I think about trying to get my clothes, but they’re still in the bathroom and there’s no way Nick will sleep through all that. And if he doesn’t, what am I going to say? I have a crawling fetish? I’m sleep-crawling? No, nothing good can come from that, so it’s going to have to be every pair of lace underwear for herself in this situation. Besides, I never liked that suit anyway.
Inch by inch, I stealth-crawl to the door, feeling more and more like a special-ops soldier moving through enemy territory. The bedroom door is open, thank God, and I’m out and in the hallway when I hit my second booby trap. Buttercup.
She must be a night dog, because suddenly she’s right next to me—and she’s wide awake. Also, apparently, feeling the love tonight.
I get a face full of enthusiastic doggie kisses and end up having to take every single one of them, since she’s determined not to be dissuaded. Eventually, she eases up a little and I take my shot, power-crawling to the stairs as fast as my hands and knees will carry me.
Yes, I am aware that I am a thirty-five-year-old woman who is sneaking out of her lover’s bedroom because she got cold feet.
Yes, I am more than aware of how pathetic that is.
No, I really don’t give a damn about my pathetic quotient right now. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about anything but getting out of here before Nick wakes up and decides we need to talk.
I have to put up with Buttercup’s kissing and dancing around me all the way to the top of the stairs. Once there, I jump to my feet before bolting down the steps two at a time. I’m so freaked out at this point that I almost make it to the front door before I remember that I’m naked. And while it’s late, it isn’t middle-of-the-night late, and somehow I bet my neighbors will freak out if it comes to light that I was streaking through the neighborhood at midnight.
Their loss, but still.
A quick search of the living room yields one of Nick’s shirts—and my phone, thankfully—and I shrug it on before racing for the door. I button two buttons, which is more than enough for decency in my book—though I’m pretty sure I lost my own decency somewhere between Nick’s bed and his bedroom door. Then I make a break for it and head straight down the driveway, across the street, up my driveway, and—force of habit—through my gate and around to my back door.
I run the whole thing as if I’m angling for a gold medal in the sprint of shame and don’t let myself slow down until my back-door handle is actually in my hand. Then and only then do I breathe a sigh of relief at finally being safe.
But as I go to open the door, I realize my sigh of relief is more than a little premature. Because my mom and sister—being two savvy women who are now living on their own in New Jersey—were smart enough, or diabolical enough, to lock the door before they went up to bed.
Fuck. My. Life.
I text Sarah, and when that doesn’t work, I call her. But she doesn’t answer, which means I could try calling my mom, but I would honestly rather wax my bikini line myself than end this walk of shame with my mother’s raised brow. So unless I want to run back across the street to Nick’s, I am stuck out here for the rest of the night.
And since I can’t actually think of anything I want to do less than go back to Nick’s… Who knew life in the burbs could be this completely random?
With an annoyed sigh, I flounce over to one of the lounge chairs my aunt had set up around her mermaid sculpture fountain in the center of the backyard. I used to tell her she should get a pool, but she’d just take a sip of her mai tai and tell me that anyone could have a pool. It took a woman with style to have mermaids.
And she wasn’t wrong. No better site for my shameful demise, I suppose.
I pull the lounge chair several extra feet away from the sculpture’s splash zone before settling down on it for the night. The chair is still damp from the last few times the sculpture spit on it, but it’s a warm night, so it’s no big deal.
And thankfully, the lounge chair is as comfortable as I remember, so sleeping on it won’t be that big of a deal. If I can sleep, which I’m not sure I can—not when visions of that moment in the bathroom keep running through my head.
Nick’s eyes locked on mine in the mirror, his body thrusting into me, my heart falling wide open at his feet as I admit the one thing I swore to myself I would never tell another man. The one thing I swore to myself I would never let happen.
I need you.
Just the thought of having said it out loud gives me the heebie-jeebies. I can pretend it was no big deal, can pretend that I was just talking sexually, that I was just saying I needed him in that moment. It’s a valid argument—he did have me totally drunk on desire—but I know the truth. In those moments, when we were both so open, so naked, so vulnerable with each other, those three words—“I need you”—meant a whole lot more than for a simple orgasm.
They meant everything I’ve been fighting against, everything I’ve been trying to prove to myself I could do without since the divorce.
Apparently, when push comes to shove, I really have learned nothing. I’m not even fully out of from under the mess I made with Karl but determined to stand on my own two feet. Determined to build a life for myself. And within a month, I ended up totally wrapped up in another guy. And not just any guy. Nick.
He’s not having my baby, obviously, and I’m not having his, but am I really any different from Karl? Or am I just the same, hitting thirty-five and determined to give my life meaning by any means possible, including sleeping with—and worse, falling for—some guy I didn’t even know existed a month ago?
Can I get any more pathetic?
No. No, I can’t.
And now I’m going to have to come up with some reason as to why I snuck out in the middle of the night that won’t hurt his feelings or make me look like a total asshole. Then again, I left my clothes piled on his bathroom floor and my shoes kicked off under his dining room table. The ship has probably sailed on that last one. I am a total asshole.
But at least I’m an asshole whose heart is safe. And who still has a chance of building her new life the way she wants it, not the way anyone else wants it. Surely that has to count for something, right?
And honestly, after what Nick shared tonight, can he blame me? How could I possibly be in a relationship with him, knowing how fucked up I still am and what it would do to him if things ended badly? Hasn’t he been through enough agony for one lifetime? I can’t add to his pain, I just can’t. It’s better that I end things now, before he’s any more invested, than realize six months from now that I’m just not relationship material anymore.
I roll over onto my side and try to pretend that I’m not worried about being eaten alive by mosquitoes all night.