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2004

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and Logan decided to invite all of Manhattan out to the Hamptons. Normally their holidays are small family affairs with the occasional high-profile guest or ally, but Gerri counts no less than forty guests at the dinner table. Logan didn’t notify the staff of the lengthy guest list, and Gerri can she them struggling to keep wine glasses full and plates fresh.

Logan is sitting at the head of the table with his newest conquest. Her name is Sally Ann. She comes from Texas oil money and always dresses like she’s ready for her debutante ball. Kendall has a new girlfriend as well. Her name is Rava, and Gerri doesn’t know a thing about her, expect that she’s spent the whole evening drinking wine like water. Then there’s Shiv, who just finished her freshman year at Yale and brought home a nice half-Chinese half-Jewish boyfriend who dresses like an Ivy League stock image. Roman is the only Roy without a date. He’s sitting across from her, sipping his wine and giving her knowing glances whenever Sally Ann makes an inept comment.

He’s now the only child who’s never brought home a significant other. Gerri always expected him to grow up to be gay, and it’s sad that he still feels the need to keep it a secret. She can’t blame him; it’s probably in his best interest to keep it from his father a while longer, but it’s unfair that he can’t date with the laissez faire freedom of his siblings.

“Honey.” Baird places a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. “I was just telling Melanie here that Sarah will be starting the pre-law program at Northwestern in the fall.”

Gerri nods, fighting the urge to check her watch.

It’s almost ten o’clock before she finally manages to escape back to their room. Baird is playing billiards with Frank, and she wants to get in bed as fast as possible to avoid any conversation. So she hastily cleans off her makeup and changes into her night dress, then turns off the lights and gets beneath the covers with her head facing the windows. The door opens maybe three minutes later, but she pretends to be asleep.

She listens to Baird change out of his suit then go to the bathroom to piss and brush his teeth. Then he softly climbs into bed and presses a kiss to her forehead. Gerri already knows she won’t be able to fall asleep anytime soon.

After an hour of restless silence, she pulls off the covers to feel the cool air. The windows are open and the ocean always keeps the nights comfortable even in the dead of summer. The moon is beautiful and full, enticing her to walk down by the beach. She left her book out on the sailboat this afternoon. That’s enough of an excuse to stretch her legs and maybe wear herself out.

She slips on her jacket and sneakers, then creeps down the hall. She takes the servant's staircase and exits through the kitchen. The moon and security lights provide more than enough illumination to make it down to the beach without losing sight of her feet.

The sailboat was built in the 1950s. Logan recently had it restored. It’s thirty feet long with a cozy common room below deck. Gerri zips up her jacket as she walks along the dock; the ocean wind feels heavenly on her face. She’s no more than twenty feet away when she hears something rustling on the boat. She freezes, listens closely, wondering if an animal managed to get on board. But then she sees a human figure moving around on deck. She panics, but then her eyes adjust well enough to get a glimpse of his face.

“Roman?” she calls.

“Jesus, fuck!” Roman half-shouts half-gasps, gripping the railing while turning to face her. He has a beer bottle in one hand and some of the liquid leaps out with the sudden movement.

“It’s me, it’s Gerri. What are you doing out here?” she asks while walking closer.

“Uh… just getting ready for bed.”

Gerri stares at him in confusion. “Do you… have someone with you?” she asks, thinking maybe he came out here to hook up. That would make sense.

“No? Just me. Are you looking for someone?”

She shakes her head as she grabs the railings and steps onto the deck. “No, I just forgot my book on here somewhere.”

“Oh yeah, this one?” He reaches down to pick up the door-stopper biography she stupidly decided to bring for a vacation read.

“Yeah, that’s it. Thanks.” She takes the book with a smile, the awkwardness making her skin prickle.

After a few seconds of weird silence Roman clears his throat. “Yeah, uh, the house is so packed I couldn’t get my own room, so I had a choice between cockblocking Ken and Rava or cockblocking Shiv and Yale guy, so I figured I’d sleep out here instead.”

Gerri nods. That alibi is far more innocent than she was expecting.

“That’s thoughtful. There’s a couch in Baird and mine’s room if you want to come back inside.”

“Nah, I’m good. There’s a bed below deck and everything. My dad invited so many fucking people it feels like a sorority.” He takes a sip of his beer, which looks really refreshing after a night of room temperature red wine.

