His attractiveness comes from the combination of all the many pieces of him. His unspectacular features somehow come together to create this pull in my chest. I love the way he looks at the world through a pair of calm eyes when his life is in complete turmoil. I'm completely drawn in by the way he smiles with only half of his mouth. When he speaks sometimes, he pauses and runs a thumb over his bottom lip. It's unintentionally sexy. I'm not sure I've ever been so physically attracted to someone I know so little.
Graham looks at the front door and I wonder if he changed his mind. Did I do something to turn him off? Is he still thinking about Sasha? He looks like he's about to call it a night. He pushes off the table and I remain seated, waiting on him to give me all the reasons why this isn't a good idea. He moves his body so that he's standing directly in front of me. It's like he doesn't know what to do with his hands before he tells me goodbye, so he just shoves them in the pockets of his jeans. His gaze falls to my neck before traveling back up to my face. It's the first time his eyes have looked more intense than anything else. "Where's your bedroom?"
I'm shocked by his forwardness.
I try to hide my internal conflict because I would love more than anything to get back at Ethan by fucking his lover's hot boyfriend. But knowing that's also why Graham is here makes me wonder if I want to be someone else's revenge sex.
It beats being alone right now.
I slide off the table and stand up. Graham doesn't step back, so our bodies touch briefly before I move past him. I feel it everywhere, but mostly in my lungs. "Follow me."
I'm still nervous, but not nearly as nervous as when I was putting the key into the front door. Graham's voice calms me. His entire presence calms me. It's hard to be intimidated by someone so sad.
"I never make my bed," I admit as I open the door to my messy bedroom. I turn on a lamp and Graham's frame fills the doorway.
"Why not?" He takes a couple steps into my bedroom and it's the strangest sight. This guy I don't know at all, standing in my bedroom. The same bedroom where I should be wallowing on my bed in brokenhearted anguish right now.
And what about Graham? Does this feel just as strange to him? I know he's had doubts about Sasha or he wouldn't have been following her to Ethan's apartment building with an engagement ring burning a hole in his pocket.
Has Graham been looking for an out? Have I? Am I just now realizing it? Because right now, I'm nervous and anxious and everything I shouldn't be just hours after my life took a turn for the worse.
I'm staring wordlessly at Graham when I realize I haven't answered his question about why I don't make my bed. I clear my throat. "It takes approximately two minutes to properly make a bed. That means the average person wastes an entire thirty-eight days of their life making a bed they're just going to mess up."
Graham looks amused. He gives me one of his half smiles and then glances at my bed. Watching him take in my bed makes me feel unprepared for this. I was prepared for a reunion with Ethan tonight. Not for sex with a stranger. I don't know that I want the lights on. I don't even know that I want to be wearing what I'm wearing. I don't want Graham to have to take clothes off my body that were intended for another man. I need a moment to collect myself. I haven't had a moment yet and I think I need one.
"I need to . . ." I point toward the bathroom door. "I need a minute."
Graham's lips curl up into a slightly bigger smile and I realize in this moment that those incredible lips are about to be touching mine and I suddenly don't feel worthy. It's a weird feeling because I am a confident woman. But Graham sets a standard for confidence that I'm not used to. His confidence makes mine feel like uncertainty.
I shut myself in the bathroom and stare at the closed door. For a moment, I forget what I'm even doing in here, but then I remember I'm about to have sex with a guy who isn't Ethan for the first time in four years. I kick it into high gear. I open my closet door and sift through it to find the most unassuming thing I can find. It's a blush-colored nightgown with spaghetti straps. It isn't see-through, but he'll be able to tell I'm not wearing the bra I'm currently ripping off. I pull the gown on and walk over to the bathroom sink. I pull my hair up into a loose bun to get it out of my face and then I brush my teeth and my tongue until I'm convinced my mouth won't remind him of the Chinese food we stole earlier.
