Monday, November 11, 2013

Bedside Manner

Courtesy of Scott King

Sean Flanagan hasn't seen his brother Patrick in about three years. And that time wasn't much of a joy since it was to bury their mother. She never recovered from the broken
heart of their father leaving when they weren't even teenagers. Now in his thirties and happily running his own indie film company where they grew up in Brooklyn, Sean is meeting Patrick so they can travel home together and see their father for the first time since he walked out onto Clinton Street never to look back.

Sean stares out of the cab window as the gritty female cab driver makes her way from Pittsburgh International Airport into the Strip District. Sean can see why Patrick loves it here so much, it's like Brooklyn but spread out over an entire metropolis. The sun has been up for a few hours but a gray mist still hangs over the rivers as they make their way out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. The City of Bridges opens up in front of them. The City that once was covered in the smoke from the labors of those who called it home, now almost glistens new.

"Coming home for the holiday, hun?" The woman sounds like a pack of Marlboro Reds.

"Ahh, no, picking up my brother and his girlfriend and heading home to Brooklyn. My brother's a professor at the university." Sean clears his throat subliminally so that maybe, just maybe, the cab driver will do the same.

"Brooklyn huh? Too fast for me. This your brother's place?" She pulls up in front of an old factory that's been converted into lofts.

He looks and sees a bar to the right, a Vietnamese pho restaurant across the street, and a church converted into a music venue at the end of the block. ' Yup, this is the place." He grabs a $50 and hands it to the woman.

"Your change, hold on."

"Happy Thanksgiving." He checks his pockets to make sure he still has his phone before stepping out into the frosty morning.

"Thank you, hun. Happy Thanksgiving."

Sean slams the door shut and makes his way into the large foyer of the building. "Little brother's doing good for himself, " Sean says out loud as he runs his hand through his dirty blonde hair. "Ahh, I forgot to pack my hat." Since Sean was just in LA, his favorite flat cap was the last thing he thought to grab.

He enters the building and walks to the desk. "Hey, morning. Ah, my brother left a key for me. Sean Flanagan."

The very new concierge almost knocks over his Sheetz coffee grabbing the key. "Good morning, Sir. Here you go."

Sean takes the key and remembers when he was a lowly assistant on his first film and when he did knock over the coffee on the director's screenplay. He turns, "hey, have a good one, k."

As he makes his way to the stairwell, he remembers the last time he saw and spoke to his brother. It was right after their mother's funeral.They had just closed their Uncle's bar where Patrick had worked his way from barback to one of the one of the senior bartenders. He told Sean that he'd been offered a job teaching at the University of Pittsburgh. Their oldest and most settled brother, David, was happy that Patrick was finally growing up and moving on with his life. Patrick had taken their father leaving the hardest and David was convinced Patrick would stay close to home until their Pop showed up again. 

To Sean, leaving Brooklyn was an insult to the family, as well as the family business. Along with accusing him of abandoning them like their father did, he might have drunkenly mentioned that he was sleeping with Patrick's fiancĂ©e at the time. What ensued was a brawl with broken bones, glasses, bottles, cuts, and severed ties between the brothers.  

It was actually Patrick's current girlfriend Rose who had a hand at bringing the two back together again. She was herself the product of a broken marriage, but in her case there were eight brothers and sisters to take care of each other. She spoke to David who convinced Sean to finally call Patrick. Their father, coming home to visit, well, Patrick doesn't know that part just yet.

Sean reaches the third floor apartment and unlocks the door. He is met with the smell of a simmering fireplace and a hockey stick that has fallen over in front of the door. Sun filters into the river facing apartment and onto the brick walls and hardwood floors. 

Sean puts his bag down and looks around in the kitchen. If there's no coffee it means his brother isn't awake. He knows his brother hasn't changed that much. No coffee means he's asleep. 

He doesn't snoop around too much before heading to the closed bedroom door. Three years of avoidance is about to end. He turns the knob and sees the sleeping figure under the covers. As quietly as possibly, he walks into the room and sits on the bed.

