“Please don’t go.” I felt my sweater getting pulled as she cried in my chest. I felt horrible. I felt like I was leaving a piece of myself in this apartment that I would never get back. She heaved when she couldn’t breathe. I wish there was more that I can do. Hold her longer. Kiss her longer. Laugh with her longer. Wake up, go to bed, stay with her longer. Be here longer with her.
“You know I have to go back.” I said it in the most stoic way I could; she didn’t deserve to be sad over a person she met just a couple of months ago. I guess it was more so the fact that I didn’t want to be the reason she was crying, desperate even, for me to not go. I look at the time on her stove; my flight leaves in just a couple of hours and I’ve still yet packed the last of my things. I don’t want to go. I want to go back to bed with Grace, hold her close to my chest, and take in her apple-scented shampoo as I drift to sleep. It feels like I’m about to leave home.
It feels like I just returned home.
She’s standing there, holding the little bean, in shock. Her freckles disappeared as her face turned pale. She looked like she wasn’t breathing, as if she was holding her breath the entire time I stood in her hallway.
“Hi.” Is that all you got to say to her? I felt uncomfortable standing there. Grace didn’t say anything; she seemed literally tongue-tied and had no words to say. But she did, because she’s Grace Ashmore, and I know her extremely well.
I expected her to shut the door in my face. I expected her to see me once she opened that door and told me to get lost. Go back home. I’ll never want to see you again after leaving for 6 months. I expected to have all the words in the world for me, but she didn’t do any of those things. She moved to the side to allow me to walk in. She didn’t say anything, but she looked towards the apartment, waiting for me to finally get the hint to walk in. I slowly walked into her apartment.
Everything looked the same with the exception of some baby toys floating around the living room. It made me smile, knowing she was spending some quality time with little bean.
She closed the door behind us, and walked passed without looking at me. Ouch, Gracie. I stood in the middle of her apartment, trying to put together a simple sentence to start off this conversation, but she beat me to it. She always did; it’s like she knew when my mind wanted to speak out loud some anxious and nervous thoughts.
“I gotta put Willie down for bed, gimme a minute,” Grace said. She walked into the room she always did with little bean; naps, bedtime, changing time– it’s the room Grace feels the most like a mom, and I think she likes how she feels in that room.
“Man, I am exhausted.” Grace fell next to me on the sofa. I looked at her and smiled, she moved closer to me and wrapped my arm around her as we watched the fireplace light up the dim room.
“You were busy being a super mom today, Gracie.” I grinned the goofiest smile I could possibly do. Grace chuckled and readjusted herself on the sofa. She looked up at me as she placed her head on my lap. I looked down at her, stroking her hair softly.
“You were busy being super mom’s assistant today.” I laughed as she said that. I realized that helping Grace take care of the little bean was possibly the easiest thing to do. Little bean has to be the happiest, yet sassiest baby I’ve got to meet. In many ways, I see her taking after her mother so much. Grace doesn’t believe so, but I know that’s just Grace’s way of not thinking about the fact that she doesn’t see her daughter’s day-by-day growth.
“Seriously though, you’re amazing with Willie. She’s never really open with other people at aren’t Max and I.” She legitimately looked taken back. I smiled down at her and shrugged my shoulders playfully.
“I just try to help out when I can.” She readjusted herself again so that she was now on her side, head still in my lap, but now in a position where she could be comfortable and still talk to me. I remained brushing her hair.
“You’ll be an amazing dad when you get the opportunity, Jamie.” I pondered the thought. Me as a father? Maybe one day, in the distant future, when I find a woman I want to settle down with and have a family with. The thought actually saddens me.
“Yeah, maybe one day, when the timing is right.“
“Perfect timing for you to be back.” Grace finally spoke once she came back from little bean’s room. She didn’t sit next to me, but instead of the chair across from me in the living room. It was like my body wanted her to sit on the sofa with me so that it would be able to remember how it felt to be so close to Grace.
“I apologize for the surprise, I–” Don’t say it, Jamie. “I just didn’t have a way to contact you.” Aigoo. Grace looked annoyed by my comment; I don’t blame her.
“Are you on another case?” I looked at Grace’s nonchalant expression. When Grace talk about business, she becomes a different person. She’s passionate, focused, determined, and has boundaries; one’s where she doesn’t become too connected or affected by the nature of her cases.
“I’m not. I’m currently on leave.” Grace’s face softened back up; she looked concerned more than anything now.
“Wait, what? On leave? Why?” Grace was genuinely curious. I know she finds it hard for me to actually be on leave; we’re by nature the same exact person; workaholics that work ourselves to mask the fact that our personal relationships in our lives are crumbling.
