Contains graphic depictions of gay sex. Continue at your own discretion.
The Funny Thing Is… Just When I Thought Things Could Reach a New Normal…
As humans, we’re constantly bombarded with changes. Sometimes the changes are big, and sometimes they’re acute changes that have little to no effect on our every day lives. Regardless of the magnitude of change, there comes a time when things level out and return to normal. And just as I reached that new normal, readers, another change came and smacked me across the face.
Brunch with the boys was usually something I looked forward to. It was a time to relax, catch up, and basically forget how chaotic my life was by focusing on the chaos of others.
That Sunday, however, was completely different. I dreaded seeing Kyle who was probably still pissed off at me. I couldn’t begin to describe my anger at Bass for letting his son drive my daughter home on Friday night. And then there was Spencer, who had reached an entirely new level of disgraceful in my book. All the while, I knew they were none-too-pleased with me as well.
When I pulled up to Anaria’s at five after eleven, Sebastian and Kyle were already seated. They whispered about something or other as I approached the patio table, took my sunglasses off and perched them on my head as I sat down.
“Good morning,” I said as I tentatively lowered myself into my chair. Kyle continued reading the menu as if it were his Sunday Bible lesson.
Bass looked at me and took in a deep breath.
“Coop, I just want to apologize for Friday,” he said. I tilted my head, pursed my lips, and heard him out. “I had no idea that Mike was the one taking Liz home, and when I found out, I reamed him for it. He’s not getting his car back until God knows when.”
Knowing Britney, he’d be cruising around Southlake by Tuesday, but I appreciated the gesture. I figured there’d be enough tension to last us all through brunch and then some, so I buried my annoyance with Bass and moved on.
Just as I was rehashing the talk I’d had with our kids, Spencer sauntered over. I could tell he was hung over as soon as he plopped down and took his shades off.
“Hello everyone.” He sighed, sounding like he was inches away from death’s door. He immediately picked up his water glass and drained it in two gulps.
I raised my eyebrow at him and waited for someone to say something. After twenty seconds of awkward silence, Spencer finally opened his mouth.
“Is no one on speaking terms right now?”
“Cooper’s quiet. That’s a first,” Kyle cut in under his breath. I shot him a look.
“I didn’t tell him anything,” I replied casually in a sing-song voice, burying my face into my own drink menu to match his passive-aggressiveness. Pretending to read the menu was the ultimate diss with our group. We all always got the same thing from Anaria’s.
Kyle slammed his menu down on his bread plate.
“Really? You didn’t tell him anything? You didn’t tell him I was running for DA?”
“You’re running for DA?” Sebastian asked, sipping his water.
“I let it slip that you were seeking office, and I apologized for that. But I never once said that you were marrying Winston just because of the election.”
“Wait, what?” Sebastian asked.
“Kyle is running for district attorney. Cooper thinks he’s only with Winston so he’ll look good and stable for the voters, and Kyle is, naturally, pissed off about that,” Spencer prattled quickly, neglecting to explain that he too had had the exact same thought.
“Gotcha. Up to speed. Continue,” Bass said.
“You’re an asshole and a traitor,” I directed towards Spencer.
“I’m so over this conversation,” I mumbled when no one responded. I picked my menu back up and reread the ingredients in my Mega Mary, a bloody Mary on steroids.
“I just don’t understand how many times I’ll have to remind you that my relationship is none of your fucking business, Coop. Screw the reason I’m getting married. Can you just be happy that I am, please?”
“Kyle, I am thrilled for you,” I lied. Spencer chuckled into his water glass.
“Don’t over do it,” Bass whispered.
As if he’d been watching from the wings for the perfect moment, the waiter approached and asked for our drink orders. I asked for my usual bloody Mary, stacked with spices, tomato juice, fresh pickled veggies, and a sprig of bacon as garnish. Kyle had a pitcher of pineapple orange mimosa; Sebastian took his usual muddled Manhattan—double tall for good measure; and Spencer asked for water, an aspirin, and a greyhound with club soda.
“So…” Sebastian started. “How is everyone doing?”
“I’m good,” Spencer boasted, sitting up and fingering his water with a straw. The glasses were back on as if the mid morning sunlight was too much for him to bear. “I partied with the cast of the Grease tour last night. Had a three way with Kenickie and a background dancer.”
“You went to watch Grease?” Kyle asked with a surprised look on his face.
“Um, no. I met them at a bar after.”
“Color you classy,” I said sarcastically.
“You know what just irks me,” Kyle blew up out of nowhere, slamming his forearms on the table and seeking all of our attention. “You judge everyone else and their relationships, and yet somehow yours is untouchable. Like right there, just now. Spencer says he has a three way and you mumble under your breath.”
“Oh, come on,” I tried to interrupt, but Kyle was a semi-automatic shooting from the mouth and he couldn’t be stopped.
“And yet the second someone says anything about you and the golden boy from California, you flip your shit and bite our heads off.”
“I do not bite.”
“Sometimes you bite, Cooper,” Bass said.
“First of all, I don’t bite. Secondly, you were all thinking it about Spencer. I mean, seriously? Kenickie from the touring company of Grease? How is that going anywhere?”
“Sometimes it isn’t meant to go anywhere,” Spencer mocked. The waiter approached and doled out drinks, but my friends and I didn’t miss a beat. “Sometimes someone just wants to have fun for a night. We can’t all be celibate for thirty days.”
“You’re going dry for an entire fortnight?” Sebastian asked with wide eyes. He clearly thought that me holding it in for thirty days was impossible.
“He thinks it’ll bring him and Chase closer together.”
“Haven’t we tried this before?” Sebastian took a sip of his drink and I was back in the hot seat. Spencer let out a sound, and Kyle continued to ‘read’ his menu.
I felt cornered. I felt like the only one of my friend group who could do any wrong. We had Kyle who was marrying someone for the sake of advancing his career whether he wanted to admit that or not; we had Spencer, who thought it was okay to fuck anything that moved in his line of sight; and then there was Bass, the only one of us in a stable relationship so long as Britney had a valium and a cocktail in hand. And yet I was the one defending, backtracking, and explaining all of my decisions.
“You know what, I don’t even know if it’s worth telling you guys why I’m doing the sober month, because clearly you all hate the idea of me and Chase.”
“Well…” Spencer sang through gritted teeth.
He tilted his head at me and shrugged. Kyle for the first time that morning looked squarely at me, and Bass choked on whatever word he was trying to say.
“And you’re right, Kyle,” I added when it became clear no one was going to respond. “Maybe we should all just stay out of each other’s relationships, and call it a day.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Spencer said. It was an impossible assertion, but it successfully changed the subject and softened brunch for the next ten minutes.
When the server circled around to see if we were ready to order, I asked for a plate of eggs benedict, Sebastian ordered the breakfast pizza, and Spencer took poached eggs and southern hash. When it was Kyle’s turn to order, he requested an omelet with a fruit plate and the two eggs platter.
“Could we also get a fifth chair?” he asked. I narrowed my eyes. He waited for the server to leave before he acknowledged our unspoken questions. “What?”
“You invited Winston?” I asked.
“No. Winston and I were getting brunch. I invited you all.”
“Ouch,” Sebastian said. He was right. There was no worse dig than to insinuate that we had crashed some sort of intimate gathering.
I turned to Spence. “You didn’t tell me he was coming.”
“I didn’t know,” he replied, raising an eyebrow towards Kyle.
Kyle casually took a slice of bread out of the center basket and buttered it. “I didn’t say anything because I knew Cooper wouldn’t come if he knew Winston would be here. He really wants to spend time with all of you.”
“This is a joke, right?” I let slip before my filter engaged.
“Will it kill you to sit and eat with him for an hour?” Kyle said, looking at his watch. I assumed he’d timed Winston’s arrival to coincide with food arriving.
I decided to take a different approach than what my instincts were screaming at me. It would have been easy to pitch a fit, throw a tantrum, storm out, and backtrack later. It’s probably what they were expecting. Instead, I decided to keep my cool and really dig under the skin.
“Okay, I’ll stay. If you’ll answer me this. If it were Chase making the surprise appearance…” I didn’t even have a chance to finish the sentence before I was bombarded with raised voices and flying hands.
