Very Rich and Very Famous, Part 2

Evelyn

Peter Edgar, Jr.

          The weekend had begun awkwardly. How could it not? There were nerves on Peter’s side. There were nerves on Fran’s. Only the intervention of Eve, via Fran’s decision to hand her to Eve could have made things work, however inadequately. But somehow it did. For her part, the most affect was Amy. She had long been at odds with Eve’s mother Fran but the simple act of holding the little baby girl changed her.

          Now she and Bridget were staying at the house in East Hampton after everyone left, and she was noticeably and unusually quiet. Bridget saw how her friend reacted to Eve and gave her room to process things. On Thursday, the day after Peter came out, Bridget said she needed to get some things from home and borrowed Peter’s car to drive to the City, saying she’d be back in the morning. They could use the time alone.

          It felt strange to both Amy and Peter to simply be alone together at the house. There were usually others with them. They’d almost forgotten how much pleasure this simple thing gave them. At around noon, as they sat on the deck and after an extended silence Amy said, “I want a baby.” Peter was not surprised, seeing how she reacted to Eve. Appreciating his own reaction to Eve and how much he loved Amy, he said simply, “So do I.”

          They reached and their hands touched and they exchanged “I love you”s. She got up. As she headed into the house, she called to him, “how about now?”

          He followed her to the master. They kissed as they stood next to the bed, amid more “I love you”s.

          “Let’s make a baby.” Amy said it as she pulled her top over her head and undid her bra, both tossed to the floor, quickly followed by her shorts and panties. He was racing her and it was a photo-finish as to who was naked first. It was a unique combination of the playful and the serious.

          Amy was on her back. Peter felt her pussy, and it was damp. He rubbed up and down with his fingers, all the time staring into his wife’s eyes, and it—she—was wet. Her right hand was not idle; it stroked the underside of his dick. Silently he pulled his hand away and she pulled hers away. He lowered himself and she guided him into her. This would be the first time it was done without a condom. He entered slowly, steadily, their eyes remaining locked. Then her eyes snapped shut with the enormity of what they were doing.

          Her hands grabbed his ass, an ass she’d long admired, wanting to feel his shoves in-and-out. It didn’t take long for Peter, being for the first time uncovered while in his wife. He burst into her, sending several threads inside her. As he did, she felt the onset of her own orgasm. It was deeper than any she’d felt before. Feeling this man’s seed in her. She controlled her tears.

          When they were done and lying on their backs next to one another, a sheet pulled over them against a sudden chill, she confessed.

          “I figured this is the time of month to make our baby.”

          “I’m glad.”

          Still lying together, Amy suddenly heard snoring. Peter was asleep, his right foot flat on the sheet so his knee was in the air. She reached her hand to her stomach. Holding it there, she did something she had not done for decades. She prayed. She didn’t know if she believed in god, or at least the god she was exposed to growing up—hence their not getting married in a church—but for this she was not taking chances. She prayed.

          The baby-thing put their love-making into a whole new light. It interjected a spontaneity that neither dared experience. Now all-bets-were-off and they were like randy lovers, always ready to make love or fuck or do any number of things in between when alone. Bridget noticed the difference, and started skipping weekends out at the house or spending nights up in her place in Woodlawn instead of at the apartment.

          Amy’s prayers were answered. At least in theory. Shortly after she missed her period, a test confirmed it. They told only a few. The only non-family member was Bridget.

The Foundation

          It was Amy’s idea. Shortly after the weekend in East Hampton where Eve was passed around and everyone fell in love with her, and after she and Peter decided to have a child, Amy suggested that Peter might find some useful uses for his money. The Peter and Amy Edgar Foundation was the result. At first Bridget didn’t want the job of running it but she relented. After poaching talent from a few other New York non-profits—somewhat amicably—Bridget Casey was named the executive director of the Foundation, with an office in Rockefeller Center. The Foundation’s purpose was to make grants to small firms and institutions doing pediatric-oncology research. Bridget’s years as a children’s cancer nurse eased her transition to the business side. Plus she was good at the business side.

Fran in Purchase, New York

          Fran, too, was affected by that weekend at the house. She was surprised by how much she enjoyed being there. It wasn’t just the house. It was the life. The people. Sure, there was more than a little of residual resentment towards her, but Eve had provided a bridge and even Amy softened to Fran after she held the small girl. The contrast to home grew on her.

          Located north of the City, Purchase, New York is among the wealthiest communities in the State. It is home to two colleges, the State University of New York, College at Purchase, and Manhattanville College, where Amy got her MFA.

          It’s also where Fran bought her house. But it couldn’t last. Her five-bedroom, 5,231 sq. ft., newly-built house on a one-acre lot on a dead end—”cul de sac” at these prices. She had a blue Porsche SUV and a red Mercedes two-seat convertible in the driveway. She met none of her neighbors; even when she took Eve out in the stroller no one bothered to speak to her, the only people in sight the guys mowing lawns and trimming hedges. The FedEx and UPS drivers.

          Fran spent time in the nearby PepsiCo Sculpture Garden and in the high-end mall in nearby White Plains. Still, the only people who spoke to her were salesclerks and those inquiring about Eve.

          She took comfort in her ever-expanding stock of sex toys, which she didn’t think her mother knew about, although Jane had one or two favorites among them. The toys and porn were her sole respite from the time—which she loved more than anything—with Eve. Even with the crying or sick Eve. She had gotten back on the pill. She sought to renew old friendships. Some, even some now-married ones, were receptive although it never got past sexting. Except with one single-but-engaged oncologist who lived a few towns away. On two or three Saturdays, she told her mother she was meeting an “old nursing friend I ran into” and booked a room at a hotel in White Plains and they fucked. Then he got a case of the guilts and word must have gotten around because suddenly no other MDs were receptive anymore. Except the ones who would fuck a tree.

          After that disaster, Fran was shaken when she realized that she was thinking of Peter while she was using a vibrator or dildo on herself. At times she would even say his name as she came. If she had a friend to confide in, her own Bridget, she might have. She couldn’t with her mother. 

          Jane was taken aback when Fran said she needed help with Eve. Fran had no job and nothing but time, but she couldn’t raise her own child alone? Fran had been watched over by an aunt while Jane worked, though, so Jane couldn’t say anything. Of course when the nanny—Jerry Olds—arrived, it simply meant that Fran had more time to have nothing to do. 

          About four months after her first trip out to East Hampton with Eve and Jane and the week before Thanksgiving, Jane received a call from her daughter.

          “Mom. I need you. I’ve been arrested.”

          It was a little after three, and Fran was driving home from White Plains when she took a turn a little faster than she should have. The Mercedes slid into a tree. She was OK. But a roadside sobriety test was over New York’s limit and a follow-up at the White Plains Police Station was over too.

          She had decided to get lunch in town and ended up at a pub. She wasn’t very hungry, but the first glass of wine went down well and the second even better. The place was dark, and she sat alone at a table near the bar. Business people coming and going, and she picked up bits and pieces of what they were talking about. She felt good and did not appear drunk and got through a third and a fourth glass before seeing how empty the pub had become. She paid the check, leaving a nice tip, and slowly left and promptly reached the Mercedes. Then she started to drive home and that’s when the tree was hit.

          Jane, getting the call, spoke to a lawyer in the firm where she was a secretary. That lawyer arranged for a local lawyer to show up at the Police Station to handle the legal side of things. Jane was about to get a Uber for the ride north when she panicked. So she called Bridget. Everyone called Bridget, who was resigned to it. She worked only a few blocks away. Jane knew she could not tell Amy or Peter. Which, of course, put Bridget right in the middle of things but things were moving too quickly for her to worry about that.

          With little information, Jane and Bridget headed to White Plains. Fran was released about half-an-hour after they arrived. The three took another car to the house. Silently.