"I haven't seen you in three years and you aren't even awake to welcome me?" With this he pulls off the covers. Instead of his brown haired, scruffy brother, he is met with a black haired beauty wearing nothing but a Metallica shirt.

"Isn't this what got you in trouble with your brother last time, Sean?" She holds out her hand. "Roisin Dovzhenko, everyone calls me Rose. Your brother is in the shower, why don't you go make some coffee?"

"Yes, why don't you go make some coffee?" Patrick towers in the doorway.

Sean closes his eyes tight and hangs his head.

"He meant well, Paddy." She tosses the sheets aside and gets out of bed.

She kisses Patrick good morning and steals his towel that is wrapped around his waist, teaching him a lesson by leaving him naked in front of his brother.

"Hey, that's my Metallica shirt." Sean crosses his arms like he's five.

"You're lucky she didn't shoot you when you snuck in."

The Metallica shirt gets thrown back into the room. "Give it back to your brother."

"Shoot me? She's a nurse." Sean rips the shirt out of Patrick's hands. "Can you please, put on some pants...Paddy?"

"She's also an Army medic with a temper worse than pop's." Patrick finds a pair of jeans on the floor and puts them on.

"Pop's thought he was off fighting with Michael Collins half the time, he wasn't pissed off he was crazy...She's hot, bro. How'd you score her?"

Patrick tackles his brothers, pins him down to the bed, and points a finger in his face. "You as so much have one dirty thought about her..." Patrick grabs his brothers face.

Sean manages a smile and grabs his brothers hand off his face. "You mean starting now, right?"

Rose, wearing only a towel, briefly enters into the room and stands near the two brothers. "Sean, apologize to your brother so we can get this over with now."

She exits the room with the following trailing off behind her, "And don't roll your eyes at me Paddy."

"She's got one hell of a bedside manner, Pat. I'm sorry, for everything. And for Clara."

"Cara."

"Yeah, Cara."

"I didn't like her anyway." Patrick stands and puts his hand out for his brother. Sean takes it and allows Patrick to pull him off the bed. Standing face to face, three years and six inches between them, the brothers hug.


After the formalities of meeting, Rose goes to the gym, leaving the brothers to catch up. They sit across from each other at the kitchen table. Sean breaks the news about their father’s visit just as Patrick lifts a spoonful of oatmeal to his mouth.

“And you were planning on telling me this before we got on the plane?” Patrick shoves the spoon into his mouth and purposely scrapes it against his teeth.

“Could you not do that?” Sean slams down his coffee mug.

Patrick stares at his brother before picking up his bowl and walking it over to the sink. In silence, and with his back to his brother, he washes the dish and the spoon. Then he begins to wash anything else he can find, even the clean dishes.

“He’s bringing his girlfriend with him.” Sean looks at the floor. His finger traces the top of the mug several times before Patrick acknowledges him.

Patrick doesn’t turn around. “Is she the reason why he left?” Between the clock ticking and the riverboat horn, the only other sound is Patrick’s increasingly heavy breathing.

“Yes.” Sean grips the mug and looks up at his brother.

Finally, Patrick turns around. He walks to the refrigerator and opens it. “You want one?”

Sean hears the glass beer bottles rattle. “It’s nine o’clock in the morning.” He wishes he could stuff the worlds back in his mouth.

Patrick laughs to himself. He grabs a bottle and removes the top in one quick pop against the counter. The cap falls to the floor. “You just told me that our father, the man who left without a goodbye or a reason, is going to stop by David’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner. He hasn’t seen us or spoken to us in years. And, he’s bringing back the woman that he left us for?” He takes a long drink of the beer. “Sean, if I want to stand here smokin' a bowl while getting a blow job, I think I’m pretty much fucking entitled to it right now!” He slams the beer down.

“That is not an image anyone needs in their head.” Sean pushes the mug away. “I’ll take a beer.”

