|Primary Characters:||Will, Grace, Jack, Karen|
|Warning:||m/f sex implied|
|Description:||Will and Grace can’t forget what happened between them and things get a little weird. Jack can’t get any dates, so he decides to court his wife.|
“Going out with Oscar tonight?”
“Is it my imagination or have you been at home every night for the past two weeks?”
“Mm. I guess so.”
“Is Oscar being a jerk?”
“No, of course not. We kind of – decided not to go out for a while. To think about the relationship.”
She wasn’t seeing Oscar anymore? Not that he cared. Definitely not. Not for his own sake. But Grace’s happiness mattered a great deal to Will.
“What about you?”
“What about me? I’m not going out with Oscar either. Not this week.”
“Ha ha. You know what I’m talking about.”
“Well, since you’re asking. No. I’m not going out either. Want to watch a movie? Play a game?”
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m a bit tired. I’ll just take it easy. Maybe watch some tv.”
“Tv”s good. Everything ok, Gracie?”
Gracie? Will only ever called her that when she was feeling really bad. And she didn’t think she was feeling that bad. Or – No. She was imagining things as usual. Will was gay. Hopelessly, irrevocably gay. What had happened between them a couple of months ago was a mistake. A nice, terrific, fantastic mistake. And the best thing to do about it was keep quiet and get on with their lives.
Another thought struck her. Maybe it was Will who was feeling bad. Lately, she hadn’t paid as much attention as usual, to the guys Will was dating. He seemed to have gone in for one night stands again, like when he was younger.
“Sure. What about you?”
“Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I think I’ll watch some tv too. And I’ll call for takeout.”
“Let me do that. My mom keeps telling me I should pay more attention to domestic stuff. Like cooking. Give me that phone list.”
“Alright, your housekeeperness.”
“Very funny. Will, what about Damon?”
“Weren’t you going out with Damon last week?”
“No, that was Danny.”
“Ok. So what about Charlie?”
“I don’t think you’re his type.”
“Come on, Will. Give me a break.”
“I’m not really seeing anyone right now. There. Can we just watch something now?”
“Whatever. How about this?”
Grace indicated the figure skating on the screen. But Will’s frown told her that she should have asked Jack. So she went on zapping between channels, until she gave up, turning down the sound. After the Chinese takeout, Grace decided that an early night wasn’t so bad.
“I’m going to bed now. See you tomorrow.”
“Are you sure you’re ok? Maybe you should go and and see your doctor. Run some tests.”
“So now you’re my mother? I’m fine, Will. Just a little tired, and it’s really been hectic at work lately.”
He knew that, but was it his imagination, or had that run of intense work started around the time of that unwise night a couple of months ago?
“Sweet dreams. I guess I’ll just go to bed myself. Won’t do any harm. How about this? We get up early tomorrow and go to the gym?”
“Deal. And sweet dreams yourself.”
Or maybe no dreams would be better. Will’s dreams seemed to be strangely different these days. Where once he’d go through hordes of muscular men, there was now a eerie sameness about his dreams. They could be summed up in two words: Straight Sex. And the woman he was having it with had a startling similarity to Grace. With a sigh, Will retreated to his own room. Unfortunately, he had never learned to get by without sleep, so he might as well take his chances.
The phone was ringing. Such a tiresome, persistent noise. Grace put the pillow over her head and tried to get back to sleep. It had to be night still, and it was far too early to get up. If Will wanted, he could get it, but she wouldn’t bother. Finally, that infernal noise stopped. Maybe now she could get some peace.
Will woke from a dream that he hurriedly tried to forget, put his feet on the cold floor and staggered over to the phone. If this was just Jack lamenting a date gone wrong, he’d –
The incoherent screech on the other end of the line told Will, that yes indeed, this was Jack, and yet another evening had gone wrong, not to mention another night interrupted. Which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea.
“Jack, I’m hanging up now. Save the hysterics. It’s the middle of the night, and I need my – What? Why? You seem to have handled the first phase of this fine on your own. Why drag me into it at the conclusion of the whole thing? Alright. I’ll ask. But I’m warning you – Calm down. Ok. We’ll be there.”
Will walked into Grace’s room, for a second stopping to look at her curled up form under the covers. He wanted to reach out and touch her hair and smooth out the wild tangle and – But that might not be a good idea for a number of reasons. When awakened, Grace could display considerable energy exacting revenge for her interrupted sleep. And besides – But this time he really needed to wake her.
He tentatively held out his hand and made contact with her shoulder. She felt pleasantly warm and it would be so nice to just slide under the covers with her and forget about Jack and his messy life.
Not surprisingly the soft sound of his voice produced no effect at all. He decided to risk shaking her a little. A hand shot out and pushed his hand off and there was a highly unfriendly noise coming from somewhere inside that red curly tangle.
“Gracie. Wake up. I’m sorry to do this. Not my idea.”
“What? Go away. Tell me tomorrow.”
“This won’t wait, I’m afraid. Come on. Get up.”
“Why? Is there a fire?”
“No, but -”
“Good. Make me coffee at 6 and I’ll talk to you then. Bye, bye, Will.”
“It’s Karen. She’s going into labor, and Jack said she absolutely insisted on having you there. And Jack wanted me around too, for some reason. So I guess I’m going. It’s not every day Jack becomes a father.”
Grace suspiciously opened one eye and peered out at Will. This could be a trick to get her to come out from underneath her nice, warm covers and – But why would Will lie about something like this? Karen was due any day now, or apparently any night. Which seemed to be now. With a sigh, Grace resigned herself to the inevitable. Ungraciously, she conceded.
Reluctantly, she got up, stretched and looked around for her nightgown.
Will spotted it lying in a heap over by the window. Why couldn’t Grace be more neat, like him? But it was all part of the subtle charm that made her the woman she was. He picked up the discarded garment and placed it around her shoulders, letting his hands linger just a little longer than necessary.
Warily, he pulled back, watching Grace for any possible reaction. None. She was too intent on getting ready for the big event. He had a feeling that she would have been more enthusiastic about the miracle of life, if it had occurred at a more sociable hour. So would he.
Grace accepted the nightgown for about thirty seconds, while she rummaged around for something to wear. Then she pushed it off again, letting it slide to the floor. Forgetting Will’s presence she then tore off her top and grabbed something white off a chair.
Will hurriedly retreated into the living room. It was time he got ready himself. But he couldn’t help remembering how – No. Not a good idea.
Fifteen minutes later, they were in the car on the way to the hospital.
“Let me get this stra – never mind. Jack called you and asked for our presence while Karen’s giving birth?”
“Well, you know Jack. He didn’t exactly ask so much as scream at the top of his voice that it was happening and that he couldn’t handle it, and that we had to come and help him out.”
“That I can believe. But what in the world is possessing Karen to ask for me? What do I know about giving birth?”
“You tell me. Maybe she wants her friend with her.”
“I guess I should appreciate this vote of confidence more, but I wish she could just have handled it on her own. Called her mom, like I would.”
“You’ll get no argument from me. At least you won’t have to nurse Jack through this emotional trauma.”
“Great. I’ll have to watch that undescribable mess, listen to Karen yelling, and hold her hand throughout all this.”
After a few seconds of thought, Grace decided that Will really did have the worst end of the bargain.
“But I know you’ll have the worst of it. Want to trade places with me? If Karen agrees to -”
“Not on your life. I’ll take the embarrassment of holding Jack any day, rather than watch Karen give birth. Besides, I just know she’ll bite.”