          Once it was clear that Eve was safe and once Fran was put to bed, Bridget called Amy. She and Peter arrived at the house about an hour later. Fran was asleep. It was about seven and Jerry was still there. The others wanted to speak to the nanny about Fran and Eve. 

          Jerry assured them that she’d never seen any sign that Fran was drinking excessively. She had glasses of wine during the week, as Jane knew, but never more than a couple at a time. She and Jane assured the others that Fran had not and never would do anything to harm Eve.

          “Then what the fuck was she doing getting drunk on a Tuesday afternoon and trying to drive home?” The others were taken aback by the vehemence of Bridget’s words. Bridget wasn’t. She’d lived with, and died with, babies who suffered through no fault of their own. Or their parents. Here was Fran, with advantages beyond imagination, endangering her own baby. 

          “I would never hurt my baby.”

          Fran stood at the entrance to the living room when she heard Bridget’s outburst. “I WOULD NEVER HURT MY BABY.” Said as Jane rushed to her, saying “I know, I know” when she got there. She led the sobbing Fran to the sofa, vacated by Amy and Bridget. 

          It was true that Fran had never done this before. She’d been at the Mall alone. The sight of all these woman chatting with one another as they went from store-to-store started it. She had all this money but couldn’t chat with friends going store-to-store because she had no friends. The nurses she spent time-off with were too busy and not interested in the “new Fran.” Some resented her for having violated a code among nurses. Nurses never looked down at other nurses for sleeping around; it went with the emotional turmoil of their daily lives. But to entrap a rich guy as everyone knew Fran did was beyond the pale. More than a few thought Fran deserved to wallow alone in her big house in Purchase and few if any would exchange her life for Fran’s, money, house, Porsche, and all.

          Even Jane wasn’t as much a comfort as she had initially been. She paid her daughter rent—it was a matter of principle—and bought a used Honda and she was driving alone to Queens on many Sundays to be with her friends. 

          Amy was nice enough now that she’d held Eve but she always had a tinge of anger or jealousy concerning Fran’s relationship with her husband. More than anything, Fran viewed Amy as tolerating her for Eve’s sake.

          Bridget largely got over what Fran did to Peter. She was still so damn sanctimonious though. Fucking St. Theresa of Lenox Hill. She couldn’t avoid being like that, and Fran always resented it. Yet it was to Bridget that Fran opened up. Who she told of her loneliness, and Bridget never told her she deserved to be lonely. She may have thought it but she never said it. Frankly, Fran would have been in far worse shape if it weren’t for her regular calls to Bridget and that, too, was never spoken of.

          Fran’s lawyer helped too. He was diligent about Fran’s options in handling the case. He arranged for a series of therapy sessions—which also helped by giving Fran a no-judgment space—and negotiated a deal with the District Attorney regarding Fran’s DUI arrest. She pled guilty to driving-while-ability-impaired when she accepted therapy and sobriety conditions for a year. She surrendered her driver’s license for ninety days.

          The sentence did not require complete sobriety. Her therapist told the Judge that Fran was capable of drinking in moderation and that to force her not to drink at all would likely have the effect of tempting her to drink too much. If she crossed a line with one drink, her thinking would be, why stop there? 

          The more difficult issue was Fran’s isolation. 

          After talking it over with Peter and Amy following Fran’s arrest and plea-deal, Bridget offered Fran the job of Deputy Director of the Foundation. She also suggested that Fran sell the house in Purchase and buy a place in Queens. It’d make the commute far easier and would allow Jane to feel more comfortable in the neighborhood she lived in before joining her daughter in Westchester. And it would be a neighborhood more conducive to meeting and interacting with neighbors, unlike Purchase.

          Shortly after Eve turned one, her mom and her grandma left her each morning in the care of Jerry—who had a room in the Astoria apartment—and took the subway into the City. Fran, as was true of Bridget, was adept at her job. She was often the point-of-contact between the Foundation and grant recipients. She enjoyed traveling to the labs of institutions that were developing possible treatments and preventatives. She was no longer thinking of Peter as she came with her fingers or her toys, but was seeing men in search of a serious relationship. She became adept, too, at screening out men who only wanted to get into her bed or get into her bank account.

          Things improved when Fran attended a demonstration at a company in eastern Nassau County, New York. Both she and Bridget liked the grant proposal, and Fran was attending the dog-and-pony show in which the lab was pitching it. She’d attended enough to zone out the bullshit that usually began these things, usually by a sales or money guy. (Or the occasional sales or money gal.) She knew enough to withhold judgment until one of the people who actually knew the product, flaws and all, spoke. They were usually a bit nerdy, quite intense, and shy but passionate. Often to the horror of the sales or money person, they too casually mentioned issues in the development.

          On this day, in January 2016, that person was Barry Peters. A PhD from Columbia. He’d probably given the pitch three or four times to venture capitalists and foundations. Always seeking money. Always turned down. Fran found his nervousness endearing and his knowledge absolute. She stopped listening after five or six minutes. She knew she’d recommend the Foundation give the money and with it a share of the Company. The Foundation obtained equity in companies as a source of future funding.

          Fran had nearly fallen in love with Peter and often regretted fucking up any prospects with him. There was no “nearly” about Barry. Fran knew she could soon be in love with him. It had been a while since she let herself simply be, or allow herself to be, a woman, and she relished the memory.

Petey

          While Fran’s life was bouncing between its lows and its highs, Amy was getting bigger. Soon her pregnancy was common knowledge. When she was at seven months, she decided to leave Enswich & Taylor, at least for a while. She loved the work and had been promoted, but decided to focus on her baby.

          Peter Edgar, Jr. was born at Lenox Hill Hospital on April 3, 2016.

          Fran was getting serious about Barry Peters, and he about her. But she was more fragile than she thought. She flew off the handle one night when they were at a restaurant and she heard his phone ping. She had no excuse, but she looked at it and found work-related but somewhat-flirty texts between him and a colleague at his lab. They were perfectly innocent but Fran threw his phone at him when he got back to the table and rushed out.

          He knew enough of her background to understand her nervousness, and he forgave the outburst. But things were never the same after that for either of them. She was alternatively begging for forgiveness and accusing him of an imaginary transgression. A month later, they stopped seeing one another. Which sent Fran back into a place she did not want to see again. Again she called Bridget and the two sat down in the Foundation’s conference room to talk.

          Bridget had difficulty wrapping her head around Fran. They’d known each other for years and were friends at the Hospital and Bridget was now her boss. Fran was complicated and conflicted. In the end, though, she had come through with Eve. As if her entire life was seeking someone who would love her unconditionally and that person was the daughter she carried and gave birth to. But it didn’t fill in the loneliness and the need for a different type of love.

          So when they sat down, and not liking having to say it, Bridget told Fran that she had to get her head out of her ass and get back to work. Fran was good at her job but the episode with Barry had put her on her heels and now she was gun-shy about it. Plus she was in one of her feeling-sorry-for-myself modes. That day, though, Fran was more open than usual and after Bridget told her to cut-the-crap they fell into an honest conversation. 

          “Why do I always fuck it up?”

          “You fuck it up because you don’t trust yourself. You and Peter could have been good together but you jumped at the chance to grab some of his money.”

          “I got Eve out of the deal.”

          “The best thing to ever happen to you. I know that. You trust yourself to be her mom, right?”

          “It’s not about trusting myself. It just is.”

          “Exactly. You didn’t trust Barry to love . . .”

          “That’s what I mean. Always fucking things up.”

          “No. you didn’t trust him to love you so when you got nervous you blew the thing up.”

          “But I’m so lonely.”

          “Things are better now that you’re back in Queens, right?”

          “Yeah but I always wanted to get out of there.”

          “Why?”

          “It’s just what people are supposed to do.”

