Sweater Weather

Nina was already at the diner when I strode in, five minutes early.

“I have a massive hangover,” Nina said. “So this better be good.”

“I’ll tell you when Ashley gets here.” I opened my menu and zeroed in on the starchy section. “What did you do last night?”

“Nothing. Just went to dinner with Brad. We only split a bottle of wine.”

“Nina,” I said, reproachfully.

“I know!” she wailed. “It’s happening. I’m turning into my mother who gets a hangover from Penne a la Vodka.”

We ordered coffee while we waited for Ashley. After ten, fifteen minutes, she was still MIA.

“Her apartment is like three blocks from here,” Nina whined. “I’m starving!”

Finally, I saw Ashley stroll past the window. “There she is.” I nodded and Nina turned in her seat. “What is she wearing?”

It’s been cool-ish in New York these last few days, but most people are still walking around in t-shirts and sandals. Ashley was wearing a full blown chunky black turtleneck.

Someone’s a little excited for fall,” Nina said as Ashley sat down next to her.

“You know it’s my favorite season,” Ashley said, somewhat accusingly, as though Nina was a bad friend for not knowing that.

“Relax,” Nina said. “You look cute. I would be sweating my balls off if I were you, but you look cute.”

“Whatever, Nina,” Ashley grumbled. She opened her menu and stared it down, but I got the feeling she wasn’t really reading anything. Nina raised her eyebrows at me.

“Ash,” I said, “you okay?”

“I told you I wasn’t feeling well,” Ashley said, still not taking her eyes off the menu. “But I came anyway, like I always do. Can you just get to it so I can go home and get into bed? What’s the problem this time?”

Insert hissing cat noise here!

“I thought you just meant you were hungover like this one,” I said, pointing to Nina. “Go home if you don’t feel good. Seriously. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Ashley suddenly dropped the menu and covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders shook, and I could see tears slipping out from underneath her fingers.

“Ashley!” Nina said, shocked. She put her arm around her and held her close. “Oh my God, you are burning up. Take this thing off.”

“Stop,” Ashley said, shaking her off. “I don’t have anything on underneath it.”

“Do you want us to go back to your apartment with you so you can change?”

Without saying a word, Ashley nodded.

Nina and I left money on the table to cover our coffee, and ushered Ashley out of the diner.

Once we were inside Ashley’s apartment, Nina turned the AC on. “You need to change out of that blanket immediately.”

Ashley still didn’t say a word. She pulled the sweater off, revealing that she was wearing a white t-shirt underneath. “Why did you say you weren’t”—I stopped when I realized what was going on. When I saw the purple bruises on Ashley’s wrist, her upper arm, and most worriedly, an ugly one about the size of a thumb on her neck.

“Ashley,” Nina gasped. “What happened?”

Ashley bit her lip. “We had a fight last night.”

I seriously thought I would throw up right then and there. “Tom did this to you?” As soon as I said his name, a look of defiance passed over Ashley’s face.

“I know how it looks,” Ashley said. “But he didn’t hit me. Things just got heated.”

“What do you mean he didn’t hit you?” Nina snapped. I know she didn’t mean to come across as angry at Ashley, but I could tell that’s how Ashley took it. “How do you explain this?”

“We were like, grabbing at each other,” Ashley said. “I did it too! But it didn’t, like, hurt me. There weren’t even any marks until I woke up this morning.”

“This is insane, Ashley,” Nina said. “I can’t believe you’re making excuses for him.”

“I’m not making excuses, Nina. I’m telling you what really happened. If a guy hit me, I would break up with him in a heartbeat.”

“Wait,” I said. “You didn’t break up with him?”

“I just left,” Ashley said. “We didn’t break up. I just stormed out. I’m furious. He’s been calling me all morning.”

“What was the fight even about?”

“Thanksgiving,” Ashley said. “I want him to spend it with my family and he wants me to spend it with his.”

I was suddenly able to form the full picture of this Tom guy: Whisking Ashley away every weekend to the suburbs, alienating her from the people in her life, his non-existent interest in getting to know Ashley’s friends. He was one of those scary-possessive guys you read about in Cosmo and Self!  He wants to alienate you from your friends and control you. And Ashley was completely under his spell.

Both Nina and I spent the next few hours trying to talk some sense into Ashley. Well, first, we tried to convince her to go to the ER but she basically laughed at us. “I had more bruises from riding the bull at Johnny Utah’s last Halloween,” Ashley said. Which was technically true but it just made me nervous that someone had put that much pressure on her neck—enough to bruise it that severely. What if an important vein had been crushed?

We also tried to make Ashley see that she hadn’t done anything wrong, but that Tom absolutely, 100% had. “I pushed him first,” Ashley said. “You don’t understand. It wasn’t him abusing me, it was like a couple getting into a tussle.”

“Men do not get into ‘tussles’ with women!” Nina said, exasperated. “Don’t you get that this is not normal?”

When we’d run out of steam, Ashley thanked us for our concern in the most emotionless, clinical way possible. “I know you guys are just trying to look out for me,” she said. “But trust me. If it was what you think it was, I wouldn’t accept that.” She shrugged. She had hardened against us; I could see it in her face. We’d somehow managed to make it worse. Now we were the enemy, the ones who didn’t ‘get it.’ Not Tom. It was terrifying to realize just how brainwashed she was.

It was dark by the time Nina and I left Ashley’s apartment. We offered to stay, to just hang out and order dinner, but Ashley insisted she wanted some alone time.

“I can’t fucking believe this,” Nina said, once we were out on the street. It was chilly then, and I could have used Ashley’s oversized sweater.

“What do we do?” I asked, helplessly. “Do we call the cops?”

Nina shook her head. “She’ll just lie for him. And if he finds out…I’m scared what he’d do to her if he found out.”

We walked in silence for a few blocks. “Want to get a drink somewhere?” I asked.

“For the love of God, yes,” Nina said.

We ended up at a little wine bar not far from Ashley’s apartment. Once we had a carafe of cabernet in front of us, Nina said, “Oh my God! So you never even told me what happened that made you call that emergency brunch.”

I shook my head. “I’ll tell you, but it seems ridiculously trivial compared to what we just dealt with over the last few hours.”

“Give me the most trivial shit you’ve got,” Nina said. “Anything to take my mind off of that.”

I ran Nina through the last few days—from the Social Media party up until the text I’d sent Richard. At some point while I was in Ashley’s apartment, Richard had texted me back that our friendship was important to him and he didn’t want to lose it. ‘I’ve been soul searching,’ he wrote, ‘Which is lame but is what one does when one gets fired. And maybe you’re right? Maybe I just want what I can’t have. If I’m not sure, I can’t ask you to be sure either. There are a lot of things in my life I want to change right now.’

We agreed to grab lunch in a few weeks, once the dust had settled and it wouldn’t be awkward-city for us to be alone together.

“Um,” Nina said, when I finished. “You do realize who you’re acting like right now, don’t you?”



Ugh,” I said. “I swear that name triggers PTSD for me.”

“How?” Nina asked.

“It just makes me feel pathetic,” I said. “I practically begged him to be my boyfriend and then it all blew up in my face. I honestly wake up in the middle of the night, cringing at how desperate I must have seemed to him.”

“Do you ever stop to think that that’s why you’re keeping Peter at arm’s length?”

I wrinkled my nose. “No. But please, give me your thoughts, Doctor Nina.”

Nina rolled her eyes at me and took a sip of her wine. “Keep being an asshole and I won’t give you my diagnosis.”

“I’ll pay for the wine,” I offered.

“That’s more like it.” Nina grinned. “What I was going to say before I was so rudely made fun of was this—have you ever stopped to think that you feel rejected by your first two real boyfriends? Your high school boyfriend who swiped your v-card and then broke up with you immediately, and Eric, who cheated on you. Then you have Peter and things get fuzzy, but in your head you may still feel like he chose Elizabeth over you, and then you have Justin, who you also feel rejected you. Aren’t you just afraid to go all in with Peter because you’re scared you’re just going to get your ass handed to you again? But you also don’t want him out of your life completely because deep down, so much of your self-worth is tied to having a boyfriend? You always have a boyfriend.”

“God,” I said. “Your version of events makes me sound like such a loser.”

“Oh, the smallest violin in the world is playing for you right now,” Nina said. “You’ve taken down some hot pieces of ass so I’m really not feeling all that bad for you.”

“Well, when you put it like that.” I grinned.

“I’m really serious though,” Nina said. “Do you see a pattern at all there?”

“Of course I do,” I said. “But what’s the answer? That’s part of why I’m hesitant to just lock this down with Peter. I feel like I’m taking the easy way out. Just relying on having a boyfriend to make me feel full and complete. I should be able to feel like that on my own.”

“I would tell you if you were doing this because you just wanted a boyfriend. But this thing with Peter, it’s special.” She finished her wine. “Shit or get off the pot.” She climbed off her bar stool. “Speaking of, I’m going to the bathroom.”

I signaled to the bartender and he brought me the check. I left a hearty tip—I felt like I needed all the good karma I could get. It was almost 9 PM by the time Nina and I stepped out onto the street, and both of us were exhausted. We agreed to do some investigative work over the next few days and find out how best to support/get through to a friend who is in a situation like Ashley is in. It still felt weird to call it abusive—how could someone as strong and stubborn as Ash find herself with a guy like this?

As Nina tried to hail a cab for herself, I sent Peter a text, ‘Hi. I miss you. Crazy day. Brunch tomorrow?’ It was true—after realizing what a bad egg Ashley had found, it made me appreciate a guy like Peter even more.

Nina climbed into a cab and waved goodbye at me. “Make good choices!” she called out the window as the car pulled away.

I’m trying to.

Decisions, Decisions

“Why are you looking at my phone?” I asked. It was all I could think to say.

“You left it on the table,” Peter said. “I thought it was mine.” He tossed the phone onto the bed.

Peter and I did have the same white iPhone 5. And I do tend to walk around with my phone in my hand, putting it down wherever I land. But had I left it on the table or had it been in my bag? I honestly couldn’t remember.

This was all secondary to whatever it was that Peter had read. I dug around in the sheets, found the phone, and turned it on.

‘I really have nothing to say for myself except to say I’m sorry. Not that it matters, but I didn’t sleep with her.’

THANKS FOR THAT, RICHARD. I looked up at Peter. The expression on his face was a mix of confusion and sadness, and it broke my heart.

“I don’t want to pry into your life, Josie,” Peter said. “You’re not my girlfriend, but I mean…if you saw that on my phone you’d want to know too.” He sighed. “What the hell is that about?”

I folded my legs underneath me and wondered where to begin. I didn’t feel like it was deceptive to keep this from Peter before, but it definitely would be deceptive to lie when asked point blank about it. So I told Peter everything, starting with the Social Media party. Well, I guess I didn’t tell him everything. I skipped the part about our conversation at work, the one where Richard asked me if I felt anything for him and I didn’t know how to answer because I did.

“I remember this guy,” Peter said, when I finished.

“You do?”

“Yeah, from your Hamptons house. I could tell he liked you.”

“I don’t think he likes me. I think he just wants to sleep with me and he isn’t used to girls who don’t want to sleep with him,” I said. Off Peter’s expression, I instantly regretted saying that. For some reason I remembered this one lesson from my Intro to Psych class in college. The professor was trying to demonstrate how different men and women are when it comes to love. She asked the room which scenario would be more hurtful—for your partner to fall in love with someone emotionally—no sex—or, for your partner to have meaningless sex with a random person and feel nothing. All the girls in the room raised their hands to show that they would prefer their boyfriend to have meaningless sex with someone, and all the guys raised their hands to show they’d rather their girlfriend fall in love with someone emotionally. The point is guys just really don’t like the idea of another P near their V.