I check myself in the mirror and stare for a little too long. I just can't seem to wrap my mind around the fact that today is ending this way. Me . . . anticipating sex with a man who isn't my fiance.
I blow out a calming breath and then open my bathroom door.
I'm not sure what I expected, but Graham looks the same. He's still standing in front of the bathroom door, still wearing his jeans and his T-shirt. And his jacket. And his shoes. I'm looking at his shoes when he whispers, "Wow."
I look back up at him. He's closer. His face is so close to mine and I really want to reach up and touch his jaw. I don't usually pay attention to a person's jaw, but his is strong and covered in stubble, leading all the way up to his mouth that looks as sad as his eyes.
I think he notices our proximity because he immediately takes a step back and waves his hand toward my bed.
My pillows are all lined up and my duvet is tucked under the mattress and completely wrinkle-free. The corner of it is neatly folded over, revealing the sheet beneath it.
"You made my bed?" I walk toward the bed and take a seat on it. This isn't how I envisioned this starting, but it's only because I've been stuck in an Ethan routine for the last four years.
Graham lifts my duvet and I pull my legs up and climb into my bed. I scoot over far enough for him to join me, but he doesn't. He just pulls the covers over me and sits down on the bed, facing me. "It's nice, huh?"
I adjust my pillow and roll over onto my side. He tucked the end of my blanket beneath the mattress, so it doesn't give way. It feels snug and tight around my feet and legs. I actually kind of like it. And somehow even the top of the blanket seems to be snuggling me.
He reaches a hand to a loose strand of hair and tucks it behind my ear. The gesture is sweet. I don't know Graham very well at all, but I can tell he's good. I could tell he was good the second Ethan opened the door and Graham didn't physically attack him. It takes someone with a healthy amount of confidence and self-control to walk away quietly from a situation like that.
Graham's hand comes to rest on my shoulder. I'm not sure what changed in him since we walked out of the bar, or even since walking into my bedroom. But I can tell his thoughts are no longer where they were earlier. He slides his hand down the blanket, coming to rest on my hip. His entire expression seems rife with indecision. I try to ease the conflict a little.
"It's okay," I whisper. "You can go."
He sighs heavily with relief. "I thought I could do this. Me and you. Tonight."
"I thought I could, too, but . . . it's way too soon for a rebound."
I can feel the heat of his hand through the duvet. He moves it up a little and grips my waist as he leans forward. He kisses me softly on the cheek. I close my eyes and swallow hard, feeling his lips move to my ear. "Even if it wasn't too soon, I still wouldn't want to be your rebound." I feel him pull away. "Goodnight, Quinn."
I keep my eyes closed as he lifts off the bed. I don't open them until he turns off my lamp and closes my bedroom door.
He wouldn't want to be my rebound?
Was that a compliment? Or was that him saying he's not interested?
I mull over his parting words for a moment, but I soon shove them to the back of my mind. I'll think about Graham's words tomorrow. All I feel like thinking about in this moment is everything I've lost in the past few hours.
My entire life changed today. Ethan was supposed to be my other half for the rest of my life. Everything I thought I knew about my future has been derailed. Everything I thought I knew about Ethan has been a lie.
I hate him. I hate him because no matter what happens from this
point forward, I will never be able to trust someone like I trusted him.
I roll onto my back and stare up at my ceiling. "Fuck you, Ethan Van Kemp."
What kind of last name is that, anyway? I say my name out loud and add his last name to it. "Quinn Dianne Van Kemp."
It's never sounded as stupid as it sounds right now. I'm relieved it will never be my name.
I'm relieved I caught him cheating.
I'm relieved I had Graham to walk me through it.
I'm relieved Graham decided to leave just now.
In that heated moment with Graham in the restaurant, I felt revengeful. I felt like sleeping with him would somehow ease the pain Ethan caused me today. But now that Graham has left, I realize nothing will cushion this feeling. It's just one huge, inconvenient, painful wound. I want to lock my front door and never leave my apartment. Except for ice cream. Tomorrow I'll leave for ice cream but after that, I'm never leaving my apartment again.