          “Because you think if you leave you’ll be better than those you leave behind.”

          “And you didn’t leave the Bronx by staying at Peter’s place on Park Avenue?”

          “Fran. Don’t go there. You know I’ve never run from my roots.”
Bridget was suddenly very pissed and Fran knew she’d crossed a line.

          “I know. I didn’t mean that the way it came out. But the guys in Astoria. They’re just a bunch of schmucks. Talking about the Mets and the Giants and the Knicks . . .”

          “Look. All I can tell you is to keep your mind open. If you like someone you like someone. Don’t overthink.”

          Bridget felt hypocritical here. She’d never had a boyfriend. She’d gone out on a lot of dates, but none grew into a relationship. Now she was giving relationship advice to a woman who’d had infinitely more experience than she did.

          They say insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. In love, maybe Fran was insane. Not in a good way. She was almost resigned to repeating the same mistake. She knew Bridget was right. She’d made a mess of Barry Peters. If she could just stop overthinking.

          So she left the conference room, promising Bridget she’d do what was suggested. Neither knew if she would. And they returned to their offices and Fran seemed to get back on an even keel at work. She continued going to dog-and-pony shows of grant applicants and continued to provide good advice to Bridget concerning what she saw and heard.

          By the beginning of summer, the two were working as well together as ever. Shortly after she spoke with Bridget, Fran gave Barry a call. She asked to meet him for drinks, and he suggested a small place near his office on the Island. Along the water in Port Washington. It went well, and they agreed to a fresh slate. Fran again recalled that she could fall in love with this man.

Evelyn Manners

          By early July, with Fran happily holding down the fort, Bridget wanted to get away. There was an office in Peter’s house and she headed out there for the week, using that office as if it were the one she had in Manhattan. The others cleared out early Sunday evening and Bridget began work on a misty Monday morning. When she got some coffee in the early afternoon, she saw a woman sitting on the beach through the kitchen window.

          That woman was Evelyn Manners. The rain was light and she could ignore it. She sat on the beach in East Hampton, New York, not far from Georgica Cove. She’d been there for twenty, thirty minutes. What had been clouds had turned to a misty July rain. She didn’t notice.

          She wore a light windbreaker and a brimmed cap. It had been chilly all day. Her shorts were khaki, and her sandals sat beside her. Her car was parked on a street that dead-ended at the beach, otherwise empty because of the weather. She listened to and watched the waves, each higher and foamier than usual. As they kissed the sand and withdrew, she thought again about herself. The kisses and the withdrawals. The energy spent each time the sea hit the beach.

          Evelyn Manners was very pretty. Her one unnatural feature was her expensive blonde-hair, her light-brown roots sometimes peeking through. She bought her hair but everything else was given to her by a mischievous God.

          She came from Chappaqua, an affluent suburb in upper Westchester County, just north of the City. With her MBA she toiled in a nondescript department at Chase in Manhattan. She was 5’ 8” and had a toned body. Nice boobs, which were natural. A nice face with a slightly-hooked nose, large sapphire eyes, and large lips. Natural.

          Evelyn was engaged when she was twenty-three. It ended a year later. She blamed herself. He blamed her too. That was some two years before she was sitting on the expensive sand. She’d not had a steady boyfriend since. She was tired of going home alone and more tired of going to someone else’s apartment for a one-night hookup. Kissing and withdrawing.

          Evelyn had a quarter-share of a house in East Hampton for July 2016. It was pricey and a schlep to the Ocean but she needed it.

          She was smart but her looks were her curse. She was content to be an OK student in high school. Which meant she ended up at an OK college where she did OK and got her MBA from an OK business school. Which explains why she worked in a nondescript department at Chase. She spent too much on her apartment on the Upper East Side and was paying too much for the quarter-share in the Hamptons and for the used BMW 5-Series she drove and garaged.

          It was the Monday of Evelyn’s vacation week. It was rare for her to be alone. She didn’t like it. Now she was increasingly hypnotized by the waves lapping over the sand. Each pushed her deeper and deeper into herself. Paralyzed. Crying without realizing it.

          She was awakened when a stranger sat next to her. She felt the woman’s gentle hand.

          “You want to tell me about it?”

          That woman was, of course, Bridget Casey. It was cloudy, a storm threatening all day. When Bridget got some water in the house half-an-hour after first noticing her, she saw that the woman had not moved. Something was going on with her. So she went down the steps that led to the beach and sat down.

          Evelyn turned. Bridget smiled and repeated her question. “Seriously, do you want to talk about it?”

          “How long do you have?”

          They rose, Evelyn helping Bridget up, and stepped towards the water before skirting the waves as they walked west. Evelyn knew plenty of people but none were true friends. Bridget was a stranger. Her stories could be told without fear of being retold. Without fear of being judged.

          Bridget listened. The pair carried their sandals as they walked, looking down at the sand as they did, sometimes turning back to see their footprints, sometimes looking at the Atlantic. Evelyn spoke like the waves, sentence upon sentence of frustration and inadequacy and unhappiness coming without respite, one after the other. When the sun broke through about ten minutes after they began, the storm safely heading to the northeast, they turned.

          When they neared the starting point, Bridget asked if Evelyn had time for a drink where she was staying. Evelyn saw no reason to say “no.” She was shocked when Bridget led her up a staircase that went directly to the beach. The house was huge and the two sat on its deck. Bridget went to get a couple of glasses of Chardonnay

          She handed one to Evelyn, who was stunned. “This is your place?” she asked as Bridget sat.

          “My dad’s a cop and my mom’s a nurse. This isn’t my place. It’s a friend’s. It’s where I’m working.”

          Evelyn’s first thought was just who it was that was this blonde’s friend. Bridget knew it so she hastened to explain that it was Peter and Amy Edgar’s and that she worked for them.

          Bridget asked where she parked. It wasn’t far and the two women walked to bring it to the gravel driveway.

          They were quiet when they returned to the deck. It was about 5:30 and the sun was still strong in the now cloudless-sky. Bridget put the umbrella up for shade. Only a few people were heard from the beach. Bridget brought out the bottle of Chardonnay and refilled their glasses. She spoke about herself and while Bridget did not think it was much, Evelyn hung on each word. Something about Bridget. What she said. The way she spoke and the way her hands moved while she did. Her natural empathy was enhanced by her work as a nurse. She was very pretty. Blonde (natural). But she did not cross the line to being objectively beautiful. The two lay back on the chaise-lounges under the umbrella, exchanging idle gossip.

          Eventually they turned quiet, a small table between them and the waves a comfort to each. Always another wave, always another chance to not fuck-up. Then Bridget heard Evelyn snore lightly. She looked at her. So pretty. So unfair. She’d let it control her. Consume her. School-to-school, job-to-job. Coasting. No wonder she was lost on the beach. Longing to be washed to a new life wherever the Atlantic took her.

          Bridget went into the kitchen. It was nearing seven. She gave Amy a call and told her about Evelyn, asking if it was OK if she stayed for the week. Amy said, as expected, that was fine with her and Peter, notwithstanding what happened with Fran, the last woman Bridget invited to stay at Peter’s place.

          Music played in the background. An alternative station on Sirius. Bridget lightly hummed and even joined in on songs she liked. She grabbed a head of lettuce and ripped it apart before putting it in the spinner. Her plan was to throw some onions and tomatoes into butter and olive oil for an easy-peasy sauce. She chopped the onions and the tomatoes, and some garlic, and tossed them into a pan as she put some well-salted water into a pot.

          With the sauce, a bit of parsley and basil thrown in, simmering and the water not yet boiled, she took her glass out to the deck. Evelyn reacted by waking. She’d been out for about forty-five minutes. “Hey sleepyhead.”

