That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained 10 pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
That I would be loved even when I’m not myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clinging
That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good whether with or without you
That I Would Be Good – Alanis Morissette
Three Weeks After Aspen
“Kate, can you tell me what you were feeling in that moment before you said yes to Elliot?” When it comes to waiting out answers John Flynn is an expert so there is no point in holding back. My mind travels back to that night in Aspen.
“Stunned, I was stunned.” My voice is quiet but he hears everything.
“Yet you both have said in this office that marriage is a definite outcome. Why stunned? Didn’t you expect it?”
I pick at a stray thread on my skirt. Why was I so surprised?
“I had been angry with him. We fought that afternoon and I thought we were barely speaking to each other.”
“Is this unusual? The fighting?”
“Then what was different about this fight?”
“Nothing. Everything. He was acting out of character, even for him. I couldn’t understand it after the conversation we had with Grace. I thought we would start moving forward together but in that week before he proposed it seemed like we were moving further apart.”
John pauses to write something on his screen. “What happens when you feel like that? What do you do?”
“I get defensive I guess.”
“Did you consider leaving Elliot?” Yes. And even the sound of that word in my head feels like betrayal.
“I would rather dump someone than be dumped. It’s just the way I am.” I shrug as though I don’t care but he sees through this.
“Does this reaction happen every time?”
“Most, I guess.” Every time. I know I do it.
“How do you think Elliot perceives that?” My eyes shoot to his for a moment and then I look away feeling guilty.
“I don’t know. I guess he expects it.”
“What do you mean?”
“He always pulls me back.” Admitting this out loud makes me feel sheepish. I have come to expect that Elliot will fight for me as much as with me. Is that fair? As if he is reading my mind, John continues.
“How do you think he feels if you always have one foot out the door?” I would like to say I hadn’t thought of it like that but I have. I always knew that it was a protection mechanism but I never thought about what it might feel like for Elliot. John seems to see that I have registered this thought and moves on.
“I don’t want to be hurt the way my father hurt my mother.”
“That is too simplistic Kate. You don’t live in the past. It isn’t your style.” I could learn to hate John Flynn. I wonder, not for the first time, how it is that he has lasted so long working with Christian.
“So go back to that night. What happened in those moments between his proposal and your acceptance.” I’m not used to this. John is so focused on goals and visualization that stepping backwards seems odd.
Right in that moment the rest of the world is a blur. There is only Elliot on his knees in front of me and he is asking me to marry him. He promised we would be together forever, and I have never really doubted his conviction. But there have been so many moments when I wondered if the shine had dulled. If the girl he fell in love with in Portland wasn’t buried under the weight of a life that seemed determined to kick her around. I don’t know if that girl even exists any more. The one who thought that the worst thing in her world was to be too pretty. I’m sure she doesn’t because I am not sure I would like her if I met her on the street.
“What are you feeling?” John prods.
“Everything. Stunned, scared, happy, in love.”
“I know there are things that we haven’t resolved. I worry that I can’t give him what he wants, be what he needs.”
“And what is that Kate?”
“A mother for his children. I still don’t know if I can do that again.”
“Because of the pain of the miscarriage?”
“Yes. I don’t want to feel that pain again. I would do anything to not feel that pain again.”
“Would you do something medical to stop it from happening?”
“I’m already on the pill.”
“Not what I meant. Something permanent.” This pulls me up short.
“I…no, I don’t think I would.” Would I?
“Because it’s so …I can’t take it back,” I whisper. “Because I want to be a mother. I don’t want to close that door. Because Elliot will make such a great Dad.”
“So you’re not sure?” I shake my head and the moment is punctuated by a poignant silence. Luckily he moves away from this subject.”You said you felt stunned, scared, happy, in love. What happens next?”
I step back in time.
Aspen 3 weeks earlier
All of the fears and so much more flash through my head before I say what I have wanted to say for weeks. A resounding ‘yes’. I try very hard not to let any of the doubt show on my face. No doubts, no reservations, not if he is prepared to ask. In moments I am in his arms, and I am sure that I hear applause from somewhere but I am in this moment with him.
The ring is exquisite. A deco design of structural simplicity and elegance. Timeless like his buildings and I know that he has designed this himself. It would be so like him. Which means he has been planning this for a while, knowing all the while that I might never want to have children but not caring and I know I could not love him more.
We move from the restaurant to a nightclub which is fun but I know he wants to get me home to really celebrate and I can’t wait to get there. From the moment that guy touched Ana on the dance floor I knew the night would most likely be over. Christian would not let that go without a reaction and sure enough we are leaving before we get kicked out of the club.
