Chapter Thirteen - The Confusing Morning After
When I woke the next morning I was alone.
My nakedness only served as a reminder of everything that had happened the night before. I fumbled for my phone and picked it up. It was 8.30am. Brennan was already avoiding me.
The pit in my stomach opened and began to swirl. I felt sick. I opened my text messages and started to type Belle a message.
I messed up. - Grace.
Spill?! - Belle.
I guess the fiction confused reality. We slept together. - Grace.
Wow! I mean, I did tell you there was mutual attraction - Belle
Is that a round about way of saying ‘I told you so’? - Grace
Yes. Now, why are you texting me and not going for round 2. - Belle
Because it shouldn’t have happened. I now have to endure a 5 plus hour trip home. Awkward on a global scale!! - Grace.
The door opened. I pulled the covers up.
Brennan walked in, carrying a tray laden with food. He walked around the bed and sat down before setting it on the bed in front of us both.
“Morning Grace.” he said, his voice soft.
I looked at him, confused. Did he continue to woo every other girl he’d bedded? Was that why they always tried for more. Had he led them on, only to ghost them in the end.
“Morning.” I replied, the confusion evident in my voice.
“I made us some breakfast. I thought we’d need the energy.” he said with a smile, his hand moved to my face, gently brushing a stray strand of hair behind my ear.
I wanted to give in to the romance of it, but this wasn’t a rom com, this was my life and I knew the kind of person Brennan was when it came to women. I wasn’t going to be any different to all the other girls. I wasn’t special.
I forced a smile on my face, but moved back from his touch. I pulled the throw off the end of the bed and wrapped around my naked torso before standing and mumbling something about needing a shower first.
I walked through to the bathroom, and closed the door behind me, leaning against it as I steadied my uneven breathing and my racing heart.
I showered in cold water, in the hopes it would wash away the simmering tension beginning to rise again inside my stomach. When I hopped out and wrapped the towel around me I knew it was futile. I was going to have to give myself the same treatment I’d been forced to give the other girls.
I walked out of the bathroom, Brennan was gone again but the food remained. I got dressed and sat down on the bed, picking at the food. When Brennan returned he had a pile of clothing, he placed some of the items on my case before lifting his own onto the bed and packing it.
“We’ll need to leave by 10am to catch our flight in time.” He spoke like the Brennan I’d known for the past three years. Cordial and businesslike, completely impersonal.
“Okay. Thank you for breakfast.”
Brennan made a sound as he zipped up his case and pulled it off the bed. He pulled his case to the door before looking back at me.
“I’ll be down in the living room.”
He left the room, taking with him everything he had brought with him. It seemed reality had hit for him. His hands weren’t on me anymore, they were on his suitcase, and he seemed desperate to get away.
I packed up my own things, picking my phone up off the bedside table and shoving it into my pocket. I took the tray down to the kitchen, Jaq was in there, making a coffee.
She looked at the barely eaten food and chuckled to herself.
“It’s nice to see my son so in love.” She took the tray and placed it off to the side.
I smiled, but then I remembered my outburst.
“I’m sorry I was rude last night.”
Jaq shook her head and took my hands in hers. She pulled me in, close, holding me for the longest time.
“My son is lucky to have someone who has his back so fiercely. Everything you said was the truth Grace, and his father needed to hear it from someone who hasn’t been there his whole life.”
She let me go. “Thank you.”
I swallowed the ball of guilt mixed with emotion before leaving the kitchen and going back upstairs to get my suitcase. Brennan was there, he had his hand on the handle of my case.
“You didn’t need to clear the food away. I was going to.” he said, his voice was softer again. He straightened his posture up and pulled on my case. “Are you all packed?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
Brennan closed the door behind him and we walked through the house and down to the living room. Kate and Alec were still here, giggling and kissing by the bay window. As soon as Kate saw me she ran over and pulled me into a hug.
“We had to see you before we left for the honeymoon.”
“You didn’t need to do that.” I smiled. I almost added ‘i’ll see you again’ but I knew I probably wouldn’t.
“Of course I did. You are my hero and I love you. I can see why Brennan does too.”
Brennan cleared his throat and looked out the window.
“Your uber is here.” He noted.
Kate giggled again, letting go of me and running over to Alec. The two left, leaving the room eerily silent. Brennan was by the window and I was by the door.