“But I don’t want to sleep with him,” I added, quickly.

“You sure?” Peter asked, quietly.

I would have said anything to make this situation better. And even though it wasn’t entirely true that I didn’t want to sleep with Richard (a little part of me is curious, I can’t help it—the vagina wants what the vagina wants), it was true that I would never actually do it. So I didn’t feel like I was being dishonest by saying, “Yes, Peter. I’m sure.”

Peter sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “Here’s the thing, Josie. It’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s more…I feel like you just like to court this kind of drama.”

“Says the guy who gave it another go with the biggest drama queen I’ve ever met,” I shot back. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe you like the drama?”

“Yeah,” Peter said. “I have. And you’re right, I was like that once. Over the last year, I thought a lot about the choices I’ve made, and what I was doing wrong, because I wasn’t happy. I don’t want to play these little mind games any more. I’m too old for that shit.”

“I’m not playing mind games,” I said. “You popped up into my life out of nowhere. I had stuff going on, okay? This Richard thing, this had been brewing since summer.”

“I had stuff going on too!” Peter said. “I had a girlfriend.”

“That’s not fair,” I said. “You wanted to revisit things, and I told you to call me but only if you were single, which, I’m sorry, is a normal and decent thing to do. But at the same time, I’m not going to just drop everything in my life the second you show up. We agreed to take this slow.”

“I never asked you to drop everything for me.”

“Fine, then don’t be mad that I didn’t.”

We were both silent for a moment. “So what are we even fighting about right now?” I asked.

“I just don’t like it,” Peter said. “Would you?”

“No,” I said. “I’m sorry for that. But at the same time I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily done anything wrong. Are you seriously telling me that you’re not playing a little bit on your own too?”

Peter was silent for a moment, and it was like a punch to the gut. I suddenly understood what he was feeling. “It’s like friends trying to set me up,” he said. “But the whole time I’m with these women I just wish I was with you.”

That got the water works going. I felt like I was back at square one, wishing Peter and I had better timing, and that we both wanted the same things at the same time. “I just don’t know how to be casual with you,” I said, wiping a tear off my cheek. “I feel like we’re all or nothing, but I don’t know if I’m ready to be all right now.”

Peter bit his lower lip, but didn’t say anything.

“Are you ready to be all right now?” I asked.

“Sometimes, yes,” Peter said. “But sometimes, no.” It was exactly how I felt.

He came towards me then. He sat down on the bed and hugged me. I was so exhausted I could have fallen asleep right there on his shoulder. Eventually we crawled back under the covers, curled up, and went to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, Peter wasn’t beside me. I checked my phone—it was almost 11am. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept that late.  I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth and splashed water on my face. My face looked like Mama Elsa’s from Real Housewives of Miami—swollen and puffy.

Peter was in the kitchen, making eggs, when I finally emerged from the bedroom. I pulled up a bar stool and took a seat. “Hi,” I said.

Peter turned around. “Hi.”

“Any epiphanies in the middle of the night?”

Peter smiled. “Not really. You?”

I shook my head. Peter pointed at the eggs in the pan. “You want any?”


Peter divided the eggs between two plates and pulled up a seat next to me. We ate in silence. When we finished, I said, “So, are we going to talk about it?”

Peter shrugged. “Didn’t we?”

“I mean, where do we stand?” I asked.

“What do you want?” Peter asked.

“I want to keep seeing you,” I said. “But I meant it when I said I want to take things slowly. I don’t think we should just jump back into things. I hate the idea that you’re dating other women, the same way you hate knowing about this Richard thing. But it’s just the reality of the situation, I guess.”

Peter toyed with a lone piece of egg on his plate. “I don’t want to see other women. Do you want to see other guys?”

“Not necessarily,” I said. “But if we decide we’re going to be exclusive, then it’s not really taking it slow, is it?”

“So maybe we don’t take it slow.”

That gave me pause. I fiddled with my napkin. “I just feel like I made this promise to myself that I wasn’t just going to jump right back into a relationship. I need to be okay with being single sometimes. It’s something I’ve never really been able to do.”

Peter pushed himself off the bar stool. He took our plates and dumped them in the sink. “You need to do what you need to do.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you need to make a decision. Just be decisive. What we are right now, it’s not really you being single, is it? So decide to be in, or not.”

Was he ultimatum-ing me? It sure sounded like it. “I don’t want to lose you,” I said, my voice cracking over the words like a prepubescent boy’s.

“So don’t,” Peter said. I wish Richard could have been a fly on the wall right then. Peter didn’t just want to sleep with me. He wanted more. A lot more, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give it.

“I need time to think about this,” I said. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be in a relationship right now.”

Peter shook his head and smiled, but it wasn’t a nice smile. “Go for it,” he said. The words were dripping with sarcasm.

I helped Peter clean up, then changed back into my work clothes. It was awkward saying goodbye to him—I stepped in to give him a kiss and he basically negged me by turning his cheek. Hell hath no fury like a hot guy’s ego bruised.

I decided to walk back to my apartment to clear my head (Peter lives about twenty-five blocks from me). On my way, I texted Nina and Ashley, ‘Brunch emergency!!!’ I expected Ashley to be in Westchester with her man, but to my surprise, she wrote that she’d come back early that morning.

‘But I’m not really feeling up to brunch,” she wrote. “I think I’m coming down with something.’

‘Please?’ I begged her. ‘I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t an emergency. We can pick a place near you.’

After a few moments, she wrote, ‘You win,  you always do.’ A quote from one of our favorite SNL skits with Will Ferrell.

The next person I needed to text was Richard. I wanted Richard in my life, but I also needed to keep him at a safe distance. No good could come from us hooking up, and I couldn’t put myself in a position where that could happen again.

When I arrived at my apartment, I’d decided to text Richard, ‘Thank you for this. Want to just pretend like the last seventy-two hours never happened?’

Then I showered, changed, and hurried out the door to meet Ashley and Nina. Maybe they would help me find some clarity with the situation.

Every Day I’m Hussy-ing

Walking into the Literatti offices the day after the bloodbath was like walking into a ghost town. Desks and offices that just the morning before were filled with cute girls in Banana Republic pencil skirts and guys in skinny ties were now empty and silent.

“Creepy,” I muttered to myself. I made my way over to my desk and turned my computer on. It was 8:30 in the morning. I estimated I had forty-five minutes to myself before my co-workers—the few who were left—came rolling in. I felt out of control with FEELINGS like a real girl, and it’s why I was there even earlier than usual. I never thought I’d become one of those ‘career gals’ who prioritized work above all else. I like partying and going to the gym and eating pizza with my friends so much that I never thought I’d let a job truly interfere with my ‘real’ life. But the very first thought that popped into my head when I woke up that morning was, ‘I can’t wait to get to work.’ This was my ‘real’ life now. It was soothing to know that I had this, my job, and that I was good at it. William had told me I was indispensable to him, and I wanted to keep being indispensable. I could fuck up my love life beyond repair, but I as long as I was holding it together here, I had something solid in my life that I could be proud of. Tear, I’m growing up so fast!
I was surprised when I heard the elevator doors ding open. Even more surprised when I saw Kate step out of them—wearing her clothes from last night. Here we go.
“Josie!” she whisper-yelled as she scurried over to me. “I knew you’d be here.”
“What are you doing?” I asked, not even bothering to hide my annoyance. Who does the walk of shame into work the day after half the office gets the heave-ho? Have some common sense! Says the girl who defiled the DVF store with her asshat co-worker at four in the morning. Kettle, I’m pot, have we met?
As Kate got closer, I realized she was upset. I snapped into Mom mode. “What happened?”
“I’m such an idiot. I somehow lost my keys last night and I just spent the last half an hour pounding on our door, but my roommate must have gone to the gym before work or something because she isn’t there. I’m panicking—will you change clothes with me?”
First things first. “Did you sleep at Richard’s?”
Kate groaned. “That’s the other thing.” But she just stopped there. You’re killing me, Kate.
“Did you?” I prodded.
Kate nodded. Her cheeks flushed as she said, “But Josie, it was awful. We got there and he just suddenly changed his mind. He said he didn’t want to do this anymore.”
For some reason a line from the movie Empire Records (thanks!) popped into my head: ‘Shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.’ In this case, it was the lack of deviant behavior that was so shocking. “So you guys didn’t have sex?”
Kate shook her head. “No! He said he cared about me and he was an asshole to me before and he didn’t want to do that to me again. That’s bullshit, right? He’s just not attracted to me.” She sighed. “God, I need to lose ten pounds.”
“Stop,” I said. “You are gorgeous. You know you are. And actually…I think that’s….kind of sweet.”
“Sweet?” Kate spat.
“Yeah,” I said. “He stopped it because he respects you. I don’t think that’s bullshit.” I heard the elevator doors ding again. The office was waking up. “Come on ya little huss, let’s go change before anyone sees us.”

“What’s a huss?” Kate asked as she followed me into the bathroom. “And do I want to be one?”

Nina, Ashley and I used to call each other ‘huss’ in college. Like, ‘You hussing tonight?’ It’s similar to being on the prowl, except it isn’t only applicable to hooking up. It’s just about bringing it no matter where you go and what you do. You can huss at the gym, you can huss in class, you can huss on the dancefloor. Why, you can huss anywhere! (That’s the sound of Dr. Seuss rolling over in his grave right now).

I don’t know why we stopped, but today I was bringing back the huss! My position at Literatti had been spared and I was going to huss like I’d never hussed before to keep it that way. I was also energized by this news that Richard and Kate hadn’t slept together—not because it meant there was still a chance for us, because that would be bigger disaster than Anthony Weiner’s mayoral run, but because it meant that he did have a decent bone in his body, and I didn’t have to stop being friends with him. Kate and Richard are the two real friends I’ve made since moving to the city, and they are incredibly important to me. Richard made questionable decisions when it came to his dating life, but I’d be prettyyyy hypocritical if that was the reason I decided to cut him out of my life.

I decided to just give the whole thing with Richard a few days, then text him to see how he was doing. That is, if I didn’t hear from him first. Since Richard had put the kibosh on hooking up with Kate, I honestly didn’t see a reason to tell her about what had happened. Maybe I really could sweep this little incident under the rug and move forward with no collateral damage? Famous last words if I ever heard them. Go easy on me, karma.

The rest of the day was spent reassigning proposals and deals. Sifting through Megan’s desk to find out where she stood on certain projects. Around 1 PM, William called a meeting of the remaining staff. We’d gone from thirty people to twelve, and William, who had unofficially been in charge of the imprint, was now the official editor-in-chief. Which made me the most important assistant in the room (probably not, but this is what I told myself using my huss logic). William made a big speech about how no more major changes were coming, and everyone standing here was an integral member of the team and we needed to be giving all of ourselves, every day, and treat matters with more urgency. “There’s a lack of urgency around here,” he said, really driving that point home.

Here’s the thing about Megan and William—Megan is hands down smarter than William. I think even he would admit that. But what William said about her is true: She’s not a company person. Megan is socially awkward, and she isn’t savvy like William. And charming clients and being able to read people is a huge part of our job. William also brings connections that Megan simply doesn’t have because she’d prefer to bury her head in a manuscript as opposed to go out and mine for talent. Megan didn’t want to play the game, and they needed someone who wanted to be out there on the field. I made a mental note of that—go to events! Talk to random strangers even though you’d rather get a Brazilian from that woman who almost maimed Nina’s vagina!

