Women's fiction is a genre I generally avoid. I feel
that sometimes it mirrors reality in a way that is a bit too
close for comfort which, strangely enough, is precisely why I
chose to read IT STARTED IN JUNE. Being childless mostly by
choice, I saw two friends grapple with the choice that Grace
Trumbull faces, even though there were no pregnancies; and I am
well acquainted with what it means to be perceived as a
dreadful mistake by one's parent. Because of my policy of never
giving away spoilers, this review might be the most difficult I
have ever written because of one crucial element in the latter
part of the book. A turning point in Bradley and Grace's
relationship, as well as the source of an epic conflict, was
mentioned a few times, then never spoken of again. And because
it was never brought up again, to me, it made all the
difference as to where the relationship was heading. This
particular issue not being dealt with clearly -- or
overlooked by the author, who simply assumed that the reader
had supposed it had been satisfactorily solved, which I never
saw as such -- made the ending irrelevant, as far as I'm
concerned. With that factor left hanging, the ending made no
sense to me; I don't believe in necessarily crossing Ts and
dotting Is to the extreme, but some things need to be put in
black on white, otherwise how are we to understand that a major
problem was resolved.
Although I loathe the expression "all the feels," IT STARTED IN
JUNE decidedly has all the feels. I basked in the glamor of
the gorgeous Harper's Bazaar world of Grace, with her
Connecticut beachfront house, her exciting career. I loved how
Bradley -- whom all the girls at the office mooned over -- and
Grace interacted. They had undeniable chemistry, until the
condom broke, and the "mistake" happened -- to use Grace's
mother's word. I love that Susan Kietzman chose to write her
novel in the third person. It provides the reader with
everyone's points of view regarding Bradley and Grace's
relationship, basically: should Grace have a baby, where she
had never wanted one before; should Bradley be part of his
baby's life, of Grace's life. It was extremely enlightening to
see the situation from a variety of angles, from young and
old, women and men. IT STARTED IN JUNE should be a major hit
with book clubs because it will supply endless fodder for
discussions. I also believe that most people should read
it, if only to understand if they should or should not choose
to have children.
Susan Kietzman has written characters that are living,
breathing individuals; we will all recognize people we have
known, possibly ourselves. Bradley and Grace are
unforgettable characters, deeply flawed, and, if at first, I
identified more closely with Grace, my allegiance later on
shifted to Bradley because of a conscious decision on Grace's
part. However, afterwards it all came down to the issue I
mentioned earlier, and I felt that Grace was
supremely selfish, especially in refusing to acknowledge her
contribution to Bradley's behavior. I'm not sure if there is
supposed to be a moral to the story, but it made me realize
that I had made the right choice for myself. As for Grace and
Bradley, I'm still on the fence. I'm not entirely convinced
that the choice they made was the right one. All this said,
Susan Kietzman is an extraordinary storyteller, whose superb
dialogue made me feel like a fly on the wall. I read IT
STARTED IN JUNE in one sitting because I was completely
enthralled and riveted by the authenticity of the characters
and their story. IT STARTED IN JUNE has left me with food for
thought for many years to come.
Susan Kietzman's engrossing and thought-provoking novel
explores the choices and revelations that come with life's
most unexpected events.
Grace Trumbull's after
work drink with Bradley Hanover, a handsome younger
colleague, on a warm summer night turns into an impulsive,
intimate encounter. After a few weeks of exhilarating secret
dates, Grace—forty-two and divorced—realizes she's
For Grace, whose estranged mother refers to
her own teenage pregnancy as her biggest mistake, the
prospect of parenthood is daunting. She's just been made
vice president of a media relations company and is childfree
by choice. Still, something deeper than her fear makes her
want to keep the baby. She knows she can be a better, more
capable parent than her mother was to her.
pass and seasons change, Grace questions her decision to
include Bradley in her plans. But they continue to navigate
their complicated relationship, each struggling with what it
means to make a commitment to someone. Most importantly,
Grace begins trusting her instincts—maternal and
otherwise—finding courage that will guide her through an
uncertain future ripe with new possibilities…
Grace Trumbull waited a long moment to look up from her
computer screen when she heard the knock on her office door.