Patrick grabs his brother a beer, removes the cap and hands it to him, and then finally smiles. Patrick sits down in the chair next to him. “I mean, why now?”

“He just said it was time.” Sean relaxes and slouches in his chair.
“What do we say to him?"  He twirls the beer around in the bottle before taking another drink.

Sean looks at his younger brother, sees the scars caused by too many hockey brawls, some possibly from their fight three years ago, and he also sees the lines starting to form around his green eyes. "Shit," he thinks to himself, "he's starting to look like our dad." Just as he is about to answer, the door opens and Rose walks in carrying a gym bag and groceries.

"Good, it's nice to see you haven't killed each other." She beings to put things away. "Don't let me stop your conversation. I'll keep my good ear on this side." She points away from the two sitting at the table and then goes about her business putting groceries away.

Sean looks puzzled.

"IED. She can't hear well out of her left ear."

"When you said Army medic you meant like for real. She messed up?"

"But I'm not totally deaf." Rose turns around. "You know what, I'm gonna go pack." Rose looks at them both and then gets a beer for  herself.

"Hey, I didn't mean anything by it." He gives Rose the I'm really sorry" look that he's perfected over the years.

Rose walks over to the table. She holds her beer out for a toast. As Sean clinks his bottle with hers, she adds "I know, I just wanted to see you squirm a little." She runs her fingers through Patrick's hair and then walks away.

"How the hell did you find her?" Sean watches her walk into the bedroom."

"I needed stiches after a game. Met her at the hospital. How about you? Find anyone yet?"

"As a matter of fact, you'll meet her over Thanksgiving."  Sean smiles as if he's very proud of himself.

"Good for you. You happy?"

"I think. She makes her own living, doesn't ask about my every move." He takes a sip and leans in towards his brother. "She the one, Pat?"

"Yeah. She is."  

The flight from Pittsburgh the next day is relatively short. Rose sits between the brothers. Sean glances over to see Rose holding Patrick's hand as he nods off to sleep. He also notices a trinity knot tattoo on her neck, easily hidden when her hair is down.

"You're all doing the right thing. First, you apologizing and then going home to see your dad." Rose doesn't look directly at Sean, and instead stares ahead of her at the seat.

"You don't like me, do you?"

She snaps her head towards Sean, this time, their eyes meet. "Don't confuse my uncertainty about you for all out not liking you, Sean. By the sounds of it you had a bit of growing up to do."

"Listen, you don't know me..."

"You're right, I don't. So you should start working on first impressions...and yes, I'm fucking messed up. But, unfortunately, your brother understands what that is all about."

Sean stares at this woman who is so beautiful but so invisibly scarred. He remembers the dark rooms their father would sit in, crying, screaming, wanting to be held and left alone at the same time. Vietnam never left their father.

"So, when we get off this plane, let's start over, shall we?" She offers her hand to him.

He takes hers and squeezes it. "Thank you for giving me my shirt back. I was looking for that for years."

Rose smiles. "You're making it difficult for me to be a bitch to you, you know that?"

"You're not used to charm. Pat just bullies everyone into liking him."

The plane lands at LaGuardia on time. Sean impatiently waits for a cab. "Finally." The pile their luggage into the trunk and when Sean opens the door...

"We'll meet you at David's. I want to take Rose to Central Park."

"It can wait, really." Rose looks back and forth between the two brothers.

Sean is really trying to be patient. Now all he can think about is being stuck with the cab fare.

"Here." Patrick hands his brother a twenty. Dad gets in at three, right?"

Patrick grabs Rose and they hail the next cab leaving Sean to take the lone ride to Brooklyn.

Sean sits in his old room. He never thought his brother would buy the house they grew up in, but he and his wife seem to have exorcised the bad memories. Not that their childhood was extremely awful, but the house did hold some bittersweet moments. The bad grades, getting caught with girls in his room, not getting caught with girls in his room and not quite sure what he was supposed to do with them, listening to their mother cry, and trying to figure out what to do with his life.

