Famous Last Words

Hey Josie!

Heard it’s freezing in New York right now…I ate lunch outside today. What I’m trying to say is that New York is the worst and LA wins ALL THE COASTAL WARS. 

This is the most insensitive transition in the history of mankind, but one of Doug’s clients received some bad news this morning. Health-related. She’s had to clear her filming schedule because of it, but I heard her make a crack to Doug that now she finally has a reason and the time to write her memoir. I think she would seriously document this. She’s Ron Burgundy levels of big deal. Can’t go into details over email so call me when you get a chance.


I’d befriended Gretchen on my trip to LA. She was Simon’s assistant, and when I was introduced to her I complimented her on her adorable cobalt blue booties. It had been the right thing to say, because she immediately invited me to lunch with some of the other assistants. Frank had plans of his own, and gave me his blessing. “You need to make an assistant network,” he said. “You won’t believe the valuable information you can attain from those relationships. Assistants are more in the know than the CEO.”

Here was proof of that. I read Gretchen’s email coming out of the subway and called her the second I had service. By the time I got into the office, I was dying to tell Frank what I’d just learned. Ignoring his dumb rule about not disturbing him until at least 10AM, I barged into his office.

“I’m sorry but this is”— I stopped mid-sentence. Frank wasn’t alone. His son, Nick, was with him.

“Come right in,” Frank sighed.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I’ll come back.”

“You’re fine,” Nick said. “I was just leaving.” He smiled at me. “It’s Josie, right?”

“Yes, it’s Josie,” Frank said, “my assistant who apparently can’t tell time.”

“Christ, Dad,” Nick said, “ease up.” Frank looked chastened, which I’d never seen before and enjoyed immensely.

“It’s actually good you’re here,” Frank said, recovering quickly with a smile. It was literally the fourth time I’d seen him smile. His son knew what strings to pull, apparently. “I was hoping you could help connect Nick with some of the editorial assistants, or any other friends you have in media or film here. My son,” he looked at Nick over the bridge of his nose, playfully disapproving, “is trying to decide if he should move back here after he graduates and I want him to make all the connections he can while I’ve got him.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t wait to get back to the East Coast,” I said to Nick.

“Well,” Nick shrugged, “it’s more like I can’t wait to leave the West Coast. It’s not for me. But I’m torn between here and Paris.”


“It’s where my Dad lives,” Nick said.

For a moment, I was confused—his Dad was right here in front of me, giving me the stink eye. Then I realized—he meant his other Dad, Frank’s ex-partner. I glanced at Frank quickly. He looked stricken at the mere mention of Paris.

“Well, no problem,” I said. “It’s humpday.” I swear if Frank was wearing pearls he would have been clutching them. “We usually go out for drinks to celebrate the halfway point. Give me your number and I’ll text you the details when I have them.”

After Nick left, Frank said to me, “I will literally do anything to keep him in New York.”

I didn’t know what to say. Frank and I have never really discussed our personal lives, and the desperation in his voice was shocking to me. Frank seemed to regret showing that card, because he switched gears, asking me why I’d “barged” into his office in the first place. We were back to business.

I told him about Gretchen’s email. “You’re never going to guess who the actress is,” I said.

Frank exhaled loudly and his nostrils flared like an angry bull. Why did I think Frank would appreciate even a modicum of suspense?

“It’s Jennifer X,” I said, quickly, and Frank’s expression turned on a dime. “She’s going to be fine. But she has a battle in front of her and apparently her Mom went through the same thing. But she’s estranged from her Mom since she first made it big—so she had to find her in order to get this genetic testing. Her idea for the memoir is to kind of weave in her upbringing with Mom—which is very dramatic—and how this disease is what ultimately brought them back together.”

Frank looked as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. He cleared his throat and said, “I’ll call Simon in a bit to discuss it.”

I nodded and turned to go. “And Josie?” Frank called when I reached the door. “Nice find.”

“Thank you.” I walked back to my desk with a smile on my face.

I put together an email with some of the Literatti assistants, and cc’d Ashley, Nina, and Richard. Richard had finally gotten a job, doing online advertising, but he was working on a start up sports website with a few friends and had even managed to wrangle up some investors. It would be good for Nick to meet him, and also nice to see him since it had been a while.

After I sent the email, Kate swung by my desk. “Was that guy who was in here earlier Frank’s son?”

I nodded.

“No way Frank’s swimmers are responsible for that,” Kate said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I get the feeling he’s either adopted, or he’s the biological child of his other Dad—who apparently lives in Paris?”

“Um, yeah he lives in Paris,” Kate said. “You don’t know the story?”

I shook my head.

“Josie, it was like a huge news story. On the cover of The Post like ten times over six months.”

“I read the Times.” I stuck my nose up in the air.

“You read Dlisted,” Kate said.

“Just get back to the story,” I said.

“It was one of the first major custody battles over the child of a gay couple in New York state. Frank’s ex is some Parisian socialite. They wanted a kid, and they asked their, like, Mexican actress friend to carry the child. When they split up, they both claimed they were the father. I don’t know if they ever did a DNA test, but it got so ugly the Mom ended up taking him back to Mexico with her.”

I collected my jaw off the floor. “For how long?”

“I think until he was eighteen. Then I guess he decided to come back here to go to school.”

So I had detected a slight accent. I’d just been off about where it came from. No wonder Frank was desperate for Nick to stay in New York. He’d missed his kid’s entire childhood. The realization warmed me to Frank a little more—no wonder he was such a curmudgeon.

“Well, even more of a reason for us to show him a good time tonight,” I said. “Imagine him coming home and being like, ‘Dad, Josie is the best and I’m moving to New York!’ Do you think I’d get promoted?”

“I don’t think anyone here is getting promoted anytime soon,” Kate said. “But if you want to stack the cards in your favor, I’d suggest not taking Nick to Flannerty’s.” That was the bar I’d told everyone to meet at—it’s a faux Irish pub in Midtown, around the corner from the office. It’s totally generic and lame but goddammit sometimes I just want to go to a place where people don’t judge my hideous commuting shoes.

I sent out a revised email and told everyone to meet us at Houston Hall, this newish beer garden in the West Village which, while not the most authentically New York, was that perfect balance of scene-y and laidback.

Houston Hall kind of looks like the Hogwarts cafeteria. It’s dark and cavernous with ceilings as high as the Christmas tree in Rockefeller center. Long wooden tables crowd the interior, black Chanel bags lining their benches. “Um, this seat’s taken,” some chick in a Barbour coat will say if you try to move her stupid overpriced purse to sit down. It can be very intimidating! But I walked in that evening determined not to take any shit. I put on my fiercest resting bitchy face and secured a good chunk of a table in a prime spot.

“I didn’t know places this big existed in New York,” Nick said, looking up at the ceiling in awe. Nick had met me and Kate at the office, and the three of us had cabbed it down together while our other co-workers took the subway. When we arrived, I refused to let Nick pay for the cab even though he offered and even though he can definitely afford it. Normally I would not take a cab from Midtown to the West Village during rush hour because the fare makes the big vein in my forehead want to pop, but I wanted to show Nick how charming New York could be and that morning on the Subway the guy across from me had been clipping his yellow toenails and nibbling on them like they were Cheez-Its, so….

“Yup,” I said. “You’d be surprised how much space you can get here.”

“How big is your apartment?” Nick asked.

“500 square feet,” I mumbled into my Pale Ale. Even that was a lie. Technically my apartment is 450 square feet and in case you were wondering, yes I cry every time I pay my rent check.

“Hello!” I looked up. It was Nina and Ashley. Nina was wearing a sheer sweater and no bra. I know this because at the height I was on the bench, I was staring directly into her nipples. I noticed Nick noticing them too. They were hypnotizing.

As I was introducing Nina and Ashley to Nick, my co-workers strolled in, Richard right behind them.

“Who did you have to blow to get us this table?” Richard asked as he gave me a hug.

“Always classy, Richard.”

“You missed me,” he said.

“Where’s the Gee Eff?” I asked as we sat down across from each other. Richard had a little scrub on his face, like he’d been too busy to shower or shave this morning. He looked good.

“Out with some of her friends. She might stop by.”

“Still in love?” I teased.

“Still trying to pretend like you don’t feel empty inside?” Richard shot back.


“Seriously, Josie,” Richard said. “I know. I’m the last person to take advice from on this. But I’ve got a few years on you so I feel like I can say it. I wasted my twenties dicking around, avoiding commitment. I thought it made me happy, but it didn’t.”

“Richard, you’re twenty-nine years old and this is your first girlfriend. Ever. You can’t seriously be pulling this smug couple shit on me right now.”

“I just…I can recognize bravado when I see it.”

“Well then you need to get your batteries checked because there’s no bravado here. I’m happy.”

Richard was about to say something else but Ashley plopped down next to me. “Um, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” She nodded to the end of the table. Nina and her nipples were in Nick’s lap. Granted, we were short a few seats, but standing was an option. Some of my other seat-less co-workers were up and milling around.

“What the hell is she doing?” I hissed. “Please tell me she and Brad broke up at least.”

Ashley shook her head. “They’re not broken up.”

“Can you ask her to go to the bathroom with you and I’ll meet you in there? I don’t want Nick to think I’m like, cockblocking him or something.”

I waited for a few minutes until I got up and made my way to the bathroom. Nina was washing her hands in the sink when I walked in. “What are you doing?” I asked.

Nina shook the water off her hands and leaned forward, examining herself in the mirror. “I’m not doing anything.” She smoothed a flyaway in her hair. “Frank’s son is a smokeshow. I’m not allowed to flirt with him?”

“Please don’t do anything with him, Nina,” I said. “You have a boyfriend.” Nina opened her mouth to say something but I cut her off. “A boyfriend who is kind of being douche, yes. But this is Frank’s son. Don’t toy around with him.”

“I’m just flirting, my God,” Nina said. “I thought you wanted to show him a good time. I’m showing him a good time.”

“Can that good time not be in your pants?” I pleaded, and Nina gave me award-winning side eye in the mirror.

On my way back to the table, my phone rang in my back pocket. I pulled it out—I couldn’t believe it, Ian was calling me.

“I’ll meet you guys back at the table,” I said to Ashley and Nina.

I hurried over to the entrance, where it was quiet.

“Hi,”  I said.

“I know you’re still annoyed with me. But how could you not respond to that text?”

“What text?”

“The one I sent you. With the picture of us.”

“I didn’t get a”—my phone vibrated against my ear. “Hold on. I think this is it.” I pulled my phone away and opened the text from Ian. I suppose it’s not a huge surprise that Hogwarts would have terrible reception.

‘Packing and came across this. A few hours shy of #TBT but too good not to send.’ Attached was a picture of the two of us at a swim meet, rocking our green and white Speedos. We both desperately needed a tan and not that you could tell from the picture, but I desperately needed to do something about the woogie bush I was sporting underneath my suit.

I brought the phone back to my ear. “I can see why you held on to that. We’re just so…attractive.”

Ian laughed. Neither of us said anything for a moment.

“So I get in on Saturday,” Ian said.


“Oh, don’t torture me.”

“I have to work Monday and Tuesday,” I said. “I’m coming out on Tuesday after work.”

“Need someone to pick you up at the train station?”

I smiled. “Yeah, I do.”

I was still smiling as I made my way back to the table. It disappeared when I took inventory of the group.

I grabbed Kate’s arm. “Where are Nick and Nina?”

“Ow!” Kate said, and I let go. She looked around the room. “I don’t know. I saw them a second ago.”

I approached Ashley. “Please tell me Nick and Nina didn’t leave.”

“Okay,” Ashley said, “Nick and Nina didn’t exit out the South entrance.”

I couldn’t believe Nina would do this to me. I know she’s going through something with Brad, but she also knows how desperate I am to get in good with Frank. Yeah, he’s happy with me at the moment, but with Frank I get the feeling that you’re only as good as your last home run. My best friend using his son to make herself feel better about the rough patch she’d hit with her boyfriend wasn’t going to do me any favors.

I was afraid to text Nina what I really wanted to text her (‘You and your nipples need to get back here IMMEDIATELY’). God forbid Nick saw. To his knowledge, Nina wasn’t involved with anyone, and I wanted to keep it that way. I took a deep breath to calm my crazy ass down and typed out, ‘Hey! Where did you guys go?’

‘Nick was hungry. Just grabbing a bite to eat.’

‘Are you guys coming back?’

Nina started to write something and stopped. She started and stopped again. Finally, she said, ‘Probably not.’ Before I could fire off another text, she wrote, ‘Stop worrying it will be fine’.

I exhaled irritably. Those were some famous last fucking words if I’d ever heard them.

Sad Dickie

There is only a three hour time difference between LA and New York, but that ish did me in. By Friday, all I wanted to do was go home and spend the evening with a bottle of Pinot and this guy:

Love me some Keith from Dateline. I was in my neighborhood wine shop, trying to decide whether I should spend $13.99 on a corked bottle or $17.99 on a screw top (how can that be?), when I got a text from Nina.

‘What are you doing?’

‘About to get Mom drunk.’

‘Mom drunk?’

‘You know, like how Moms get drunk. A few glasses of wine and they’re down for the count.’

‘Not my Mom. Anyway, Brad and I just had biggest fight. Can I come over?’

I went with two bottles of the $13.99.

Nina’s face was swollen and blotchy when she showed up at my door. I’ve seen Nina cry twice before. Once, when she accidentally missed the deadline for the study abroad program in college, and another time while watching that scene in I Am Legend where Will Smith kills his dog. This had either been a huge fight or a huge overreaction.

“What happened?” I asked.

“He’s fucking moving to Chicago is what happened.”

“What? Why?”

“He was transferred,” Nina said.

“Okay, well, it happens”—

“No! It’s not like he was transferred and it’s out of his hands. He’s been interviewing for the position for two fucking months and he kept it from me. He said he didn’t want to worry me unnecessarily in case he didn’t get it.”


“He said we’ll be fine. That lots of people do long distance and make it work. Fuck that.”

“Okay.” I handed her a glass of wine. “Lots of people do do long distance and make it work.”

“Do lots of people go behind their girlfriend’s back and interview for a position that will deliberately put a million miles between them without even telling their girlfriend?”

I didn’t say anything so Nina answered her own question. “Yes, lots of people do that. Lots of people who want to be single but don’t have the balls to break up with someone outright.”

“Oh, come on, Nina,” I said. “He’s not moving to Chicago to get out of being in a relationship with you. That’s insane.”

“I don’t think it’s the only reason,” Nina said. “It’s a good job and I know he’s excited about it. But he doesn’t seem too torn up about us being apart. It’s kind of like, well, if it works it works but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

I didn’t know what to say to that, because I’d probably feel the same way. “So are you guys broken up?”

