|I and Love and You
Author: QueenOfQuiet17 PM
Three of the most common words can so easily become three of the most difficult. Karen/Grace sequel to "Quiet," inspired by the Avett Brothers song of the same name. Now complete.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Karen W. & Grace A. - Chapters: 23 - Words: 47,393 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 09-30-12 - Published: 01-12-12 - id: 7734076
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She knew Grace cared about it less and less as the days went on, but out of courtesy—or maybe out of routine—Karen stuck to her habit of waiting until the red head was out of the office to indulge herself. Out for a meeting with a client, Grace had left her to her own devices, and on a hot summer day, it meant that Karen had taken the bottle of vodka she had chilling in the mini fridge by the coffee maker, poured a splash of it in an empty coffee mug (a little midday drink never hurt anyone), and climbed through the window to the fire escape overlooking Mulberry with a pack of cigarettes and her lighter in her back pocket. She settled herself down on one of the metal stairs of the fire escape and set the mug down between her feet as she lit a cigarette and inhaled. But when she used to get her only satisfaction in succumbing to her vices, now she let the smoke curl from her lips and knew that she had everything she needed in the woman she woke up with this morning.
The city looked different, new. Even with her obstructed view, she looked out on Mulberry Street and saw it in a way that she had never seen it before. Maybe it was the fact that she was above everyone walking on the concrete—or maybe it was the fact that she could finally say that she was starting to forget the days she didn't fall asleep next to Grace—but she saw a peaceful metropolis thriving underneath her feet. She saw a lot of things in New York, but she never saw peace, she never saw a reason to stay; life with her mother meant moving from town to town, never becoming fully attached to anything or anyone. It led to a lonely life more often than not. And when she first set foot in Manhattan, the rules still applied, even when, on more than one occasion, someone had slipped a wedding band on her ring finger. It was a habit—like maneuvering her way through the window for a smoke and a drink—that she couldn't break.
But leave it to Grace to smash through that false notion.
Karen could see the orange glow of the cigarette from the corner of her eye and watched the cars speed by across the way on Houston, through a thin veil of smoke, stubbing the cigarette out on the metal when it burnt to the filter. She put her lips to her mug, her finger circling the small hole forming in her faded jeans, tracing the path that Grace's finger followed this morning after Karen let herself fall into the couch. We could take the day off, she said with a sly grin. Go to Coney Island. It's not like you have to answer to anyone; you're your own boss.
Grace had knelt down to kiss her hand before her finger instinctively caught the tear in Karen's denim. If I didn't have a meeting with an extremely important client today, I'd take you to the F train right now. The red head had let her hand slide to Karen's stomach. That doesn't mean we can't be a few minutes late, she had murmured, and they savored the moments they had alone, before Will woke up for the day.
It was a perfect moment. Her life had been full of them lately. She wasn't used to this, but she welcomed it with open arms and a wish that it would never stop.
Now, she grabbed her pack of cigarettes, wanting to light one more up before she went back inside, when she heard the phone ringing through the open window. She picked her mug up from between her feet and scrambled inside, reaching the phone just before the fourth ring. "Grace Adler Designs," she said as she caught her breath.
"Karen? God, I'm so glad someone finally picked up. I've been trying for the last couple of days to get a hold of Grace. Is she there?"
She knew the voice on the other end of the phone. She just didn't want to believe it was true. She wanted to think that it was her mind playing tricks on her, or maybe it's a bad daydream, and she'll snap out of it soon. But she lived cynically enough to know better than to let herself believe a deception of her own creation. Still, she asked, if only to buy time, "Who is this?"
"Karen, it's Leo." The air left the room in an instant, but still he continued to speak. Of course; he wasn't the one whose happiness was being trampled on. "I just need to talk to her. I won't take long."
"She's out of the office, meeting with a client," she said defiantly. And then, before she could stop herself, her voice weakened. "Why can't you just let it go? Why are you still trying? She's happier now." Because she's with me, she wanted to say, but bit her tongue; she didn't want to make things worse for Grace. "She's moving on."