“Sorry, you want one?” Roman asks while holding up the bottle.

“Sure, why not?” Gerri replies with a shrug.

Roman raises his eyebrows. He clearly wasn’t expecting a positive answer.

“Cool, my dad left a bunch of extras.” He walks over to the blue cooler in the center of the deck and pulls out a bottle dripping with water. He pops the cap and brings it over. To her relief, the glass is still ice cold.

“It must be a really good book,” he says while taking a seat along the hull. “To come all the way out here and get it.”

Gerri shrugs while crouching down to sit beside him. “Not really. I probably won’t finish it. I mainly just wanted an excuse to go for a walk.” She sips her beer while looking up at the house. “You’re right, it does feel a bit like a youth hostel right now.”

Roman gives a polite laugh before they slip into silence. They mutually sip their beer, enjoying the slight rock of the waves.

“So,” Roman starts, “what do you think of Sally Ann? Honest answers only.”

Gerri smiles. “You ply me with alcohol then goad me into gossip?”

“Come on, I saw your fucking face when she asked about your dress.”

Gerri presses the cold bottle to her forehead, cringing at the memory.

“It’s so funny how they all think they’re the first,” Roman says while rubbing his thumb along the glass.

Gerri sighs. “Your dad has a way of making women feel special.”

“Yeah, I know; I grew up with Shiv.”

Gerri can’t help but laugh, even if it’s unbecoming.

“Whatever,” Roman says with a shrug. “He can date whoever he wants as long as I don’t have to call her mom.”

“I don’t think it will last. Your dad likes smart women. But what he really wants is a geisha or an Athenian courtesan. He wants intelligence that entertains him.”

“So what’s he doing with the lady who thought Pangea was a type of pasta?”

Gerri looks up at the house, thinking about what’s going on behind all those dark windows.

“I guess it can be nice to date someone who makes you feel like a genius.”

Roman grimaces. “Wouldn’t it get annoying real quick?”

Gerri tenses, the question hitting a bit too close to home.

“Yeah, it does.” She takes a long pull of her beer. “Sally Ann worries me though. It’s frustrating how your father promises woman the sun and moon just so he can snatch it all away. And he never expects them to retaliate.”

“And you think Sally Ann will?”

Gerri shrugs, slightly worried that Roman will start spreading gossip if she gives too much.

“Maybe, maybe not,” she replies noncommittally.

“But he will snatch it all away?”

Gerri lets the question hang. From his tone, it sounds like Roman already knows the answer.

“Maybe he’ll let her keep the harp,” she replies.

Roman giggles, his bangs falling over his eyes.

Neither of them say anything more. They just drink in silence for a minute. Gerri doesn’t know why they’re sitting on the side of the hull that faces the house rather than the ocean, when the latter would be a far better view. The tide is lightly lapping against the bow, making the boat gently rock.

“So you don’t get seasick sleeping out here?” Gerri asks.

Roman shakes his head. “No, not really. That’s more Ken’s thing. As kids dad had to stuff him full of Dramamine before every flight. His window is still lit.” He points up to two glowing windows on the second floor of the house. “Sick freak likes it with the lights on.”

Gerri tries not to laugh. “He and Rava are moving awfully fast,” she observes. “What happened to the girl he brought last year?”

“I don’t know,” Roman replies, in a tone that implies he really is just as clueless as she is. “Kendall said she got annoying and clingy. Two adjectives he has no right to throw at other people. Since they broke up in February, my guess is she freaked out after his legendary New Year’s bender and tried to get him to work his shit out.”

Gerri nods. That timeline sounds about right. Ever since high school Kendall has been a serial monogamist. Crashing and burning when one relationship ends only to rebound within a week and discover the new love of his life. It’s funny, he doesn’t seem that interested in sex. Or at least that’s not his main motivator. He’s just addicted to the cycle of heartbreak followed by fresh attention.

“Rava does seem a little… out of sorts,” Gerri says, trying to be polite.

“Yeah, just what he needs. An enabler with tits. He told me he’s planning to propose to her.”

“You’re fucking kidding.”

“Nope. He’s waiting for her birthday next month.”

Gerri groans into her hand. “Christ, that’s a court date waiting to happen.”