I stayed in the office late—and not just to prove a point. I had about thirty things on my to do list. It was 11PM by the time I left the building and headed to Peter’s. We’d texted earlier and were supposed to grab dinner, but I had to bail on that.

I almost burst into exhausted tears when I arrived at Peter’s and saw that he had ordered dinner for me, from my favorite Thai place that doesn’t deliver to my apartment even though I only miss the cut off by two blocks. Jerks.

“I figured you were hungry,” he said. And then I really did burst into tears. On top of being physically and emotionally spent from everything that had happened at work over the last forty-eight hours, I just generally felt like a shit for making out with Richard.

“I’m sorry!” I croaked. I suffer from ugly cry face, and shielded the evidence with my hands.

“What is it?” Peter asked, kind of laughing, but kind of perplexed too. He took hold of my wrists and pulled my hands away from my face.

“No!” I said, burying my face in his chest. “I don’t want you to see my face like this.”

“And I don’t want you to get snot on my shirt.” Now he was just laughing.

I removed my face from his shirt. “I don’t snot when I cry. I’m a lady.”

“Okay,” Peter laughed. “Josie, as much as William can be a sleazeball, he was right when he told you that you’re young and that you haven’t seen this kind of thing happen a million times before. You get a little jaded as you get older. It’s really not that big of a deal. All your friends will be okay.”

That wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg, but I couldn’t tell him that. Instead I just nodded. “I’m proud of you for hanging in there,” Peter said. “You should be proud of yourself too.”

“It isn’t a reflection of my job performance,” I said. “Some of the other assistants were good at their jobs too but they had to let them go because they basically eliminated their positions. I just got lucky.”

“Give yourself some credit,” Peter said. “They cut, what? Half the staff? They wouldn’t have kept you if they didn’t think you were valuable.”

It was such a nice thing to say. I stood up on my tippie toes and kissed him. And like that, the Thai food was forgotten.

We stumbled down Peter’s dark hallway, pulling our clothes off as we went. Peter had me on my back in bed, and his hand was on my neck. I thought he was going to squeeze, that we were going to get into some kinky stuff, but instead he just leaned over me and whispered in my ear, right as he thrust inside of me, “I thought about this all day.”

Usually everything with Peter is so charged, so hurried and urgent (See? I do approach some things with urgency, William), but in that moment it was like everything slowed down, the rest of the city fell away, and it was just us. It was intimate, too intimate for me, and I tried to roll on top of him, to get on top and raunch it up. But Peter pushed back, holding me down. “I just want you like this,” he said. He kissed me. “I love you like this.” He pressed himself close to me, moving in slow circles, grazing against me in a way that felt so good I felt like I was melting at the seams. Peter is the only guy who can make me come without his hands.

The L word was shocking to me, but it wasn’t like he said ILY for real. And I admit, the way he said it warmed me from the inside out. Everything that had happened in the last forty-eight hours—all the chaos, the anger, the name calling. It was like this was a safe place from all of that. Peter would never yell at me, or try and humiliate me the way Richard did. What the hell had I been thinking? This was what I needed. Peter was who I needed.

“Are you close?” Peter brushed his lips against mine, and I nodded. I arched my back, pressing closer into him, felt Peter’s eyes on me as I came. When he was sure I was done, he finally let himself give in.

Well, now I was starving. Peter heard my stomach rumble and offered to go get the food and bring it into bed. An offer I obviously accepted. I was pulling on one of Peter’s t-shirts (I do not eat in the nude. Nope. Gross.) when Peter appeared in the doorway. But he wasn’t holding the food. He was holding my phone.

“Who’s Richard?” he asked.

Oh, shit.

Hunger Games

When I woke up in the morning my mouth tasted like blue cheese and my brain felt too big for my head. Groaning, I found my phone and silenced the alarm. It was 9am—I’d deliberately set it later than usual, planning on going in late. It was close to 4:30 AM when I finally crawled into bed, whimpering like a big fat baby whose toy had been taken from her. I wasn’t taking the day off like William said I could, but I figured I could at least let myself sleep in a little. I sent Megan an email giving her the heads up I was running late that morning. I’m usually the first person in the office at 8:45 so hopefully she would cut me a break, especially since she knew I had a work related event the night before. Plus, what William had said about her—was she getting fired? Moving to a different department? I was dying to find out what the deal was.

I made coffee, chugged water, showered, chugged some more water, drank my coffee, got dressed and made my way to the subway with a pit in my stomach. I had no idea what to expect from Richard when I saw him, no idea how to handle the situation with Kate, and was angsting so hard I half-wished a cab would run over my foot so I would have a legitimate reason not to go to work. How sick is that?

Of course, who do I run into the second I step off the elevator? Richard, accompanied by his boss. We exchanged awkward hellos, Richard’s boss making some crack like, “Good morning, or should I say afternoon? Party was fun, I take it?” Richard looking like he was in just as much pain as I was. They stepped onto the elevator as I stepped off it, and I slunk to my desk. Sitting next to my keyboard was a large iced coffee and a sausage, egg, and cheese bagel from the good coffee place. I assumed it was a peace offering from Richard. It was sweet, but the more I thought about what he’d said to me the night before the angrier I got. Who calls a girl a cocktease in 2013 because she doesn’t want to go home with him? I don’t care that I kissed him back—I have every right to stop it when I want to and any guy who would give me shit for that is just gross and manipulative. That was just one of the bones I had to pick with him. The other had to do with what he said about Peter. This morning, with a clear(er) head, I no longer thought that there was even a shred of truth to what Richard had said about Peter using me. Richard’s only reasoning was that because he’s relationship-adverse, every other guy must be too. Which they aren’t or I wouldn’t have a dad. God.

Now I was all riled up again, and I seriously considered throwing that breakfast sammie in the trash just to make a point! But I was hungry. Also, I heard on The Today Show that this country wastes a third of all food produced, so I didn’t.

As I tore into my bagel, which I begrudgingly admit was delicious, I checked my email. I had an email from Peter, asking me how the party went. See? I imaginary-argued with Richard in my head, He doesn’t just want to screw me or he wouldn’t have asked. Then I instantly felt guilty because it was nice of Peter to ask and if he really knew what I did last night he would probably be sad. Or maybe not? Maybe he was off doing the same thing? He was single and had every right to, even though yeah, it would bum me out if I heard he was making out with another girl. I’m human. But I wouldn’t be mad at him because I have no right to be. I’d rather just not know, which is why I’m not telling him.

I wrote Peter back and asked him what he was doing later. Just as I clicked send, my phone rang. I recognized William’s cell on the caller ID.

“Hi, William,” I said.

“What the hell are you doing?” William rasped. He sounded like he had been up late, doing no good very bad things. “I told you to take the day off.”

“Then why are you calling me?”

“Because I knew you would come in any way,” he said. “You’re such a goody two shoes.” I wanted to tell William that if I was his version of a goody two shoes, I never wanted to meet his version of a bad girl. “What’s going on there today?” he asked.

“Nothing, it’s quiet.”

“Have you seen Megan yet?”

“We’ve just emailed,” I said. Megan had written me back just one line, “Okay.” I used to freak out when she’d send me terse replies like that, but then I realized it’s just her way.

“Hm,” William said. “Okay, well, I’ll call back later.”

“Wait!” I said. “What did you mean when you said that”—I lowered my voice—”she wasn’t long for this world?”

“Huh?” William said. “I can’t hear you.”

I repeated myself, slightly louder this time.

“I still can’t hear you!” William yelled. “Connection must be bad. I’ll call back later!” He hung up. My ass, bad connection. Something was going down today, and I was so not in a state to handle it. I was very weak and emotional. I eyed the other half of my sandwich in the trash. I’d only eaten half of it (portion control), but now I was thinking I might need more sustenance. I looked around to make sure no one was watching, then reached into the trash can and wolfed down the second half. Judge me all you want. I deserve it.

“Hi!” I nearly jumped out of my chair at the sound of Kate’s voice. She was standing behind me, looking well rested. I wish I’d just gone home when she had.

“You scared me,”I said, putting my hand over my chest.

“Sorry!” Kate stepped further into my area and leaned against the wall of my cube. “How late did you stay out last night?”

Ugh, too late,” I said. “I’m hurting.”

“Yeah, I think Richard is too,” Kate said. “Were you out with him?”

“Kevin was there too,” I added, quickly. Too quickly. Kate gave me a weird look. I tried to change the subject. “Want to have a carb fest for lunch?” I asked.

Kate wrinkled her nose. “I was thinking salad. But maybe.” She turned. “I have to get back to work.”

Ok. That hadn’t gone terribly. I didn’t know whether or not to tell Kate. I wouldn’t tell her without first telling Richard, because that would be unfair. And I knew a confrontation between us was inevitable. I was kind of looking forward to it, which is unusual for me, because I’m not a big fan of confrontation. I had things to say to that guy.

I decided to stop in Megan’s office to see if she needed me to do anything for her, but she wasn’t there. On my way back to my desk, I ran into Richard again. This time he was alone.

He put his hands up. “Don’t shoot.”

I didn’t smile. “This isn’t funny. Not to me.”

Richard sighed. “I was out of line for some of the things I said last night,” he said. “But I’m not going to apologize for kissing you.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I wasn’t looking for an apology for the kiss—we both did that. But you didn’t have to be such an asshole. I stopped it for all the reasons I already gave you and I wish you could just respect that instead of bringing Peter into it. They’re valid reasons on their own that have nothing to do with him. You point blank told me you lose interest in a girl the second you sleep with her and—”

“I wouldn’t,” Richard said, louder than he meant to. He looked around the hallway to make sure no one else was around. But we were alone. “I wouldn’t with you.”

“You would. I’m like a boyfriend pusher. I’d try and make you my boyfriend because I don’t know any other way and you’d hate me and then we wouldn’t be friends and that would kill me.”

Richard sighed and leaned against the wall. He tilted his head back. “You won’t even give me a chance and I haven’t even done anything to disappoint you yet. But you give him a second chance after he broke your heart.” He was talking about Peter.

“He didn’t break my heart. The timing was off. It just didn’t work and it wasn’t necessarily any one person’s fault.”

“I’m just asking for a chance,” Richard said. “Just give me a chance to prove to you that you’re wrong about me.” He took a step closer. “Tell me you didn’t feel anything for me last night. If you honestly didn’t, I’ll leave you alone.”

I couldn’t tell him that, because I did feel something when we kissed last night. Of course I did. Richard is hot, and even better than that, we get along like bandits. We have a similar sense of humor, and I like that he pushes my buttons, and that he calls me on my bullshit. But I didn’t want to be his little experiment, and I didn’t want him to make a fool out of me. I don’t know—maybe he wouldn’t? Every girl says this at one time or another—it will be different with me. And it never is. So why was I even entertaining this?

Richard opened his mouth to say something more but we heard footsteps behind us. As they grew closer I saw they belonged to Kate. She looked like she was about to cry, and I felt a flash of panic. She’d heard our whole conversation, hadn’t she? “You guys, something is happening,” she said.

“What?” I asked, my heart racing as my overactive imagination roared to life and landed on the only possible conclusion: Terrorist attack! Evacuate the city!

“I don’t know,” she said. “Kim from rights was just let go, and so was her assistant. And Richard, I think your boss is with HR now.”