Nina sighed. “No.” She took a gulp of wine. “Not yet.”

“It will work out,” I said. “No matter what. It will work out.”

Nina rolled her glass around in her hands. “I guess. Anyway, tell me about LA.”

“Well, I’ve got a doozy for you…” I launched into a full recap.

“You should start like, The Ian Club with those other girls,” Nina said. “Like The First Wives Club or something. Plot your revenge.”

“I don’t feel like I need revenge,” I said. “I really don’t think what he did was premeditated. I can see how it just kind of happened. He’s gorgeous now…and really, like alpha and confident. I completely believe that those girls wanted to sleep with him because of that, not because he like, manipulated them or something. I was actually more bothered by what he wrote about them. But the more I think about it, I mean, is it really that different from what we do?”

Nina rolled her eyes. “Come on.”

“We sit around and judge the guys we’ve slept with and don’t always say the nicest things about them. Hello—Sad Dickie?”

Nina spit out her wine. “Sad Dickie! I haven’t thought about him in so long.” Sad Dickie was Nina’s nickname for a guy she hooked up with in college who could never get it up and refused to talk about it or acknowledge there was a problem. He was also unfortunate enough to be named Damien Dickie. I mean…it was just tragic all around.

“I guess I just feel like it’s worse when a guy slams a girl’s body,” Nina said. “He’s in more of a position of power than she is. Guys are just not subjected to the same level of scrutiny about their bodies as we are.”

“I know that,” I said. “I’m just saying…I get it. And you should have seen him that night—he wouldn’t make a move. I initiated it all. Maybe I would feel taken advantage of if he’d come on strong. But he didn’t.”

“That’s probably part of his plan too,” Nina said. “Play it innocent. Make you come to him.”

Nina was not the person to talk to about this at the moment. Her bitterpants were on good and tight. So I kept it to myself that Ian had texted me since I’d gotten back to New York. He was going to be in New Jersey for a few days next week for Thanksgiving. His exact words: ‘This is a long shot, but can we go out for drinks or dinner while I’m in town? I know there’s something here. Tell me to fuck off if you want but I know you know it too.’ I told him I had to think about it, but to tell you the truth, I was leaning towards yes.

Saturday morning I was on my way to a yoga class with Ashley when I got a call from Kevin. “Ummmm, did you hook up with Morrison and not tell me you little sloot?”


“Yeah,” Kevin said, “I went in to get my measurements taken and Morrison said my ‘friend’ is freakier than she looks, winked at me, and then all the other guys in the store laughed.”

“Well, I am freakier than I look but Morrison wouldn’t know that.” I told him what really happened.

Kevin laughed. “Well, that’s not what he’s saying.”

“Do you think I should say something to him?”

“It’s weird,” Kevin said, “I actually still think he’s gay. It’s like he’s telling people this story about you to prove he isn’t. But you don’t want to get involved with a mess like that, believe me.”

“I don’t even have the energy to,” I said.

“I’m totally going to hook up with him now,” Kevin said. “Closet cases are the best in bed. They have so much pent up sexual tension from not being able to express it in everyday life. It’s why I’m such a sexual stallion.”

“Right,” I said.

“It’s true,” Kevin said. “Now imagine the two of us together. Fireworks, baby.”

I laughed. “Go for it.”

“Oh, don’t you even worry about it,” he said.

We hung up and I hurried out the door to meet Ashley. I am normally anti yoga (the whole time I’m downward doggying I just think about how I should be doing sprints on Harlem Hill, getting a real workout), but Bess had told her it would help her work through her depressive tendencies.

“Wait, you’re depressed?” I asked.

“Josie, it’s why I’m always so angry,” she said. “Depression is anger turned inwards.”

“Shut up,” I said.

“It’s true! Even just recognizing that has made me feel so much better. I’m so much more patient now.”


“Really. So will you go with me, please?”

When I arrived at the yoga studio in Union Square, I was surprised to see how many guys were in the class. Lunks I usually eye molest in the weight room too. The few yoga classes I’ve taken in the city were composed of mostly women and delicate-looking gay men with slender waists I envy.

Ashley was already in the corner, sitting on a mat. She waved me over.

“I would have worn the yoga pants that make me look like I have a butt if I’d known,” I said.

“I know,” Ashley said. “To your left.”

I reached my arms up and yawned, glancing over my shoulder while I ‘stretched’ my neck from side to side. There were two winners in the corner, backs up against the wall, impressive arms folded over their chests.

I turned back to Ashley. “Mama likey.”

“You’re such a sick puppy,” Ashley laughed. It felt like forever since we’d laughed together.

“Hello, hello!” Announced a lithe women standing at the front of the room. How do I do yoga and look like that? “Welcome to Yoga Match.”

“What’s Yoga Match?” I whispered to Ashley.

“I think they, like, match your body type to certain moves,” Ashley said.

“Oh! I love that,” I said. Maybe that’s how you get a body like that, you tailor your moves to your trouble spots. Brilliant.

“Did everyone enter their names in the envelopes when they first walked in the door?” The instructor asked.

I looked at Ashley. “Did you do that?”

Ashley shook her head.

“Did anyone not enter their name?” The instructor prompted, and Ashley and I raised our hands meekly.

“Well, hurry up!” She said, motioning us to the front of the room. Everyone watched as we scurried forward, the instructor passing us a shred of paper and a pen, then adding our names to the envelope labeled, ‘Girls’.

I was starting to think the class wasn’t called Yoga Match because it matched your body type to the moves…

As the instructor began to speak, I realized I was right. This was Yoga Match, as in match.com, as in yoga dating and my worst nightmare not yet realized until that moment. Leslie, the instructor, pulled one name out of the ‘Girls’ envelope, and one name out of the ‘Guys’ envelope, and the two were introduced and instructed to pair off on mats next to each other.

Of course, Ashley ended up with one of the Baldwins we’d noticed earlier. The other one still hadn’t been matched up yet, and I crossed my fingers and prayed he would be mine when Leslie called out my name. No such luck. I got a guy with a greasy ponytail and a poppy seed stuck between his front teeth.

“I’m Benji with a G,” he said.

So….Ben-Guy? “I’m Josie,” I said, stiffly.

“It’s phenomenal to meet you, Josie,” Ben-Guy said. I glanced over at Ashley. She was too busy twirling her hair and batting her eye lashes at her Yoga Match to catch my death stare.

All I could think was, they’re not going to make us touch, right? That would be weird if Leslie made us touch. Leslie’s so not going to make us touch.

LESLIE MADE US TOUCH. First, we had to press our palms against each other and maintain eye contact for sixty seconds. You do not realize how long sixty seconds is until you are palm to clammy palm with greasy ponytail guy, him looking into your eyes all pensively like he’s fucking Edward Cullen or something.

I didn’t think it could get any worse but then Leslie instructed us to ‘spot’ each other while we assumed a downward dog position. Why do I need a spotter to balance on my hands and knees with my ass in the air? It’s like the most stable position ever.

“Would you like to go first?” Ben-Guy asked and I had a split second to decide which was worse—my ass in Ben-Guy’s crotch or his in mine? I decided it was the former.

I tried to imagine I was anywhere but where I was as Leslie instructed the downward doggiers to inhale and press ‘deeper’, which translated to Ben-Guy pushing his butt into my pelvis—nothing but a thin layer of spandex and mesh separating our goodies—and moaning with every exhale. This had to be the universe’s way of punishing me for not recycling.

At the end of the class, Leslie encouraged us all to share our information if we felt a connection to our partner. Ben-Guy said he had a ‘transient experience’ and asked if he could call me sometime. I mumbled something about just getting out of a relationship and needing to pee and fled.

I hid out in the bathroom until Ashley came to find me. “I need a shower,” I wailed.

“Oh my God,” Ashley laughed. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea I signed us up for this.”


“Please tell me you at least got your guy’s number?”

Ashley held up her phone and showed me her new contact for Andrew Engle. I would have held creepy eye contact with Ben-Guy for a million more seconds to see the big grin on Ashley’s face again. It had been too long since I’d seen her that happy.

“I can put in a good word for you with the friend if you want,” she offered.

“That’s okay,” I said.

“Jos, just because you don’t want something serious doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun.”

I could have told her the truth. Which was that I couldn’t stop thinking about Ian. But honestly, I was embarrassed. I’d been all on my high horse about Ashley and Tom, telling her she deserved better. She did, and Ian was in no way as bad as Tom, but still…. I made up some excuse about work being too busy right now. I wanted to explore this thing with Ian on my own first—find out if I could really trust him, if there was something there, or if the Ian I knew was really gone.

High on Arrival

I couldn’t have been happier to see Frank’s face in the hotel lobby. That reproachful expression he always wears like I’m his teenage daughter and he just caught me drinking Malibu rum in the basement with my friends—I could have hugged him for it. He reminded me why we were really here—to do work, to find A-list clients with A-list stories to tell. Ian had just made me feel lower than a dog, and I couldn’t control that. But I could control how well I did my job, how much my boss valued me, and there is something incredibly soothing about that.

“Ready?” Frank asked, and I nodded.

Our first stop was a meeting with one of Frank’s old friends, an agent at CAA. The meeting wasn’t until 10 (“LA,” Frank sneered, and I didn’t dare mention how William used to get in closer to 11), and we arrived twenty minutes early.

Finally, we were ushered through a long hallway and into an office less spectacular than I thought it would be, given the level of talent CAA represents and the fact that we were in LA, where the real estate potential far outweighs New York. I mean, our office was nicer than this, and as Peter put it—we’re bleeding money.

Frank is a slight man, barely taller than me. We could totally share jeans if he was into that sort of thing. Frank had briefly mentioned something, a few weeks back, about having to share his Sag Harbor home with his ex-partner, which made me think his ex-partner was a man, but I couldn’t be entirely sure. I had these hippie dippie professors in college, together thirty-three years, with kids and a mortgage, who balked at the institution of marriage and refused to make it official. For the longest time, I’d assumed Professor Chiala was a lesbian, because she was always talking about her partner this, her partner that, until someone clued me in to the fact that her partner was actually Professor Leonard, my English teacher, the sweetest man who teared up whenever he read poetry to the class (oh, Professor Leonard!).

So when Frank hugged Simon, his agent-friend, and Simon asked him, “How’s your kid doing?” I was shocked. I had no idea that Frank was a father. He didn’t exactly have the warm fatherly thing going on unlike my dear Professor Leonard.

“Doing well,” Frank said. “I’ll be seeing him tonight.”

Tonight? Frank’s kid was in LA? His ex-partner, whoever he/she was, must be based out of here.

“This is my assistant, Josie,” Frank said.

I shook Simon’s hand before sitting down.

“So what can I do for you?” Simon asked, stretching his arms wide and yawning. “Sorry,” he said. “Late night. Had the GQ Men of the Year party last night for Matthew.” He yawned again.

I didn’t think much of that comment until Frank mentioned that he couldn’t wait to see Dallas Buyers Club. Oh, Matthew. McConaughey. I nodded my head nonchalantly. It’s not cool to look impressed but goddamnit, I was impressed.

“Well, we’re reinvigorating the imprint,” Frank said. “Focusing on big names who have big stories to tell. We’re strictly going to publish celebrity memoirs, and we want the next Open or Growing Up Brady.” He held his hands out. “Or, of course, High on Arrival.”

Simon laughed. “Everyone wants to find the next High on Arrival. But sorry, I don’t rep any actresses who have had sex with their famous fathers.”

“That’s a shame,” Frank said, and they laughed. I was starting to feel a little gross. I’d read that Mackenzie Phillips memoir—hadn’t she claimed she was raped by her father? Not really something I’m down with joking about, with two privileged old white dudes nonetheless, but I kept my mouth shut. The perils of being a lowly assistant.

“Here’s the thing,” Simon said, “you approach any celebrity, and it’s, ‘Oh yeah, I could write a book. I have an interesting story to tell’. They’re famous, they’re surrounded by a bunch of yes people, and I’m certainly one of them, and they think every word out of their mouths is so fuckin’ brilliant, when half the time I could take a nap using my fifty dollar filet as a pillow.”

I laughed, and Simon and Frank both looked at me. “Sorry,” I mumbled. “It’s just, I think you’re so right. So it’s our job to actually find the people who have a good story to tell.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Simon said, “I’ll put out an email to see if anyone on staff reps someone who even has the time to write a book. We’ll start there.”

“None of your clients have any interest?” Frank asked.

“They’re all tied up,” Simon said, already typing up the email. “Film schedules and whatnot.”

This was the reason why William shied away from A-lister memoirs. The odds of finding an interesting celebrity, one who would even compel a reader to pick up a book with his picture on the cover, and then keep the reader interested with his story, well, they weren’t that good. And you had to pay these people out the wahzoo to even get them to do it, and it needed an intense re-write when all was said and done because most actors can’t write for shit. It was a tedious process that may or may not result in a big return. William’s idea was to go to the people who were desperate for their fifteen minutes—they would do anything, and for not a lot, and those little lifestyle advice books? Or funny stocking stuffer books like Go the Fuck to Sleep? They did surprisingly well. Frank’s mission was admirable, and I would love to find the next Mackenzie Phillips bombshell confessional, but it’s not going to be easy.

Frank thanked Simon for his time and we collected our things to go. Once we were in the car, I was dying to ask Frank about his kid but I glanced over and saw the expression on his face, even tighter than usual if that was possible, and thought better of it.

The book reading was held at The Last Bookstore in LA, this cool indie book shop. The author was a former rock star, now in his forties, reading an especially moving passage about his battle with heroin. There was a huge turnout, and the book was good. It made me want to make Frank’s vision come to life. Because if I could be responsible for a book like that hitting the shelves, I’d be pretty proud of myself.

After the reading, Frank and I made our way up to the front to speak to the author and his management team. After chatting for a few minutes, I heard someone call my name. It was Ian.

“Oh my God,” I muttered under my breath.

“Friend of yours?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, excuse me,” I said.

Ian had texted me a few times that day, apologizing profusely, but I hadn’t responded. I had told him about the reading and where it was at dinner the night before— I’d asked him if he’d ever been to The Last Bookstore and he said it was a pretty cool place.

I made my way over to him. “What are you doing here?” I hissed.

“You weren’t responding to my texts,” he said. “Please, just give me one minute to explain. One minute, and I’ll leave you alone.”

I glanced over my shoulder. Frank was hugging some guy practically two times his size. “One minute.”

“I haven’t updated that thing in almost two years,” Ian said. “I stopped, because I realized how gross it was.”