She envisions all the ways this could be a headache for the company. She doesn’t dislike Rava; she seems nice, even if she’s clearly an alcoholic. It’s Kendall, and his self-destructive Ferris wheel that he seems determined to ride indefinitely.

“So, Kendall only dates party girl basket cases. Your sister only dates Model UN nerds. What about you?”

Roman gives a short laugh. “Who do I date? Well, she goes to another school up in Canada, but you probably haven’t heard of it. No, seriously, I’m not seeing anyone at the moment, but I’m in very high demand.”

“Are you?”

“Yeah, fucking fighting them off with a weed wacker.” He takes a last sip of his beer, draining the bottle. Then sets it off to the side. “My dad’s getting really annoyed I haven’t brought home a girlfriend yet. I should just hire some chick to come out here for a weekend. Enjoy the open bar and steal a couple candlesticks while she’s at it.”

“You should hold auditions.”

“Yeah, I’ll put out an open call. Cornell’s drama department is really shitty though. Might have to hit up the girls at Yale.”

Gerri looks down at her sneakers. She doesn’t want to press further, but it feels like Roman has given her plenty of evidence that he’s not interested in women.

“You shouldn’t have to fake it,” she says quietly, wondering if Roman’s going to confess it in plain English.

“Yeah, I mean, like, what’s the big deal? Rava and Yale McYaleman will both be gone within a year. If you ask me, it’s kind of manipulative for Ken and Shiv to get their hopes up. Arranged marriages and mistresses are the way to go.”

“Why don’t you marry Sarah then? She has a crush on you.”

“Does she? That’s cute. Look at you, using your daughter to get your hands on my money.”

“What money,” she scoffs. “Doesn’t your dad keep your credit card maxed at $20k?”

“I could buy you a very reasonably priced Toyota Camry.”

Both of them laugh, then drift back into silence. It’s funny, but this feels like her first glimpse of Roman as an adult. Sure, he still doesn’t look like someone who can legally drink, but it feels like he’s starting to settle into the person he’s going to be for the rest of his life. Of course there will still be changes. He’ll probably have a completely different personality by the time he’s thirty. But the core components are there. And she’s relieved he made it to adulthood relatively intact. He could have let his parents turn him into a much worse person.

“Hey, uh, you don’t have to hang out here if you want to get back inside,” Roman says.

“No, I like it. It’s nice just talking with one person, you know? Instead of shouting across a dinner table or being stuck in three separate conversations at cocktail hour.”

And unlike my husband, you’re actually witty and entertaining.

“Yeah, I hear you. Baird won’t be worried?”

“He was asleep when I left. If he wakes up he’ll probably just assume I’m fucking Frank.”

Roman laughs. “Were you always this vulgar, or are you just finally starting to talk to me like a grownup?”

“I can’t say anything you haven’t already heard from your father.”

“Fair.”

Gerri takes the last sip of her beer. She really wants another. She hasn’t gotten properly drunk in months. And she hasn’t gotten drunk with anyone fun in years. But hey, Roman’s still in town for another week before heading back up to Ithaca. Maybe she can steal him off to a bar one night, lie to her husband and say she’s meeting one of her female friends. She no longer has any friends in their twenties, and hardly any in their thirties.

She thinks about spending another two, three, four decades with Baird. The unrelenting tedium exacerbated after the girls move out for good. Has her life reached such an unbearable state of boredom that going out for a drink with a twenty-one-year-old gay man sounds like the height of enjoyment?

“I’m thinking about leaving Baird,” she says flatly, as if it had no weight.

Roman is silent for a moment, then hisses through his teeth. “Wow, okay.”

Gerri half-regrets saying it aloud. But she needs to tell someone. She’s been letting it fester for two years now, repressed from family, friends, and even her therapist. The rage comes and goes. She’ll go a week perfectly content, berating herself for being ungrateful, but then suddenly it’s Sunday night and Baird is watching TV while she reads the same page of a book for the third time and it hits her that she would be perfectly happy never seeing him again. She would be nostalgic, even morose, but not unhappy. What are you supposed to do once you realize that your husband has as little bearing on your happiness as a college roommate?

Gerri sighs and wraps her jacket closer around her chest. “Talia will be out of the house in two years, and after that there just doesn’t feel like anything keeping us together. Except for this goddamn company.”

Roman nods. “Who would get my dad in the divorce?”

