|Primary Characters:||Will, Grace, Jack, Karen|
|Warning:||m/f sex implied|
|Description:||Karen takes Jack on a cruise, where they both meet what might be mr Right, but things aren’t as simple as they might seem. A new man appears in Will’s and Grace’s lives.|
Grace should have known something was up. For the past two weeks, Karen had been doing even less work at – work. This time however, what was taking up her interest wasn’t the reading of fashion magazines, it was travel brochures. Not that it really mattered, as far as work was concerned. Even on the best of days, Karen did little or no work, but since she had the odd little notion of paying her employer, instead of the other way around, Grace didn’t really have anything to complain about.Around the end of January, Karen appeared to have come to a decision. After a few last minute consultations with Jack, over the phone, she informed Grace of her intention of going away on a little vacation. Since she’d already been away over Christmas, that appeared to be a bit much, but Grace wasn’t going to complain. These days, she was more than a little preoccupied with her own little secret.
“Darling, Jack and I are going on a cruise. My nerves are absolutely shot. Who would have thought two such tiny creatures could create so much noise? And they demand constant attention. They must be taking after their father, because -”
“Ok. I see. Where are you going, and when will you be back?”
“Oh, you know. The actual cruise is about two weeks, I think. But then we might want to stay somewhere for a week or two. No more than a month. Unless Jack begins to act up, in which case I’ll be back before the end of the cruise.”
“I see. Well, have a great time.”
“Oh, I intend to. As long as Jack behaves himself, I know I shall. Grace, honey, there’s something I’d like you to do for me.”
Here we go, Grace thought to herself. Of course Karen wanted some difficult, or downright impossible favor. But she tried hard not to lose the smile that was beginning to feel slightly strained.
“I want you to keep an eye on the little ones.”
“I know. The nanny will see to them. But I’d just like you and Will to keep an eye on things.”
Reluctantly, Grace smiled and forced herself to reply.
That might not be too much trouble. But knowing Karen’s and Jack’s offspring, Grace wasn’t too sure.
Grace woke up to the sound of the insistent ringing of the phone. She put a pillow over her head, in the hope that Will would get up and stop the infernal noise. Perhaps he did, she must have dozed off, but it was as if only a second had gone by, when she felt a hand shaking her shoulder. Gently at first, then more insistently.
“Come on, Gracie, wake up. You’ll have to go over to Karen’s place.”
Realizing that she was yelling at Will, who strictly speaking couldn’t be held responsible for all this, Grace lowered her voice a little.
“It’s the twins. The nanny is gone somewhere, and the housekeeper says she isn’t paid to deal with those – the kids.”
“Why can’t you go?”
“Me? But Gracie, please. Be reasonable. What do I know about babies?”
“They’re toddlers now.”
“Oh. Anyway, what do I know about children of any age?”
Grace was about to tell him she didn’t know anything either, but having scored that point over the terminology, she decided to keep quiet and let Will be impressed with her extensive knowledge.
“Alright. I did say I’d go over there and keep an eye on things. But you’re going with me.”
“Do I have to? Those two remind me of -”
“Their parents? Well, what did you expect? I deal with the kids. You take care of me.”
“I’m not going to argue with a cabbie at this hour of the night. That’s your job.”
“Whatever you say. As long as I don’t have to change diapers or whatever it is those two need doing.”
As soon as she’d opened the door and let them inside, the housekeeper beat a hasty retreat. Will cast an envious glance after her. If he couldn’t be in his bed at this hour, he’d much rather seek out the safe haven which was the kitchen of Karen’s enormous apartment. But he’d promised Grace and he knew she’d meant what she’d said. He recognized the tone, and the look in her eyes. If he let her down now, he’d pay for it for weeks to come.
Warily, Grace entered the nursery. Where could that Marina girl have gone off to? Surely not back to England? If so, Grace knew very well that she’d be stuck babysitting for the rest of Karen’s and Jack’s cruise, and that would take years off her life.
For two kids that small, they sure could make a frightful racket. What were they screaming about anyway? They looked healthy enough, and when Grace dared to touch their little behinds, they were dry too. Hungry? She hoped that they didn’t miss their mother, because there was no way Karen was going to give up her vacation just to come home to her children. Grace knew that for a fact.
“If I gave you a dollar each, I don’t suppose you’d shut up, would you? No, I guess not. I just thought I’d ask. Ok.”
What did you feed kids that age? Apple sauce? Yes, that couldn’t do any harm. Or maybe –
“Will, go into the kitchen – Hold on, don’t look so relieved – you’ll have to come back. Bring me apple sauce or – some kind of jam or – whatever they might want to eat.
“Like what? Cereals?”
For some reason, Grace didn’t think cereals would be at all suitable, though if Will had asked her why, she knew she couldn’t have answered him. Her mom would know – Yes, she’d call her mom. If she was back. What time was it? Four fifteen in New York. That would make it – just about the right time to call her mother.
What a piece of luck. Grace reached out and picked up the phone, which was conveniently located nearby. Either Karen – or Jack – spent more time in the nursery than she’d expected, or – Marina was a girl who liked to use the phone a lot.
“Mom? Yes, I’m fine. No, I’m not going to get married. Can I ask you – Mom, please, I just need to ask you – Ok. I will. Tomorrow. But now – Mom – Yes, that’s great. Really. I’m happy for you. Yes, you can tell him that. Oh, good. Now -”
Grace was almost beginning to regret calling, when finally her mother shut up and asked her what she wanted.
“What do you feed two kids who are – Yes, they’re Karen’s and Jack’s, how did you guess? Aha. Hm. Right. I’m sure they’ll have something like that in the kitchen. Good. What? Oh, Karen took off on a cruise three days ago. I have no idea. Jack went with her. I know. They did. Me. Don’t be silly. I’ve got the whole thing under control. Yes. No, mom. Will and I are not going to have any of our own. Mom, I told you. Will’s gay and – Oh. Well, say hello to him for me. Yes. Bye, bye.”
She let out a sigh of relief, then nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt someone touch her shoulder. Then she realized that it had to be Will, bringing the apple sauce. She was hoping he hadn’t heard the part about the two of them having kids together. If he had, he gave no indication of it.
“You found it? Good. Mom said they might also like some fruit juice and -”
“I forgot. Never mind. I’ll give them that. Did you see any fruit juice?”
“Yes. Want me to run back and get it?”
“Unless you want to call your mom and ask her advice?”
“No, that’s ok.”
While Will was gone, Grace tried her best to feed the twins their apple sauce. They enjoyed it enormously, not eating it, exactly, but splattering it all over Grace. After less than one minute, she noticed that she had a sticky mess all over her hair. Terrific. No wonder Marina had made a run for it. When she got a hold of that girl –
Wait a minute. That nanny worked for Karen, not her. If she chose to be absent from her work, that really wasn’t Grace’s problem, was it? Of course it was. Here she was, dealing with two monster kids, while that girl was out having a terrific time somewhere, just like the kids’ parents. Yes, she really would give Marina a piece of her mind.
“What’s that in your hair?”
“Mm. Quite tasty. I didn’t realize hair spray tasted this good.”
“Will, what are you doing? If you really like to play with that sticky stuff, you might as well help me feed one of them.”
“But you just said -”
“I know, I just don’t know what to do with them.”
“They seem happy enough now. Didn’t you get any of that stuff into them?”
“I think so. But they spat most of it out.”
“Maybe they weren’t that hungry?”
“You’re right. Was that the door?”
That had better be Marina, or Grace would just give up and call social services – or – why hadn’t she thought of this before? Karen’s mother. That woman was only about an hour away by plane. She could be here before morning and – Or even better, Jack’s mom, who would be absolutely thrilled –
But it was Marina, and the girl was filled with apologies. She’d missed the train and she’d been forced to wait for the next one and – Grace wasn’t really listening.
“Good, you’re back. You take over. The twins have been -”
“So I see, ma’am. Don’t worry about it. I can take it from here.”
Grace didn’t like the way that girl was trying to cover a smile. She was laughing at the apple sauce in her hair, if Grace wasn’t very much mistaken. But as long as the kids weren’t her responsibility anymore, she would let that go.
“Let’s go. I need a shower.”
“You were great in there.”
Grace took a closer look at Will. If he was making fun of her – but no, apparently, he was genuinely impressed with the way she’d handled the kids. Amazing. But maybe to a man, her inept techniques really had seemed more impressive than they really were.
“Thanks. As long as I don’t have to do that again in a hurry. I know Karen is paying that nanny a fortune, so she might as well earn her keep. In fact, why doesn’t Karen hire two, since she’s got two kids?”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
“Why am I even bothering to think about that kind of thing? It’s Karen’s business, not mine. If you’ll just get me a cab, I’ll give you anything – almost.”
“Anything? I might hold you to that.”
What was that? She wasn’t quite sure what to make of that tone. But right then, a cab actually stopped and pulled over. The guy didn’t speak much English, but in the end he got them back to their place, and that pretty much put a stop to any conversation.
Grace headed into the shower, and for the moment, she forgot about the strange change that had gone over Will. That stuff wasn’t real. More like the twilight zone, but right now, all she wanted was some hot water and her shampoo.
When she’d worked up a really good lather, she suddenly saw the door open. Will. What in the world was he up to, and at five a m? If her mom could see this – What was she thinking? If her mom could see this, she’d just die and she wouldn’t have to worry about any nagging.
“What? Did you think I needed help scrubbing my back?”
“If you like. You did say you’d give me just about anything if I got you that cab.”
“That’s not fair. You didn’t do anything. It was a freak act of -”
“I know. Want me to leave again?”
Will’s hands were resting on her shoulders, rubbing them deliciously, then moving down her back.
“You can stay. Keep that up. Mm. Oh, yeah, that’s it.”
By the time they got out of the shower, Grace had more or less forgotten about the inconvenience of being woken up at 3 am. She decided that it wouldn’t do any harm if she slept in just this once. Tomorrow, or rather, later today, she’d call that nanny and make a deal with her. No more running around until all hours.
Grace ought to have known better than to call her mom. After a day at work that was hectic and aggravating, she returned home to find a message from her mother. She would be arriving the following morning. As if that wasn’t enough, apparently Will’s mother had had the same brilliant idea. All this meant that she’d need to tidy up the place. Why didn’t she and Will pool their resources and get a cleaning lady? That way, at least they wouldn’t have to spend time making the place suitable for the eyes of mothers.
She tested out her idea on Will as soon as he got back from the office. Just like she had suspected, he fully approved of the idea. Since neither one of them really felt much like tidying up the apartment in the evenings, they would much rather pay someone to do it for them.
So they called the paper and placed an ad. That didn’t solve their current problem. But before getting down to work, they allowed themselves an hour or so of rest. They had dinner, a little wine, and relaxed a little. Time enough to snap to attention in the morning.
About an hour after she’d retired into her bedroom, Grace reappeared in the living room. Meeting her mother always made her tense, but this was ridiculous. Still, on top of everything connected with the twins – She began rummaging through the DVD-collection. Nothing caught her fancy. Instead she picked up the remote and began zapping half-heartedly between channels.
Just as she was about to give up and fling the remote away, she heard Will’s door open and close. Forcing herself to remain outwardly calm, she continued staring at the tv, though she had stopped paying attention a long time ago.
“Having trouble sleeping?”
“Yeah. I’m not really looking forward to tomorrow.”
“I know how you feel. Mom’s always got some big plans for me and when I don’t agree, she gets so tiresome.”
“Tell me about it. What time is it?”
“Hmm. Nearly 3 a m.”
“Oh. Too early to go in to work then.”
“Yes. And I guess you don’t have anything you could do from home?”
“There’s always something for me to do. But I’m not really in the mood for work.”
“Oh, yeah? Want to grab a snack -”
“Tempting. But not quite what I had in mind.”
There it was again. That weird note in his voice. Like she was dreaming or – had been transported to an alternative reality. This just couldn’t be happening. If Will really wanted her like this, why had he waited all this time to show it? She’d never understand him, even if she tried for a thousand years.
“Yeah? What did you have in mind?”
She was determined not to give herself away. Let him make the first move. He had to know what she wanted. He was the one who had to get things worked out in his mind.
Will dropped down on the sofa next to her. He put his nose next to her neck and began sniffing her hair. That reminded her of the twin-related disaster the other night.
“Do I have anything in my hair?”
“What? No. Mm. It smells nice. New shampoo?”
“No. It’s the same I’ve been using for almost a year.”
“Oh. Well – Perfume?”
“I don’t think so. Now what?”
Will had grabbed her chin and turned her face around. The look in his eyes was – But she didn’t have time to wonder about it, because his lips locked on to hers and –
It was another while before she began to pay attention to her surroundings. Will’s hands had wandered in underneath her nightie and –
“No. I mean that’s not the point -”
“Gracie – I don’t understand this any more than you do, but it’s just that right now – you are all I want.”
She could sense the confusion in his voice. Why did she have to question this? Maybe it was best to let whatever it was run its course. But it was so – An absurd thought struck her. What if this was all a dream? What if she was in a coma or something?
“What? Do you want me to stop? I’m not going to hurt you, Gracie, I swear.”
That appeared to be inevitable, but she appreciated that he probably meant every word he said. And if she turned him down and they drifted apart wouldn’t she regret it later, when it was over? That helped her decide.
“No, Will. Don’t stop. If we’re dreaming, I don’t want us to wake up.”
“It’s not a dream, Gracie. Whatever it is, it’s real.”
Those hands – how in the world had they got so expert at satisfying a woman? Mm. That was incredible. At that point she let herself go and stopped analyzing the experience.
She must have dragged herself back to her bedroom some time towards morning. The next thing she remembered was hearing the doorbell ringing. Oh. What time could it be? Then her conscience struck her. Mom. Guiltily, she turned over and looked at the empty half of her bed. So he was gone. Good. She’d just die if her mom caught her with a guy in her bed. Even if he was gay.
“Yeah, I’m coming, I’m coming.”
