Bethany tried to adjust to her new normal - whatever that was. She slowly got back into the groove and routine of work at the Manor. There was something more appealing and comforting to the grand ole place now, perhaps the memories of her times spent there with Mark that made her feel more at peace.
She began to question her life more in the aftermath of Mark's death. She recalled the conversation she had with Emmitt the night before Mark died when they kissed for the first time. She had lamented the fear of spending the rest of her life working at the Manor but now she was beginning to think that maybe that was what she was meant to do all along. Mark had been groomed to take over leadership at the Manor until his illness rendered him incompetent and it was only then that Bethany's father turned to her to assume the role of heir apparent, much to Emmitt's chagrin. Now she felt like it was her calling and that she owed it to Mark to do it right.
Bethany spent a lot of time thinking about Emmitt too. He had been the perfect gentleman and a pillar of strength throughout the entire ordeal of Mark's loss. Bethany knew Emmitt was hurting too - he and Mark had been good pals during their years working together at the Manor - but Emmitt had stayed strong for her despite his own pain. Now that she was slowly getting her feet back on the ground and her functioning capabilities back in sync, Bethany was beginning to realize how much she valued and depended upon Emmitt for emotional support. He had been a true friend as well as an understanding co-worker who pinch hit and filled in for her whenever she was unable to answer the (professional) bell.
Bethany wasn't sure how she could ever thank Emmitt for being there for her. She probably wouldn't have made it through the suffering of her grief if she hadn't had Emmitt to lean on. Spending several nights with him at the cabin in platonic comfort so she wouldn't be alone was a lifesaver. She felt closer to him now than ever before and she thought about that night of their first kiss - how romantic and exciting it felt, the start of something new at least before her world fell apart with Mark's death.
They had reverted back to their weird brotherly-sisterly role when Mark died but Bethany knew that's not what she wanted now and she was pretty sure that wasn't what Emmitt wanted either.
Bethany found Emmitt sitting at his desk in the (co) manager's office when she entered the room. A stack of guest satisfaction surveys on her desk waited for her review and data entry.
"It's nice to see you," Emmitt said with a smile when she took her place at her desk. He was doing the online banking for the Manor.
"Thanks," she smiled. "I'm getting better," she added, knowing Emmitt wasn't going to ask 'How are you doing?' "I actually laughed out loud yesterday. I went to the movies with MaryAnne. We went shopping too. I bought a little something for myself."
"Good for you."
"Maybe I'm going to be okay after all," she said with a sardonic smirk.
"I'm sure you are," Emmitt said with encouragement.
"I realized the other day that I never heard from Matt through all this," she sighed.
"I guess that means it's really over between you two," Emmitt remarked sarcastically.
"We were together for so long," she said, hurt in her voice. "You would have thought I would have at least gotten a card."
"Aren't you ever going to let that guy go?" Emmitt asked with an undercurrent of annoyance in his tone.
Bethany couldn't help but smirk with amusement. "You're sounding a little jealous there, Emmitt."
He glanced at her from around his computer screen. "How could I be jealous of an asshole like him?"
Bethany burst out laughing and for the first time in a long time she finally felt free. She had no idea why Matt even crossed her mind. Yes, she was madly in love with the guy for a while but in the last stretch of their relationship she had come to the realization that he was not the one for her. She knew Emmitt didn't like him because he had money, was pretentious, and talked like he was well educated (he was). Bethany had second thoughts because she realized she didn't want to marry a carbon copy of her father – or move to New York City where Matt's job was going to eventually take him.
By rejecting Matt, Bethany had chosen the Manor over him and now she found herself sitting across from Emmitt bemused because he was annoyed that she had mentioned her ex.
"Do you ever hear from Marcie?" She asked innocently.
Emmitt frowned. "She dumped me for a guy who personally knows Robert Downey Jr.," he growled. "Why would I ever hear from her again?"
"Jimmy met Downey when he was filming a movie around here," Bethany remarked. "It's not as if they're best friends."
"Marcie's hoping they are," Emmitt groaned, returning his attention to the computer screen.
Bethany giggled to herself knowing that she was feeling closer to Emmitt than ever before.
That night, Bethany stopped by the cabin to grab a late bite to eat. She hadn't been sharing Emmitt's bed lately knowing that it had become awkward in that in between place between grief and desire. She had returned to her own room knowing that her desire not to be alone had transitioned from her grief for Mark to her desire for Emmitt.
Bethany found Emmitt sitting on the couch reading his book like he usually was. Bethany was wearing a light bathrobe and she was smiling to herself knowing that she wasn't wearing anything underneath it. Perhaps this was the night she would finally get Emmitt's undivided attention.
Bethany warmed up some left over Chinese in the microwave before slipping off the robe, letting it fall to the floor. She wasn't sure if she felt sexy, excited, daring or stupid as she walked across the room naked and joined him on the couch with the customary two beers in her hand, handing him one. As she had predicted to herself, Emmitt hadn't even glanced up from his book to notice that this time she really was naked. She didn't say a word as sat on the couch eating her Chinese noodles in the raw.
Emmitt continued reading, oblivious to the reality next to him. Bethany smirked to herself, amused by the absurdity of the moment.
"Whatcha reading this time?" She mischievously asked.
"Anne Tyler," he replied, finally glancing up from the pages to greet her more personally.
Of course he did a double take when he realized she didn't have any clothes on, sitting there eating her Chinese as if it was commonplace for her to eat naked in front of him all the time. Emmitt immediately turned red faced, actually closing his eyes for a moment and sucking in his breath and this made Bethany laugh with delight.
"So, now you finally notice me?" She teased.
Emmitt opened his wide eyes and tried not to gawk at her. She had the plate set on her thighs covering her private area but her amble sized breasts were exposed for him to see.
