Getting Over Edie Ch. 03bynerd4music©
Author's Note: Excuse the lateness. I'm still working on getting my laptop fixed, among other little problems. I'm already working on Chapter 4 and I promise not to have a long gap between chapters any more. Thanks so much for your patience! ~n4m.
The cool night air was an eye-opening shock to his system, the jolt that snapped him back to reality. He was very aware that his movements were buoyed by a pair of small hands on his hips.
They were especially strong, considering he wasn't the lightest guy even without the extra sixty pounds of flab currently hanging on his frame.
The grip was firm yet feather-light, as if she was hesitant to touch him. Yes, he knew it was Arden. He was a little surprised she was being so helpful, considering he'd been a giant douche to her earlier.
Grady stopped walking, his abruptness causing Arden to bump into him. "Oof!" she exclaimed. "You gotta warn a girl before you do shit like that." Arden steadied herself before glancing up at him. "I won't ask if you're okay. It's too cliché and we both know the answer."
He nodded. "What the hell was she doing there?" It was the million dollar question and the one that threatened to explode his brain. Of all the hipster clubs, in all of New York, she had to sashay into THAT particular one. Grady wasn't sure what made him feel worse: finally seeing her after three months of withdrawal or seeing her with someone else.
Not just anyone...a fucking musician. How goddamn cliché was that?
Arden was tempted to slap him out of his stupor, but decided Life had already beaten him properly that night. "Dude...do you want to get something to eat?"
Grady glanced down at her. Was she actually being...nice to him? His look must have said it all because she nodded vigorously. "Yeah, yeah I know I'm actually being nice but I thought you'd prefer to cry in a booth somewhere instead of out on the street in front of the entire city."
"Yeah," he replied, his voice hoarse. "I could go for some food." His only other alternative was hiding out in his apartment, drinking alone. Somewhere in the fucked up darkness that was his brain the logical center was screaming "Bad idea, Kade".
"Grady!" a familiar voice called from behind them. Grady cringed inwardly. Despite his initial misgivings he knew Tony had nothing to do with Edie being there. But he wasn't ready to face him yet. He didn't want to be a part of a conversation that involved rehashing whatever the hell just happened in that bar.
With a long sigh, he steeled his emotions, locking his thoughts away from his ever-observant friend.
Tony njogged to where they were standing, concern marring his handsome features. "Dude," he said, trying to catch his breath. "I just came out to check on you. Are you okay man?"
Arden shot him a look. "Oh yeah, he's perfectly peachy."
Tony wrinkled his nose. "You don't think I had anything to do with this too, do you?" He groaned. "I had no idea she would be there. I didn't even know they were dating."
She shook her head. "How could you have known? I don't think anyone would have predicted this. It all seems like a really shitty coincidence. But listen, I'm gonna take him out of here. He's a little shell-shocked."
"Okay. Here's my number just in case." He handed Arden his business card. Tony turned his attention back to Grady. "Grade, I'm really sorry man. I had no idea..."
"It's okay, man" Grady replied. "It's not your fault." He quickly fist-bumped Tony and shot him a weak smile. "I just gotta get the fuck out of here."
Tony nodded. "I hear you, dude. Call me later. We'll talk. I'd go with you guys, but I gotta stay and wrap things up with the...well, I just got to get back in there." With a wave he was off. Grady shut his eyes. The day felt too damn long.
An overwhelming wave of exhaustion flooded his system. All he wanted was a fattening meal and a long nap.
"Grady?" Arden was looking up at him expectantly. "Are you ready?"
His nod was vigorous. "Yeah. Let's go."
They started down the street. Grady wasn't sure exactly where they were headed, but as long as they moved far away from the Ballroom, it was okay with him. The silence was deafening and uncomfortable. There was no doubt about it—she made him twitchy and ridiculously uneasy. It had been awhile since he was alone with the fairer sex. He was unsure of what to do, so he did nothing.
Arden was also unsure how to act around him. Normally they'd be on Round Three already, sniping at one another and throwing barbs. But in his current state, teasing just didn't feel right. He looked like someone ripped out his heart through his mouth.
It wasn't that she liked him or anything; she just couldn't fathom guys like Grady. He seemed like a decent enough dude. What the fuck he was doing that Brazilian primadonna, she'd never understand.