To her surprise, Will was already at the door, fully dressed. He must have showered and shaved and was now looking his usual lawyer self. Impressive. Maybe it wasn’t all that weird that her mom kept wanting her to marry Will. If she’d been her mom she migt have wanted her daughter to as well .
Grace was all too aware of the mess she looked, wearing only a small nightie, and her robe. Not until now did she recall that Will’s mom was on her way. If that was her, she’d have time to retreat into the bathroom and make herself more presentable.
But it was her mom alright and she could already hear Will welcoming her. Showoff. He was always so – so – polite. Always those perfect manners. If he’d show up hungover and unshaven just once, then maybe her mom would get off her case.
“Oh, hello, Will. You’re looking well, as always. Where is my daughter? Oh, there she is. What do you have to say for yourself, young lady? Where were you? I waited at the airport for ages before calling myself a cab -”
“I’m sorry, mom. I guess I overslept.”
Her mom looked from her to Will and back again, and Grace felt a flush creep across her face. What was her mother thinking now? Why hadn’t she made up some excuse not to see her? If her mother somehow got it into her head that – Fortunately, Will’s attorney’s face wasn’t giving anything away.
“Uh. Oh. I see.”
Her voice was heavy with innuendo, but exactly what her mom really suspected wasn’t at all clear. It might be anything from – But Grace wasn’t given any more time to think. Her mom brushed past her and took possession of the guestroom. They only had one, so that meant Will would have to sleep on the couch, and she knew he didn’t like that. Maybe she ought to have offered, but somehow she just didn’t feel like it.
By the time they’d managed to get their guest settled in, Will had to leave to pick up his mom. Grace winced at the look her mother gave her. It told her loud and clear ‘look at Will, what a perfect gentleman he is, picking his mother up right on time, and greeting me at the door fully dressed’.
The next hour or so was intolerable, but once Will’s mother was settled in, Grace excused herself and fled to her office. There was nothing really urgent waiting for her, but it was a relief to be able to get away. She knew Will had more reason to go and that his mom most likely understood that, but her mother had given her a look. At least she hadn’t stopped her going out.
Grace stuck around in the office for as long as she dared. Tonight she and Will had to either make dinner (impossible) or take their mothers out to a restaurant (only slightly more doable). With any luck Will would already have managed the reservations.
She was right, but it was only for later. In the meantime, the two ladies were sitting at the dinner table, having a few drinks, and – talking. Uh oh. Bad news. When those two got talking, Grace knew she was in trouble.
“Come and sit down for a while and be nice. We were just saying that you and Will really ought to stop this nonsense and settle down and start a family.”
Grace felt her stomach twisting. What was the point of all this? Nonsense? What those two ladies were discussing was the nonsense. She caught Will’s eyes across the room as he was approaching. He had put on his inscrutable attorney’s face and only raised his eyebrows slightly. Great.
“Mom, please. Let’s not go into that now. Did you and Will find some nice restaurant to go to?”
“Yes, dear. Well, aren’t you going to sit down?”
“Uh – I need to get changed.”
Her mother shot Will’s mother a look that seemed to be saying ‘see, what I have to put up with’. Will’s mother must have given her a sympathetic look, but Grace just used the temporary reprieve to get a moment to herself.
Between keeping an eye on things over at Karen’s and this visit from the abominable mothers – she’d be lucky if she didn’t grow a grey hair or two. By the time Karen got back, she’d need to go off on vacation herself. Preferably to some very calm and peaceful place all by herself or with – She firmly put that thought out of her mind.
Dinner was only barely tolerable, but the following morning, Grace’s situation took a drastic turn for the better, when she discovered that her mother had invited Will’s over for a visit, and apparently the two ladies were leaving that same evening. She couldn’t believe her luck.
Trying hard not to let too much enthusiasm for this unexpected piece of luck, Grace meekly followed her mother around on the shopping round she had demanded. And towards evening she and Will escorted their mothers to the airport again. With a feeling that she was getting off easily, Grace recklessly promised she’d give that marriage and family idea some thought. Then she happily waved goodbye to her mother.
“That was lucky.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it. I suggested to your mother that my mother had never visited Tahoe so naturally she warmed to the idea.”
“You’re an angel.”
Grace almost kissed Will right there in the parking lot, but thought better of it. She wasn’t quite ready for the public to see displays of affection between them.
“Oh, well, it seemed like the best thing to do under the circumstances.”
“Thanks. I owe you big time.”
“Don’t mention it. Now if only Marina can stay in, we’ll have nothing to worry about until Jack and Karen return.”
“Do you ever think about it, Gracie?”
“About what? Going on a cruise?”
“No, silly. Having kids.”
“Oh. Not that often. But I guess – one day before it’s too late I might have to -”
“Mm. I’ve been thinking that too. But of course, it’s complicated.”
“You could say that. Just look at Karen’s brood -”
“I meant -”
“I know what you meant. Well, shall we get back? Better enjoy our freedom before those two change their minds and take the next plane back.”
“Don’t even joke about it. Ok, I’m coming.”
Next morning, Will was acting his normal self again. He was reading the paper, having toast and discussing the sports results. As usual Grace didn’t bother replying. She was too busy waking up. Orange juice was her limit at that time of morning.
The sound of the phone ringing cut into her and she made a face. She was hoping Will would go and pick up and she wasn’t disappointed.
“Yes, that’s right. Oh. Well, how about this afternoon? Six? Excellent. See you then.”
“The cleaning help. We’ve got a reply to the ad.”
“Oh. What did she sound like?”
“He. He sounded alright. But we’ll have to meet him to make sure he’s the one we’re looking for.”
“Will, it’s just a cleaning job, not rocket science.”
“We just don’t want him to steal all the furniture.”
“Of course we don’t. As long as he leaves the tv and my bed, I won’t complain.”
“Very funny. Anyway, I said we’d see him this afternoon. At six.”
“Whatever. Oh, of course I’ll be there. Happy?”
“How can I not be?”
The guy really was cute. Grace was surprised Will was looking at him as if he was a tax collector. His qualifications seemed ok, so if Will didn’t have any objections, Grace certainly wouldn’t.
To her surprise, Will decided to hire the guy right away, and after a few days, he relaxed his suspicions a bit. He actually seemed to like the guy. Now Grace felt a bit – not jealous exactly, but – something – She also thought she could feel Will perusing her out of the corner of his eye from time to time. Was he wondering about her reaction to his interest in Harry? Or was he trying to find out if she was attracted to him –
She tried to find out if Harry was in the habit of dating women or men, but he seemed difficult to draw out. He did his work, kept himself to himself, without in any way being rude, then left to get back to his place. To study, apparently. After the first couple of days, he confided in Grace that he was studying for his M A.
Then one night after working late, she returned to find Will and Harry deep in conversation. She cast them a penetrating glance, but decided it was too late and she was too tired to join them. In any case, her arrival seemed to alert Harry to the passage of time and he very politely excused himself and left.
“What was that all about?”
“Oh. Harry’s studying law and he wanted my opinion about a couple of cases.”
“I see. Oh, well. I need to get to bed. See you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Gracie. You look really tired. Maybe you should sleep in.”
“Maybe. Sweet dreams.”
But not about Harry, she was hoping.
