This is an unedited excerpt from a longer piece, coming in 2017:
Given that it was almost one a.m., Brendan was sure Tracy had long departed seriously-pissed-off and was somewhere approaching ballistic. But there hadn’t been any way to avoid it. The men he’d been entertaining all evening had flown in from Dubai. They were young Saudi sheiks, or sons of entrepreneurs or some such thing, with money to burn and looking to invest in music.
The Saudis were always hard to shake. When they came to the States they didn’t just expect to be shown a good time. No, these guys wanted pure debauchery. Strip clubs, loose women, hard liquor—the whole nine yards. That was the part of his business that Brendan seldom talked about with Tracy. She didn’t like him being around women in power-suits let alone those in G-strings shaking their tail in his face. And while Brendan never partook in that manner of festivity, he was definitely expected to be along for the ride.
Tonight, his charge had been a twenty-three year old with a potential $2.5 million investment who happened to like blondes. But he and his entourage had two very specific requests: full nudity and twerking. Easy enough in New York City, right? Wrong. Because dude also wanted them to have big butts. Like, really big. The stripper aesthetic differed from city to city, and big butts were more of a down South thing. New York clubs were more into toned and athletic girls, some of them more on the slender side. So they’d been to three clubs before Karim or Jahir or whatever-the-hell-his-name-was had found the perfect dancer who met his and his friends’ requirements. And then they’d spent the better part of three hours making it rain. What should have been a perfectly respectable evening having a few early drinks with potential business associates had turned into a frat boy’s wet dream.
And a husband’s nightmare.
Brendan couldn’t hear her as he opened the front door—the house was completely silent—but he knew for a fact that Tracy was wide awake. Wide awake and waiting.
Making his way up the stairs slowly, he tried to avoid the loud spots, but of course, failed. The door to the master bedroom, which was directly opposite the top of the stairs, was ajar. They were staying in Brooklyn these days, in the house that Tracy owned before they got married. Layla was starting to need more space and they’d agreed that the apartment in the city had way too many perils, not the least of which was the beautiful but child-unfriendly spiral staircase that led up to the loft.
Pausing before going in, Brendan instead decided to go check in on his little girl. The second bedroom, once Tracy’s home office, had been transformed into an explosion of pink, ruffles and butterflies, at the center of which was a “princess sleigh-bed”. And in the center of that bed, his baby girl lay, sleeping sweet little-girl dreams, her long wild, reddish-auburn hair spread around her head like a halo, her rosebud mouth slightly open, her breaths soft and even.
Smiling, Brendan knelt next to the bed and inhaled, kissing her lightly on the cheek and then on the forehead. In her sleep, Layla stretched out her arms, waiting to be lifted. He smiled, and gently pushed her arms back down to the covers. Around the time she turned a year old, things had been so hectic at work that he rarely made it home before her bedtime. So it had been his practice, as he had done tonight, to go into her room just to pick her up, hold her while she slept and walk back and forth in her room for a few minutes. The weight and warmth of this incredibly beautiful little being—the most amazing thing he had ever done in his life—was something he couldn’t even begin to describe.
Tonight he didn’t pick her up, but just looked, smelled her, kissed her and went back down the hall to face his wife.
When he opened the door to the master suite, Tracy was sitting up in bed, back straight as though she was in a yoga pose, her hair loose about her shoulders, arms folded on her lap, and legs stretched in front of her atop the covers. Still the most beautiful woman he had ever known, Tracy struck him right in the chest and in the gut whenever he walked into a room and caught sight of her. Tonight was no different.
“Is it important to you that we have another baby?” she asked, without greeting him first. Her voice was scarily calm.
Trick question, incoming.
“Of course it is. You know me. If it was up to me, we’d have a few more.”
“It is up to you, Brendan. All you have to do is make it home during the window.”
“Let’s not talk about ‘the window’ at one-thirty in the morning. I don’t think I have it in me right now to talk about ‘the window’.”
“According to the book, it’s our best chance for …”
“I know. You read The Book to me every morning for the last few months while I’m trying to get dressed for work, so I know all about it.”
“So you know today is …”
“Yep. I know. Ovulation Day.”
Brendan shed his shirt and began working on his pants. As exasperated as he was by the conversation, he was mostly relieved that she wasn’t angry after all. By Tracy standards, this was nothing short of a miracle. His wife was not one to take it well when things didn’t go according to plan. Particularly if the plan was hers.
“Are you making fun of this process?”
“Nope. Not at all.”
Tossing his clothes over the back of the bedroom armchair, he turned toward the bed, pausing only to switch off the overhead lighting, throwing the room into almost complete darkness. The only illumination came from the hallway where they always kept a dim light on in case they needed to make their way to Layla’s bedroom in the middle of the night.
Climbing on to the bed, Brendan grabbed his wife by the ankles and pulled her toward him, causing her to topple onto her back.