“But when you wrote that thing about me”—

“I know,” Ian said. “This is stupid and so embarrassing to admit, but I was excited. I wrote it the way you would write it in a diary. Like, yeah! Going to happen.”

“Even if that’s true,” I said, “You, like, hunted down our classmates.”

Ian shook his head vehemently. “It wasn’t like that, I swear. It started with Nicole. We just happened to hook up at this Labor Day party at the shore. I was shocked—she was such a bitch to me in high school, I couldn’t believe she was interested in me now. Then I ran into Tara at a party and normally, I never would have made a move, but after Nicole, I thought, well, maybe I have a chance now. And it happened. And then again because we had shore houses in the same town that summer. I never like, made a hit list and checked each girl off one by one, I swear. I didn’t even want to hook up with you last night.”

“You didn’t even want to hook up with me last night?” I repeated, incredulously.

Ian smacked his hand against his forehead. “That came out wrong. What I meant, is that I was nervous. We are friends, well, we were. I should never have said that wasn’t true, because it is. It just felt loaded with you, and I froze.”

“But what you wrote,” I said.

“I know,” Ian said. “It’s disgusting. I don’t have any excuse for that. I was in college, or just out of college, and I was an asshole. Just a total asshole.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Frank again. “I have to go,” I said. “I’m here with my boss.”

“I know. I just…I just couldn’t have you leave without knowing the whole story.”

“I have to go,” I said again.

Ian nodded. He didn’t try to hug me, just hung his head and walked away.

I took a deep breath to center myself and went to find Frank.

“Josie,” Frank said, “meet my son, Nick.”

Nick smiled. He was about my age, and he towered over Frank. He had dark skin and I’m assuming dark hair, but he was wearing a beanie even though it was 65 degrees out. Oh, LA. I detected a slight accent as he said, “Very nice to finally meet you.”

Okay, so Frank’s kid was clearly not his biological kid, unless Frank’s ex-partner was in fact a woman and a 6’3 glamazon from Columbia or something, which I found hard to envision.

“Hi,” I said.

“Nick is getting his MBA at UCLA,” Frank said, proudly.

“Very cool,” I said. “In what?”

“Film and media,” he said. “I graduate this year. Can’t wait to get back to the East coast.”

“Well, we’ll see you for Thanksgiving,” Frank said.

“Can’t wait,” Nick said. “Anyway, I’ve got to get going. Nice meeting you, Josie. Maybe I’ll see you when I’m in New York.” He gave me a smile that despite all the drama with Ian, gave me an uh-oh feeling in my stomach. Even so, wasn’t happening. He’s my boss’ son. That would be career suicide.

Burn Book

I hopped off the plane at L.A.X with a dream and a cardigan (this really cute camouflage printed one from H&M). I couldn’t wait to get to our hotel and crash. It was 8PM PST, which meant it was 11PM in New York, and I hadn’t been able to nap on the plane even though I desperately needed to. You all know how much I hate to fly—hates it, hates it—so I’d taken my anti-anxiety pill right before I got on the plane, and chased it with a glass of wine because the doctor told me I could do that if I still felt on edge and I always still feel on edge. I was feeling all warm and sleepy as we boarded, and fully intended on passing out the second I sat down. I figured Frank would fly business class and I would fly coach, so I was surprised when we were seated next to each other in the pedestrian section of the airplane.

There was no way I could sleep with Frank sitting next to me (what if I snored? Or drooled? Or had a sex dream and said something in my sleep like, ‘Ohhh, Ian’?). There was also no way I was renting the movie I really wanted to watch (Pitch Perfect) with Frank sitting next to me because that would be aca-awkward. So I whipped out my copy of The Luminaries (which is riveting by the way) and Frank raised his eyebrows approvingly. If I had to be awake, I could at least score some brownie points with the man.

Frank and I were staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which Frank actually had the audacity to complain about. “It’s a little run down but it will have to do,” he sighed. I have never stayed in a more luxurious hotel in my life but I kept my mouth shut lest Frank think I was some kind of country bumpkin.

I really only had two full nights in LA since we got in so late on Sunday. Frank and I had meetings all day Monday and Tuesday, plus a book reading to attend Tuesday night. The only night I could see Ian was Monday. He had made reservations at one of his favorite restaurants. I asked if that restaurant happened to be called SUR and sadly, it was not.

I slept like a damn rock and woke up at 6AM feeling fan-freaking-tastic. I decided to go for a quick run in the hotel gym, assuming it would be quiet at that hour. Silly me I’d forgotten we were in LA! Every machine was utilized by some woman who looked like a video game avatar come to life. I did some ab work until a treadmill opened up, then banged out three miles before showering and meeting Frank in the lobby for our breakfast meeting with a manager.

“Did you have a good run?” Frank asked when he saw me.

“I did,” I said.

“I happened to pop into the gym and saw you in there,” Frank said. “I was going to go for a little bike ride before I saw every machine was taken.”

“It’s unbelievable, right?”

Frank nodded. “Totally different world out here.” The bellhop motioned to us that our car was ready. “I like a person who prioritizes their health,” Frank said as he strode towards the car. Was that…was that a compliment?

“Thank you,” I said, not really sure if that was the right response.

Frank fumbled with the keys and we drove to Nate ‘n Al’s in silence.

It was a long day, but I loved every minute of it. We met with a lot of high profile agents and managers who represent A-list celebs. Frank had set up the meetings, and I was really just there to take notes, but I was asked for my input on a number of things and I felt like Frank was genuinely interested in my perspective.

Finally, it was time for my date with Ian. I actually do have Morrison to thank for the outfit I settled on—just a white tee, statement necklace, and dark jeans with booties, a leather jacket thrown over my shoulders in case it got chilly. Simple, not trying to hard—every guy loves a form-fitting pair of jeans and a tee, right?

Apparently the answer is yes because when I walked into the restaurant, I saw that Ian was wearing the same thing (minus the statement necklace thank God).

Ian laughed. “I don’t know who this is more embarrassing for,” he laughed. “But regardless, you look fantastic.”

I laughed too. “Ditto.”

He gave me a big hug, his hands low on my back, just grazing the top of my butt and I would have been fine skipping out on our dinner reservation and just going right to his place.

“I can’t believe you’re in my hood,” Ian said, as we sat down.

“I can’t believe this is where you live now,” I said.

“Do you hate it?” Ian asked. “I think New York will evict you if you say you don’t.”

“I don’t hate it at all. But I don’t know if I could ever live here.”

“I used to think that too,” Ian said. “I used to think everyone here was lazy compared to New York. Then I realized, they’re not lazy. They’re happy.”

“That’s so funny you say that,” I said, “because lately I’ve been wondering if you have to always feel stressed out in order to be successful.”

“I used to be like that too,” Ian said. “The East coast conditions you to equate happiness with laziness. It’s not true. I actually have a work life balance here. My office clears out at 6, but we still work hard. That was never the case when I was in New York.”

“I’d have to ask for permission to leave at 6,” I said.

“That sounds awful,” Ian said.

I shrugged. “I don’t hate it. I like working late. It makes me feel like I’m doing something important and urgent when I’m in the office all alone, even if it is just a stupid book proposal.”

“Well, when you burn out you can move out here and be with me.” Ian winked, and I thought my uterus would explode.

After dinner, Ian suggested we go to this piano bar he likes. We drank martinis and played footsie under the table for a few songs before he asked me if I wanted to get out of there and hell yes did I want to get out of there.

Ian lived in a very nice apartment building in Westwood. He had two bedrooms even though he lived alone and I just found this unbelievable. “Wait, how much do you pay?” I asked, as I gave myself a tour of his apartment. I realized how rude that was and apologized. “Don’t answer that.”

Ian had followed me into his bedroom and he laughed. “Another reason to move to LA,” he said.

I turned around and smiled at him.

Ian suddenly seemed very aware of the fact that we were standing in his bedroom. For the first time since I’d reconnected with him, I could see the old Ian underneath his newly curated bravado. He looked nervous…shy even. “Do you, uh, do you want to watch a movie or something?”

“Sure,” I said.

I followed Ian into his living room and kicked off my shoes before curling up on his couch. Ian picked up the remote control and I could see that his hand was shaking.

Ian has been nothing but confident ever since he reappeared in my life, and that confidence is incredibly sexy, but for some reason, this side of Ian—nervous and unsure—was even sexier. I’m not sure exactly why that was. Maybe it was because it made me feel like he really wanted me, that us sleeping together was a big enough deal that it stripped him of his cool-kid demeanor.

Ian sat down on the couch, as far away from me as he could get. “What are you in the mood for?” he asked.

“Something funny maybe?”

Ian nodded and started browsing through the channels. The Hangover was on and he looked at me.

“Sure,” I said.

Ian put the remote control down on the coffee table and settled back onto the couch. It occurred to me that I was probably going to have to make a move if I wanted something to happen. But I didn’t know how to slide closer to him without seeming like a mega creep. What should I do? Oh my God, this was so middle school. Finally, I came up with a plan.

“Where’s your bathroom?” I asked, even though I’d seen it on the tour I’d given myself.

Ian pointed it out and I got up to use it. I didn’t have to pee, so I washed my hands and counted to twenty. When I came back to the living room, I sat right next to Ian. He lifted his arm so I could snuggle up against his chest. Victory!

We sat like that for some time before I realized once again that nothing was going to happen unless I initiated. So I let my hand roam over his chest, again and again. And again. I’m pretty sure the only reason Ian finally kissed me was because if he didn’t, he was going to get a nasty case of nipple burn. But whatever, because when he slipped his fingers under my chin and tilted my head up, it was a good kiss. Before I knew it, he was on top of me, hands in my hair and pressing the entire weight of his body into me, and it felt amazing.

“Want to go in the bedroom?” he whispered.

I did! I did!

It’s been a while since I’ve had really sweet sex, and that’s exactly what it was like with Ian. Every step of the way he asked me if what he was doing was okay.

When he finally put on a condom and came inside of me he slipped his hand between our bodies and pressed his fingers against me. “Here?” he whispered, and I dug my nails into his back in response.

“I can’t believe this is finally happening,” he said, nipping my lower lip, pressing his fingers against me harder.

There were no crazy acrobatics, no complicated sex positions. Our history made just plain old missionary intense enough without all of that.

In the middle of the night, I woke up to use the bathroom. When I climbed back into bed and snuggled into Ian, I felt that he was, ahem, very much awake. Without saying a word, he slipped inside of me from behind. He wrapped his arms around my body and held me tight, rocking me back and forth, his breath warm in the nook of my neck.

I woke up to my alarm at 6:30AM. Ian was already in the shower—he’d offered to drive me back to my hotel in time to get ready and meet Frank at 9AM in the lobby.

“Hi,” I said, loud enough for him to hear me over the water.

“There’s coffee in the kitchen,” Ian shouted back.

Coffee sounded good. I climbed out of bed, stopping in front of Ian’s dresser to find a t-shirt to put on before I walked into the kitchen. As I was rifling through the t-shirts, I noticed our senior yearbook, buried underneath a stack of sweaters.

“Oh my God,” I smiled. I hadn’t looked at our yearbook in so long. I pulled a t-shirt on and sat back on the bed, the yearbook in my lap.

There was Ian, looking so awkward and gangly in his photo. I flipped through a few more pages, but some red scribble on Nicole Beddington’s page made me stop. Nicole Beddington had been the quintessential babe in high school. She was the star of her lacrosse team, tall and blond with absolutely perfect skin and bright blue eyes. She had a little mean girl streak in her, so we hadn’t exactly been friends. Next to her picture was a note, ‘Check, 9/3/09’. I wonder what that means, I thought. I continued to flip through and every now and then, and always on a picture of one of the popular girls in high school, was a similar note. On Erika Felding’s page, I sucked in a sharp breath. Written next to her picture were the words, ‘Check, 2/22/12, total dead fish’. I flipped for a few more pages and found on Tara Hunter’s page, ‘Check, 7/8/11 and again, 8/15/11, saggiest tits’. I quickly flipped ahead to my page. I thought I would throw up when I saw the words, ‘Will happen, 11/11/13′.

I heard the water turn off in the bathroom but I didn’t scramble to hide the yearbook. Instead, I just waited calmly until Ian entered the bedroom, his towel looped around his perfectly flat waist.

“Did you get—” Ian cut himself off when he saw the yearbook in my lap.

“What is this?” I asked, my voice shaking. I was dangerously close to crying.

“What do you mean?” Ian asked, innocently.

“You know what I mean,” I said. “These checks and dates next to the photos. The note next to my picture—’Will happen’, with yesterday’s date? Well congratulations, it happened.”

“That’s not what that means,” Ian said, but there was a flush creeping up his neck, giving him away.

“Oh really?” I slammed the yearbook shut. “It doesn’t mean that you aren’t making your way through every girl who wouldn’t fuck you in high school as some sort of sick revenge plan? And writing the most disgusting things about them? What are you going to say about me?” I tossed the yearbook on the floor and started gathering my clothes and my purse. “I thought you were my friend!” I yelled as I stormed past him and into the bathroom.

Ian followed me but I slammed the door and locked it. I got dressed quickly, and dug around in my purse for my cell. I called a cab and gave the driver Ian’s address.

“Josie, please open up,” Ian said. He was jiggling the door knob. “Let me explain.”

“Go ahead,” I said. “Explain.”

Please don’t make me talk to the door.”

I sighed. Reached forward and unlocked the door, letting it swing open. Ian was so big he took up the entire door frame.

He hung his head. “I’m so embarrassed. It started out like that, yes. But then I got to know you. I liked you.”

“You already knew me,” I said. “We were friends.”

Ian looked at me. “Come on, Josie. We were never really friends.”

“Yes, we were,” I insisted.

“I was your buddy you talked to during swim team practice. You knew I had a crush on you. But you never would have considered hooking up with me.”

“I’m not obligated to have sex with you because you have a crush on me!”

Ian slammed his hand into the door frame. “You strung me along.”

“By talking to you at swim practice?” I spat. “That’s how I strung you along?”

My phone buzzed in my hand and I looked down. It was an LA number. “Hello?” I said. It was the cab driver. He was outside.

“I have to go.” I pushed past Ian.

“Wait.” Ian grabbed my arm. I glared at him and he let go. “Sorry,” he said. “Please. I can’t stand the thought of last night,” he ran his fingers through his hair, “and then, leaving things like this.”

“Even if you changed your mind about whatever this was? What you wrote about those other girls… saggiest tits?” I shook my head, sadly. “Do you know my ex said that to me once? I don’t even like to get on top because of it.”

“It’s inexcusable,” Ian said. “I can’t even believe I wrote that. I hate that someone said that to you.”