A couple of nights later, Will had a long day at the office, and Grace found herself feeling lonely. On an impulse, she asked Harry if he’d like to stay for dinner. To her surprise, he accepted, and they spent an agreeable evening together.
When Will returned, Harry cast a guilty glance at his watch and excused himself. Grace was hardly surprised when she caught Will staring thoughtfully at her. But he didn’t say anything and she thought to herself that if he wanted to know what was on her mind, the least he could do was ask.
Grace wasn’t even sure what she felt for Harry. It was way too soon to tell. But it was clear that what she and Will had couldn’t go on forever. If Harry wasn’t the one, then it would have to be someone else. She wasn’t naive enough to think that Will’s change of heart could last. Or –
“Did you have a nice time together?”
“Oh, it was ok. I was feeling lonely. Harry’s nice. But he doesn’t really let anyone close. I’m not sure I know him any better now than before.”
“I see what you mean. Yes, he’s a bit distant, I guess. Anyway, I’m exhausted. I’d better get some sleep.”
“You do that. I might as well do the same. Good night, Will.”
Over the next week or so, Grace found herself thinking more and more about Harry. Not so much from her own point of view. She was far more interested in what Will would think of him, and she came to the conclusion that Harry was exactly Will’s type.
He was even going to be an attorney. How could that not appeal to someone with Will’s meticulous personality? While this didn’t exactly discourage her – after all – she’d known this all along, it didn’t exactly cheer her up either.
The pressure was beginning to get to her, and she knew it was only a matter of time before something had to break. For about the ten thousandth time since their crazy little secret had begun, she reminded herself what a fool she was to have dared to play this game.
Didn’t she know that after a relationship like this failed, there would be no returning to whatever they might have been to each other before. Was she really prepared to lose Will over something as stupid as a bit of sex? But deep down, she knew there was far more to it than that.
Events conspired to make Will unusually busy at work, just as Grace was succumbing to introspection, something if not entirely unheard of, then certainly rare. She saw less of him than she had for a long time. And she didn’t see much more of Harry either, since she took to remaining at the office until late, so she wouldn’t by accident witness something she wasn’t ready to see.
Karen was having a terrific time. There was shopping, gambling, rich men to get acquainted with, no work – in short, this had to be her favorite place in the world. Jack was having no less fun. Good looking older men, money, pools – How could he not enjoy himself enormously?
On the first evening, Karen ran into a man who couldn’t take his eyes off her. And after careful consideration, Karen decided that he wasn’t too bad either – if you took into account his financial situation. Exteriorwise, you might say he was a little challenged, but you couldn’t have everything, so Karen was prepared to cut him a little slack.
Rudolpho Eckelstein Marcollo – the name too, might leave a little to be desired – especially since he had an unusually – red – nose – appeared to completely loaded. Just the way Karen liked her men. And he was quiet. That was a nice change after Jack’s constant babbling. Of course, what he did, apart from staring appreciatively down Karen’s cleavage, was eating and drinking a frightful lot.
Karen was afraid to even calculate the amount of cholestrerol clogging up his veins – but looking at it from the bright side – if they did get married – her new husband might croak at any time, leaving her with a big fat inheritance.
On the second day Rudy progressed from ogling her to pawing. Those sweaty hands did cause Karen’s greedy little smile to freeze, but Rudy didn’t notice. His eyes wandered over to the plate of pre-lunch snacks, as if he was wondering which tasty treat he would avail himself of first.
After reminding herself that the guy practically owned the small Central American republic he was living in – his father had more or less bought up the place cheap a long time ago. Karen was a little vague on the dates, but she gathered it might have been back in the – Depression – or whatever it was called. Or possibly during the Vietnam war. Whenever.
Jack too, had gotten lucky. While Karen was getting acquainted with Rudy, he’d met a handsome character by the name of Paul. Paul was tall and really sexy, and had eyes that appeared fantastically expressive. He was prone to outbursts reminiscient of Jack’s own, only so much more – macho. Or so Jack thought for the first three days. From then on, things progressed rapidly.
It was a while until Jack realized that Paul hardly wanted to let Jack out of his sight during the night. And when he realized that Jack was sharing his cabin with a woman – Jack thought he saw something in Paul’s eyes that surely he hadn’t seen.
Hurriedly he reassured Paul that Karen was only his mother’s kid sister and a very dear friend, who was actually on the cruise to catch herself a rich husband. That only slightly mollified Paul. He took to waiting around outside the cabin each morning to make sure Jack didn’t stray on his way outside. At least Jack was pretty sure he’d only been waiting for a few minutes before Jack showed up.
He had heard a few odd noises from outside the door, that might hint that someone was walking around, patrolling the place, as it were. But that had to be some member of the crew. Paul wouldn’t –
One morning, Paul really did appear to be absent – surely that couldn’t have anything to do with what had sounded like a bit of a quarrel right outside Jack’s and Karen’s door? In any case, Rudy, who had come to find out what was keeping his lovely companion so long – Karen had had a hair related delay – happened to bump into Jack.
Jack wasn’t particularly impressed with the looks of Karen’s new guy, but he still felt awed when he realized this man actually owned an entire country. Bearing all that in mind, he tried out his best flirtatious manner. Just checking. Surely Karen couldn’t object to a little harmless checking? And as it happened, Rudy appeared somewhat less than impressed.
The big – or perhaps – fat – man shook his head doubtfully as he tried unsuccessfully to figure out how his beautiful lady friend had come to share her cabin with such an odd character.
Jack gave up and went off in search for Paul, leaving Rudy to ransack his brains – because presumably the old guy had one buried in those layers of fat.
Eventually, by the time Rudy had sunk down in a deck chair and called for a little after-breakfast snack, Karen appeared, now her usual radiant self.
“Karen, my love. You are as always looking ravishing.”
“I know, dear, I know.”
“What on earth are you doing with that – hm – young man?”
“Oh, you mean Jack, darling?”
“Jack? I suppose I do. That darned odd young man who came out of your cabin only – oh, half an hour or so ago.”
“Yes, darling. That’s Jack. Just Jack.”
And she giggled delightedly at her own pun, which left Rudy looking even more puzzled.
“And who’s that, my precious?”
“He’s – uh – my masseur.”
“Oh. That’s wonderful.”
“Yes. His hands are absolute gold.”
“Very nice. Now, shall we -”
Later that evening, Rudy invited Karen to dinner in his cabin. He had an important proposal on his mind and saw no reason to delay asking the question. When he saw something he liked, he was in the habit of striking before anyone else got there before him.
A bit earlier, he had made a visit at the shopping mall. The little trinket would have to do until he could order a real masterpiece to place on the little lady’s finger. Rudy was fairly sure he’d get a favorable reply, but just in case it was just as well that his purchase didn’t exceed four figures.
Karen spent a couple of hours picking out what to wear. She’d brought several trunks full, and also spent some time at the mall, buying new ones. After all, that was one of her favorite pastimes. Though at the moment, she could hardly remember any others. She was frowning in semi concentration as she tried to think of what else might be important, but failed.
As she gave up the effort, she was startled to find Jack slamming the door shut, looking a bit worn out.