“Are we okay?” I asked, my voice a mere squeak. Before Brennan could answer his Sam and Jaq walked in. Sam walked to his son and placed his hand on Brennan’s shoulder.
“I was so blind. I didn’t see the man you’ve become because I didn’t want to admit that you didn’t need me. You are always my son, I’ll always love you and I’m sorry I ever let you feel or think otherwise. I’m proud of you Brennan Wolf.”
Brennan looked at his Dad, he frowned at first, then his eyes became soft and lost. He pulled his Dad into a hug, I turned on the spot and stopped my tears with the sleeve of my cardigan.
“Thank you Dad. I love you too.” Brennan’s voice was soft and full of emotion.
“And you.” Sam spoke, I could feel his voice catapult toward me. I turned around and looked at him, sudden nerves in my chest. “Thank you for telling me what I already should have known.”
He drew me in to a hug, and I looked over at Brennan who had a tight smile on his face and his arms crossed.
Brennan packed the car up shortly after, with Blake and Jade coming out to say goodbye as we prepared to leave. After numerous hugs and promises for future visits we got into the rental car and drove down the long driveway.
“When we get back to New York, you can consider yourself free.” He said, with little feeling.
“Oh, okay.” I paused and tried to process the ball in my throat making it hard to speak. “Thank you.”
The rest of the drive to the airport was silent. It wasn’t even that it was awkward, there was just an unspoken animosity between us. I opened my mouth to question it, but nothing came out. Brennan returned the car and we made it to our flight.
Brennan listened to music, and worked on his laptop the entire flight. I really was nothing to him now. My heart hurt, even though I’d expected it.
It wasn’t until we had landed and we were in his car, heading toward my apartment that I spoke again.
“Brennan. Are we okay?”
“Better than ever.” His voice was flat. He parked outside my apartment and got out of the car. I stood on the pavement as he wheeled my case to me.
“It’s been nice knowing you.” He said with a pained smile.
I ignored the hurt that puddled inside me. We’d spent the night together, we’d shared so much over the weekend. Surely our friendship had to account for something.
“I need to collect my things.” I whispered.
“I’ll have someone pack your things up and I’ll send them out.” He replied.
I felt like my body was caving in, like I was a junkie who’d just been denied a hit. I wanted to grab at his shirt and tell to stop shutting me out, but I didn’t. I just stood there like a loser.
“If that’s what you want.” I said pulling my case to the steps.
Brennan chuckled, but he didn’t seem amused, just frustrated.
He opened his car door and was about to sit down when I looked at my hand. It still had the ring on, I’d almost forgotten it was there, it had started to feel normal.
“Brennan!” I called out, leaving my case by the steps. I ran over to the car and slid the ring off my finger. I took his hand and placed the ring in his palm. “I almost forgot.”
Our hands stayed connected for a moment, I looked up at him and his previously hardened stare had softened. He managed a half smile and closed his fist around the ring.
“You can come into the office and get your things.” he offered.
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Brennan nodded and got into his car. I watched as he drove off, leaving me feeling something I didn’t quite understand. Empty.
Once I could no longer distinguish his tail lights from the tail lights of other cars I walked back to my case.
When I walked into my apartment I sighed, it was mostly empty except for the bed which had been a chattel of the apartment. I walked to the bed and sat on it, then pulled out my phone.
I’m home… well, an empty version of home - Grace.
I stared at my words, it wasn’t just my apartment being empty though, I felt it too. I stood up and walked out of my room and into the kitchen, opening the cupboard in the hopes they hadn’t cleared out my wine stash. I sighed, they had.
Not that it mattered, after a weekend of drinking the wine his family had spent years curating had ruined me. I looked at my phone.
I’m coming over. With wine. Be prepared to spill. - Belle.
Talking to someone would be nice. Someone who knew about the ruse, someone who could help me break it down and work out what was going on.
Ok. - Grace.
An hour later I buzzed Belle up to my room. She walked in holding two bags, one of take out and the other from the liquor store.
“Holy shit, you really weren’t kidding. This place is stark.” She looked around, as if she was staring into my apartment for the first time.
“Most of my stuff is already in storage. I guess they’re finishing the job tomorrow. I need to be out by Wednesday. We need to sit on the bed, the table and chairs are gone.”
Belle laughed and followed me into my bedroom, we sat down on the bed and she pulled out the chinese takeout.
“Thought you might be hungry.”