“The fact that you’re even comparing the two situations is extremely insulting,” Kyle quipped before I could finish the question.
“The difference is no one hates Winston. We don’t like him much, but he didn’t abandon Kyle for twenty years. There’s a slight difference,” was Spencer’s expert advice.
“It’s different when you compare Wintson to a Grade A-Douchebag. Who’s to say Chase would show up if he were invited,” Bass added on top of the other two.
I got three responses at once, and honestly, I retained only snippets from each one. Still, the consensus was overwhelmingly clear. Winston was welcome. Chase was not.
So much for staying out of each other’s relationships, I thought.
By the time Bass brought back the peace, our food was on its way.
“Should we wait for the mister?” Spencer asked.
“Hold on,” Kyle said, checking his phone. “He just parked, so he’ll be here in a minute.”
And sure enough, a minute later, the tool bag known as Winston Smith strolled into the outdoor patio. He looked like a complete douche in khaki shorts and a tucked in polo shirt. His sun glasses had SMU croakies attached to them and his boat shoes didn’t belong anywhere near dry land. I could have done without the J. Crew model crashing our brunch, but I was determined to play nice.
And play nice meant biting my tongue. After my initial hello, I didn’t say more than a handful of words. I wasn’t rude about it. I answered everyone’s questions, smiled and laughed when someone cracked a joke, but I wasn’t my usual talkative self. I knew that if I said anything, it would come out snarky, so I bit my tongue and let everyone else mix and mingle around me.
As we all stood up to leave, right after Winston insisted on taking the check, Kyle asked if he could talk to me for just a second.
“Sure,” I said following him inside the building and to the corridor with the bathrooms.
“Look, thank you for not saying anything rude when Winston got here. You were on your best behavior,” he said in a hushed tone.
“Kyle, I really am-” I tried to interrupt.
“Let me finish, please. I’m sorry I surprised you with that, but I knew you wouldn’t even consider coming if you knew he’d be here.”
I nodded. “He’s not so bad,” I lied like sometimes a friend has to. He knew how I felt about Winston, how I’d always felt about him. There wasn’t any use starting something about it now. “If he makes you happy, well… that’s all we’re looking for, isn’t it?”
“Look, I know it was awkward for you, as evidenced by the forty-five minutes of virtual silence. A record for you I’m sure,” he smiled.
“But I do want to be fair.” Kyle took in a deep breath. “If you want, and feel free to say no, because this is totally crazy and it’s something I’m only going to offer this once, but if you wanted to get dinner the four of us… you, Chase, Winston and me, I would be up for it.”
“You wouldn’t be up for that.”
“I actually would,” Kyle asserted, saying so much with three words. How he was able to convey the fact that he was trying to get off the Kyle/Cooper, will they/won’t they train; how he managed to assert that he was taking steps to get over me and our complicated situation; how he asserted with conviction that he planned on making this work with Winston was peppered in that three word response.
I actually would.
For my part, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was an enormous gesture, one I never would have expected, and one I didn’t expect to come to fruition.
“Um… yeah. That’d be great. Maybe next weekend or something.”
“Yeah,” he replied tentatively as we walked back around to where our friends and Winston were standing around. “Just tell us when.”
Us. Of course.
When I got home that afternoon, I was in desperate need to release some tension. I made sure my kids were alive. Liz was in her room on the phone, naturally, and CJ was watching TV. I reminded them that dinner was at six and it was homework time after that.
I waltzed down to my bedroom and changed into a pair of running shorts. Ten minutes and one downloaded playlist later, and I hit the Katy Trail north.
As I passed the familiar sights on my run, I couldn’t help but wonder if Kyle and I were making the right decisions. I mean, how much easier would it have been to just shack up the both of us? I wouldn’t have to worry about my friends liking my man if my friend was my man. He was amazing with my kids and I wouldn’t have to worry about resistance there. And then there was the small thing called feelings and the fact that we still had them for each other, and would likely always have them for each other.
Kyle was definitely the easy way out. But at the end of the day, no one said love was easy. And at the end of my run, I’d convinced myself that I was doing the right thing.