She was in the middle of something, yes, but she also wanted
to reinforce the message that a closed door meant she did
not want to be disturbed. And the summer intern and probable
knocker had interrupted her twice already that morning with
questions that could have been emailed. Grace had been
attentive to him over the past few weeks, giving him time
when her colleagues had not. But the crush he had developed
as a result of Grace's kindness needed to be discouraged,
she had decided, with more unavailability.
But when she slowly shifted her eyes from the screen to the
thick glass door, she was surprised and chagrined to see the
president of the company, the man who had just last week
promoted her to one of three vice president positions,
standing patiently on the other side. She leapt up, hurried
across the carpeting, and pulled the door open, saying,
"Paul. Come in. I'm sorry to keep you waiting."
Paul Broadbent, immaculately groomed and dressed in a
pressed khaki suit, got right to the point, as always. "We
landed the Maritime Museum account," he said. "I want you to
be the lead on this, and I'm going to ask Bradley Hanover to
assist. This is top priority for you, so I'll need you to
table anything that doesn't require your immediate attention
and allocate everything else to Tina and Dan."
"That's good news," said Grace, nodding. "I'll meet with
Bradley this afternoon."
"Good," said Paul, turning back toward the door. "You'll be
reporting to me. So I'm your contact with questions or
issues that arise. Since you were a part of the negotiations
with the client, you're familiar with all the delicacies of
the account. I'll have Jen make copies of the relevant
documents for your file and send along the electronic
versions." And he was gone.
Grace liked Paul. He was hardworking and ambitious, and
direct, clear, and concise in his written and verbal
communications, qualities Grace admired and practiced. Some
of her colleagues preferred working with Dana Shapiro, the
other partner in the media relations firm of Broadbent &
Shapiro, because he was more human – warm, funny, inspiring.
It was Dana who had pushed for Grace's recent promotion, and
who had convinced Paul ten months ago to hire Grace instead
of a better qualified (if Grace were to be truthful) guy
from a reputable Manhattan agency. Their risk had paid off,
with Grace bringing in even more business than she had
optimistically promised. Dana had praised her efforts, but
Paul still regarded Grace with skepticism; he was a tough judge.
And now he wanted Grace to work with Bradley Hanover, his
unofficial protégé. Bradley was good at his job, and he was
certainly well liked. Paul wasn't the only one who thought
Bradley was brilliant and charismatic – the entire staff
appeared to be smitten. He was outgoing and charming, and
routinely invited his colleagues to lunch in an effort to
get to know them better. Grace liked him, too, but hadn't
yet been invited to lunch. Perhaps this was because she was
so much older, or because she was a vice president. Was he
intimidated by her?
They had all celebrated his thirtieth birthday a couple
months back, and everyone agreed afterward that it was the
best office birthday party ever given. Not only had he
spiked the fruit punch with tequila, he had also insisted
that everyone play pin the tail on the donkey, and had given
out kazoos and whoopee cushions as party favors. She had
laughed along with everyone else when he demonstrated – for
those who had forgotten – their auditory virtues.
She looked forward to working with Bradley, to getting to
know him better – but she knew she would have to set
boundaries. He seemed to consider himself exempt from the
organizational flowchart, based on how he breezed in and out
of Paul's and Dana's offices. He might very well think of
himself as Grace's equal.
His confidence stemmed from more than his talents, as he was
a shockingly good-looking young man, with dark brown hair
worn long enough to brush the shoulders of his suit jacket,
suntanned skin, eyes that were blue, or green, or hazel,
depending on the light, and lashes that were thicker than
most women's. Grace was careful not to look at him longer
than was warranted, or to let him know that she found him as
attractive as everybody else. Other women in the office,
especially those closer to his age, seemed to feel no shame
in openly staring at him, as a baby would a stranger's face.