“Terrific. I tell you what. We take turns comforting Jack and encouraging Karen to push.”
“You drive a hard bargain, ms Adler, but I suppose we might so stipulate.”
Grace stared at Will in wonder. Why did he give in so easily? She could tell that he would have preferred to just drop her off at the hospital, promised to pick her up later, and gone back home. So why would he suddenly be so nice about it? Maybe he was more impressed with this miracle of life thing than he wanted to let on. What if – No way. Guys never wanted to settle down and start families. Not even straight guys. And what was she thinking? Neither did she.
Once inside, they were greeted by Jack in a full blown state of hysteria. By now, Grace was wide awake, and was able to see the humor in the situation. Will wasn’t quite as amused. He was the one who had to calm Jack down, or at least try. Painfully aware of the amused onlookers, he grabbed his friend none-too-gently and pushed him down on a chair by the wall. With approval, he noted Grace’s cool behavior. That should prove to Jack how together Grace could be when she had to. Unlike others. Regretfully, Will turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
Jack was screeching something about breathing.
“Yes, Jack, I think you are getting enough air. But if you stop screaming like that, you’ll feel much better, I’m sure. What’s wrong? Is the baby in trouble?”
Will had watched Chicago Hope and ER on occasion, but he didn’t quite dare to use any medical terms just the same. That simply wasn’t the reason he watched. His interest had a little more to do with George Clooney than the medical drama.
“No, no, no, no. I’m sure Karen and the little one are just fine. But what about me? Does anyone stop to consider the feelings of the poor father? Look at this.”
Jack dramatically brandished his hand in Will’s face, so close, incidentally, that Will couldn’t see anything but a vague blur. At least Jack was listening to him and was calming down, in a manner of speaking.
Will really didn’t want to make such a fuss. Not with an audience nearby, and escpecially not at this hour. To avoid any more drama, Will took the risk of grabbing Jack’s hand and holding it at arm’s length so he could see what Jack was moaning about. A small area on the back of the hand had a slightly red tinge. It could have been anything, but the way Jack was carrying on, you’d think he was facing amputation.
“What about it?”
“She bit me. The father of her child. What kind of woman will do such a thing?”
The kind of woman that Jack had undeniably slept with and impregnated, that’s who. But Will didn’t think Jack would wish to be reminded of that embarrassing incident.
“The skin isn’t broken. You’ll get over it. Try to calm down, Jack. Don’t you want to remember this – uh – memorable moment?”
“Yes. I brought my cam corder and I’m going to – Where did they take my wife? Let’s go, Will. Watch and learn. One day you too might take on this immense responsibility. To think that some men actually shun this opportunity to commune with nature.”
Oh, brother. Jack was switching to his fatherly mode. But at least he was getting a grip. The amused onlookers appeared to be minding their own business at the moment.
“Ok. Grace was over by the reception desk a moment ago, asking about Karen’s room number.”
Two minutes later, the two men had joined Grace and Karen in the delivery room. It was everything Will had dreaded, and worse. Far worse. Just like he’d expected, Karen was screaming, and cursing and holding on to Grace’s hand so hard, Will could see white and red marks on the skin. To his astonishment, Grace actually seemed to handle the situation quite well. Maybe women took naturally to these things, after all.
The attending nurse or midwife or whatever the term was, turned and beamed benevolently towards the newcomers.
“And here we have the proud father-to-be. Come on. Don’t be shy. Your friend is welcome too. This is a very progressive hospital. Thank you, miss Adler. You’ve been wonderful.”
To Will’s astonishment and horror, the nurse was beckoning to him to step forward. He froze to the spot, not knowing what to say. But he needn’t have worried. Jack said all that needed to be said, in his worst drama queen voice. Terrific. What would the nurse think? But the good news was, he was off the hook. Let Jack deal with the rest. If he could.
Will wasn’t exactly squeamish, and the sight of a small drop of blood on his cheek during shaving didn’t make him go all white and risk fainting. This, however, was close to his limit. If he ever decided to become a father – What was he thinking? He wasn’t into that sort of thing. One of the best things about being gay. No hassle, no mothers-in-law, no screaming babies at 3 a m. No wife either. No redheaded irrational wonderful – Get a grip, Will.
“I’m the father. How is my wife doing? Karen? I’m here now. Leave everything to me. Breathe, my sweetest. Go on. Do as we learned in those horrible classes. Breathe.”
“I am breathing. Shut up and sit down beside the bed if you think you can handle it. Men wouldn’t last a second as women. You simply don’t have a clue about what we have to go through. Thank you, Grace. You can take a break now. I’ll need you later.”
Will and Grace gratefully stepped back and left the show to the happy couple. Things could have been worse.
“Are you ok?”
“Are you ok?”
They broke off, and laughed silently at themselves.
“Ok, go on.”
“Gracie, be nice.”
“Sorry. Just couldn’t resist. I’m fine. Maybe I should get up in the middle of the night a little more often. You know what?”
“I’m so glad I’m not the one lying there, panting and groaning.”
“Me too. I mean that you’re not the one.”
“But it will have to happen sooner or later, I guess.”
“You want children?”
This was the first thing Will had heard about it. He filed the information away for further thought at a better time.
“I guess most women do. Deep down.”
“Maybe men do too.”
What was this? Grace wasn’t sure what to make of Will’s tone. He sounded – wistful – somehow. But before she had time to ask him, his voice changed back to normal agin.
“I mean, just look at Jack. Who would have thought he’d be this – paternal?”
Grace giggled elatedly at the big drama Jack was creating around the hospital bed. And it seemed to her that Karen was thriving on the attention. By the hospital staff and even by her friend turned husband.
“You’re right. This is a miracle of a sort. How did he ever -”
“Never mind. I have to go.”
Karen was demanding Grace’s presence at the head of the bed, so the conversation had to wait.
In the hours that followed, there was more hysteria, more drama from mother and father, and eventually, when Grace was feeling as if she wanted to jump out the window, finally the sound that everyone had been waiting for cut through the air. A baby’s scream. Fine. At last they’d get some peace and quiet.
Grace would definitely sleep in today, maybe not go in to work at all. This was a special occasion, after all.
But the nurses and the doctor continued their mysterious work around Karen’s lower end, and before long there was another scream. Did this mean what it suggested to Grace’s sleepy mind? Two babies? Surely not. One child with Karen’s and Jack’s DNA was quite enough.
“Will? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“You want a cup of coffee? I’ll go get it. Do all babies scream this loud?”
“Why ask me? But wasn’t that a second one just now?”
“A second what? Oh, another baby. I think so. I just didn’t want to look too closely. Grace, is there something wrong with it – them? They’re so red and squashed and wrinkly.”
“I don’t think so.”
In reality, Grace had absolutely no idea what to make of the situation, but she didn’t want to disillusion Will about her expert insight into the woman thing.
“Oh, good. I was a bit worried for a while.”
Amazing. Unbelievable. Will sounded almost as if he was concerned about more than a possible Jack outburst of more than average hysteria.
“Let’s go and take a look. And congratulate the proud parents. Oops. That’s your cue, Will. I think Jack just fainted.”
Groaning uncharitably, Will got up to pick his friend off the floor. If he’d been the one who – but that was another thought best left alone.