Back at the house Elliot hustles me straight inside, hardly stopping to say goodnight as we race to our room. Slamming the door he pushes me up against the wall and thrusts his tongue into my mouth. My arms are pinned to the wall above me while his hips have me locked. All I can do is slide my leg up and around his waist while we grind together.
Our clothes come off in a flurry of material as our hands and mouths move ceaselessly over each others bodies. It is only when I divest him of his briefs that I see the massive bruise on his ass cheek. I pull back and look.
“Elliot, what the fuck happened?” My fingers touch gingerly and he winces. The massive angry purple bruise covers most of his right ass cheek.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me.” Cos right now I can’t imagine how you got this and it wasn’t there last night.
“It was Jose the fucking gay goat.” He grimaces at some memory that he isn’t quite sharing with me.
“What? A goat called Jose?” WTF?
“Yeah, well that is what I nicknamed him.” And then he proceeds to tell me the story.
“You named a goat, a gay goat no less, after one of my dearest friends.” Elliot looks contrite.
“It was a Mexican standoff and I dunno, it was the first name that popped into my head.” I can’t help but laugh at him now as he gives me a sulky pout. “Don’t laugh at me. It fucking hurt. And then I made it worse by riding that fucking trail bike with the dodgy fucking suspension. By the time I had raced your brother back over the rockiest damn terrain in the country I thought my ass cheek was going to fucking fall off. And that was your fault because you wouldn’t talk to me this afternoon.”
By this time I am roaring with laughter, tears rolling down my cheeks as I howl. My stomach hurts just thinking about Elliot taking on the goat and while I feel a little bit bad about locking him out of the bedroom this afternoon I figure that was his fault for being such an ass. He rolls over gingerly onto his back and smiles up at me and that is when I notice his knee, which looks worse than his ass and I stop laughing instantly.
“Jesus, Elliot, your knee is the size of a football.” He glances down and sees that sure enough his knee is also purple and swollen.
“Yeah well that is a combination of you and Jose. I was so nervous proposing I think I overdid it.”
I start giggling again. “You poor old man. The body isn’t holding up like it used to huh? Shall I go and get you a walking frame?”
He launches the pillow at me and I stand up still laughing and put on a robe. “I’ll be back in a moment. Don’t go anywhere.” He lays back on the bed flushed with embarrassment.
A while later, with the help of Mrs Bentley, I am back in the room with painkillers, arnica cream and a cold compress. I strap his knee first then help him to roll over so I can rub the cream on his bruise. Before long this turns into some kind of kinky medicinal massage and he is on his back again with me straddling him, sliding my pussy over his long hard cock. This slow gentle lovemaking leads to the most gloriously long and intense orgasm and looking at him as we both come I know I am going to love doing this for the rest of our lives.
“You laugh a lot with Elliot.” The soft statement makes me smile.
“Yes,it is something that I love about him. Part of his charm.”
“Sounds like he becomes the center of his own comedy. The butt of the joke, pun intended.” I am not quite sure where John is going with this but playing along with keep the focus off me for a moment.
“Yes, for someone who is so graceful and perfect, he does tend to get himself into some strange situations.”
“Perfect, interesting way to describe him. Is he afraid of making mistakes?”
“No. He tends to throw himself into things. Tries anything. Always wants to make people laugh at him or at themselves.”
“Does he dwell on the mistakes?” No, not my Elliot. Even after all of the problems that life has thrown at him, he remains remarkably upbeat. I shake my head. “Is he perfect?”
No, but he is perfect for me. “Is anyone?”
John raises an eyebrow and peers at me. “Yet, you expect perfection of yourself. Does Elliot expect you to be perfect?”
Once more I am shaking my head. “I don’t think so.”
“Do you expect it from yourself?”
“I have high standards for myself. I’ve always been called a high achiever but I work hard for that. I always have.” I don’t know why I am defending myself.
“So when your body let you down. When it wouldn’t allow you to carry to term, what did you feel?”
I am stunned. The silence hangs in the air around us as I take in the implication of his question. Is that behind my fear? The feeling that I am somehow less than perfect? That I might not be good enough to be a mother? Or a wife? Yet, Elliot has seen me at my worst, he has never judged me. Why do I keep judging myself and coming up short? I have never been afraid of anything but now I wonder if I am not afraid of the most important aspects of my life. My eyes are focused on my hands twisting in knots on my lap.
“Kate, do you expect perfection from this marriage? Do you expect perfection from Elliot?” Quickly, I look up.
“No, of course not?”
But I expect it from myself and that expectation has been stopping me from healing.
A few days earlier
We get the news that Ana’s stepfather, Ray, has been in an accident and is in ICU at Portland Hospital. Luckily he comes out of his self induced coma quickly but it means that we all end up flying into Portland to surprise Ana for her birthday.