          Evelyn smiled and yawned and stretched. She reached for the glass that Bridget had re-filled and took a sip. She could get used to this. Both women sat on the deck, ignoring and obsessed with one another in equal parts. Till the timer went off and Bridget rushed in, leaving “I hope you like spaghetti” in her wake.

          Evelyn joined her in the kitchen, tossing the salad and putting oil and vinegar on it while Bridget put the linguine in. She drained the pasta and returned it to the pot then poured the sauce and the water over it, adding lots of butter and Romano cheese. That done, she put the contents in a large bowl and brought it to the table, where Evelyn had laid two place-settings. Evelyn brought the wine and the salad and they sat next to one another to enjoy the view.

          After Bridget said Amy’d OKed it, Evelyn slept at the house that night. Bridget was happy she was there.

          Sometime between two and two-thirty, Evelyn was awakened by the waves. She was used to nighttime Manhattan traffic. She was not used to nighttime rhythmic-waves. The moon was full, and the house lit up enough that she could make her way to the deck without turning on a light, the crashing waves drawing her. She stepped out.

          She heard a slight snore. Bridget. She too in a long t-shirt. It was warm enough but not too hot to sleep in the open air. Bridget’s face was to the side, her chest slowly rising and falling. There was enough light for Evelyn to see this woman, and she quietly sat and looked. She felt no physical longing for her but she felt something for her, her savior. She let her sleep as she sat, looking out at the Atlantic and the moon’s reflection. It was an amazing day and she too drifted off.

          Some hours later Bridget felt the burning from the rising sun on her head and tried to wave it away. She was awake and heard Evelyn to her right, again lightly snoring. It was her turn to stare at a beautiful woman. There was something about her. Damaged, yes, but only on the surface. She might come to like this woman if she allowed herself to be herself. She woke her with a kiss to the forehead and, again, “sleepyhead.”

          It embarrassed Evelyn, again. She shook and followed her friend inside, and after Bridget peed Evelyn did too and when she got back to the kitchen Bridget had water on for coffee. It was early. Not yet seven. No clouds. It would be warm, probably hot, but not humid. They were a bit woozy, but decided not to go back to bed. They headed to the deck, with their coffee and their Special K. Quiet. Umbrella up.

          “You don’t have to,” Bridget began, “but I could use a break. What do you say about hanging with me this morning?” Evelyn, of course, said yes. She had no plans and she liked this woman. She drove her BMW and they walked through Bridgehampton before swinging north for a walk in Sag Harbor. Bridget suggested that Evelyn stay at the house for the rest of the week. She, of course, said yes again. They stopped at her rental, where she grabbed some clothes. Her roommates weren’t due out until late Friday.

          Evelyn was embarrassed when Bridget saw an expensive but often-worn summer cocktail-dress among her things. It was what she’d wear if she found someone who would want to be seen with her at a party. She’d never been to a party at a house on the scale of Peter Edgar’s but some came close and she wasn’t above being a piece of eye-candy and above sex in the back seat of a Range Rover at one of the sex-in-the-backseat-of-a-high-end-SUV dead-ends that clustered near the Ocean. Evelyn didn’t think a woman like Bridget would have a dress like that or would do the things that Evelyn did in, and out, of it.

          All Bridget did when she noticed the dress, though, was smile; she knew its purpose. She said Evelyn should include it in the stuff for Peter’s. Just in case. Evelyn, though, knew it was her past. She left it.

          The two stopped for lunch and got back to the house. Bridget had work but she told Evelyn to make herself at home as she went into the den. What to do? She had not planned what she would do for the off week. Mostly drive around. Maybe go to a bar a couple of nights. Things were different now from what they were when those plans were made. She pulled out her tablet, went to Bridget’s office to get the WiFi password, and thought about a book she’d never gotten around to reading. Austen’s “Persuasion” would be a wonderful thing to explore in this wonderful house. She fell into it.       

The Week

          Until Friday, Bridget worked and could not spend much time with Evelyn during the day. Evelyn didn’t care. Each morning she went for a short run after the two had a light breakfast of cereal and coffee together. She ended her runs in town, where she picked up a copy of The Times and a few bagels or Danish to share with Bridget. While they had the paper on their various devices, she liked the feel and sight of the Times sections strewn about a room.

          Instead of a need or desire to drive from town-to-town, during the day Evelyn was content to sit in the great room or on the deck with her novel, about a woman who feared she would die alone after being persuaded to reject the man she loved because he was “without prospects.” She liked hearing the den-door open. She’d turn to see if Bridget was coming to the kitchen and she would smile broadly if she was.

          This was the pattern. They would have lunch together—Evelyn either made sandwiches or got something in town when she got the paper—and chatted for twenty or thirty minutes on the deck with iced teas. Bridget returned to her office and Evelyn returned to her novel. What a fool her heroine, Anne, had been but Evelyn understood her, Anne’s, fear for making the leap. And Anne was paying the price, fearing the one she loved’s indifference to her and his having moved on.

          Evelyn had moved on from her broken engagement. It was not a good idea, she realized. It would have been another in her string of doing OK-things because she didn’t care enough to do more. Like everything else. She wouldn’t have broken it off. She was—now—glad he did.

          After lunch on Thursday, Evelyn went to get groceries in town. She wandered up-and-down the aisles. What can I make? What can I make for Bridget? Bridget had done the cooking on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nothing fancy but Evelyn enjoyed it and enjoyed helping. Albeit on simple things.

          Up-and-down the aisles. Pushing her little cart. Finally she decided that she could probably make burgers. Ground beef, buns, frozen fries, ketchup (just in case there wasn’t any). Can of baked beans. She was excited when she entered the house. It was about four and after she put the things in the kitchen she lightly tapped the den’s door. She held a glass of Chardonnay and entered upon hearing Bridget’s “come in,” earning a warm smile in exchange for the glass.

          Evelyn sat in a chair and asked what Bridge was working on. It was the first time she called her that and she was not corrected so she kept using it. She was, in fact, the only person who ever did. Bridge took a long sip and placed the glass on her desk. She began to tell Evelyn about the Foundation. She’d filled in details about Peter and Amy and Petey over the course of their prior conversations. Now she focused on the specifics of the Foundation. Evelyn was surprised that she found it interesting. A glimpse into the world of business with which she was unfamiliar in her nondescript department at Chase.

          After a few minutes Bridget paused and said, “I’m sorry to bore you.” Evelyn denied, truthfully, being bored and asked if she could get her book and just sit while Bridge worked. “I promise to keep quiet.” Bridget found this odd, but relented. It’d be nice to have some company while she reviewed some grant proposals. For the rest of the afternoon the two sat in their own worlds together, Bridget at her desk and Evelyn on the loveseat. Both liked it. After which Evelyn made her dinner and the night ended with a RomCom on Netflix that the two had both seen more than once. That did not matter, though, to how much they enjoyed it, exchanging snarky comments throughout.

          On Friday, July 15, Bridget took the day off. She’d gotten what she needed to do finished and thought it would be fun to spend the entire day with Evelyn. Things would change dramatically with the coming of Peter, Amy, and Petey late in the day and, probably, Fran, Jane, and Eve in the morning. They went for a drive after Evelyn showered following her six-mile run, chatting and laughing, laughing and chatting. They got a couple of salads in town and drove home. For the first time that week, they used the pool.

          Bridget was shocked. Evelyn wearing a poured-into—Bridget thought it could have been porned-into it was so hot—one-piece and Bridget found herself staring. Just for a moment, but she felt guilty for objectifying her friend as she’d been objectified her entire life. Evelyn sensed it, but put Bridget at ease with a dive and a beckoning for Bridget to join her. Then they swam back and forth a bit—Evelyn was a natural—before holding themselves up by their arms in the deep end to talk. This time the talk was more serious than it was in recent days. Each knew that their time alone was coming to an end and seriousness would close the circle that began with that first conversation on the beach.