"I know. Believe me, I know. But I love her."
"So do I," she said under her breath, certain that he didn't hear her.
"I just…" He hesitated, and for a fleeting moment, Karen thought she had won. She thought he would back off, that he would leave her alone. She figured out that the incessant ring from Grace's cell phone was his doing; no one else was that desperate to get a hold of her. But she kept her mouth shut, knowing it would only put more stress on Grace, on their relationship. And Grace was still fully in this relationship, so she thought that she had nothing to worry about. This would be the moment he accepted defeat. But then… "Look, will you just tell her that I'm in New York? I got into Brooklyn two days ago. Tell her that I want to talk this out. We deserve to talk this out."
In that instant, Karen lost all power in her to form a response. She hung up the phone and rushed out the door, headed towards the only person she knew who had the potential to protect her from herself.
"He's back in Brooklyn."
Will couldn't look at her for a moment after he responded, and let the low hum of activity outside of his office take control of the room. When he finally mustered the courage to look her in the eye, Karen looked fragile standing in the doorway, cracked, one small move away from shattering completely. "Will you at least sit down?" he asked gently. When she lowered herself in the chair across from him, he sighed. "He called me about an hour ago. He thought maybe she was here on her lunch hour. I told him I didn't know where she was, that he was probably wasting his time anyway, and that's when he told me to give her the message. I didn't know he was going to call her office, Kare. I'm so sorry. Honestly, I've been spending the time since then thinking of how I should tell you two."
She lowered her head, shifting her gaze down to her lap. Her voice was as small as a child's. "What am I supposed to do?" she asked.
The question killed Will; it was so small, so helpless, and maybe that's why it hurt so much to hear it come from Karen's lips. "I don't know if there's anything else you can do. Obviously, we have to tell her. Even if she doesn't want to see him, she needs to know that he's back in the States. And…" He didn't want to say it, because he knew she didn't want to hear it. But what good is pretending that reality isn't what it seems? "To be honest, they need to get together and talk, if only to confirm that it's over. She may be divorced in her mind, but she's not on paper. It's best to resolve it now and get it over with, so that she can break her ties with him once and for all."
"But what if she leaves me? What if she sees him after a summer apart and decides that she can overlook what happened in Cambodia? What if she decides to stay with him?"
Will leaned on his desk. "Karen, she's not going to do that."
"She did it last time, Will. There's something about him that she wants, something that she can't find in me. I don't know what it is, but it's not like I can change the way she feels. I can only walk away and pretend to move on. I know how this works. I've got experience. I just…I just don't want it to end."
Karen stood up like she was getting ready to leave. The truth was, she couldn't just sit there and let things slip away, but she had no idea what she could do to stop it, and became lost in her mind. So she stood there, in front of Will, waiting for something, anything, good or bad, because she knew that she had no control over any of it. And she hated that. God, how she hated it. She was so used to having everything go her way, to having the power to make things happen for her benefit, for her protection. But it was different now. She was in love with Grace, an occurrence she could not control as it happened. It was foolish of her to think she could control everything that came after.
When she came back to reality, she saw Will standing beside her, felt his hand on her shoulder. "I can't tell you what she's going to do," he said slowly. "But I can tell you that I've seen her with him, and I've seen her with you. I've seen how you are with her, and I want Grace to make the right decision. I want her to stay with you. But we have to tell her. It's wrong of us to keep it from her."
"Just give me one more night. Tomorrow, you can tell her everything, but please. Let me have tonight." Will nodded and drew her into his arms. It felt like he was only postponing the inevitable; he knew that nothing good will come from Leo's return—even if it's only a temporary effect, or if it sets Karen and Grace back a bit to have to push through the storm of divorce proceedings—but at the same time, he was Grace's husband. No matter what had happened this summer, or what Leo had done to set off this chain of events, they were still bound by a vow, even if it was on its last leg. But that didn't mean that he couldn't give Karen one night before everything turned sour. He wished he could give so much more, but this, this was a start.
It was the least he could do.