Jeremy trudged into the kitchen and poured himself a bowl of cereal. He rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up. He hadn’t slept well since the night of the Halloween party. He kept replaying the events of the night over in his mind and kicking himself over what had happened and the things he said. He felt absolutely sick about it. How could he have been so stupid?
He sighed and sat down at the kitchen counter. He pushed the bowl aside and let his head drop against the counter. Suddenly he’d lost his appetite.
“I’m such an idiot,” he mumbled to himself for what felt like the hundredth time in the last few days.
“What were you even thinking?” Judith asked.
Jeremy lifted up his head, but sat slumped in his seat. “It was dark. There were costumes. I thought I was talking to someone else.”
“What . . . were you . . . even . . . thinking?” Judith repeated slowly, adding emphasis to every word.
Jeremy let out a long, exasperated breath. “I don’t know. I’m an idiot.”
Judith just raised an eyebrow. She wasn’t going to argue with that point.
“What do I do? I have to go tell her the truth, right? I have to admit that I made a mistake and apologize.”
“No! You can’t do that.”
The alarm in his sister’s voice startled him. “Why not?”
“That would absolutely crush her,” Judith insisted as she leaned forward on the counter. “I mean, you can’t lead her on, of course, but you can’t just tell her you were talking to the wrong person. She would be devastated. You have to handle this very carefully.”
“Okay, so you’re the expert, you’re her best friend,” he said desperately. “What do I do?”
Judith thought for a moment, but she didn’t have the answer any more than he did. She hated that she had to admit it. “I don’t know.”
“Well, what would you want a guy to do if you were in her place? What if it were you and Vince?”
Judith’s face flushed in embarrassment. She lowered her tone when she spoke again and looked around nervously to make sure no one else was in earshot. “You know about that? Do Mom and Dad?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I heard it from Maura.” Just mentioning her name gave him a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach. “How would you want to be let down easy if it turned out Vince really wanted to date someone else?”
“I- uh, it’s not really the same, you know,” she struggled. “Vince and I are kind of just friends who like art and hang out at school. It’s not like I’m really in love with him or anything.” When she said the “L” word Jeremy grimaced and seemed to turn a little green, so Judith quickly back tracked. “Maybe not love, but like serious, long-term infatuation, a major crush. I mean this has been her dream-“
Jeremy jumped up from his seat. Unable to take any more of this, he cut her off. “Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll figure it out myself.”
Judith looked like she wanted to say more, but before she could question him further or dole out any additional warnings, he walked out of the room.
“I’ll figure out something,” he said, but honestly, he had no idea how he was going to unravel this mess.
* * * * *
Reese knocked on the Kitteridges’ front door, a folder of papers in hand. Mr. Lind had dropped off some information for Blaine about employee schedules and who had been in or out of the office and his own home on certain days. He would have given it to Blaine personally, if Blaine hadn't already left the office by the time Mr. Lind had compiled the information, so he passed it on to Reese, the only other person he could trust on this matter. She wouldn’t have bothered Blaine about this at home on a Saturday morning, but she knew he wouldn’t want to wait to see this.
Reese had hoped that Blaine would be the one to answer the door, but instead she found herself face to face with a weary looking Cassandra when the door opened. Cassie’s appearance startled her at first. She shouldn’t have been terribly surprised to see the usually well put together Cassandra dressed down on a Saturday morning in pajamas and with mussed up hair, but she looked unusually pale with dark circles under her eyes. She didn’t look well. Reese was wondering if she shouldn’t have dropped by.
She paused a little too long before she found her voice and broke the awkward silence. “Hi. I’m sorry to bother you. Is Blaine around?”
Cassie stopped to take a breath before answering. Simple forming words seemed to take a great deal of effort. “No, he’s out."
Reese hadn’t expected a warm welcome, but something in Cassie’s tone seemed off. She thought it better not to ask and just stick to her reason for coming.
“Oh. I have some information for him from work. He left before it was ready and I thought he might not want to wait until Monday to look at it.” She paused, debating on whether or not to leave the papers with Cassie. The other woman just stared at her wordlessly, making no offer to take them or pass on a message. Reese held the papers close to her chest and took a step back.