“Oh my god,” I said. This had to be what William was talking about. This was why he didn’t come in today. We hurried back to our desks. On the way, I glanced into Megan’s office. It was still empty. She had to be with HR too.

It was like the goddamn Hunger Games. One by one, various editors and their assistants were called down to HR. When they returned to their desks, they were either crying and/or fuming, tossing their things into boxes that the mail guys had delivered to their desks while they were downstairs.

“Hey.” I turned. Richard was behind me. “I just got a call to head down to HR. It’s been nice knowing you.”

“What?” I gasped. I fumbled to say something to make him feel better. “Maybe they’re promoting you?”

Richard laughed. “You can be really sweet sometimes.” With that, he walked away. Kate and I locked eyes from across the office, and she shook her head sadly.

My phone rang. It was William again. “William,” I said when I picked up.

He sighed. “Okay, do you know now?”

“Yes. What is going on?”

“Downsizing,” he said. “Sales aren’t doing as well as they’d hoped. But you and I—we’re fine. They need me,” he laughed, cockily. “And I need you. Therefore you are safe.”

“Who’s getting fired?”

“They’re not being fired, Josie. They’re being laid off. This isn’t about performance. It’s about money. Money that the company doesn’t have.”

“Fine, fine. Who is it?”

William listed a bunch of names. Megan was one of them, but Kate wasn’t, and neither was Richard. I felt hopeful for a moment before he said, “Oh! And your friend. What’s his name? He was at the party last night?”

My heart sank. “Richard.”

“Yeah, Richard. Listen,” William said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s purely a business decision. They overshot their load when they built the team for this imprint. They just have to get rid of some of the fat. HR will help everyone land jobs elsewhere, and they’ll be fine. You’re young, so this is new and traumatic for you. But I’ve been through this a million times before. I’ve been your friend Richard, and look at me now. He’ll be fine.”

I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead up against my fist. Of all days to be so hungover I could barely function it had to be this day. “Okay,” I said, quietly.

“This is why I told you not to come in,” William said. “Just shut your computer down and go home and have a glass of wine and relax. When you wake up in the morning it will be like it never happened.” Have a glass of wine? It wasn’t even noon.

We said goodbye and I placed the phone in the receiver. I was near tears for Richard.

I refreshed my email. Peter had written me back that he didn’t have any plans, and did I want to do something? I was just about to respond when I spotted Richard, back from HR. Kate and I ambushed him at the same time.

“What happened?” Kate asked. She’d gotten to him first.

“Take a wild guess,” he said.

Kate covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. “Come on,” Richard said, pulling Kate in for a hug. “I’m fine. They give you a surprisingly good severance too.”

“I’m really sorry, Richard,” I said. He held my gaze over the top of Kate’s head, which was buried in his chest. He reached out and squeezed my hand. “Thanks,” he said.

Kate and I helped him pack up his desk. It was 4 in the afternoon by the time he was done, and Kate’s boss told her to take off as well. Everyone who had been let go had gathered at a bar around the corner, so we decided to go there.

I texted Peter to tell him about the bloodbath, and that I was lending my support by having a drink with  the victims.

“Want me to come meet you?” he wrote back. I wanted to see him, but that would be like rubbing salt into Richard’s wound, so I told him no.

Everyone but Megan was at the bar. I found out that she had just gotten up and walked out when the HR rep told her they were letting her go. She didn’t even pack up her office! Megan had been icy, but she’d been good at her job and I learned a lot from her. I was going to have to send her an email or something—surely we’d cross paths again.

The last thing I wanted to do was drink after the night I’d had, but when I tried to order a club soda, Richard got all pouty. “I just got fired, and you can’t have a drink with me?” I ordered a beer, and nursed it for an hour, gagging on every sip. Meanwhile, I think Richard had at least three Jack and Cokes, and one whiskey shot. I had to turn away when he slugged it, afraid I would vomit vicariously through him.

The drunker he got, the handsier he got. But not with me—with Kate. And she was eating it up. At one point they were in the corner, him with his hand looped around her waist, inches from her ass, whispering into her ear. I watched him kiss her neck—the same way he’d kissed my neck the night before. When Kate turned around to order another drink at the bar, Richard looked pointedly at me. He took a sip of his drink, raising his eyebrows, as if to say, What are you going to do about it?

Nothing. There was nothing I could do about it without coming off like a real asshole. It really was an evil genius move on Richard’s part—if I told Kate not to hook up with him tonight, and I told her I thought he was just trying to make me jealous, I would look like a raging egomaniac. Plus, I’d have to come clean about what had happened the night before, but it wouldn’t look like I was telling her for pure reasons. It would look like I was telling her so that she wouldn’t hook up with Richard, because I was jealous or something. And maybe I was a little. But I was also outraged—a few hours ago you were telling me things would be different with me, and now you’re nuzzling my friend’s neck right in front of me. People who have just been fired deserve a lot of slack, but the scene in front of me was literally reason numero uno why I shouldn’t listen to a single word that comes out of Richard’s mouth. He’s so full of bullshit. He will say anything to get in a girl’s pants. God knows how many others he’s used that line with—”Just give me a chance to prove to you that you’re wrong about me.” What a crock.

I waited for Richard to go to the bathroom and I approached Kate. “Hey,” I said.

“Hi!” she said. She was glowing.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked, gently. “Remember how he was the last time?”

Kate rolled her eyes. “He just got fired. The guy deserves to get laid.”

“I just,” I stopped. Richard was coming out of the bathroom, and making his way over to us. He saw me close talking Kate and picked up the pace. Quickly, I said, “I just don’t want to see you upset like that again.”

Kate laughed. “Don’t worry, mom.”

“What’s going on?” Richard asked. He was practically out of breath from having rushed over to us.

“I’m taking off,” I said, giving him a look. “I’ll see you guys.”

Richard hooked his arm around Kate’s waist and pulled her into him. “Cool,” he said, narrowing his eyes at me. “See you.”

I turned on my heel. You have no right to be annoyed, you have no right to be annoyed, I chanted to myself as I made my way out of the bar. But I was annoyed! Why is Richard messing with me like this? And why was it bothering me when it shouldn’t? I needed to re-focus on Peter. Peter, who has been straightforward with me and isn’t playing games like Richard is.

I decided to chalk the last twenty-four hours up to the fact that it was the eve of Friday the 13th, and everyone was acting like damn fools. Myself included. I was also exhausted and needed to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, with a head that wasn’t throbbing like a discotheque,  everything would be clear. I wouldn’t have these conflicting feelings for Richard. I was sure of it.

Big Mistake. Huge.

The Social Media party was crawling with ombre haired girls in leather crop tops and guys doing their best Brody Jenner impressions.

“It’s the reality star effect,” Kevin said to me. “It’s made fame attainable to the masses. Every single person in here has probably filmed some pilot that never aired.”

I’d noticed the same effect going on with the fashion bloggers I’d met through out the week at various events for New York Fashion Week. Gorgeous girls in adorable outfits, all with blogs and “brands.” I had no idea who they were or how they paid the bills, but I swear I stumbled upon the younger, cooler version of Martha Stewart. William was extremely pleased with that find, and she’s working on a book proposal for us as we speak.

I’d watched the first two episodes of the show in Martin’s office earlier in the day. The show wouldn’t air for another few weeks because the start date got pushed back. I think I had a total of sixty seconds air time in each.

“We get into your storyline later in the season,” Martin promised. I was just trying to get used to hearing my voice on camera. I sounded like homicidal valley girl.

Both Kate and Richard were at the party—Kate because she has a bit spot on the show and Richard because his boss had no interest in attending and gave Richard his invite. I was holed up in the corner with the two of them, snarking on the the fame monsters, filling them in on the Peter situation, when Kevin stole me away. “Stuff like this is for mingling, not for clinging to your security blankets,” he snipped. Excuse my lameness.

But he was right—I don’t like socializing with randos and I need to get better at it. It’s how you open up  your network, make contacts that could help you further down the line, etc, etc. It’s just that I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that I have to dig really deep to be “on” come 9 PM.

Kevin introduced me around, and I collected quite a few cards. When people heard I worked in publishing and was responsible for the book deal that Kevin’s “boss” has (air quotes because she only played his boss in the show, but she is writing a book for us IRL), they descended on me like vultures. “My blog this and my blog that, would make a great book, yada yada.” I collected cards and stashed them in my purse. I’d take a look at their little slices of Internet real estate tomorrow. Half of these people don’t understand the difference between to and too, your and you’re, and it’s William’s biggest pet peeve. The onus was on me to weed out the grammatically weak.

After I’d put in my mingling time, I tried to find Kate and Richard, but they seemed to have disappeared. Finally, I ran into Richard coming out of the bathroom.

“There you are!” he said. “I thought you’d left.”

“I thought you both left too,” I said.

“Kate did.”


Kevin looked at his watch. “It’s almost midnight. And it’s a school night.”

I couldn’t believe how late it was. I should have been exhausted, but I was having such a good time that I must have been running on adrenaline. Even so, I needed to be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow, so I told Richard I needed to head out soon.

At that moment, William approached. “Josie.” He patted me on the shoulder. “You’ve really turned it around in these last few weeks.” His words strung together in a drunken slur. He shook his finger at me, “I almost went to HR about you but I’m glad I didn’t.”

Richard was standing right there—inappropriate! “I’m glad you didn’t too,” I managed to say, which made William roar with laughter. I hoisted my purse on my shoulder. “I’m about to take off.”

“What?!” William looked stricken. “No! Stay! This is your party.”

Yes, the producers threw this party for the girl with the sixty second spot. “We have work in the morning,” I reminded him.

William waved his hand and made a pshhh noise. A spit bubble formed in the corner of his mouth and I stared at it, transfixed. “Take tomorrow off. Hell, I’m going to. Let’s do a shot.” He acknowledged Richard for the first time. “Kid, you too.” Richard rolled his eyes and whispered to me as we made our way over to the bar, “Why can he never remember my name?”

I hurried after William. “Um, that’s very nice of you,” I said, close on his heels. He moved surprisingly fast for a portly middle aged man. “But is Megan okay with that?”

“Don’t worry about her,” William said. We were at the bar now, and he raised his hand to get the bartender’s attention.

“I kind of have to because she’s my boss too,” I said.

“Not for long,” William shot back.

I looked at Richard. He raised his eyebrows.

“What do you mean?”

“Three shots Patrón!” William shouted. The bartender said they didn’t have Patrón. “What do you mean you don’t have Patrón?” William fumed. “What kind of cheap ass event is this? Whatever, just give me what you got.” William turned to me, his face red. “What did you ask? Oh! Yeah. She’s not long for this world, trust me.” 

I wanted to get more information out of him—and in the state he was in I certainly could have—but William was pushing three tequila shots towards us. I took mine back, wincing, and that’s the moment I can pinpoint the night taking a turn.

William was like a shot pusher, encouraging me to do two more. Before I knew it, it was 2am and the party was over. Kevin stopped by to tell me a group of people were headed to an after-party, and invited Richard and me to tag along. I saw William stumble off with some Lauren Conrad wannabe. On his way to his own after-party, I guess.

The cab ride to the Boom Boom Room, in Meatpacking, was the stuff that corny party movies are made of. We begged the cab driver to crank up the music, and the three of us—me, Kevin, Richard—sang-scream at the top of our lungs, sticking our heads outside the window and demanding that other cars beep their horns at us.

At one point, Richard had his hand on my thigh…and I didn’t move it.