          “I’ve never met someone who has done what you have for me. Just by letting me talk.”

          Bridget elbowed the taller woman and said, earnestly, “I can’t tell you how happy I am for having met you.” Their eyes met, for a moment, before Evelyn pushed away with her upper arms and did a few more laps before hoisting herself over the side and grabbing a towel to sit on a chaise. Bridget used the ladder to get out.

Meeting Peter, Amy, and Petey. And Others

          Bridget tried to emphasize that Peter was just a regular guy. Evelyn, though, knew him as a rich guy who knocked up a nurse and paid her off. She was not inclined to like him, and was half-tempted to get out of Dodge before he arrived. Bridget prevailed on her to stay. “At least you need to thank him for allowing you to stay the week.”

          At that point Evelyn did not understand the nature of Bridget’s relationship with Peter. She leant toward her being an employee and nothing more. Her picture was on a sideboard in the great room so it might be something. But how would someone like Bridget be friends with someone like the Peter Edgar.

          It was a bit after six. Amy had texted when they got off the LIE, the dreaded Long Island Expressway. Bridget and Evelyn had dinner ready. Nothing fancy. But after Bridget complained that Evelyn’s burger was so raw “I think I heard a ‘moo’ when I bit into it,” Evelyn was leaving the principal cooking to Bridget, happy to make the salad.

          The Volvo pulled in at about 6:10. Peter driving and Amy with Petey in the back. Peter and Amy knew of Evelyn from Bridget’s reports. He shook her hand and she gave her a hug and a “welcome.” They seemed nice enough with their toddler. Evelyn was trying to square what she saw with what she’d heard. At least she knew that he was not a monster and she was glad that Bridget convinced her to stay.

          And it was a nice weekend. Fran, Jane, and Eve, about whom Bridget had given background, arrived at about eleven on Saturday. Eve was the daughter Peter fathered with Fran, who was, in fact, well taken care of. Todd Newman came with the three. He was introduced as Jane’s “boyfriend.” He seemed nice enough. Maybe ten years younger than Jane. 5’ 11’ or so with short hair and well-defined pecs and a flat stomach. He was an electrician who had always been good with his hands. He met Jane when he was doing some work at Jane’s Manhattan law firm. She was assigned to make sure he got what he needed for the job and after a few days they began to flirt with each other. Which was unusual for Jane if it wasn’t for him. When they discovered they both lived not far from one another, he asked out for dinner. She accepted. And they became an item.

          Upon meeting him, both Bridget and Evelyn, and to some extent Amy, saw he also had a wandering eye. Especially where it came to Evelyn. Jane did not seem to notice. Evelyn felt out of place. A bit unnerved by Todd as well. While Fran was getting on well with Barry, neither of them wanted him to be put through the ringer of the house just yet.

          Later in the day, Evelyn, Bridget, and Amy walked into town with Petey for a stroll, giving some dad-time for Peter with Eve and Fran and to give Jane and Todd some of their own alone-time.

          After about an hour, Petey nodded off.  Evelyn had learned more about Amy. Not as sweet as Bridget. But shy and considerate.

          As to Fran, Evelyn paid attention when they got back and it was clear how much she adored Eve. She did not, though, seem to be the damsel who’d been the victim Evelyn thought she was before meeting everyone, although there was tension between the Fran Camp and the Peter Camp. That was undeniable. The rough edges had been smoothed by time. Nor did Evelyn then know of Fran’s troubles. A large meal on Saturday on the deck went well.

          After that dinner, Peter asked if anyone wanted to go into the pool. Evelyn saw Todd glance at her. She ignored it and rose, saying she’d get her suit. Bridget whispered to Amy, “You better keep your eye on him,” nodding towards Peter, “I’ve seen what she looks like in a bathing suit.” Amy nodded. She knew Peter would look, more than he should, but he was in no danger: If the red-carpet women didn’t get him, another beauty wouldn’t.

          Jane, though, decided to stay out on the deck and not sit by the pool with the others.

          Evelyn did not make it to the pool either. When she got undressed to put on her suit, she decided she didn’t want to be displayed before strangers. That had never bothered her before. In fact she relished it, even the teasing she directed at men. It was mean, but she thrilled at causing an erection in a tight bathing-suit.

          She didn’t know why, but suddenly the thought revolted her. So she put her shorts and t-shirt back on and sat in a chaise-lounge by the pool. Most of the others jumped in, including Fran pulling Eve around. When Evelyn went to get a refill, she noticed Jane on the deck. She went to her. Jane was happy to see the younger woman. She never told her why; it was because she was not tempting Todd. Both women were shy with strangers and both women were strangers. So they simply sat quietly next to one another, staring out over the dunes to the waves.

          “I met Bridget on the beach.”

          “So I hear.”

          “What do you think of her?” This was a strange question for Evelyn to pose. Why did she want to know?

          “I barely know her. I met her last weekend. I have enough trouble getting comfortable with Peter and Amy. She seems very nice from what I’ve seen.”

          Which is where the conversation ended. The two sat in awkward silence, listening to the waves and hearing the shouts from the pool over to the right. Evelyn was happy, replaying the week in her brain and sad that it would soon be over and she’d be back to her nondescript job and nondescript world. She turned in early to finish her book.

          About thirty minutes after she’d gone to her room, Evelyn heard a light rapping on her door. She was still up and reading in bed. “Come in.” It was Bridget. She sat on the bed.

          “Things will get a bit crazy tomorrow so I wanted to talk. How do you feel?”

          “I feel that the woman who you saw on the beach was washed away.” She threw her hands up and away with a smile. She couldn’t help it, but Evelyn suddenly began to cry. “I can’t thank . . .”

          Bridget stopped her by leaning over to put her arm around her. This woman was not nearly as fucked-up as she was on Monday. “You know, you’re so much better than that woman. I’ve seen that this week. Promise you’ll be my friend.”

          “I promise.” With that Bridget gave a kiss on the other’s forehead.

          “Good. I’d like that.” And she left the room.

          Evelyn left in the early afternoon on Sunday to beat the traffic and get ready for work on Monday.

Weeks After

          Both women kept their word. Bridget alternated working at the East Hampton house or at the Foundation’s office in Rockefeller Center. She usually stayed in Peter’s apartment instead of going all the way to Woodlawn and from there she usually walked to work. She often babysat Petey so Amy and Peter could have alone-time and go out on dates, the gossips having long since given up on the goings-on and goings-about of a married father of a toddler (although there were still the occasional on-the-street or on-the-beach photos of the family posted online and Amy having become a master of the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-with-the-camera stroll). Bridget made a point of calling Evelyn every few nights. At first it was checking in. They both knew it. But soon the calls were longer and more spontaneous. They met for lunch now-and-then. Sometimes with Amy.

          The existence of the “new” Evelyn did not go unnoticed at work. Her boss, Dorothy Watkins, increased her responsibilities and Evelyn learned her department was not as nondescript as she had long thought it. She didn’t enjoy it. She started to dislike it less. At Bridget’s suggestion, she worked to get her hair back to its natural brown.

Todd Newman

          In late August, things were crawling along at work for Evelyn. On Thursday night, she received a call from “Todd. You know. Jane’s boyfriend.” Evelyn had been to the house three or four times and slipped into the family atmosphere that reigned there. Todd was usually there and stuck with Jane. He and Evelyn were polite to each other and little more.

          In the call, Todd said Peter asked him to do some work and wondered whether Evelyn would keep him company and give him a ride out in the morning because his truck was in the shop and Jane, Fran, and Eve weren’t going out until Saturday. She decided to take a sick day and let Bridget know she was heading out on her own. She didn’t mention Todd.

