It’s the tea kettle that wakes me up. I jolt upright, slightly disoriented. The sun gleams brilliantly through the tall windows that line the walls of Jonathan’s loft, splashing light across the floor in front of the bed. I gather my long, dark hair into a messy pile on the top of my head and extract my tank top and underwear from the mess of covers underneath me. After dressing, I pad across the loft to the kitchen where Jonathan is pouring hot water into two giant mugs.
“Tea?” I say with semi-mock disgust as I settle onto one of the stools in front of the counter.
“I know, I know,” Jonathan replies, a slight smile forming on his lips, then travelling to his eyes when he turns around and meets my gaze. “I’m all out of coffee. I can run out and get some, if you’d like.”
I stare into his forest green eyes for a moment. I can’t help but notice the small wrinkles that form around them when he smiles, and the flecks of gray speckled through his otherwise chestnut hair.
“No, that’s alright. I guess I’ll have to settle for this. Does it at least have caffeine in it?” I bring the mug to my lips.
Jonathan comes around from behind the counter and over to where I’m sitting, pressing his hands around my waist. He pulls me close to him and whispers, “Forget the damn tea.” He kisses me deeply, bringing his hands underneath my shirt. He then lifts it over my head and lets it fall to the floor as I pull at the drawstring of his boxers. Morning sex is routine for us. We’re usually fucking before the toast has a chance to burn.
We are interrupted by the blaring ring of Jonathan’s cell phone. He pulls away and glances towards the kitchen table where it sits amongst various scattered papers and books.
He looks back towards me. “Normally I would ignore that, but Gretchen is supposed to bring the girls by later, so I should probably grab it.”
Though he’s mentioned her plenty of times before, hearing his ex-wife’s name is always a little unsettling to me. I shift in my chair a bit. “No, no it’s fine. I understand.”
Jonathan picks up his phone and walks back towards the bedroom as I reach for my tank top that’s in a pile on the floor. I can slightly make out Gretchen’s high-pitched voice on the other line. I’ve never met her, and I’d kind of like it to stay that way. I know that she’s aware I exist, but I can’t imagine she’s all that pleased by the idea of her ex-husband sleeping with a 23 year old former student. Jonathan insists that it’s fine, that she had her fair share of fun after the divorce, but it’s different with our situation. Deep down, I can tell that he knows that too. Mostly we just avoid discussing it.
Mostly we just fuck. After dinner, early in the morning, in the kitchen, in his bed, on top of his piles of ungraded assignments, in the elevator up to his loft, and one time when we just couldn’t wait, in a restaurant bathroom stall. We just can’t keep our hands off each other.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m attracted to his mind as well. Jonathan is absolutely brilliant. I only had him as a professor once, but he was my advisor throughout college and I read all of his work religiously. A few of his fiction pieces have been featured in the New Yorker and his first novel came out last year. I was always astounded by his writing, and obviously found him attractive. Every female student did. How could we not? Jonathan is in his mid 40s, but maintains a fit, youthful build, reflective of his daily runs in the park and adoration of hiking (something I just can’t get on board with). His salt and pepper hair, hazel colored eyes, and warm smile are reminiscent of George Clooney. I mean, can you blame me for fucking his brains out every chance I get?
We reconnected about a year after graduation, when I was worried that my writing career was going nowhere and manically applying to grad schools. I emailed him to ask for a recommendation letter and he suggested we meet up for coffee. I had a sneaking suspicion there was more to it than just a friendly get together between student and professor; there had always been an inkling of chemistry between us. Nothing serious, of course; lingering after class to discuss what books we were reading, laughing a little too hard when one of us made a joke, the occasional email exchange about highly anticipated films or albums coming out. I was always attracted to him, but I never imagined that anything would actually happen between us. When I had him as a professor my junior year, he was still married to Gretchen. It wasn’t until the summer after I graduated that I heard through the post-collegiate rumor mill that he’d been dealing with the divorce all throughout my last semester.
My writing career is still going nowhere, by the way. I ended up not applying to the graduate program I was looking at, mostly due to the horrific current state of my finances. Instead, I took a job as a waitress and started blogging for a few online publications. It’s not even close to what I want to be doing, but it’s a start. That’s what Jonathan says, at least. He proofs my essays and poems regularly and is constantly giving me names of colleagues and friends for me to contact about internships or writing workshops.
Jonathan re-enters the kitchen and tosses his phone back on the table.
“Now, where were we?” he says with a smile, reaching for my hips and pulling me closer to him.
“Wait, so is she coming or not?” I ask, bracing him with a hand on his chest.
“Well yeah, but we have some time.”
“How much time is ‘some time.’”
Jonathan pauses for a moment. “Around eleven.”
I glance at the clock on the microwave to my left. 10:36.
My throat closes up and my eyes widen. “Jon what the fuck, that’s in like 20 minutes!” I manage to squawk. “You can’t keep doing this to me. You have to give me more time!” I hop off the stool and head toward the pile containing my bra, shoes, and pants.
Joanthan follows, a playful look of urging across his face. “Lanie, it’s not a big deal.”
“Yes it is, Jon,” I say as I shove my legs into my jeans. “What if we ran into each other?”
“Well, would that be the worst thing?”
I reach down for my converse and almost laugh. “Yes, Jon. That would be the worst thing.”
“Well I don’t think it would. I think it might actually be good for you two to meet.”
I stop mid shoe-tying. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Jonathan lets out a sigh. “Gretchen thinks it would be good to meet you, since we’re spending so much time together and you’ve also spent some time with Hallie and Lacie.”
I’m positive that I’ve stopped breathing. “Wait, is that what that phone call was about? You two were arranging some kind of ambush on me?”
“It’s not an ambush, Lanie. Just a quick ‘hi’ when she drops off the girls. It doesn’t need to be a big deal.”
I can’t believe he’s doing this. But then again, I can. This is classic Jon: everything’s fine, no need to worry, kumbaya. Just because every person he meets falls in love with him doesn’t mean that the same goes for everyone. Sometimes it’s exhausting being with someone so easy going.
“Jonathan, I don’t want to meet her. I’ve told you that. We’ve agreed that it would be a terrible idea.” At least, I thought we had agreed.
“I know what we said, but Gretchen would feel more comfortable meeting you. She’s the mother of my children, Lane, I have to tread lightly here.”
In a sense, I get it. Jon had to fight to get even the partial custody that he has, and Gretchen’s a loose cannon. You never know when she’ll find a reason to take him back to court – a sexual relationship with a former student half his age is probably reason enough. I’m honestly shocked she hasn’t come after him more for that.
The realistic and sensible side of me knows that in this instance, Jonathan is just doing what he has to do as a responsible co-parent.
But the current side of me is so fucking mad that I can’t see straight.
“Look, you can’t just spring this on me, Jon. I’m gonna get out of here. We can talk about this later.”
I grab my bag and head for the door. I can hear Jon calling after me but it’s muffled, like I’m simultaneously wearing headphones and trying to eavesdrop on a conversation.
I just have to get out of here. I feel like I’m about to throw up and explode at the same time.
The cool October air hits my face as I push open the door of Jon’s building, and I suddenly feel better. That is, until I turn the corner and I swear I spot Gretchen’s blonde head bobbing up the sidewalk about a block away. My entire body clenches in horror. The fucking bitch showed up early to try and catch me.
Before I can even really think I turn on my heels and dash away in the opposite direction, just barely making the light at the crosswalk. I don’t think she saw me, but she was wearing sunglasses so who the hell knows.
It’s not even sunny today, Gretchen.