She didn't know Edie; Stevie had mentioned in passing that Dylan had a new, obnoxious twat of a girlfriend. But as the lead singer of an up-and-coming band Dylan's infatuations never seemed to last past the first chorus that was the song of his love life.
"So what do you feel like eating?" she asked.
"Don't know about you, but I'm starved." Grady slowed his pace, his gaze meeting her brown eyes. "You don't have to do this."
"I know." Her response was simple but brooked no argument. "So I was thinking pizza."
"Well we're standing in front of a pizza joint and I'm tired of walking. Besides, I'm cold." She hugged her black leather jacket closer to her frame.
Grady shrugged. "It's cool with me."
Arden stepped inside the building. Spagnoli's was a pretty well known spot for Brooklynites. It boasted a great pepperoni pie, ice cold beer on tap, and a cozy atmosphere. Grady was silent as they entered the restaurant. Spagnoli's was bustling with the normal Monday night crowd. The copped a table in the heart of the dining area.
The server, a tall man with an attractive face and scruffy beard scribbled down their order. As he left, Arden shifted uneasily, aware that the night was slowly heading back into awkward territory.
"I'm probably not the best dude for conversation right now" he said.
Arden scoffed. "Nah. You're a regular chatterbox. I was gonna tell you to stop because all this talking we're doing is killing my buzz."
A small chuckle escaped, surprising him.
"Ahh, there we go. I knew if I kept soldiering on I'd get a smile eventually." Arden had to admit, he was kind of cute when he smiled. If you went for that sort of overgrown, hulking frat boy look.
His eyes met hers and she noticed how crisp and vibrant they were. They were remarkably attractive, the soft Caribbean blue a perfect complement to his surfer blond hair. Arden was a sucker for guys with curly hair and Grady's abundantly thick corkscrews would send even Shirley Temple into fit of jealous rage.
Wait a minute. What the fuck are you doing Finch, she thought. This dude has done nothing but insult and annoy you since you met him. He is NOT cute. Plus, he looks like a rag doll left out in the rain, all disheveled and shoddy.
"Can I ask you something?" she asked, a timid tone to her voice, which sort of surprised her.
"I can only imagine what you have in store for me," he said with a short nod.
"Why are you doing this to yourself?" She braced herself for the impending onslaught of cursing and angry words but was taken aback at the defeated sigh that followed her undoubtedly invasive question.
"I dunno," he said sadly. "I don't want to be like this. Really, I don't. But it takes so much fucking effort to act normal, to pretend like nothing happened. To go on living as if she didn't break my heart into a thousand bits and danced a jig on the pieces."
"Well, you certainly have a way with words."
He smirked. "I think that's the nicest thing you've said to me since we met."
Arden shrugged. "Dude, it would be fucking cruel to kick a man when he's down. And right now you're just pathetic."
Grady snorted. "And now you've completely ruined the moment of zen." They fell back into silence for what seemed like an eternity before Grady spoke up again. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure," she said. "Fire away."
"Have you ever been in love?"
She was quiet, her interest suddenly moving to shredding the napkin in front of her into tiny pieces. "No. I've lusted. A lot. But love...no, I don't think so." She watched his face as he tried to process her response. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I don't think someone who has never been in love can really understand how fucking awful it can be."
Arden scoffed. "I call bullshit. I've cared deeply, I've felt strongly, and suffered greatly when it, whatever it was, was lost. Maybe it wasn't love but it hurt like a motherfucker."
Grady tried to comprehend her words. She had a way of talking around the subject that was completely maddening. "So then what was it? What's the 'IT' you speak of?"
Her lips pursed in deep thought as she pondered his question. Finally she spoke. "To be honest, I'm not really sure what it was. When you're in love with someone, you don't have to scramble to try and define what that love means or what those feeling represent; it just is.
Whenever I was in a relationship I had to compartmentalize my feelings, dissect every emotion, thought, and feeling looking for some hidden undertone. I don't know. It didn't feel like love. It felt like work. Being in a relationship is a full-time job and if you're not working with the right partner it's an unnecessary burden."
Their server returned with a silver pizza pan, setting down the large pepperoni pie in front of them, as well as a pitcher of beer. Grady poured beer in both their glasses as Arden sprinkled oregano and parmesan cheese on the pizza.
"What was it like, with Edie?" she asked, taking a slice for herself.