Grace hesitantly walked over to the head of the bed to congratulate Karen. Her friend didn’t look as if she was in any of those serene, happy moods you always saw on tv in women who had just given birth. If Grace wasn’t very much mistaken, that was an angry scowl.
The words came out somewhat weakly, but Grace really meant it. There was something about bringing another little life into the world that brought out the maternal instinct in any woman.
“Thanks, I guess. But look at me. My looks are ruined. And one of the nurses just talked to me about breast feeding. How gross can you get? Me feeding those little screaming brats? Not me. I leave that sort of thing to the nanny. You can help me out there, Grace.”
Oh, no. There were limits to what you could be expected to do for a friend. She would not become a nanny no matter how much Karen paid her.
“In what way?”
“Hire one for me. You know money’s no object. Get me someone nice, quiet, well-behaved. Not like that Fran something or other on tv. Jack watches that show sometimes. I don’t like her voice.”
“Ok. I’ll try.”
How in the world did you go about hiring a nanny? Oh, well, maybe Will could help her. Or her mother. If all else failed, there was always the Yellow Pages.
“Look, I can see you need your rest. Will and I’ll be back later. Get some sleep.”
“Count on it. If those two red-faced little things will just shut up. And if Jack will stop his theatrics for a moment and consider my feelings.”
“Can I take a look at them first?”
“Who? Will and Jack? Why ask me? Will’s got Jack up on the other bed now, so I’m sure he’s fine now.”
“No, the babies.”
“Oh. Ok. Go ahead. Tell me who you think they take after.”
“What was it? Did they tell you? Boys or girls?”
Karen frowned in concentration. What had they said? Things were a little vague right now, probably due to all those drugs they’d given her. At least with her income, you could afford the best. Despite that, the pain had been close to intolerable. But now it was over. From now on she’d never risk getting pregnant again. Ever.
“I think – You ask them for me, Grace. And think of some names for them. I just know Jack’s thought of something truly awful. Like Michelle or Clint.”
The babies truly were adorable in a strange sort of way. When Grace looked up, she found Will standing beside her, a dreamy look on his face. She’d have to watch out. Those maternal hormones were clearly contagious. A boy and a girl. Who they took after were a bit hard to tell. They really were red-faced and wrinkly. She’d try to think of names later. Right now she needed some sleep. Or a coffee.
They drove back to the apartment in silence, both their minds still dwelling sentimentally on the event they’d just witnessed.
Upstairs, Will headed for the kitchen, apparently to make something to eat.
“What do you want?”
“Coffee, I guess.”
“No. I mean, yes, I guess so. It’s been a long day and night.”
Karen had been in labor for more than 24 hours, so they’d been forced to more or less camp out at the hospital all day and well into the next night. All Grace really wanted was to have a shower and go to bed. Who would have thought just watching someone giving birth would be so exhausting?
“Coming right up. ”
“Mm. I’ll just get a shower.”
When she emerged from the bathroom dripping wet, with a towel loosely wrapped around her body, supper was ready. They ate more or less in silence. What little conversation there was, was devoted to the newborn babies. Though Will seemed reluctant to go to bed, Grace knew she would fall asleep in her chair if she didn’t go.
“I’m sorry, Will. Can we talk in the morning?”
“Of course. Sweet dreams.”
Will seemed to have been staring at her in a rather odd way, though Grace was really too tired to pay much attention.
Hurriedly, Will retreated to his room. What indeed. What was wrong with him? Was he really drooling over a woman’s body? Surely not. He was just tired. A bit of sleep would do the trick.
“Does this happen to you a lot, or is just me?”
Will’s cheeks heated up. Why did Nick have to rub it in? Hadn’t he ever had a performance problem?
“I said I was sorry. If you like I could -”
“No. Forget it. I know what the problem is.”
Nick was beginning to seriously irritate him. It was time he went home. To –
“You want to run home to the wife.”
What? It was definitely time to go. If that wouldn’t seem to prove to Nick that he was right in his taunting.
“You know I’m not married. Cut it out. It’s not funny.”
“But you’d like to be. Don’t deny it. You’re talking about her all the time and when she walks in the room, you just stop and stare, your mouth open. Yes, you did. When we were having lunch the other day, you did exactly that. I could see your salad. You were practically drooling over her. Seems to me you want to crawl right back into the closet.”
“That’s not true. There was just something I had to tell her. I have to go. Call me.”
“Don’t count on it.”
Was Nick really right about this? How could he have been so blind? Could he really be in love with Grace, after all these years? After dumping her back in college, causing her so much pain? No way. Or – He had been feeling really weird after that night they’d spent together. It had been so much better than he’d ever guessed it could be.
But he didn’t know if he could be what Grace wanted him to be. Needed him to be. He couldn’t hurt her again. This was something he had to think about long and hard. But whatever he felt, what did Grace feel? Will shook his head dejectedly. Too complicated to work out at this hour. Better to just go home and get some sleep.
Trying not to disturb Grace, Will tiptoed inside, but as soon as he entered the living room, he saw that the light was on, and realized that Grace must be awake.
“You’re home early. Did you guys have a fight or what?”
“No. What are you doing awake? Are you ok?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t I be? It’s only about 11.30. But it’s sweet of you to worry about me.”
Will took a closer look. Grace’s voice was even and he couldn’t read anything into it, one way or another. That was unusual, come to think of it, normally she was like an open book to him. Just like she could easily read him.
Was it his imagination or did it look like she was about to say something? But if so, she changed her mind, and her gaze drifted away.
“I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah. I’ll be going soon too. Just thought I’d finish the accounts first.”
Will put down the receiver, a frown on his face. Where did that intolerable Timothy Reardon II get off, asking his attorney about his sexual preferences? But this was a big case, maybe the biggest yet, and Will knew he needed it.
And though he hated himself as much as the potential employer, he heard himself say that yes, of course he was married. His lovely wife Grace preferred to still use her maiden name, since she was a successful interior decorator who had already established her reputation under the name Adler. And yes, they were very much in love, having only been married for about two years.
Now all he needed to do was explain the situation to Grace. He was almost certain that she would see the humor in it all. It wasn’t as if the deception would involve anything other than prominently displaying Grace’s framed photograph on his desk, where mr Reardon II would be sure to notice it. And Will already had the photo, though he usually kept it a bit more out of sight, in case a potential date walked into the office.
On his way home, Will caught himself acting like a husband guilty of some minor trespass. He was already picking out the flowers at the florist, totally oblivious to the flirting of the good looking young man behind the counter, when the analogy struck him.
“You were smiling. Thinking about your wife perhaps?”
The young man’s petulant voice broke through Will’s thoughts and alerted him to the fact that a young man was staring at him hopefully. A few months ago he would have been pleased. Still hadn’t lost the touch. But the young man wasn’t his type, not even Jack’s as far as he could guess, and anyway, he wasn’t in the mood for flirting.
“Yes. How much do I owe you?”
Will was almost sure that the guy overcharged him for the bouquet, but decided to leave it. It would be best if he struck the right tone for informing Grace about the little charade they would be acting out for a few weeks ahead. If she were to get the impression that the act pleased him more than it should – But of course all he got out of this was the contract. And a funny anecdote to share with Grace.
Grace wasn’t in when he got back to the apartment. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or not. In a way, it was just as well. Her absence would give him time to set things up. He intended to cook a real dinner for her for once, and while he was doing that, he’d think of a way to tell her that would be sure to amuse her.