          They had fun on the drive out. Traffic was light and they made good time. They stopped in town for lunch before heading to the house. Todd was relaxed and charming. Asking about her. Letting her tease him about some cole slaw that was stuck on his upper lip when at the café and then letting her reach over to remove it, their eyes lingering a moment more than necessary.

          By the time they got to the house and Todd unlocked the door and disarmed the alarm, Evelyn wanted him. They both knew it. She just needed a dick and his was ready, willing, and, she hoped, able. It didn’t hurt that she had noticed his pecs and his abs and a number of other things a woman notices in a man.

          He turned and put his arms around her. “You are so fuckin’ beautiful.” It was a growl in her right ear and she was wet. They kissed for the first and, as it happens, last time. After it was done and the tongues released and the breaths caught, nothing mattered to her but getting on her back so he could enter her. 

          She raced ahead of him up the stairs, unbuttoning her blouse as she did. They went into the large master-bedroom. That was the place for this. They’d have plenty of time to tidy up. No one would know. Why not?

          Between entering the bedroom and getting to the bed all of her clothes and her shoes were off, thrown in a pile to the right. He, too, was rapidly getting his things off. Evelyn pulled the duvet aside and lay in the middle of the large bed. She looked at him and he looked big. A man. A man’s dick. She spread her legs. No foreplay. She was wet and he was hard. He placed his legs between hers and their eyes met as she reached for his dick and directed him inside her. It was glorious. Her mind cleared of everything but the feel of this man filling her. She was rocking and moaning and then she came. Again and again she came. 

          Her mind was in that Integrum between the completion of her satisfaction and her turning to fulfilling his need for satisfaction when she heard the tires of a car in the driveway. The trance she had been in over the past fifteen minutes—that’s all it was—was released as she ran to the window to see who had discovered them. 

          What Evelyn did not know was that Bridget unexpectedly left the City at about lunchtime. When she got to the house, she saw Evelyn’s BMW parked in front. She used her key to get in and was about to call out to her friend when she heard noises coming from upstairs, echoing into the great room. There was no doubt what the noises were. Two people were fucking. She recognized Evelyn’s voice—moan—and then a “Come On Baby” from Todd. Jane’s Todd. She turned to leave, hearing Evelyn come as she did. She pulled away as quietly as she could.

          But not quietly enough. Evelyn heard Bridget’s tires on the gravel. Her sudden ecstasy disappeared in a flash and she pushed the yet-to-come Todd to the side. At the window she saw the rear of Bridget’s car disappearing down the road. Suddenly the last person in the world she wanted it to be.

          Todd couldn’t have cared less. He was So Close. It didn’t matter to her. She was quickly out of the room and he was left to stroke himself, quitting when he realized the moment was gone. Fuck.

          Evelyn returned and grabbed her clothes, leaving the room again to put them on. A minute later she was dressed and glaring at Todd lying naked and frustrated on the bed. 

          “Get dressed. We’re leaving.”

          “But what about me?”

          Evelyn turned, “Fuck you, asshole. Don’t you know what we’ve done?”

          Todd knew that Evelyn saw someone leaving but he knew that Jane was at work and Fran and Eve wouldn’t be out until tomorrow so he really didn’t give a shit if someone else saw him fucking this gorgeous piece-of-ass. Hell, part of him would be proud being caught bedding her.

          Evelyn was adamant. She grabbed clean sheets and quickly made up the bed, tossing the damp ones into the hamper. An hour later she, alone, was heading west on the LIE returning to the City. He told her he was staying and she felt relief that she wouldn’t be stuck in her car with him for two hours.

          If Todd didn’t care about what happened, Evelyn did. When she recognized whose car it was she knew that it was the one person who she did not want to know what she did—at what she was doing when discovered. Todd had been sliming his way towards her every time they were together. She hadn’t been laid for months. Not since before she met Bridget. Todd called her. He said Peter had asked him, as a favor, to check out a wiring issue at the house and that he needed a ride. “I could use the company on the ride out,” he told her. She believed him. He had a key and the alarm code so he could do the work.

          The realization that she loved Bridget washed over her much as her orgasm had moments before. Evelyn had not given a lot of active thought to the shorter woman before this. She was just there. Like air. The blood coursing through her veins. She was just there. Evelyn realized that Bridget was not someone she thought of. She was something far more than that. And now she was gone. Evelyn knew she was gone. Her air gone. Her blood turning to ice. She had never felt anything like this before about anyone.

          Bridget, she knew, was not gone because Evelyn had cheated on her. She was gone because she had cheated on Jane. The distinction did not alter the fact. She was gone. 

          As she drove to the City, Evelyn found herself sitting on the beach months earlier. In the damp and under a threatening sky. It was a treasured memory, the most treasured of her life. The beautiful, wonderful woman touching her arm and asking to hear what Evelyn had to say. Bridget was Evelyn’s first friend. The first person to see through the curse that was the taller woman’s beauty. 

          Evelyn had acquired other friends since Bridget. They were all through Bridget. Evelyn was part of the whole insane Edgar clan. Welcomed from the first moment Peter and Amy and Petey arrived that Friday night less than two months before.

          Being part of that group meant Evelyn no longer fell asleep wondering what was to become of her. She no longer cared about when she’d have her next date, whether he was interested in her, the insecurity of wondering whether he was only interested in her body.

Waiting

          While Evelyn and Todd were still in the house, Bridget sat in the non-Starbucks coffee place on Main Street in East Hampton. She figured in an hour they’d either be gone or would have made the place presentable/nothing-to-see-here. What could she do? Who could or should she tell? Peter? Amy? Jane?

          She felt a weight. She had to do something. But what?

          Animals. It sounded like and it was. Two animals mating.

          Suddenly Bridget felt something entirely unexpected and foreign to her. She was always the accommodative, unemotional one. For Peter. For Evelyn. At times for Amy and Fran. Now she felt an emotion with which she was unfamiliar. Jealousy. She was jealous. She wanted to be on that bed. She did not want to be Evelyn. She wanted to be Todd. She wanted to be the one to make Evelyn come. To make Evelyn scream. Evelyn had never given any indication that she wanted Bridget to make her scream, but Bridget didn’t care. She wanted to make Evelyn scream.

          Bridget grabbed her cup and stormed out onto the sidewalk, bumping against a couple as she did. After apologizing she knew enough not to get into her car. Her brain was in no shape to drive. She’d just walk to the house. If they were still there, fuck it. With each stride she was getting angrier and angrier. Fuck them all. Bridget will take care of everything. Bridget is so fucking sweet. CALL 1-800-BRIDGET! Bridget is the type who’d comfort a stranger on the beach. Bridget saw all these small, empty beds where kids slept their last. It was the bubbling up of an emotional turmoil that she always kept within herself. She stopped. “FUCK THEM ALL.” It was said out loud, but quietly.

          And this woman who she desperately needed and wanted and probably didn’t care for Bridget except as a fucking shoulder to cry on was fucking her friend’s boyfriend. And, far worse, not fucking her.

          She neared the house and saw that Evelyn’s car was gone. She was about to go in when she saw Todd sitting on the deck, with an early-afternoon drink. Without him seeing her, she walked down to the beach. Staring at the spot where she met Evelyn. She’d never felt like this about anyone. Male or female. Anyone. She’d gone through life as “the friend.” The friend with no fucking benefits. By which she meant no fucking benefits. She was a virgin. But she wasn’t saving herself. She just hadn’t had sex. Not in nursing school. Not at the hospital. Not when alone at this over-the-top mansion overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It didn’t bother her. It was.

          She plopped down where she had that Monday in July. Suddenly she couldn’t get the phrase “That Day” out of her mind. “That Day.” She knew it had changed so much for Evelyn. Now she understood “That Day” changed everything for her.