Grady shrugged. "It certainly didn't feel like a job. In the beginning, it was how it always is in relationships: thrilling, full of hot sex, and generally like a twenty-four/seven coke high." His lips tugged automatically into an easy grin.
"She was positively electrifying. Being with her was a whirlwind of glamorous parties, late nights at clubs, and movie premieres. Whenever I was around her, it was always a good day."
He was thoughtful for a moment as he chewed.
"Okay...maybe there were some times when it felt like a chore, but no relationship is perfect and easy."
Arden nodded as she took a huge bite. "True. But there's definitely a difference between a normal relationship and a shitty relationship. And really, you have to think about it. Your relationship with Edie sounds incredibly superficial. You can't even tell me how it really was."
Grady shot her a look. "Maybe it's hard to describe something so intimate with someone so damn hostile."
She shrugged. "Maybe it's hard, because what you had with this woman wasn't as real as you wanted it to be."
"Well what the fuck do you know," he snarled.
"You're the one who's never been in love."
Her brown eyes searched his blues for a moment.
"I...just..." She fumbled over her words, clearly taken aback by his cruel response. "What do I know? Like you said, I've never been in love. Who am I to comment?"
Lowering her eyes, she concentrated on studying the pizza slice in her hand, her bottom lip moving frantically between her teeth.
Grady got the distinct impression that she was hiding something. He'd gone too far. He hurt her feelings with that love comment. It wasn't intentional; he realized any other time she would have bitten his head off. But now she looked as miserable as he did. They needed to change the subject, and fast before irrevocable damage was done to already fragile egos.
He cleared his throat, the sound like a gunshot in the awkward silence. "So...you're a dancer, huh?"
Arden looked up, and he was surprised to see what looked like tears brimming in her brown eyes. It was just the barest of moments and disappeared when she nodded vigorously. The flash of moisture was gone and in its place was a gleam Grady recognized as pure happiness. "Yes," she said.
"That's awesome," he said sincerely as he gulped down some beer. "What kind of dance?"
"Pretty much everything—ballet, modern, jazz, tap. You name it, and I can probably do it better than most people." The typical Arden smug was back in her voice but this time instead of getting on his nerves, he actually found himself excited with her.
"I can barely move five paces without stumbling, so I don't think dance is really my forte."
Arden chuckled as she stuffed the rest of her slice into her mouth. "I could definitely tell. Although you move kind of well for a big guy."
Grady winced at that comment. He was still a little sensitive about his weight gain. Arden must have seen his reaction because she immediately began to backtrack. "Oh no! I didn't mean it like that. I meant...shit, dude you're just a large guy. When I first saw you I was like Jesus, he's a biggun'."
They both laughed. "Guess it's just leftover from all those years of taunting I endured during junior high. I wasn't always this big. I was definitely the short chubby kid."
Arden giggled. "Aww I can totally see that. I've always been tall. It's nice to meet a guy that isn't eye level with my boobs for once. For some reason really short guys love to hit on me."
"It's the Little Man Complex," Grady explained as he wiped pizza grease from his lips with a napkin. "I knew this kid, Jimmy Telesco in college. Dude couldn't have been more than five foot six on a good day. Anyway, he was a total asshat. Used to walk around, swinging his arms like some fucking MMA fighter, walking around all hulked out.
He was always that dude starting shit at the club, running his mouth at every opportunity. But kid was a punk. Like the great Jay-Z puts it 'you know the type, loud as a motorbike, but wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight'. Yeah, that was Jimmy."
A wide grin brightened her heart-shaped face.
"Okay you totally get cool points for that smooth Jay-Z reference. '99 Problems' is my go-to song whenever I'm in the mood to not give a damn." She took a generous swig from her mug. "You're totally obnoxious but you seem like a good guy deep down."
"Well hello Pot, meet Kettle." He smirked. "You have to admit, you aren't the easiest person to get along with."
She shrugged. "I stand by my opinion that you're just a grump who can't appreciate my flawless personality." Her overdramatic tone caused them both to chuckle. "Okay let's face it: we're both douchebags. But in your case, I believe it's understandable. Although I'm gonna be honest, I would have liked to meet pre-breakup Grady. I love reading your columns. You're a really talented writer."
"Uh...thanks Arden." He could feel the heat of embarrassment flush his cheeks. She was being unusually nice but instead of creeping him out, he was oddly okay with it. His gaze met hers and he was surprised to see a trace of uneasiness in her eyes. So she was just awkward with the conversation as he was; that was a comforting fact.