“Do you think this family will ever get through a week without some major drama?” Elliot is dressing for dinner in our room at the Heathman. I walk up behind him and wrap my arms around his waist.
“I don’t think you would be the Grey’s without the drama. I could fill a book with stories about this family.” He freezes and I know what he is thinking. “But I wouldn’t. I’m not that stupid and I am not disloyal.” I feel him relax underneath my fingers.
“I know, babe, but I know how scary good you are at writing and I know you could do it. And it would be good.”
“Yeah, sensational. But not in this lifetime. Trust me.” I smile.
“I do. I really do.” He pulls me into his arms properly and gives me such a deep and moving kiss that I am wondering if we will ever make this dinner. And that seems to be the way of things at the moment. We don’t seem to have any problems reading each other or communicating. The sex is amazing. Earth-shattering. I don’t know why, but I feel like something is going to burst our bubble and for the life of me I can’t put my finger on what. Jack Hyde is in custody which can only be a good thing. Carrick has all but shut Linc down through his lawyers but there is something in the air, there always is.
“You’re thinking again. Are you going to tell me?” His chin is resting on my head as he holds me close.
“I don’t know. I just have this weird kind of premonition that something bad is about to happen. It bugs me that Linc was so quick to back off without a fight. Not that I wanted you to go to court but it all seemed a little easy.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. But listen, if Dad had gotten a whiff of anything he would have told us. There is no way he would allow us to fly blind. Not after everything that has happened.” I know he is right but maybe what we are dealing with goes beyond the vendetta Linc has had against Elliot and James.
The dinner, held in a private room at the Heathman is a success given the circumstances. The nice part for me is catching up with Jose for the first time in weeks.
“Why is it that every time I see you we are in the middle of a family crisis?” I laugh as I hug him trying to lighten his mood. The last time I saw him was at Escala when Christian was missing.
“Yeah, I’m starting to think I am jinxing Ana.” He smiles but with a touch of sadness.
“Don’t even go there. This was not your fault any more than Charlie Tango. In fact, I think you are probably helping Ana in many ways by being here in a crisis. We all need friends at times like these. Christian comes up behind me.
“We certainly do. Anastasia appreciates you being here Jose, as do I.” This seems somewhat unexpected but Christian almost seems genuine if somewhat formal.
“Hey man, I need to tell you about this goat in Aspen.” Elliot throws an arm around my shoulder and pecks me on the cheek, handing me a drink. “His name was Jose too.”
Jose looks confused and I elbow Elliot in the stomach. “Only cos you nicknamed him that.” Elliot doubles over.
“Hey, I meant to say congrats you guys. When is the big day?” Jose smoothly changes the subject. Seems he doesn’t want to hear any of Elliot’s stupid goat stories either. Christian and Elliot move off to the other side of the room to talk with Carrick. I turn back to Jose feeling a little shy about what I am about to ask of him.
“We’re thinking about next year, maybe June. It will be small, just immediate family and close friends. That includes you.” He smiles.
“Yeah, well I was kinda hoping….” I look at him through my lashes. Seems kind of awkward to ask him to come to the wedding, oh and by the way can you be the official photographer.
Luckily he catches my drift straight away. “It would be an honor. Think of it as my wedding present.” I throw my arms around him and squeeze.
“Thank you, thank you.” I kiss his cheek and then the waiters arrive so we move to take our seats for the meal.
“You two are going to have beautiful babies. Do I get to do the first baby photos as well?” Jose’s grin is wide but falters when he sees the look on my face. I turn my back and walk to the opposite end of the table.
Sure enough, not long after we returned from Portland, Christian calls us with the news that Jack Hyde has been released on bail. He steps up security on all of his family which extends to the Kavanaghs. Nobody knows what Hyde will do which is terrifying given how pissed Linc must be since Carrick shut down his court case. I shudder at the thought before John’s voice cuts across my thoughts again.
“Has your body ever let you down before?” I mull this one over. It isn’t something that I like to talk about.
“Once or twice.” I shrug in a non-committal way.
“Your Olympic trials?”
“I never made the trials.”
“Simple really. I got injured. I couldn’t recover in time to compete.”
“So you missed the trials because of an injury?” He is flicking through some notes on his iPad and I know what he has in front of him.
“No, I recovered physically. I just didn’t want it any more.” John looks directly at me without saying anything in that kind of ‘don’t bullshit me’ English way. “Alright. I got scared. Physically I was fine but I couldn’t control the fear that I would hurt myself again.”
“So you chose not to compete?”
“Yes. But I don’t regret that decision. You can’t be scared on a 10 meter high board. It doesn’t work.”