We’d worked ourselves up so much that by the time we got to the bar, we didn’t even order drinks. The three of us just hit the dance floor, continuing to scream-sing in each other’s faces. At one point, I attempted to reenact that scene from Dirty Dancing with Richard. We jogged backwards away from each other, and I charged at him. Richard caught me at my hips and tried to lift me up, but his arms failed him, and we ended up crashing to the floor. We knocked into some girl, causing her to drop her drink. Glass shattered everywhere. She started screaming at us, but the music was so loud we couldn’t hear a word she was saying, and for some reason this was hysterical to us.

The next thing I knew we were being escorted out by security. I remember Richard arguing with someone—the manager, maybe? I don’t remember what he said, but I’m pretty sure we are permanently banned from the Boom Boom Room.

“Your loss,” Richard shouted at the bouncer as he guided us out onto the street. We also found this hysterical, of course, and doubled over laughing. We walked like that for a few blocks until we finally stopped, exhausted from laughing, panting, and a little bit sweaty. We stared at each other, catching our breath, and in the next instant we were kissing.

Richard had me up against the wall of some random store front, closed for the night. I think it was the DVF store? Love your work, Diane!

Even though I’m technically a free agent, deep down I knew this wasn’t right. And not just because of Peter—because of Kate, because Richard is my friend and co-worker and because I know how he is with girls and I didn’t want to be just another notch on his belt. These rational thoughts bubbled to my head all at once and I pushed Richard away. “Wait,” I gasped. “Wait.”

Richard tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “What?” he smiled.

“We can’t do this.”

“Why?”He kissed my neck and I groaned.

“Come on,” I pushed him off again. “You know why.”

“Fuck it,” Richard said. “Just let yourself live, Josie.”

Just let yourself live, Josie? Under normal circumstances, I’d scoff at such emo-ness. But I was so caught up in the moment, and Richard felt so good, I didn’t push him away when we started kissing me again.

As though God himself had intervened, suddenly there was a flashlight on us. “Hey!” It was a policeman. “You kids need to get going.”

“Sorry, officer,” I murmured, pretty sure I had hot pink lip stick smeared all over my face.

Richard and I headed east. I saw a few cabs loitering a few blocks away. Richard tried to grab my hand as we walked towards them but I pulled it away. That cop had broken whatever spell I was under, and now I was just feeling like I’d made a huge mistake.

“What?” Richard asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “I just need to get home. I’m exhausted all of a sudden.”

Richard put his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. “My place or your place?”

“Come on,” I said. I gently nudged him off me and kept walking.

“You’re unbelievable, you know that?” Richard had stopped walking. He was saying this, and not quietly, from a few steps behind me.

I turned around. “What does that mean?”

“It means you might be the biggest cock teases I’ve ever met.”

Now he started walking, and he stormed past me. “Excuse me?” I said, catching up with him. “I’ve already told you I don’t think this is a good idea—weeks ago—and you know it isn’t.” Richard didn’t slow down, and I had to jog to keep up with him. “We had a lot to drink tonight, neither of us is thinking clearly. I don’t want to mess up our friendship or hurt Kate. Or Peter.”

That got him to stop walking. “He’s not even your boyfriend!” Richard laughed, meanly. “He has got you right where he wants you—thinking you’re the one calling the shots, that you’re the one who’s on the fence about being in a relationship. It’s genius, really.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Josie, no guy wants to be in a relationship. Ever. They just want to have sex and fall asleep and not have to meet your parents or do any of those bullshit boyfriend things. Peter is the happiest man on earth right now because he’s getting to do just that and you’re dumb enough to think it’s on your terms.”

I reeled back like he had hit me. No one had said anything that mean to my face in a long time.

Instead of easing up on me, Richard twisted the knife even deeper. “It’s pathetic that you can’t see it. I feel bad for you, really.”

I blinked back tears. Even though I knew what he was saying wasn’t true, even though I knew Richard was just mad and drunk and trying to take a pot shot, it still hurt. “You’re such a fucking asshole sometimes.”

I turned and started towards the cabs.

“Aw, Josie.” I heard Richard behind me, and I broke into a run.

“Josie, wait!” But I was already in a cab, giving him the driver my address, telling him to go. We sped past Richard and I saw him throw his hands up in frustration. Moments later, he texted me, “I didn’t mean what I said. I’m sorry.”

I ignored it.

I have no idea if I should tell Kate about what happened or not. Part of me feels like telling her is a selfish move, because it will only be to alleviate my guilt. And it’s not like anything happened, happened. The other part of me feels like I do owe her the courtesy of telling her, and that I’m just trying to talk myself out of it because I’m scared she’ll be mad at me. No matter what, I wouldn’t be able to hide how angry and hurt I am, and she’s going to wonder why I’m giving Richard the cold shoulder all of a sudden. One thing I did know for sure was that I wasn’t going to tell Peter—even though it wasn’t the most decent thing to do, he’s not my boyfriend. I didn’t violate any exclusivity code because as Richard so kindly pointed out, we don’t have one.

As for Richard. The thought of having to see him at work the next day made me want to throw up—despite William telling me I could take the day off, I was planning on going in any way. That five minute scuffle on the street showed Richard for who he really was: An overgrown baby who wanted to screw everything in sight but oh, woe is me, I have twust wissues so I won’t stick around after I have sex with you and if you get mad at me then you’re a crazy bitch. God, I hate guys like that. If I had just slept with him weeks ago he would have zero sexual interest in me now, I can promise you that.

But what made me the most angry was that even though I knew Richard was just trying to get under my skin with everything he said about Peter, he’d managed to touch a nerve. Damn him. Now I was doubting myself. Was Peter using me? Was it possible that Richard could see something, guy to guy, that I couldn’t?

Motorboatin’ SOB

True to his word, Peter called me on Friday afternoon.

“So this is bad timing,” Peter said. “But something came up this weekend.” He explained that one of his friends from college, a guy named Daniel, was coming to New York because his wife had announced she was divorcing him a few weeks ago. They lived in DC, and he had to vacate their apartment for the weekend so she could move out. “They’ve only been married a year and a half,” Peter sighed. “I know how that goes.”

“What happened?” I asked, obviously more out of morbid curiosity than concern. I don’t even know the guy and abrupt divorces like this boggle my mind.

“He said they just weren’t getting along,” Peter said. “They tried counseling but after a few sessions his wife just decided she couldn’t do it anymore.”

“Is he upset or is it more mutual?”

“He’s a mess,” Peter said. “He’s crashing with his brother, but he wants to see me when he gets in tonight. I think he wants my advice because I’ve been there, you know? But maybe we can do something tomorrow night?”

It actually worked out better this way. Ashley had been on Nina and me to meet Tom, her new man and current boss (sorry, can’t help myself), and she’d suggested getting a drink on Friday. It was the only day I had free in the next week. It was Fashion Week in New York, and William had arranged for me to attend a few dinners and cocktail parties, on the hunt for the next great fashion blogger/personality who could write a book for us and make us millions of dollars. I also had the Social Media party on Wednesday night.

Tom commuted into the city every day from Bronxville, where he was renting an apartment until his divorce was finalized. There must be a divorce bug in the water or something. No one drink the water! We agreed to grab a drink before Ashley headed out to Westchester with him for the weekend, which she had been doing more and more.

I feel bad saying this, but Tom is not that cute. He’s a ginger, and normally, I have a soft spot for gingers. (Call me, Prince Harry). But he’s just kind of hairy and freckly and paunchy. For this reason, I expected Tom to have a dynamic personality. That had to be what Ashley saw in him, right?

After five minutes with Tom, it became clear that he did not have a dynamic personality. He wasn’t a jerk, but he was just so bland and uncharismatic. He also seemed completely uninterested in getting to know Nina and me. We asked him a ton of questions about himself, and didn’t ask us a one. Maybe he has a large freckly penis?

Before we paid the bill, Tom made an odd comment, something to the affect of how he couldn’t wait to get Ashley out of the city and into a soccer mom van. Ashley beamed at him, like it was all she ever wanted in life too. I think I burned off the calories in my drink in the restraint it took not to roll my eyes. Not everyone wants the same things in life that you do, Judgy Josie!

Tom went to use the rest room before they left to catch their train. He also offered to cover the entire tab, which was really sweet of him. “What do you think?” Ashley asked, when it was just the three of us.

I’d been down this road with her before. “He’s clearly crazy about you,” I said, choosing my words carefully. That part was true at least, he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off of Ashley the entire time. Methinks it’s because he’s still in shock he bagged a girl that pretty.

“Totally crazy about you,” Nina agreed.

Ashley smiled. “We’re talking about getting engaged.”

Nina and I forced plastic pageant girl smiles on our faces.  “That’s great,” I squeaked.

Ashley rolled her eyes. “I hope you were a better actress on your show,” she said to me. “Look, I know it’s a lot to take in, but I’m telling you, this is the real deal. I can’t wait for you guys to get to know him better and see it for yourselves.”

“Me too,” Nina said, and I nodded my head in agreement, obediently.

The next night, Peter was able to wrangle himself free from his friend, Daniel, to take me out to dinner.

“I am emotionally drained,” Peter said, shredding a piece of bread and smushing it into a pool of olive oil. “He is a trainwreck.”

“Think about what Fedora Guy did for you,” I said. Peter had told me that when he was going through his divorce, Fedora Guy checked on him every day and made sure he got up, got dressed, and went to work. Fedora Guy used to annoy me with his braggy, fedora-sporting ways. And let’s not forget about the time he asked to wear Ashley’s thong! But when Peter had told me what Fedora Guy did for him, I had changed my tune on the guy.

“I know, I know,” Peter said. “I’m trying to return the karmic favor.”

“I think if you do, karma will reward you greatly.” I raised my eyebrows at him and ran my hand up his thigh, under the table. Peter stopped chewing.

“That is so nice of karma to do,” he said. I was relieved of having to come up with another pun-y response because his phone started buzzing. Peter reached into his pocket and silenced the call.

The waiter arrived with our appetizers, and Peter’s phone buzzed again. “Sorry,” he said. “I just want to see who this is.” Peter emitted a heavy sigh when he read the text on his phone.

“What?” I asked.

Peter held his phone out to me so I could read the text. It was from Daniel, “Where are you? My brother is being lame and going to bed and I’m going crazy. Need to get out of the house.”

“Do you want to meet him after dinner?” I offered.  Even though I was really looking forward to going home with Peter after dinner, I would understand if Peter needed to see his friend.

“That’s the thing, I don’t want to see him,” Peter said. “I know he just wants to get plastered and I’m exhausted. He had me doing Jameson shots with him until 3 in the morning last night.”

“Doing Jameson shots until 3 in the morning sounds kind of fun,” I said.

“Yeah, when you’re twenty-five. When you’re on the wrong side of thirty-five it hurts.”

Peter’s phone buzzed with another text, and he showed his phone to me again. “I’m sorry, I know you’re out with your girl but please man? I’m dying over here.”

I stuck my lower lip out. “Poor guy. What if we just meet him for a few drinks?”

“You’ll come with me?” Peter asked, and I nodded. “You’re alright, Josie.”

Forty-five minutes later, I was regretting my decision. Daniel was hammered, blubbering into his drink about his “bitch wife” and how he was a good guy, such a good guy, such a catch! That bitch would be sorry. She’d never find a guy like him again.

“I know, man,” Peter said, squeezing his shoulder. “It’ going to be alright. You’re going to be alright.”

“You know I’d feel a lot better if I had some titties in my face.” He glanced at me. “Sorry.”