Not even once did he stop to consider the fact that they’d played at being married before, to save money, or avoid unwanted attention. But in all that time, it had never made him feel the way he did now.
All this was Jack’s fault. How could ‘Just Jack’ marry a woman, get her pregnant? Now Will felt as confused as ever about his own sexuality. All these years, and back to square one. It was like he was 14 again, and was trying to decide which felt best, kissing a girl or a boy. At least since college he’d never had reason to doubt the answer to that dilemma. But now –
The sound of key in the lock and the door swinging open interrupted his fit of introspection. All that could wait, preferably for a very long time.
“What’s the occasion? Come on, Will. Fess up. What have you done? Or – Is there something you want from me? Out with it.”
She was still only joking, but Will couldn’t blame her for wondering. After all, she was right. He did want something from her. All he had to do was figure out what it was and tell her. No. He knew what he wanted and now was the time to ask, nicely.
“Alright. I never could hide anything from you. There’s a bit of a problem at work and -”
“Work? What could you possibly want from me that has anything to do with your job? This should be interesting. Just let me get rid of this stuff and freshen up and I’ll be all ears.”
Will hurriedly finished the last of the preparations for dinner and told himself to get a grip. He wasn’t a teenager anymore and Grace certainly wasn’t his dream date. Or was she? This was like some kind of alternate reality and he was a new strange Will that he didn’t know.
“Ok. Let’s talk. You know what? Your timing is great. I’m exhausted. Karen came in to work, tired and grumpy. The twins are teething or something – Karen wasn’t sure – and they’re crying non-stop. Jack went over to his mother’s house and Karen said she wanted some peace and quiet. At work. So I had to try and do my work while she was asleep on the settee.”
“That’s not a settee, it’s just a couch.”
“Oh, shut up, Will. Don’t be so gay. It’s not nice when a guy knows more about interior decoration than – the interior decorator.”
“The favor you needed to ask. Hmm. That smells delicious. Whatever it is you want, I’m sure you can have it. Within reason.”
“Ye-es. Well, there’s this big corporation that might give me a lot of work.”
“Great. So what’s the problem?”
“Timothy Reardon II, the executive, seems to be a bit of a fundamentalist. Anyway, he’s the worst kind of homophobe I’ve ever run into, apart from a few rednecks back home. So – I kind of – You know I really need that contract and -”
“You told him you were straight?”
“In a way. I just mentioned that I was married.”
“I see. And who might this wife be, if I may ask?”
“You know who I meant. I’m sorry. I just panicked and -”
“No. It’s ok. I told you, I’m in a very cooperative mood since coming home to all this domestic bliss. What do I have to do?”
“Nothing, I think. I just put your framed photo on my desk. When he comes over he won’t be able to miss it. And I might call you at work a couple of times. Just to show him how very much in love we are.”
“No problem. You’re always calling me anyway. Especially lately. I have been wondering -”
“If maybe something was wrong and you were trying to tell me something. Is anything wrong, Will? What happened with that guy Nick? You never told me why he just dropped out of sight overnight.”
“Oh. Well – Nothing’s wrong. Nick just wasn’t my type.”
“I would have thought he was perfect for you.”
“And I thought Oscar was perfect for you.”
“Yes. I guess we all make mistakes. Go on, aren’t you going to serve dinner?”
“Oh. Sorry. Of course.”
That man really was intolerable, and the worst part was that all Will could do was grin and bear it. As he watched Timothy Reardon II’s retreating back, Will’s mind raced through his options. He could call the man and tell him his wife was going on a business trip or – But in the end, he knew his employer wouldn’t rest until he’d met his attorney’s wife. It was no use. He might as well bite the bullet.
Debating with himself on whether he should wait until the evening and tackle Grace, he found his fingers already punching in Grace’s number. Oh, well. She might as well know right away. If she wouldn’t cooperate, then he had his answer, and he’d have to make his plans accordingly. Part of him was hoping she’d refuse, another part –
“Ok, what is it now? Does your employer want me pregnant and barefoot in front of the stove?”
“No. But -”
“I don’t care what it is. Come and get me out of here. Karen’s driving me crazy. Now she wants to move into the office. Says the twins are – No, Karen, Will isn’t going to take you out to lunch. He’s taking me. Because you are, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’ll be right over. No problem.”
Will was glad to have the opportunity of seeing Grace face to face. This was different. Now she’d really need to use her acting talents. In the past he wouldn’t have given anything for their eventual success. But now he’d seen Grace in action at close range and he knew he wouldn’t need to worry. Or maybe he did. What if she misconstrued his intentions? What if she didn’t – And what was his real intentions?
His head was spinning so badly he almost double-parked his car, plunging him into a violent argument with an aggressive driver.
Finally, he was able to let Grace in and drive off, leaving the guy still cursing and throwing his fists around.
“What was that all about?”
“Ok. I’ve got a really bad headache and Karen’s driving me out of my mind. If she doesn’t move back home I don’t know what I’ll do. Her voice is getting on my nerves -”
“I’m sorry. Before we go inside, I’ll give you a back rub.”
“Oh, ok. How Karen could ever have slept with Jack is beyond me.”
That question sometimes haunted Will at night as well, but he didn’t want to discuss his weird friend and Grace’s even weirder assistant and sometime friend. The back rub proved mutually rewarding in ways Will wasn’t prepared to face now, or ever. As if he’d burned himself, he snatched his fingers back.
“We’d better go inside. It’s late already. Feeling better?”
“A little. I’ll go home and lie down afterwards.”
“You do that.”
Over lunch, Will did his best to bring up the delicate topic, though it seemed to him that Grace wasn’t really in the mood for talking. Complaining, yes, but not actually talking. But he might as well tell her and be done with it.
“Look, it’s that jerk Reardon again. He’s invited us to his mansion over the weekend. If you don’t want to go, I’ll try -”
“Hold it. Who says I don’t want to go? Anywhere would be better than listening to Karen whining about her grey hair.”
“What grey hair?”
“She says she found a grey hair this morning. I couldn’t see anything.”
“Oh. Anyway -”
“Ok, what’s the catch?”
“Yes, well, there is one of course.”
“Spit it out.”
Will winced at Grace’s harsh tone. ‘Spit it out’ simply wasn’t the sort of expression he wanted to hear at the lunch table. But she was under a lot of strain, the poor thing. He had to be understanding. In fact, he hadn’t done enough to show his support for Jack either. But the whole marriage thing was so complicated and worrying that Will simply didn’t want to think about it, far less discuss it. Who would have thought his kinkiest, deepest, darkest fantasy would have to do with weddings, vanilla sex and missionary positions?
“We’ll have to share a bedroom.”
There was a slight pause, and Will held his breath. What would she say? Say no, say yes, say no, say –
“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. I’m sure the bed is big and comfortable. Try not to talk in your sleep.”
“What? I never -”
“Gotcha. It’s ok, Will. I’ll do it. Like I said, if I stay I might end up kiling Karen, and I don’t suppose I really want to do that.”
Grace didn’t sound too sure of that conclusion but she left it at that.
Was he happy about this turn of events? Will wasn’t sure. But at least he was off the hook with his new demanding employer.