The film noir posters have been pulled down and in place of his old bedroom, Sean sits in David's office. The last time all three brothers were in this house was the day of their mother's funeral. The drunken brawl of that night was the catalyst for Sean. Well, actually, David kicking him out of the house was the catalyst for Sean.

He thinks to himself, "If Rose only knew me then." He knows he's grown up. He knows the only impression she has of him is whatever Patrick told him, and he is sure it didn't flatter him.

As he stares at the photos of his sister-in law and nieces, Patrick and Rose arrive downstairs. Out of curiosity, Sean opens the closet door. It still dons the same paint from when he used the room. He reaches his right hand to the door jam, finds a rough patch and pushes hard against it. After all these years, no one ever, ever found his old pot stash.

"Hey, Sean." David yells from downstairs.

Sean slides the wood back into place and shuts the door behind him.

For the first time in three years, all three brothers occupy the same room. Before anyone can realize that, Patrick introduces Rose to everyone.

"Everyone, I'd like you to meet my fiancé, Rose."

Sean makes eye contact with his brother, who can't stop smiling. " David, who could pass as Sean's twin, is the first to hug Patrick. Sean, casually walks up to Rose. He puts his arms out to her.

She welcomes the hug from Sean. "Did you have any idea?" She doesn't take her arms from around him.

"Not a clue. He hugs her again. He's shocked at how welcoming she now is to him. "Congratulations," he whispers in her ear.

Rose is quickly whisked away by David and his wife, Sarah. Of course she wants to see the ring.

"Holy..."

"Watch your mouth Uncle Sean." Sarah quickly stops Sean before saying anything that a five and three year old can repeat."

Sean gives his brother a hug. "I'm happy for you bro. I'm kind of afraid of her so you don't have to worry about me stealing this one away. Besides, I couldn't afford that ring."

Because he knows he hates it, Patrick messes up Sean's hair. "Thanks. It feels good to be back here, doesn't it?"

David joins his brothers. "Well look at us. They gonna have Walkers open later, Pat? Maybe we'll even bring the girls."

"Yeah, I kinda promised them I would work the bar in return for letting me in this morning. And speaking of girls, where is yours at?" Patrick punches his brother on his shoulder.

"She is actually picking up dad. She's driving from Long Island."

The hours go by with wine, conversation and cooking. Finally, the anticipation is over. They all hear the footsteps coming up the stairs.

"Maybe you should stand back here, Pat, in case you go to punch him."

"Maybe I'll punch you."

"Maybe you should both shut up." Sarah interrupts the two acting like they are teenagers again.

Sean watches as Rose stands by Patrick, unknowing how anyone is going to react. Sarah also comforts David, leaving Sean to wish that maybe he had gone with his girlfriend to the airport.

They hear his voice before they see him. Years of feelings flood back. Even the good times are there all rushing at Sean. And then, he sees him.

His hair is gray, and he is Patrick in thirty years. His height, inability to shave everyday, even the rasp in his voice. That's their father.

Behind him is a woman that looks strangely familiar. Her hair, a homogenized mix of black and silver strands, is pulled up into a bun. Her white shirt and jeans compliment this very attractive older woman. Sean's initial thoughts of hate and anger, melt a little. She looks kind, not like some husband stealing whore that he thought he would see.

A sound comes from Rose. Patrick doesn't catch it, but Sean does. She excuses herself from the room just as she and their father's girlfriend makes eye contact. David looks to Sean. He tilts his head in Rose's direction and follows her.

Upstairs, Rose sits on David's desk. She's obviously upset as she sits with her hands to her mouth.

"Hey," Sean shuts the door behind him. He's met with a distant look from Rose.

"This is supposed to be your day."

Sean sits beside her. "I know this must not be easy on you. Patrick told me about your mom."

She looks at him with tears in her eyes. "I am so sorry." Her breathing gets heavy as Sean waits for her to have a full on meltdown.

"Rose? What...what do you have to be sorry about. I can understand how emotional this must be for you."