Her laugh was shrill in the quiet lull of their conversation. "I'm not blowing smoke up your ass. You know you're a great writer. I'm just stating my opinion. You're having a shitty day and I think you could use a healthy dose of compliments. You're a good guy going through a fucking terrible time. It sucks, but you'll get through it." Arden polished off her last bite of pizza. "Don't worry, I'll be back to my normal obnoxious self soon."
Grady smiled. "Let's hope so. 'Nice You' is a little terrifying."
"So I've been told."
Their server returned. "Can I get you anything else?" he asked.
Arden looked up at Grady. "What say you, Kade? Can you stand to be around me for another pitcher of beer?"
Smiling, he rolled his eyes. "I think I can handle it. Another pitcher of Bud Light, please."
With a nod, the server grabbed the pitcher from the table and headed towards the kitchen.
Arden shot him a playful look. "I see you. Just because you want to spend a little more time with me doesn't mean I'm actually going to be nice to you."
He shrugged. "Whatever. Besides, you're the one about to lose her shit over my writing skills."
She let out an adorably unladylike snort. "I said you were good. I'm not about to drop my panties over it."
Grady chuckled. "Anyone ever tell you that you aren't the least bit ladylike?"
She brushed off his barb with a wave of her hand. "Ladylike is an antiquated expression used to 'put girls in their place'."
"Alright, Gloria Steinem; there's no need to start lighting up the bras just yet." Grady shook his head, a small laugh tumbling from his lips.
"Hmm..." he mused aloud.
"What?" Arden asked as the server returned with their beer.
"Nothing really," Grady remarked. "It's just that...I think this is the first conversation I've had with the opposite sex that didn't make me want to gouge her eyes out with a dull spoon." Her dark brow arched suspiciously. "Should I be worried? I just wanna let you know I have knife in my pocket and I'll definitely shank a bitch if necessary."
He held up his hands. "Whoa! No need to start the revolution, Lady of Rage. I'm just pointing something out. This is like the first normal conversation in months I've had with a female and the first I've had with anyone that didn't revolve around Edie."
"And how does it feel?"
Grady paused. "It feels...okay." He sighed, taking a drink from his mug. "I don't know. There's this tiny feeling in my chest telling me it's gonna be okay."
Arden's eyes met his and she smiled. "Maybe you should listen to that part." She reached out, her fingers sliding across the red checkered tablecloth to pat his hand. Grady could tell she felt awkward about it; her movements were unsure but oddly reassuring. "You're going to be okay, dude," she said softly. "But I think it's time for you to really evaluate your relationship."
She moved her hand quickly away from his, fingers moving back to cup her chilly beer mug. "I feel like all I've done since we broke up was evaluate the relationship."
She shook her head. "No, what you've done is wallow and self-medicate with junk food and alcohol. Now, I'm not trying to judge or make fun of you," she added quickly. "But all I'm saying is, the first step in recovery is taking a good hard look at the damage.
Look at your life with Edie...how it all began, where things started to go wrong, etcetera. You have an opportunity most of us only dream about: the chance to make your voice heard, to tell the person who broke your heart just exactly how you feel. Most of us don't get that chance," she added softly.
Once again, Grady got the impression she was hiding something but he let it slide. She was absolutely right. He needed to research in order to move on. It was not about wallowing in grief any more, but taking a naked look into his past. It was a terrifying, yet liberating notion.
"I just don't know if I'm ready," he admitted.
Arden shot him a look. "I think you've been ready for a while. I think you're finally coming to terms with the idea that looking into your relationship is the key to finally letting Edie go. And it's time, dude."
Her insightfulness was impressive. Grady had no idea. Hidden underneath all that obnoxiousness was a truly thoughtful individual. "Wow," he remarked. "I honestly had no idea you were so Zen."
She shrugged. "We'll just chalk it up to women's intuition."
He grinned, and for the first time in a long time, he was truly happy to be around another human being. "Thanks for listening, Arden. I know I kind of ruined your night."
Arden shrugged once more as she drained her beer mug. "What the hell did I have to look forward to? Another night trying to avoid getting hit on by some dude in ridiculously skinny jeans while wondering how I was going to get the smell of beer puke and cigarette smoke out of my hair?