I held my hands up. “You don’t have to apologize.” In my eternal quest to be the cool girl, I said, “If you’re serious, Sapphire’s has the best ones.” Not that I knew from personal experience or anything—a guy friend had told me that once.

This seemed to sober Daniel up. “Really?” He looked at Peter. “Let’s go.”

“No, man, I can’t,” Peter said.

Daniel gestured drunkenly at me. “She doesn’t mind. She can come.”

Peter looked at me and I shrugged. Strip clubs don’t bother me. I’d gone to a strip club once with my college ex, and we actually had pretty hot sex afterwards. Remembering this, I said to Peter, “I’m down.”

Which is how I ended up with titties in my face on Saturday night. I didn’t have much to compare to Sapphire’s, but dare I say it was actually kind of an okay place? The thing about it that I liked was that there were other women there—I spotted a group of girls, about my age, there to celebrate a bachelorette party. A mixed group of girls and guys, also about my age, crowded around the bar. Daniel was just paying for lap dance after lap dance, while Peter and I sipped our drinks and watched a Megan Fox lookalike work the pole. I am strictly dickly, but when I watch porn, or even a sex scene in a movie, I always look at the girl, not the guy. I think it’s because I can put myself in her shoes, and imagine what she’s feeling. At that moment, I was imagining what the MF doppleganger was feeling, knowing that everyone’s attention was directed on her and her amazing rack. I placed my hand on Peter’s inner thigh and squeezed.

He leaned in to me. “I can’t fucking wait to take you home.”

Oh, brother. Now I was really hot. I moved my hand a little further up his thigh and grazed my fingers over his package. He was hard. Peter moaned quietly under his breath. He downed his drink, leaned over to Daniel and whispered something in his ear. Daniel waved him off and continued to motorboat the blonde gyrating on his lap.  Peter grabbed my hand. “Let’s go.”

Peter whisked me out of the place, holding my hand over his bulging erection (just kidding, he’d gotten himself under control…somewhat). We had difficulty finding a cab which was like the universe playing a cruel joke on us—we’re horny universe, give us a cab! Thankfully we weren’t far from Peter’s apartment.

Peter gave the driver his address and I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from telling the guy to step on it. There must have been some event in the city, because traffic was bad. I was gazing out the window at the line of cars in front of us when I felt Peter’s hand on my inner thigh. I was suddenly really glad I’d worn a dress.

Silently, so the cab driver wouldn’t notice, Peter slipped his hand under my dress and all the way up my leg. He started touching me—over my underwear at first. I sucked in a sharp breath and let my knees fall open. He stroked me—torturously soft and slow. Leaning in to me, he whispered in my ear, “I want you to reach down and push your underwear aside.”

Humana. I did as I was told. Peter leaned in and whispered again. “Hold it there.”

When I felt his fingers on me, skin to skin, I had to bite down on my lower lip to keep from moaning. Peter circled his fingers over me, all the while casually glancing out the window.

“Why don’t you try 3rd avenue?” he suggested to the driver, calmly, continuing to touch me, working me into a furor.

“You want me to make a left here?” the driver asked.

“Go up a few more blocks,” Peter said, pressing harder. Tapping. He pulled his hand away and quickly wet the pads of his finger with his mouth. I thought my eyes would roll into the back of my head when I felt his hand on me again.

“This traffic, man,” the driver complained.

“I know, what’s going on?” Peter slipped a finger inside of me, pressing the pad of his thumb against me.

“Something in Central Park,” the driver said.

“And we’re feeling it all the way over here?” Peter put another finger inside of me, and I bit down on my finger. Over the cab driver’s explanation, I came.

When we got to Peter’s apartment building, Peter had to practically lift me out of the cab due to my severe case of gumbi legs. I waved sleepily at his doorman—I really could have just gone right to bed, embraced my orgasm coma, but I knew I had a favor to return when I got the 23rd floor. And return it I did.

Little Bastards

I felt like I needed a vacation from my vacation when I got back to New York. Also, a juice cleanse. But since those require a level of willpower I do not possess, I decided to work out really hard instead.

I was supposed to go out to dinner with Ashley and Nina to catch up, but I convinced them to bag our reservation and instead check out this new class that the Time Out New York reviewer said was so hard she had to leave in the middle of it. I lied and told Ashley and Nina it was a yoga class and when the instructor demanded we drop and give her twenty—”The real kind none of this on your knees girly bullshit!”—Nina “accidentally” stepped on my fingers. Afterwards, we walked to my apartment, showered and ordered healthy: Greek Salad from my local diner that comes with a pound of feta and a loaf of pita. My feet will never be able to move as fast as my fingers.

As we dug for nuggets of cheese, I told them about my weekend.

“Babies? Gross.” Nina had this look on her face like she’d just sucked on a lime post-tequila shot. Nina wants kids but can’t stand other people’s. I once suggested that maybe this is not the best sign, to which she replied, “I know I’ll like my own.”

“There was also a five year old who informed me that he was a little bastard.”

Nina spit out her water. “What?!”

“He said that’s what his daddy calls him.”

Nina burst out laughing.

“That’s not funny!” Ashley said. “The poor kid.”

“To be fair, he was kind of a bastard,” I said. “He kept pulling the dog’s tail and kicking his mom in the shins when she told him to stop.”

“Oh the joys we have to look forward to in life,” Ashley said.

“The joys you have to look forward to,” I corrected.

“Josie, come on,” Ashley said. “You know you’re going to pop at least one out. Stop trying to be so anti-establishment.”

“Maybe I will.” I shrugged. “I’m telling you, the only thing I think when I see a baby is, ‘Life ruiner!’ I can’t write the next great American novel with mini ET screaming in my ear.” If you want the armchair explanation of why I don’t think I want kids, I could tell you that my mom raised me to value my career first. That if I ever decide to have kids, I should do it later in life, once I’m established professionally. And that I should never, ever drop out of the rat race to stay at home with them because I just never know what could happen. “I can’t tell you how many friends of mine never went back to work and now they’re divorced and can’t get a job because they’ve been out of the workforce for over twenty years,” my mom told me. But even if my mom hadn’t been the OG Sheryl Sandberg, even if I’d been raised by Susie homemaker herself, I still think I’d feel every bit as meh about the prospect of children. I just don’t feel that tug on my heart when I see a baby. On the contrary, the very sight of a child makes me want to take a big ole nap. Whenever I babysat in high school and college, I was bored to tears after five minutes. Ashley is great with kids—I’ve seen her in action. I’m missing that chip. Having a family is not high on my priority list right now. People tell me all the time that will change, and I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’ve got it all figured out at twenty-five years old. But for right now, this is what I know about how I feel.

“Oh!” Nina said. “That reminds me. One of my grad school friends has a friend who’s writing a cover story for The Hudson about millennials who are ambivalent about kids. She needs people to interview. Would you do it?”

“Yeah, send her my info,” I said.

“Well, it doesn’t sound like Peter is ambivalent about having kids,” Ashley said.

“Guys are so lucky,” Nina sighed. “He’s like a hundred years old and he still doesn’t have to worry about pulling the trigger.”

“That’s why the age difference isn’t an issue,” I said. “He wants kids, but he said he’s happy waiting a few more years and biologically, he can. I think he realized that when he tried to work things out with Elizabeth. Like why would he rush into something with her and settle for being linked to a crazy woman for the rest of his life when he doesn’t have to?” Peter and I had a long talk on our way back from Nantucket—more on that later.

“Well, Tom is ready,” Ashley said. Both Nina and I fell silent. Tom is Ashley’s married boss. Separated but still married. Also, still her boss—she hasn’t found a new job yet.

“Are you ready?” Nina asked.

“He makes me feel ready,” Ashley said. I kept my mouth shut. It’s possible that this could work out, and I don’t want to be the naysayer who said it couldn’t.

“Brad is definitely not ready,” Nina said about her boyfriend. “And thank god.”

The next morning, I sent Grady a text: Sorry I’ve been so MIA. Been busy at work and was away for the holiday weekend. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t think I’m ready to be dating right now. I just got out of a relationship, and my job has been demanding a lot of me and I need to give it my full attention. I hope you understand.

It wasn’t the full truth, obviously. Yes, my job is demanding a lot of me, but I’m still finding the time for Peter. I just don’t think the truth is always warranted in this kind of situation, especially if it will unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings. No need to make Grady feel bad by telling him I just can’t hook up with someone who might get my underwear confused with his. Grady never wrote back, and that’s fine. I wouldn’t have written back to that either.

Even though I had an amazing time with Peter over the weekend, I needed to take a few days and, “Do me,” as the kids say. I don’t say this flippantly—like it’s justsoooo easy to pump the brakes with someone like Peter. But Peter and I had a good talk on the way home from Nantucket. I refused to get into that small plane again, meaning we had to take the ferry from Nantucket to Hyannis (one hour), then rent a car and drive six hours back to New York. So there was pahhh-lenty of time for us to talk. I told him about this article I read in Cosmopolitan (winkie wink) that said that it can be very tempting to just pick up where you left off with an ex without ever really discussing the factors that caused you to break up in the first place. For me, my main issue was that I felt like I was nothing more than Peter’s little rebound until he got back together with his ex. I want to feel like his equal, and I never want to feel the way I did that night at the charity dinner with Elizabeth and her family.  I had a lot of trust issues with Peter, but they were specific to Elizabeth. When we dated last year, she was still in the picture somewhat. I don’t think Peter was fully over her yet (well, obviously, he wasn’t!). But now that Peter doesn’t work with her father anymore, and now that she’s having a baby with someone else, it seems all ties had been severed.

On his end, Peter felt his biological clock ticking (Paraphrasing here. Peter would never be so lame to say he felt his biological clock ticking). He felt like he couldn’t be serious with someone as young as me. But getting back together with Elizabeth was a good thing in the end, he said, because it made him realize that just because two people want a baby at the same time, does not mean they should have one together.

“That’s why we only lasted a month,” he said. “It quickly became clear that we got a divorce for a good reason.”

After that disaster, Peter realized he was a man, damnit! His swimmers were good for a few more years and there was no need to rush into something just to produce an heir.

It seems the issues that broke us up have been resolved, and somewhat organically. But that aside, I also don’t want us getting so serious right now. I only have so much energy to devote to different facets of my life, and I need to direct as much of it as possible to my job. I told Peter this, and he says he understands. When he dropped me off at my apartment earlier in the week, he said he would text me on Friday to see what I was up to. It’s Thursday and we haven’t spoken since. I guess this is what it feels like to take things nice and slow, and truth be told, I don’t hate it.

The Run Around


The trip to Nantucket started off on the wrong foot when the six seater death machine that was to take us from Boston to Nantucket gurgled and sputtered five minutes after take off, forcing the pilot to turn around and land back at Logan.

“Engine troubles,” the pilot said, once we were safely on the ground.

I turned to Peter, aghast. “Engine troubles?”

Peter laughed. “Josie, he could have made the decision to keep flying. Instead he knew to turn around. That should reassure you.”

Nothing about that was reassuring to me. We had to wait two hours while the engineers toiled away at the faulty gear, and I was so nervous that I knocked back two double Bloody Mary’s on an empty stomach. And I’d taken an anti-anxiety pill earlier that morning. I was practically drooling on myself when we landed in Nantucket.

So yes, I decided to tag along with Peter after all. I wouldn’t have gone if Peter’s parents had been at the house. That definitely would be too much, too soon. But his parents had already returned to Florida (which is where they spend their winters), and the house was his for the weekend. He had invited a few college friends, all of them married, all of them with children. It had occurred to me that when we dated the first time around, I had only ever met his single friends, like Fedora Guy. But Peter was 37, so the singletons were few and far between. The majority of his friends were married with families, but Peter had never brought me around any of those people before. It made me feel good that he was doing so now, like he was taking me more seriously.