She shakes her head no. As she is about to speak David walks into the room.

"Rose, you ok. None of us had any idea." He gives her a hug, leaving Sean clueless.

"So, what's going on?"

A few whimpers are muffled by David's sweater. "Sean, that's her mom downstairs."

The air is ripped from Sean's body. This would have been a perfect screenplay for him, but seeing that it's his reality, not so much. What are the odds? What are the odds that the woman his brother fell head over heels for is the daughter of the woman responsible for tearing their life apart.

Rose pushes herself away from David and attempts to dry her eyes. "I should just go. There is no way this can go well for anyone."

Sean puts his arm around her while David walks over to the closet. "You obviously had no idea. It's just, wow, what a coincidence."

"Pat's downstairs? How is he?" David has recovered what Sean thinks is his old stash of pot from the closet.

"He's okay. He's comforting your mom actually. She's pretty much in shock too." David proceeds to light joint.

"Dude, that shits like ten year's old."

"Sean, give me some credit. I used to steal yours. You think this was really a secret? I just bought this last week. Think we all could relax a little right now."

After all three have taken very exaggerated hits off the joint, Patrick walks in. He shuts the door immediately and starts laughing. "This is exactly what I hoped you were all doing." He immediately goes to Rose.

David nudges Sean. "Come on, let's go downstairs."

Sean offers the joint to Patrick. "Cheers."

Pat takes one, long inhale. Instead of exhaling her kisses Rose. The two are lost in each other immediately. Tears, pot, Patrick's scruffy face.

"I can't believe this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for her. For you." Her wraps his arms around her.

"Shhh, at least we can be comforted in the fact that when we're their age, we'll be a damn fine looking couple." He waits for any response.

Rose laughs, half out of relief because she thought in her anxious mind that one of the brothers would be upset with her by default, the other half out of being high. "Do we go downstairs?"

"She's actually on the other side of the door waiting to see you." He places his hands on her face. "You can do this."

"I'd rather run away from the Taliban right now. Doesn't seem like I have a choice though, does it?" She places her hands on his and gently removes them from her face. "Tell her to come in, please." 

Patrick kisses her on her forehead and walks to the door. "I would stay away from your bedside manner, it might have impressed me but I don't think your mother would appreciate your colorful use of the English language."

Rose flips him off. "I love you Dr. Flanagan."

"Love you soon to be Mrs. Flanagan." He exits.

Patrick shuts the door behind Rose's mother before going downstairs to reunite with his own past.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We'll Take It From Here




In less than two weeks, I will run my first New York City Half Marathon. Before October 29th of 2012, this would have been exciting enough alone. However, this race is so much more than just the first time I am running the half in Manhattan.



To me this race is my comeback. It is my comeback from training so hard to run the NYC Marathon. I am not bitter that the 26.2 did not happen. I would have been angry if it was run one week following Superstorm Sandy. The region was hurting so much and there was no way a marathon could be run respectfully through neighborhoods devasted by the winds and water.



I always try and make the run important. I have run for charity and for friends. It takes the run up a notch. It makes you work harder, stick to training and you feel a sense of accomplishment like no other. Seeing a playroom built with funds that you raised is priceless. Having a friend cheer you on while she knows you're running a race for her is something you cannot imagine.

Again, I will run for charity on St. Patrick's Day. Choosing Every Mother Counts has been one of the most rewarding charitites by the sheer fact or appreciation. http://www.crowdrise.com/teamemcnychalf2013/fundraiser/paulacarlson 
Many moms have thanked me for bringing awareness to issues and mortality rates of even women in this country. I was able to run with Christy Turlington, founder of the foundation one cold morning along the west side. She has given so much to this charity and was inspired by her own experiences.