The mansion turned out to be located far into the boondocks. Reardon apparently believed in spending time in the rugged outdoors. As soon as they’d arrived, and taken their luggage upstairs to their room – the bed was as big as Grace could have hoped for – their host rushed them along to take a long, strenuous walk outdoors, to admire the land surrounding his country house. Grace opened her mouth to suggest that this guided tour be left to the men, but Reardon didn’t stop long enough to listen. Will cast an apologetic glance her way, but said nothing.
When they reached more difficult terrain, one of Grace’s high heels broke off, and she had to spend the rest of the walk hobbling along supported by ‘her loving husband’. Hearing Will cooing comforting noises in her ear, only served to anger her further. But she felt hampered by Will’s position, and her promise.
Finally, about an hour and a half after their arrival, the lady was finally allowed to escape to her room to freshen up. But her argument with Will seemed about to have to wait some more, because Reardon was intent on having a drink with the latest ‘member of the team’, as he put it. By then, Grace had had more than enough of the visit and she decided to ignore their host.
“Yes, my darling?”
“Could you help me upstairs, please? Sweetie. ”
Her voice was slightly less sweet than Reardon might have expected, but a twisted ankle might easily account for this.
“I’ll be right down, mr Reardon.”
“Tim. Please. Take your time. I see the little lady hurt her foot.”
The little lady was at that moment fully prepared to use the nearest heavy object, which turned out to be a hideously ugly vase conveniently placed on a pedestal nearby, to bash her host’s head in.
“Ah, yes. I’m so sorry, Gracie. Of course I’ll take you upstairs.”
As soon as Reardon had retreated into his study, Grace turned on Will, intent on taking out her frustration on someone.
“What’s with the voice? Lose it now, or I’m out of here.”
“I’m not a baby. Come on, let’s go. I need to take a shower. Those trees outside seems to have dumped about a zillion leaves in my hair.”
“No. There’s just one or two.”
Will reached out to remove the offending leaves, but Grace’s eyes shot fire at him, so he thought better of it. Instead he chose to put his arms around her to help her upstairs.
“My ankle is fine.”
She kicked off the other shoe and began to walk up the stairs. If the worst came to the worst, she could always call a cab and go back to the apartment. At least she wouldn’t meet Karen there.
“Gracie, I’m sorry about this. The guy’s a jerk. If he ever invites us both over, I’m going to think of some excuse.”
“Yeah, yeah. After all, I did say I’d go. Me and my big mouth.”
Those big, red, luscious lips – What was with him? This was a woman.
Later, Will was forced to once again agree with Grace. The weekend was turning out to be a nightmare. He was actually quite fond of sports and cars, even if fishing and hunting was where he drew the line, but he had never in his life had to endure such boring conversations.
At least Grace wasn’t expected to join those discussions. Instead, she was seated next to Reardon’s blase wife, who poured considerable amounts of vodka down her throat. After about twenty minutes of that, Grace was happy to join her hostess in that endeavor. Drinking the bar dry appeared to be the most interesting occupation available out here.
When she bothered to check on Will, she noticed that he too, made frequent trips to the bar. Their host didn’t appear to have any objections. The man himself was gulping down gallons of bourbon. At least husband and wife appeared to have one thing in common.
Finally, around midnight, Grace pushed back her chair and got to her feet, with some difficulty. Swaying slightly, she managed to stay on track for the hall where she could find her way upstairs.
Relieved, Will excused himself to his employer and stumbled after Grace. When had he last been this drunk? Maybe it was best not to dwell on that. At least the first evening was over.
What would he do to make this up to Grace? She really was a terrific friend. He couldn’t possibly imagine Karen doing as much for Jack, though in all honesty, he couldn’t imagine Jack doing as much for Jack.
She was now sitting on her side of the bed, in the process of undressing. He couldn’t quite read the expression on her face.
“You should have seen your own face when that pompous fool asked you your opinion on child-rearing principles. Like you were the expert. Were you thinking about Jack’s and Karen’s brood?”
She was right. If he hadn’t been so busy sucking up to the old fool, he’d have seen the humor in it, himself. And why had he never fully appreciated Grace’s laugh until now? He dropped down on the other side of the bed, nearly missed and ended up laughing even harder. This reminded him of a time at college when they’d been smoking – Whatever.
He inched a little closer and put his arms around her. She slid down to lie on her side, facing away from him. What if – Would it really be such a bad idea if –
“You think maybe-”
No reply. With a sigh, Will realized that Grace was asleep. Just as well. But he didn’t move away for some time. Her hair really smelt nice. Not that he usually slept with people who didn’t take care of their personal hygiene but women really did do some things better than men.
The following day, their sleep was interrupted by a maid, who didn’t seem to have knocked on the door before entering. She briskly opened the window, retreated to the passageway outside, only to return moments later with first one, then two trays.
Grace groaned unappreciatively, and Will hurriedly made some excuse.
Will gulped down the coffee, took another look at Grace and decided that breakfast wouldn’t be a good idea. He didn’t feel like it either, but knew that Reardon might tolerate Grace’s absence, but never his.
The plan for the day apparently included some business discussions for the men, and – no way was Grace ever going to agree to this – horseback riding for the ladies. Recalling Grace’s little mishap the night before, Will did what he could to avert this disaster. Grace and horses – he seriously doubted that was even a possibility.
So Will vanished into his host’s study, and Grace slept on for a good three hours more. Eventually, she got up, with a splitting headache and a not much improved mood. By avoiding her hostess, she at least managed to spend the boring hours until dinner on her own.
Dinner proved to be another study in boredom. Grace was seriously beginning to wonder if her host and hostess ever conducted a normal conversation. Will’s behavior only served to add to her irritation. He seemed to have modeled his loving husband routine on one of the classic 40’s movies they both loved. Whenever he got up to fuss around her chair, he would kiss her neck or ear or – Though it was kind of sweet, Grace was getting rapidly fed up with the melodrama. Was he trying to emulate Jack?
This night as well, could only be endured with the help of alcohol. Again, Will mimicked the behavior of his host, hostess and wife. Grace knew that Will didn’t normally drink this much, but when he did, he usually could stay sober under pretty much any conditions. But apparently everyone had their limits. By biting her lip, Grace was only just able to smother the giggle that threatened to explode in the dull semi-silence of the dining room.
“You know, darling, I’m not feeling very well. I’m afraid I shall have to go upstairs and – l-l-l lie down.”
Will seemed to appreciate the opportunity of ending the evening nearly 40 minutes earlier than last night.
This time, Grace said nothing as Will followed her up the stairs. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of her silence. Was she amused again, irritated, sick?
Once inside their room, Will opened his mouth to ask her, when she whirled around and faced him, her face still unreadable.
“Listen. You’re overdoing this marriage act. Not even a guy like Reardon’s going to buy that theatrical neck-and ear kissing. Don’t tell me this is what you and Nick are up to on your not-so-frequent dates?”
“Nick and I are history. I told you that. And of course I didn’t kiss his neck and ear all the time, well, at least not in public – I just thought women liked that kind of thing. Don’t you?”
“It’s got nothing to do with what I like, and you know it. This isn’t the 40’s. Do you see Reardon doing that to his wife?”
“We’re supposed to have been married less than two years, remember? Anyway, don’t you like my kissing?”
“Are you serious?”
This time, Grace couldn’t quite hold back the giggles. But she stopped abruptly when she noticed the hurt look in Will’s eyes.
“You’re a great kisser. I’ll bet you know that just fine. Who taught you to kiss like that anyway?”