“Yet you weren’t scared to perform the aerial routine with Elliot after a few days of rehearsal.” No, I wasn’t scared of that. I didn’t feel that I was on the line with that. I was doing it for Elliot not for me. Shit. “Are you scared in your career?”
“I…look I have always been Sam Kavanagh’s daughter. Both he and my mother have stellar reputations for what they do. It isn’t easy living up to that.”
“Is that what they expect?”
“No but it is what everyone else expects.” Again, he holds my gaze. “Okay, it is what I think they expect.”
“So you were happy to push yourself as a student editor but you don’t want to push at Kavanagh Media? Is that why you have hesitated about moving on from the About Town team?” Yes, I am still working for both teams, trying not to let either down. Anabel wants my undivided attention, Jeannie is reluctant to let me leave. I am torn.
“How do you feel about being in the media when you are about to marry into the Grey family?” This is my Achilles heel. I know they don’t trust me completely. Christian and I have at best reached an understanding. As for Carrick, well I am not sure it is in his nature to truly trust anyone in the media.
“It is daunting but the family comes first. It always will.”
“Do you expect that you will be a perfect wife and have the perfect career?”
“Doesn’t every woman? My mother does it, my friends are all aiming for it. Why shouldn’t I?”
“If you are less than perfect what will you walk away from?” Oh God, would I walk away from Elliot if I can’t get it right? I won’t give up my career, it is all I have wanted since I was a child. But kids? A husband? Haven’t I always wanted that too?
“Your parents marriage wasn’t perfect.” A statement again, not a question.
“Did you feel any less loved by either of them? Any less supported?”
“Yes, from time to time. They were preoccupied with their pain. It was understandable. They made up for it in other ways.” Don’t criticize my parents John, they are good people.
“Do you expect that you or Elliot will cheat?” The million dollar question. When I first met Elliot I would have said yes. Now I don’t see that as a possibility at all. He has shown me again and again that this is different for him.
“No, not now, not after all we have been through.”
John glances at his watch in that time-honored tradition of stating without words that our time is up. “We can continue this next week.”
“Thank you John. I didn’t like where you were taking this but I think I get it.”
“What do you get Kate? What is it that you want from this marriage?”
“I already have it, with or without the marriage certificate. I’m still not sure about what happens next.”
“Ah, only you can answer that and it comes down to what you really want. You hold back your emotions in here Kate. You are very contained, controlled, the model patient.” What the hell does he mean by that? “If that ever changes, I want you to call me.”
Looking down he takes my hands and turns them so that my palms are facing up. It is then that I see the red welts in my skin where my fingernails have been digging in. A few more minutes of this session and I might have drawn blood and I didn’t feel a thing.
“As to that other matter Kate. I have written a letter for you to give them. I hope it helps with your campaign.” Ah, my little pet project. The one I am keeping secret from Elliot.
“Thank you John. I appreciate that.”
When I arrive back the apartment Mia and Elliot are cooking and singing in the kitchen. Ethan is pouring red wine and hands me a glass as I approach the dining table. There are eight places set and candles in the center of the table. Everyone is in high spirits.
“What’s going on? Since when did we decide we were having a dinner party?” I take a sip of wine.
“Hey baby. Our folks are coming over.” The intercom buzzer sounds. “In fact, I bet that’s them now.” Elliot moves past me giving me a quick peck. He lets both my parents and his inside the apartment.
“You timed your arrival well?” I give my mother a hug before greeting Grace with a kiss on the cheek.
“We drove over together. Seemed silly to bring two cars.” My mother is beaming which is kind of freaking me out. “Oh darling relax. We missed out on the fun in Aspen. Elliot just wanted to make up for us not being there.”
Elliot’s arms wrap around me from behind and he kisses my ear. “I hope you don’t mind babe.”
Before I can respond Mia announces that the first course is ready. Later in the evening Ethan, Carrick and I are cleaning up in the kitchen while the others have coffee. I think that Carrick wanted to escape Mia who has done nothing but complain about the extra security that Christian has imposed on all of us since Jack Hyde was bailed. Carrick seems to want to keep the peace by acquiescing to her whim which surprises me. I love Mia, she is so much fun, but I don’t think my Dad would ever let me get away with talking to him the way she talks Carrick.
“How are your plans going Kate?” Carrick asks in a quiet murmur so that the others can’t hear.
“We’re on track. I have everything together, including the recordings and latest publications. There is a stack of evidence so I think it should go well. I have a meeting with them tomorrow.”
“Kate, I want you to know how much we appreciate what you are doing.” He places an arm around my shoulders and gives me a squeeze. I think back to that day in the garden at Bellevue and I wonder if I have misjudged Carrick Grey.