I had a lump in my throat as I turned to go. I didn’t want to leave like this. But I didn’t know what else to do. I’d always thought of Ian as a good guy, a guy who would never have sex with a girl for sport, or say something so ugly about her body. It was like the guy I thought Ian was didn’t even exist. And that made me more sad than anything, because that guy? I’d really liked him.

Analye This

All the LA plans are in place and I’m so excited. Jessie Spano levels of excited. Also like Jessie, a little scared—the stakes are so high for the long overdue sex Ian and I are totally going to have. There is no room for error here, which of course means something will go terribly wrong. Like…what if we’re having amazingly intense, passionate sex and I go and ruin it by queefing or something even remotely human? 

I’ll only be in town for three nights, and Frank even asked me if I have any friends on the West coast who I’d like to visit while we’re there. “We have a dinner one evening, but the other two nights are yours to do with as you please,” he said. Oh, I will do with them as I please, thankyouverymuch.

In the meantime, I had some business to attend to on the homefront: That wax I desperately need, laundering my favorite pairs of Hanky Pankies, and cutting out carbs so that my stomach looks flat when we try weird sexual positions, which we are totally going to do.

Oh, and want to hear something really bizarre? Ashley found a therapist…and she wanted me to go with her for a session. She said that her therapist suggested she bring in an unbiased friend who can provide an outsider’s account of what Ashley had just gone through, and she knew I would be brutally honest.

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Ashley said, “but it would mean a lot to me.”

“Are you going to be there when I’m talking to her?” I asked. “I don’t want you getting all annoyed with me if you don’t like my version of things.”

“I will be there,” Ashley said. “But Bess said it would probably be better if I leave while you two talk.”

“Your doctor’s name is Bess?”

“Well, it’s Dr. Schweiger,” Ashley said. “But she said to call her Bess.”

I found this all very unconventional, yet also extremely intriguing. I personally love the idea of therapy. If I was willing to give up going out and shopping to be able to afford therapy (I’m not) and if I felt like I really had some serious issues to work out, I’d totally be one of those annoying people who is all like, ‘Well, my therapist says that…’ all the time.

Ashley had already seen Bess the week before and given her the general rundown about her situation. “I think she wants to hear about it from an outsider to determine, like, how I perceive things,” Ashley said.

On Wednesday evening, after work and before my drink with Morrison (so fine, I didn’t cut out all carbs), I made my way to the Upper West Side. Ashley met me outside of Bess’ office and we headed inside together.

Bess was in her mid-40s, with dark, perfectly blown out hair and a Cartier Love bracelet on her wrist. No wedding band. I always find it interesting when therapists who specialize in relationships aren’t married.

She thanked me for coming in and asked me some basic questions, like what my relationship was to Ashley and how long I’d known her. After that, she asked Ashley to give us a little alone time.

“So,” Bess said, “I’ve heard from Ashley about why she thinks she needs to be here. But I’d like to hear it from you.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t think Ashley needs to be here more than any of us do, but I think it’s smart to look at yourself and see a pattern, and decide that you don’t like it and that you want to fix it. I’ve been there before.”

“And what was your pattern?” Bess asked.

“I hopped from relationship to relationship, even when I knew the guy wasn’t right for me, or that the timing wasn’t right.”

“You’d be surprised how much our patterns are a result of our blueprint, and how we were raised,” Bess said.

“I can totally see that with Ashley,” I said. “Her parents aren’t the most loving people and I feel like that’s the example that’s been given to her of what a relationship should look like. But my parents are awesome, so I don’t think that’s true with me.”

“It actually doesn’t matter how great your parents are,” Bess said. “I’m sure your parents are wonderful, selfless people who only want the best for you. They can still leave an impression on you that can be problematic when it comes to finding a successful relationship in your own life.”

We were totally getting off topic, but Bess had me hooked. “In what way?”

“Just a shot in the dark,” Bess said, “but were you a daddy’s girl when you were younger? Did your father light up when you walked into a room?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Gross, no. I hate that cutesy daddy girl stuff. Weirds me out.”

Bess just smiled.

“What?” I asked.

“Again,” she said, “just a thought, and I don’t know you well enough to say, but did you ever stop to think that because you didn’t get that adulation from your father at a young age, that now you seek it out as an adult through this incessant need to be in a relationship?”

I felt like I was drunk and someone had just dumped a bucket of cold water over my head. No, Bess, I’d never stopped to consider that before, but it made perfect sense.

“In any case,” Bess said, “we should get back to Ashley. But if you ever want to talk more about your own patterns, it could do you some good.”

And here I was, all cocky that I didn’t have issues. Apparently I was a textbook case!

I took Bess through my version of events with Ashley and Luke, and Ashley and Tom. The forty-five minute session flew by. Before I left, Bess pressed her card into my hand. “In case you ever need me.”

“She is good,” I said to Ashley, as we said goodbye.

Ashley smiled. “I know. I’m excited. I feel like this is going to help me turn over a new leaf.”

I gave Ashley a hug goodbye and we are not huggers. Then I made my way to my favorite wine bar by my apartment. Morrison had some business to take care of at Barney’s, which is only a few avenues from my apartment, so he said he would be happy to meet me somewhere in my neighborhood.

I was dying to tell someone about my conversation with Bess, and even though I don’t know Morrison that well, gay guys generally make good confidantes. Plus, with the crowd Morrison hung with, at least half his friends had to be in therapy, so he wouldn’t be that weirded out by it. A therapist on Park Avenue was better than the new designer handbag.

“Darling,” Morrison said, when he saw me. He pecked me on the cheek. He smelled like apartments that have washer/dryers and windows in the bathroom: expensive.

“I’ve had the weirdest day,” I said.

“Then you need a martini,” he said. He snapped his fingers at he bartender, which irked me a little (I was a waitress once and I just find it so demanding and rude). He ordered a drink for me, then rested his head on his hand, his beautiful hair spilling over his forearm. “Tell me.”

I told him all about Bess and her take on my ‘pattern’.

“One time a therapist told me that I would never find true love until my parents get divorced,” Morrison said. “They have a miserable marriage and she believed that I was subconsciously sabotaging my relationships because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be happy until my parents were.”

Ohhh,” I said, “that’s deep.”

Morrison nodded and sipped his drink. “But if I’m really being honest with myself,” he smirked, “I think I don’t want to be in a relationship because I’m too horny.”

I laughed. “Speaking of…” I told him all about my trip to LA and Ian.

“Why didn’t you just sleep with him when you had the chance?” Morrison said.

I shrugged. “I’d just cut ties with my ex. I was all emotional and mixed up. I didn’t want to complicate things. But I feel much clearer now. Like I could just go and have a good time with Ian and not make it into a bigger thing than it needs to be.”

“I get it,” Morrison said. “So what are you going to wear when you see him?”

I laughed. “I’ve been agonizing over that for the last few days! I don’t know. It’s going to be warm-ish out there, so that kind of throws me off. And it’s LA, which has such a different vibe than New York. I feel like I should run all the nominees by you.”

“I think you should,” Morrison said.

I laughed again, then realized he wasn’t joking. “Wait? Are you serious?”

Morrison shrugged. “If you want me to. I love that sort of thing.”

I was feeling all warm and silly from the martini, so I said why not.

We paid for our drinks and made our way to my apartment. Morrison wanted another drink when we got there, so I poured us both a glass of wine and led him into my bedroom.

I pulled out my first choice, a pair of oversized white leather shorts that I’d snagged at a crazy good price from Ruelala, and a grey t-shirt.

“With black peep toe booties?” I asked.

Morrison shook his head. “Those are cute for like, brunch with your friends. But a guy is going to think that looks like a fucking diaper.”

He was so right. I took another sip of wine, feeling invincible. Man, I was so smart to get his opinion.

“Okay what about this?” I pulled out a pair of distressed boyfriend jeans and this cool white silk top that dipped down low in the back.

“That’s hot,” Morrison said. “Let me see it on.”

I paused for a second, waiting for him to leave the room so I could undress. When he didn’t, I figured, eh, whatever, it’s no different than if Nina were sitting there.

Still, I turned around when I pulled off my top. I was just about to put the white tank on when I felt Morrison’s hands around my waist. Instinct kicked in and I shoved him off.

“What are you doing?” I spun around, clutching my shirt to my chest.

“What do you mean, what am I doing?” Morrison grinned. He took a step closer and tried to get handsy again. I slapped him away.

“Aren’t you gay?” I asked.

Morrison’s eyebrows jumped halfway up his forehead in surprise. “Gay?! I’m not gay.”

“Oh my God,” I said. “Can you turn around so I can put this on?”

Morrison didn’t move so I repeated myself, much more shrilly this time. When his back was to me I pulled my shirt on quickly.

“Okay,” I said, once I was clothed again. “This is really awkward. I thought because of all the styling advice and the—”

“I work in fashion,” Morrison said, huffily. He delivered the word ‘fashion’ with dramatic flair, exactly the way a straight guy would. That is sarcasm, people.

“I thought you were interested in Kevin!” I said.

“Kevin?” Morrison reeled back, like what I’d suggested was so off the wall. “My co-worker was. That’s why we invited you two.” He held up his hands. “You’re not really my type, honestly, but you invited me up here and you were all on that kick about how you don’t want a relationship, just sex, so I thought that’s why I was here.”

I covered my face with my hands. “This is so uncomfortable. I’m sorry. You should just go.”

“Fine by me,” Morrison said. As he was walking out, he shrieked, “And those jeans are hideous!”

I held up the jeans and gave them a good hard look. He was kind of right. I threw them in the bag I reserve for Goodwill donations. I swear I will actually get around to taking it to Goodwill one day.

At least Morrison gave me some good advice before he stormed out! No diaper, no overworked jeans. Check, check. I set to work finding my new perfect LA outfit that would be sure to knock Ian right out of his hipster-y Chucks.

Betting woman


The friendship separation with Ashley was feeling more and more official every day that went by that we didn’t speak, and I decided it was time to reconnect with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I started with Kevin.

Kevin was recently single, and he told me he was going to treat himself to a new suit as a consolation prize. He had an appointment at this custom men’s clothing store that had been featured on an episode of Suits. “Come,” he said. “A woman’s opinion helps when you’re trying to pretend you’re straight for your career.”

Michael Andrews Bespoke is on Great Jones street and looks like a set designer’s conception of a cool store in New York—something you’d see in a movie that doesn’t actually exist in real life. Sort of like the enormous doorman apartments on Fifth Avenue that all the female leads in every New York based rom-com live in (throwing shade at you in particular, Andi Anderson). Michael Andrews Bespoke is designed to resemble the Mad Men era, with kitschy wallpaper and 50s style furniture, a beautiful oak bar, and an even more beautiful model who greets you at the door and takes the wind right out of your sails even though you really liked your outfit that day.

Kevin had an appointment with someone named Morrison. I scanned the stylists while we sipped the drinks that the Glamazon had brought us, and immediately zeroed in on an Ed Westwick look alike in an impeccable suit, brown hair to his shoulders, working an intense lockjaw when he spoke. “Please God, let that be Morrison,” Kevin whispered to me, and I nodded intently.

The Gods must have been listening, because Ed Westwick’s doppelganger made his way over to us and introduced himself as Morrison. Both Kevin and I fixed him with our most charming smiles.

Over the next hour, Morrison brought out fabric book after fabric book, going over every damn stitch and shade of blue imaginable. And I thought finding the perfect pair of skinny jeans was hard—so much goes into making a custom suit! At one point I couldn’t help myself and I yawned.

“I think we’re boring your girlfriend.” Morrison winked at Kevin.

“I’m not his girlfriend,” I said at the same time Kevin said, “She’s not my girlfriend.”

“Oh,” Morrison said. Then he smiled a smile that would be just cause for mothers to lock away their teenage daughters. “Good to know.”

As soon as Morrison went into the back to get another fabric book, Kevin and I turned to each other and grinned. “So hot,” Kevin said.

“So hot,” I agreed.

“Should I ask him for his number?” Kevin asked.

“Wait,” I said. “What? No. He’s straight.”

Kevin laughed. “He’s blatantly hitting on me.”

“Squeeze me,” I said. “He’s blatantly hitting on me.”

“Let’s make this interesting,” Kevin said. “One hundred bucks he’s gay.” He stuck out his hand.

“One hundred bucks he’s straight,” I said, and shook Kevin’s hand.

Morrison returned from the back room and he and Kevin finished up the appointment. As we were putting on our coats, Kevin said, “I hope you have fun plans for later. It’d be a shame to waste that suit.” Damn him! That sneaky bastard had gotten the jump on me.

Morrison ran his fingers through his beautiful hair. “Ah, I’m here until seven. Then I’ve got this thing.” He nodded at his co-worker. “Going away party for this guy.”

“Oh?” I chimed in. “Where’s he going?”

“Hong Kong,” Morrison said. “To see up our new operation.”

“Very cool,” Kevin gushed, and I had to dig my nails into my palms to keep from rolling my eyes. Am I that lame and obvious when I flirt too? Ugh, probably.

Morrison disappeared into the back with his co-worker for a bit. When he came out, he leaned on his elbow and tucked his hair behind his ear. “Hey, you guys wanna come tonight? Should be a good time.”

I looked at Kevin. “We’d love to.”

Morrison gave us all the party details. “Oh, that’s right in my neighborhood,” I said.

“Really?” Morrison said. “Where? I’ll swing by and grab you on my way uptown.”

I could feel Kevin prickle beside me. He was wishing he didn’t live in the Financial District so hard at the moment.

I put my number in Morrison’s phone. “Why don’t you give me yours too?” Morrison said to Kevin, flashing that smile again. “Just in case.” Kevin rattled off his number faster than you could say underdog.

“It doesn’t mean anything that he’s picking you up,” Kevin hissed as we stepped out onto the street.

“Ohhhh, I think it does,” I taunted, even though to be totally honest, I wasn’t really sure myself.

“Well, tonight will tell,” Kevin said.

A few hours later, I was standing outside my apartment building, waiting for Morrison. He had texted me that he was close, and to come downstairs.

My street is pretty empty, so when I saw a cab idle to a stop in front of my building, I knew it was him. I stepped to the curb, and opened the door.

“Hi,” I said.

Morrison’s eyes flicked up and down my body, and I felt a warmth spread through my limbs. He was checking me out—this guy was totally straight. I was just about to climb into the cab when he stopped me.

“Wait,” he said. “Is that what you’re wearing?”

I glanced down at my outfit. I was wearing a leather (fine, pleather) skirt and a black t-shirt. “Why?”

“It’s just that….” Morrison brought his fingers to his mouth and furrowed his brow,”it’s just not really a dress kind of party.”