But Grace regulated her observation of Bradley. She looked
at him only when they spoke to each other, which, in the ten
months she had been part of the Broadbent & Shapiro
team, had been rarely outside of their weekly team meetings.
Now that she was going to be working closely with him, she
would need to look into his eyes much more often.
Grace told herself that this wouldn't be a problem. She
would be strictly businesslike in her interactions with
Bradley. She would give him the attention justified by the
assignment. In fact, she knew that the less attention she
paid to him, the more attention he would want from her. This
wasn't a game she intended to play, rather it was simply a
way of staying on task, of staying focused on the project
and her personal goals.
She'd been more cognizant of her goals in the eight years
she had been divorced from Kenny Trumbull. When they were
married, he had been one of the few people she trusted, as
well as loved, but she had been too willing to do what he
wanted, to adhere to his schedule. Her refusal to have his
child was one of the rare instances that she hadn't gone
along with his plan. And it was, ultimately, the reason for
Since her divorce, Grace had dated a number of men, who were
initially attracted by her good looks; she was a slim, fit,
tall, nicely proportioned, forty-two-year-old woman. But
after several dates, most of the guys had stopped calling
her. One, when questioned in a text by Grace, told her he
had been turned off by her aura of superiority, a chill,
that he said was as off-putting as it was arrogant. He was
wrong about her, but she didn't attempt to change his mind.
Maybe Bradley had similar ideas about her. Grace presented a
confident, professional, and, some might say if asked,
impenetrable persona to the world. And she had a very good
reason for this portrayal. Underneath was a woman who could
be loving and soft sometimes, but very few were allowed an
encounter with Grace's soul. Yet, there was something behind
Bradley's eyes when he looked at her in meetings that told
her he already knew this.
Bradley emerged from Paul's office with a grin on his face.
Finally, he would have a chance to work with Grace Trumbull,
the newest VP, who was brilliant in his and Paul's
estimation, and gorgeous by anyone's standards, with her
light green eyes and cream-colored skin, her wavy black hair
and shapely body and legs. Bradley, at thirty, was
interested in more than appearance, but what a woman looked
like was what first grabbed his attention. He didn't think
this was a gender thing, that only men sought the company of
attractive partners. Women were guilty, if that was the
word, of the same thing. They swiped through images on
Tinder just as swiftly and with just as much snap judgment
He had already checked Grace out on Facebook. She didn't
have an active presence, so he was able to discover very
little about her. He knew she was divorced and forty-two
years old, twelve years his senior. Bradley found this age
difference intriguing, a refreshing alternative to spending
time with women in their twenties. Women his age were
searching for their place in the world, in addition to
looking for life partners. In contrast, Grace had a
sophistication and self-assurance that he found sexy as hell.
He wondered, as he walked down the hallway to his office,
why he was thinking about Grace in romantic terms. Perhaps
he had been attracted to her all along? Bradley pushed these
thoughts aside, reminding himself that Paul Broadbent took a
very dim view of office romance. And he had heard from
others and observed in meetings that the best way to impress
Grace Trumbull was with hard work. With her, it was always
about the work. She was respected and, in general, liked,
not because of her desire to commingle with her colleagues –
no, Grace was admired because she got the job done and done
right the first time. Everyone wanted to work with her.
Bradley walked past Grace's office on the way back to his
cubicle. She didn't glance up from her computer screen, did
not seem to register his presence at all. Perhaps this was
because her door was closed. And everyone in the office knew
that when Grace's door was closed, she wasn't looking for
He was able to see Grace in her office from his work space.
He had to wheel his chair back away from his desk, which he
did several times a day to reach his file cabinet or to work
at the table pushed up against the wall opposite his desk.
Whenever he looked down the hall at her office, at her, she
appeared to be working diligently, either at her computer or
at her desk. When she was on her cell phone, she stood
behind her desk, looking out the side window. Occasionally
she'd lean down to jot notes on one of her legal pads.
He had never once caught her looking at him. And why would
she? He was thirty; she was forty-two. Did she consider him
a child? If she did, this project would change that. He
decided to write her an email about their new partnership,
about his enthusiasm.