“Darling, what’s wrong? You look awful. Too much sun?”
“It’s nothing, really. Just Paul being a little too intense.”
“Oh. Well, get some rest. Did I tell you I’m going out for dinner?”
“I think – Yes, you must have. Don’t wear that dress.”
“Why on earth not?”
“Because, I like that one better.”
After some reflection she acknowledged that Jack had a point. Briefly she pouted, wondering if Rudy would be able to tell exactly which dress looked best on her. Then she dismissed the thought. It was time she decided on what jewelry to wear with the exquisite dress she and Jack had picked out.
Choosing jewelry was always a lengthy process for Karen. Part of her really wanted to wear all her necklaces, bracelets, earrings and – But her impeccable taste always saved her from making a display of herself. The pearls were lovely, but so were the diamonds and the –
Jack had flung himself dramatically down on his bunk, but without Karen noticing he had gotten up and moved silently across the floor. Without warning he pulled up a chair and began to go through her jewelry.
“Hey. Watch it. If you want sparkle, get your own.”
“Don’t be silly. Jewelry doesn’t look good on me. Here. That one.”
And before Karen could make a move to stop him, Jack had put the necklace around her neck and was snapping it shut.
“There. Perfect. You look sensational.”
“I know, honey, I know. Thanks, poodle. That was fun.”
Karen kissed Jack’s cheek and got up. Or to be exact, she tried. To her astonishment, Jack pulled her down again onto his lap. Since she was running a little late, Karen wouldn’t have any of Jack’s games.
Anyway, the romantic effect was slightly hampered by the fact that in between kisses, Jack broke off to giggle delightedly at the image he and Karen were making together.
“Bad poodle. Shoo. No dinner for you.”
“What’s the matter? Can’t a guy kiss his wife whenever he feels like it?”
For a moment, Karen was distracted by Jack’s breathtaking kisses. But she wasn’t about to be sidetracked. Not with a man who owned half of Central America waiting for her.
“That’s enough, Jack.”
“And you can’t play with my jewelry, is that clear?”
“I said alright. Have fun.”
And with one last kiss, Jack let her go. When the door shut behind Karen he retreated to his bunk, a thoughtful look on his face. Earlier today, Paul had been acting really weird. Though he was a really sexy man, even a guy like Jack sensed something – a bit too intense.
Karen knocked on Rudy’s cabin door and waited. After about ten seconds, the door swung open to reveal a beaming Rudy, his nose even redder than usual.
“There you are, querida.”
Unfortunately, Rudy’s accent was more Pittsburgh than Hispanic, but Karen wasn’t really there to listen to him.
“Yes, here I am.”
Now Rudy brought out the rose he’d been holding behind his back, and handed it over to his guest.
Karen took the rose, but was already trying to sneak a look behind her host.
“Well, aren’t you going to let me in?”
“Oh, of course. Just make yourself at home. Room service will be along in a minute or so. There’s just something I’d like to talk to you about.”
“Go right ahead.”
Now Rudy seemed to be rummaging through one of his pockets for so long, Karen was wondering what he was up to. Finally, after pulling his hand out and putting it down the other pocket as well a couple of times, Rudy pulled out a small box that looked exactly like something Karen liked to receive as a gift. Could it be a –
She wasn’t left wondering for long.
With some effort, Rudy sat down on the chair opposite her and grabbed her hand in his slightly sweaty one, but Karen forced herself not to pull out of his grip.
“Karen, I know we haven’t known each other all that long, but that doesn’t mean anything. When I see something I like, I make a move.”
“Of course you do.”
“So, how about it?”
She giggled expectantly. Sure, Jack had proved surprisingly skillful in bed for a – But a girl had to think about the future, and not to mention her –
“You mean right now? I thought we were going to have dinner first and – room service is on its way.”
Rudy didn’t seem to follow her thinking so after a moment of intense concentration, he tried again.
“Will you be my wife?”
Wife? Uh oh. Not quite what she had in mind. A lengthy divorce and – hadn’t Will assured her that Jack would take her to the cleaners if she even tried? Besides – Karen found this hardest to own up to, even to herself – she felt a reluctance to let Jack go. They had far too much fun together and somehow, she’d gotten used to having him around.
On the other hand – how often did an offer like this come along? She’d be rich beyond her wildest dreams. And wasn’t that what meant the most to her? Jack would understand. If she got the proceedings started, she could agree to paying him a sufficient alimony and – No. Through her visions of dollar signs and diamond rings, she suddenly saw Jack’s face as he was smiling at her, or doing one of his endearing imitations of a loving husband.
“Am I moving too fast, honey?”
“I – Rudy, I’m afraid I can’t -”
“You think you need some more time to think this through?”
“No. I’m sorry. I can’t marry you. But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t -”
“You’re turning me down? Why?”
“Rudy, darling, it’s complicated and I’d rather not -”
“I made you an offer and I think it’s only fair if you tell me the reason for your refusal.”
He was now sounding a whole lot more businesslike than earlier. Karen decided that she might have to tell Rudy the truth. A pity. They might have had fun the entire cruise, but if he was going to be this way, it couldn’t be helped.
“Because I’m married already.”
“Married? But I thought -”
“Yes, dear. My husband and I, we have -”
She was about to say that they had an understanding, but suddenly it struck her that what she and Jack had was far more than an ordinary marriage. And how could she possibly explain that?
“Your husband? He’s not here on the ship with you, is he?”
“Uh – yes. Actually, you’ve met him already. It’s Jack.”
“That darned odd masseur guy?”
“Hey, who are you calling odd?”
“I know what you’re doing. You don’t want to level with me and now you’re making up this absurd story about being married to that queen.”
“Now, you listen to me. You don’t know Jack, so keep your opinions to yourself, buddy.”
“What really gets to me is that you think I’m stupid enough to fall for that ridiculous story. I think you should go now.”
“Yeah? You know what? I’m going.”
She was already wondering what on earth had happened. One second she was on her way to becoming – close to the richest woman in the world. Now suddenly –
There were a few tears in her eyes as she stormed out of Rudy’s cabin and back to her own. Since Jack had been the reason for her losing everything, the least he could do was give her a massage.
But she was disappointed. There was no one around and Karen felt tired and angry. Who did that fat old red-nosed guy think he was? Calling people names and judging people by the way they looked and – She picked up the phone and called room service for a bottle of wine and managed to avoid thinking the first unselfish thought in her entire life.
In the meantime, Jack was on a hot date with Paul. Or at least he thought so. Instead what he walked into was to become his life’s worst date.
He walked into Paul’s cabin, expecting to find his date his normal romantic self. When Paul failed to greet him in his usual passionate way, Jack was wondering what had changed since that morning.
“What’s up with you?”
“You – you -”
“That stutter of yours sounds tiresome. Do you have a sore throat?”
“Why did you lie to me?”
“Lie? About what? If you’re going to be so unpleasant I’ll get going. See you tomorrow. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, then maybe you’ll be nicer the next time we meet.”
“You’re going back to her?”
“What are you talking about? I thought I explained to you -”
“Yes, about the adoring aunt. But that doesn’t explain why you were kissing her just now.”