My life began to resemble normal on Monday. I managed to get the kids awake and to school on time, a feat that was always tenuous with my two. I spent the morning after lecture attaching grades to every paper and putting them in my outbox for the students.
I spoke to Spencer, who was in much better spirits towards me, and life in general.
“I think this dinner party idea is a recipe for disaster,” he predicted after declaring he was getting a haircut and contemplating going to Houston for a Grease performance next weekend. “I, for one, would pay a million bucks to be a fly on that wall.”
“It won’t be that bad,” I replied.
“You know what would just be so rich, I wouldn’t be able to stand it? What if Winston and Chase hit it off? I’m talking peas in a pod; wouldn’t that kill you?”
“Hit it off like how? Like new best friends, or ‘let’s hit the sack’?”
“You always have to take it to the extreme, don’t you? Why do you do that? Anyway, I’m about to have my color rinsed, so I have to go.”
“You’re getting your hair colored?” I asked incredulously.
“I found a couple grays and I’m not taking any more chances.”
My friend hung up having successfully put a bewildered smile across my face. I ran my fingers through my hair and actually wondered if I had any grays in there as well.
I checked my messages and saw two from the department head. I’d been waiting for his response to my request to meet with him and I assumed that was it.
To Cooper: I’m out of town on Monday, but let’s meet first thing Tuesday morning. We need to solve this situation as soon as possible.
I read the note a dozen times, wondering what tone his urgency was indicating. And then I saw the CC. Attached to sender was the email address of the academic dean, not over the English department, but over all curriculum. I didn’t think it was serious enough to involve my highest boss besides the provost and the president, but it put Professor Kinnear’s urgency into an entirely new light.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Chase said that night when I called him to tell him the situation. CJ had a friend over and they were watching TV in the main living room. Liz was still out at cheerleading and I was negotiating between pizza or spaghetti for dinner.
“I just don’t know why they’re getting Dean Pepper involved,” I said. It seemed odd, but at the same time, not so odd. “I mean, the guy signs my checks.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. They wouldn’t let you go, would they?”
The thought hadn’t crossed my mind until just then. I was sure they’d take issue, for sure. But Kinnear knew I was writing the book when he hired me, and he knew the general nature of the book. If it wasn’t a problem then, why would it be such a problem now?
I kept telling myself that over and over as I walked through the motions of a long Monday night. I left my rugrats doing homework when I went to bed, although sleep didn’t come until much later. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was causing my uneasiness, but I had a nagging feeling that my first thing in the morning meeting had doom written all over it.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the James Sullivan Conference Room on the second floor of the English building was that it wasn’t just me, Professor Kinnear and Dean Pepper in the room. There was a third person, a woman, dressed in a conservative dark suit sitting next to the Dean, and my heart had an immediate palpitation.
“Cooper.” Kinnear stood and shook my hand when I entered. I extended a hand towards Pepper and the mystery lady as well.
“Have a seat,” Kinnear said politely. I could tell he was nervous. “This is Leslie Winthrop from HR.”
I smiled at her introduction. It took me a second to recognize the name. Winthrop Plaza was definitely a courtyard near the freshman dorms, and I wondered if there was any correlation.
Kinnear spoke first.
“Okay. It was good of you to contact us with the alert that this book thing is moving forward,” he said. “We always like to be in the know of what our more illustrious faculty is up to.”
Dean Pepper spoke next, going into his line as if they had rehearsed this little skit.
“This is the situation, Mr. Carpenter. Tom here has informed us of the overall nature of the manuscript, and although none of us have seen it, the general thesis makes some of us in the president’s office a little nervous.”
I swallowed and nodded.
“Basically, we would like to see the manuscript before you send it off to the publishers,” the woman chimed in. She had a non-threatening yet professional demeanor. Her voice was soothing and possessed every characteristic of a deeply southern accent. “There’s a pretty tight morality clause in your contract, and we would simply like to make sure you won’t be releasing anything that would break that clause. Just in case. It’s standard procedure with any faculty member releasing any kind of work, you’ll understand.”
