He’d been crying. He had to have been.
No one’s eyes could’ve been that red and puffy if there wasn’t some kind of emotion spilling from them.
In his hands were Lorelai’s drawings.
“I’m fine,” he replied, turning back to the fireplace.
“I… It just looks like—” I started, but he cut me off.
“I thought I made it clear that your services were no longer needed here.”
“Yes, you did. I got that message loud and clear.”
“Then why are you still here?”
“Because you need me.”
“I don’t. Please leave,” he whispered the last two words, but his voice shook as they left his mouth. The pain sliced through his irritation with me.
I had to stay because I owed him. I owed him for staying by my side during my low days all those years ago. I owed him because when I had been floating away, he’d pulled me back to the shore.
“I can’t leave you like this, Greyson, not today of all days.”
He sighed. “Claire told you.”
“Yes. I’m so, so sorry. I cannot imagine what you’re going through, but I know you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.”
He lowered his head and his shoulders slumped, but he still wouldn’t turn to look my way.
“If you want me to go, I’ll go. I’ll go and I won’t come back. By morning, I’ll be out of your hair, and you’ll never have to hear from me again, but if there’s any part of you that wants me to stay…if there’s any part of you that doesn’t want to be alone tonight, just tell me. Tell me, and I’ll stay. We don’t even have to talk. You can keep your back to me all night long, but I won’t leave you. You don’t have to be alone tonight.”
“It’s Friday night… Don’t you have some place to be?” he asked.
“Yes.” I nodded. “And I’m right there.”
He remained still for a while longer and I was certain that was my cue to go, but as I turned to leave, he took a step toward his liquor tray. He placed the drawings down, then reached below, grabbed two glasses, and set them down.
He lifted the bottle of whiskey and turned my way.
His bottom lip twitched a little, and he locked those gray eyes with mine.
Those sad, sad eyes.
He parted his lips and said, “Do you drink whiskey?”
I hadn’t expected him to ask me to stay, but when he’d reached for that bottle, a breath I hadn’t even known I’d been holding had slipped through my lips.
It turned out even the loneliest souls never truly wanted to be alone.
He nodded once and poured the brown liquor into the glasses.
He then picked them up and handed one my way. We moved over to the couch and sat down, him on the right, me on the left, and we didn’t speak a word. He sat beside me, our glasses in our hands and exchanging no words. It was so still, silence expanding to and from each wall of the empty house. All that was heard were our small sips, and our breaths.
When he inhaled, I released a breath. When he exhaled, I took one in.
We stayed like that for a while, both getting intoxicated and not talking about it. He poured us more drinks until the whiskey was all gone. It wasn’t until a bit of time passed, and drunkenness found him that Greyson cleared his throat.
My eyes quickly moved to him and I noticed how his upright posture had shifted. He wasn’t as tense. His body relaxed somewhat, settling in as his lips parted.
“I owe you an apology,” he confessed, his voice so low. “For the way I was treated you today.”
“It’s not. I was an asshole, and I’m sorry.” He glanced my way before looking back down to his now empty glass. “I don’t know how to exist around you sometimes.”
“What do you mean?”
“You stand for a period of time in my life when things were easier, when things were better, and that’s hard. It’s hard to look back on a time so good when things are so broken now.”
“Can I ask why you hired me, then?”
He tilted his head my way and looked at me, and I mean truly stared. Before that point, it had almost been like he was always looking past me, looking through me. This time, though, I felt our connection. I felt him lock in. “Because I think the small part of me that isn’t destroyed needed something good to hold on to.”
“I’m a good thing?”
“You’ve always been a good thing, Eleanor, since the first day I met you.”
My heart skipped a few beats, but I tried my best to ignore it. “I’m sorry you’re hurting so much,” I told him.
“How long is it going to hurt?” he asked, his voice so low.
I gave him the same answer he’d given me all those years ago. “As long as it has to.”
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, turning away from me, seemingly embarrassed. “I’m drunk.”
“You don’t have to apologize for feeling, Greyson. I would be just as lost and confused as you are, if not more so.”
He nodded once and stared at the fireplace. The fire sparked repeatedly against the logs, and the flames danced around as if they were going to burn forever.
“Why did you come back?” he asked.
“After I fired you…why would you come back here to check on me?”
“Because I owed you.”
“Saving me when I was younger and about to drown.”
“Thank you, Ellie.”
I smiled. “Of course. Here, let me go get us some water to sober up.” I started to stand from the couch with my glass in my hand then paused when he spoke.
“It’s Lorelai’s birthday today,” he told me. He was opening up more and more as the whiskey settled within him. Please stay open, Grey. His finger thumbed the rim of his glass and his eyebrows lowered as he studied it. “She’s six today.”
I lowered myself back down to my seat and turned toward him. “Yeah, Claire told me. I had no clue. We could’ve celebrated. I could’ve made a cake or something.”
He grimaced and rubbed the back of his neck. “I didn’t know how to face today.”
“I don’t under…” I started, but my words trailed away as the pieces clicked into place. Of course, he didn’t celebrate Lorelai’s birthday. “Because Lorelai’s birthday is the same day Nicole died.”
He nodded. “One year ago today, everything changed, and I never recovered from that. It’s bullshit, right? This person I’ve become, the person I am. I’m a monster.”
“Don’t, Eleanor. Don’t do that.”
“Feel sorry for me. I know it comes easy for you to feel sorry for me, but I’m not the hero of this story. I’m the villain.”
He bit his bottom lip and wouldn’t look my way.
“You’re not a villain, Greyson.”
“Tell that to the girl who isn’t celebrating her birthday with her father—you know, the one who has more conversations with a ghost than with me, or the one whose body is battered and scarred because of my actions.”
I frowned, because I saw his struggle, but I also knew it from the other side. I was both of his girls. I was Lorelai, the girl wanting nothing more than her father’s attention and I was Karla—the girl who acted out just so he’d notice.
The only difference was that I’d never seen the guilt from my father that Greyson was displaying. I never saw the quiet moments where the truths of my father were revealed.
“Sorry,” he muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Again…I’m drunk,” he told me once more.
“I don’t know how to get it back,” he said, throwing me a curveball.
“Get what back?”
“Do you miss your girls?”
“And you want to be in their lives?”
He sighed and his nose wrinkled up as he placed his glass down then put his hands on the back of his neck. “When I look at them, I don’t only see their mother. I see what I took away from them. I took away the glue of this family, and I don’t know how to get it back. So much time has passed now that I don’t even know if I’m allowed to have them back.”
“Yes, you are.”
“You saying it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.”
“No, you’re right, but it is true. They’ll take you back—without question, without hesitation.” I tilted my head. “Well, Karla might have a little hesitation, but that’s just because she’s Karla, and I think she’s stubborn.”
“I don’t know where she gets that.”
I smirked and rolled my eyes. “Yeah, no clue whatsoever.”
“I don’t even know where to start, really, how to even approach bringing myself back into their lives.”
“First you, then them. You need to help yourself first, Greyson. You have to get your mind right before you can be what your daughters need you to be. Plus, I can be your wingwoman.”
“Yeah, I’ll come up with excuses and events that we can all attend together. We’ll do an activity once a week. Then it will give you a chance to really connect with the girls.”
“You’d do that for me?” he asked, seemingly shocked by my offer.
“Greyson…you went out of your way to sit with me once every week when my mom was sick. You helped me breathe. It’s only right that I return the favor. So, what do you say? Will you let me be your wingwoman?”
He kind of smirked, and I kind of loved it.