Gerri laughs so hard she’s glad she didn’t have any beer in her mouth because it definitely would have come spewing out her nose.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Roman says, clearly pleased with himself.

“It was,” she replies while wiping half a tear from her eye. “It’s just… I’m bored by him. But he’s a wonderful father. He loves the girls like nothing else. But once they’re out of the house and it’s just me and him… I don’t know how I’m going to keep myself in check.”

“Well, you’re smarter than him. Everyone knows it. It must get frustrating.”

In a split second, Gerri feels decades of baggage unravel. Well, not unravel. More like a taut rope finally getting an inch of slack.

Roman is the first person to actually say it aloud. She’s smarter than her husband. For decades she thought it was just her ego. While Baird was showered with praise and promotions she remained stagnant, waiting for someone above her to die or retire before she could even hope for a raise. Sometimes Baird would say or do things so inept it made her want to rip her hair out, but he never faced a single reprimand.

In the evenings she would sit at the kitchen table helping Sarah study for the SAT, or revise her essays, or quiz Talia on her chemistry, then Baird would walk in, take one look at their homework, then throw his hands up in defeat and grab a beer from the fridge.

Gerri knows she’s smarter, but no one, not her family, friends, and certainly not her coworkers, have ever outright said it. And she feels a euphoric sense of vindication, and it’s funny that she received the validation from Roman Roy of all people.

“Not that I’m fucking Plato or anything. But I just can’t keep having the same conversations over and over again. And he’s gotten worse with age. It’s like he’s settled into the idea of never learning anything new. But is that a good enough reason to leave? I should probably just make him join a book club or something.”

Without asking Roman’s permission, she stands and walks over to the cooler. She withdraws a beer and pops the cap with the bottle opener tied around the mast. Then she returns to her spot, not eager to trek back up to the house anytime soon.

“Do you still love him?” Roman asks.

Gerri’s hand freezes as she’s bringing the bottle to her lips. It’s funny, that question never really played a part in her calculations. Of course you can love someone even if they don’t make you happy. She’ll love her daughters no matter what misery they put her through. But is love even relevant in a situation like this? Loving Baird won’t make him a better husband. She doesn’t want him to change, and at this age he can’t change. It’s not anything he did wrong, it’s who he is.

“Yeah, I love him. But I’ve loved other people more.”

Roman nods. “Well, guess it’s a lot to think about.”

Gerri sighs. “How’d you feel when your parents got divorced?”

“I mean, that was different. My dad was screaming at all hours and my mom was downing two bottles of wine a day. The divorce fucking sucked, but like, I’m guessing you and Baird aren’t going to get stuck in a year-long shit fight over money and custody. But hey, Sarah and Talia are mature kids. They’d understand. They’re both crazy smart too. They know where their dad’s at.”

Gerri nods. Some part of her still can’t believe she’s finally having this conversation, and with Roman of all people.

“Please don’t tell anyone,” she says softly.

“What? No, of course not. None of my business.”

She doesn’t fully trust him. But what would he have to gain by telling anyone?”

“This is also definitely none of my business,” he continues, “but… is there someone else?”

Gerri can’t help but laugh. “God, no. I don’t have the time for that. But I sort of wish there was. It’d almost make things easier.”

She takes another sip of her beer, then turns towards Roman, and almost flinches when she sees the look in his eyes.

She’s never able to remember whether his eyes are brown or blue, and in the current light they could be either. There’s a wet glow in them, a beautiful shine that makes her skin prickle. The longer she holds his gaze the tenser the air grows. She feels a prickle of heat spread across her chest. She’s suddenly aware of the sweat beneath her armpits and breasts. She doesn’t turn away, even when he leans in closer.

Gerri knows she should pull back, scold him, make him feel like shit, but instead she closes her eyes and opens her mouth. This is the first time she’s kissed someone else in twenty years, and she’s not sure whether it’s novelty or chemistry, but it sends shudders down her arms.

Christ, he’s not gay. She miscalculated. And now she’s raising a hand to the back of his head, all that intelligence discarded with one decision.

Roman presses in harder. He places a hand on her thigh. She grabs his shoulder. The boat continues rocking as they tangle their tongues together and groan like teenagers. Gerri’s heart is hammering. Her skin is uncomfortably hot beneath her jacket. She should stop this now, but Roman is leaning closer and his body is so firm.