“It’s important and the information is confidential, so if you could just let him know I have it, I can get it to him sometime when he’s not busy.”
Cassie just nodded and slowly closed the door, leaving a bewildered Reese standing on the doorstep.
When Cassie turned around she saw Serena and Doug standing behind her in the doorway to the dining room. Serena stared at her intently with a shrewd, knowing look that made Cassandra bristle, while Doug, by contrast, looked so utterly innocent and clueless about anything that was going on that it broke her heart.
“Where is Dad?” he asked just as his sister stepped out of her room with a book under her arm.
The question was like a cold splash of water as both of Cassandra's children stared at her expectantly. It tore her apart that she didn’t know, that her husband hadn’t come home or called since he walked out the night before. She couldn’t stand to admit the truth, so she lied. “At his office. He had to go in early this morning, unexpectedly.”
She could tell by Brooke's expression that she wasn't buying that explanation. Her daughter said nothing as she walked out the backdoor.
Doug just frowned, disappointed. “When will he be back?”
“I don’t know,” Cassie said quietly and hurried out of the room before her emotions got the better of her.
Serena followed after her.
Cassie ignored her mother until they were out of sight and earshot of her son. Then she turned around quickly and hissed at her mother, “Why are you still here?”
“I couldn’t leave you alone now, darling. Not at a time like this.”
“This is all your fault. Why did you even say anything about that last night?”
Serena held her hands out in a peaceful, calming gesture, but the movement had no effect on diminishing her daughter’s anger. “I’ll speak with Blaine. I’ll explain.”
“No, you’ve done enough,” Cassie said firmly. “I want you to go now. I don’t want you to be here when-“ she paused. For a terrible moment she wondered if she shouldn’t have said ‘when,’ but ‘if.’ She shook that thought from her head, she wouldn’t let her mind go there. “When,” she insisted, reassuring herself. “Blaine gets back. You are not welcome here.”
“Don’t burn your bridges, Cassandra. You may find that you need me after all.” When Cassie didn’t budge, Serena turned and walked out.
* * * * *
Reese was still mulling over the odd interaction with Cassandra after she left the Kitteridges’ and went to run her errands for the day. She told herself that she shouldn’t be surprised. When had any interaction with Cassandra not been at least a little odd?
She was surprised though when she drove past Blaine’s office to see his car parked outside. She thought he would have had the weekend off or maybe Cassie would have mentioned that he was working instead of just out, but just admitting that he was “out,” was probably more information that Cassie even wanted to share with her.
She still had the papers for Blaine with her in her car, so she decided to run them in to him while she was there. She knew how anxious he was to make progress on this project and the sooner she could get him this information, if there was anything to this lead, the better.
When she walked up to the office door, it was locked, the business closed for the weekend. She knocked tentatively. A moment later she heard a noise from inside, the door unlocked, and a disheveled Blaine stood in the open doorway. He looked almost as out of sorts as Cassie had earlier with dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. He looked like he hadn’t slept, showered, or shaved. She knew something was up, but didn’t feel that it was her place to pry into their personal lives.
“I saw your car,” she hastily explained before holding out the papers. “I thought you might want this information. Mr. Lind gave it to me last night after you’d left.”
“That’s great!” His eyes lit up at the mention of the information and he stepped aside to let Reese inside. Blaine ran a hand over his hair, trying to smooth out the tangles. He opened the envelope as he started to walk back to his office. Reese followed.
“I think I’ve made some serious progress. The log in information looks like it’s legit, so this will be a big help. We may have this thing solved.”
“You’ve really gone above and beyond on this project. I don’t think anyone expected you to work overtime on this.” As she looked around the office, she noticed things looked out of place. The rumbled jacket spread over the office sofa, junk food wrappers spread out across the desk, and empty beer cans in the trash. "Have you been here all night?" she asked, trying not to sound alarmed.
Blaine noticed her staring at his workspace, so he quickly swept the trash off his desk and deposited it in the trash. He cleared his throat. “My mind wouldn’t rest. Not when I’m this close.”
