easy on me, karma.
The rest of the day was spent reassigning proposals and deals. Sifting through Megan’s desk to find out where she stood on certain projects. Around 1 PM, William called a meeting of the remaining staff. We’d gone from thirty people to twelve, and William, who had unofficially been in charge of the imprint, was now the official editor-in-chief. Which made me the most important assistant in the room (probably not, but this is what I told myself using my huss logic). William made a big speech about how no more major changes were coming, and everyone standing here was an integral member of the team and we needed to be giving all of ourselves, every day, and treat matters with more urgency. “There’s a lack of urgency around here,” he said, really driving that point home.
Here’s the thing about Megan and William—Megan is hands down smarter than William. I think even he would admit that. But what William said about her is true: She’s not a company person. Megan is socially awkward, and she isn’t savvy like William. And charming clients and being able to read people is a huge part of our job. William also brings connections that Megan simply doesn’t have because she’d prefer to bury her head in a manuscript as opposed to go out and mine for talent. Megan didn’t want to play the game, and they needed someone who wanted to be out there on the field. I made a mental note of that—go to events! Talk to random strangers even though you’d rather get a Brazilian from that woman who almost maimed Nina’s vagina!
I stayed in the office late—and not just to prove a point. I had about thirty things on my to do list. It was 11PM by the time I left the building and headed to Peter’s. We’d texted earlier and were supposed to grab dinner, but I had to bail on that.
I almost burst into exhausted tears when I arrived at Peter’s and saw that he had ordered dinner for me, from my favorite Thai place that doesn’t deliver to my apartment even though I only miss the cut off by two blocks. Jerks.
“I figured you were hungry,” he said. And then I really did burst into tears. On top of being physically and emotionally spent from everything that had happened at work over the last forty-eight hours, I just generally felt like a shit for making out with Richard.
“I’m sorry!” I croaked. I suffer from ugly cry face, and shielded the evidence with my hands.
“What is it?” Peter asked, kind of laughing, but kind of perplexed too. He took hold of my wrists and pulled my hands away from my face.
“No!” I said, burying my face in his chest. “I don’t want you to see my face like this.”
“And I don’t want you to get snot on my shirt.” Now he was just laughing.
I removed my face from his shirt. “I don’t snot when I cry. I’m a lady.”
“Okay,” Peter laughed. “Josie, as much as William can be a sleazeball, he was right when he told you that you’re young and that you haven’t seen this kind of thing happen a million times before. You get a little jaded as you get older. It’s really not that big of a deal. All your friends will be okay.”
That wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg, but I couldn’t tell him that. Instead I just nodded. “I’m proud of you for hanging in there,” Peter said. “You should be proud of yourself too.”
“It isn’t a reflection of my job performance,” I said. “Some of the other assistants were good at their jobs too but they had to let them go because they basically eliminated their positions. I just got lucky.”
“Give yourself some credit,” Peter said. “They cut, what? Half the staff? They wouldn’t have kept you if they didn’t think you were valuable.”
It was such a nice thing to say. I stood up on my tippie toes and kissed him. And like that, the Thai food was forgotten.
We stumbled down Peter’s dark hallway, pulling our clothes off as we went. Peter had me on my back in bed, and his hand was on my neck. I thought he was going to squeeze, that we were going to get into some kinky stuff, but instead he just leaned over me and whispered in my ear, right as he thrust inside of me, “I thought about this all day.”
Usually everything with Peter is so charged, so hurried and urgent (See? I do approach some things with urgency, William), but in that moment it was like everything slowed down, the rest of the city fell away, and it was just us. It was intimate, too intimate for me, and I tried to roll on top of him, to get on top and raunch it up. But Peter pushed back, holding me down. “I just want you like this,” he said. He kissed me. “I love you like this.” He pressed himself close to me, moving in slow circles, grazing against me in a way that felt so good I felt like I was melting at the seams. Peter is the only guy who can make me come without his hands.
The L word was shocking to me, but it wasn’t like he said ILY for real. And I admit, the way he said it warmed me from the inside out. Everything that had happened in the last forty-eight hours—all the chaos, the anger, the name calling. It was like this was a safe place from all of that. Peter would never yell at me, or try and humiliate me the way Richard did. What the hell had I been thinking? This was what I needed. Peter was who I needed.
“Are you close?” Peter brushed his lips against mine, and I nodded. I arched my back, pressing closer into him, felt Peter’s eyes on me as I came. When he was sure I was done, he finally let himself give in.
Well, now I was starving. Peter heard my stomach rumble and offered to go get the food and bring it into bed. An offer I obviously accepted. I was pulling on one of Peter’s t-shirts (I do not eat in the nude. Nope. Gross.) when Peter appeared in the doorway. But he wasn’t holding the food. He was holding my phone.
“Who’s Richard?” he asked.