“Shh,” he said, spreading her legs. “You’re going to wake Layla.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Tracy asked as he grasped her behind the knees and lifted her legs.
“We’re about to make a baby …”
“No.” Tracy said.
“No, Brendan. It’s too late now. And anyway, you don’t get to come in here smelling like a distillery, hours later than you promised and get some purely-for-enjoyment sex.”
“What’s wrong with purely-for-enjoyment sex?” he asked, turning his head to kiss along her inner thigh. “That’s the only kind we used to have, remember?”
Her voice had softened somewhat and she sighed as he made his way up her right thigh toward the apex, and her chest had begun to rise and fall more visibly. Baring his teeth, he nipped her lightly and was rewarded with Tracy swatting him on top of his head.
“You suck,” she said. “We missed the window because of you.”
“I don’t suck,” Brendan said sliding a hand up and under her nightshirt. “But I will …” He tweaked a nipple and Tracy’s pelvis lifted off the bed.
“You always think you can placate me with sex,” she said.
“Because I always can.” Brendan moved up her body so that finally, they were face-to-face.
Tracy’s greenish-amber eyes blinked slowly, and her perfect bow-shaped lips curled into a smile. Her hair was wild and disheveled, spread around her head and shoulders on the pillow. It caught what little light there was, so that it seemed streaked in gold.
Brendan smiled back, and for a few long moments they just looked at each other. He loved the hell out of this woman, with all her edges, and moods and complications. But among the things he loved most was how hopeless she was at hiding all she felt for him. Even now, pissed as she was, he saw it in those incredible eyes of her.
“I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I should’ve been here.”
Tracy reached up and swatted the top of his head again. “Yeah. You should have,” she said quietly. And then a pause. “So … where were you?”
Brendan froze, weighing the odds that Tracy’s surprisingly mellow mood would persist if he told her the complete truth. He felt her legs, wrapped around his torso slacken a little.
“Out with a potential investor. Young guy from the Middle East. He wanted a little … Western-style entertainment.”
“So you were at a … country-and-western bar?” Tracy asked sweetly.
“No,” Brendan said slowly. “Not exactly.”
“Brendan …” Tracy’s voice hardened.
“Brendan, tell me you weren’t at a …”
“Yes. But I swear I didn’t enjoy it.”
Tracy thrashed around beneath him, trying to get free, and shoving fruitlessly against his chest. “Get off me,” she ordered.
“C’mon nothing! You know how I feel about those places, and yet you …”
“I go where the investors and clients want to go, Tracy. You know that. You think I want some sweaty-assed chick who’s been groped by a dozen guys grinding on me?”
“What do you mean grinding on you? Did you get a freakin’ lap-dance?”
Brendan sighed and rolled over onto his back. “No, sweetheart, I didn’t get a lap-dance.”
“You’d better not have, Brendan. Or …”
“Okay, okay. Let’s fight about this tomorrow. Are we having sex or not?”
“Fine. G’night then. I’m exhausted.”
After getting up to switch off the bathroom light, Brendan climbed back into bed. Next to him, though they weren’t touching, he felt Tracy’s tension and wakefulness. She could never sustain her anger at him for very long. She flared, and then she cooled, and then they were all over each other again. Knowing that by morning the whole disagreement would be a thing of the past made it much easier for Brendan to be sanguine about it. Still, it would probably take her another hour to drift off as she tried to talk herself down from her annoyance, while he could already feel himself slipping beneath the soft cloak of sleep. His wife was nothing if not intense; and once she made up her mind to do something she was single-minded until it was accomplished. And having a second baby was definitely her new mission.
The pregnancy with Layla had been far from uneventful. Even their daughter’s conception had happened somewhat against the odds. Tracy had been on and off the pill, and only occasionally having periods. And Brendan definitely hadn’t been trying to get her pregnant back then, because they weren’t married. He only began to reconcile himself to fatherhood—and acknowledge how much he wanted it—when Tracy almost miscarried in her first trimester. But after Layla was born, that was it, he was all the way gone, and the future he imagined for them included a large family.
But unlike Tracy, he was willing to trust that it would all happen in the fullness of time—they didn’t need to orchestrate everything. But because family, their family, was Tracy’s only occupation—since she had left her job to be a full-time homemaker a year after they married—Brendan was happy to let her be in charge of all things home-related, including the baby-making. The problem was, knowing his wife, if she couldn’t have even a modicum of control over the process, she would grow increasingly tense.
“Hey,” he said to her in the dark.
He heard and felt Tracy move toward him, but still, they didn’t touch.
“Closer,” he said again.
This time he felt her arm brush against his.
He dragged Tracy closer still, so that her head was on his chest and his arm. Heaving a deep sigh, he shut his eyes again. “Good. There,” he said. “That’s where you’re supposed to be.”
“You still suck,” Tracy whispered.