I did. But something told me that every faculty member didn’t have their meetings attended by a dean and an HR rep. She spent the next five minutes explaining the procedure to me, and I agreed to have two copies of the manuscript delivered to the Dean’s office, two delivered to HR, and one delivered to Professor Kinnear. I also agreed to have one sent to records for them to keep on file. I checked the under arm of my shirt when I got back to my office and realized I’d sweated my way through that entire meeting.
By the time I made it home, I was tired and beat, but my day was far from over. I popped some steaks onto a grill pan and moped to my room to change.
Twenty minutes, four steaks, and a simple salad later, I called down for CJ and told him that dinner was ready.
“Hey, kiddo. Where’s your sister?” I asked.
“Cheer practice,” he replied.
“Doesn’t it let out at six?” I asked, looking at my watch. It was only ten after, but I reserved the right to be paranoid, recent events withstanding.
“It’s only 6:10, Dad. Relax. She never misses the chance to not eat with us,” he said snarkily. I swallowed my worry, fixed a plate and sat down on the bar next to my son.
“So how’d you like staying here instead of the Highland house?” I asked innocently, genuinely interested if he’d enjoyed himself. I wasn’t trying to plant any seeds into his mind; I really did want to know.
“It was cool. I got to catch an earlier bus home since this part out of town is further,” he said. “So that’s cool.”
“You like your room?”
“It’s a room, Dad. It would have been better had I been able to play video games and listen to music in it,” he said with a big glare, hinting that he wanted his punishment stripped.
“I’ll talk to your mom about getting you back your console and radio,” I said.
“Do you think you could live here?” I asked, maintaining my even tone.
“What does that mean?”
“I dunno,” he responded. “I mean, you wouldn’t really want us to live with you full time, would you? Not while you’re getting things going with Chase.”
His sentence forced me to take pause. I put my fork down and turned to him.
“What in the world gave you that impression?”
“I don’t know. Y’all seemed super happy at the lake. I figure if you wanna date and do all that, you’re not gonna have much more time for me and Lizzy.”
The fact that his voice maintained the same nonchalant timbre really troubled me. I didn’t know where or how I’d hinted that I wouldn’t want to spend as much time with my kids as possible, but it was a misstep I was determined to correct immediately.
“Kiddo,” I said. “I will always have time for you. Okay? Don’t ever think like that. I’m serious.”
“Okay,” he said rolling his eyes and shoving a piece of steak into his mouth.
“I got it, Dad.”
“Besides, Chase had a blast hanging out with you guys,” I added.
“Obviously he’d like me. I don’t see him and Lizzy getting along though,” he replied with his mouth full.
“Why do you say that?” I pried.
“Dad, I’m the charming, good, friendly kid. Liz is a raging bitch.” I knew that what he was saying was pretty accurate, but I couldn’t in good conscience agree with him.
“Don’t call your sister a bitch,” I said, straight from the father’s handbook. “She was friendly on the boat,” I added, narrowing my eyes.
“For like two seconds,” CJ said. He might have been right, and I made a mental note to talk to Liz about it sooner rather than later.
As if she’d heard us talking about her, Liz waltzed into the apartment with her oversized duffle bag, and dropped it onto the couch, where she proceeded to collapse.
“Hello Carpenters,” she sighed, sprawling out onto the couch as if she’d worked a twelve hour shift at the Waffle House. “I’m exhausted.”
“Dinner’s in the kitchen.” It was my turn to talk with my mouth full. Instead of standing up, Liz simply lay back on the couch and propped her arms behind her head.
“I’m not hungry. I’ll get food after I shower,” she said, sounding truly tired. It was then that my paranoia resurfaced. Sure she’d just endured two hours of practice, but there was no reason for her to be that fatigued. It’s not like they ran sprints in cheerleading. Coupled with her recent bad behavior and the fact that it doesn’t take twenty-five minutes to get to my apartment from Highland Park High, and who would have blamed me.
I decided to keep my interrogation as casual as possible as not to come off as a crazy militant dad.
“How was practice, sweetie?” I asked like I would have in any occasion. I continued to shovel salad and meat into my mouth.
“It was good. Long, I guess. The coach insisted we work outside today, which is stupid because it’s ten times cooler when we cheer at night, so it’s not like the elements are the same, you know?”