I nodded and opened one of the containers, using the chopsticks in the bag to pull out a piece of orange chicken.
“Wine?” I asked, my mouth full of food.
Belle grinned at me, lifting the other bag up and holding it like it was made out of gold.
“I thought, due to the topic of conversation there was only one brand of wine we could partake in tonight.”
Belle slid the wine out, I could tell right away by the little glass wolf and the logo that it was a Wolf Wine. I felt a twinge of sadness, which was not lost on Belle.
“Oh, should I not have got his family’s wine?”
I took the bottle and ran my fingers over the wolf.
“No it’s fine, well apart from the price point. How much did this set you back?”
Belle grinned and shrugged before pulling out two plastic cups, like the ones Brennan and I had tasted the $4,000 wine from. I stared at them, surprised by the feelings that swirled through me.
“You okay Grace?” She asked, taking the wine back and opening it. She poured the red wine into the cup and handed me one, and then poured herself one.
“I’m great.” I lied. “It was a nice weekend, the estate is beautiful and his family are lovely. Now it’s over.”
Belle’s mouth fell open and she shook her hand emphatically before taking my wine from me before I’d even had a sip.
“Uh ah. You are going to tell me everything. Start to finish.”
I furrowed my brow and bit my lip.
“Fine.” I grabbed my cup back and took a drink. The wine reminded me of the estate and of the weekend. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to think of anything else.
“It was going fine, and then on the first night his Mom asked me about my parents and I turned into a blubbering mess. Brennan comforted me, he was actually a real gentleman. Then on Saturday he showed me around, I ended up needing to step in as one of his sister’s bridesmaids, saw a male revue, got really shitfaced.”
I paused and took another sip, Belle was grinning and I knew it was mostly because I’d never been like that, not even in college and it was amusing to her.
“Then I stripped in front of Brennan, danced for him. We kissed, but he stopped it and I felt hurt I guess. Then at the reception I chewed out his father in front of everyone for treating him like trash.”
“Woah.” Belle replied. “How’d that go down?”
“Brennan and I left the reception and as soon as we were back at the house he kissed me, like really kissed me Belle and it was like pure magnetism, gravity itself couldn’t have pulled us apart. We slept together. Then I realised I’m one of them now, one of the girls that had to learn how to quit Brennan Wolf.”
Belle picked up the orange chicken and popped it in her mouth, she chewed for a bit before finally swallowing.
“Except Brennan Wolf actually likes you, he cares about you and he knows you.” She almost shouted before draining her cup.
“What does that have to do with anything.” I retorted. “Those things have always been true. The moment he slept with me things changed. He almost didn’t want me to come into the office and get my things myself. He was going to send them out. Belle, he doesn’t want to see me, he doesn’t want me to be a clinger… he doesn’t know how to deal with them because I always did!”
Belle poured herself another drink and shook her head.
“You’re as emotionally unavailable as him… maybe even more so. You can’t see what is right in front of you.” Belle frowned. “And if you leave New York completely you never will.”
“What am I supposed to be seeing.” I asked.
“He’s been with a few women right?”
“A few.” I replied.
“He never follows up with them, some of them try and call again, but not all right?”
“You’ve told me before Brennan is a straight forward guy right?”
I sighed. “Again, yes. Look I don’t know what your point is but-”
Belle held up her hand and shushed me.
“I have a point, please let me get to it.” she smiled and sipped on her wine. “Do you think it’s completely out of the realm of possibility that he tells the women he’s been with that he’s not looking for more than a one time thing?”
“I guess he would.”
“Did he tell you that?”
I shook my head, I could see where this was going, but she didn’t know Brennan like I did. Just because Belle had a theory it didn’t mean it was right.
“You don’t believe me though do you, hence being as emotionally unavailable as him.”
I wanted to believe her, but I’d seen too much. I’d been the go between. I couldn’t be his girl.
“Maybe I am.” I murmured. “Can we just eat and drink the wine?”
Belle stayed until the early hours of the morning. Before she left she’d hugged me and told me to plant one on Brennan when I went in the next day. I laughed of course but once she was gone it was all I could think about. I lay down on the bed and pulled out my phone.
I typed and backspaced more messages than I could count.
I think we should talk about what happened.
I can’t stop thinking about you.
Did it mean anything to you?
I’m such a loser.
I switched my phone off and stared at the ceiling.