Fitz stared at the bottom of his third glass of scotch. Olivia chose to go to New York to visit her parents instead of attend the King & Spalding annual Christmas party. They'd barely spoken to one another since the death of their daughter. She'd been buried in the Grant family plot in California, and from that day forward things in their lives changed dramatically. They no longer went to each other as their source of comfort. Fitz found more comfort in work and trying to move past what happened; Olivia found comfort in her parents and took many a trip to go see them. They'd hardly been in each other's company for more than a few moments at a time since that horrible day in October.
"Couldn't persuade Liv to come?" Asked Cyrus as he sidled up beside Fitz at the bar.
Fitz set his glass down on the counter and motioned for the bartender to pour another two fingers of the amber liquid.
“No, she decided to go to her parent’s house for the holidays. I’ll be here through Christmas, alone. She’ll be back for the New Year, I guess.”
“She just needs time. I’m sure it’ll work out. I’ve never seen two people who need each other more than the two of you need one another.”
Fitz scoffed and picked up he refilled glass knocking back half without a thought. "Maybe, I'm not so sure anymore."
"Buck up, Fitz. This sullen attitude is not at all becoming in a grown man," Cyrus gave Fitz what was supposed to be a stern look, but ended up being more of a drunken leer.
As the night progressed, Fitz managed to drink himself into a state of false happiness, temporarily putting the thoughts of Olivia and their dead child out of his mind.
"Are you having a good evening, Mr. Grant?" A voice rang out beside him. The cloying smell of perfume hit him quickly and made his stomach churn. He turned towards the source of the voice to find his assistant Amanda in a well-fitting black dress that left little to the imagination.
"No Mrs. Grant this evening?"
"No, Mrs. Grant is visiting her parents. I'm here alone as you can see."
"I'm sorry you're here alone and not having a good time by the looks of it."
Fitz shrugged, a little of the scotch in his glass sloshing over the side.
"Would you like to dance, Mr. Grant?"
"With you?" Fitz asked slightly confused by the subject change.
"Yes, it's a slow song, so you wouldn't have to do too much moving."
Fitz kicked back the rest of his scotch and set the empty tumbler down with a bit more force than intended. He placed his hand in Amanda's outstretched one and allowed her to lead him to the dance floor.
The moved in small circles, Fitz too inebriated to care and Amanda relishing the opportunity to be someplace she'd wanted to be for a while.
"I know I've said it before," Amanda began, "but, I'm so sorry for you and Mrs. Grant's loss. I know it must have been devastating and it can't be easy to have your wife away at the holidays. It's always such a lonely time of year."
"I'm not lonely," Fitz replied gruffly. "I wish we was here, but I'm not lonely."
"Sorry for assuming," Amanda said with a faux sheepish expression. She slowly moved her hand up the arm that was wrapped loosely around her waist, pausing when she made her way to his bicep, giving a firm squeeze.
"I just want you to know, Mr. Grant, anything you need, I'm here for you. You just have to ask. Hell, you don't even have to ask," she whispered moving closer to him. "It can be our little secret."
Fitz stared down into the face of a woman that under normal circumstances, he never would have given a second thought about. She was too young, and far too eager and something indefinable that Fitz couldn't quite put his finger on.
"You're being awfully inappropriate, Amanda. I'm your boss and I'm married."
Amanda gave what Fitz figured was a girlish sort of laugh, but really came off a little maniacal. "I hate seeing you so tense and out of sorts, Mr. Grant. I can help you. Please let me. No one will ever have to know."
Fitz stumbled into his Georgetown house around two AM. He ripped off his bowtie and furiously worked to remove to the cuff links Olivia has purchased for his as a birthday present.
Bile rose and his stomach tightened as flashes of what he'd done invaded his head. He was angry with himself. How could be have done that? How could he have been so...
He shook his head to try to clear his thoughts. His mind was a whirl with the vision of Amanda on her knees in front of him, his fingers in her hair and she inexpertly took his cock into her mouth. Everything about it was wrong. She didn't feel the same as his Livi, her hair felt foreign under his fingertips, the scent of her perfume was nauseating instead of seductive.
The small closet they'd found was not far from the party and a dumb location to choose. Fitz pulled roughly at his hair trying to exorcise the feel of her lips against his from his mind. He rubbed his fingertips together feeling a bit like Lady Macbeth wanting desperately to remove the feel of her skin on his fingers. It was wrong, it was all so wrong. Nothing about her was like his Livi.
Fitz bent over the sink in the kitchen as he desperately tried to keep from retching over the marble countertops.
The kitchen light flipped on causing him to groan and quickly shut him eyes.
"Babe, are you okay?"