“Didn’t I tell you she’s very fond of me? She’s taking me on this cruise and -”
“Liar. I saw you. You were kissing her and -”
Something about this conversation was beginning to worry Jack. Paul was talking as if he had actually been looking into their cabin as he had – Well, it had been nice while it lasted. Paul was hot, but there were plenty of hot men on this ship. Or back home.
“Alright. You’ve got me. Sorry about that. But you don’t understand -”
As if Paul hadn’t heard him, he went on.
“You said you were her husband.”
“Oh, well. It’s true. But you have to understand that -”
“How could you?”
“Long story. Anyway, there’s really no reason why you and I can’t -”
“Pervert? You didn’t have to say that. And what were you -”
“Pervert. Kissing women. Marrying one. And that old -”
“Hey. Who are you calling old? Karen happens to be -”
“No one treats me this way. No one. If I can’t have you, no one shall. Especially not that bitch.”
“Don’t call her that.”
“I’ll say what I like. Are you going to stop me?”
“Yes. But I’m not staying here. You’re being a beast and I’m not going to stand for that.”
Too late Jack realized that Paul was holding a big sharp knife. Worse, he was raising it in the air in a very menacing way. Nothing even close had ever happened to Jack and he didn’t know what to do, so he got up and hurried back to the door. In the small enclosed space of the cabin, he didn’t get far.
He felt what he thought was a hard blow in his back. Though it hurt a bit, it didn’t stop him from getting his hand on the doorknob, and trying to turn it. Another blow hit him, and now he felt something warm making his shirt stick to his back. His legs were beginning to give out underneath him, and he was sagging to the floor.
Paul was standing over him, still brandishing the knife. This time, the blade was covered in something dark. Appearing satisfied with Jack’s condition, Paul stepped across him as if he was nothing more than a rolled up rug, and opened the door. As he was leaving, he called out something over his shoulder. It was a while before the words got through to Jack.
“Now I’ll go get that bitch.”
Who was he talking about? Karen? No. Suddenly, Jack was remembering how Karen had let him move into her apartment, how she was supporting him, and – He even recalled how kissing her had felt. So strangely alluring, despite everything. Not quite like kissing a guy, but still – Had Paul said he was going to – No.
And Jack began to struggle to get to his feet. Paul had left the door open, so after a while, Jack found himself out in the corridor. He hadn’t quite managed to get to his feet, so he was crawling rather than walking. All the while, he was calling out to Paul to leave Karen alone.
No one appeared to notice, until suddenly an elderly couple opened their cabin door, on their way to dinner. The elderly lady stared down at the young man at her feet, and her gaze travelled across his body, taking in the huge dark stain on his back.
Her scream called a steward, who immediately saw the seriousness of the situation and took over.
Security moved to intercept the knife-wielding man, long before he’d managed to get up to Karen’s cabin. In the meantime, Jack was being taken to the ship doctor’s surgery.
Karen was getting comfortably drunk, when she heard a knock on the door.
“What’s the matter, poodle? Did you forget your key?”
No reply. Could it be that Rudy had regretted his rash decision to send her on her way? Slightly unsteadily, Karen got to her feet and opened the door. Staring uncertainly at the uniformed man on her doorstep, she vaguely guessed that the man was a member of the crew. But she couldn’t think of any reason for his arrival outside her door.
“Are you mr Jack McFarland’s wife?”
“Oh. Yes. What’s he done now?”
“Mrs McFarland, you’ll have to come with me right now. Your husband has been stabbed and is being treated for his wounds at the doctor’s surgery.”
“Don’t be silly. Jack was here only a few hours ago, I think. Why would anyone want to stab him?”
“This way, Mrs McFarland.”
Speechless by now, Karen let herself be led towards the surgery.
At the doctor’s surgery, she was kept waiting for far longer than she had expected, which under normal circumstances would have caused enough irritation for her to leave. However, the thought of Jack injured made her feel slightly apprehensive. This was a totally novel sensation for her and she didn’t enjoy it one bit.
At last, by the time she was ready to grab the next person who showed up, and scream into his ear, the doctor opened the door. If Karen had been a perceptive person, she might have noticed that the doctor looked a bit worn, and that his nice white uniform had some pretty extensive stains all over it. But Karen didn’t pay any attention at all.
“I’m Karen. I was told my husband is here.”
“That’s right. Mrs McFarland – Karen. Your husband was quite badly injured. The knife missed all vital organs, fortunately, but the blood loss was extensive. I’m afraid he was in serious condition for a while. Well, that said, I can give you some good news. Your husband is now out of danger, and he will be able to see you for a while.”
“Take me to him.”
Karen brushed past him and looked around the small – but, she noted, far larger space than she and Jack had been given, despite all the money she had paid for it – room. On a bed, in a corner, someone was lying. But whoever it was was so deathly pale, surely it couldn’t be Jack? What had happened to the tan he had worked up at her expense?
“Karen. Are you alright?”
“Me? Of course I am. But look at you. Look what happens the minute my back is turned.”
“Sorry about that. Paul just -”
“Don’t you dare leave me like that, poodle.”
“Are you going to leave me?”
“What do you mean?”
“That red nose guy?”
“Oh. No. He asked but I said no thanks.”
“Why? Wasn’t he as rich as you said he was?”
“Yes. I think so. But how could I marry him, silly? I’m already married. To you.”
“I don’t want you to leave me. No one has ever tried to kill me before. Dating isn’t as fun as it used to.”
Karen sighed. Maybe it wasn’t. If men didn’t have the slightest bit of tolerance in them, then maybe she was better off not dating either. Why did they automatically assume that just because you were having fun together they could just claim you in marriage? This was the 21 century, after all.
“I won’t leave you. Maybe you’d better get some sleep.”
“I don’t want to go to sleep.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“You’re not going to die. The doctor told me – Isn’t that right, doc? – that you’re going to be just fine.”
“Certainly. Don’t you remember me telling you so before I went to show your wife in?”
“Yes, but I thought you were just saying that.”
“You are going to be just fine, mr McFarland. I think you should follow your wife’s advice. Try to get some sleep.”
“There you see, silly. You won’t die. The doc wouldn’t dare to let me down like that. I’d sue him so bad he won’t know what hit him.”
The doctor stared from the rather odd young man to his no less unusual wife, trying to figure out if the lady was serious about suing him. But he couldn’t be bothered with hysterical cruise passengers. This drama would have a happy ending. His work was done.
For once, Grace was ready early. She’d managed to get dressed and fixed her hair with some time to spare. Now if only Will could show up. He was the one who had suggested the dinner. Oh, well, probably one of his meetings with a client had dragged on. Grace briefly considered pouring herself a drink, then decided against it. There was still plenty of time, so she just kicked off her shoes again and curled up on the couch and began zapping between channels.
From time to time, she broke off and, frowning, she glanced at her wrist watch. There was no longer any time to spare, and if Will didn’t get back within the next minute or two, they’d miss their reservations. It wasn’t that Grace was particularly hungry, though she hadn’t had any lunch that day.