As for Grady. I had avoided his calls and texts this whole week. I know! I’m terrible. I just didn’t know what to say to him. He’s so hot, but I just don’t think that I can hook up with someone who gets paid to wear a thong. I don’t want to ghost on him, because I hate when guys do that to me, but it was such a busy week at work and I was out on Friday, and I just didn’t know what to say to him. I promise I will respond to him next week. He’s a nice guy at his core, and I don’t want to leave him hanging.

By the time we got to Peter’s house, I was feeling like Will Ferrell in that scene in Old School where he gets hit with a tranquilizer gun.

“I needz nap,” I slurred to Peter as we pulled up to the house. I passed out for like three hours and when I came to, the house was alive with voices. I brushed my teeth, combed the rat’s nest out of my hair, and put on some mascara.

The kitchen had been transformed since I last saw it. There were play pens, swings, toys, and babies EVERYWHERE. An older kid zipped past me, chasing a dog.

“You’re up,” Peter said, smiling. He gave me a kiss on the cheek. “How do you feel?”

“So much better.”

Peter introduced me around. There were three couples total: Jack and Reese, Ellen and Chris, and Jennifer and Rob. They all pointed out their respective children and I tried to pay attention, but all the babies looked the same to me so I just smiled and nodded and cooed how cute they were even though I felt dead inside. I am really not a baby person, or any kid under the age of 15 person. People always look at me like I’m an insane idiot when I say this, but whenever, if ever, I have kids, I would rather skip the whole baby stage and just go straight to them being teenagers. Give me a sassy mean girl, or a gentle nerd who loves his band camp, over a poopy, crying, blobity blob any day of the week.

“So what’s on tap for tonight?” I asked, mentally crossing my fingers that we were going to The Lobster Trap and I could dive into one of those big red bad boys.

“This,” Reese said, gesturing to the babypocalypse before us.

“We have steaks and stuff to just grill here,” Peter said, off my horrified look.

For the next few hours everyone sipped wine and watched babies. Literally, you guys. Just watched them. When the kids finally went to bed a few hours later, the guys decided to go into town. That sounded like a blast to me, but Reese, who had really taken a liking to me, made a pouty face when I said I was leaving and said, “No! Stay here and drink wine with us!” It didn’t even occur to me that we couldn’t all go to the bars—someone had to stay and make sure the babies were okay, and naturally, the onus fell on the moms.

I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with the girls, so I agreed.

“You sure?” Peter asked, when the cabs arrived to take them to the bars.

“I’ll be fine,” I said, trying to convince not just him but myself. “There’s really good rose here,” I added.

Once the guys left, the girls all gathered on the porch. The coffee tabled was littered with wine glasses and baby monitors.

“Josie, we are so happy you are here,” Reese laughed, and all the other girls nodded in agreement.

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes!” Reese said. “We do this weekend almost every year. Peter hasn’t brought anyone since Elizabeth.”

“Really?” I asked.

Ellen nodded. “And we’ve heard so much about you. We’re so relieved you two are back together.”

Jennifer elbowed her. “Ellen!”

“What?” Ellen shot Jennifer a look. “What’s wrong with telling her that?”

Jennifer shrugged. “It’s just a lot of pressure, that’s all.” She looked at me. “You two just started seeing each other again, right?”

“Like two weeks ago,” I said. “I wouldn’t say we are back together by any means.”

Jennifer nodded, like her point was proven. “See what I mean? Don’t go spinning this into something bigger than it is.”

Reese waved her hand at Jennifer, dismissing her. “I just know Peter is ready to settle down. Get his ducks in order.” She pointed at me. “You’re special to him, I just know it.”

It was a really nice thing to say, but it just made me really wish I had gone into town with the guys. Especially since the three of them spent the next hour discussing preschools and I had to pinch my thigh to keep from falling asleep. I asked them about their jobs, and funny thing! Not a single one of them works. When they asked me what I did and I told them I was in publishing, Reese nodded knowingly. “That’s the perfect thing to play around in for a few years before you start having kids.” To play around in for a few years before having kids? Was that a time machine and not a plane that Peter and I rode in earlier? I was starting to have second thoughts about coming.

I was in bed, reading Night Film (buy it now if you haven’t already), when I heard the taxi pull into the driveway. A few minutes later the door creaked open. “Hey you,” Peter said, sliding into bed next to me.

“How was it?”

“Fun.” He took the book out of my hands and set it on the nightstand. Started kissing me.

I put my hand on his chest. “Wait.”

Peter looked at me. “What?”

“I just felt kind of…out of my element tonight.”

Peter sat up straight. “What happened?”

“No, no. Nothing happened. I just…well, maybe I should have gone with you. Your friends are really nice. I’m just worried I don’t have a lot in common with them.”

“I’m not following.”

“They just talked about babies, and you settling down, and how I’m special to you and it just freaked me out. I’m a long ways off from being at that point, and I don’t want to hold you back if that’s where you want to be.”

Peter laughed. “Josie, you’re not holding me back. Trust me. I love all those girls but honestly, they’re just a little bit bored with their lives and misery loves company. It’s probably hard for them to see someone who’s young and has a really cool career and is killing it.” Now, that is my kind of pillow talk. I’m “killing” it? Oh baby, give me more.

He kissed me again, and this time I kissed him back. He swung me around so that I was on top of him, and he slipped inside of me wordlessly. Reaching up, Peter curled his fingers around the back of my neck, pulling my hair so that my head tilted back. He sat up, so that we were face to face, and held me close to him, so that even as he thrust furiously into me, I was brushing against his pelvic bone, a rush building in my stomach. When I finally released I felt a tingle in every limb, even my fingertips.

The next morning, I decided to go for a run and sweat out all the wine from the night before. Peter said that I should just make a left out of the driveway and keep going until I hit the dirt road. “Follow that until it ends,” he said. “It’s a mile and three quarters out, so it’s a 3 and a half mile run total.”

I set off. The dirt road was lined with “rustic looking” million dollar mansions, some close to the road, some set way back. There was absolutely no shade, and even though it was only ten in the morning, the sun was blazing hot. I felt great on the way out, but as soon as I turned around, my stomach decided to go into douchebag mode.

I needed a bathroom, and I needed it now. I was almost two miles from the house. Shit, shit, shit. I slowed to a walk, and looked around frantically for a covert spot in the brush. But with houses on either side of me, I was so exposed! I took a step off the road, but then I heard a car coming behind me, so I bounced back on the path and pretended like I was a power walker. The driver slowed down to wave to me. He was a sweet looking old man, but my god, did I need him to just keep on going and quit dilly dallying. I forced a smile onto my face and waved back. The second he was out of sight, my body just took over. You guys, I don’t even know how to describe it. It was like my brain wasn’t in control anymore and every modicum of human decency went out the window because suddenly, my running shorts were around my ankles and I was crouched down on the side of the road and it was happening. You know what I mean.

I have never felt so disgusting in my life. I sprinted off, praying none of Peter’s neighbors witnessed me pooping on the side of the road like a dog. I made it back to the house in record time. Seriously, new way to shave a few seconds off your mile—soil the back of your light blue running shorts and run as fast as you can before anyone sees you!

There was an outdoor shower built into the side of the house. I didn’t have a towel, I didn’t have any of my toiletries, but I had to get in there and clean up before anyone saw me, namely Peter. I slipped inside, stripped down, and got under the stream of water. Nothing had ever felt more refreshing. Then I heard someone exit the back of the house.

“Josie?” It was Peter. With terrible timing.

“Yup! Just taking a shower.” I tried to keep my voice breezy. Nothing to see in here! Keep moving!

Peter was at the door to the shower. I could see slivers of his face through the wood paneling. “Hey,” he said. “Mind if I join you?”

Why yes, I do mind. “Um, not right now!”

Peter pulled at the door and I dove for my running shorts. I got to them in the nick of time, and flung them over the side of the shower. I heard them land in the rose beds. At some point over the weekend, I was going to have to wedge myself back there and dig them out. That would be a fun activity for later.

“Hey.” Peter smiled. Pulled off his shirt and kicked off his shorts. He stepped under the stream of water with me. When he pressed me up against the wall, pinning my hands above my head, it felt so good that I almost forgot the trauma of the last twenty minutes. Almost.

The rest of the weekend was a much better. (Really, there was nowhere to go but up from there.) The group got a babysitter for Saturday night, and we all went out to a really nice dinner. There was no more talk of Peter settling down from Reese. I got the feeling Jennifer told her to put a lid on it, and for that I was immensely grateful.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and dug my shorts out of the flower bed. Then I triple bagged them in plastic bags and stuffed them in the bottom of the garbage, never to be seen or heard from again.

Twerk It, Grady

Grady’s lower lip dropped ever so slightly when he saw me. But like a true professional, he kept dancing. Everyone was cheering him on (everyone being all the girls. The guys had gone into the kitchen to bitch and drink beer like manly men.)

“You guys!” Kate covered her face with her hands, half horrified, half loving it as Grady ripped his pants off and stuck his big package in her face. And Oh My God, he was wearing a thong. What’s that line from Legally Blonde? A Delta Nu would never sleep with a man in a thong? As much as I wanted to legally bone Grady, this may be a dealbreaker.

I politely excused myself from the mayhem and found Richard in the kitchen.

“Enough front row action?” he asked.

“I’ve gotten the live show,” I said.

Richard cocked his head at me and I explained.

“Josie!” Richard covered his mouth with his hand and laughed so hard some of his friends asked what was going on. I shushed him furiously. He was grossly over reacting, and I wasn’t sure why.

“I can’t believe you’d hook up with a stripper and not me,” Richard said. Ah, so that was it. He smiled, his way of letting me know he was kidding, but he wasn’t fooling me. Richard was not used to girls saying no to him, and maybe things weren’t as okay between us as I thought they were.

“He’s an actor, not a stripper,” I said, defensively.

Richard gestured to the living room. Grady was now standing on the couch, straddling some girl and dangling his family jewels over her face. Damnit, Grady! You had to move into the teabagging portion of your performance at that exact moment, didn’t you? “What do you call that?”

“He wears a few hats, okay?” This conversation was annoying me. Richard hooks up with a different girl every night we’re here, and he’s judging moi? I was also detecting some snobbery. I wanted to point out that we work for an imprint that publishes celebrity and celebwannabe fluff, and we weren’t so highbrow ourselves. But I noticed that Grady’s performance was ending, and I wanted to speak to him before he left.

Grady was pulling his clothes on when I approached him.

“Um, hi,” I said.

“Hi, yourself,” he said, smiling. He started closing the buttons on his uniform. With each snap, more of his perfect abdomen disappeared. “Busted, I guess.”

“How long have you been doing this?” I asked.

“Only a year.” He smoothed his hair away from his face. “These, um, services, I guess you could say, had a resurgence afterMagic Mike came out. Some of my actor friends were picking up odd jobs here and there.” He shrugged. “Pays well.” He looked around the room, at all the girls talking amongst each other, trying to pretend like they weren’t staring at him when they were. “And it’s fun.” Grady dropped to his knees and began lacing up his shoes.

“It doesn’t make you feel like man meat?” I asked.