I nodded. I looked at CJ from the corner of my eye, and he couldn’t have been any less interested in our conversation.
“Who brought you home after?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible. I was simply curious.
“Gil’s mom,” she answered quickly. “It took us a while to navigate around.”
“Gil’s mom?” I asked. I heard my voice change, and I couldn’t stop it. I was about to question her obedience and her honesty. “You sure?”
“Dad, I’m positive. If you want to call her go right ahead. If you want to call Uncle Bass, go right ahead. He’ll probably tell you that Mike was at cross country practice until six or maybe seven and I haven’t talked to him all day.”
I got the message loud and clear. I cleared my throat, embarrassed, and went back to my meal. I faintly caught CJ pressing his lips together and shaking his head in my direction.
At the end of the day, I didn’t feel bad questioning her. It was her responsibility to earn my trust back, and until she did, I had every right to question her.
Devon’s flight got in at eight. After dinner, CJ helped me clear everything in the kitchen, and then went upstairs to pack his things. Meanwhile, Liz busied herself with the longest shower known to man, and by 8:35, they were both ready to go.
I couldn’t resist asking if they’d had a good weekend as we drove the short distance up Preston to my old house.
“It was fun, Dad,” CJ said. Liz was noticeably quiet.
“Lizzy?” I said, turning to her at a red light. “Did you have a good weekend?”
“Yeah, it was great,” she replied shortly. I chalked it up to her impatience that she wasn’t on the phone with Mike yet, and let the short answer go.
I wasn’t prepared to face how difficult saying bye to them at the house was. We’d been together, the three of us, for barely five days, and yet I began to miss them as soon as they unloaded their things and carried them into the house.
In that extended weekend, things had begun to reference normal again. It was almost like I hadn’t ripped the seams of our perfect life apart. It was almost like I hadn’t destroyed our familial thread and thrown everything into a tailspin. While Devon was away, and my kids were over, it was almost like nothing at all had changed except for the real estate.
But hugging them goodbye reminded me that nothing was the same. Everything was completely different.
“How was it?” Devon asked as the kids hauled their stuff upstairs. I made a mental note that shopping was in order so that they wouldn’t have to carry so much stuff back and forth. I would have rather they had two of everything.
“It was good. They had a blast, I think,” I replied. I proceeded to tell her about Liz’s surprise ambush brunch, and the ensuing conversation I had with her and Mike. I made sure to detail the parameters of Liz’s punishment so that we’d be on the same disciplinary page.
“Sounds like you handled everything perfectly,” she said. Something was off in her voice. It was almost as if she wasn’t really paying attention to me because she had something else to be doing. Her mind was definitely preoccupied and I knew her well enough to hear that.
“Okay, you must be tired,” I said. “Let me get out of your hair.”
“Actually, I need to talk to you about something,” she said. Here it was. It surprised me a little that I knew her so well, but I suppose after twenty years together, of course I did.
“Shoot,” I said, scooting back in my seat, not sure what to expect.
“So, while I was in Chicago, I took a couple of meetings with some medical facility planners, a couple of investors, the works,” she began. She had an intensity in her eyes that only surfaced when what she was saying was of the utmost importance. “And an opportunity arose that apparently has had my name attached to it for quite some time.”
“You’re talking in circles, Dev,” I said. “Just spill it.”
“There’s a company planning to buy out and open a series of branded cosmetic dentistry clinics across the country, starting with mine.”
I breathed out for the first time since she started talking. What was so dramatic about that?
“That’s a great opportunity,” I said. “Are they willing to offer a partnership? Or how is that going to work?”
“I’m going to sell it, Cooper,” she said. “But that’s not it. They want me head the medical side of the national expansion. Basically be in charge of all the offices as they open.”
It was at that point that my mind began to connect the dots. Overseeing the building of a conglomerate was a huge undertaking. Devon already spent every weekend doing something work related or other, and I didn’t see how this wouldn’t increase her travel load tenfold.
“What are you saying?” I prompted. There was something she didn’t want to tell me, and I was trying to be as open as possible to receive it. I just wanted to know what the news was, and we could go from there.