Fitz turned to see his wife, clad in his Navy sweatshirt and a pair of short pants coming towards him, arms stretched in concern.
"What are you doing here?" He whispered. "I thought you were in New York until New Year's?"
"I...I didn't want you to be alone for Christmas. I shouldn't have left. I'm sorry, but we'll talk tomorrow. You have obviously had too much to drink. Good party?"
"Awful party. Please don't leave anymore."
"Promise me. Promise me no matter what happens. Please. Please don't go."
Olivia tilted her head to the side and watched as tears sat unshed in her husband's eyes. She chalked it up to him being drunk and replied, "I promise."
"Quit coddling her, Mel. She's acting like a child."
"Well, Fitzgerald, she's our child and she's hurting because of something we did, perhaps you should get a better idea of what she's talking about."
"Are either of you going to go see her?" Olivia interrupted.
"Why don't you do it since she seems to be so fond of you," Fitz replied, his voice hard and tone flippant.
Olivia stared at Fitz, pain clearly etched across his face, but his response was uncalled for. "I just think it's easier for her because I'm not her parent."
Olivia turned and walked into the house not wishing to get into an argument with Fitz and not wishing to listen to Fitz and Mellie bicker.
Olivia climbed the stairs towards the bedroom wing of the house and followed the sound of raised voices to Karen's room. Olivia knocked loudly and announced her presence on the other side of the door.
Karen opened the door, her eyes puffy and strained. She stepped back and allowed Olivia to enter her room. Mason smiled at Olivia, gave Karen a gentle kiss, and made his way to the door.
"I'm going to go make sure everything's okay down there. I love you, Karen, remember that."
"I love you, too Mason."
Olivia smiled at Mason as he left. “You’ve got a great fiancé, Karen.”
Karen turned to look at Olivia straight on. “Did you come up here to tell me that I’m acting like a child as well, or to just lecture me on how to treat my parents?”
“Neither. I came up here to tell you a story.”
“Will this story have some sort of moral implication and let me know that I should apologize?”
Olivia shrugged. “I don’t know. Depends on what you get out of it, I guess.”
Karen sighed and reclined back on her bed. “Hit me.”
Olivia smiled and walked around Karen’s room. It was sparse of any kind of personal decoration as she was sure that this room was one of many that’d belonged to Karen. This wasn’t Karen’s home, but the space was still warm, and there were still family pictures littered around the room.
“When I was growing up, my father expected me to go to medical school and follow in his footsteps. Work at his practice, take over his practice, and grow his business. The man is so passionate about medicine and about helping people. When I told him I wanted to go to law school and not become a doctor I’d never seen him so devastated. After all, I’d never given any inclination that I wanted to do anything other than medical school. I’d taken all the classes that I needed in order to go to medical school, I’d even sat for my MCAT, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was what he wanted and not what I wanted. I’d never really stopped to think what I wanted to do.”
Olivia stopped her circuit of the room to sit next to Karen on the bed. She gently ran a hand down Karen’s arm as she continued. “My dad was so hurt. He still tells people to this day that law school had simply been my fall back because if I couldn’t get into Duke Medical School as he did, then I wasn’t going to go at all. It used to devastate me. I couldn’t understand why this man I love so much couldn’t understand that this wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I didn’t love medicine the way he did. I needed to make my own path. It used to tear me up inside that he wasn’t proud of the daughter I was instead of the daughter he wanted me to be. I just didn’t understand, with all I’ve done and accomplished why he couldn’t be proud of me.
“Until one day, my mother sat me down and explained something to me that I’ll always remember. She said that dad was proud of me, but he held onto this image of who I was going to be for so long that it was really difficult for him to believe anything else. It wasn’t that he didn’t love me, and it wasn’t that he didn’t realize what I’d accomplished. He just had other plans. And then I realized, that I was holding onto expectations too. Karen, we can’t change our parents. As much as we’d love to, we just can’t. But, we can change how certain things make us feel. All our parents’ want is the best for us. My father’s expectations of what would make me happy were not my expectations of what would make me happy.
“You need to let go of the expectations you held on your parents. I know it’s not easy. You wanted something very different then what they could give you, but now you’re an adult, Karen. You’re getting married, you’ll have children of your own some day, and you can do things differently if you’d like. But, those two people downstairs would walk through fire for you. They love you, even if it’s not the way you want them to.”
Tears tracked down Karen’s cheeks as she listened to Liv’s story. “It...just...it really hurts, you know?”
“Yeah,” Olivia replied. “I do. I really do.”
Karen turned her head to the side to look at Olivia. “Does it get any easier?”
Olivia nodded. “Day by day. It gets easier. Sometimes it still really hurts and sometimes it still really sucks, but it gets easier, that much I know.”