“It’s a skirt,” I said.

Morrison narrowed his eyes at the offending garment. “I just don’t want you to be uncomfortable. You looked so great in what you were wearing earlier.”

“I can go up and change into jeans?” I suggested.

“If you want,” Morrison said, like the whole thing was my idea. “They would look great with the tee you have on and like a long pendant necklace.”

I turned and trudged back to my apartment, tail between my legs. No straight guy tells you your outfit is bad and then gives you extremely detailed instructions on how to fix it. Also, straight guys don’t say tee. Tee! That’s fashion blog speak. Now I owed Kevin a hundred dollars and I really needed to put that towards a bikini and eyebrow wax. I had let myself get a little wild since I wasn’t getting any at the moment.

I changed into skinny jeans and booties, realized I had no idea WTF a ‘pendant’ necklace was and if I owned one, so I googled it. Turns out I do, a tarnished one from Urban Outfitters, so I looped that over my head.

When I attempted to climb into the cab this time, Morrison didn’t try to stop me. “You look hot now,” he said. “Very model off duty.” I mean if I had a dollar for every time someone said I looked like a model, I’d have, let’s see…ZERO DOLLARS. He was clearly overcompensating and trying to make me feel good because he’d insulted me earlier. Nina was at Brad’s apartment right now, drinking beer and playing Apples to Apples, and I was so wishing I was on my way there instead of where I was going.

We arrived at the party and there were gorgeous hipster-y girls in black skinny jeans, black tees, and long pendant necklaces as far as the eye could see. Was this like the cool girl uniform and I’d missed the memo?

“There’s your friend.” Morrison nodded across the room, and I spotted Kevin. “I’m going to get a drink, you want anything?”

I asked for a vodka soda and made my way over to Kevin. I passed a crowd of people bent over a hot pink coffee table, blatantly doing coke.

“I’m not cool enough to be here,” I said to Kevin.

Kevin brushed his shoulder off. “Speak for yourself.”

“Anyway,” I said. “Pretty sure you won.”

“Yes,” Kevin pumped his fist int he air. “Did he say it was love at first sight with me? He did, didn’t he?”

“Calm down,” I said.

Kevin poked me in the ribs. “Don’t be a sore loser. I won’t really make you pay me. I’m not that mean.”

I stayed for a few drinks, but by eleven, I was ready to go. “I’m going to stop by Nina’s boyfriend’s place,” I said to Kevin. “He’s having a few people over. Want to come?”

Kevin wanted to stay, so I gave him a hug goodbye and went to find Morrison. I hadn’t seen much of him since we’d gotten there. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey,” I said. “I’m going to take off.”

Morrison pouted. “We hardly got to hang out.”

“It’s okay!” I said. “Thank you for inviting me. It was fun.”

“What’s your schedule like this week?” Morrison asked. “We should grab a drink or something.”

“I usually work pretty late,” I said. “But maybe Wednesday?”

“Wednesday works.” Morrison gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Bye, gorgeous.”

Well, he wasn’t interested in purchasing my goods, but I could always use a friend with a keen eye for fashion who could also probably recommend some good hair products. His hair was really shiny.

I sent Nina a text letting her know I was on my way over to Brad’s, and hopped on the subway. I didn’t bother to check my phone again, and I really wish I had, because Nina had texted me, ‘Cool. Just a heads up Ashley is here.’ I still would have gone, but I just would have been more mentally prepared to see her.

Ashley had turned it out in a backless tank top and jeans that looked like they had been painted on. She was sitting on some guy’s lap when I walked in. We politely nodded to each other and Ashley went back to her canoodling.

“Who’s that guy?” I whispered to Nina.

“Kenny,” Nina said. “One of Brad’s friends.”

“Do you like him?”

Nina shrugged. “He seems nice. But I think he gets around a lot.”

“Well, whatever,” I said. “Maybe a good boinking is what she needs to get over Tom.”

I had just cracked open a beer when someone pounded on the door so hard I spilled some of it down my shirt.

“What the fuck?” Brad grumbled, pulling himself off the couch and making his way over to the door. Whoever was on the other side was still pounding.

Brad pulled the door open. “What?”

It was Tom. And his face and bald head were both purple. I was so shocked I didn’t even stop to wonder how he knew where Brad lived.

“Tom!” Ashley said. She jumped off of Kenny’s lap. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“You wouldn’t pick up your phone,” he seethed. “And now I see why.” He charged at Kenny. Thankfully, Brad stepped in and stopped him.

“Dude,” Brad said. “I’m sorry, but you need to go.”

“Get the fuck off of me!” Tom shrieked. He shoved Brad off of him so hard Brad crashed into the wall, knocking that same print off its hook that Nina had months ago.

Brad regained his balance. His hands were shaking as he said, “If you don’t get out of here right now I’m calling the cops.”

“Ashley,” Tom said, ignoring Brad, “if you don’t come with me I swear to God it’s really over. I have never been so serious in my entire life.”

I thought it already was over. I glanced at Nina, but she looked just as confused as I did. Ashley had tucked herself into a corner as far away from Tom as possible, and now she took a step towards him.

“Ashley, don’t,” I said.

Tom spun around and pointed his finger at me. “Stay out of this, bitch.”

Nina gasped.

“That’s enough!” Brad said, louder this time. “Get out now or I’m calling the cops.”

Tom stared me down for one more second before making his exit. He never took his eyes off of me. It was like he was marking me or something, and a shiver went down my spine.

When he was finally gone, Kenny was the first to speak. “Who the fuck was that?”

“Are you okay?” Nina asked me.

“Not really,” I said, shakily. “I’ve seen too many Lifetime movies to know what happens to the friend who meddles.”

“Relax,” Nina said. “This is not a Lifetime movie. But I do kind of think you should spend the night here tonight.” She nodded at Ashley, who was now sitting on the sofa looking at her hands. “That one too.” Nina leaned in close and dropped her voice. “She mentioned she thought he was following her. He could be waiting outside, who knows.”

I threw my hands up in the air. “This is just like a Lifetime movie.”

The party thinned out after that, and Nina went through the apartment, finding extra pillows and blankets for Ashley and me.  Ashley and I didn’t speak much beyond figuring out who got what spot on the couch. Brad has one of those L-shaped couches, and I volunteered to take the smaller arm since Ashley is a few inches taller than me.

Everyone went to bed. Curled up on the couch with Ashley’s feet by my head, I couldn’t take the silence anymore. “Ash, is he really following you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Ashley sighed. “I thought I was just being paranoid. But I don’t know how else he would have found me tonight.”

“But I thought he…I mean I thought you said he broke up with you. Why would he be following you?”

“He did,” Ashley said. “But now he wants to get back together. Says he forgave me.” Ashley laughed, bitterly. “Right. Like I’m the one who needs to be forgiven.”

I was surprised. Of course I agreed with her, but it was the first time I hadn’t heard Ashley make an excuse for him. Maybe some time apart from him had given her some clarity.

“I’m really embarrassed,” Ashley said, and I heard her sniffle.

“Ash,” I said. “Why are you embarrassed?”

“Because he is such a jackass and it was so obvious but I was too stubborn to listen to you guys.”

“Hey,” I said. “It’s hard to see the truth sometimes, especially when it’s right in front of you. How many times did Justin tell me he did not want to be in a relationship, and I just didn’t want to believe him? I looked like such a desperado. That’s embarrassing.”

“I guess,” Ashley said.

We were quiet for a really long time. I thought Ashley had gone to sleep, and I was drifting off too when she said, “I’m going to therapy.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah. I need to figure out why I’m attracted to these losers who treat me like shit. Luke, now Tom.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” I said. “A professional is going to see things in you that you don’t see, that your friends can’t even see. It’s like we’re too close, you know?”

Ashley didn’t say anything for a moment. “I didn’t mean to come down on you so hard. I know you were just trying your best. It’s not like there is a right way to handle a situation like this.”

“I just worry that you think life has to be hard,” I said. I’d never brought up Ashley’s parents before, but I felt like we were being totally transparent, and it was now or never. “I feel like that’s the lesson your Mom has imparted on you, and it’s just not true. Everything doesn’t have to be a struggle. And if something is, maybe it’s not worth it.”

“My Mom is a miserable bitch and I don’t want to be anything like her,” Ashley said. I’d never heard Ashley speak about her Mom like that. “I will do anything not to become like her.”

Ashley turned over and pulled the covers over her head. After a while, her breathing deepened, and I knew she’d fallen asleep.

Frank called me into his office first thing on Monday morning, which was unusual because Frank made it very clear he does not like to be disturbed on Mondays.

“Do you have any personal conflicts next week?” Frank asked. “Family events? Doctor’s appointment?”

“Um, nothing,” I said. “Why?”

“I’ve been asked to go to LA to meet up with some potential clients,” Frank said. “I’d like you to come with me. What do you think?”

I thought it sounded awesome. Ian did too. I emailed him the second I got back to my desk.



Note: I dont own this story. Read it from Jessica Knoll’s blog years back and I thought I should share it with you guys. Enjoy!

Kind of a Big Deal

Ashley was in no shape to party, so I volunteered to take her back to my apartment and put her to bed. Nina offered to come as well, but Brad was there and he seemed really into her knee highs, and I figured at least one of us should get some that night.

Ashley wasn’t making any sense in the cab. I kept asking her what happened, why Tom broke up with her, and all she kept saying was that I didn’t understand. That I was so lucky, and I didn’t understand. “What don’t I understand?” I demanded. My good Samaritan patience was wearing thin.

“You just don’t,” she sniffled.

I got her upstairs and in my bed and then collapsed on my couch with a bowl of Halloween candy and a glass of wine. So my night wasn’t a total bust.

In the morning, I finally got the whole story: Tom’s sister found out about their ‘incident’ (I visibly gulped when Ashley told me this). Tom thought he could trust Ashley to keep their private business private, but clearly she was too immature to do that. So he ended it.

I’d been meaning to tell Ashley about my conversation with Isabel, but she hadn’t responded to any of my texts after the party. I could have called, I guess, pushed a little harder. But I did try.

“Okay,” I said, “first of all, you are not immature for telling people what happened. You were smart. Victims of domestic violence are usually—”

“Jesus, enough with the domestic violence crap,” Ashley groaned. She was sitting on my couch, her legs tucked underneath her and a big bottle of water balanced in her lap. “I was not a ‘victim’ of ‘domestic violence’. We had an argument that got a little heated. I pushed him first—does that make Tom a victim?”

“Okay, Ash,” I said, “I have to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.” I took her through my conversation with Tom’s sister. When I finished, Ashley laughed softly and shook her head.

“I knew you’d find a way to involve yourself in this,” Ashley said. “You couldn’t have just removed yourself from the situation, like Nina. You had to stay and insert yourself because you can’t stand when people don’t do things exactly the way you think they should be done.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I said. “Nina bailed on you and I stood by your side—I was your only freaking friend at your engagement party, and I blew off my plans last night to take you home—and I’m the one you’re mad at?”

“It’s like you’re incapable of doing nice things out of the goodness of your heart. You do them so you can hold them over my head!” Ashley said.

I took a deep breath. “Seriously, Ash? You may not like how I handled things, but I handled it the best I could. Sorry it wasn’t good enough for you.” I shook my head. “I think you should go.”

Ashley’s eyes welled up with tears. “Oh my God, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot.” She buried her head in her hands and her shoulders started to shake. We just sat there in silence for a long time. Ashley is one of my oldest friends, and we’ve been through a lot together, but sometimes I just don’t know how much more this friendship can weather. As much as it pains me to say it, Ashley becomes more like her mother every day. Just a difficult person to be around. Someone who doesn’t believe it’s possible to really be happy. Someone who is always so suspicious of people and their motives. I’m no saint, but God that can wear on you.

So that was the rest of my weekend. Fun times! And I was so nervous to meet my new boss on Monday that I barely slept on Sunday night. I got in at my usual time, 830AM, about half an hour before everyone else. Right away, I noticed the light underneath William—I mean Frank’s—door. Evidently, my new boss is an early bird too.

I dropped my things by my desk and pinched my shoulder blades together. First impressions are everything and good posture is one way to make a good one (Thanks for that lesson, Mom!). Plus, as a short person, it gives the illusion of another inch or two.

I knocked on the door and Frank called me inside. “Hi, Frank?” I said. “I’m Josie.”

Frank was sitting at his computer and he stopped typing to give me a look like, who are you and what are you doing in here?

“Your assistant,” I said.

“Right,” he said. “Hi.”

Frank was a good ten years older and fifty pounds slimmer than William. He had stark white hair, delicate looking glasses, and he was wearing a bow tie my Mom would have described as ‘spiffy-looking’. He was also not a fan of a smile or speaking, apparently.

“So I just thought I would introduce myself since we’ll be working together,” I added, lamely. “Is there anything I should get started on today?”

Frank went back to typing. “Not right now,” he said so quietly I almost didn’t hear him.

Alrighty then! I stuck my tail between my legs and headed back to my desk.

Around 11, Frank finally emerged from his office and asked me to come and talk to him.

“So the first thing you should know about me is that I don’t like to be disturbed in the morning, because that’s when I’m in my flow,” Frank said.

“Noted!” I said.

“The second thing you should know about me is that I don’t do email,” Frank said.

“Okay,” I said. “How do you…I mean, how should I…I mean, how do you communicate with your assistants?”

“Exactly how mankind has been doing for millions of years and how we’re doing right now,” Frank said. “We talk.”

I nodded. “Okay. I mean, that sounds great actually.”

“Tell me about you,” Frank said. I realized I still hadn’t seen him smile yet.

“What do you mean?’

“I mean, what are your hobbies? Where are you from? What’s your favorite book?”

“Um, I’m from New Jersey,” I said, feeling like I was on the worst first date in the world. “And, I like to run. And read and write.”

“Who are you favorite authors?” Frank asked.

“Um, I’ve loved Gillian Flynn since before she was Gillian Flynn. Her first book is still my favorite.” Frank grimaced, so I quickly added, “but I also love, like, Donna Tartt, Jeffrey Eugenides,” the grimace was slowly disappearing from Frank’s face so I kept going, “and Louise Erdrich and Elizabeth Strout. Oh, and Alice Munro.”

“Isn’t it wonderful that she finally won?” Frank said, referring to her recent Nobel Prize get.

I nodded feverishly. “It is.” I once read a tip in an advice book written by a body language expert that Frank would certainly turn his nose up at, and it said that mimicking others either by copying their mannerisms or language is one way to get them to like you. “Really wonderful,” I added.