“Coop, if I take the position, I’ll have to work out of their headquarters. And their headquarters are in Chicago.”
The word Chicago hit me like a ton of bricks.
When she said it like that, I couldn’t imagine a further place. It was so far north, it may as well have been in fucking Canada. It was cold, drab, and windy. And it was far.
I heard myself ask the first question that popped into my mind without fully considering it.
“What about the kids?”
“Coop, I want you to know right now before I make any decisions that I will fight tooth and nail to keep them with me.”
“Bullshit,” I said before her sentence was even complete. The word Chicago lingered in the air, and I cut threw it with a steel knife.
“You aren’t taking them away,” I said. “To another state? Are you kidding me?”
It didn’t take much thought to understand the implications. I would never see them again. They would uproot and forget about me, and weekends like the one we’d just had would be months and months apart. There was no way.
“Cooper, I don’t think this change could have come at a better time for me.”
“What about for them?”
“I need to reinvigorate my life.”
“Great,” I said. “I’m all for that. But do it here, in Dallas.”
“I’m not making this decision for you-” she began. I cut her off.
“Then go, Devon. Fuck you and go to Chicago, no one is stopping you. But you aren’t taking my kids with you,” I shouted. I realized I’d raised my voice, and I was embarrassed about it. In the twenty years we’d been married, we’d had our disagreements, but we’d hardly ever raised our voices at each other, and definitely never while the kids were around to hear it.
“I will fight you on this,” I said, my voice tempered and back to normal. “You will lose this. If you go, you will not take them away from me. So help me-”
As I said the words, the gravity of the situation hit me like a million bricks and my voice faltered. It was like I could see into my future and CJ’s laugh and Liz’s beautiful smile weren’t in it. There was no fucking way she was getting away with that, I thought. I would have died first.
“Look, nothing is set in stone yet,” she said. “It’s just something I’m considering, and I guess we’ll deal with the logistics when I make a decision.”
It was bullshit. She’d decided. Something like this was too good to pass up. The prestige, the national recognition, the obvious career boost and the money that would bring. Devon would be big time.
I said goodbye and hustled out of the house before I had the chance to raise my voice again. The entire time I walked towards my Volvo, I kept thinking about the implications of her picking up and moving across the country.
And then I had the most sobering thought of the night. As I slid into the seat and pulled my safety belt over my shoulder, I asked myself the toughest question yet.
Would she have even considered this move had we still been together?
My life was in Dallas. My friends, family, work. Everything was here in the city for me. I didn’t even like crossing the Trinity River into Fort Worth.
And yet, a decision like this made it clear that her ambitions lay elsewhere. I never would have left the city, regardless of the opportunity. I was of that class of people. Not so deep down, I felt like she knew that; this divorce was her liberation to take her dreams elsewhere.
I grew angrier and angrier as I drove home, playing in my mind over and over what it would be like if she left and took CJ and Liz with her. I’d be crushed, I felt. I would literally be heartbroken. Six stoplights all of a sudden felt like a million.
The feelings got ten times worse when I stepped into an empty apartment. The eerie quiet was a reminder of what the rest of my life looked like: alone. It was easy to bear the loneliness when there was something to look forward to. If they left, I would lose that and I was sure.
When I couldn’t stand the feeling of being alone anymore, I decided to do something about it. I wasn’t going to cry over this situation until I knew that everything had been done and my kids were gone for good. For now, it was speculation. A million things could happen, starting with Devon coming to her fucking senses and realizing this was the worst decision ever.
Almost instinctively, I reached across the bed to my phone and called the one person that could currently keep me from jumping off the ledge.
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” he said after my one sentence request. It needed no elaboration or explanation, and it was met with absolutely no hesitation. All I said was ‘I need you’ and he was on his way.
He let himself in with his key and found me lying on the bed, one wrong thought away from losing it. I knew I had a million tears damned up over the thought of my kids in Chicago, and if I let my mind wander too far, they’d come out and they’d never stop.
When I saw him standing in the doorway with a look of concern painted across his face, I asked myself why I’d called him. Of all the people that would have gladly come over to comfort me, I chose the one I knew I shouldn’t have.
