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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.
“After noon I only serve bourbon.”
“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.”
“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...”
“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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
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.”