“Fuck, I need one.”
Clay couldn’t believe the kind of day he was having. First, his girlfriend of ten years had left him. And, now, he was having a beer at noon on Saturday with his older brother, who he’d spent longer than the last ten years feeling torn between disgust and envy.
Brady sank down into a seat at the quiet brunch location they’d decided on. It was halfway between Brady and Liz’s place and Clay’s townhouse. He’d gotten a back booth, away from prying eyes and ears, and he was happy to see it had a functioning bar. He probably shouldn’t be drinking after what alcohol had done to him last night, but he couldn’t face this day completely sober.
“Damn, you got yourself in a mess,” Brady said as soon as the beers were in front of them.
Clay shook his head. He still couldn’t fathom how he’d gotten here. “Yeah, I just don’t fucking get it.”
“Well, all the women are pissed as hell. I don’t even want to be in my own place with all the uproar. What exactly did you do?” Brady asked.
“I said some stupid shit to Andrea last night,” he admitted. He didn’t know why he was being this honest with Brady when he’d normally crack a dumb joke, but there literally wasn’t anyone else to tell. It felt kind of nice to confide in Brady.
“What kind of stupid shit?”
Clay sighed. “She kept going on about how she wanted to change our relationship so that we were a couple and not…whatever we’d been the last decade.”
“And that is?” Brady prodded.
“You know how we were. We had an open relationship. We didn’t care what the other person did, except when we were together.”
Brady’s jaw clenched. “I did know that was what you and Andrea had been this whole time, but just the thought of doing that with Liz makes me want to go ballistic.”
“Yeah, well, y’all are different.”
“Doesn’t sound like Andrea is that different. What did you say to her wanting to change your relationship?”
“I told her I didn’t want to,” Clay said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world. “She told me, if I didn’t really want a relationship, then I should go sleep with someone else. So, I told her I would.”
Brady put his head in his hands. “When a woman tells you to do something that stupid, you should never listen. It’s like saying fine to end an argument.”
“She said fine at the end of the argument? Oh, you’re fucked,” Brady said. He held up his pint glass. “Here’s to living in the doghouse.”
“I just need to talk to her. If I can talk to her, I can tell her that I didn’t actually sleep with anyone else. It didn’t really happen.”
“Even if she believed you, Clay—and with your track record”—Brady frowned—“I don’t think she’d care. It’s not so much whether or not you slept with someone; it’s that you ignored how she was feeling and said you were going to do it just to hurt her.”
“That’s some fucked up mind game right there.”
Brady sighed and took another swig of his beer. Clay had already finished his.
“It might feel like a mind game, but to be honest, for a long time, I’ve been waiting for Andrea to realize she wants a real relationship. Savi and I always teased you about getting married for a reason. I honestly thought that was the trajectory you were on. I’m pretty sure Andrea thought that as well. So, if you weren’t there with her, then she was probably feeling led on and used, little brother.”
“That’s bullshit! We talked about this,” Clay said in frustration. “We decided how our relationship was going to be. She knew!”
Brady held his hands up. “I don’t doubt that, but she still left for a reason.”
“Well, fuck, what do I do? I have to talk to her. We need to work this out,” Clay said.
“I’d just give her some space. Trust me. I fucked up with Liz a lot. A lot. I think I took fucked up to a whole new level,” he admitted. His eyes were dark and distant, as if remembering that time still haunted him. “I should have fought harder. I shouldn’t have ignored how she was feeling, even when I knew she was hurting. There’s a lot that I wish I could turn back and correct. But I don’t regret letting her figure out her thoughts on her own. She needed that time. I needed that time. Maybe I should have come back into her life earlier, and then she wouldn’t have had to deal with shit from that douche bag she dated, but it made us stronger. When Andrea’s ready, she’ll talk to you again.”
Clay nodded. Brady’s advice was sound, but in that moment, all Clay wanted to do was tear D.C. apart to find Andrea and convince her that leaving was a horrible, terrible mistake. But, to his chagrin, she wanted nothing to do with him.
So, he was stuck here at a bar, taking his brother’s advice, and giving his girlfriend, his constant companion, the space she needed and deserved. And he fucking hated it.
Giving Andrea the space she needed and not busting down the door to her apartment was an exercise in restraint. He hadn’t even known that he had that much control in one finger, let alone in his whole body. He also hadn’t known that her walking out would hurt this much.
And it hurt like a fucking bitch.
Fifteen years was a long-ass time to be with someone.
He didn’t even remember what a time in his life before Andrea was like. He’d been a kid. She was his entire adult life. She was the girl at every event. She was the girl he would come home to. Without her, what the hell am I supposed to do?
He’d found that answer at the bottom of a bottle all weekend.
Sure, I’m wallowing in self-pity, but who could blame me? His girlfriend had just left him, and he didn’t know how to pick up the pieces of their life together. He had always been so confident and cocky in the fact that he had his own life. It was completely separate from her. The part of him that never needed anyone. Now, he knew that was a lie.
There was no separate part of his life. Even his bachelor-pad townhouse made him think of her, and she rarely, if ever, came over here. She always complained it smelled like a rock star’s tour bus even though he paid for a cleaning service.