Before her brain can catch up with her body, he’s gently laying her against the deck and guiding her head down to the wood.

He kisses at her neck while climbing on top of her. She grips his hair, his shirt, feels his cock pressing against her leg.

Definitely not gay. Definitely not gay.

Then his hand moves under her nightdress, and she arches up when he presses his palm against her crotch. The pressure and illicitness of the whole affair makes her tremble.

She’s committed now. She’s waded into the deep end. She can’t back out now, and she doesn’t want to. When Roman starts tugging on the waistband of her panties she helps him. She raises her hips and pulls them down, kicks off one of her sneakers so she can get the fabric over her foot. Then she reaches for Roman’s fly and hurriedly unzips it, desperate to get this over with before the regret catches up with her.

She pumps him a couple times, but it’s really not necessary. He’s rock hard, his tip is wet, and she’s never felt more wanted. She’s more than twice his age, and all it took to seduce him was a bit of smalltalk and a bare face. She never imagined anyone younger than forty wanting her again, but he’s begging for it.

He leans over and hikes up her nightdress. She helps guide him to the right angle, then he presses inside.

God, he’s inside her. Another man’s dick is inside her. He moans as he withdraws then presses back in. Once, twice, three times, and that’s when Gerri's hooded eyes snap open. Some pre-orgasmic clarity highjacks her libido, and the shameful reality crushes her like a garbage truck full of rocks.

She’s having sex with Roman Roy. She’s known him since he was a toddler. He used to rub his peanut butter hands on the office windows. She went to his middle school band recital. And now his prick is inside her and he’s twenty-one with the face of a porcelain doll that got rejected from the assembly line and the body of a testosterone deficient Napoleon and she’s cheating on her husband with the kid who couldn’t get into Harvard despite his dad buying them a building and–

Roman groans, his body tenses, and Gerri feels him come inside her.

She stares up at the stars, floating above her body, up into the ether where she still has dignity.

Roman Roy most certainly did not just ejaculate inside her after less than a minute of awkward gyrating. This is not what she deserves.

“It’s cool, it’s cool, I’m a virgin,” Roman quickly spits out.

“What?” Gerri replies, her brain stripped of all intelligent thought.

“You know, you don’t have to worry about STDs or anything.”

Jesus Christ, Gerri didn’t even think of that. She didn’t think about anything. At least she still has her IUD, so she won’t have to worry about an extremely geriatric pregnancy. She thinks about carrying Roman Roy's unborn child during middle age, and has to tamper down the thought so she doesn’t gag.

She brings a hand up beneath her glasses, desperate to hide her face from God and the world.

“Please get out of me,” she says, professional and flat.

Roman quickly withdraws, and the sudden emptiness makes her acutely aware of what she just did. She pulls down her dress while Roman tucks his wet dick back inside his pants.

“Do you have some tissues or anything?” she asks, her face probably red as blood.

“Um… yeah, below deck. One sec.”

“Actually, never mind.”

In an act of profound indignity, she removes her underwear from where it’s hanging around her ankle, balls it up, and uses it to clean away the come that’s dripping out of her. At least Roman has enough tact to look in the opposite direction. Then she tosses the fabric over the side of the deck, disposing of the evidence.

“You want me to walk you back?” Roman asks meekly while she slips on her shoe.

“Goodnight, Roman,” she says firmly. Then wraps her jacket tight around her chest and climbs back onto the dock.

“‘Kay, ‘night,” he replies so pitifully she can hardly hear him.

Gerri doesn’t look back, feeling like Lot’s wife. She endures her walk of shame up the beach, across the small trail, and back towards the house. She sneaks in the same way she left, and stops in the small bathroom off the kitchen to shamefully clean herself more thoroughly.

She returns to bed stinking of sweat. But Baird doesn’t even stir. She lies there on her back like a corpse, staring up at the ceiling with her eyes wide open. She doesn’t drift off until the first tinge of light makes it over the horizon.

-

“So, how was everyone’s night?” Connor asks over breakfast the next morning.

Roman shrugs. “It was alright. I fucked Gerri out on the boat.”

Gerri’s blood runs cold. She shoots him a look of violent intent. But Connor just awkwardly laughs while Shiv smacks Roman upside the head.

Gerri gives him a look that couldn’t be more clear:

We will never speak of this again.