Until I run out of ice cream.
I toss the covers away and walk to the living room to lock the front door. When I reach up to the chain lock, I notice a yellow Post-it stuck to the wall next to the door. There's a phone number on it. Beneath the phone number is a short message.
Call me someday. After your rebound guy.
I have a mixed reaction to his note. Graham seems nice and I've already established my attraction to him, but at this point, I'm not sure I can stomach the thought of dating again. It's only been a couple of hours since my last relationship. And even if I got to a point where I felt like dating again, the last person I would want to date would be the ex-boyfriend of the girl who had a hand in ruining everything good in my life.
I want as far from Ethan and Sasha as I can get. And sadly, Graham would only remind me of them.
Even still, his note makes me smile. But only for a second.
I go back to my room and crawl under my covers. I pull them over my head, and the tears begin to fall. Graham was right when he said, "You'll cry tonight. In bed. That's when it'll hurt the most. When you're alone."
* * *
The day Ava left for Europe, she left me a gift. It was a bag of exotic tea that's supposed to help with infertility. The problem was, it tasted like I had ripped open a bag of tea and poured it straight on my tongue, then washed it down with coffee beans.
So . . . the miracle fertility tea is out of the question. I'm leaving it up to chance again. I've decided I'll try for one more month. Maybe two, before I tell Graham I'm finished trying.
Two more months before I tell him I really am ready to open that wooden box on my bookshelf.
I'm sitting on our kitchen counter in one of Graham's T-shirts when he walks through the door. My bare legs are dangling, feet pointing toward the floor. He doesn't immediately notice me, but once he does, I become his entire focus. I grip the counter between my legs, opening them just enough to let him in on my plans for the night. His eyes are locked on my hands as he pulls at his tie, sliding it from his collar, dropping it to the floor.
That's one of my favorite things about him working later than me. I get to watch him take his tie off every day.
"Special occasion?" He grins as he takes me in with one fell swoop. He's walking toward me and I give him my best seductive smile. The one that says I want to put all the pretending behind us for the night. Pretending we're okay, pretending we're happy, pretending this is exactly the life we'd choose if the choice were ours.
By the time he reaches me, his jacket is off and the first few buttons of his shirt are undone. He slips off his shoes at the same time his hands slide up my thighs. I wrap my arms around his neck and he presses against me, ready and eager. His lips meet my neck and then my jaw and then he presses them gently against my mouth. "Where would you like me to take you?" He picks me up and secures me against him as I lock my legs around his waist.
I whisper in his ear. "Our bedroom sounds nice."
Even though I've all but given up on the chances of becoming pregnant, I'm obviously still clinging to that small sliver of hope on at least a monthly basis. I don't know if that makes me strong or pathetic. Sometimes I feel I'm both.
Graham drops me on the bed, our clothes covering the distance from the kitchen to our room like scattered breadcrumbs. He settles himself between my legs and then pushes inside me with a groan. I take him in with silence.
Graham is consistent in every possible way outside of the bedroom. But inside the bedroom, I never know what I'm going to get. Sometimes he makes love to me with patience and selflessness, but sometimes he's needy and quick and selfish. Sometimes he's talkative while he's inside me, whispering words that make me fall even more in love with him. But sometimes he's angry and loud and says things that make me blush.
I never know what I'm going to get with him. That used to excite me.
But now I tend to want only one of the many sides of him in the bedroom. The needy, quick, and selfish side of him. I feel less guilt when I get this side of him because lately, the only thing I really want out of sex is the end result.
Sadly, tonight is not the selfish version of Graham in the bedroom. Tonight he's the exact opposite of what I need from him right now. He's savoring every second of it. Pushing into me with controlled thrusts while he tastes all the parts of my neck and upper body. I try to be as involved as he is, occasionally pressing my lips to his shoulders or pulling at his hair. But it's hard to pretend I don't want him to get it over with. I turn my head to the side so he can leave his mark on my neck while I wait.