“So here’s my question,” Frank said, “it seems like you are a well-read young lady. So why,” Frank spun in his chair and picked up a pile of manuscripts William hadn’t taken with him, “are you pushing this crap.” His desk shook as he slammed the pile down in front of him.

“Um, it’s cheap. And fast. And people buy them,” I said.

“You know what I think?” Frank said. “I think people want good, quality books. I don’t want to read something by some downmarket blogger who thinks she’s Lauren Conrad. I don’t even want to read anything by Lauren Conrad.” He snickered. “Not like she actually writes herself. I want to read about Michael Douglas’s triumph with cancer, or Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, in his own words. Quality, interesting stuff.”

“I mean, I’d love to read that,” I said.

“So why haven’t you gone after those people?”

Because William holds the complete opposite viewpoint that you do. He doesn’t think people want quality. He thinks they want quantity, the fluffier and easier to digest the better. “That just wasn’t the direction I was told to take,” I said, trying to be diplomatic.

“What if that’s the direction I want you to take?” Frank said.

“I’m game,” I said.

Frank smiled for the first time since I’d met him. “Good.”

Frank reminded me of Megan—serious, committed to maintaining the integrity of the book industry. I don’t know if I’ve been drinking the William kool-aid for too long, or if this is what I genuinely believe, but it seems like a lost cause to me. A noble one, and one I’d prefer to pursue over what I was doing with William if money weren’t an issue. Of course I’d prefer to work with more elevated writers, truly accomplished people who are talented and have great stories to tell, over the ‘writers’ I was currently working with. Every single one of those bloggers and YouTube personalities needs a ghost writer, and it’s a freaking joke. But when it comes down to what sells and what doesn’t, a quality book by a reputable writer just doesn’t sell as well as an easy read. Not only that, but it takes longer to produce, and it costs more money to produce. It may be what I prefer to read in my downtime, but if I ever want to make money in this industry, it seemed like the only way to do that was to do it William’s way. William was a business man, whereas people like Frank and Megan? They’re crusaders. They’re in it because they’re passionate about what they do. I’d love to be able to be passionate about what I do and pay New York City rent, but it doesn’t always pan out that way.

When I met William for dinner a few nights later, he was on me like Amanda Bynes on Drake about what direction Frank was taking the company in. It was uncomfortable—I need to play both sides of this, and I don’t want to alienate William or betray Frank’s confidence, since he is my boss now.

“He wants to go more upmarket,” I said. “He wants to reclaim the era of the writer. Back before the Internet was so ubiquitous and not everyone could be a writer.”

William snorted. “How idealistic.” He pointed his fork at me. It was shiny with the grease from his steak. We were at the Bobby Van’s in Midtown, and the entire staff knew William by name.  “I can’t wait to see this yo-yo crash and burn.”

I shrugged. “Maybe people are fatigued by all the crap out there. Maybe this works.”

William laughed. “He’s gotten to you already. Listen, there is always something to be learned from a new boss. Even if you hate him and you don’t agree with the way he handles his business at all.” He went back to sawing his fillet. “So take what you can from him. When I make a move, you know my door is always open for you. But,” he shrugged, “maybe you decide not to walk through it.”

He was testing me. “Of course I want to go with you wherever you end up,” I reaffirmed.

William grinned. His teeth were purple from the wine. “Good.”

After dinner, I decided to walk home. Halfway there, Richard, of all people, texted me. ‘I’m in your hood. Come to this Halloween party I’m at.’

‘I don’t have a costume,’ I wrote.

‘Of course you do, you’re a dick tease,’ he said, followed by a smiley face emoticon.

‘You’re such an asshole,’ I wrote back. ‘Where?’

The bar was three blocks from my apartment, so I decided to stop by for a drink. I hadn’t seen Richard since that night in my apartment, when I’d thrown that Social Media viewing party. It had only been for a few minutes because he had a date, and that had been weeks ago.

I showed my ID to the bouncer at the door, who was dressed as a SWAT team member. The bar was crowded and smelled like boy. I chalked it up to all of the guys, overheated and sweating in their costumes.

I finally spotted Richard. He was dressed as Ron Burgundy from Anchorman. It was actually a great costume for him because he’s so tall and lanky. I was glad to see he’d put on a little weight since the last time we saw each other. He’d been looking a little gaunt.

“Josie!” Richard said, and waved me over.

“You look awesome,” I said.

“Well,” Richard leaned in close, “I am kind of a big deal.”

I laughed.

“Oh and meet my co-anchor, Veronica Corningstone.” Richard gestured to a petite blond, who was dressed up as the Christina Applegate character.

“I’m Sam,” she said, and extended her hand.

“Josie,” I said.

Sam turned to Richard. “Babe, I’m getting a drink. You want anything?”

“Scotch!” Richard said.

“Right,” she said. “You?”

“Um, whatever you’re having,” I said.

“Be right back!” Sam turned on her heel and practically skipped off.

“She’s cute!” I said to Richard.

“I’m really happy,” Richard beamed. “I wanted you to meet her. Your approval means a lot to me.”

I searched his face for any sign that he might be putting it on, but he appeared totally earnest. “I’m happy for you,” I said, and I meant it.

I only stayed for a little bit. Frankly, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world to play third wheel to a couple still in their honeymoon stage. I am happy for Richard, but my gag reflex operates on another level than my emotional compass.

On my short walk home, I called Nina to tell her about Richard and his rapid fire 180. She didn’t pick up, so I ended the call and moved on to Ashley. Then I remembered, Ashley and I weren’t exactly speaking right now. It had been four days since she’d left my apartment, and I hadn’t heard from her since. I stared at her name on my phone a little longer, contemplating calling her anyway. Then I stuffed my phone back in my purse. I was tired of chasing after Ashley. Tired of her accusations that I’m the bad friend. If we were going to talk again, she had to come to me


Way back in the summer, when Ashley, Nina, and I were all in a better place, we had one of these hangover Sundays in my apartment where every meal was takeout and the TV was permanently tuned to Lifetime. A League of Their Own came on right as we were ordering our third meal of the day (there would be four), and someone mentioned what a great costume a Rockford Peach would make. And so our Halloween costumes of 2013 were born. Nina as ‘All the Way’ Mae, Ashley as Dottie, and me as her little sister, Kit (I’m shorter than Ashley by a lot).

The way things have been going the last few weeks, I assumed Ashley would not be celebrating Halloween with us. So I was tres surprised when I got a text from her asking if I got the Facebook invite to a costume party one of our guy friends was throwing.

I told her I would meet her and Nina there, because first, I was planning on stopping by this other costume party that Has invited me to. I was hoping that my cute costume would soften the blow of The Truth: This Rockford Peach was not a lawyer with a heart of gold, but a media chick with a Twitter addiction. But! Just like a lawyer, injustice gets me all riled up, so sometimes I tweet change.org petitions. Practically the same thing.

Saturday night I suited up and hopped on the subway. The physical proof that light years separate twenty-something entry levelers and thirty-something doctors is in the location of their respective costume parties: Twenty somethings in sticky-floored bars, thirty-somethings in spectacular lofts in Tribeca.

Has was sporting a white headband, fake scratches on his face, and a rumpled suit. “What are you?” I asked.

“Mayhem,” he said. “From the insurance commercials.”

I snapped my fingers and nodded my head in approval. “Good one.”

“And this,” Has gestured at my uniform, which was not only adorable but the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn out on a Saturday night. “This is amazing. I love Tom Hanks in that movie.”

Has led me to the kitchen and asked me what I wanted to drink. I spotted a bottle of Veuve in an ice bucket and nodded at it. I’d get my nourishment now, before it was on to lukewarm Bud Lites.

Has poured me a glass and I took a sip. The little bubbles set off a flare of courage inside of me. “So, there’s something I need to tell you. I should have mentioned this before but I was just so caught off guard that I think I got tongue tied or something. But I’m not a—”

“Has, my man!” Before I could finish, a guy dressed as a Thundercat swooped in.

“Beauman!”Has grabbed his hand and pulled him in for one of those chest-bump hug things that guys do.

Has introduced me. “Beauman was my roommate freshman year.”

“Nice to meet you,” I said, hoping he would go away so I had a chance to talk to Has alone again. Instead, the two started chatting.

“It’s been forever,” Has said. “How’s Rachel?”

Has put his arm around my shoulders, presumably so I didn’t feel left out as the two caught up. As they chattered away about ‘Rachel’, I let my eyes wander around the room. There were some pretty good costumes—a girl dressed in a red tube dress as a Solo cup, a guy as the Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story. There was a guy dressed in shades of grey, his hair spray painted to match, who caught my eye. Is he an old person? I wondered. When he turned around, I almost dropped my glass of champagne, which would have been bad because this was grown up party with crystal champagne flutes. The guy in grey was Justin.

He spotted me too, and gave a little wave. I waved back, praying he would stay where he was. But no, no, no! He started to make his way over to me. Okay, this would be fine, there was no reason for my occupation to come up. I’d just keep the conversation work-free! Oh, who am I kidding? All New Yorkers do is talk about their damn jobs, it’s their favorite!

“What’s up?” Justin said, once he reached our little group. Has and Beauman’s conversation came to a halt. “I’d give you a hug but I don’t want to get paint all over you.”

“How are you?” I asked, tightly. “Um, Has, this is Justin. Justin this is Has.”

“Hey, man.” Justin nodded at Has and Has nodded back.

“So, what are you?” I asked.

“Josie, come on,” Justin said. “You of all people should get this.”

“A decaying zombie?”

“Noooo,” Justin said. “Think about your little side writing job, and then you should get it.”

Oh my god, just shut up Justin. “He’s 50 Shades of Grey!” Beauman said.

Justin pointed at him, like thank you, and shook his head at me. “And you call yourself a writer.”

“You’re a writer?” Has asked. A few lines collected between his eyebrows.

“Just a little something I do on the side,” I said, quickly.

“I’ll tell you, this girl is amazing,” Has said, “head of the Pro Bono Program at her law firm, and a writer on the side.” It was like watching your hairstylist chop off five inches of hair when you only asked for a trim, and suddenly you have a bob (and you cannot pull off a bob), and it’s so terrible you can’t even process what just happened.

I closed my eyes, waiting for Justin to blow my cover. But he just said, “Oh yeah, she’s something alright.”

I opened one eye. Justin had a huge, knowing smile on his face.

After a few minutes of chit-chat, Has and Beauman returned to their conversation, and Justin and I stepped off to the side. “A lawyer?” he whispered.

“Shut up,” I said. “It was an honest screw-up.”

“Sure,” Justin laughed. He took a swig of his beer. “So how long are you going to keep this up?”

“I’m planning on telling him tonight,” I said. “I just haven’t had the chance.”

“You’re like the kookiest girl I’ve ever met,” Justin said. “Always something weird going on with you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. What are you doing here anyway?”

Justin nodded across the room to his older brother. “Some of my brother’s friends. Nothing else really going on tonight. Rick’s gotten all lame now that he’s engaged.” Rick is Justin’s roommate.

“How dare he.” I grinned.

Justin and I chatted for a few minutes more. “I gotta take a leak,” Justin said. “Good luck with…” he laughed, “this.”

“Thanks for not blowing my cover,” I said, and Justin winked at me. Sometimes it takes just a little distance to see that your exes aren’t bad people, they just aren’t right for you. Justin is such a bro, and I can’t believe I tried to turn him into a boyfriend. The guy will be the last of his friends to get married, (and it will be to a twenty-eight year old bombshell who all the forty-something wives will hate), and until then, he’s going to live it up.

After another few minutes, I finally had Has all to myself, and I seized the opportunity. “So I was trying to tell you something before,” I said. “It’s a little embarrassing.”

“You’re a Republican,” Has said.

I laughed. “No.” I took a deep breath. “I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know why you thought that. I think maybe there was another girl at the hospital who looked like me who told you she was a lawyer the same night I was there. Anyway, I didn’t correct you when you assumed, because you made a dig about media girls and…” I winced, “that is actually what I do.”

Has just looked at me for a while, like he was trying to process everything I’d said. “So you…lied. About being a lawyer?’

“Well, I didn’t correct you when you assumed. So I prefer to call it…unmeditated deceit.”

“Whatever it is,” Has said, “it’s pretty weird.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry, I just felt embarrassed because you had such a low opinion of what I really do.”

“And what is it you really do, exactly?”

“In a nut shell? I’m an editorial assistant at a publishing house that publishes famous people’s memoirs.”

“See,” Has said. “That’s actually a job to be proud of. I wish you told me that from the get-go.”

“I do too,” I said.

There was an awkward moment where neither of us spoke. Finally, Has said, “Didn’t you say you had another party to go to tonight?”

Well, that was a hint if I ever heard one. I thanked Has for inviting me and said goodnight, fully aware that I would probably never see him again.

It’s like the goddamn Hunger Games trying to get a cab the Saturday night before Halloween. I would have taken the subway, but I’d checked the MTA app and the train I needed to take wasn’t running.

I finally saw a cab with its light on, and I have never been so grateful that I was wearing sneakers as I chased it down. I was just a few steps away when some Miley Cyrus girl rounded the corner. Her eyes lit up at the empty cab in front of her that I had hailed.

“That’s mine!” I called, but she was closer than I was, and she got there first.

“Sorry!” she said, and slammed the door shut. And let me tell you, that bitch did not sound sorry at all. 

Just as I was about to shed my Peach costume as my anger turned me into the Incredible Hulk, I heard someone yelling my name.  It was Justin, climbing into an open cab. I jogged across the street.

“Where are you going?” Justin asked.

“Lower east side,” I said.

“I’m going to the East Village,” Justin said. “Get in, I’ll drop you.”

I didn’t hesitate. It was fucking freezing out and I was wearing a skirt and knee high socks.

“Your boyfriend bust you?” Justin asked.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I said. “And I busted myself.”

Justin laughed. “You don’t want to date a doctor any way. They have the worst schedules.”

“Speaking from experience?” I asked.

We passed underneath a street light and Justin’s face lit up for a moment. He was giving me one of his cocky half-smiles and goddamn him, my stomach did a flip flop. “Maybe.”

“Where are you going anyway?” I asked, trying to steer the topic into safer ground.

“Co-worker’s party,” Justin said. Then he raised his eyebrows. “Hey, speaking of co-workers. I saw you on TV.” He snapped his fingers, trying to remember. “What was it called?”

Social Media,” I said. The show had two episodes left, but my plotline had been over for a while now.

“That’s it!” Justin said. “Pretty cool. You going to do more TV?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. William is all for it. He said you have to be able to put TV experience on your resume these days if this is the industry you want to be in. But he’s not my boss anymore.”

“What happened?” Justin asked, and I told him about the changes at Literatti.