"Shit!" he said, startled to find her standing next to him,
wondering how she had arrived at his desk without his
knowing, or if there was any way she could know what he had
been thinking. "I'm sorry, Grace." He liked her name, the
sound of her name coming out of his mouth. "I didn't see you
"Well," said Bradley, recovered and smiling now. "What can I
do for you?"
"Do you have a minute to come into my office?"
"I sure do." Bradley sprang out of his chair. "I'm all yours."
He followed her down the hallway, past the line of cubicles.
Bradley noticed that a few co-workers looked up at them as
they walked by. Bradley could think of two reasons for this:
one, Grace hardly ever left her office, except for team or
client meetings or lunch. And two, she had never stopped by
his cubicle before. Because she had left her office for him,
Bradley had the urge to high-five the three guys watching
them, to celebrate the fact that he was now on his way to
the inner sanctum of the beautiful Grace Trumbull.
As soon as they were in her office, she shut the door behind
them and indicated with her hand that Bradley should sit in
one of the white leather barrel chairs facing her desk. She
settled into her own chair behind it, but because the
desktop was glass, Bradley could still see her lovely legs,
her tanned feet in summer sandals, the toenails painted a
light gray, and her pale pink skirt. He stopped himself,
quickly and firmly, from picturing himself standing behind
her and leaning over to see something she'd written on one
of those legal pads, from being close enough to her to smell
her hair and her skin.
"So, we're going to be working together," she said, reaching
for a manila folder on the side of her desk and setting it
down in front of her. She opened the file and kept her gaze
fixed on it, as if she needed notes to question Bradley.
"Are you familiar with the Maritime Museum?"
"I am," said Bradley.
"And what's your impression?" She lifted her light green
eyes to look at his face.
Bradley hesitated a moment longer than was warranted, as he
absorbed the intensity from her eyes, and then he shrugged.
"It's a place you take people who are visiting from out of
town if they are interested in maritime history. It's a
place you need to visit just once with each guest. Frankly,
there are a lot more interesting things to do."
"Very good," said Grace.
"Very good that people want to visit only once?"
"No," said Grace. "Your impromptu analysis was very good.
It's very bad that people think the Maritime Museum is
worthy of a single visit. That perception is our focus; it's
what we're going to change. I'd like to meet with you every
Monday and every Thursday to assign and review weekly tasks.
We'll meet more often if needed. We have our first meeting
with the client next Tuesday at two. I checked your schedule
on Outlook, and it looks like this works for you."
Bradley took his phone out of his back pocket and checked
his calendar. "Yes," he said. "I'm free.
"Good," she said. "I'll send you the pertinent information,
as well as the list of things I'd like you to accomplish by
next Monday. I'll send you a meeting request for Monday
afternoon, so we can make a plan for our session with the
client the following day." Grace closed the file and set it
Bradley looked at her. "Is that it?"
"Wear a suit."
"To the meeting," said Grace. "Wear a suit – and a blue tie.
The president of the museum is not only nautical, but he's
also a Democrat."
"Okay," said Bradley. "That sounds good."
Grace had already broken eye contact. She was looking at her
computer screen, her right hand on the mouse. "I look
forward to working with you."
Bradley stood. "Me too. I'll check my inbox for everything I
need to prepare for the meeting."
"Yes," said Grace. "Let me know if you have questions."
Bradley walked back to his desk, eager to get started. He
couldn't wait to impress Grace Trumbull.
When Grace and Bradley walked out the back door of the
building the following Tuesday at one, they immediately felt
the late June heat rising from the asphalt parking lot.
Grace removed the cardigan sweater she kept at their overly
air conditioned office and draped it over her arm. She then
reached into her handbag for her sunglasses. "Do you want to
"When I could be riding in your sky blue Cadillac?"
Grace looked at him through the green-tinted, aviator
lenses. "You know my car?"
"Grace, everyone in the office knows your car. It's the only
cool car in the lot. Well, except for Paul's Tesla."
