“And one more thing.” She lifted her finger in the air. I did hope it was just the one, because I was starting to think it might be a good idea to have my corporate lawyer present. Mad had a lot of rules for what was possibly going to be a two-week fling, if even that. My stomach churned at the thought of what that meant for Dad.
“Get it over with.” I rolled my eyes.
“When this is done, promise me you will never seek me out or try to prolong this relationship. You said I’m obsessed with weddings and marriage, and it’s not untrue. Those are things I care deeply about, even if it’s not feminist or hipster or Manhattan circa 2020. Promise you will let me go once and for all. Do the decent thing and stop pursuing me when we say goodbye.”
“I promise,” I said, taking a step forward, erasing the space between us. We were mouth to mouth now. Chest to chest. Cock to pussy. “I promise to spare your heart. Now may I please have the rest of you?”
She wrapped her arms around my neck. “After we shower, you may.”
I captured her mouth, kissing her with intent. I kicked my shoes off as I backed her into her apartment. The level of satisfaction and relief I felt at sleeping at her place should have worried me. Luckily, 90 percent of my blood flow was under my belt, so my brain didn’t have much to work with.
“Kismet,” she murmured into my mouth.
“Come again?” I asked. And again and again and again. On my face ideally.
“Layla’s word of the day was kismet on Friday. I just looked at her door.”
I made an indifferent sound to signal that I’d heard her, backed her the rest of the way into her shower, turned the stream on with our clothes still on, and peeled her dress off with my teeth.
Hands down the longest, dirtiest shower I’d ever had.
Two days later, Grant and I were jogging in Central Park. A habit we stuck to from when we were teenagers, since we both lived on the same block and were self-diagnosed with ADHD and needed to let out some energy. Sometimes we’d jog quietly; sometimes we’d talk about school and girls and work and shit (not literal shit, other than that time Grant had gotten vicious food poisoning during a ski vacation in Tahoe, which we’d discussed at length).
We usually topped the full loop, a 6.1-mile daily run, followed by a short strength training session in my building’s gym before starting our workday. Since I’d spent yesterday at Mad’s, only visiting my apartment to grab clean clothes and take a half-hour dump (it was decidedly ungentlemanly to occupy a lady’s studio apartment bathroom just so you could scroll through every single article in the New York Times while you sat on the shitter, I’d been told), we’d skipped a day’s worth of workouts.
“So things are getting serious, then.” Grant was the vision of a runner, with his cushioned running shoes, running shorts, ball cap, Apple Watch, and special gel socks. All he needed to complete his look was a goddamn number plastered onto his back, à la Usain Bolt. I was more understated, with—you fucking guessed it, ding ding ding—black running shorts, a black tee, and black sneakers Katie gifted me every three months to ensure the soles of my feet weren’t made exclusively out of blisters. I wasn’t into half marathons like Katie and Ethan, though. I worked out because I didn’t want to die young or sport a midthirties gut.
“Au contraire, Gerwig. We have a tight deadline, so I’m making the most of it. I have it all worked out.”
Once Dad died, so would the relationship with Madison.
“I would love to hear this,” Grant said, pretending to prop his chin over his fist, not breaking his pace. “Tell me how you worked this out.”
“I’m going to spend the days with Dad. Go back to his place every day after work, play chess, have dinner, watch TV, talk, then go to Mad’s in the evening and spend the night with her. That way I enjoy both worlds without getting played again.”
“Getting played,” Grant repeated, waiting for further explanation.
“Last time, I got sucked into a black hole of dirty fucks and clean conversation. Never again.”
“It’s called falling in love, you idiot. You fell in love and got butt hurt nobody sent you the memo. So you proceeded to do something mind-blowingly stupid, regretted it, got a second chance, and now, from what I’m gathering here, you are about to screw it up again.”
Fell in love. Those were the words he’d used. Grant was certifiable. Of that, I was certain. The fact I trusted him with my father’s health concerned me.
“I don’t want a relationship,” I clipped out.
“Well, you are in one.”
“She knows it’s not real,” I said, even though it wasn’t lost on me that we were about to shit all over the three-nights-a-week rule.
“It’s not her I’m worried about, Chase.”
We were rounding the curve, going uphill. I remembered my dad had told me the roads in Central Park were curved to prevent horse-and-carriage racing. I wondered how many other fact nuggets he hadn’t had the chance to tell me yet. Grant fell behind, and I took the opportunity to flip the conversation on him.
“What about you and Layla?” I asked.
“Interesting,” I said. It wasn’t interesting, though. Grant and Layla were about as compatible as Daisy and Frank. Grant wanted a serious relationship, and Layla wanted to fuck as many people as she physically could before meeting her maker.
“Yeah.” Grant sighed. “I found out she doesn’t want children.”
“You knew she didn’t want children,” I countered. It had literally been her first line of conversation when he’d met her. Hi, I’m Layla. I don’t want children, but I’m a preschool teacher. Please save me your opinion about that. Oh, hey, nice shirt.
“Well, I thought it was flexible. You know, like people who say they won’t overeat during Thanksgiving dinner because they’re watching their weight but still pig out when push comes to shove.”
“Children and pumpkin pies do have a lot in common,” I drawled sarcastically, quickening my pace. Grant caught up to me. “I still don’t understand why you didn’t let the relationship run its course while having a steady lay.”
“Because I’m not a complete idiot,” he explained through gritted teeth. “I don’t want to wake up two years from now with a woman who wants the exact opposite of what I do.”