Karen kicked at the bed in a moment of pique before she settled back down. "I should actually talk to him, shouldn't I?"
"It's your life, Karen. You can do whatever you want. I just think that if you let this sit and fester any longer that you'll wake up one day and regret what could have been. Your dad is your dad. He's not going to change this late in the game. Don't shut him out of your life."
Olivia leaned over and gave Karen a kiss on the cheek. "You coming back down or what?"
"Can I hide for a bit longer?"
Olivia gave Karen a gentle pat on the leg, and made her way from the room. As she walked down the stairs she realized she heard no more raised voices and hoped that was a good thing.
As she made her way out to the patio, she found Jerry and his wife, Megan, sipping what appeared to be Bloody Mary’s.
“What happened to everyone, Jer?”
“Well,” Jerry began setting down the glass that was lightly beaded with sweat. “Mom stormed off inside, dad took a walk down the beach, and Mason took his parents out of the crossfire. I think their flight is set to leave tonight anyway.”
“Are you okay?” Megan asked. “You were kind of caught in the crosshairs there.”
“Par for the course, I suppose,” Olivia responded leaning over to give both Jerry and Megan a kiss on the cheek. “Any way, I need to get back to the city. I have client files just waiting for me to go over. It was great getting to see you both. Stay out of trouble, and come visit me some time, yeah?”
Jerry smiled and stood to pull Olivia into a big hug. “I hope things work out for you. And I hope...well, I hope...I just want the best for both of you. I love you, Liv.”
“Love you, too, Jer.”
Olivia walked the short distance back to the house enjoying the sounds and smells of the surf. When she made it back to the house, she found Fitz sitting on the back porch, beer in hand, peeling away idly at the label.
“I’m going to head back to the city tonight,” Olivia said as she leaned against the interior door.
Fitz turned in her direction, but didn’t say anything, his fingers continuing to pick at the dewy label.
“Your comment about Karen was uncalled for.”
“Was I wrong? My daughter prefers you to her mother or me. It’s poetic justice I suppose.”
Olivia furrowed her brow and scoffed. “What the hell is that supposed to me? I care about Karen. I don’t treat her like my child; I know she’s not. But, I listen and I’m there for her as someone whose judgment isn’t--”
“You’re not a parent!” Fitz exclaimed. “You wouldn’t begin to understand or know what it feels like to have your child hate you so much that she seeks refuge in your ex-wife, who was once just some woman you were dating. She trusted you more than before you were even a part of this family, so don’t give me that.”
Olivia took a deep breath and willed herself not to cry. She stood taller and looked Fitz in the eye as she spoke. “I am a parent. I’m a parent of a baby girl we buried in the ground. She may not be here, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that I was her mother. I’ll never get to see her walk down the aisle, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that I am someone’s mother. I don’t know what it’s like to have my child say they hate me, but I’d give the world to have that with her.”
One tear escaped from Olivia’s eye and she angrily wiped it away. “How dare you,” she whispered. Olivia turned and pushed the back door open making her way towards the master bedroom to pack her things and get back to her life in the city. Fitz’s footsteps were close behind her as he called after her, but she was in no mood to entertain his entreaties.
She set her suitcase out on the bed and moved over to the dresser, pulling clothes out in piles, not at all interested in neatness or the state of her clothes when she made it back to the city.
“No, Fitz,” Olivia said turning towards him, pausing in her packing. “No more. I won’t keep fighting this battle with you. This is hopeless. We will do anything to hurt each other. Aren’t you tired of that? I’m so tired of that. I can’t take anymore. Go home. Live your life. Spend time with your new baby. Just stay away from me.”
“You’re always sorry, but that doesn’t stop you from doing or saying things that… We can’t keep doing this.”
“I love you.”
Olivia laughed: a bitter, painful, and dry laugh. Tears were freely coursing down her face, her body wracked with sobs and laughter.
“Do you even know what that means? Not moments ago you used the one thing against me that you know--you know--hurts me every time I breathe. And you say you love me? Why would you say that to me? Why!”
Fitz’s hands were locked in his curls, pulling as he paced back and forth. “I’m sorry. I’m really fucking sorry. I don’t know what else to say. What do you want me to say? I’ll say it?”
“I don’t want you to say anything. I’m all talked out; we’re all talked out. Actions speak louder than words, Fitzgerald.”
Fitz moved across the room and closed the top of the suitcase to stop Olivia’s progress. “This cannot be it. I’m sorry. I know that’s enough, but I am really, truly sorry. And I will do whatever it takes to prove to you that this is real. We’ve got things to work out, I know we do, but I know we can do it.""No, Fitz. No. Not again. Not anymore."