While in my peaceful zen of the chlorinated blue this morning, I was inspired. I had never met Dylan Smith that I know of. He and I shared a love of water, lifeguarding, the Rockaways and helping others. Dylan heroically saved several people the night of Sandy in the Rockaways - using his surfboard and lifeguarding skills to do so. Tragically, he died surfing in Puerto Rico in December. A true hero. http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Sandy-Surfer-Hero-Dylan-Smith-Drowns-Rincon-Puerto-Rico-Rockaways-Belle-Harbor-184624921.html

So when I run those 13.1 miles in Central Park, through Times Square and down the West Side Highway, I will be running in memory of Dylan Smith.  He is an example that there are still selfless people in this world who just want to do the right thing.




Thursday, February 28, 2013

3B

           






Grace taps her coffee cup with her finger annoyingly. Cory sits across from her while the executives and nanny’s wait in the morning line.

“What the fuck is your problem, Grace?” 

“Nothing,” tapping and staring at the cup and occasionally an eye shift. 

Silence. 

“Sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.”

They stare at each other for a few seconds. Cory kicks Grace under the table.

  “Are you twelve? What’s your problem?”

Cory takes the cup away from her and holds her hands. “Talk. You called me at this stupid hour to meet you here, now talk.”

“My neighbor is dead.” 

“Molly? Oh my God what happened?” He puts his hands to his face. 

“No, she’s fine, my upstairs neighbor, the Scottish guy.” 

“Oh yeah,” Cory relaxes, relieved, “I’m glad that Molly is ok. What happened to the Scottish guy…?”
 “Ethan” she interrupts.

“Yeah, Ethan, what happened?” 

Grace pulls her coffee cup back to her, playing with the lid; she never takes her eyes off the table. 

“Are you high or something today?”

Grace lowers her head and whispers to Cory, “No one else knows he’s dead.”    
   
Cory lowers his head to meet Grace’s gaze, “Is there something you need to tell me?”

She was away when he moved into the building. Expecting Molly to be at the other side of a knock at the door, Grace answered it wearing a t-shirt and underwear, dancing around to Umphrey’s McGee. Upon opening the door, Grace did not find Molly, but a handsome, unsuspecting new neighbor with a Scottish accent.
            
“You’re not Molly.” Grace didn’t even make an attempt to pull down her shirt to cover her underwear. She was actually more concerned about the sand and salt that was still in her uncombed hair from Vietnam surf trip.
He hands her some letters, “I believe I got some of you mail.” 
        
“Thank you.” She holds out her hand.

“Ethan,” they shake hands quickly, “I’m in 3B,”he says and points upstairs.

“Grace. Welcome to the building...Would you like some coffee?”

“I really should get to work, although the offer is appreciated.” He didn’t back up or start to walk away, he just stands there.

“I thought you had to go,” her hand twists the doorknob back and forth.

“I do. I was just thinking maybe I’ll stop by later for some.” 

“After noon I only serve bourbon.”

“Do you put on pants after noon as well?” he asks as he leans against the doorway.

“I guess you’ll have to find out,” she grinned wildly, “should I expect to see you later?”

“So not only did he think you were a whore, he immediately found out you were a drunk?” 

“You are not helping.” Grace looks off in the distance. 

 “Hey, buddy, you seem really troubled.” Cory moves beside Grace. “You had a thing for him, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess,” barely escapes her mouth as she welcomes Cory’s arm around her. She takes the lid off the coffee cup. Empty. 

“Another?” Cory stands and walks towards the line, “Black with espresso?” Grace nods and sinks into her chair.

She didn’t care that he was older than her. Not by much she assumed. Maybe he was 50, twenty years isn’t a scandal anymore.  She liked it actually. Being an engineer, she was always working with men, young, old, smart, dumb, idiots, asses and the kind ones. She hated wasting her time on first dates and silliness. Her last boyfriend was a retired British SAS officer. Well, he was her boyfriend until awkwardly one night while they tore off each other’s clothes in the living room and he noticed a picture of her uncle. This was the very same uncle that the trained killer had, well, killed. Her sympathy towards her IRA uncle had no place in the cold heart of the SAS man, uncle or not.

Ethan showed as promised, but casually this time in jeans and a t shirt. He even brought with him a bottle of bourbon. 

