With a wave, I step back. “I’ll be there.”
As Stanton pulls away, I stand on the street, watching until his car disappears from sight. A twinge of . . . something blooms in my chest. And I find myself sniffing the T-shirt. Again.
A run—that’s what I need. To sweat out the last drops of alcohol and get that addictive rush of endorphins surging through my brain. I text Brent, who lives down the block, to see if he wants to join me. Then I walk into my townhouse and am greeted by 150 pounds of black and caramel love—my Rottweiler, Sherman.
Like the tank.
My mother carried a fear of dogs with her her whole life, so we didn’t have any growing up. But when I got a place of my own, I fulfilled my childhood dream by getting the biggest, brawniest dog I could. Because of my late hours, I employ a dog walker who takes Sherman for his much-needed sprints three or four times a day, and staying out all night isn’t a problem. But he’s my baby and I’m his mommy—so even though his physical needs have been met, his heartbreakingly adorable brown eyes light up when he sees me.
I spend a good while scratching his ears and rubbing his belly.
Then I connect my phone to the speaker system and turn the volume up loud. Because I need something upbeat. Something snappy. “Still Standing,” by the great Elton John—on repeat. Unlike my mother’s fear of dogs, her taste in music was passed on to me. She heard “Tiny Dancer” for the first time as a teenager on her first day in the United States, and she’s loved Elton John’s music ever since. It played background while I grew up, the soundtrack of my childhood. I go to see him in concert any chance I get.
By the time the first chorus is complete, I’m already feeling better, bouncing to the beat as I change into a sturdy pink sports bra and snug black running pants. I’m stretching in the living room when Brent walks in the unlocked door, suited up for a run himself—a blue Under Armour T-shirt that highlights the sharp swells of muscle that make up his upper body, black shorts, and the metal arc of the prosthetic leg he uses for jogging.
Though I know about Brent’s accident and what it took from him, there’s always a moment of shock when I see the harsh metal below his left knee. It’s difficult to imagine the struggles he must’ve faced, all the challenges he had to overcome, and yet he still came out of it with such an awesome, dynamic personality.
He appraises me for a beat, then tilts his head, lifting his ear. “ ‘Still Standing,’ huh? Someone needed a pick-me-up this morning.”
Brent knows me well.
“Get in late . . . or . . . not get in at all?” he says.
I grab my keys and we head out the door to Memorial Park, the best spot to run in the city. After last night’s rain, the air is warm but dry—a gorgeous summer day.
“I stayed at Stanton’s,” I tell him casually.
His round eyes widen. “Really?”
“It was late,” I explain.
“I was tired,” I offer.
“Mmm . . .”
Then, with exasperation, “It was raining!”
He nods, his boyish blue eyes seemingly all-knowing. “So it was.”
As an attorney, it’s important to know how to turn the tables on a witness. How to steer them away from certain topics. So that’s what I do.
“And how did your ‘date’ go?”
Brent smirks deviously. “A gentleman never kisses and tells.”
On slow days at the office, he has a tendency to fill the empty sound space with his more outrageous stories. The actress who blew him while a thousand paparazzi swarmed outside her car; the heiress who had a thing for danger and how he screwed her while suspended from the chandelier of a sixteenth-century castle. Not all the stories involve sex—just his favorite ones.
“I don’t see any gentlemen here.”
He barks out a chuckle. “Good point. Let’s just say she left my house walking crooked this morning, and leave it at that.”
We start at the Washington Monument, a warm-up pace, side by side but careful to avoid the many other joggers, bicyclists, and in-line skaters on the path. DC is a young city, active and, at least in the area I live, attractive. You can practically see the rivalry in the air, like smog in LA. Everyone wants to be at the top of their game—ready to move up or push someone else out.
If greed is good, in DC, power is king, and everybody’s jockeying for position to get a piece of that pie.
Our steps are steady, our breathing deep but even. “What do you think of facial hair?” Brent asks out of the blue.