The Cadillac had been Kenny's mother's car. After she died,
Kenny's dad, a weekend mechanic and car show enthusiast,
restored the interior, exterior, and engine, and then parked
it in his garage and threw a tarp over it. He drove it just
once a year, in honor of his wife's birthday. He gave the
car to Kenny and Grace as a wedding gift, and Kenny gave it
to Grace in the divorce, because she had liked it much more
than he had and because he still loved her, even though he
was the one to suggest the dissolution of their four-year
marriage. "What do you drive?" asked Grace.
"A Honda Civic." Bradley pointed to the silver car at the
other end of the lot. "Reliable and manly."
"Manly is a reach," she said, smiling. "I'd describe it as
practical and safe."
"That's what my parents said. They gave it to me when I
totaled my bike."
Grace stopped and looked at him. "Oh, that doesn't sound good."
"It was five years ago," said Bradley. "I was hit by a car,
and yes, I'm fine."
Grace rested her hand on his arm for just a moment. "Good,"
she said, then continued walking. When they reached her car,
she opened the driver's side door and got in.
"You don't lock it?"
"I don't leave anything in here that anyone would want to
"Except the car itself," said Bradly, settling into the
Grace put the armrest down between them, turned the key in
the ignition, dropped the top, and then backed it out of the
parking space. Five minutes later, she realized that she was
showing off her driving skills to Bradley, zooming down the
highway with one hand on the wheel, changing lanes as if she
owned them both. She asked herself why she was acting this
way. Shouldn't he be the one trying to impress her?
"Tell me about this car," Bradley shouted.
"It belonged to my former father-in-law, who gave it to my
former husband, who gave it to me," said Grace. "Tell me
about more your Honda Civic."
"It was a gift a month before my twenty-fifth birthday,"
said Bradley. "When they asked me what kind of car I wanted
– well, within reason – I definitely should have been more
Grace nodded. "A Honda is a pretty tame car for a young
"I'm not that young," said Bradley. Grace smiled at his
remark. He was definitely young. Did he want to appear older
because he was with her?
Grace switched on the radio, which, for a fifty-year-old
car, worked remarkably well, and for the next half hour,
they talked about a marketing idea that had come to Grace in
the night, as well as rehearsed the scenarios they had
discussed the previous afternoon. When Bradley revealed a
couple of details about his personal life, Grace offered
nothing similar in return, her upright posture and
eyes-on-the-road profile broadcasting that her personal life
was definitely personal.
The meeting with the museum executives was more productive
and interactive than Grace anticipated. Because she, like
Bradley, thought of the Maritime Museum as a boring, rainy
day alternative to the beach, or just about any other fair
weather destination one might choose on a weekend, she was
surprised by their imaginative exhibits and educational
programs, and by their willingness to reinvent themselves,
to launch the museum into modern times and current culture.
Yes, it was a maritime history museum, but its sphere of
knowledge was much larger than the history of the several
tall ships it owned. The biggest obstacle to their success
was a lack of persuasive and captivating advertising, the
dissemination of images and text that would attract not only
the boating enthusiast and the maritime scholar, but also
families and millennials. Both Grace and Bradley had been
unaware, until they had prepped for the meeting, of the
museum's changing business model; that, for example, in the
next twelve months, the museum would expand its seasonal
schedule to full-year operations. The very next week, ground
would be broken for an architecturally stunning new exhibit
building that would feature a spacious gallery, perfect for
art shows, in addition to exhibitions about the sea and
whaling. And because the museum had recently been awarded a
seven-figure grant from a heavily endowed family foundation,
management was now able to spend the money needed for print,
radio, television, and internet advertising that would help
transform the image of the museum as a one-and-done
destination to a living American history museum that people
would want to visit frequently for its exhibits, noteworthy
lectures and presentations, and experiential learning for
When they walked out of the building, Bradley made a fist
and rocked his elbow backwards. "Yes!" he said. "That was an
Grace smiled and said, "I most definitely agree. They know
where they are now. They know where they want to be. And
they're willing to part with a serious amount of cash to
make it happen."