“Hope you don’t mind a gift, even though you are wearing pants.” 

She takes the bottle, shuts the door behind him and enjoys the faint scent of cologne as he walks into her apartment. 
 
“For an engineer you’ve got wonderful taste in art,” he smiles as he stops at a print of Camille Pissarrro’s LaForet deMarly. “I met Molly.”

“And yet I know nothing about you.” He follows as she walks into the kitchen. “I assume neat?” as she removes two glasses form the cabinet. 

He nods yes and sits. “I teach classic literature at Hunter. You know the really boring stuff.”

 Weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow I know enough, in the evening and in the morning, said the Merchant, and so does many another who has been married, “ she recites as she pours three fingers full of bourbon in each glass.

 “I can’t get my students to remember anything about Canterbury Tales. That is quite impressive. Did you study literature as a minor?” he asks as she hands him his glass. 

“No, but I did sleep with the professor.” He almost chokes on his first sip. “Kidding, actually my dad was an English teacher.” She smiles as she takes a sip.

Cory returns with her coffee and he resumes his seat next to her. “So, how long have you actually known him?’

She thinks out a sigh, “a month.” 

“And how long have you been sleeping with him?”

Again she sighs, “a month.”

 “You don’t like to waste time, do you?” He tries not to laugh but she can tell. 

“Listen mister let’s just do it here backstage the first night we met.” The spark returns in her eyes. 

“Valid retort. I’ve never looked at that amp the same way since.” She rolls her eyes at him. “I’m really sorry. Was he sick?”

 “Not that I know of.” 

 “Why does one else knows?” 

Her eyes meet his, “because I think I killed him.”

Within moments of reaching the bottom of the bourbon glass, their clothes are scattered about the apartment and they only make it to the floor in front of the candle-filled fireplace. 

“You don’t have a jealous boyfriend that is going to break down the door and chop me to pieces, do you?” he asks as tastes her neck.

“No, but thank you for asking. You?”

“No, no jealous boyfriends.”The conversation ends there.

“Why do you think you killed him?” Cory tries so hard not to laugh. 

 “I am trying to be serious, Cory,” Grace says adamantly as she slams down her coffee. “How about some sympathy here?”

 “Grace, you’re making it extremely difficult and besides...”

 “Besides what?”

 “You have a bad habit of exaggerating things.”

“Really, like?” She picks up her cup and tries to drink the still volcanic hot coffee, “damn it.”

 “The time you thought that you brought home a CIA agent when you watched too much Alias, or the time you were convinced you were sitting next to Dave Matthews on the train and followed the poor guy for two days?” He stares at her.

“Cory, he’s dead. I think he died after we had sex.”

 “You think?”

 “I don’t know I was sleeping.”

Cory starts to giggle, then laughs. “I’m sorry. Sex with you was good, but I don’t know if it would kill anyone,” she punches him in the arm. 

 “It was good?”

 “Can we talk about that later? So you haven’t reported it yet?” he asks as he takes out his phone.

 “Put that away,” she bats it out of his hand. “I want you to go back with me. I want to make sure.” She does this cute half smile, half pleading look.

 “I hate it when you give me that look. You know I can’t say no to you.”

 “Thank you.” They both stand. 

“He’s in bed right? He’s not tied up somewhere is he?”

 “Maybe I don’t want you to go with me.”
           
She was falling asleep on the couch reading The Economist when the phone rings. “Hello. No, I was, well almost.” She grins, “Of course.”
           
He gave her a key two weeks ago. That’s when she began to stay overnight, enjoying sleeping even in his snoring arms. She enters his apartment and he greets her by placing a tie over her eyes. “Like surprises?”
           
That is what she liked about him, always eager, always wanting to try something new. It was, unfortunately that night that she began to really have feelings for him. He had tried to get past her inability to fall head over heels for anyone and he somehow knew that blindfolding her and making her trust him might do it.