Grady stood. He cupped his hands around my face and leaned in close. “Maybe I like feeling like man meat.” He gave me a peck on the tip of my nose before plopping his hat on his head. “I’ll call you.” Then, waving to the room, he said, “Always obey the law, ladies.” He exited the house to the sound of whoops and cheers.

I texted Peter on my way back to the city on Sunday. By 7pm, he was ringing my buzzer (do with that what you will). I thank Jesus my Lord and Savior for cute boys every day of the week, but I’m especially grateful for them on Sundays. There’s just something about having a guy come over on the last lazy day of the weekend, having a slowie (the quickie’s more lethargic cousin), ordering pizza, and lounging about in your sweats that makes me so very, very happy.

I was on the phone with my mom when I let Peter in. She was in a tizzy because my aunt wanted to do Thanksgiving at her house this year, even though it wasn’t her turn because she hosted last year and, “Her turkey was dry!” I mouthed hi and put my finger to my lips. Peter kissed me on the cheek, closed the door behind him, and wrapped his arms around my waist. He slipped one hand underneath the waistband of my boxer shorts and I shook my head at him. “It’s my mom,” I whispered.

“Your aunt is just being so unreasonable,” My mom was saying.

“I know, mom,” I said. “I’m so”—my voice caught in my throat as Peter pushed me up against the wall and dropped to his knees in front of me.

“Sweetie?” my mom asked.

Peter pushed my shorts aside and pressed his tongue between my legs.

“I’m here.” It came out strangled. “Mom,” I swallowed. Focus, Josie! “Mom, I have to call you back!”

I didn’t even say goodbye. Just hit end and leaned against the wall, trying to steady myself as Peter circled his tongue again and again.

Forty-five rejuvenating minutes later, Peter and I were on the couch, watching TV and refueling with pepperoni pizza.

“So now will you tell me about William?” I asked.

“You just can’t let this go, can you?”

“Of course I can’t.”

Peter sighed. “Some if this is just speculation on my part, okay?”

“Just get to the good stuff!” I practically shouted.

This was Peter’s theory: Elizabeth wanted a baby. He did too, but then he realized, just not with her (I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY). They split, the next he hears she’s with William Bradford, and she’s pregnant. The scandal is that William had been with another woman for eight years, had decided to have a baby with her, then left her six months pregnant to be with Elizabeth. This was some Tom Brady/Bridget Moynahan/Gisele shit. Look it up.

“So William is going to have two children by two different women who are roughly the same age?” I gasped.

“Well,” Peter said. “Not exactly.” Peter went on to explain that he never bought that William was the father, and he thinks William realized that too, especially after that item in the Post came out and it was clear that William wasn’t the only sperm donor in the pool.

“I think Elizabeth wanted you to work for William, knowing there was a good chance he would hit on you and something would happen between the two of you. She would then have a reason to leave him, and I’m sure she would have loved to share this information with me, so that I would think poorly of you.” Peter cleared his throat. “Which I wouldn’t have, obviously.”

William has a tire around his middle and hasn’t had hair since ’97. Thanks for thinking so highly of me, Elizabetch. “But why would Elizabeth go to the trouble of starting something with William if she didn’t ever want to be with him?” I asked.

“Because she’s a mess,” Peter said. “She wanted to be pregnant, she made that happen, somehow. Then she picked the guy who could offer her the most stability to be the ‘father’ and I guess that guy was William. But as I’ve learned with Elizabeth, as soon as she gets what she wants,” he held up his hands, “She doesn’t want it anymore.”

I swallowed. “Peter, have you ever stopped to think that”—

“I could be the father?” Peter said, filling in my sentence. I restrained myself from making a Maury joke. He shook his head. “It’s not possible. Elizabeth is due in September, meaning she got pregnant some time in January. The last time we,” he paused. Cleared his throat. “Saw each other was November last year.”

“You mean the last time you slept together,” I said. I know I had no reason to be bitter. Peter and I broke up in October. But I was. Peter still maintained that he hadn’t been seeing Elizabeth when we were together, and I still wasn’t sure if I believed him. I didn’t feel like bringing it up right then, but it was something I was going to have to do eventually if we kept this up.

“Yes, Josie. The last time we slept together.” He shook his head. “You love to twist that knife.”

I ignored that. “Peter, when I saw Elizabeth at the end of March she looked more than three months pregnant to me.”

Peter shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. She’s skinny, she showed early I guess. She’s cunning, but she’s not above the law of nature. She can’t hold the baby in for an extra month just to prove it’s not mine.”

“How do you know she hasn’t had the baby?”

Peter threw up his hands. “Because I know. Facebook, mutual friends. I just know.” He put his arm around me. “Can we talk about something else now?”

“Like what?”

“Like you spending Labor Day weekend with me in Nantucket?”

Whoa. That was kind of a big deal. Sure, I didn’t have any plans, and Nantucket is amazing and Peter’s house is the stuff Town & Country readers wet dream of, but spending an entire weekend with Peter, when we’d just started seeing each other again….was it too much? And what about Grady, my piece of man meat who said he would call me? Old Josie would have accepted Peter’s invitation without hesitating a beat. But New Josie was wiser(ish), and she was going to have to think about this one.

Stride of Pride

I woke up to Peter typing away on his laptop, sitting at his little desk catty corner to the foot of the bed. Some time in the middle of the night I must have kicked off the covers, because I was lying there stark naked, legs spread, providing Peter with a very unladylike view of my body. At least I’d recently gotten a wax?
My fingers found the duvet and I pulled it up to my chest, concealing my secret garden. “What time is it?” I croaked. And sadly, not in a throaty sexpot kind of way.
“8,” Peter said.
I had to be at work by 9, and I needed at least twenty minutes to get there from Peter’s apartment. There was no way I had enough time to get to my apartment, shower and change, and make it to my desk by 9. “Shit!” I said. “I thought you got up at like 6.”
“I normally do.” Peter shut his laptop and looked at me. “But you wore me out. Decided to work from home this morning.”
“Peter, I have to be at work in an hour!”
“That’s plenty of time.”
“Yeah, if I had work clothes here. I have a cocktail dress and strappy sandals. Like, ‘Good morning, I’m doing the walk of shame!’”  I sat up, holding the duvet to my chin. “My boss is watching me like a hawk right now so that’s just great.”
That got Peter’s attention. “Why?” he asked.
I said that forgetting that Peter knew my boss, or at least knew of him. I told him about how I’d been a slacker in the assistant department lately. When I finished, he snorted. “William Bradford is such a joke, Josie. Don’t even worry about him.”
“Um, he’s my boss. So even though you may not like him because of his whole deal with Elizabeth, I do have to worry about him.”
“The things I could tell you about that guy,” Peter said, shaking his head.
“Like what?”
“I don’t even have enough time to get into them right now.” Peter pushed his chair away from his desk. He walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’ll tell you another time.”
“You can’t do that to me,” I groaned. “Tell me now!”
Peter traced the tip of his finger over my collarbone and my breath caught in my throat. “I will,” he said, quietly. He pushed the duvet cover down and slipped underneath it, covering his body with mine. He was wearing a t-shirt and boxers, and I felt how hard he was against my thigh. “But only if you’re good.” He kissed me, his hands sliding lower onto my hips.
“Peter, I have to get ready,” I whispered, even though I did not want him to stop.
Peter slipped his hands underneath me, grabbing my ass and scooping me up so that he was standing and my legs wrapped around his waist. He carried me into the bathroom and put me down in front of the sink. He gestured to a tooth brush, still in its packaging, on the counter. “Multitask.”
He turned me around so that my elbows were on the counter and he was standing behind me. It was the weirdest, kinkiest thing I’ve ever done, but Peter refused to enter me until I started brushing my teeth. He reached around and stroked me using just the pads of his fingers, soft and slow at first, then faster but still just as soft. I thought my knees would give out but he held my hips high, pressing his palm into the small of my back and telling me to arch. I almost choked on the toothbrush when I came.
After that, I really had to hustle. I threw my hair in a high bun, showered off, and fixed my make up using what little essentials I had in my tiny clutch. At the last minute, I got the idea to borrow one of Peter’s white button downs. I rolled up the sleeves and tied it in a knot at my waist. On Kate Moss, the men’s shirt/cocktail dress combo would have looked effortlessly cool. I repeat: On Kate Moss.
I made it to work on time, and Richard spit out his coffee when I walked by his cube.

“Josie, time to stop reading that Man Repeller fashion blog immediately.”

Whatever. Better he think this was just a botched attempt to make a fashion statement. Kate was not so easily fooled.

“Stride of pride?” she mouthed to me. Off my nod, she gave me a thumbs up.

I didn’t have much contact with Megan and William in the morning, so at lunch, I ran out and bought a shirtdress on sale at Banana Republic. The last thing I needed was another sensible work garment—I have quite the collection because I’d rather buy something new than have to deal with picking my stuff up from the dry cleaners. Yes, my apathy is that great.
I spent the rest of the week literally chained to my desk until 9 or 10 every night. Peter wanted me to bag the Hamptons house this weekend and stay with him in the city (he had an engagement party to attend on Saturday night, so he was stuck for the weekend). But not only was it our last weekend in the share house, we were throwing a huge party, this time to celebrate Kate’s 24th birthday. Taylor even emailed me to tell me she had hired a stripper for the big event.
“He’ll be dressed as a cop but don’t be fooled,” Taylor wrote. “He’ll say he’s following up on a noise complaint, ask for Kate, and give her the ‘frisking’ of her life. HA. I call second lap dance!”
The fact that Taylor had volunteered for a lap dance was proof that she’s never actually been to a male strip club and has instead watched Magic Mike too many times. I have been to The Cave in Philly, people! None of those guys look like the Magic Mike cast. Well, except for Tarzan, and I would cry for my mommy if a guy who looked like Tarzan tried to frisk me.
I think Peter was actually kind of surprised I didn’t cancel my plans for him. I was obviously tempted because the sex was getting good and freaky, but I needed to take this slow. I couldn’t go rearranging my life after just one two orgasms! He tried to bribe me to stay by telling me he’d give up the dirt he had on William, but I’m pretty sure I already know what it is—he’s a scumbag, hits on his assistants, yada yada yada. I could wait until next week to hear it.
On Saturday night, our ramshackle little Hamptons house was packed for the last time that summer. I was looking around at all the new friends I’d made, feeling all beer-teary and sentimental, when ‘Officer O-Face’ charged through the door. He was wearing dark glasses and a hat, and he was enormous. His shoulders looked like two muscle-y ham hocks.
“Kate Nelson, identify yourself!” he demanded. Someone turned the music off and the room went silent with fear. It was like everyone was having flashbacks to that obligatory high school party that had gotten busted and gotten them grounded.
“Ummm,” Kate said in a timid voice from the center of the room. “Present?”
I looked at Taylor and we covered our mouths with our hands, trying to silence our laughter. “Present?”
‘Officer O-Face’ told Kate to take a seat. A circle formed around Kate in a chair. I stood on my tippy toes, but Richard was in front of me, and all I could see was Officer O-Face’s back, standing over Kate in her chair. He called for someone to turn the music up, and then he ripped open his shirt. The crowd cheered, and Richard and his friends groaned.
I put my hand on Richard’s shoulder and pushed him aside. “Move!”
“Easy, tiger.” Richard stepped aside. When he did, I saw the stripper’s bare back, the blonde hair that tumbled almost to his shoulders when he tossed his hat aside. I knew who it was even before he turned around to stick his sexy ass in Kate’s face. But I didn’t have enough time to get out of his eye line before that happened, and suddenly, I was face to face with Grady.