I didn’t want to tell her the truth right then and there. How ridiculous does it sound that a man nearing 30 is taking a couple of months of leave because he still needs to figure his life out? That his life back at home was not what he wanted; that he wanted more, and for months he knew what he actually wanted, no matter the consequences and how long it took to get where he was before.
“I just need the break. I haven’t had one since I started working for my firm.” Grace shifted in her seat. She crossed her legs and pulled down the hem of her dress. She was wearing a floral summer dress; a red one with white flowers on it.
“And you’re in America on vacation or something?” Grace questioned. I looked back at her, in her eyes. She looks hurt, she looks angry, but she also looks so broken beyond repair. I feel horrible for possibly being the reason she looks broken; that I am the reason she is broken.
“No, I’m–” I couldn’t get the words out. To see you? To make things right? Because you feel like the closest thing to home in a really long time? What do you say to the person that you just want to tell everything to at this point? I took a deep breath and looked at Grace.
I took a deep breath and looked at Grace.
“Your lips are so cold.” Grace giggled as she shook the snow off of her her hair. I remember standing outside at a train station in Brooklyn to head back to the city. The snow is heavy and flaky, and there’s no train coming in sight.
“Sorry, with this snow falling and my lip balm being minty,” Grace explained. I pulled her closer to me, and she slips her hand in my coat pockets. “my mouth is literally frozen.” She bit her rosy pink lips as I leaned down to her height. I softy kissed her again for a moment, then looked at her.
“Any better?” I smirked as she giggled to herself. She was adorable when she felt safe and comfortable with me.
“Much better.” Grace placed her hands on my face and pulled me into her, and kissed me.
“I just wanted to. I really like New York.” Wrong answer, Jamie. Grace nodded her head.
“Cool.” Cool. That’s all that she has to say to me being here and leaving my life behind in Korea. I awkwardly nodded and looked around the apartment until Grace made an annoyed noise. I looked back up to her.
“So… why’d you come here?” Grace asked hesitantly but still in a very blunt-like way. Grace wanted answers; I should’ve known she would do this. I wasn’t ready to have this conversation with her yet, let alone feeling like she wants nothing to do with me in the process.
“You’re the only person I know in New York.” It was the honest truth, but I hoped it told more than I was saying. I hope Grace could read in-between the lines well enough to know that I am here for her. Grace got up from her seat and walked towards the kitchen counter.
“I have to get ready for tomorrow; I’m sorry to cut things short.” Grace didn’t look at me when she said that. I felt my heart hurting while she said that. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Her body felt soft and smooth and warm under mine. She ran her hands down my back and grabbed onto me as she moaned into the air. Her fire red hair splattered all over the pillow, her back arched at every finger that traveled up and down her body. I kissed her neck, her collarbone, her breast, her stomach; her little gasps of air excited me even more.
“Jamie,” Grace moaned my name into my ear within every stroke. I looked down at her and kissed her softly on the lips.
“Jamie?” I looked back up and saw Grace finally looking at me from the kitchen. I get up from the sofa and walk towards the front door. Tell her. Tell her. Tell her the truth. I stopped near the door once Grace walked me to the front.
“Grace–” I felt the word vomit coming up as I was leaving Grace’s apartment. I don’t know why I had to come here this late at night to see Grace. I’ve been in America for less than 24 hours and the first thing I needed to do was to see Grace. I’ve been in the dark with Grace for months on end, worried sick about her and little bean and hoping they were both doing okay. I’ve been called by her best friend multiple times pleading for me to talk to Grace because she wasn’t doing well. I felt like Grace was the thing I needed in my life the most; am I crazy for coming down here and leaving everything behind for a woman that didn’t want to talk to me for months on end? Possibly. But you do crazy things for the people you love, and even crazier things for the one you’re in love with.
“I came back to see you.” I finally let it out. Grace was speechless, not knowing what to do or say in that moment. All she did was take a deep breath and held out the front door for me.
“Goodnight, Jamie.” Grace sullenly said. I knew what she meant by that, and I accepted defeat. I walked out of the apartment, and the door closed behind me. I walked down the hallway in what felt like ages. Before I was able to press the elevator button to go back downstairs, I heard one of the apartment doors open. I turn my head to see a woman running down the hallway towards the elevator.
I suddenly felt arms arms wrapped around me tightly. I looked down and saw red hair buried in my chest.
“Please don’t go.” She muffled into my chest. I didn’t know what to do but to hold her in my arms tightly.