Grace and Cory call 911. There is no mistaking that Ethan is no longer alive. Much to Cory’s relief, he is also found in bed and not tied to anything.

 “So you two know the decedent?” the detective asks as Grace tries to peer over his shoulder as his body is wheeled out, “Mam?”

 “I did, he’s here for moral support,” she nods at Cory.

 “You found the body?”

“Um, yeah. I woke up next to him.” The questioning just became more and more awkward for both Grace and the detective. They covered the month long relationship, their last meal, last escapades and why she waited two hours to call the police. 

 “Do you think his wife had anything to do with this?” the detective waits for an answer. 

  “His what?” Cory immediately moves closer to Grace.

 “Wife. When the detectives called the college they were given her name and number. I take it you didn’t know.” The detective takes down a lengthy note in his notepad.

 “You’re a damn fine detective, “she sits and places her head in her hands. “Did he have kids?”

 “No, just his wife. You might have given him the best last month of his life.”

  “That makes me feel so much better,” she looks up at the detective, “anything else?”

 “We’ll call if we have any follow up. Although, I am sure his wife is going to have some questions. Someone is driving her down from Connecticut now.”

 “Great, I can’t wait.” Grace and Cory exit the apartment, past some leering police officers. 

 “They want you.” Cory nudges her.

“Shut up.”

 “It’s like Russian Roulette. Sleep with Grace and see if you live.”


The talk with Ethan’s wife was not as horrid as Grace had led herself to believe it was going to be. Their relationship ended years ago and husband and wife became simply titles. Instead of commuting to New York every day, she suggested he just get an apartment. 

 “You were seeing someone?” Grace does not miss the opportunity. She was not going to be caught being the only guilty one, even though she didn’t know she was guilty.

 “Ethan paying rent every month was cheaper than a divorce attorney. I think he knew it meant I wanted to see someone.” She shifts uncomfortably in her seat.

“Would you like some wine?” Grace stands.

 “Anything stronger?” 

Grace opens the liquor cabinet door. Her hand passes over the bottle of 12 year old bourbon that Ethan bought and she selects a Scotch. “I’m truly sorry for your loss,” she pours but does not look up. 

 “Thank you. I have to say though, the last month he seemed more like the man I met in college. I guess I have you to thank for that.” She accepts the glass from Grace.

Weeks go by and the paranoia that everyone knows is subsiding. Grace has never been more relieved to not have a doorman. She can stand judgmental neighbors but not a judgmental doorman leering at her every times she walks by. She wonders what life would have been like had Ethan lived, maybe even told her about his wife. How she would have reacted. Would they have fallen in love? 

Not to be one to break habits, she sits in the kitchen in a t shirt and her underwear. She sips coffee and thinks about absolutely nothing except that she loves fall mornings like this. She loves how cold the tiles feel on her bare feet. Grace’s peace is interrupted by a knock on the door. On the other side is Cory. 

“Hi neighbor.”

“Excuse me?” 

He makes his way into the apartment. He drops some of her mail on the coffee table before taking a seat on the couch. “Well, I knew there was an empty apartment and I couldn’t pass on what Scottish boy was paying on it. Besides, the elevator for my equipment is sweet.”

Grace is still standing holding the door open, trying to catch up to what is happening. Across the room, the detective that asked her all of those questions a few weeks ago emerges from the bedroom. “Everything ok, Grace? Thought I heard a knock...” he sees Cory and stops.

 “Oh, damn, sorry,” he quickly stands and makes his way towards the door that she is still holding open.  I was just dropping off her mail. It was delivered to me by accident.

 “As long as you’re ok, I’m gonna get some more sleep.” He returns to the bedroom. 

 “You always land on your feet, Grace. If you need anything, I’ll be in 3B.” She begins to shut the door but Cory quickly pushes it open, “knock ‘em dead, tiger.”

 “Go home ... but come over for pizza later,” she says shutting the door. 

She hears Cory yell as he walks down the hallway, “and put on some goddamn pants when you answer the door.”