Getting all dressed up for nothing felt a bit foolish. Now she was beginning to wish she’d opted for a stay-at-home evening. That way, she could have continued on her own, even if she had to admit that she was missing Will whenever they were apart for long.
Nearly an hour later, Grace wasn’t just feeling foolish and disappointed, she was rapidly getting angry. If Will couldn’t even call and let her know he was going to be late, then – she wouldn’t be here waiting for him when he finally got back.
She was all dressed up, of course there were places she could go. How about a bar? Maybe even a single’s bar. Because no matter how you looked at it, a girl of her age, sharing an apartment with a gay guy was a single girl. That decided her. A single’s bar it would be.
She was still young. There was bound to be some guy out there who was just waiting to meet her, and who would appreciate her the way she deserved.
Not until then did it occur to her that Will might be out with Harry. As soon as the thought hit her, it took root. Of course. Harry. She should have known whatever it was she and Will had couldn’t last.
Just stopping on her way out to grab her purse, she set out to find adventure and companionship in the city.
After a few drinks Grace was feeling a little better. When a real stud showed up some twenty minutes later, she was feeling even better. The guy, whose name she only vaguely remembered, attached himself to her and together they knocked back a few more drinks. Now Grace was feeling so much better she wanted to leave the bar and go dancing with her new date, who was looking more and more handsome by the minute.
Will hadn’t intended to be late. When he rushed out of the office to catch a cab, his mind was all focused on Grace. To begin with, no cabs passing appeared to be free, then when finally he caught sight of one, another guy pushed past him and tried to hail the same one. Will drew in breath to protest and the guy turned and faced him.
“Will? Will Truman?”
“Owen? I can’t believe it. I thought you were out on the west coast?”
“I just couldn’t stay away from the city. Things just aren’t the same out there. You’re looking good. It has to be – what – ten years?”
“At least. We really should have gotten together a long time ago.”
“Are you seeing someone?”
“Actually, yes. You remember Grace?”
“Oh, how could I forget. The little “wife”. Of course. But I meant -”
“Yes, I was – Uh – No. Not really.”
“Same old joker.”
“What about you?”
Owen shook his head sadly.
“Too soon. Andy – he met a younger guy. One of those surfers. I – Anyway, that’s another reason I wanted to come home.”
“I see. I’m really sorry. That’s not anything you wish even on your worst enemy and you -”
“No one deserves anything like that. But it keeps happening again and again. Never mind. I try not to think too much about it. You understand?”
“Of course. After – You’re right. No use looking back.”
“So – I don’t suppose you’d like to -”
“Go out and have a drink?”
Will glanced discreetly at his watch. Strictly speaking he didn’t have a moment to spare. But Andre could be talked into letting them have the table even if they were a little late. And once he explained about Owen, he knew Grace would understand.
“I have time for a quick one.”
So they’d found a new cab and set out for the nearest gay bar. The drinks and the music, combined with Will’s supportive small talk, eventually put a smile on Owen’s pinched features. Will didn’t forget to keep an eye on his watch, and when he judged that Owen was in a better mood, he excused himself and got up.
“It was really great meeting you, pal. We have to do this again soon. But now I really need to -”
“I’ll walk you to the door. It’s about time I got back as well. I’ve got an early meeting tomorrow anyway.”
Outside, they had the rotten luck of walking straight into a gang of unemployed, undereducated guys, out to pick a fight. Two well dressed clearly well-to-do gay men appeared to fit the description pretty well. Before they knew what was going on, Will and Owen were surrounded and forced to defend themselves.
There were six of the punks and only two of Will and Owen so the result was given from the start. But the sounds of the fight had reached the gay men inside the bar. From long experience they knew what that kind of noise signified and soon the sound of sirens cut through the night air.
The doormen from around the corner walked over to check on the situation. Seeing those two enormous armed men, combined with the knowledge that if they didn’t make their getaway now, they’d be arrested got the gang to take off.
Their victims were lying on the ground, both still conscious but pretty badly beaten up. When the paramedics arrived, Will frantically tried to call their attention to the fact that he needed to make a phone call. He wasn’t having much success. Soon he and Owen were bundled into the ambulance and the paramedics set to work on them.
It wasn’t until he got to the hospital that he got a second chance. He only half listened to the paramedics describing his and Owen’s injuries. Barely catching the tail end of the medical lingo, Will was still intent on reaching Grace to explain what had happened.
“What’s your name?”
“Alright, Will. Look at me. Any chest pains? Nausea? Dizziness?”
“No. I think I’m more or less ok.”
Once the initial examination was over, Will was patched up and told to lie down on an examining table for a while. The doctor didn’t think he’d need to spend the night. Will still wanted to ask if he could use a phone or if someone might call Grace for him, but at the moment, he was left alone. Then he saw the doctor stopping an orderly or male nurse. The doctor was pointing over in Will’s direction and the guy changed direction and walked over to the patient.
“Is there anyone I can call for you, sir?”
“Yes. There is. Grace Adler.”
“No, my girlfriend.”
Will realized that the doctor must have told the nurse where he and Owen had been found, when he saw the guy’s face.
“Yes, my girlfriend. Can you do that for me?”
“Sure. No problem. Just a sec.”
The guy returned ten minutes later, shaking his head.
“Sorry, pal. She wasn’t in.”
Will’s eyebrows rose in consternation. Where could she be? They had been about to go out to dinner, and he could easily understand if she was mad at him for being late, but to find her gone like this was unnerving.
Then a thought struck him. Harry. What if – He should have known what they had was too good to be true. How could he ask Grace to give him her best years when he had no idea if this strange change of heart would last?
The nurse must have felt sorry for him, because the guy didn’t leave.
“Anywhere else I could try?”
“Yes. Her cell phone.”
“Will do. I won’t be a minute.”
Grace had been about to leave with her new friend, when her cell phone rang. She frowned. Why hadn’t she thought to turn it off? She considered doing it without picking up, then decided against it. Something might have happened to her mother.
She frowned as she took in what the caller had to tell her. Absently, she pushed away the hands of her date who apparently hadn’t picked up on her changed mood.
All color drained from her face when she realized how wrong she had been about Will’s reason for being late.
“Come on. Let’s go.”
“What? No. I’ve changed my mind. Sorry about that. I have to go. On my own.”
To her relief, the guy appeared to be too stunned at the quick change to make any trouble. She didn’t look back as she ran out of the bar, only slightly unsteady now, despite all the drinks.
She sped into the reception area and stared wildly at the nurse behind the reception desk. This was someone who had seen far more than a drunk redhead, and the woman didn’t appear to be unduly perturbed.
“I’m here to see my boyfriend, Will Truman. He came in about an hour ago and -”
“Just a second. I’ll find out where he is. Why don’t you have a seat?”
But Grace was far too upset to want to sit down. Instead she chose to pace around the room, until one of the security guards politely asked her to at least stand still close to the wall. That calmed her down a little and anyway, the nurse returned with the info she needed.
Now she was hurrying along a corridor and finally, she could see Will. He was looking dishevelled and his face was a mess, but still, even Grace could tell that he was going to be ok.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call. Owen -”
“Owen? I thought -”
“I thought that you were with Harry.”
“Harry? I thought you and he were -”
“What? No. But Will, I was so angry with you I went to a bar and got drunk.”
“You did? Ok. I guess you had reason to. I just never meant to be so late. It was just that – Owen – he was upset and he asked me if we could go and have a drink and talk. His boyfriend had left him so -”
“Oh. Will, I’m sorry. I was – I was with a guy. If I hadn’t gotten the call when I did, I don’t know what would have happened. I might have -”
“I see. I can’t blame you for feeling that way.”
“Feeling what way? I was totally wrong. You weren’t with Harry and -”
“I don’t think about Harry that way. I thought you and he -”
“No. I thought he’d be exactly your type.”
“Yes. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? All I can tell you is that for whatever reason, the only type I seem to be into right now is – you.”
“Oh, Will. That guy meant nothing to me. It’s you I want. I just didn’t think I could get you.”
“Gracie, I’m sorry I didn’t make things clear a lot sooner. From now on, I’m not going to be such a coward. Tonight, Owen asked me if I was seeing someone. I started telling him about you, but he misunderstood me. He thought I was joking. And it felt too awkward to explain. I just let it go. But now everything’s different. I’ll tell him now. We don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“I am if you are. When those guys attacked us, all I could think of was that if I died tonight, I’d never really told you how much I loved you.”
“I’m sure. You don’t know how much it means to me, hearing you say that. That’s what I’ve been waiting to hear since college.”
“I love you, Gracie. I mean it. Really, truly love you.”
“I love you too, Will. How are you feeling? Can we go home?”
“I think so. We’ll just have to find that doctor.”
Five minutes later, they were on their way to find Owen. Will insisted on telling Owen right away.
“Hey, buddy. Are you ok?”
“Yes. I guess we’re too tough to really get hurt. I’ve called a cab and I’m going home. Hello, Grace. Nice to meet you again. I only wish it might have been under nicer circumstances.”
“We’ll be going too now. There’s just one thing I’d like to tell you. Earlier tonight you asked me if I was seeing someone.”
“I am seeing someone. Like I told you, it’s Grace. I was just – I don’t know. It felt weird to tell you. I don’t think I need to tell you why.”
“No. You were serious? Well, in that case, all I can do is wish the two of you the best of luck. It couldn’t happen to two nicer people, that’s for sure.”
Owen got up and pulled Will into a bear hug, then looked inquiringly at Grace. Ignoring her dress, Grace didn’t hesitate to hug Owen back. This was a landmark of some kind. With the exception of Karen and Jack, who for various reasons didn’t quite count, this was the first person who had found out about her and Will.
A couple of days later, Jack and Karen showed up outside Will and Grace’s front door, so early they were still in bed. After taking one look filled with love at Grace’s tousled hair, Will got up to answer the door.
“Jack, Karen. Welcome back. I didn’t expect you guys back quite so early.”
“I didn’t either. And I certainly didn’t feel as if it would be necessary to stop over at your place first. Jack wanted to tell you something. Darling, you simply have to make me some coffee, or I’ll die.”
“We can’t have that. Come on in. The coffee will be right there.”
A few minutes later, Karen was sitting in the kitchen restoring herself with Will’s coffee, while Jack was following Will around, excitedly. He had a story to tell and he wanted his friend’s undivided attention.
“For heaven’s sake, Jack, why don’t you sit down?”
“I will if you will.”
“Alright, alright. What’s the big rush? It’s only – 5.30. At least I don’t need to go in to the office so early today. A client cancelled a meeting and -”
“Yes, yes, yes. I’ve got something to tell you.”
Will’s mind was only half focused on his friend. Part of him was still lying in bed next to Grace.
“Guess what happened on the cruise?”
“You met a guy?”
“Yes, but that’s not it.”
Smothering a yawn, Will struggled to keep his attention fixed on Jack.
“When he found out that we couldn’t be together, he tried to kill me.”
“Slow down. Are you serious?”
“Of course I am. Look.”
Dramatically as always, Jack threw off his jacket, then pulled up his t-shirt to show Will his bandages.
“Oh. I’m sorry. Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
How typical of Jack not to notice Will’s injuries, even though several of them were plain to see on his face.
“I have some news for you too – Uh, just out of curiosity, what did you say about why you couldn’t be together?”
“I told him about being married, of course.”
There was an intolerable, condescending grin on Jack’s face that seemed to be saying that a single guy like Will couldn’t possibly have a clue about a married guy’s commitment to his wife.
Part of Will was intensely irritated by that look. He opened his mouth to tell Jack that he too, might be married before long, but before he had time to say one word, Jack interrupted him again.
“Paul was so disappointed something must have broken inside of him and his love for me turned to madness.”
What a load of crap. Please. ‘Broken?’ ‘Love?’ Will could imagine that the guy had been out of his mind with anger that Jack would use such an obviously ridiculous excuse as his marriage to Karen to break off the ‘relationship’.
“Nothing. Yes. Something happened here too.”
To his relief, Will was allowed to finish his own story. He didn’t leave anything out, not even how he’d gone to see Owen to tell him about Grace.
After he’d finished his story, there was a moment’s silence, then Jack exploded again. His voice was shrill with hysteria as he screamed at Will’s face.
“I hate you. You always have to do this to me. Every time I’ve got some big news, you have to ruin it for me. Why can’t I ever be the one with the more sensational news? Though come to think of it, mine is more sensational. Someone was so deeply in love with me he was driven to this desperate measure.”
“Oh, come on, Jack. You’re exaggerating again. The guy was clearly mad at you for making up such a silly excuse. You have to admit that is kind of farfetched.”
Jack stared back at his friend coldly.
“I don’t see what’s so farfetched about it.”
“Well, you have to admit you’re hardly the type of guy who would get married.”
“Oh, really, mr know-it-all, and who is? You? Don’t make me laugh. You and your scatterbrained redhead are merely playing house. Unlike me and Karen. And we have the offspring to prove that we are indeed married, if the marriage certificate doesn’t impress you. Karen, let’s go. I want to see the little ones.”
“Oh, alright, darling. Have you and Will finished fighting?”
“We’re not fighting. Will just has a hard time believing in us.”
“Can you blame him? There are times when I have a hard time believing in us.”
“My love, don’t doubt us. Here. A little reminder of what we have.”
And Jack performed one of his characteristic impulsive acts again. He pulled Karen into his arms and dipping her down low, proceeded to kiss her until she was totally weak and dazed. Will groaned silently and reminded himself that soon he’d be back in bed with Grace. He just had to remember not to set Jack off again.
But he needn’t have worried. Two minutes after Jack let Karen up for air, they were leaving, with hardly a word of goodbye. That suited Will just fine. Soon he was crawling back underneath the covers.
“Are they gone now?”
“Yes. finally. I thought you were asleep.”
“Who can stay asleep with that drama queen going on out there? What was he so worked up about?”
“Nothing much. I’ll tell you later.”
“Hm. Ok. No trouble on my account. I expect Karen will tell me later at work. Let’s go back to sleep.”
Will moved closer and buried his nose in Grace’s hair. A few minutes later, they were both fast asleep.