“Shit,” Justin said. “That sucks. But good for you for making the cut.”

“We’ll see,” I said. “My new boss starts this week.”

Justin picked up the hem of my skirt and rubbed it between his fingers. “You warm enough in this?”

“No.” I laughed.

“Well,” Justin said, “you look pretty cute in it.”

I smiled. “That’s the point.”

The cab caught a pothole in the road and it jostled Justin and I closer together. Justin had been holding onto the hem of my skirt, but now he set it down, smoothing his fingers over my thigh. He leaned in and I did too. Our noses brushed, and then we were kissing. Justin’s hand was curled around the back of my neck, and tugged at one of my braided pigtails. “I like these,” he grinned.

“Miss!” The cab driver yelled. “We’re here.”

I pulled away from Justin and looked out the window. We were on Essex and Grand. I found my purse and dug around in it, located a ten, and handed it to Justin.

“How about you keep that and we just head back to my place?” Justin suggested.

It was tempting the way eating an entire birthday cake is tempting. Yeah, you want it, but you somehow find the strength to stop after a few slices. If you ate the whole thing you’d be mad at yourself. “I have to meet my friends,” I said. I pushed the ten at him.

“You sure?” Justin said. “’cause I’m in a particularly freaky mood and you’re one of my favorite people to get weird with.”

“You’re ridiculous.” I laughed. I leaned in and gave him one last kiss. “Good seeing you.” I slid to the right and pushed the door open.

“You too,” Justin said, right before I shut the door.

I spotted one of my fellow Peaches as soon as I walked in the door of the bar. Nina had stenciled a fake mole on her face and was wearing a pointy-cone bra underneath her uniform, her nod to Madonna, I guess.

“Josie!” Nina said. “Why do you have silver paint all over your face?”

I touched my fingers to my cheek. “Shit,” I said. “Help me get this off.”

“What is this from?” Nina asked.

“Justin,” I said.

Justin?” Nina repeated, incredulously.

I nodded slyly.

“Listen, I want to hear the whole story, but there’s something you should—”

Before Nina could finish, Ashley zig-zagged over. She knocked into some guy in a unicorn costume, causing him to spill half his beer on himself. “Hey!” he said, but Ashley either didn’t hear or chose to ignore him. “Josie!” Ashley stumbled into me and gave me a hug. “Best friend,” she said into my hair.

“Whoa,” I said. “Maybe let’s order you some water?”

“Gross, I hate water,” Ashley slurred. She must have noticed the paint on my face, because she licked her fingers and tried to rub it off. And that’s when I realized—Ashley wasn’t wearing her engagement ring.

“Ashley!” I said, and grabbed her hand. “Where’s your ring? Did you lose it?”

Ashley looked at her naked finger like she was just realizing the diamond was gone. Then suddenly, her eyes welled up with tears. “He broke up with me,” she wailed.

I looked at Nina. “That’s what I was trying to tell you,” she said. “Happy Halloween!”

The Lying Game

After getting my stitches out, I treated myself to a cab ride to the office because I was late and I didn’t have my fugly commuting shoes on me.

I knew something had gone down the moment I arrived. My co-workers were scattered in little groups across the floor, whispering amongst themselves.

Kate made a beeline for my cubicle as soon as I sat down. “Did you know?” she asked.

“Know what?”

“That William was leaving,” she said. “He’s gone. He must have cleaned out his office in the middle of the night or something.”

“What?” I shot out of my chair and went to see for myself. William’s corner office wasn’t completely empty, but all the important things—the movie poster of Big Lights, Bright City, autographed by Jay McInerney, his stupid lamp with the special red light bulb that was supposed to ‘increase energy’, and all of the manuscripts and contracts covering his desk—they were all gone. A little thrill went through me; William had really left, and if he kept his word, I really had a chance to go somewhere new and exciting with him.

“This is so weird,” I said, turning to Kate. I didn’t feel like I should tell anyone I knew this was happening, not even her. “I wonder what happened.”

Later in the day, my phone rang, and the caller ID read ‘Human Resources’. I took a deep breath and answered. I was told to come down to the fourth floor immediately. As I stepped onto the elevator, I wondered if this was how Richard felt when he took this ride: terrified but oddly relieved.

I was greeted by Barbara Duane, the head of HR. “Quite a day you’ve had, I can imagine.”

I nodded but didn’t say anything. It felt like my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth.

“What happened here?” Barbara pointed to her own eyebrow.

“Oh,” I said. I’d almost forgotten about my injury. “I fell. On the subway.”

Barbara sucked air in through her teeth and winced. “Ouch.”

“It doesn’t hurt too much,” I offered. Just get to it, I wanted to say. This is torture.

“So,” Barbara said. “I’m sure you know that William has quit.”

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“And left us in quite a lurch,” Barbara added, huffily.

I wanted to say, Oh, like the one you would have left him in when you fire him in a few weeks’ time? But I just nodded again and kept my expression neutral.

“In any case,” Barbara said. “we happen to have a new editor-at-large starting next week, and he needs an assistant. We in HR all agree you are the most qualified candidate.”

So I wasn’t getting fired…yet. Barbara said that Frank, the new guy, was starting next week, and in the meantime I was to cease all work on any manuscripts William and I had developed together.

“Why?” I asked.

Barbara sighed. “Because it’s not the direction this company is going in. Bloggers, little no-nothing YouTuber stars. That is not the calibre of celebrity that Literatti aspires to work with.”

“YouTube,” I said.

Barbara narrowed her eyes at me. “Sorry?”

“YouTube,” I repeated. “Not YouTuber.” I suddenly understood why William was so frustrated with this place. They were old school, and they just didn’t get it.

“Right. Whatever.” Barbara flicked her hand at me.

“But those writers have already signed contracts,” I said.

“We’ll still pay them what we owe them,” Barbara said. “But we’re not moving forward with the printing process.”

“But why wouldn’t you?” I pushed. “That’s such a waste of money.”

“Frank will explain on Monday,” Barbara snipped. And that was that.

I sent a text to William when I was back at my desk, ‘I can’t believe you just left without telling me’.

‘It’s better this way,’ William wrote back. ‘This way you’re not involved and they can’t nail you on it.  What is everyone saying?’

I told him about my conversation with Barbara, and about Frank, the new editor-at-large. I was careful about how much I divulged though—even though my loyalty went to William first and foremost, I didn’t know what the future held for us, and I didn’t want to talk badly about my current employer. Who knows, it could end up being in my best interest to stay here. I had to look out for myself, and as tempting as it was to gossip with William and laugh about how this company had no vision, no creativity, it was just asking for a bad karmic return.

William suggested we grab dinner next week, after Frank had started, and after he’d had some time to follow up on a few feelers he’d put out.

The next morning, I woke up to a text from Dr. Ahmad. ‘Small opening in my schedule tonight between 7-8. Doesn’t happen very often. Coffee on the Upper East Side around 7?’

I had Ashley’s engagement party after work, but it didn’t start until 8:30, so I texted back and suggested a diner I liked by the hospital.

‘Love that place,’ Dr. Ahmad wrote back. ‘Good call’. I realized I had no idea what his first name was, which was a little weird.

I’ve definitely never met a guy for coffee during happy hour before, let alone under lights so bright they make me want to get all the botox even though I’m only 25. But maybe it would be good for a change not to get all gumby-legged and handsy over a few glasses of wine? Oh, who am I kidding. I live for that shit. But I was willing to make an exception for Dr. Ahmad, mostly because he looked like he belonged on Grey’s Anatomy.

I showered and got ready for work, annoyed I’d already worn my favorite LBD into the office just a few days before. I settled on my second favorite dress, a long sleeved black dress that Nina said makes me look like a witch. “But a sexy Halloween type witch, right?” I’d asked. To which she’d said, “Nope. Like you have a wart on your nose.” Different strokes.

I didn’t really have much to do at work, since everything I had been working on was on hold indefinitely. I spent the afternoon polishing my resume and updating my LinkedIn profile just in case. When I left to meet Dr. Ahmad, I realized it was the first time I’d left the office before 7PM in I couldn’t remember how long. It felt like I’d taken a half day.

Dr. Ahmad already had a cup of coffee in front of him when I arrived. He was wearing his scrubs and doing some serious justice to his five o’clock shadow scruff. Why, hello.

I stopped by his side. “Dr. Ahmad? Hi.”

“Josie,” he said, standing and gesturing for me to take a seat. “And it’s Hasan,” he added. “Has for short.”

Once we were settled in our seats, Has said, “Looking good,” and pointed to his eyebrow.

“I’ve been applying the Vitamin E oil every hour,” I said. “I do not want a scar.”

“Keep it up and it will be like it never happened.”

“Except it will always sting that I missed Pearl Jam.” I stuck out my lip and mock-pouted.

“That’s where you were headed?” he asked. We got to chatting about music, our favorite bands, and the best concerts we’d ever seen in person. Has told me he goes to Burning Man every year, and I pictured him treating all those concert-goers tweaked out on Molly. In my mind’s eye he was shirtless, sweating underneath the sun, and screaming, “If we don’t get this man to a hospital within the hour he will die. Do you hear me?!”

After I had a cup of coffee in front of me (decaf after three, otherwise I stay up all night fretting over things like how it’s been three years since I’ve been to the dentist), Has said, “Honestly, I was surprised you wanted to do this. I assumed you were, you know, involved with your friend.”

Nina and I? Lezzzbians? I’d never gotten that before. I mean, we were headed to a concert and I guess we were dressed a little on the tough side, but if that was all he was basing that assumption on it was pretty weak. The idea of Nina being my girlfriend made me laugh. “God, no.”

“Oh,” Has shrugged. “The way you were…I just assumed.”

I didn’t know what to make of that, so I just changed the subject. “So you have to go back to work after this?”

Has nodded. “Sucks, doesn’t it?”

I nodded. “But it’s so admirable, what you do.”

“Well,” Has pointed at me. “You too! The head of the Pro Bono program at your law firm. I mean, good for you. If I meet one more woman in this city who is in media, God.” He rolled his eyes dramatically.

I don’t know what came over me—a combination of female agreeability and good old fashion surprise—because instead of correcting him, and telling him that I was not, in fact, the do-gooder intellectual he thought I was, but instead the media-girl who he was so sick of meeting, I said, “I know, right?”

Thankfully, before I could dig myself any deeper, Has looked at his watch and said, “Sorry to do this. But I really have to get going.”

I was all prepared to never see Has again. But then out on the street, he leaned down and gave me a kiss goodbye, and he smelled like late nights and courage under fire, and when he said we should do this again, I nodded dumbly.

As soon as I was by myself, I called Nina and told her everything.

“This is amazing,” Nina said. “My very own little Elle Woods! I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Stop,” I said. “I’m honestly so confused about why he thought that though. Was there another girl at the hospital who looked like me or something?”

“Now that I think about it,” Nina said. “There was this one couple there. She’d done something to her head too, and she was holding a towel against her forehead. I think she had blonde hair.”

That had to be it, and Has’s comment about assuming I was ‘with’ my ‘friend’ hadn’t been in reference to Nina, it’d been in reference to this couple. It also explained the shock on his face when I first asked him out in the hospital hallway. He thought I was creeping around on mah man.

“Grand,” I said. “Anyway, I gotta go. Ashley’s thing.”

“Good luck,” Nina said. “Call me after and tell me everything.”

I was pretty surprised when I arrived at the engagement party. I knew it was at L’Artusi in the West Village, so I’d assumed Tom and Ashley had rented out the back room, which was on the small-ish side. But they’d actually rented the entire top floor, which could not have been cheap.

The first people I saw were Ashley’s parents. I said a lukewarm hello to them, doing the awkward lean in I always do before Ashley’s Mom makes it crystal freaking clear we are not hugging. Ashley’s parents are…well, I’m not really sure how to describe them. They’re good people, and they want the best for their daughter, obviously, but they’re a little cold. Not much personality and certainly the type that avoids confrontation at all costs. I can almost guarantee you that if I were to go to them and tell them about Tom, they would just shrug their shoulders and say it was between the two of them and Ashley would eventually figure it out. If a guy did to me what Tom did to Ashley and my Mom found out about it? It would be his balls.

Ashley also has an older half-sister, who she was never really close to because they’re twelve years apart. By the time Ashley was in middle school, Marissa was already out of college. Now, she lives in upstate New York with her husband and two kids, and the two hardly ever speak.

I didn’t know what to expect from Tom’s family, but I figured any family that turned out a man like him had to be broken in some way. So I was shocked to discover that they were exactly the opposite: A sweetheart of a younger sister, two loving parents who had been together for thirty something years, and tons of cousins and aunts and uncles, all loud, vivacious, and incredibly warm and welcoming. When Ashley introduced me to Tom’s Mom, Doreen, she threw her arms around me and jumped up and down, squealing, “I’m so happy to meet you, sweetheart! Ashley’s told me all about her best friend.”

Ugh, that made my heart hurt. I wanted nothing more than to be genuinely happy for Ashley, but this was just all kinds of wrong.

As I made my way around the room, giving hugs hello and meeting the rest of Tom’s family, it occurred to me that Doreen was the total opposite of Ashley’s Mom. Part of me wondered if half the draw of Tom was his family, since Ashley didn’t really have that going on for her. It just made me all the more determined to be a good friend to Ashley, to show her there are people who love her and will be there for her, even without Tom and his family.

I always have to dig deep to be pleasant towards Tom. And you know what makes it even more uncomfortable? The last time I saw him, and the night of the engagement party, he was one charming bastard. It would almost be easier if he was an asshole to me, because we could just exchange a bit of small talk and move on. But Tom complimented my dress and engaged me in a long conversation about my job. And what else can you do but respond as though he is a normal, decent person? The disconnect between how I feel about him and how I’m forced to act around him is massive.

At one point, I was idling in the corner, checking email on my phone, when Tom’s sister, Isabel, approached me. I’d put her in her late thirties/early forties, and she was there by herself. “Divorced.” She’d rolled her eyes at me when I asked if she was seeing anybody. I think she felt drawn to me because we were two of the only single people there.

“Anyone fun?” Isabel asked, nodding to my phone.

It took me a second to realize what she was asking. “I wish. Work email.”

Isabel groaned. “The worst. Like no respect for your personal time these days.”

I nodded, even though from what I’d heard from Ashley, Isabel had never worked a day in her life. She’d gone from her father’s payroll to her ex-husband’s. It’s like my worst nightmare.

“So we are in love with Ashley,” Isabel added.

“She’s a good one,” I said.

“And you know, it’s like thank God Tom got that problem fixed so they can just move on with their marriage and start afresh.”

