Brand New Day - Brand New Space
Today, Kate was moving into her new apartment/condo. Surprisingly, even though San Francisco was a busy, popular and fairly expensive housing market, her first competitively priced bid was accepted immediately – no counter offer. Ben told her "his guy" just wanted to sell quickly because he needed a quick turn-around in order to make another investment and she was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It was a fast, easy transaction and Kate actually got a good deal in a great area. Three days earlier, "that day", was awful, but it was what compelled Kate to finally commit to buying her own place – not just renting one. It had been three days since Kate and Justin broke up for the last (and final) time. "That day" they had looked at apartments together, not agreeing on anything, and that night they ended their relationship for good. Justin made it clear he wasn't willing to try again, ever, if Kate wasn't ready to move in and start a new life together - right there – right then.
Their last conversation was open and emotionally demanding, leaving them both feeling drained. Kate was honest when she told Justin, "I've been fighting this feeling and I keep hoping that this is going to feel right, again, somehow…." Exasperated, Justin cut her off, saying "It does feel right! We're not who we used to be. Don't do this!" Plaintive, tears welling up in her eyes, Kate tried to explain, "I know you think I'm running away, but…." Justin cut her off again saying in frustration, "Yeah, because you are Kate - I knew you would get scared!" Kate gained her composure and assured him, "I'm not scared!" Standing directly in front of him, gazing intently, unflinchingly, into his eyes, she implored, almost whispering as her voice caught in her throat, "Justin, I know we're good for each other, but I don't think we are meant to be together."
They said a little more that night and Justin implied Kate was running after "someone else" but finally, Justin just shook his head and looking defeated and tired, he gave her a final ultimatum, "If you walk out that door Kate that is it. Okay? It is over." Kate told him how much she loved him and then did just that. She walked out of his apartment – and out of his life. It felt bad to do it but it also felt right. "It was right", Kate kept telling herself when she remembered every painful detail from that seemingly endless night. "It is right. I'm right about this," she thought.
Kate had had a bad feeling about getting back together with Justin almost immediately. In fact, she slept with Justin so that she had a reason to stand up Ben for their date. She knew it was wrong and juvenile and probably even irresponsible. "For God's sake - why do I do these things?" Kate asked herself. Leo told her she had a tendency to "blow things up that she shouldn't". Wise, wise, Leo. Kate loved Leo but his wisdom and insight into her inner workings could be a little unnerving at times. He knew her motives sometimes even before she did. "I'm going to give him a Yoda t-shirt", she thought, "He deserves it."
Kate knew her night with Justin had "self-sabotage" written all over it. But that night, when she was already over an hour late and Ben sent her a text telling her, "It's just dinner Katie", she went into full panic mode and threw herself at Justin. She spent most of the night with him, burying her guilt and her feelings for Ben by having sex with Justin. It wasn't fair to either of them of course, but her motives crisscrossed because her emotions were so conflicted. Not an excuse per se, but it was definitely the uncomfortable truth of the situation. Kate's feelings for Ben had been slowing "sneaking up" on her and she wasn't ready for them. They were too much – too strong – too uncontrollable. Justin was a return to "safe harbor" but what she really sought was a whole new adventure – a trip out to sea – to find a new place where she hadn't been before – a new horizon to wake up to on a new day. Ben could be that for her. But Kate couldn't bring herself to commit to anything with Ben, and she wondered if it was even still possible.
Ben had been pretty upset after their time in Lake Tahoe. He didn't usually reveal too much of his personal feelings – Kate had only seen him kind of vulnerable a few times, but when he was, it really touched her to see such a soft, sweet side of him. At the same time though, Kate couldn't help but wonder if it was partly an act, because Ben was so masterful at getting what he wanted by arguing and strategizing until things finally went his way. He was relentless and clever and 99% of the time, successful in his pursuits. On their last night in Tahoe, after an emotionally challenging day when they solved the mysterious, tragic death of the teenage girl and Ben won the case for his wealthy casino owner, maybe Ben felt he had nothing to lose. Because that last night, Ben was open and honest and direct about his feelings for Kate.
He told Kate that she only ran back to Justin because Justin was safe (for her), but she did it really just to avoid her true feelings - for him. Ben said he knew she cared about him just like he cared about her. He said, "You don't have to be 17 to fall in love, you just have to be brave", but that she "didn't have the guts to dive in". Ben gave her a chance to kiss him, waiting for her to make a move, but she didn't – she couldn't. Obviously disappointed, he walked away from her. Later on, Ben had even given Kate the heart-shaped rock he found in the mountains, a symbol of true love from where the doomed young couple left their marriage vow carved in a tree. Kate kept the rock and looked at it often, when no one was around to see her. It always made her feel better in a strange way, but it was also uncomfortable – her strong, conflicted feelings for Benedict Yancy Grogan in a heart-shaped rock - staring right back at her.
Lately though, for some reason, Ben seemed to have put most of his hurt feelings aside and was much like his old self. Teasing her, bossing her around, insinuating himself into her mediations without being asked, really just being his former, somewhat obnoxious self – charming and challenging all at once. Kate found him curiously irresistible because she was simultaneously attracted to him and annoyed by him. It was like she half expected him to graciously hold a door open for her and then pull her hair as she walked by him. In fact, it wouldn't surprise her one bit if he did something like that.
So, here she was, settling into her new apartment – the one she loved on sight and Justin didn't. It had old world charm (she could hear Justin saying, "it's a really old building, Kate") – a small terrace with a nice view of the city and the Bay. Quaint but updated with a modern kitchen and sleek, blond hardwood floors. The walls were painted a soothing, warm, buttery yellow. It reminded Kate of yellow cake batter, which she liked to eat raw (Kate smiled thinking about how Lauren was absolutely appalled when she saw Kate eating raw batter one weekend. "Kate! The batter has raw eggs in it; you could get really sick from that!"). The apartment listing came from Leo via "one of Grogan's guys", which made her uncomfortable at first, but then she decided it was perfect for her after all, so what did it matter where it came from?