He eventually begins to pick up the pace and I tense a little, anticipating the end, but he pulls out of me unexpectedly. He's lowering himself down my body, drawing my left nipple into his mouth when I recognize this pattern. He's going to make his way down, slowly tasting every part of me until he eventually slides his tongue between my legs, where he'll waste a precious ten minutes and I'll have to think too much about what day it is, what time it is, what fourteen days from now will be, what I would do or say if the test is finally positive, how long I'll cry in the shower if it's negative again.
I don't want to think tonight. I just want him to hurry.
I pull his shoulders until his mouth is back near mine and I whisper in his ear, "It's okay. You can finish." I try to guide him back inside of me but he pulls back. I make eye contact with him for the first time since we were in the kitchen.
He brushes my hair back gently. "Are you not in the mood anymore?"
I don't know how to tell him I was never in the mood to begin with without hurting his feelings. "It's fine. I'm ovulating."
I try to kiss him, but before my lips meet his, he rolls off me.
I stare at the ceiling, wondering how he can possibly be upset with me for that comment. We've been trying to get pregnant for so long now. This routine is nothing new.
I feel him leave the bed. When I look at him, his back is to me and he's pulling on his pants.
"Are you seriously mad because I'm not in the mood?" I ask, sitting up. "If you don't recall, we were just having sex less than a minute ago, regardless of my mood."
He spins around and faces me, taking a pause to gather his thoughts. He pulls a frustrated hand through his hair and then steps closer to the bed. The clench of his jaw reveals his irritation, but his voice is quiet and calm when he speaks. "I'm tired of fucking for the sake of science, Quinn. It would be nice if just one time I could be inside you because you want me there. Not because it's a requirement to getting pregnant."
His words sting. Part of me wants to lash out and say something hurtful in return, but most of me knows he's only saying it because it's true. Sometimes I miss the spontaneous lovemaking, too. But it got to a point where all our failed attempts at getting pregnant began to hurt too much. So much that I realized the less sex we had, the less disappointment I would feel. If we only had sex during the days I was ovulating, I would be disappointed a fewer num
ber of times.
I wish he could understand that. I wish he knew that sometimes the trying is harder for me than the failing. I try to empathize with his feelings, but it's hard because I don't know that he truly empathizes with mine. How could he? He's not the one failing every time.
I can be disappointed in myself later. Right now, I just need him back on this bed. Back inside me. Because he's right. Sex with my husband is definitely a requirement to getting pregnant. And today is our best chance this month.
I kick the covers off me so that I'm sprawled out on the bed. I press one of my hands against my stomach and pull his attention there. "I'm sorry," I whisper, trailing my fingers upward. "Come back to bed, Graham."
His jaw is still clenched, but his eyes are following my hand. I watch his struggle as part of him wants to storm out of the room and part of him wants to storm me. I don't like that he's not convinced I want him yet, so I roll over onto my stomach. If there's one thing about me physically that Graham loves the most, it's the view of me from behind. "I want you inside me, Graham. That's all I want. I promise." I lie.
I'm relieved when he groans.
"Dammit, Quinn." And then he's on the bed again, his hands on my thighs, his lips against my ass. He slips one hand beneath me and presses it flat against my stomach, lifting me enough so that he can easily slide into me from behind. I moan and grasp the sheets convincingly.
Graham grips my hips and lifts himself up onto his knees, pulling me back until he's all the way inside me.
I no longer have the patient Graham. He's a mixture of emotions right now, thrusting into me with impatience and anger. He's focused on finishing and not at all focused on me and that's exactly how I want it.
I moan and meet his thrusts, hoping he doesn't recognize that the rest of me is disconnected to this moment. After a while, we somehow move from both being on our knees, to me being pressed stomach first into the mattress as all his weight bears down on me. He grips my hands that are gripping the sheets and I relax as he releases a groan. I wait for him to fill me with hope.