“Oh, come on. You know everything about me, every pathetic, humiliating little detail. It can’t be that bad, can it? Oh, my god, don’t tell me it was Jack.”
“No, it wasn’t Jack. Don’t be gross. I’ve never – alright, he kissed me once when I was too drunk to fight him off, but apart from that -”
“Jack kissed you? Are you sure?”
“I’m hardly likely to forget, am I? And please don’t ask me how it was. I’m feeling sick enough as it is.”
“Ok. I won’t. If you tell me who taught you to kiss like that.”
“Jennifer? As in a girl, Jennifer?”
“I thought if I made out with the homecoming queen, I’d be just like the other guys.”
Grace caught the note of pain in Will’s voice and left the topic.
“I think I’d better lie down.”
“Then you are sick? Maybe I could call a cab and take you back to the city -”
“No. I’m just sick with boredom. I hope that guy Reardon is worth it.”
“So do I, believe me. Let me help you with that.”
“You don’t think I can get out of my dresh – dress on my own? Don’t be silly.”
But when Will did slide the dress down she didn’t object. These days he was different somehow. If she didn’t know any better, she’d have allowed herself to hope that after all – Don’t go there, Grace.
But when the dress was hanging neatly folded over the foot of the bed, Will didn’t move away like she had expected him to. Surely he wasn’t – In Grace’s current state of mind, pleasantly dizzy from the alcohol, she didn’t see anything wrong with Will removing her bra as well. It would have to come off anyway and if he wanted to do it for her, so what? She rolled over and faced him.
He was wearing far too much if he was going to bed. So why not be a good buddy and return the favor? That suit jacket needed to go, and once she’d flung that to the floor, incredibly without any protest from Will, the shirt followed next after some fumbling over the buttons. One of those popped off and fell to the floor, and there was still not a word of complaint from the owner.
Why stop when the going was good? She knew he looked fantastic in his boxer briefs so she tackled the pants too. With just a little help from Will she was able to unzip them. He withdrew a little and soon the pants had joined the shirt and the loose button on the floor.
Before Grace had time to think that this felt more like a dream than the real thing, Will was on top of her, doing things she’d always wanted him to and – it did feel like the real thing. Nothing dreamlike at all about it. Whoever that Jennifer girl was, she’d sure been a good teacher. Thank you, Jennifer.
Sunday was the last day of the visit, and Will had somehow managed to get an important phone call from the office, so they were let off the hook right after breakfast. Not that Grace or mrs Reardon attended the occasion. Around 10 Will and Grace were on their way back to the apartment, having gained a new appreciation for traffic jams and smog.
Grace vanished inside the bathroom, and remained in there for so long, Will knew she was trying to put off the inevitable discussion. In the end, he dared to knock on the door and ask her when she was coming out.
“Yes, in a minute. You’ll have to hold it for a little longer.”
“I don’t need to – Can we talk?”
“About what? You know, I’m going back to bed. This weekend has been exhausting.”
Yes, it sure had, and Will didn’t think she was referring to the strenuous physical activity which was what he was trying to discuss with her. Knowing Grace, he decided to give up his attempt to get through to her, for the moment. Maybe after a little while the whole thing might have taken on a new perspective.
Will wasn’t even sure what he wanted to say to her. That he wanted to do it again? Somehow, he did. But it wasn’t that easy. Even if he’d been able to approach dating and sex with women as some guys did with other men, he knew he couldn’t expect Grace to put up with anything like that. A nice little one night stand once in a while was fine, as long as it was with someone else. Someone less close to him. But he was getting a little old for that in any context. With a sigh, he left Grace to her own devices, and his own brooding for a later hour.
Since becoming a married man, Jack had noticed a pronounced slump in his real dating. What was with those guys out there? Just because he was married with a family, couldn’t he just go out there and have fun like before? He simply couldn’t see why not.
But the men he seemed to attract these days were either complete airheads – or so weird even Jack felt a little intimidated. The few who didn’t belong to the two categories proved strangely unwilling to actually go on a date. They would sympathize, try to be supportive of his problem – the nature of which Jack himself was blissfully ignorant – and simply chat with him.
Finally, after a few months of fruitless cruising of his favorite haunts, Jack decided to take a break from dating. After all, as a mature married man – and a father – he might as well get used to the role. And after some more soul-searching – a very new activity for Jack – he had a brilliant idea.
Why not try to recapture what he and Karen had had if only briefly? He wasn’t about to use drugs or too much alcohol, but he reasoned that if he could do it once, maybe he could do it again. Maybe lightning really does strike twice.
After making this decision, Jack felt much better. Why shouldn’t he court his own wife? Now all he needed to do was learn how to do it. There was a bit of a problem about that. The only straight guy he knew well was his father and they really weren’t on talking terms.
Naturally, his father would be pleased to learn about his conversion, not just the marriage, but Jack found that he simply didn’t want to ask the old man for advice. Maybe Will could – But his friend was acting weirder than usual, and anyway, what could Will possibly know about dating a woman like Karen?
The very same evening, Jack resolved to put his plan into action. He went to a bookstore where a very hot young guy used to work, to buy a few books on wooing and courting. To Jack’s dismay, the guy wasn’t around, and the other young guy, almost as hot, gave him a very strange look when he tried to flirt with him.
What was the world coming to these days? Maybe his status as a married man and a father was beginning to show. Encouraged by this thought, Jack flashed a very winning smile towards two young women entering the store as he was leaving. Again, he was astonished by the reaction he met. Both girls began to giggle in a very undignified way. Apparently, young girls weren’t any more serious than young men. It was time he looked to the older generation. Karen, though Jack would never say so to her face, did belong to a slightly older generation. That would be so much more rewarding, Jack decided.
He entered Karen’s and his luxurious home to find his wife absent. Since neither one of them ever thought of leaving messages, perhaps stuck to the fridge door, he had no idea where she was. But all the better, this would give him some time to prepare himself.
Remembering that women loved a newly showered and shaved man, he saw to those details. And being Jack, he also dressed up to rival the lady he was trying to woo. By the time he was done, it occurred to him that he might ask the nanny where Karen might be. The woman was English, and she had a very stern, disapproving way of staring at Jack, which intimidated him just a bit.
“It’s Marina, sir.”
“Have you seen my wife?”
“Yes, madam went to have a beauty treatment at Salon Rudolphe’s.”
“Ah, excellent. Thank you. You may see to the children now, Veronica.”
With another disapproving look, Marina vanished into the nursery, which used to be one of Karen’s storage rooms, housing improbable numbers of dresses and other necessities of life.
Around 7, Karen at last walked in, looking more than usually pleased with herself.
“My precious, looking as lovely as ever.”
“Uh – yes, thank you for noticing, poodle. I have a date. Wish me luck.”
Jack’s face fell, and his mind began to list his options. What could he do to make Karen stay? Briefly, he considered just taking her into his arms and sweeping her off her feet, smothering her with ardent kisses. Like Rudolph Valentino. Mm.
He rather liked that image, and he had noticed that Karen did seem to enjoy his kissing. Smugly, Jack dwelled on this for a second, but eventually dismissed the thought. Pouting, he decided to resort to what always worked with his mother. Whining and begging. Imitating his dog’s most endearing face, he fixed Karen with limpid eyes.
“You hardly ever spend the evening with me, my love. Have you ever thought that I might get lonely?”