          Bridget turned. She could see the window in the master. Where her love was with someone who was not her. Where her love was ecstatic with someone who was not Bridget Casey. She turned back at the ocean, watching the waves in much the same way that Evelyn did on “That Day.” Suddenly lost and confused, wondering what had become of her life. It had gone on without her. And now Evelyn was gone without her.

          Bridget was brought back to the present when her phone pinged.

          {Evelyn: I need to speak to you. Please call. E.}

          Bridget could, and did, ignore it. She brushed herself off and headed to the house. It was nearing five and Peter, Amy, and Petey would arrive in a few hours. Fran, Eve, and Jane would be coming in the morning, and Bridget felt a chill about that. And Todd. He was already there. What about Evelyn? She often just showed up and everyone was fine with that. She was part of the family.

          When she got into the house, Bridget exchanged “hello”s with Todd, still on the deck and otherwise tried to ignore him as he headed to the pool to the right. She had to make sure the master was presentable. Evelyn had tried but Bridget could see, and smell, what Evelyn and Todd did. She opened a window and remade the bed; Evelyn at least had tried to put on fresh sheets. Bridget got out as soon as possible and headed to the great room for a think. If Todd came in, she’d go to her room or out to the deck. But he didn’t.

          With a gin-and-tonic in hand, Bridget sat in one of the chairs that looked out over the Ocean. The glass half-empty—Bridget was not in a half-full state of mind—the phone pinged again. Bridget hesitated a moment before picking it up and turning it. It was from Evelyn:

          {Evelyn: I KNOW YOU WERE THERE. I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOU. PLEASE CALL ME. I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOU.}

          That changed things.

          Bridget stared at her phone in her left hand, swirling the ice in her glass in her right. She thought of Evelyn. She hit her number. It answered before the second ring.

          Evelyn was crying.

          “Bridget. I need to see you. I need to see you and explain.”

          “About what?”

          “Bridge, you know about what. I’m begging you. I’m in the City but I can be in East Hampton in a couple of hours. I have to meet you. Please.”

          Bridget’s emotions were bouncing everywhere. She thought she knew why Evelyn “needed to see” her. She assumed it was to limit the damage, convince Bridget to keep the secret. Save their friendship. Save her trips to the house. Bridget would be right to just tell Peter and Amy when they arrived. Let them figure out what to do. Be done with it. Be done with her.

          “Alright. I won’t say anything till I speak to you. Send me a text when you get off the LIE. Traffic will be bad, but I’ll meet you at the coffee house on Main Street. I’ll make my excuses.”

          “Thank you, Bridget, thank you.”

Meeting and Talking

          Bridget got the text about two hours later. Evelyn was heading to Route 27, which would get her to East Hampton in about thirty minutes. Bridget had left her car in town—it likely had a ticket—but had plenty of time to walk back. She told Peter and Amy that Evelyn wanted to meet her. When Amy asked, “what’s up?”, Bridget simply said she wasn’t sure. Todd had done the work Peter asked him to do and was keeping himself scarce, sitting out by the pool after dinner.

          In fact Bridget was not sure. She was not nearly as angry at the world as she retraced her steps, in reverse, from earlier. More than anything she was confused, desperate to hear what Evelyn was going to say. She had no reason to think Evelyn viewed her as she suddenly viewed Evelyn. She calmed when she ordered her coffee. It wouldn’t help her sleep, but she wasn’t going to really sleep anyway. She sat at a table on the sidewalk. It was a nice evening, and there was a steady stream of passersby. Her eyes looked west. The BMW would be coming from that direction. She saw it pass and then tracked it as Evelyn searched for a parking space. She got one on Main Street, maybe seven or eight stores down.

          Bridget picked up her cup and walked to where Evelyn was parking. When the taller woman reached the sidewalk, Bridget was standing in front of her. Evelyn rehearsed what she was going to say over the entire two-and-a-half-hour drive. Her lines were no better now than when she went through the Midtown Tunnel to Queens.

          Her heart collapsed when a staring Bridget demanded: “Well?”

          Evelyn was wrong. She still had tears to spend. Not unexpected, but impossible to bear. She spent them like a drunken sailor. When Evelyn controlled her shaking, Bridget regretting what she said and the way she said it. She reached for her arms.

          “Bridget. I love you and I fucked it up. Tell me you can forgive me. What I need to do for you to forgive me.”

          Bridget was stunned and had no idea what to do or say. Evelyn wasn’t gay. Hell, she’d been in bed with a man only hours before. Still, was she saying she wanted Bridget to be more-than-a-friend? Evelyn’s face dropped, looking to the sidewalk as her shoulders heaved. People passing by were looking at the couple, wondering what was going on. Without thinking, Bridget put her arms around Evelyn. She looked like the same lost woman she saw on the beach in July. All of the calm she saw grow and had come to love was gone. The passion she heard hours earlier at the house was gone. “I want you to want me to love you,” Evelyn said.

          Both women hated what was occurring. Evelyn did not want to be treated like that lost child and Bridget did not want to be that nanny. But as she was being held, Evelyn heard the slight whisper, “I love you too” from Bridget. Bridget did not mean to say it but did not regret the words. She repeated them. Evelyn caught her breath and stopped shuttering.

          The two separated.

          It was Bridget’s question: “When you say love, you mean something more than as friends?”

          “Yes. And you?”

          “Yes.”

          It was out there. Bridget suggested they walk. There was a lot to talk about.

          They headed in the direction from which Evelyn had come. After a few blocks, the stores were replaced by a church and large houses with expansive lawns set back well off the street. It was quieter and quieter still when Main Street veered to the right, leaving the two to walk on a quiet stretch.

          Again Bridget needed to know what was going on with Evelyn and in Evelyn’s head. They held hands. Bridget said, “I’ll listen to whatever you want to say to me.”

          Evelyn tried to tell her. It was fun driving out with Todd. It was wrong, she knew, but she couldn’t help flirting with him. By the time they reached East Hampton she was thinking what it would be like to go to bed with a man, any man. It’d been so long. As they drove to the house, she became more and more relaxed with him. Older, but not by too much, and in very good shape. Sure, a bit full of himself but that didn’t matter. What mattered is that he was sexy and she was attracted to him. At that stage there was no Jane. If only in her excited brain, Todd was just a strong, handsome man.

          He wasn’t very adept at seduction. He thought he had this whole macho-thing that would work. It didn’t. Evelyn needed no seduction. She needed to be fucked and she needed to be fucked by the dick on the man she was with.

          He was above her, but she was fucking him more than he was fucking her. She didn’t care about anything, or anyone, while they were doing it. She’d kept on the pill even though she hadn’t had sex for months. Just in case. It was good. The sex with Todd was good.

          “Then as I was coming down I heard your tires and I caught you leaving.”

          The pair were now on a very-quiet street, tall privet-hedges blocking sight of the houses. A canopy of very-old trees above. Evelyn knew she had to confess. “I didn’t realize it, that I love you, until I saw you drive away and thought I’d lost you. As a woman. Until that moment, I never thought of you, or any woman, like that. Just being with you. I loved that day when you let me just sit with you while you were working.”

          Bridget was quiet upon hearing this. Evelyn waited. Why won’t she respond? Finally Bridget too confessed.

          “And I loved that day too. I’ve loved every day I’ve been with you. I didn’t realize it till today.

          “Evelyn, I hope we can get through this. I really do. I hated you when I knew what you and Todd were doing. I hated you because you were not with me. I realized I was jealous of him because it was not me with you.”

          Evelyn was trying to process what she was being told.

          Bridget stopped and turned, and Evelyn did the same.

          “I never thought of you, or any woman, like that either. Never. Then I thought of how much I wanted to just make love to you. Make love to you.” That hung in the air.

          The two resumed walking, their hands tightening their grips. “I hated you because I wanted you but you were doing this horrible thing to Jane. How could you? How do we get over that?”