Spencer would have been there in a second with a Valium and a bottle of wine. Sebastian would have packed up his things for work in the morning and trekked back into the city from the suburbs, ready to distract me all night with engineering stories if he had to. The old Kyle would have come over with bath salts and board games.
And yet Chase showed up, empty handed, and I instantly felt better.
I need you.
“Monsieur,” he whispered as he approached, slowly. When he saw that I was physically alright, his face softened. He peeled off his sweater and glided towards me, falling on top of me. I could tell in his eyes that he wanted to make me feel better. It was all he ever really wanted.
Instead of responding, I put my hand on the side of his face and pulled it down next to mine. His kiss was more effective than a million Valium or a dozen games of bathwater checkers. I sucked in his tongue sensually, slowly reminding myself how amazing his kiss was.
Moving ever so slowly, I pulled on the back of his shirt and lifted it towards me, begging for him as I tugged. He sat up in slow motion, peeled his shirt off and a second later, slid right back on top of me.
We kissed in that position for ages. It was solid work trying to forget the looming feeling of aloneness that Devon threatened me with. But with Chase there, sliding back and forth on top of me, he made the work bearable.
I grabbed for his dick first. I could feel it right next to mine, as hard as a rock from weeks of pent up sexual frustration. I knew he was ready to let it out and let it play, and the second I touched it, it twitched in my hands.
I didn’t even realize my dick was as hard as his until he pressed his palms against the flap of my jeans. I let out a moan, arched my back, and let him caress my cock.
“Ahhh,” I sighed. I had almost completely forgotten Devon’s breaking news as the feeling of aloneness was being pushed away by the feeling of companionship. He wasn’t a substitute for an entire family, but he was enough to make me want to forget about the complications until tomorrow.
We worked slowly and sensually as we peeled out of our clothes, only releasing each other’s lips when absolutely necessary. Any time Chase lifted his face away from mine, he bit his lip in a wicked smile and let out a soft tuft of air.
When I felt his naked body slip in between my spread legs, I had completely forgotten about the bomb that Devon had dropped. It didn’t take drugs or alcohol or mindless distraction to get the inevitable out of my mind. It took one man. One amazing man.
“Monsieur,” he whispered as he ground his dick right up to the entrance of my hole. I could feel a dollop of precum at the edge of his dick as the head put slight pressure on my ass. That simple act lifted my anticipation a million percent and I bit down on his shoulder and clawed into his back with my fingers.
I pushed up slightly and he pulled back instead of moving in.
“Monsieur,” he whispered again. I let go of his shoulder with my teeth and eased up on his back with my fingers. Something wasn’t right about him pulling back as I pushed into him. That wasn’t part of our rhythm.
“Fuck me,” I answered slowly, caressing his face with my hands. I kissed the side of his face, pushed in again, and he continued to pull back with each of my thrusts towards him.
My frustration wasn’t enough to keep the thought of losing my kids from creeping back in. And there’s a fine line between frustration and anger, and I knew anger wasn’t far off. I flopped backwards on to the bed. He kept our lips together, kissing me softly, but he wouldn’t put his dick inside of me, and it was beginning to drive me crazy.
“What’s wrong?” I couldn’t help the outburst. I was frustrated, both sexually and with life in general. I had called him over for one reason, and that was to take my mind off my current situation.
“Cooper, I’m so sorry. I just… we have twenty-two days left and I don’t want you to regret doing something before we’re ready to do it.”
I looked into his eyes, only an inch away from mine. I could still feel his precum slick cock pressing softly against my ass. I actually couldn’t believe what I was hearing from the guy who had held out for twenty years.
Thirty days won’t be so bad.
And there I was ready to toss it in after eight.
It wasn’t the distraction I’d called for, but it was good enough to do the trick. Instead of drowning my pain in rough and passionate sex with the guy I loved, I spent the rest of the night explaining my fears to him as he cuddled me softly in his nook.
Lying there next to him, as everything else melted away, I realized when I woke up in the morning, I’d only have twenty-one days left.
And twenty-one days weren’t so bad.
Hope you enjoyed that chapter. Thanks for the continued reads and support. As always, comments, reviews and feedback are welcome and greatly appreciated.