He pulled over a chair for Reese before sitting at his computer. He brought up a log of information on the screen, then spread out the papers in front of him and began making comparisons.
He frowned. “Hmm. It’s not him.”
“What?” Reese asked leaning forward to see for herself.
“The dates don’t add up. Dustin had scheduled meetings or was in court during some of these times. He couldn’t have been the one to have accessed these computers at these times, not all of them anyway. If he was involved, he wasn’t working alone.”
Reese leaned back. “I never really thought it was him.”
“Well,” Blaine said with a sigh. “It looks like Mr. Lind has a visitor log from his home security. I’ll just have to comb through it and see if anything matches up.”
As Blaine started sifting through the papers scattered across his desk, Reese couldn’t help noticing that he was blinking a lot and rubbing his eyes. He didn’t look like he was in any shape to be at work. She wasn’t going to pry into his personal life, but she couldn’t help feeling concerned.
“You don’t have to do that right now, do you?” she asked gently. “You seem like you’ve been working a lot on this already today. Maybe you should go home and get some rest. Look at it with fresh eyes on Monday.”
He scoffed and rubbed the bridge of his nose as he shook his head. “Going home is not an option right now.”
When he turned to look at her, Reese was staring at him wide-eyed, fighting with herself about what to say or not to say.
“Okay, so it is,” he admitted as he pulled a beer out from under his desk. He offered one to Reese, but she declined. He crossed the room and slumped down on the office sofa “It’s just an option I’d rather not take. I just need to be away from home right now.”
“I thought something had happened,” Reese spoke hesitantly. “You don’t seem yourself today. Cassie didn’t either.”
Blaine twisted open the bottle, took a long drink, and avoided looking at Reese.
"Does she know you’re here?” she asked tentatively.
Blaine shook his head and stared down into his lap. “I didn’t know where I was going when I walked out last night. I just walked out.” He cleared his throat and turned to look Reese in the eye before he continued. “She lied. She’s been lying this entire time about you and about Natalie and about who knows what else. I've just been sitting here questioning everything I thought I knew. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to forgive her.”
“Oh,” Reese said, wide-eyed. She wasn’t sure she should be privy to Blaine and Cassandra’s marital problems even if they somehow involved her. She didn’t want to encourage him to share anything too personal, and yet, it seemed uncaring to get up and walk away with Blaine in the state he was in. All she could do was listen.
“I can’t help thinking- thinking of all the ways my life could have been different, all the different paths that I could have taken but didn’t.” He squinted. “What if I chose wrong?”
When he looked at her, Reese just shrugged noncommittally.
“I would have chosen you over her, if you had let me.”
Reese recoiled, uncomfortable with this line of conversation. She avoided eye contact and instead fixed her eyes on his drink. “I don’t- I don’t think you know what you’re saying.”
He frowned and pushed the drink away. "But I do. We were good together once and we’re good together now.” He gestured to the papers spread across his desk. “This proves it. Just like old times.”
“Blaine-" Reese tried to keep calm and steady her breathing as she felt herself starting to panic.
“Don’t you remember?”
“That was a long time ago. We both have changed and circumstances have changed.” She spoke carefully and deliberately, hoping her calm, reasonable tone would bring him back to his senses.
Blaine eyed her critically, trying to decipher her true feelings. “I don’t think we have changed. You're still the wonderful, sweet, smart woman I knew all those years ago. I can't believe I let myself forget. Now, it's like it was before, like no time has passed at all.”
"But it has. You're married now," Reese blurted out. "You and Cassie have built a life together."
"A life built on lies," he muttered. "Maybe I never should have married her."
Reese decide to redirect away from his marriage to Cassie. "And I'm happily engaged to Simon."
"Are you happy with him?"
"Yes, I am," she answered firmly. She looked Blaine in the eye, hoping he would see how sincerely she meant those words. "He's perfect for me."
"Sometimes what seems perfect on paper isn't what the heart wants."
Reese stepped away. She was finished with this conversation. "This time it is."
Blaine’s face fell in disappointment, but more than that he just looked tired.
Reese paused on her way to the door. Before she left she said gently, “Go home to your family.”