          Evelyn’s voice was broken. She did not know the answer.

          “I need you to know I’ve been with a lot of men. But I promise you I’ve never done anything like that before. Ever. I wouldn’t sleep with a guy if I knew he had a girlfriend. Sometimes I didn’t know and it made me feel like shit when I found out. What I did to the other woman. But I didn’t know who she was. I fucking know who Jane is.

          “Bridget, I have no excuse or explanation for what I did except I needed to be fucked. It wasn’t his fault. He may have hoped it’d happen when we left the City. But I was the one who flirted with him. Double entendres. Laughing at his jokes. Clearing mayo from his lips. That’s on me. I’ve no excuse.”

          “You betrayed Jane, you know that don’t you?”

          “I’ll always know that I betrayed her. Always. It’s the worst thing I have ever done in my miserable life.”

          Bridget wasn’t letting Evelyn go the pity route.

          “Stop with the bullshit about your ‘miserable life.’ That was then. This is now. This was his afternoon for God’s sake.”

          Evelyn was taken aback at this onslaught from a woman who just said she loved her. Now she was the silent one. They reached a corner and turned back into town. The trees created a tunnel toward Route 27. Evelyn waited for a car to pass. She stopped.

          “You’re right. I’m not who I was. I’m not going to tell you I’m ‘worse.’ I may be, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do and whether what I do matters to you.”

          They were walking again.

          “Evie. Love.” It was a word never said honestly to Evelyn since she was a child. “This may sound horrible.” Evelyn tensed. “I know that’s not who you are. I know you are the person who is going to sit down with Jane and tell her what happened. I can’t say what Jane will do about it. I can’t say whether she’ll forgive you.

          “If you do that, I will forgive you. If you do that I will not abandon you. You fucked up. I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this for me. I want to be with the woman who you are. I’m doing this for me.”

          With that the two continued their walk in silence. Bridget convinced Evelyn to go to the house. She said she thought Jane would be out in the morning with Fran and Eve. Todd was there already—explaining that a friend had given him a lift—but he and Evelyn stayed well clear of each other. She said she’d told Peter and Amy that she was meeting her but didn’t say what it was about. When they got to the house, she’d tell them that things were OK. She’d leave it to Jane to say more.

          Evelyn got to her car first and headed toward Peter and Amy’s place. She waited by the side of the road for Bridget to pass. She was not going in alone.

          Bridget, who had indeed gotten a parking ticket, passed a minute later and the two entered the driveway and then the house together. They acted well. Neither Peter nor Amy noticed a change in them. Todd was still sitting out by the pool, away from Evelyn.

The Morning

          Neither Bridget nor Evelyn slept much. They avoided each other in the house. Bridget went for a walk. Evelyn took a bike for a ride. Peter and Amy knew something major was going on but had no choice but to let it play out. Todd slept in, and Bridget and Evelyn were gone by the time he got up.

          Amy was the first to voice what they were both thinking.

          “What is going on with those two?”

          “I have no idea, but it’s definitely something.”

          “We’ll just have to see. But they’re not together this morning. Something’s going to blow. I just hope it happens soon so everyone can relax.” The couple resumed what they were doing, both wondering whether Bridget and Evelyn had a fight. They always got on so well with one another. They didn’t need drama in the house.

          The next thing the morning brought was Fran and Eve and Jane. Todd greeted them. Bridget and Evelyn knew about when the trio would arrive and made sure to be gone when they did. Bridget got back about twenty minutes after they arrived. She tried to be her typical self with them, but Fran and Jane both noticed she was tense.

          Evelyn returned about fifteen minutes later. She’d been out for a while, and the sun had done a number on her skin. She felt and then saw Bridget’s eyes on her. She said, “Morning all. I need a shower” and disappeared.

          When she came in, Evelyn noticed that Jane was calm. She didn’t know. She closed the door to the bathroom and undressed. She stared at herself in the mirror as the shower warmed. To her it was as if she were looking at the picture of Dorian Gray, the monster she was and not the beautiful woman she was in everyone else’s eyes. She noticed her blood-shot eyes and the slight bags emerging beneath them. The tightness in her shoulders.

          Her stay in the shower was brief. She had to do it. She toweled off and went to her room to change. In almost a single motion she dressed and after grabbing her car keys walked into the great room, all eyes turning towards her. She went directly to Jane.

          “May I speak to you?”

          This was something no one except Bridget and Todd could see coming. It had finally dawned on Todd that things were about to get very uncomfortable for him. Jane looked at her daughter, who gave her an I-have-no-idea look, and then back at Evelyn. She was suddenly frightened. She knew what she would be told. So did every other adult in the room. The sudden tension was overwhelming.

          Jane slowly got up and put her coffee down. After glancing at Todd, she followed Evelyn to the driveway.

          There was no other way to put it. “I had sex with Todd.” That was it. Jane stared at the other woman as if she hoped she was a mere figment that would disappear. She stared. For a moment she wanted to know who started it, but it didn’t matter. This woman slept with her boyfriend. The boyfriend she’d hoped to marry. The boyfriend with whom she spoke of marriage. The boyfriend who was not Frank Reynolds, the bastard who left her and her three-year-old child decades before. Barely older than Eve now was.

          “I’m sorry.” Evelyn knew it did not matter. She had her car keys. She said, “I am so sorry” as she passed the stunned Jane. She unlocked her BMW, got in, and drove away. She doubted she would ever return.

          Fran, who was peering out onto the driveway with the others—except Todd, who had gone to the deck—to see what was going on in the driveway, ran out to her mother. Jane was in tears, inconsolable by the time her daughter got to her. The others waited near the door. Fran led her mother into the house and to her room. Her mother said, “I just want to be alone” as she lay down on the bed. Fran sat in a chair and watched as her mother’s tears led to sleep.

          In the great room, the other three were quiet. Peter and Amy held hands. Bridget spoke.

          “She told me what happened last night. She takes full responsibility for it. She said, and I believe her, that she’d never done anything like that before and that it was the worst thing she has ever done in her life. It’s why we both went out alone this morning.”

          The three were quiet. There was nothing to be said.

          Evelyn had not planned to run away as she did. It happened. She took her keys but nothing else when she left. Now it was all she had; her phone, her purse, her driver’s license. Sitting in her room at the house. She’d have to replace them. She could never go back. The traffic heading into the City was light, and her car was in its garage about two hours after she left. She opened her apartment door and sat in the living room until she fell asleep.

          Evelyn was awakened by her buzzer. “Who is it?”

          “Bridget. Let me up.”

          Evelyn let her up. The door was open when Bridget got to it. She had Evelyn’s stuff and put it on the coffee table by the sofa. Evelyn sat on the sofa after getting some water. Bridget sat across from her. Neither said anything until Evelyn’s “Thank you for bringing this to me. I forgot it. You could have FedExed it.”

          Bridget still said nothing. She got up and walked around the table. Her eyes were locked on Evelyn’s. She crossed and stepped across Evelyn’s legs and straddled them. Their faces now seven or eight inches apart. Her right hand went to the other’s left cheek and for the first time the two shared an intimate touch. Evelyn sucked in her breath as the fingers slowly moved down. And did it again. Bridget put some strands of Evie’s hair behind her left ear. She leaned in and kissed the other woman on the lips. Neither of them had ever felt another woman’s lips on her own. Bridget pulled back.

          “I told you last night that I love you for who you are. I know you did something horrible but I, at least, forgive you for it. It’s up to other people to figure out what they are going to do.”

          Her hand again went to Evie’s cheek and her lips again went to Evie’s lips. She crossed over Evie’s legs and held her hand out. She led her to Evie’s bedroom.

          “I am not going to lie about what we’re about to do. If they hate me for it, they hate me for it. I can’t not do what we’re about to do.”