"What are you doing?" Emmitt asked with embarrassment.
"Eating Chinese," she replied innocently, hoping she looked graceful even in her nudity.
Emmitt glanced around and noticed the bathrobe on the kitchenette floor. "Well, at least you didn't walk here naked," he said.
"That's against the Manor rules," she said. "I remember Daddy talking about the streaking craze in the 1970s."
"I notice you all the time, Bethany," Emmitt told her.
"I'm never so sure," she replied. "Your head's always buried in your book or glued to your computer screen."
"Sorry," he said, putting the book down and glancing at her again. "I should pay more attention and not take your presence for granted."
For a moment, Bethany felt vulnerable and exposed sitting there naked (when he wasn't) but she decided that she wasn't going to second guess herself. She had been fantasizing about Emmitt for a while now and she was ready to be herself in front of him. Let him notice her mole by her bellybutton, her awkwardly bent nipple on her right breast and the scar on her left fanny cheek from when she sat on broken glass when she was ten.
"Maybe I should have let you take my bathrobe off," she smiled. "Sorry I deprived you of that experience."
"I don't mind the shock and awe," he grinned, taking a sip from his beer bottle while keeping his eyes trained on her.
Bethany debated whether or not she should turn on the television before realizing that she was the show. He watched her methodically eat the rest of her Chinese food and when she was finished she subtly slid the plate from her lap to the coffee table. She sensed his eyes go wide at the sight of her pubic hair sticking out from between her legs.
"I was thinking I'd spend the night, if that's okay," Bethany said, throwing him a look that was a mix between seduction and hopefulness.
"That would be okay," Emmitt said, his voice breaking.
"Okay," she said, taking the final risk by standing and letting him see everything.
Bethany walked into his bedroom and waited for Emmitt to follow. She heard him putting the plate and beer bottles in the kitchenette sink and clicking off lights and then he was standing in the bedroom doorway, her bathroom draped over his arm. Bethany was lying on the bed in all her glory.
"Do you think we could fix the cabin up?" Bethany asked. "You know, completely rehab and remodel it into a functioning cottage type house?"
"So it would be big enough for two, you mean?" Emmitt wondered.
"Sure," she smiled. Maybe a picture glass window overlooking the woods behind us. A patio or deck too."
"Sliding glass door," Emmitt suggested.
"Expand the kitchen," Bethany said. "Put a porch on the front. Maybe add a small second room for office work and reading."
"I think we could do that," Emmitt said, still standing in the doorway.
"I mean, if we're both going to be sticking around the Manor for the foreseeable future it would make sense to have our own place," Bethany remarked.
"Together." Was it a question or a statement?
"Well, we are co-managers," Bethany smiled.
"We are," Emmitt agreed.
She nodded with approval.
"I really do notice you all the time, Bethany," he told her.
"Except when I'm naked," she joked with self-deprecation.
"I notice you now," he said dreamingly, soaking up the lovely angelic image on the bed in front of him.
"I thought it was time," Bethany explained.
"I agree," he said, swallowing with nervousness.
"Are you going to join me?" She wanted to know.
"Yes," he decided, cautiously undressing until he too was naked
Emmitt drifted across the room and seemingly floated onto the bed, coming to a peaceful rest on his side facing Bethany who was on her back with her head turned to face him. She smiled and gave a cute giggle before rolling onto her side and matching up with him, pasting her lips to his. Emmitt returned the kiss and soon their tongues were getting reacquainted from that first night of kissing.
"Can we co-manage this?" He asked with worry.
"I think so," Bethany assured him.
He feathered his fingers across her pubic hair, briefly touching what waited beneath which causing her to wiggle willingly. His other hand draped across her hip and patted her soft and flabby backside as they continued to kiss, one of her hands against his stomach the other on the side of his neck. Emmitt had found her secret place with his finger and he rubbed it as if it was a Genie's lamp, causing Bethany to gasp and duck her face into his neck to muffle her moans. He continued pleasuring her and she rocked her hips in concert with his rubs until she forgot about everything – her grief, her sadness, her lonelines- and she bellowed out with delight as she reached her new normal in a new way.
"Emmitt," she breathed with happiness as she rolled onto her back again, taking him with her this time. He maneuvered himself on top of her and they made quiet and perfect love (at least in their own opinion) in a soft melody of wonderment, discovery, and togetherness that had been predestined since they met at thirteen. They were out of the closet now and this would be their new place of being, a remodeled cabin to represent their new home and normal.
Why did it take so long? Bethany wondered as she welcomed Emmitt's lovemaking techniques and returned them with equal talent.
"I should have gotten naked for you a long time ago," Bethany giggled softly as they continued to make love.
Emmitt stared into her eyes with a newly discovered x-ray vision as if he was looking directly into her heart and soul. "Now is just as good as ever," he said.
There was nothing she needed to say in response so they continued to share themselves with each other until they were both satisfied beyond reason and when it was over they lay side by side on the bed, cuddling naked, their bodies pretzeled together as one.
"I can't believe you're really here like this," Emmitt admitted once they collected themselves.
Bethany smiled. "I figured it was time to make the ultimate move," she told him. "I knew I was ready and I figured you were too."
He let out a contented sigh. "I was," he said happily.
"It's all good then," Bethany remarked.
"I guess this is all a Manor of love," Emmitt said.
"Our own personal Manor," Bethany smiled.
"I can't believe you seduced me," Emmitt confessed. "I didn't think you wanted me in that way seeing how we work together and everything."
"Well, if I waited for you to seduce me …" Her voice trailed off.
"I'd still be reading my book," Emmitt admitted with embarrassment.
"It's okay, Emmitt," Bethany said, giving him a tender kiss. "Sometimes slow love is the best kind of love because when you finally catch it, it's here to stay."