"A boatload, one might say," said Bradley.
"You're funny," she said. "I think the president is still
laughing at your Moby Dick joke."
"Had you heard that one?"
"No," said Grace. "And I was really grateful the punchline
was not what it could have been."
Bradley laughed. "That's the beauty of the joke."
"Yes," said Grace, offering him another quick smile. "You
were good in there. I can tell they like you."
"They like you, too," said Bradley. "As do I."
Grace turned her head to look at him. "Are you trying to
butter me up?"
When they got back in the car, Bradley said, "What's our
"I'm confident we can give them exactly what they want and
need," said Grace, starting the car. "Let's begin with some
video that's hip and upbeat to let people in on this secret."
"I was thinking the same thing," said Bradley. "Short
videos, two minutes or so in length. With some memorable
"Yes," said Grace. "Upbeat music is key; no sea shantys.
Shoot me some ideas by the end of the day tomorrow so we can
discuss them at our Thursday meeting."
When they pulled out of the lot and onto the street, Bradley
ran his hands along the dashboard and said, "God, I love
this car. Your ex-husband was crazy to give it to you."
"Not crazy," said Grace. "Just kind."
Distracted by paperwork that needed to be done before she
could allocate more time to the museum account, Grace didn't
meet with Bradley until late in the day on Thursday. She had
rescheduled their 3 p.m. meeting to 4:30 p.m., and Bradley
had accepted, telling her that he was available to work late
that night. They worked side by side at the cherry
conference table in her office, Bradley on his computer,
Grace with a legal pad. They worked through five o'clock.
They worked through six o'clock. They worked through seven
o'clock, when Bradley told her he could use a beer. "What?"
she asked, looking up from her notes.
"It's after seven," he said. "Can we take a break?"
As if she didn't believe him, Grace looked at her watch. "Of
course we can. I had no idea it was this late. I'm so sorry.
Do you have somewhere you need to be?"
"Right here," he said. "I need to be right here. But I could
definitely use a break."
"Yes, of course," she said. "I think we can wrap things up.
We've accomplished our goals for the meeting. You must be
"I'm more thirsty than hungry," said Bradley, smiling at
her. "Let's go across the street for a beer and a burger."
"I like that idea." Grace stood up, put her hands on her
hips and arched her back. "I never sit for three hours
"Me neither. Paul actually gave me permission to order a
standing desk. I'm still weighing the pros and cons."
Bradley stood too, and Grace realized when he did that he
and she were just about the same height, five feet nine inches.
"I've heard good things about standing desks," said Grace,
transferring her notes and several folders to her desk,
where she would review them in the morning. "You'll have to
let me know what you decide. Dana raves about his."
Bradley nodded as he tucked his laptop under his arm. "Let
me run this down the hall to my office," he said. "I'll be
right back. Dinner is on me."
"Dinner is on the Maritime Museum," she told him.
Bradley flashed a grin. "I like the way you think."
All the booths were taken at Tapped, the unofficial
Broadbent & Shapiro office outside the office, where
many of Grace's and Bradley's colleagues had a beer or two
before heading home for the evening. It was more of a bar
than a restaurant. Yes, Tapped offered a dozen kinds of
burgers, including two vegetarian choices, but they also
served twenty-five varieties of beer, many of them made
locally, all on tap. Plus the bar itself, a large, yellow
pine semicircle, dominated the space. Because the daily
happy hour that ran from four o'clock to six o'clock was
long over, and because it was a Thursday night and not a
Friday night, only half of the normally occupied bar stools
were taken. Grace and Bradley set their briefcases down on
the floor and parked themselves in two tall stools that
looked like they could have been made in high school metal
shop, with their crudely fashioned seat backs and wiggly
"What can I get you?" asked Bradley.
"Whatever you're having," said Grace.
"I'm having a shot of bourbon and a Cranky."