I was really surprised Isabel would speak so candidly of Tom’s ‘problem’, but it was kind of a relief to have it out in the open, and to be able to talk about it with someone who was so close to Tom. “I wouldn’t say it’s fixed,” I said. “He needs to do a lot of work, but hopefully he gets better.”

Isabel cocked her head at me. “Of course it’s fixed. The vasectomy is reversed.” She clapped her hands, the noise so sharp I jumped. “Done and done.”

“Oh, right,” I stumbled. “I guess, I just didn’t know…how that worked.”

“No,” Isabel said, reproachfully, like I was her student and I’d answered a question to her oral pop quiz wrong. “You were talking about something else.”

“I wasn’t!” But my voice pitched, giving me away. I took a step back from Isabel. “I’m just going to quickly run to the bath—”

Isabel put her hand on my wrist, stopping me. “Did he hit her?”

Jesus, Josie. Way to put your foot in your big fat mouth for the second time that day. “I…I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do,” Isabel said. “Tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell!”

“I mean it, tell me or I’ll create a scene. If you just tell me, I’ll wait and speak to my brother about it in private.”

I just gave up. I was tired of hiding this. “He did. Okay? He did.”

Isabel dropped my wrist and put her head in her hands. “God damnit!” she seethed. “He promised me…” she trailed off.

“He promised you what?”

“That he was getting help. After Jackie. His ex. He said he was all ‘fixed’ or whatever.” She picked her head up and looked at me. “This family does not condone that behavior. That’s not how Tom was raised. I don’t want you getting the wrong idea.”

“I’m not,” I said. “I don’t have any idea…about anything.” Oh God, someone save me from this conversation.

“Well, I won’t say anything here,” Isabel said. “But I am going to talk to him.”

“Please, don’t,” I said. “I’m actually afraid. If he finds out Ashley told me, and that I told you. I’m afraid what he would do to Ashley.”

“He’s not a murderer for Christ’s sake,” Isabel laughed. “He just has a little bit of a temper is all.” So that’s how the family excuses it. ‘Just a little bit of a temper’. People are so gross sometimes.

I was about to protest again, but at that moment Isabel’s aunt joined us, and the subject was dropped.

At the end of the night, I said goodbye to Ashley and all of her new family. Ashley thanked me over and over for coming. You won’t be thanking me when I tell you about my conversation with Isabel tomorrow, I thought. But deep down, I was hopeful that the news that Tom ‘tried’ to fix his problem, and clearly failed, would make her reconsider the engagement.

Doctor, Doctor

If I ever become famous enough to be featured in that US Weekly column, 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me, one of those ‘things’ will be that when I was in middle school, I went through this weird punk/goth/poseur phase. I had posters of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder all over my bedroom, maroon streaks in my my hair, and I rocked oversized JNKO jeans from Hot Topic. I was very angsty and wrote purple prose-ish poetry while listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam and burning incense. My poor parents.

So when I found out Pearl Jam was playing Barclays Center this past weekend, I jumped on tickets. Turns out Brad, Nina’s boyfriend, is a big fan too, so I was going with the two of them and Brad’s friend Darren, who was visiting from Boston.

Barclays Center is in Brooklyn, and the best meeting place for all of us was at this dive bar in Midtown.  We planned to have a few drinks before hopping on the subway.

Nina and I were the first to arrive, and upon finding a beer pong table in the back of the bar, decided to play a little one on one game while it was just the two of us and there were no boys to judge how terrible we were.

And the following story is what I get for pretending like I am still in college: Nina shot first, the ball fell on the ground, and as I bent over to pick it up, I whacked my head so hard on the wooden ledge of the bar that I heard a collective gasp go around the room. That, and the horrified look on Nina’s face when I stood up, told me it was bad.

“Shit,” Nina said, rushing over to me. “Are you okay? Does it hurt?”

“Not too much,” I said. I went to touch the spot I’d hit, but Nina grabbed my hand.

“Don’t touch it!” she said. “I think you need stitches.”

At this point, I was still in shock. I didn’t even realize that the skin right beneath my eyebrow was split in two. The bartender wrapped some ice in a paper towel and handed it to me before Nina took me to the bathroom.

I took one look in the mirror and knew I would not be making the concert. I needed to go to the emergency room right away. Nina insisted on coming with me, even though I told her she didn’t have to. “Are you kidding me?” she said. “You could have a concussion.” She texted Brad on our way out the door, letting him know our change of plans.

Even though a gash on your eyebrow hardly requires major medical surgery, it was a sobering moment to realize I had no idea where to go in the case of an emergency, and neither did Nina. We had to look up “ER NYC” on our phones, and finally decided to go to the one at Lenox Hill because it was closest to my apartment. “Maybe they can stitch me up quickly and we can still catch the second half of the concert,” I said, hopefully.

Nina looked at me. “Have you ever been to the emergency room before?”

I thought. Realized I hadn’t and shook my head.

Nina laughed. “Oh, this will be fun”

We sat in the waiting room for three hours. Once we were admitted, we sat on a gurney in the hallway for another two before a nurse finally came by and led us into a small examining room. She wrote down all my information and told me that the doctor would be with me shortly.

It was another forty-five minutes before the door opened and someone said,  “I’m Dr. Ahmad.” At this point all of the ice had completely melted and I was holding a wet paper towel against my head, half blind, delirious with hunger, and worried I had some kind of staph infection and/or a serious head injury.

I felt Dr. Ahmad’s hand on my knee and heard his gentle voice say, “Can you remove the paper towel so I can take a look?” I did, and it was like the clouds opened and the angels sang. Dr. Ahmad was gorgeous. And young. I put him in his early thirties. I looked over his shoulder and saw that Nina was humping the air and mouthing, “Yeahhhh.”

“That’s quite a bruiser,” Dr. Ahmad said. “How’d you get that?”

I was not about to tell this accomplished, sophisticated New York City doctor that I’d sliced my eyebrow in half playing beer pong at a dive bar in Midtown. “Someone pushed me and I fell down the subway stairs.”

Nina rolled her eyes at me behind his back.

Dr. Ahmad gave me an odd look. “But how did you…fall exactly?”

“It’s all just a blur,” I said, weakly.

Dr. Ahmad nodded and made his way over to the sink in the corner of the room. “You need three or four stitches,” he said. “But I have to clean it out first.”

“Um, will that hurt?” I asked.

“I’ll numb the area first.” Dr. Ahmad smiled at me over his shoulder and that was all the pain medication I needed.

“I’ll need you to put a gown on first.” He nodded at the paper hospital gown folded next to me on the bed. “I’ll give you a few minutes to do that.”

As soon as Dr. Ahmad was gone, Nina turned to me and said, “Someone pushed you down the subway stairs?”

I pointed my finger at her. “Don’t blow my cover.”

A few minutes later, Dr. Ahmad knocked on the door. “Decent?” he called out. If you consider a thin paper gown that pretty much exposes my entire butt, then yes I was decent.

Dr. Ahmad told me to lie down and then he cranked the handle on the side of the hospital bed to raise it up, and without a bra my enormous boobs flopped like a fish on land with every turn of the handle. It was awful.

Dr. Ahmad didn’t mention that in order to numb the area, he had to stick it with a needle several times. I tried to be strong and not cry but he was sticking a needle in an open wound and I couldn’t help it as a single tear rolled down the side of my face. Dr. Ahmad patted my arm and said, “It’s okay. The worst is over.” I almost told him I loved him.

Ten minutes later, I was all stitched up. I was sad to leave Dr. Ahmad, but he said he would see me in a few days when I came back to get the stitches out. I started planning my outfit immediately.

It was after midnight by the time Nina and I stepped out onto the street. We were starving, so we stopped at my favorite pizza place on our walk back to my apartment. I’m obviously on good terms with the owners, and when they saw the massive bandage over my eye, they gave me my slice for free! Who says New Yorkers are assholes?

Nina went to meet Brad at a bar in the West Village, but I was exhausted and I put myself to bed immediately. I hadn’t been planning on going into the office that weekend, mostly because I’d anticipated being mildly hungover on Saturday. But thanks to my injury that kept me from drinking eighty million Natty Ices and passionately singing “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” I woke up feeling refreshed and energized. I decided to go into the office for a few hours and get a head start on my work for the week.

I showered, changed the bandage over my eye, and started off on the walk to my office. It was a cloudy day, which I was thankful for because I don’t think my sunglasses would have properly fit over my makeshift eye patch.

I’d been in the office for only an hour when I heard the elevator doors ding open and voices in the hallway.

…”Just a transitional period,” one of the voices was saying. “Take what you can from William but don’t feel like you have to do things his way.”

“That won’t be a problem,” the other voice said. They both laughed.

I don’t know what came over me, but instinct told me to crouch down.

“He’s stubborn,” said the one guy, as they passed by my desk, thankfully on the other side of my cube, where I couldn’t be seen. “But just remind yourself it’s temporary and he’ll be out of your hair soon.”

I heard them go into William’s office. They were only in there a few minutes before they disappeared down the hallway, presumably to look at some of the empty offices left by the editors who had been fired. I didn’t know if I should use that opportunity to run, or if I should wait for them to leave first. I was just getting ready to make a move when I heard them, coming around the corner again. I froze.

“Definitely William’s office,” the one guy said, and they laughed again.

“A few more weeks and it’s yours.”

My heart was in my throat and as the great Cady Heron once said, I felt like my stomach was going to fall out of my butt. I never even saw the people attached to the voices, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that William’s position as ‘acting” Editor in Chief wasn’t permanent.

I waited ten minutes before leaving. As soon as I was on the street, I texted William and told him I needed to speak to him ASAP.

When I didn’t hear back in an hour, I tried calling, but William’s phone went straight to voicemail. I didn’t have his personal email, only his work one, so I sent a cryptic message to that address.

I didn’t hear from William all weekend. I was a ball of stress (with an eye patch to boot)  come Monday morning. William doesn’t usually get into the office until 10:30 or 11, and the second I saw him walk through the elevator doors, I took off after him.

“Did you get any of my messages?” I asked.

“What happened to your face?” William asked.

“I fell,” I said.

“How much did you have to drink before you ‘fell’?” William cracked.

“Unfortunately, nothing,” I said. Once we were alone in his office, I shut his door. “Did you get my text or email?” I asked.

“I was out East,” William said. “I had terrible service. What is so important that it can’t wait until I get settled in?”

I told William exactly what I’d heard on Saturday morning. William made me repeat the story three times before asking me if I’d gotten a glimpse of the two men attached to the voices. “I didn’t,” I said, helplessly. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” William said. “I can pretty much bet my life on who it was. They’re bringing in an editor at large, to help us restrategize. I didn’t buy it for a second that this guy would just be ‘consulting.’ I’ve had my contacts good and ready to go in case he ends up taking my job.”

“But,” I said. “Where are you going to go?”

“Back to an agency,” William said. “Literary division. It’s better there, Josie. You work with all different departments—TV, film, branding. You think beyond just books. You package talent. That’s where the money’s at. That’s where the future’s at.”

“Can I go with you?”

William laughed. “Not if you’re wearing an eye patch.”

“I’m serious,” I said. “You’re going to need an assistant. Why wouldn’t you just bring me with you and then you can avoid re-training someone?”

“Josie,” William said. “I would gladly take you with me. But I don’t have another job yet. Are you really going to quit when I quit, with no guarantee?”

“Well,” I said. “How long would it take you to find another job?”

William shrugged. “It could be a month, it could be a year. I’m in a position, financially, to wait. You, my dear, are not.”

“I have that $25,000 from the show,” I said. “And some royalties from the book. It’s not much, but I could bartend or something, somewhere, until something comes through for you.”

William folded his arms across your chest. “You really want to go with me if I leave, don’t you?”

I did. I think William is one of the most forward-thinking bosses I’ve ever met. I compare him to the other editors, like Kate’s boss, and the difference is that William thinks big. He’s not content to just settle for a book deal—he wants more opportunity for his writers than that. And I needed to put myself in a position with growth potential. Staying in a books-centric industry, at a time when print was on its way out, wasn’t very smart. If I went to a Talent and Literary Agency, my focus would still be books, but I would get to learn about other mediums, like TV, that weren’t going away any time soon.

“Let’s do this,” William said. “Just hang on here, for now. There’s no reason for you to quit your job just because I’m planning to. When I find something, then I’ll poach you from this place.”

“But aren’t they going to fire me if you quit any way?”

William shrugged. “They might. Or you’ll be the new guy’s assistant. Even if they do fire you, at least you’ll get some severance.”

William had a point. “Will you give me your word that whenever you get a new job, I’ll be your assistant?”

William stuck his hand out. “You have my word.” We shook on it.

The next morning, I went back to the hospital to have my stitches removed. I wore my favorite LBD and peep toe booties for the occasion, so I was very disappointed when the doctor who entered the room was not my beautiful knight in shining scrubs.

His name was Dr. Gellington and he was ancient with long nose hairs. “Where’s Dr. Ahmad?” I asked, but Dr. Gellington just shrugged.

Dr. Gellington said I was healing ‘nicely’ as he snipped my stitches. Then he told me to apply Vitamin E oil to the area to avoid scarring. I thanked him and gathered my things to go.

I was rounding the corner when I practically ran into Dr. Ahmad.

“Sorry about that!” he said, at the same time I exclaimed, “Dr. Ahmad!”

Dr. Ahmad furrowed his brow and stared at me. “I’m sorry. Remind me of your name again.”

“Josie,” I said. “I was here on Friday night.” I pointed to my eyebrow. “Fell down the subway stairs.”

Dr. Ahmad snapped his fingers. “Right. Right. Looks like you’re healing nicely.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Well,” Dr. Ahmad said. “Have a nice day.”

He turned on the heel of his white sneaker. Something in me was not okay with never seeing Dr. Ahmad again, and before I even had a chance to doubt myself, I was saying, “Wait!”

Dr. Ahmad turned around and faced me again. He looked like he was in a hurry, so I said, quickly, “Um, would you ever want to get a drink or coffee or something?”

I don’t think I’ve ever asked out a guy before. Ever. I mean, I’ve asked a guy to hang out after we’ve hooked up. But I’ve never cold hit on a handsome doctor in my grown up life.

Dr. Ahmad’s eyebrows jumped halfway up his forehead, and for a second I thought he was going to turn me down. But then he said, “Sure. Do you have a card or something?”

With shaking hands, I dug around in my purse and located my business card. I handed it to Dr. Ahmad, who glanced at it briefly. “I’ll call you,” he said. Then he smiled, revealing a row of teeth so perfect, they were clearly no stranger to Crest White Strips.

I practically skipped out of the hospital. An exciting new job and a date with a doctor—and I had my ‘fall’ to thank for both.