Some cheap, random furniture and decorations were still scattered around the place, leftover from the last tenant. An orange, plastic chair shaped like a hand, the one Justin said looked like it was from the movie "A Clockwork Orange" (in that odd/mod 60's style). A bright mustard yellow floor lamp was by the front door. Cartoonish, wide-mouthed, neon-green ceramic fish hung on the wall in the kitchen. It was a sharp contrast between the quirky, cheesy decorations and the charming, classical form and structure of the apartment. Kate had brought a few boxes along with the house-warming gift from Justin with her. She set up her record player and put on one of her (current) favorite songs, "Happy Pills" by Norah Jones. As she unwrapped Justin's present, Norah's rich dulcimer tones filled the apartment-
"Trying to pick up the pace, trying to make it so I never see your face again.
Time to throw this away. Wanna make sure that you never waste my time again."
As she listened to the music, Kate uncorked a bottle of wine, poured herself a full glass and sat down to read the card Justice sent with his gift. She cringed looking at the gift. It was a really lovely 2-piece painting of angel wings. It would have been Justin's welcome gift for their shared apartment – but now it was for her own place after their break-up. Justin was such a decent guy – it made her feel guilty just thinking about how hurt he was the night they broke up – the night she broke up with him. Even though she realized now it was inevitable, it was hard to let him go - sweet, lovable, dependable Justin. The card read: "Courage is an angel. Love, J."
"How does it feel? Oh, how does it feel to be you right now dear?
You broke this apart, so pick up your piece and go away from here."
Kate thought she might cry and laugh at how nostalgic and sad and yet happy and free she felt at that moment. She thought of their break-up night. Justin thought she was just scared and "running" like she had done before. Kate knew this was different, because she was different. He was right about that, they were different people, but that didn't make them people who belonged together. She was choosing to be single and independent. A single adult with her own life. Getting her own apartment was step one. She didn't know for certain what the other steps were yet, but she knew they would come to her and she would take them one-by-one when she was ready.
She glanced at the French doors to the terrace and saw the light was beginning to fade a little as the sun set. Kate got up, bringing her wine with her to enjoy her first sunset on the terrace. She walked out and smiled as she looked at her view of the city and the Bay. It was beautiful. The sky was streaked in gold and pink and the breeze carried the smell of salt in the air, rolling over her, welcoming her to her new home by the sea. Her heart felt light and she knew everything would work out for the best. Justin would forgive her. They would move on but they would be friends. Go to each other's weddings. Support each other whenever they could. Things would resolve some way, somehow with Ben, but she didn't have to worry about that right now. Right now she had a new start, in her new place. The music was still playing and she thought how beautiful the words were – how they suited the moment so perfectly -
"Please just let me go now. Please just let me go.
Would you please just let me go now? Please just let me go."
"Yes, let me go," Kate thought, "I need to let go now."
"Hey", a familiar voice said to her left. Kate knew instantly who it was. He worked tenaciously and usually got what he wanted. Kate turned and faced Ben, a look of disbelief combined with a range of other very, very conflicted feelings showed on her face. Ben, on the other hand, looked satisfied and happy. Half-smiling, he said simply, "Neighbor."
"Benedict," Kate said, without smiling, in a somewhat accusatory tone, "are you the 'guy' who owns this building"? She already knew the answer. Or at least she was pretty sure she knew the answer, given the circumstances of how she "found" the place and how quickly the offer was accepted, but Kate wanted confirmation.
"You got a great deal Katie, in a tough economy, what does it matter if I own it or not?" Ben asked sweetly.
"It matters to me. Benedict. Yancy. Grogan. I'd like to know what I have gotten myself into." Kate said with a slightly pissed off tone, not taking her eyes off of Ben, who continued to look at her with a happy, satisfied grin.
"Okay, fair enough," Ben conceded, toning down his grin so he could look and sound serious for the "perturbed" Kate in front of him. "You have gotten into a 15 year mortgage at a 4-1/2% fixed rate for a property that you paid 10% below the comparables in this truly lovely, desirable neighborhood for urban professionals." Ben concluded, matter-of-factly.
Kate shook her head, looked up at the sky and said, "I was just feeling so, so happy and now I don't know what to feel," she said, a little deflated.
Ben looked concerned. "Come on Katie, it wasn't a trick," he said softly. "I wanted to help you out. I know your taste. I was absolutely certain you would love it here. The building is beautiful. It's very well maintained and it's refurbished inside and out. The neighborhood is safe and the views are fabulous. Your apartment is on the best side – of course – the same as mine. It's also not too far from the office. I didn't know you and Justin would break up and that you would buy it for yourself, but I have to say I think that's the best thing for you. Not just because I feel the way I do, but because I know that you want to start a new life for yourself. Welcome to the first step of your new life."
Kate walked over to the railing. Ben walked over to where Kate stood so they were just inches apart. She looked at him for a moment trying to decide how she felt. He kept her gaze and didn't say anything, waiting for her to sort things out. She reached up and put her hand on his cheek, cupping her hand under his chin. He gently took her hand in his and kissed it – never taking his eyes off of Kate's. Kate sighed and said, "Do you have anything to eat at your place? I'm starving." Ben smiled. "Come on over, we can order take out – I know all the best places around here. I'll fix you a drink while we wait. I have furniture and everything." Kate shook her head and smiled. "Okay, it's a date."