Lonely? Jack? Karen stared at him in astonishment. This didn’t sound like her Jack. He always had a hot date or new scheme to become famous overnight. What was he up to now? But unselfishness wasn’t Karen’s strong suit, so she ignored the puppy look and hurried into her room. Shedding her dress, she went about the business of getting ready in time for her dinner date, without paying attention to her husband.
Using his best Patrick Swayze impression Jack descended on Karen as she was about to sit down to do her makeup. This time, he didn’t bother to think things through, he merely grabbed her and pulled her into his arms, kissing her shoulder, neck, ear and working his way up to her mouth. As always, Karen’s thoughts got a little disjointed when Jack did this to her. Slowly, she disentangled herself. Whoa.
“Very impressive, poodle. Rehearsing some new play?”
“I’m hurt. Can’t a man embrace his wife whenever he feels like it?”
“Of course, poodle, but can’t it wait? Didn’t I tell you that I have a hot date? Aren’t you going out yourself?”
“I was planning a romantic evening for two, my darling.”
“How nice. Let me get ready, and I’ll be out of your hair. Jack, don’t let him into my room. I mean it. The last time, someone had rummaged through my underwear and if there’s one thing I’d positively kill over, it’s having my underwear messed with. Is that understood?”
“Darling, I meant a romantic evening for just the two of us. Rowena will see to the youngsters.”
“Is this a joke, poodle? Very funny. Now you’re going to make me late. Run along and play now, shoo.”
In desperation, Jack tried to unhook Karen’s bra, but was hampered by the fact that the only other time in his life he’d done this, he’d been both stoned and drunk. Not quite himself. Stumped, he settled for placing his hands on his wife’s bosom, not very expertly, but with increasing enthusiasm. Funny. He’d never found those things very attractive before. But they were soft and full and bouncy at the same time. Very nice. Women really were wondrous creatures.
Slightly distracted by Jack’s accidentally skillful handling of the intimate parts of her anatomy, Karen was slow to push him away. She had to get a grip. How could she explain to her banker friend that her gay husband had delayed her by –
“Jack, that’s enough. What are you playing at? You’d better take a cold shower and get a grip. Watch some tv or something. I have to get going.”
Discouraged, Jack decided to give up for the time being. He could always read those books he’d bought. There should be some interesting advice in there.
About an hour later, Jack’s face broke into a smile. That was it. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? Make her jealous. Appear to be flirting with another woman. Yes. He’d pulled that stunt on a few boyfriends in the past, always with highly satisfying results. Once there was even a full scale fight over him.
Did women fight over men? Jack could easily imagine so, and there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that Karen would be victorious and return to him, less apt to stray to other men. What a brilliant book. Worth every cent he’d spent on it.
Now all that remained to be done was settle on the woman. The book hadn’t been at all clear as to how one selected the other woman. Should he pick one at random? Someone like the dreadful Carina? Surely not. Or – whoever that happened to pass by, when Karen was watching him. Hm.
What woman would be suitable? Ah, yes. Grace, of course. Who else did he know? She might be a bit weird and a tiresome at times but she did like figure skating. And she was a woman. Perfect. If only he could talk Karen into inviting Will and Grace over things would work out just fine.
When he made the suggestion, Karen didn’t appear at all thrilled about the idea, but eventually, after the offer of a sensational massage, she gave in. After all, she wasn’t the one who would have to deal with the tedious details of making preparations.
The evening arrived, and Jack proceeded to drive everyone insane with his genial host act, Karen included. Eventually, he settled down, and after dinner, over some cheese and drinks, mixed by Jack, they all sat down to chat.
Jack used the pretext of showing Grace an autographed photograph of the French figure skater Surya Bonaly to get her away from Karen and Will. She took the bait. After that it was only a matter of maneuvering her to a position where they could be seen by Karen. That also meant Will would be a witness to the entire scene of seduction, but that didn’t concern Jack one bit.
Using the same tactics that always worked with Karen, up to a point, Jack grabbed Grace, tilted her face back and energetically locked lips with her. At first, Grace was too stunned to react, and even after she’d managed to pull herself together, she was far too amused to really put up a fight. Jack – kissing her? Had she had an accident on the way over? Or was this ‘Just Jack’ playing another silly game? When he let her go, Grace pulled in air to speak.
“Jack? What kind of medication are you on? Better call your doctor to adjust the dosage.”
From across the room, there was a shocked silence, finally broken by an angry gasp from Will. Before anyone had time to react, Will had crossed the room, rammed into Jack and pushed him up against the wall, his face twisted in anger. This was so totally unlike him. Again silence fell, only broken by Jack’s whining.
“I just know you broke my clavicle, you big brute. Get your hands off me. What’s your problem?”
“My problem is you. Leave Grace alone. What are you playing at? I’m warning you, whatever sick stunt you’re trying to pull, I won’t let you hurt her.”
“Ouch. I’m hurt. Karen, he hurt me.”
Jack’s plaintive voice reached Karen and before she knew what she was doing, she was running across the room, intent on making sure her husband was alright. For some reason, however, she felt impelled to slap Grace’s face instead.
“You – slut. Keep away from my husband.”
“Karen? He was the one who tried to jump down my throat. I didn’t do anything.”
“Of course she didn’t. Come on, Gracie. Let’s go.”
“I think – yes, we’d better go. I don’t get it. What happened? One minute everything was normal the next -”
“It’s alright, baby. These people are insane. We’ll just go home.”
“Yes, yes, dear. I apologize. For a moment there, I got a little confused. I’ll see you at work.”
“I guess so.”
Will rushed her outside and into the car.
All the while, Grace was thoughtfully fingering the red mark on her cheek. Who would have thought Karen packed such a punch in her dainty hands? Oh, well. In a way a little fight was refreshing. Maybe she shouldn’t have been so quick to forgive. Slapping Karen might have been satisfying in a primitive way.
Rather like the way Will had attacked his friend Jack. Had that really happened? Grace had never seen Will violent, except once when he was being attacked by two fag-bashing rednecks. Fortunately, that time his brother had been nearby and nothing serious had occurred. Surely Will couldn’t be – jealous? No way.
“Not now, Will. I need to take care of this – If I don’t put an ice pack on it, I won’t be able to go to work in the morning.”
So she was doing it again. Shutting him out. Will felt guilty about ruining their friendship. Why did he never think before he jumped into bed with someone? But in the past he’d only had himself to worry about. Now there was someone else to take into account. Someone precious to him.
With a sigh, he watched Grace seek refuge inside her room, and the following morning, she was gone before he was up. All morning at work, Will had a hard time focusing on the case at hand. By lunchtime, Will had had quite enough. He decided to go over and pick Grace up for lunch. If she’d let him.
When he stepped into the office, he was surprised to find only Karen there. This almost never happened, and he kept thinking Grace was going to show up any second. As usual, Karen only barely acknowledge his presence and immediate re-immersed herself into Vogue magazine.
“Oh, she went home. Wasn’t feeling well.”
“Did you have a fight?”
“Of course not. She was just feeling a bit weird. Must have been something she ate.”
“I don’t think so. She didn’t have breakfast and now it’s lunchtime and she’s not here.”
“I shouldn’t worry if I were you. Now if that would be all -”
Suddenly, Will had a desperate inspiration. What if he’d try the same moronic stunt Jack had? After spending most of the night tossing and turning, Will had come to the conclusion that in some sick, twisted way, Jack had been trying to make Karen jealous. Will didn’t even want to try to imagine why, but the method might still work. At least in Grace’s case. He didn’t stop to consider the wisdom of his course of action, something as out of character with Will as last night’s altercation.
“Yes, are you still here?”
“Would you like to go out to lunch with me?”
“Mm. Better not. Lately, I’ve been eating far too much. Besides, I don’t mind telling you last night’s left me a bit unsettled. You have no idea how long it took me to calm Jack down. This sort of thing isn’t good for me. I’m sure I’ve grown a few new grey hairs, and maybe a wrinkle or two.”
“No. You look as lovely as ever.”
Not sure of what to make of Will’s changed inflection, Karen looked up to see a new look in Will’s eyes. She got up to take a closer look and found herself enveloped in a hard embrace, far more inspiring than anything Jack was capable of. She experienced a moment of elation. Have I got the touch, or what? Even the gays fall over me, right and left.
“There, there, poodle. If you really want to do this, why don’t we make ourselves comfortable? Over there on the settee.”
Wincing at Karen’s choice of words, as much as at her intentions, Will tensed up and tried to pull out of Karen’s grasp. What had he been thinking? He definitely didn’t want to – ugh – not with Karen. She was so – female. And also in her femininity so totally different from Grace.
“I’m sorry, Karen, I don’t know what came over me. Forgive me. Lately, I haven’t been myself.”
“Don’t apologize, poodle. It’s quite alright.”
“But you don’t understand. I can’t do this to Jack. That’s right. I couldn’t treat him this way.”
“Never mind Jack. He’s over you, since way back.”
Again, Will felt a shiver go down his spine and inched away from Karen.
“There’s no need to be nervous, poodle. If this is your first time, think nothing of it. Your auntie Karen’s going to take good care of you.”
Karen began to advance on Will in a very intimidating way, and he had no idea what this madness would have led to if the door hadn’t opened, just as Karen got her hands on him again.
“Aha. The minute my back is turned, there you are, you – you – Keep your hands off other men’s wives, you scoundrel.”
Jack struck a dramatic pose, which was only slightly marred by his not so manly swagger.
“Jack. This isn’t what it seems.”
“No, it isn’t. You know me, Jack. I wouldn’t really want to chase one of your -”
Don’t say that. Will had had no idea Jack had felt that way about him at any time, and the thought did nothing to decrease the awkwardness of the moment.
“I’ll just go. Talk to you later, Jack.”
And inch by inch, Will managed to retreat towards the door. With considerable relief, he noticed that Jack made no move to intercept him. Instead, his friend was pulling his wife into his arms and – This was something Will definitely didn’t want to see.
On his way downstairs, Will debated with himself on whether to go back to the apartment to see how Grace was or – just return to the office. In the end he chose the latter. Right now he didn’t want to face Grace. How could he have picked Jack’s insane method to make Grace jealous? It wouldn’t have worked. He might as well have targeted Jack – Ugh. No lunch today. Will wasn’t quite sure he would have been able to keep it down.
While he was still trying to concentrate on his work and dismally failing, the afternoon wore on into early evening. Startled, Will looked up to find that it was nearly 8. Unless he intended to spend the night in the office, he might as well go back home. Grace might be wondering where he was –
His secretary must have left at least two hours ago, and he hadn’t even heard her go. Now the door opened anyway, and for a second Will was expecting Grace, but it was Jack. Not exactly the person he most wanted to see right now. On the other hand, now was as good a time as any to apologize for his behavior. What he had done, today and the night before, was simply unforgivable. Not a way to treat a friend.
“Jack. I’m really sorry.”
“And so you should be.”
But Jack was smiling in an intolerably smug way, leading Will to jump to the unlikely conclusion that Jack had just – But how would he have had time for that? At Grace’s office there was only Karen – Oh, no. Will felt sick.
“So what were you playing at last night? You were jealous, don’t bother denying it.”
“Don’t be silly. I wasn’t jealous. But I can’t let you hurt Grace’s feelings. She’s more sensitive than she looks.”
“Oh, really? Then why are you wearing that stupid ‘I’m in love’ look? Either it’s meant for moi, or that tiresome redhead whom I briefly considered having a fling with. But now things are wonderful between me and Karen. Whatever you did to her must have inspired her. She was -”
“Please, don’t tell me about anything like that. I really don’t want to know.”
“Oh, well, we can’t all be happily married men, I guess. Don’t feel bad, Will. One day you too, might experience the fulfillment of matrimony.”
“Uh – yes. Was there anything else you wanted?”
More than grossing me out even more than you already have. Friend or not, I’m not in the mood, Jack.
“No. Everything’s fine. I have to go. My wife’s already waiting for me at our lovely home. Have a nice evening. And – Will – if you think the redhead can make you happy, go for it.”
Will lifted his face from his hands, where he’d been hiding it, so he wouldn’t have to watch Jack’s intolerable grin, but his friend was already gone. At least Jack was right about one thing. He should be making his way home. And even if he and Grace could never make each other happy, they had to talk about what had happened between them.
This time, Will didn’t bother bringing any other peace offering than his own self. It was too late for any ruses or grand gestures. Only total honesty would do now, and even that might be insufficient.
The lights were still on, so Will guessed that Grace was awake, perhaps even waiting for him. If that wasn’t too much to hope for.
“There you are. I was wondering – Actually, I was getting a little worried. You usually call me all the time so -”
“No. Everything’s ok. Can we talk? Are you angry with me?”
“Why would I be angry with you? For giving me the six best orgasms of my life?”
“Six? Oh, that other time too – Well, I don’t know how, but actually – uh – I kind of thought that -”
“It was great for me too.”
“Oh. So what do we do now?”
“Yes. That’s the question. You know me. I can’t change, no matter how much I might want to.”
“I know. But you don’t have to change. There’s nothing wrong with who you are.”
“You don’t think -”
“No. Never mind.”
“Go on, ask me. We might as well talk this through once and for all. I’ve been thinking about this, ever since the first time. You know when we watched that movie and -”
“No. You go first.”
“Ok. You don’t think we could – I mean, it seems we’re not really in the mood for dating anyone else – Just for a while -”
“Say it, Will.”
“We’re already friends, and I don’t want anything to change that. But what if we could be special friends?”
“I don’t know. We were getting kind of serious at college, remember? And now I’m older. It’s harder to settle for some kind of teenage no-commitments thing.”
She didn’t want to. He should have known. It was time he stopped thinking about himself all the time. Of all the people in the world, Grace was the most precious to him and now he’d hurt her. Again. Would he ever learn?
“But on the other hand, you’re right. No one else seems to come close. Right now. So – Will it would have to be real while it lasted. You can’t see others behind my back. If you meet someone or if you wake up and get back to normal – You have to tell me.”
“You know I wouldn’t do that to you. Not to anyone. I’ve never cheated on anyone in my life and I’m certainly not about to do so now. So – we’ll go on the way we have. Nothing official. This is just between you and me.”
“Yes. Ok. We don’t seem to be through with each other after all. Let’s just see how it goes. And – Will, I’m serious, you don’t have to change. I understand.”
“There’s no one like you. One in a million. Gracie -”
But he couldn’t say the words, so he just pulled her close and said all that needed to be said, silently. And somehow the miracle occurred and the magic was still there. He didn’t know what had happened between them or how long it would last, but for now, whatever it was, felt great. Determinedly, he put the future out of his mind. The past too. Now was more than enough.