"Perfect," said Grace, even though she had not had a shot of
anything since her friend Shannon Greene had decided a few
months back that getting drunk was more emotionally
affordable than getting laid. Their drink that evening had
been vodka, a word Grace still had trouble saying without
As soon as Bradley turned to get the attention of the
bartender, she was there, with her smoky eye makeup and
scoop-neck T-shirt. And while Grace understood the female
bartender uniform, worn to generate generous tips, she
sometimes wondered how much it mattered. What was more
important to customers – attitude and service or skin? She
looked at Bradley's face as he ordered, noting that he
looked into the eyes of the bartender, aptly named Brandy,
instead of at her chest. Brandy returned his gaze, her
pupils increasing in size as he ordered, her lips parting.
She looked at him like the younger women at the office
looked at him, like she was hungry.
There were six – no, seven counting the new hire – women in
their twenties that worked for the firm. And Grace had
noticed that they all changed in Bradley's presence. They
became more affable and more alert, focusing on his face, on
his magical, multicolored eyes. The good ones could double
major, taking in both his face and his words, tucking away
details, mentally filing his likes and dislikes for future
encounters. Grace was almost two decades older than at least
three of these co-workers. At her age, Grace understood
their motivations better than they did, better than she
understood her own.
"What shall we drink to?" asked Bradley, handing Grace one
of the shots that had been set down on the bar in front of them.
To us! Grace thought about saying, if only to watch the
registration of incomprehension in Bradley's eyes, if only
to ease what seemed to be an awkward moment between two
people who could have been on a date but weren't. Still, it
felt like a date. She and Bradley were together after
business hours, drinking at a bar, with not a single
co-worker in sight. Plus, Grace didn't want to talk about
work – they both needed a reprieve after what had been a
productive but exhausting meeting. But she didn't want to
talk about herself, either, to bring up a history that she
hid from view and conversation. "To working together," she said.
Halfway through her beer and Bradley's story about the
trials of being potty-trained too young – how had this come
up? – Grace reviewed what she had eaten that day, which
amounted to a vegan protein bar in the morning with a large
coffee from the drive-thru and a yogurt and apple for lunch.
When Bradley ordered another round, Grace knew she should
get something to eat, but she was also enjoying the moment
they were in, enjoying being entertained by Bradley instead
of entertaining him. When they walked into the bar, Grace
thought she might have to do that, as the elder of the two,
as the supervisor to the underling, as the woman to the man
– but here he was telling her stories that were meant to be
heard by close friends and family, the kind of story she
rarely heard. She leaned in to listen more closely. She
Before the end of the second beer, what started out as a
drink with a colleague after work officially became the date
it had actually been from the moment they sat down at the
bar. Grace didn't realize this right away, but anyone
watching her, watching them would have noticed that the
number of times they smiled at each other was on the rise;
that they looked at one another exclusively, both appearing
to be tuned out to their surroundings; that they lightly
touched each other's hands, arms, and legs as they talked.
It was the long, slow kiss, normally done in private, that
eradicated any trace of doubt.
Grace looked into his warm brown eyes and whispered, "God,
you taste good." He kissed her again, liquefying her
insides. Seconds later he was paying the bill, and then he
and Grace were rushing out of the restaurant as if they were
running through the airport for an imminent flight. Holding
hands and carrying their briefcases, they ran across the
street laughing. Grace hadn't felt this free since she left
home at eighteen. If Bradley picked up his pace just a
little bit, she could be airborne! They ran around the
building to the dark parking lot, occupied by Bradley's
Honda and Grace's Cadillac. They chose the back seat of the
Cadillac, unzipping, unbuttoning, pulling and pushing,
breathing and sweating, until they lay still.
Lying on her back, Grace kept her eyes closed, even though
she could sense that Bradley's were open, that he was on his
side looking at her. She needed a moment to process what had
just happened, but also to linger in its sweet aftermath. He
did not attempt to sit up, or to reach for his shirt or his
pants. He seemed content to lie beside her, with his arm
wrapped around her waist. Grace had never wanted to stop
time, until now.