Chapter twenty-one – A Summer Song

There was a new light in Grace's eyes – some sort of a shade that would have been drawn by pain if not disillusions – but instead of dragging down her gaze, it actually added something to it. Like a note of seriousness that would have been quietly needed and it suited her very well. A waiter brought both of their coffees before going away again with a delicate subtlety that only high standard places offered.

Following an implicit conventionalism, none of them said a word until they happened to be alone.

"It isn't as if nothing would have happened but still. I have thought about it – talked to Will, and you. I am ready to turn the page and start it all over again if only I can trust you. But I have to let you know... That it won't be easy. It might take time, Karen. A lot of time."

It couldn't have been clearer or more expeditious. At least Grace had the credits to not have tortured her with what-ifs and maybes. It sounded too perfect though – too easy.

"Jack doesn't even know about it. Stanley either, I suppose. You should consider it as a chance and only see what happened as... A summer fling."

Except it had nothing to do with a crush – a last-minute thing. Instead, it had taken years of lies – years of untold feelings. The scheme was completely different and thus set of another kind of story. The night before, Stanley had stopped by the library where she had been reading.

I love you, Karen

It hadn't sounded true but had nonetheless touched her more than expected – perhaps for it belonging to an old impulsiveness. Emanating from the fear she might have been about to leave. A sort of sixth sense that would have oppressed Stanley. She had smiled in return but kept any word for herself. Because she had nothing to say – nothing to add.

"I will overcome it. Will and I will overcome it – as we have done for Diane. And... I don't know. It has to be very stupid from me but I don't want to lose you as a friend. I need you by my side, Karen. Even though you... In spite of it."

Grace still had a hard time putting words on the affair. She hadn't turned the page at all – not yet. Sure it would occur at some point but for the moment it kept on hurting deep inside. Just as Karen kept on feeling bad and confused. But not guilty. On the contrary, she felt like she was a victim – of her own sentiments.

"Will agrees. He assured me that I could have his trust. Now I just need yours and we won't have to talk about it ever again. I wouldn't be here now if you weren't important for me, Karen. I wouldn't..."

Her coffee was sweet – too sweet. As she realized it, she made a face and put down the cup back on the table. She never added sugar to it – couldn't stand it. Troubled by the taste the sip had left on her mouth she turned her head around and frowned at nothing in particular until Grace's words found an echo in a couple of daydreams she was having.

"Life is cyclical. Perhaps it is time for us to go back to the beginning – to start it all over again."

Cyclical. The adjective resounded loud in her head. An instinctive smile played on her lips and all of a sudden, she nodded at her friend. Slowly – carefully. Everything got repeated – at some point – at the most unexpected moment. Because it was how it worked and nobody could prevent it from happening.

"You are right, Gracie."

Her comment surprised Grace – not for the moment during which it came up but because Karen rarely said such a thing. She rarely recognized that someone could be right but her. She still did there, though.

"I am glad that you can recognize it. The truth is... If you have marital issues with Stanley, I am here to listen to you and perhaps help you. You aren't alone, Karen. You aren't stupid either. An affair is never the solution. Purely sexual encounters are... What are they at the end? The best way to feel lonely and not that safe."

Sexual encounters. Since her teenage years, she had barely lived anything else on that matter. Until the day she had met Will. And yet it had taken her so long to realize the veracity of her feelings.

"Do you mind if I have the afternoon off, honey? I need to do some shopping – for a charity event with Stanley."

She left the coffee shop – paying for both of their drinks, the two sweet coffees – with Grace's smile in her back. Her approbation to not go back to the office. Barely three days had passed by since the pool episode. What were three days in a life? Absolutely nothing, Karen thought as she turned at the corner of the street and hailed a cab.

As the streets of midtown Manhattan were speeding past in front of her eyes, Karen settled further on her seat and concentrated on the new beginning she had just accepted. Grace's so-called rules. A matter of words – it was like running on a thin layer of ice but still. Actually, it almost sounded exciting.

The car stopped in front of a tiny building in The West Village – a quiet street. She paid the fare and as a bright smile played on her lips, got out of the cab only to push the doors of the two-story place. A new beginning could mean so many things... But it didn't necessarily imply that Grace had to win.

Nodding politely at the man at the reception, she took the stairs up to the first floor – her steps stifled on the carpeted corridor.

She would renounce to the idea of leaving Stanley. After all he had money and she needed it.

She would renounce to the idea of living with Will. After all she wasn't sure about his feelings.

She would renounce to Miss_K but...

She would get a new account, with a new name on it. Just like him.

She would go back to Taste, grab his hand after having kissed Sophie.

She would smile in his kiss and shiver against his naked body. Quietly.

With more subtlety – carefully – and anonymously.

She entered the room and closed the door behind her – dropped out her stilettos, bit her lower lip as she went for Will who was standing by the window. His eyes locked with hers. They kissed – eagerly.

In a word, Karen would renounce to a lot but certainly not to every single thing.

A new beginning – with new rules. And yet this old impossibility to ever renounce completely to the most important in this story: Will.

Because no, it wasn't a mere summer fling.

Soft kisses on a summer day

Laughing all our cares away

Just you and I

A Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy