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Dan Levy: The end of Ted and Alexis.
Annie Murphy: Or is it?
- Behind the Episode, "The Presidential Suite"

 

darling, you’re the one i want
in paper rings, in picture frames, in dirty dreams
oh, you’re the one i want
- taylor swift, “paper rings”

 

Before Ted leaves for the airport, they have sex one last time. Twyla’s somewhere in the back, out of sight, and Ted shuffles toward Alexis on the seat of the booth. She takes his physical cue and gets to her feet, her heart starting to pound, certain he’s going to tell her he has to go. But instead he takes her by the hand and pulls her gently toward one of the café’s two single-person washrooms. He flicks the lock and helps her up onto the sink (which does not break off the wall under her weight, David) and kisses her so hard that the back of her head presses tightly against the mirror behind her.

Ted’s hands on her body, pushing the skirt of her dress up her thighs, peeling its strap down her shoulder, sweeping her hair off her neck, are soft and lingering, like he’s trying to memorize her. Alexis understands the desire, but she can’t handle the slow pace he’s setting. She tugs at him, grasps at him, undoes only the first couple buttons on his shirt before she skims her teeth over the skin at his neck, uncharacteristically fumbles as she pulls down his fly. Her gasp as he moves into her mingles with his groan.

He whispers, “Love you, Alexis,” into her skin and her fingers press hard into his back, through his shirt. He makes sure she comes first, like he always does, and afterward, he tucks his face into her neck. She can feel the moisture of his tears, the movement of his eyelashes, and she clings to him, sinking her hands into his hair as she holds him close.

“Don’t,” she says when he starts to move away, and he gives her one last moment.

 

 

Crying against her father’s shoulder is weird in a very specific way. Alexis has seen movies - she knows that this is a thing that happens, so it’s not weird in a general way, but it’s weird for her, weird for them. She’s definitely cried in her father’s arms before, as a little kid throwing tantrums, scooped up briefly by her dad before she was handed off to Adelina, legs kicking and fists clenched.

She can tell it’s weird for him, too, but her dad holds her and pats her back and says, “There, there, honey,” while she sobs snottily all over his bespoke suit jacket. He keeps his arms around her for at least twenty minutes, until David gets home, talking about the wedding before he’s even fully through the door and shutting up when he sees the mess that is Alexis. She finds herself transferred into her brother’s embrace, David’s arm around her shoulders while the fingers of his other hand get busy tucking all her flyaway hairs back behind her ears.

David and their dad are attempting to move their eyebrows at each other surreptitiously, communicating over her head. Alexis decides to save them the effort and tells David, in an embarrassingly tear-clogged voice, “Artie dumped me.”

“Mm,” he says, his lips pressing together and his eyebrows arching up skeptically as he nods at her. “Right. This - ” Here he waves a hand at her face, “is about Artie.”

She wants to snap sarcastically back at him, but her chest hurts, honest-to-god hurts like a heart attack, and the only thing that comes out of her mouth is a gasping sound and a series of broken-up words, “No one - no one’s ever loved me like that.” She breaks into a fresh round of sobs; she can feel her father’s anxiety radiating at them from where he now stands next to the bed. “No one’s ever loved me.”

“Oh, Allie,” David says, all traces of irony gone from his voice. He hasn’t called her Allie since he was ten and decided he hated diminutives. He tucks her head against his chest, under his chin, and squeezes her lightly. Close to her ear, he tells her gently, “I do,” and she squeezes him back, crying into his cashmere.

Alexis hears her mother ask whether a walrus is being murdered in their humble domicile, and then the hushed voices of both her parents. David says something about extra-large pizza and double-chocolate ice cream, and their parents leave the room.

Her breathing is still shaky when she pulls away from David, her face undoubtedly mascara-stained and blotchy. “What do I do, David?” she asks her brother, like she’s thirteen years old again and it’s her first time at the consulate in Bangkok. People magazine once described Alexis as an “adventurous heartbreaker.” She doesn’t know how to play the opposing role.

“You eat,” he tells her, dead serious. “You eat until you feel even worse - ”

“Ew, David,” she says halfheartedly, wrinkling her nose.

“And then you go to sleep,” he says simply. “And in the morning, you feel just a little bit better.”

“Okay,” Alexis says. Everything in her wants to believe him, but as she’s learned the hard way, lately, wanting alone is not always enough.

 

 

David is right. Alexis can’t just follow another guy across the world, even if that guy is Ted. She has her own dreams, and even a couple of her own accomplishments. She owes it to herself to see those things through.

David is also married, and the happiness emanating off her brother, despite the rain and the locale change and Alexis’ wardrobe choices, makes her throat feel all achy in the best possible way. She loves her brother. She hates that she kind of forgot about that for a while.

They’ve competed for attention more times than Alexis could possibly count, but this is David’s day, and she’s doing her best not to pull any focus, the wedding gown that she’s wearing notwithstanding. So she hides herself and the tears that keep threatening to spill out of her eyes in the town hall bathroom, standing in front of the sinks and trying her hardest not to miss Ted or to think about what his face might’ve looked like if he’d been here to see her in this white dress.

Stevie steps into the washroom, a smile still fixed on her mouth. It only fades when she sees Alexis, who is apparently not doing an excellent job at not looking upset. “Hey,” Stevie says, cautiously, kindly.

“Hey,” Alexis replies, aiming for bright, but the word cracks right down the middle.

“It’s - ” Stevie considers her for a moment, then offers, “It’s okay to be sad.”

“I’m not sad!” Alexis says, snatching a sheet of paper towel out of the dispenser and blotting at her eyes. “I’m, like, really happy. It’s a really happy day.”

“Yeah,” Stevie agrees, a hint of her smile reappearing. “But… for what it’s worth, Alexis, I don’t even like weddings, and if I’d just had a tough breakup and my brother got married and I was wearing a wedding dress…” She shrugs, eyes shifting to one side and then the other before landing back on Alexis’ face and her undoubtedly smudged eyeliner. “I’d probably be a little bit sad.”

“Thanks, Stevie,” Alexis says quietly, looking up at the ceiling and fanning her eyes. “Don’t tell David, okay? I already did - ” She gestures to herself (she looks fucking amazing in this damn dress). “This.”

Stevie pats an awkward but sincere hand against Alexis’ shoulder. “You got it,” she says, and disappears into a stall.

Alexis cleans up her face as much as she can and then meets her reflection’s eyes. “I’m a Lamborghini,” she tells herself firmly, takes a deep breath, and heads back to the dance floor.

 

 

The ring arrives while Alexis is still packing, in a battered envelope, its interior cushioned by bubbles. It’s accompanied by a scrap of paper that looks like it’s been torn from a notebook. All that’s written on it, in Ted’s doctor-y scrawl, is I wanted you to have this. All my love, T.

Alexis’ hands shake as she cracks open the box, and then her chin starts to quiver violently as she stares down at the ring, which is stupid because she doesn’t even really like it - she’s in favour of white gold for engagement rings, like the one her friend William gave her other friend Kate - but all the same it hurts her to think of Ted earnestly picking out this ring, with its yellow gold band and its small solitaire diamond. It hurts to remember his face when he knelt in front of her; it hurts to remember how much she hurt him, twice over, with her half-formed and then her fully-formed refusal of that ring. What hurts most of all is the knowledge that she was beginning to want him to do it again, to get down on one knee and ask her what might be the most important question in the entire world. She wanted to see his face light up when she said yes. She wanted to kiss him and kiss him and kiss him, teeth knocking when they smiled against each other’s mouths. She wanted to kiss him forever.

Sitting on her bed, she sucks in a gulp of air and calls Ted on WhatsApp. She can’t figure out if she’s holding her breath in the hopes that he’ll answer, or that he won’t.

He does, on the fifth ring. He says, “Hey,” with the same warmth in his voice that she’s used to, and it feels like her heart contracts. Ted’s not angry with her. No one slept with anyone’s best friend, no one missed a flight to Corfu. All they’ve done is love each other, enough to know they can’t hold one another back.

“Hey,” she replies, her voice barely louder than a whisper.

“You got it,” he guesses.

“I got it,” she affirms, holding the ring between forefinger and thumb. “Ted, I - I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything.” Their connection is staticky, poking holes in his words. “I meant what I wrote; I want you to have it. It’s yours. I bought it for you.”

It couldn’t belong to anyone else, goes unsaid. Alexis wonders, ridiculously, if she could advance her career as a publicist and brand invigorator from an Ecuadorian island, if she could get used to sharing her bed with fire ants.

“I miss you,” she says. She presses her lips together hard and tries to blink back her tears.

“God, Alexis,” Ted says on a sigh. She likes the little bit of roughness in his voice when he says her name, the extra hint of enunciation, like Alexis is the best word in his vocabulary. “I miss you, too.”

“This is the worst, Ted,” she murmurs.

“I know,” he says. “We - we probably shouldn’t be talking. It might just make things harder, and it kind of… defeats the - ” He sighs, like even he, Ted Mullens, is not quite in the mood for a pun, “ - porpoise of our break-up.”

“Right.” The diamond on the ring sparkles, even beneath the shitty hotel room light bulbs. “I should probably let you Galapago.”

“Yeah,” Ted says, but he doesn’t hang up. Listening to him breathe, Alexis toes off her shoes and lays down on her bed, wriggling upward until her head is on her pillow.

“Did you find any more flies?” she asks quietly, tentatively.

“Yeah,” he says again, a little more enthusiastically this time.

Alexis listens to him tell her about some new weird, gross bug with her phone pressed to her ear as she stares up at the ceiling, a stupid smile on her face and the ring against her palm.

 

 

David and Patrick drive her to the airport, arguing lightheartedly about who gets to choose the music. Alexis sits behind her brother, favourite floppy hat on her head, and watches fields and trees roll by. It’s sort of beautiful, in a profoundly peaceful way. She’s looking forward to the bustle of New York and the meeting she already has scheduled at Interflix, but a part of her will miss this, this place she hated and then learned to love.

At the airport, she wraps her arms around both David and Patrick at once, pulling each of them into one of her shoulders. Patrick splutters when the feathers from her hat get into his mouth.

“I’ll miss you,” she tells them, and means it with her whole heart.

“Yeah, well,” David says. He’s holding onto her so tightly that it feels like her ribs are being crushed. “You need a bigger pot.”

“I love you,” she says, voice wavering. Once upon a time she and David were a team, the two of them against the world, and then at some point they exited each other’s orbits - and okay, maybe Alexis was doing most of the exiting. She doesn’t want that to happen again. “Text me all the time, okay?”

David nods as they pull apart. His eyes are wet. “Don’t do anything Alexis would do,” he says wryly.

She grins, and grabs one of Patrick’s hands in both of her own. “Take care of my brother,” she tells him. “I know you will, but - ” She lifts one shoulder, turns the corners of her mouth down. “Like, sometimes I forget things, so I believe in reminders.”

Patrick gives her that soft, charming smile of his. “I will.”

“Fuck off, Alexis,” David tells her as he nudges her toward the lineup for security, with such warmth and affection in his voice that it sounds like nothing short of I love you.

And off she goes.

 

 

There was a time in Alexis’ life when she deleted every single photo of a boyfriend the moment they broke up, even if it was more than likely that they’d get back together before the week’s end. She’d dramatically delete photos from her Instagram, too, as if that action alone could erase someone from her life.

As she sits at the gate waiting to board her flight, she puts all of her pictures with Ted or of Ted in a separate folder on her phone. She’ll upload the folder to the cloud later, so she won’t be tempted to do anything as pitiful as looking through them at night when her resolve is at its weakest. But she doesn’t delete the photos, and she doesn’t take pics of Ted down off Instagram, either.

They still make her smile, even if the smiles are sad ones, so she leaves them be.

 

 

Chevron, a guy Alexis used to model with and sometimes hook up with in their teenage years, helps her put together her new furniture. While he does the heavy lifting, she reads out the instructions and tries to locate the right screws and thinks she looks very cute in her short overalls.

They put together a bed, a dresser, and a vanity table for the ‘bedroom’ section of her studio apartment, and assemble a couch, a coffee table, and a small dining table that Alexis will probably mostly use as a desk to fill the rest of the space. “It looks so good, Chev!” she says happily when they’re done, giving her shoulders a pleased shimmy and whacking the back of her hand against his bicep.

They order pizza and Alexis cracks open (okay, twists the cap off) a bottle of wine, which they have to drink out of teacups she stole from the motel since she doesn’t have much kitchenware yet. They eat on the couch, Alexis asking a flurry of questions about mutual acquaintances she hasn’t seen in years while Chev inhales the bulk of the pizza. When he’s done eating, he tops off their cups of wine, smizes at her (he’s been doing a lot of high fashion stuff lately), and leans in for a kiss.

Alexis inches back into her corner of the couch. She smiles at him with her eyes crinkled in a way that’s meant to say no thanks! and shakes her head back and forth a few times.

Chev stares at her like he hardly knows her, like he’s just meeting her for the first time. “You’re different,” he finally says.

She looks down into her cup, her shoulders bobbing up and then down before she says, simply, “I’m better.”

 

 

On the morning of her meeting with Interflix, Alexis opens the small velvet box that contains her ring from Ted. She’s been keeping it shoved at the back of her lingerie drawer, but today she takes the ring out of its box and presses it close to her heart, just above the band of her bra. After holding it there for a minute, feeling comforted, she sets the ring down on her vanity amid the mess of hair tools and makeup and rifles through her jewellery collection until she finds a chain. It’s silver, and Alexis doesn’t exactly love mixing metals, but it’s long enough that when she slips the ring onto it, fastens it around her neck, and then puts on one of her silk girl-boss blouses, the ring is hidden away beneath her neckline, a secret all her own.

She doesn’t need Ted with her (she’s an independent woman; in the immortal words of Destiny’s Child, she pays her own fun and she pays her own bills), but she wants him with her. She wants the look on his face at her high school graduation close to her heart. She wants his get-your-dream-job vibes.

Interflix offers her a PR contract.

 

 

Less than a week into her new job, she leaves a company Zoom meeting feeling somewhat overwhelmed, setting down her headphones and rubbing her temples as she blows out her breath. Alexis loves that she’s killing it in her career, but working is, like, hard sometimes.

She decides to go for a run to clear her head, so she changes out of her dress and into leggings, a sports bra, and a tank top that’s open at the back. When she picks up her phone to pick a playlist, she sees that she has a missed WhatsApp call from Ted. She tries and fails not to beam. They’ve exchanged a few texts since she sent him pictures of her new place, but Ted’s never called her before. She presses down on his name in her recent calls list to call him back.

He answers with a happy, “Hey!” and it’s so good to hear his voice that Alexis has to perch on the arm of her couch, wrapping her free arm around her waist like she’s hugging herself.

Hey, Dr. Mullens,” she replies enthusiastically. “Sorry I missed your call. My phone was on do not disturb.”

“Professional,” Ted observes, sounding impressed.

“I know, right?” Alexis laughs. “So what’s up?”

“Oh, nothing, really. We just got back from an excursion; I didn’t have service for the last couple days. I wanted to ask how your job’s going.”

He could’ve asked her over text, but Alexis doesn’t point that out. “It’s good,” she says. “I just got out of a really long meeting. I’m going to go for a run after we talk, and try and… think.” She laughs again, self-conscious, aware that that word might sound a little strange coming out of her mouth.

Ted laughs, too, like she’s just told him something delightful. “I was about to go for a run, too.”

She smiles, picking at the seam of her leggings. “I miss running with you.”

“Me too.” He pauses, then says, “We… could run together, still. Kind of. On the phone together, I mean.”

Alexis is silent for a beat. “Wouldn’t that be… I don’t know, weird?”

“Probably.” Ted laughs again. “Definitely.”

She pushes to her feet and says, as up for anything as she’s ever been, “Let’s do it.”

It is weird, but not entirely, and she adjusts to it pretty fast. She likes to talk when she runs, and it’s nice to have Ted’s company through her headphones. During breaks in their conversation, his exhales match up with the beat of her feet striking the pavement (she is not, is not, turned on by that sound, by the way it reminds her of his breathing by her ear under his duvet). No one in Queens cares that she appears to be laughing to herself occasionally as she jogs.

Back at her apartment, as her breathing settles back into a normal rhythm and she stretches out her limbs, she listens to Ted detail the new hamstring stretch he swears has changed his life. They both linger on the phone, even as Alexis works her way through downward dog and cobra pose before settling into child’s pose with a relaxed sigh. When she drags herself back to her feet, she says, “Well… I better shower.”

“Yeah.” Ted sounds as pleasantly wrung out as she feels. He doesn’t say anything about going to shower, so she doesn’t either.

Eventually, since she’s starting to feel sticky, Alexis pulls her tank up over her head. Ted must hear the rustle of fabric, because he asks, “What was that?”

“Oh, I just… took my shirt off,” she says, with a casual flick of her wrist. “I was feeling, like,” she shudders delicately, “damp.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” he replies. “This shirt feels like a second skin.” And then she hears fabric sweeping on Ted's end of the line. 

Her heart does a funny little flip, and she tugs the elastic out of her hair. Her voice is lower, quieter, when she says, “My ponytail fell out, Ted.”

 

 

Okay, so she has phone sex with Ted, and okay, when she’s right at the edge, on her couch with her leggings on the floor and her hand between her legs, she finds herself mewling, “Ted - Ted, I’m so close,” and okay, it’s his breathless response of, “C’mon, baby,” that gets her to come, but so what?

Ted’s breath stutters in her ear as she comes back to herself. “Miss your mouth, Lex,” he says raggedly before he comes, and Alexis fucking flushes, from her hairline to the tips of her toes, all alone in her apartment.

After a long moment, she says, “I, um. Still need that shower.”

“Yup,” Ted says. “Me, too.”

Neither of them even attempts a goodbye before hanging up.

 

 

In an effort to distract herself from whatever the hell happened with Ted, Alexis decides she’s going to learn to cook. She has a kitchen, and she no longer has her black card, so it seems like a good idea not to rely solely on takeout. She buys chicken thighs, broccoli, potatoes, and some flowers for her counter, because she’s basically a homemaker now.

She FaceTimes Patrick on her iPad, and props the screen up so they can see one another.

“Okay,” he tells Alexis in his wonderfully patient way. She eyes her chicken nervously, one finger covered in band-aids and held awkwardly in the air; she cut herself trying to peel the potatoes. “So put one hand here - ” He demonstrates on his own chicken thigh, “and pull the skin…”

She watches him with her mouth open, mildly concerned she’s going to vomit. “Ew, Patrick!” she squeals. “Ew, ew, ew!”

“No, listen, once you get the skin off - ”

Alexis backs away like she’s scared Patrick and his chicken are going to get too close to her. “No,” she says. “Nope.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” David says, his voice distant. “Alexis, I ordered you pad thai! It’ll be there in twenty. I requested a cute delivery boy.”

She says one final, “Ew,” and then adds, “Thanks,” before slamming her iPad closed, eager to get the sight of the nasty chicken skin away from her eyeballs as soon as possible.

Her own chicken, still in its package, goes into a garbage bag that she ties tightly and carries to the garbage chute at an arm’s length.

 

 

After her third fitful night of tossing and turning and thinking of Ted, Alexis knows she needs to talk to someone about it. She calls Twy first thing, hoping to catch her before the beginning of a long day at the café, but she’s sent to voicemail. Twyla’s being a girl boss in her own right, and Alexis is super proud of her, but she misses when she could just flounce into the café, and Twyla would be there with a terrible smoothie and excellent advice.

She examines her contacts, frowning. Obviously she can’t talk to David about this, which leaves her with one other option, her only other friend: Stevie.

Stevie answers the front desk phone at the motel with a little more pep in her voice than she would’ve once had, though she still sounds kind of resigned about having to talk to a potential customer. For half a second, Alexis wants to give her some tips on creating her best possible phone voice, but she pushes that desire aside and instead chirps, “Hey, girl!”

“Alexis,” Stevie says slowly, obviously surprised. “David’s not here.”

“I know,” Alexis laughs. “I’m calling for you. You know, girl talk.”

“Girl talk,” Stevie repeats skeptically. “Let me guess, Twyla didn’t answer her phone?”

“Maybe,” Alexis admits, dropping down into a chair at her dining table and perching her chin on her hand as she does her best pout, even though Stevie can’t see her.

Stevie sighs like she’s steeling herself. “What’s up?”

“I have a bit of a… situation?”

“You know, I am actually supposed to be working right now, Alexis. Can this go a little faster?”

She huffs a little sigh and then blurts, “IhadphonesexwithTed.”

“You what?” Stevie asks.

Alexis sighs again, more dramatically this time, and forces herself to slow down when she repeats, “I had phone sex with Ted.”

“Ted Mullens?!” Stevie demands.

Her shock is enough to make Alexis pull her hand, wrist flicked downward anxiously, into her chest. “Yes, Stevie!” she says in a whine. “Do we know any other Teds?”

“Alexis…” Stevie sighs. Her voice has gone gentle, her typical wry edge evaporating. “You’re never going to get over him like this.”

Alexis drops her hand into her lap and curls her fingers around a handful of her flowy skirt. “I know,” she says quietly.

But maybe she kind of doesn’t want to.

 

 

Ted sends her a picture - for one second, simultaneously horrified and thrilled, Alexis wonders if it’s a dick pic - of himself on a beach, close to a turtle, wearing a shirt that says SEAS THE DAY.

omg, cutie! she texts back, and then waits a couple seconds to add, the turtle, i mean.

ouch, lex, is his reply, and things feel a bit more normal.

A couple days later, though, while Alexis is taking a ten minute break that’s stretched into twenty, she sees that Ted’s been tagged in a picture on Instagram with a cute girl with dark, curly hair and the easy confidence of someone who knows what she’s doing with her life. Their heads are too close together for the picture to be friendly, and the sight of Ted’s blue eyes, all shiny alongside his smile, sends a pulse of pain through her whole body.

She puts her phone face-down on the table and does her best to get back to work on the pitches she’s supposed to complete by end of day. When she’s sent her e-mail off just before five, she paces around her table several times and then snatches up her phone again and calls Ted.

It’s a test. She knows that, and she knows it’s not fair, and she knows she has no right, but she does it anyway.

And he passes: only three rings go by before he picks up, greeting her cheerfully, asking how she is.

“Me?” Alexis asks. “How are you?”

“Uh, good,” Ted says, sounding taken aback by the force of her question. “It’s been a good week.”

“I bet,” she agrees, shimmying. “I saw you on social with a girl. Who is she? You guys look great together!” She shimmies again, seemingly unable to help herself in her desperation to be okay with this.

Ted’s quiet for a minute. “We don’t have to talk about this.”

“No, Ted, I - I want you to be happy,” she says earnestly, because it’s the truth, even though it aches. “All I’ve… ever wanted is for you to be happy.”

“I want that for you, too, Alexis.” He pauses. “Her name’s Bailey.”

Great name,” she gushes.

Ted breathes out a small laugh, but it doesn’t sound like there’s any mirth in it. “Alexis… Her project’s a pretty short one. She’s only here for two weeks.”

“Oh.” Her stomach stops feeling like it’s trying to eat itself. “I’m… sorry to hear that.”

“Are you?” he asks, and now he sounds like he might think something’s funny.

“I mean, not really.” Alexis chews her bottom lip. “The humidity’s giving her hair some serious frizz. She’d do better in another climate.”

 

 

Interflix is releasing a rom com about a couple who keep having meet-cutes at the dog park. Alexis runs a tie-in adoption event. The organization of it all is exhausting, making sure all the shelters she’s working with are on the same page and have everything they need for the day, but it comes together, slowly but surely.

She sends Ted Interflix’s post advertising the event. He’s so happy that he calls her right away with a million tips and suggestions, and every time she tells him she’s got one of them covered already, she can hear him beaming with pride.

On the day of the Adopt-A-Thon, Ted posts about it on Twitter: Check out what’s going on in Brooklyn this weekend! @interflix @muttropolitanmovie and @alexisrose are ready to find you a furever friend. Wish I could be there to meet these pups!

Wish I could be there, she reads, over and over.

 

 

Their first Christmas apart, Alexis makes gingerbread men. She buys icing and a whole bunch of sprinkles, excited about her project. When they come out of the oven, some missing limbs, some with their edges charred, she sends a picture to Ted.

they look great! he writes back, which is a lie, but it’s sweet.

they taste awful, she informs him. She doesn’t know what she did wrong.

i’ll send you my recipe for next year, he says, there’s a secret ingredient.

Her heart feels fuzzy. He still wants to be talking to her a whole year from now.

i sent you something, she texts, eating icing off a spoon. it’s small but i didn’t want not to.

The three little dots appear. He seems to take a long time writing, but in the end all he sends is, thanks, alexis. She sends back the smiley face with pink cheeks.

Her gift for him is a pen with a turtle on the end. It was super cheap and the ink might last a week if he’s lucky, but it reminded her of the twig pen he got her from Rose Apothecary when she graduated, and she just needed him to have it. She needed to give it to him, even though the postage to send a single pen to the Galapagos was unnecessarily pricey.

A couple days later he sends a picture of himself in the field, laying flat on his stomach and looking intently at something, turtle pen tucked securely behind his ear.

 

 

She works through Christmas and Hanukkah but makes it back to Schitt’s Creek for New Year’s. She practically tackles David when she walks through his front door, and lays a smacking kiss against Patrick’s cheek. She slips her hands beneath her father’s suit jacket when they hug, engulfed momentarily in the warmth of his embrace, and squishes close to her mother in an armchair, her cheek tipped against Moira’s shoulder.

She posts a carousel of pictures on Instagram from their New Year’s Eve celebration, held in the small space of David and Patrick’s home that is somehow cozy rather than suffocating. She puts up a selfie in her festive makeup and her sparkly party dress, and adds pics with various members of her family, with a reluctant Stevie, and with a beaming Twyla, who brought her new boyfriend from Elm Valley, whom Alexis thinks she’s ready to give her seal of approval.

When she checks her notifications an hour later, she sees that Ted’s liked the post and commented, happy new year. She looks at that comment, those three simple words, and thinks, automatically, still: I love you.

She tucks her phone back into her handbag and joins Stevie in the kitchen. Everyone else is coupled up, so she proposes, teasingly, “Kiss me at midnight?” Over in the living room, David and Patrick look so blissfully, sappily happy. Did she used to look like that?

Stevie lifts an eyebrow at her. “Will it help you stop fucking Ted over the phone?”

“Stevie!” Alexis hisses, looking around frantically to make sure no one else heard her.

“Alexis, have you been dating anyone?” Stevie asks. “Maybe you should…” She grimaces like she can’t believe what she’s about to say, and waves her arms into the air in front of her, “You know, get back out there.”

“I don’t know,” Alexis says, twirling a lock of her hair around a finger.

Stevie just looks at her and nods, an indecipherable smile curling briefly on her lips. She does kiss Alexis at midnight, a quick kiss but a soft one. From across the room, David yells, loud enough to be heard easily over the music, “Um, Alexis? What did we say about my exes?”

“Oh my god, David,” she replies, planting her hands on her hips. “What about my exes? What about Andy Mientus?! What about Li - ”

“Now, kids,” her father says, long-suffering, “let’s not ruin the holiday - ”

Alexis manages to forget about Ted for sixteen minutes, which is how long she and David snark at each other until Patrick shoves flutes of champagne into both of their hands, and by the time she’s gulped down the contents of her glass, she misses him all over again.

 

 

She tries to take Stevie’s advice. She starts dating James, one of the partners at the venture capital firm that invested in Rosebud Motel Group. He’s in his late thirties, classically handsome, and a perfect gentleman. When he takes her to dinner, he tells her she looks beautiful, suggests a wine pairing, and walks her right to her door at the end of the evening, where he kisses the corner of her mouth. He’s steady, which Alexis has learned that she doesn’t mind, but there’s no spark of energy between them, no spontaneous bursts of laughter, no challenge. He’s predictable, so measured that she sometimes feels like she has to edit herself around him.

They sleep together after their fourth date, at his apartment, where it’s all chrome and sharp edges. Alexis has always known how to have fun in bed, so it’s not bad, not by any means, but something about it feels strange. She’s gasping by James’ ear when she realizes what it is: she’s acting like she used to. She’s performing for him, adding in purposeful sound effects, giving him her practiced bedroom eyes. He comes before she does, so Alexis just fakes it, bowing her back up off the mattress and making satiated noises.

When James has fallen asleep, she checks her phone, scrolling through notifications. There’s a message from Ted, time-stamped a couple hours before, talk?, which is what they text each other before calling these days, just in case the other person’s busy.

She returns the text the next morning, back at her own place and fresh out of the shower, and he calls her two minutes later. “Out last night?” he asks.

“Yup,” she says, toying with the belt of her robe.

Too casually, he says, “Have fun?”

“Yeah,” she says, matching his unbothered tone. “Sure. But I’ve had better.”

“Alexis,” he tsks, with a slightly uncomfortable laugh, like he thinks she’s just stroking his ego.

“What? It’s fine. I just…” She bites back an impish smile. “I should’ve vetted him more carefully.”

There’s such warmth in his laugh, and such joy, overriding the remaining awkwardness, that she really and truly could cry.

 

 

He video calls her on a Sunday morning when she’s still in bed. Her alarm’s gone off, but she’s still tucked under her blankets, not quite ready to face the day. She squints at her phone when it rings, and when she sees Ted’s face, she slides her thumb across the screen to answer without thinking about it.

“Hey,” she says blearily. It’s two hours earlier in the Galapagos; she doesn’t know why he’s awake.

“Hey,” he replies. His voice is thick. “Did I wake you?”

“No, babe, it’s fine,” she says, still close enough to sleep that the old term of endearment just slips out of her mouth.

Ted doesn’t even blink. “I had a dream about you,” he tells her.

“Yeah?” she asks. She thinks she knows where this is going, but she still teases, “Were there pirates? I have a lot of dreams about pirates.”

“I know,” he says. “Yeah. I mean, no. There were no pirates. You were - you were wearing that pink thing. With the lace... ” Alexis watches him on the screen of her phone, takes in his heavy-lidded eyes. “And your hair was… like this, like it is when you wake up in the morning…”

He’s so turned on, that much is obvious. He’s turned on for her. Alexis isn’t mad about it, fighting against the threat of a smile.

She pushes her sheets down to show him her negligee. “This pink thing, Dr. Mullens?”

On half a groan, he says, “Yeah.

She shifts around in her bed, propping a pillow behind her head so she can sit up a bit, getting comfortable. “Tell me more about your dream, Ted.”

His eyes are on her fingers, which are pulling a thin pink strap down over one of her shoulders. Still, because he’s Ted, he asks, “You sure about this, Alexis?”

“Mm,” she says, pulling the strap down further, exposing her breast. “Tell me about your dream. Tell me about what we did to each other.”

 

 

Twyla comes to visit. Alexis meets her at the airport with a homemade sign that says Twyla Sands!!!, and Twyla says, giddily, that she feels like a celebrity.

They go see The Lion King, and to Serendipity because Alexis just knows Twyla will love it, and to Alexis’ favourite spa, and to Central Park. They get big, greasy slices of David’s favourite pizza. Swiping tomato sauce off her chin, Alexis says, “Did you know you’re my best friend, Twy?”

Twyla smiles that sweet smile of hers, same as it’s ever been. “I had a feeling,” she says simply. She sips her soda. “Do you miss Schitt’s Creek?”

Alexis picks at the crust of her slice. “I’m happy here,” she says. “But… yeah.” She meets Twyla’s perpetually kind eyes. “I miss everything.”

 

 

She starts going on runs with Ted regularly, whenever they can both fit it into their schedules. They always make sure to hang up the minute they’re both back home, before they even do a single stretch, just to be safe. Alexis can’t trust herself when Ted does that thing with his hips, even if she’s only hearing him do it.

It’s nice, in a way, to stretch out all her burning muscles and then to step in the shower, knowing that he’s doing the exact same thing, feeling water beat down on his skin, working shampoo into his hair. It reminds her of what all the relationship blogs said about the importance of shared experiences.

Hand pressed hard against the shower wall as she gets herself off, damp hair falling into her eyes, she hopes he’s thinking of her as she’s thinking of him, hopes her name is in his mouth as her orgasm crashes through her.

 

 

When holiday season rolls around, she receives a frilly apron from Ted in the mail. It has starfish on it, and it’s actually cute, in a very specific, kitschy way. She packs the apron in her suitcase for her trip to L.A., where she’ll be celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas. David and Patrick have rented a chalet somewhere near Montreal, so it’ll just be Alexis and her parents.

It feels like the warm weather wraps her up, welcomes her back into the fold. The sunshine makes her think of Ted, whose mother and her zumba instructor boyfriend are spending the holidays in the Galapagos. Alexis is glad he’s with his family, too, after they both spent Christmas the previous year buried in work.

None of her friends in L.A. are real friends, but they’re good enough friends to spend days at the beach with, working on her tan and flipping through magazines with her Bulgari sunnies perched on her nose. They document every aspect of their lives, including Alexis, and send her the best photos without her having to ask. She chooses one of herself in her bikini at sunset, toes in the water and hair windswept on her shoulders, to post on Instagram (her super-frequent runs are doing excellent things for her legs).

There’s an immediate torrent of likes. Stavros comments three fire emojis, which used to be the cue for Alexis to make his hotline bling. She ignores it, and is about to toss her phone down on her beach blanket when another notification comes through.

It’s from Ted, and it says, god you’re gorgeous.

Her heart rockets up into her throat and then plunges down into her stomach. Alexis loves the beach, but all of a sudden she doesn’t want to be there anymore. She wants to be in Schitt’s Creek on a rainy day, curled up against Ted on his couch, the sleeves of one of his sweaters hanging down over her hands, a blanket tucked around her bare legs, Ted’s head resting against the top of hers, his breathing slow enough that he might be falling asleep, his fingers entwined through hers, lazily pulling her hand up to his mouth to kiss her knuckles. She wants to snuggle in even closer and breathe him in, his faintly woodsy scent paired with the spice of the body wash she’d chosen for him and the barest hint of the disinfectant they used at the clinic. She wants to go back. She wants him back.

More comments have come in as Alexis has been sinking into her feelings. @everybodysgotahorse has written idk who @drtedmullens is but he’s right and he should say it, and in response, @alittlebitaswiftie has added isn’t he that guy she used to tag all the time?? omg what’s the story im invested.

Alexis almost smiles. She’s invested - she’s in it - and she doesn’t even know what the story is.

She aims for a couple calming breaths, her fingers hovering over the screen of her phone, above the keypad that appeared when she pressed on reply beneath Ted’s comment. After another breath - quicker, sharper, not so calm - she types so are you and posts it before she can think too hard about it.

The next morning, she wakes when her phone pings with a message from Ted that says, i’m sorry. we started celebrating early yesterday. never a good idea to Instag-rum.

Alexis rolls onto her back in bed, holding her phone above her, staring at the dots that indicate he’s typing something else.

seriously, i’m sorry, lex. it was stupid. i was drunk.

She replies, simply, i wasn’t, and then presses her phone to her chest, against her rapidly beating heart.

 

 

Stevie calls on Christmas. Alexis grins at the sight of Stevie’s name on her screen and answers right away, exclaiming, “Hey, you! Merry Christmas!”

“Hey, yeah, Merry Christmas,” Stevie says. “Are you and Ted still doing this bullshit?”

“It is so good to hear from you!” Alexis tells her. “We all miss you so much. Say hi to Stevie!” she tells her dad, who calls out, “Hi, Stevie!” obligingly.

“Alexis,” Stevie huffs. She sounds like she’s trying not to laugh. “Honestly? You might be an even bigger disaster than me.”

She hops up to the sit on the kitchen counter and runs the edge of her starfish-printed apron between two fingers. “That is so sweet of you to say,” she trills, and Stevie does laugh, then, and Alexis feels a little more buoyant.

 

 

Work stays busy. Things are always moving, changing, developing - Alexis is never bored, and she loves that. Her friend Scarlett has signed on to do a direct-to-Interflix feature, which is so exciting, and Alexis has been given sole responsibility of handling PR for the young, up-and-coming star of the first film in a book-based trilogy Interflix is releasing. Her name is Brynlee, and she’s only twenty. With her bronzey blonde hair that she tosses behind her shoulders habitually when she’s anxious, Brynlee reminds Alexis a little of her former self.

Taking charge of the success of Brynlee’s career as an Interflix darling is a big deal. Alexis dresses for their first meeting in a red floral dress, her favourite booties, and her signature A necklace. She fastens the chain that holds Ted’s ring around her neck as well, tucking the ring itself securely beneath her dress. She reminds herself that while she may no longer have a Prada handbag, she still is a Prada handbag.

The meeting goes really well. Brynlee is eager-eyed and willing to take direction; with a little media training, Alexis thinks they can knock things out of the park.

As they’re wrapping up, she reaches across the table to grab her iPad so they can talk social media strategy, and the ring hidden under her neckline swings forward and out. Alexis might not have even noticed if not for Brynlee, who squeals and presses her hands to her mouth.

“Oh my god, Alexis!” she gasps. “I didn’t know you were married!”

Alexis blinks down at the ring dangling in front of her shirt. “Oh, I - no, it’s - ” She doesn’t know how to brush this off; it’s obviously an engagement ring.

“Don’t worry,” Brynlee says, suddenly serious, grasping Alexis’ arm. “I can totally keep a secret. I swear I can.” Her eyes grow dreamy. “Is he amazing? Is he totally amazing?”

The only word Alexis can manage to form, in the face of Brynlee’s rapture, is, “Yes.”

 

 

Moira comes to the city for Alexis’ birthday. Her arrival is a surprise: Alexis opens her door to find her mother on the other side, arms spread wide in a ta-da sort of gesture, beatific smile on her face.

Mom,” Alexis says when her momentary speechlessness fades away. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, Alexis,” Moira says, “Can’t a mother surprise her bébé girl on the day of her birth?”

“Um, of course,” Alexis says, stepping forward to hug her mother, inhaling the familiar scent of Moria’s perfume. Her birthday is actually tomorrow, but given that she didn’t spend a single birthday with her family between the ages of fifteen and twenty-seven, she figures today is close enough.

They go to Spa de La Mer and then stay at the Baccarat for afternoon tea. Things are so different with her mother now. It’s like they’ve found their footing, finally, and Moira sees her for who she actually is, rather than just someone to dress up, berate for the cardinal sin of having a pimple, or shoo off with a blank cheque. They can trade industry stories now, leaning close over the table to gossip, and her mother actually listens to her, at least most of the time, and they laugh together.

“Alexis,” Moria says, holding her teacup delicately in two hands, “I hope you know how proud your father and I are of your flourishing achievements.”

Alexis smiles down at the napkin in her lap. “Thanks, Mom,” she says, soft and sincere.

“But I also hope you’re not neglecting the intimate side of your journey around the sun. You can have a bustling career and a titillating amour, dear.” She raises her brows minutely. “I did it.”

“Ew, Mom,” Alexis says, shifting in her chair uncomfortably, but Moira just lifts her cup to her lips with a smile.

Her mother is only staying for one night, and she hasn’t booked a hotel room. They both sleep in Alexis’ queen-sized bed, cheeks on the silk pillowcases that Moira told her never to go without “lest she be afflicted by premature wrinkles on her lovely visage.” When it appears that her mother has fallen asleep, Alexis finds herself whispering, “I kind of don’t want you to leave.”

Moira reaches out a groping hand and pats Alexis’ cheek with something that actually feels like maternal affection. “Mummy is available to visit if you should ever need her. Unless it interferes with her filming schedule.”

Alexis sleeps deeply, that night, sinking into abstract dreams she doesn’t remember in the morning. When she wakes up, her mother is already gone, having slipped off silently in the early hours to catch her flight. There’s a small box, perfectly wrapped, waiting for Alexis on the her dining table.

Inside, she finds an 18 karat gold chain, long, with almost impossibly delicate links and no pendant. She bites her lip and her fingers flutter, unbidden, to her breastbone, where Ted’s ring rests when she wears it.

 

 

She tells Ted about her mother’s visit while they go on their run. When he asks if her mother got her a gift, she says, “Oh, just jewellery,” and steers the conversation elsewhere. He attempts to sing her happy birthday during their second mile, the words punctuated by his gasps for air. Alexis laughs so hard she has to stop, doubled over with her hands on her knees.

Ted gets back to his place a few minutes before Alexis is done, but he stays on the line while she finishes up her run. She’s just unlocked her door when she can just tell -

“Theodore!” she says sharply. “You’re doing that thing with your hips, I know you are - “”

“Only seemed appropriate to be wearing my birthday suit, Lex,” he teases.

She hangs up on his laughter, huffs “Ugh!” to her empty apartment, and flounces off to shower, battling against the urge to smile.

 

 

David calls Alexis at 2:44 a.m., the ringtone yanking her out of a REM cycle. She answers the call and all but slaps the phone against her ear.

“Ew, David,” she says groggily, letting her eyes fall shut again. “It’s the middle of the night.”

“I know,” he says, and she instantly feels more alert. He sounds serious and sober; this isn’t a drunk dial. “Mom called me. They’re at the hospital. She thinks Dad’s having a heart attack.”

Alexis sits straight up. “What?” she gasps.

“Patrick and I are booking flights, but you can probably get there faster, since it’s direct.”

“Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, I’ll get a ticket - ” She looks around for her phone before remembering she’s on it. “David, is he…”

“I don’t know. Mom was only half making sense, I didn’t get a lot of details. But it’ll… it’ll be okay, Alexis.”

He sounds like the David of her teenage misadventures: of course I have brown contacts, of course I can overnight them to you, everything's going to be fine. “Okay,” she says.

“Love you,” he says, after a brief, heavy silence.

“Love you too,” she says, and then practically vaults out of bed to throw some things in a suitcase.

 

 

At the airport, waiting to board her 6:20 flight, Alexis stands close to a window at an empty gate, trying to make herself anonymous, invisible. She stares at her reflection in the glass, finding pieces of her father in her face, and then rummages through her purse for her cell phone.

She should call Twyla. Twy will already be awake, maybe even already at the café, and she’ll know just what comforting thing to say.

She calls Ted instead.

His voice is rough with sleep when he answers, asking, “Lex?”

“Hi,” she says, and her eyes flood.

“What’s…are you okay?”

“Yeah. I mean, no, but yeah, but…”

“What is it, Alexis?” he asks, sounding impossibly gentle.

“My dad,” she says tightly. “He’s in the hospital. It sounds like he maybe had a heart attack?”

“Oh, Lex,” he says tenderly.

“Yeah,” she whispers.

“I’m so sorry this is happening. Are you going to L.A.?”

She nods, toying with one of her earrings, forgetting momentarily that it’s not a video call. “I’m at the airport. My flight leaves soon.”

“That’s good. He’ll be glad to see you.”

The optimism in that simple statement bolsters her. She sniffles, swallowing around the lump in her throat. “Yeah,” she says. It sounds like Ted is stifling a yawn, and her heart clenches. “I’m so sorry for waking you up,” she blurts out, feeling stupid. “I shouldn’t have called.”

“Alexis, hey, no,” he says. “You can always call me. I’ll always pick up.”

Her voice is all choked when she says, “Ted.” She can’t say anything else without letting a sob break free.

So softly, he asks, “Do you want me to - ”

“No,” she manages to say, cutting him off. She forces herself to swallow back her tears and tries to regain some of her composure. Coming to be with her is a boyfriend thing. Ted hasn’t been her boyfriend in almost two years.

He doesn’t question her, just requests, “Text me when you land, okay? And when you see your dad. Let me know how he’s doing.”

“I will,” she whispers.

“Safe flight, Alexis,” he says sweetly. “I’ll be thinking of you.”

 

 

By the time Alexis arrives at the hospital, her father is resting after an angioplasty. He looks worn out, paler and older than he usually does, but he manages half a smile for her. “Honey,” he says, and she rushes over to his bed, her fingers circling his wrist since her mother is holding his hand, and leans over to kiss his cheek.

“Hi, Daddy,” she whispers, relief thrumming through her body.

“Your father is going to have an entirely smooth revivification, Alexis,” her mother says. “There’s no need to get mawkish.”

“I know,” Alexis agrees with a faint smile, dropping one last kiss against her dad’s cheek before she perches on the arm of her mother’s chair. She slips an arm around Moira's shoulders, and together they watch the steady rise and fall of Johnny’s chest as he sleeps.

 

 

She calls Ted from the empty waiting room. He picks up after only one ring.

“He’s gonna be okay,” she says, blinking away a fresh batch of tears.

“Oh, good,” Ted breathes. “Thank god; that’s so good to hear. Is your mom holding up okay?”

“Yeah. She seems alright. I don’t know if she already had her breakdown or if she’s saving it for later. You know my mom.”

“I do. And how about you, are you doing okay?”

“Yeah,” Alexis says, running a hand along the length of her ponytail. “Yeah.” She hesitates then adds, “It’s just, like, I don’t know what I would’ve done if he’d actually, like…” She swallows. “Died. It’s - it’s so scary to think about. Like… losing him.”

“I know, Lex,” Ted says in that soft way that always makes her feel understood, even if she’s not sure she’s making complete sense.

“Hey, Ted, you - ” Her words are choked together, so she presses her lips together for a beat and takes a breath. “When you’re, like, on your research trips, and you’re in, like, boats and caves and riding those little ocean scooter things, you’re, like… you’re careful, right?”

His voice is all heart, sounding just like it used to when they were whispering into the near-nonexistent gulf between their pillows. “I’m safe, baby. Always.”

“Okay.” She takes a measured breath in and blows it out slowly. “Good.”

“I’ll let you go be with your family, but call me whenever, Alexis, okay? Whenever.”

“Okay,” she says again, adding a whispered, “Bye.”

She puts her phone back into her purse and then buries her face in her hands as her chin starts to tremble unrelentingly. She wants Ted with her so badly it feels bone deep. She wants him there to hold her. Her tears escape, wetting her palms and sliding through the spaces between her fingers.

She looks up when she hears a distinct, familiar, “Oh, my god,” and finds David and Patrick standing in the doorway of the waiting room, looking, as she does, vaguely disoriented and like they got dressed in the dark. Her brother is grasping Patrick’s arm, a horrified expression on his face, so she says quickly, “Dad’s fine. He’s gonna be fine.”

“Oh, my god,” David says again, with a mixture of relief and annoyance this time. He waves his hands at her, “Then why are you weeping, Alexis?”

“I’m not, David!” she snaps, like her cheeks aren’t damp and streaky.

Patrick squeezes both of David’s shoulders and give him a little nudge. “Go see your dad, David,” he says softly.

Alexis points wordlessly in the right direction, and David gives her one last crabby look as he walks by her, but he also squeezes her knee. Patrick stays where he is for a couple more seconds, then takes a seat at Alexis’ side. He keeps his gaze on the floor for a minute while she swipes at her eyes, and then he looks at her and says, “So… you need a hug?”

Sniffling unattractively, she says, “You can’t be David’s emotional support and mine, Patrick. That’s not a one-person job. You’d need, like, an army.”

He smiles. “Just for today,” he says, and when he wraps his arms around her, Alexis buries her face in his shoulder and takes a shuddering breath. He rubs her back soothingly, and she feels full of gratitude for him, but even Patrick’s sweetness can’t squash the vast, aching longing threaded through her body, the way each of her heartbeats says Ted.

 

 

Alexis can only spend three days in L.A. before she has to return to New York for work, but she sees her family again during the holidays, all of them gathered back in Schitt’s Creek. She’s elated to see her father looking stronger, settled into an armchair in the Brewer-Rose living room where he can oversee the rest of them. Stevie dotes on him, turning prickly as a porcupine when anyone points it out, and David and Alexis keep exchanging fond, amused looks.

She gifts her entire family, Stevie included, matching plaid flannel pyjamas. Patrick’s the only one who actually seems to consider them a present, but with enough needling Alexis manages to coax everyone into their festive sleep attire. Her mother and David ban photographs, so she takes a cute selfie with Patrick and captions it my favourite brother. She shares a bottle of wine with Stevie, curled up on the rug in front of the fire.

Jocelyn, Roland, Mutt, and baby Roland, who’s now less of a toddler and more of a kid, drop by for a bit. Alexis, Patrick, and Mutt help little Roland decorate sugar cookies at a table David’s covered with a sheet, two tablecloths, and a layer of newspaper, out of an abundance of caution. Mutt gives Alexis that mysterious smile of his, and she smiles back. It doesn’t feel like he’s her ex, awkwardly handing her red and green sprinkles. It feels like they’re friends.

Alexis returns with her parents to the motel just after ten. She’s staying in her old room, room 6, all by herself in her old twin bed. It’s just a motel room now, no longer a space she and David made their home, but the mattress dips beneath her like it remembers the shape of her body.

She video calls Ted, who’s still on the island, having drawn the short straw that meant he’d be monitoring turtles on Christmas Day. He tells her all about his favourite tortoise, who he’s named Shelby. Alexis can’t help her wide, silly smile, half-hidden in her pillowcase, at the way his enthusiasm lights up his face.

“Why don’t you have a girlfriend, Ted?” she asks, when he’s caught her up on all of Shelby’s exploits.

He rubs at the back of his neck and shrugs. “It’s a small island, Lex.”

“Mmhm,” she says, not quite sure she believes him.

He volleys the question back at her: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”

“I’m really busy,” she says matter-of-factly. “I don’t know if you know this, Ted, but I’m a boss bitch now.”

“I did hear a rumour about that,” he teases, then, “Hey, it’s midnight there. Merry Christmas, Alexis.”

She snuggles even further under her comforter and tucks a hand beneath her cheek. “Let’s stay on the phone until it’s Christmas for you, too.”

“Okay,” he agrees, and stretches out on his own bed. 

She’s half asleep by the time she wishes him merry Christmas, her eyes unwilling to stay open. He whispers, “Sweet dreams, baby,” back to her, and her phone falls out of her hand, sliding off of her pillow and onto the mattress, where it remains until she wakes up to discover it poking into her rib cage.

 

 

She accompanies Brynlee to London for a brief UK press tour. Interflix has never sent her anywhere before, so it feels like a stamp of approval, an acknowledgement that she’s doing a good job.

Brynlee is practically vibrating with excitement, even though they’re flying economy and Alexis had to pack their own snacks like a soccer mom. “You’ve been to London before, right, Alexis?” she asks.

“Oh, yeah, tons of times,” Alexis says, tucking her magazines into the seat pocket in front of her. “We used to have a house in Putney, it was super cute. But it’s been a while. I haven’t been back since I broke things off with Harry.”

Brynlee’s eyes go round; she gasps and stage whispers, “You dated Harry Styles? Or, oh my god, do you mean Prince Harry?!”

Alexis gives her a wink, mouths, “Both,” and pulls her sleep mask down over her eyes.

 

 

As usual, she dislikes London’s tendency toward gloomy skies, but the trip is a success. Brynlee can’t get enough and cries on their last night there, but Alexis is kind of looking forward to going home.

Which is weird. She spent years of her life jetting away without a care, feeling like she’d never really had roots, eager to be somewhere else, to be a different version of herself. But now her apartment feels like a home base, like a safe place to land, and she’s looking forward to sleeping in her own bed, to drinking coffee in her own kitchen, to flirting with her favourite Uber Eats delivery guy.

In the cab between JFK and her place, she texts the family group chat (titled with a single rose emoji) i’m home, and they all reply within twenty minutes.

 

 

She video calls Ted when she gets bored of unpacking, and he beams at her through the screen.

“It’s so good to see your face,” he says (and it’s so good to see his too, why does he look so yum when he gets scruffy?). “It’s about time we were back in the same zone.”

Alexis grins. “You’ve been saving that.”

“I totally have,” Ted agrees. “Want to go for a run?”

“Yes!” she chirps, hopping up off her couch. “Oh, yay, Ted, great idea. I just need to get changed.”

She leaves her phone face-up on her coffee table while she goes to pull workout clothes out of her dresser. As she exchanges one outfit for another, she throws the lacy black bra she was wearing on the plane through the air so that it sails over the screen of her phone, just because she can.

 

 

David and Patrick come to visit - Alexis has her suspicions that David’s desire to see Wicked might outweigh his desire to see his one and only sister, but she doesn’t care, not when they show up at her door and the three of them end up tangled up in one big hug. Once Patrick laughingly extracts himself, she and David hold onto each other for a few more seconds before she says, “Ew, David,” without much feeling and he starts scrubbing harshly at his cheek to erase the lipstick stain she left when she kissed him.

They’re having drinks after the show, Patrick adorably into discussing basically every minute of the musical, when Alexis gets a text from Ted. It’s a picture of him on a seadoo with his hair all wind-tousled, and his message says vroom vroom, bitches. A grin breaks out over her face before she can even attempt to quell it.

When Patrick goes to the bathroom (“Try not to talk about Wicked with your urinal buddies, honey,” David says as he gets up), her brother turns to her with an expectantly arched eyebrow. “Got a little text that made us happy, did we?”

Alexis rolls her eyes. “Don’t, David.”

He studies her for a minute and then appears to decide to change tack. “You know, Vance Maddox just moved back to the city.”

It’s Alexis’ turn to tilt up an eyebrow. “Did you bring Patrick here to introduce him to your ex?”

“No,” David says, annoyed. “But Vance is single.” He gives Alexis a significant look, but when she only make a what, David? face back, he spells it out for her: “He’s bi.”

“Um,” Alexis says. “I thought you had a rule - ” She does exaggerated air quotes, “ - about your exes, David.”

“Well, I’m willing to make an exception, Alexis. We only dated for like a week when I was twenty-one. He’s cute, he’s single, he’s not a jerk. You should go for it.”

She needs another martini. “No, thanks,” she tells her brother.

“Alexis.” David kicks her under the table, prompting her to cry, “Ouch, David!” But her pain goes ignored as he forges on, “I am making an exception to the rule, this one time, for you.”

“That’s… nice, I guess, but… ” She fidgets and then reaches down pointedly to rub her calf. “Remember how… remember how you felt when Patrick sang to you the first time?”

“Obviously,” he says, eyes narrowed on her face, trying to figure out where she’s going with this.

“Well, didn't it just feel, like, impossible, to settle for feeling anything less than that again? There would just be… an empty space, where that feeling should be.” She tugs at the hoop in her ear a little too hard; it hurts.

The irritation melts off David’s face. “Allie,” he says on a sigh.

“I know,” she says quietly, then, “Patrick’s coming.”

Patrick looks between them as he slips back into his seat. “You two look serious.”

Alexis takes a breath and pulls up a smile for him. “We were just discussing your wardrobe palette!” she trills, clasping her hands together. “How do you feel about burgundy?”

 

 

She makes the probably (okay, definitely) terrible decision to call Ted while she’s masturbating. It’s been a long day, she feels wound up, and it’s an impulse, calling him. Alexis has a great vibrator and she can always satisfy herself, and she could go to any bar in her neighbourhood and pick up some hottie for a quickie in a bathroom or an alley, but that’s not what she wants. She wants Ted.

They never talk about how they keep doing this, even though she knows they should, and Ted must, too. It’s like their ill-advised, short-lived experiment with ‘adult kisses,’ only this time they can’t seem to stop.

She’s got her hand in her underwear when he answers, and she breathes, “Hey,” a whimper getting caught in her throat at the end of the word. Just the sound of him saying hi was enough to have her hips canting up, wanting more.

“What’s - ” he begins, and then stops, completely silent for a second before he says, “Alexis - are you - ”

She sighs and says, “I wish you were here to touch me. Tell me how you’d touch me.”

She hears his breath catch, which, yes. “Hang on,” he says.

There’s some rustling on his end, a door squeaking on its hinges, and then it’s quiet, aside from his breathing. “Baby,” he says, and when she practically purrs in response, Ted tells her exactly what he’d like to do with his hands and mouth, and she comes so hard for him, head thrown back against her pillows, stars behind her eyelids.

“Fuck, Lex,” he says on the other end of the line, and Alexis grins, tells him, “Your turn.”

 

 

Alexis discovers, only a few weeks later, that she and Ted are talking to each other everyday. They stop texting one another talk? to see if they’re both free, and instead start assuming that they'll end up on the phone together, texting each other only to provide a heads-up if they’re going to be otherwise occupied in the evening. Ted drinks a protein shake and types up his scribbled field notes while Alexis does her twenty-two step skincare regimen and makes herself a cup of tea.

Sometimes it gets sexy, but not always. Sometimes they just talk, about nothing and everything, or watch a movie together, until Alexis can’t stop yawning, and the last thing she hears before she falls asleep is Ted’s, "Goodnight."

In the mornings, the first thing she does, still bleary-eyed and messy-haired, is text him good morning.

About an hour later, when he wakes up, he responds, and the feeling Alexis gets is even sweeter than the mountain of Stevia she puts in her coffee.

 

 

Striding through Grand Central, tote slung over her shoulder, Alexis feels like her friend Blake must have when she was filming Gossip Girl. She’s heading to Stamford, where they’ll be filming a look-where-I-grew-up! featurette with Brynlee for Interflix’s YouTube channel next week. The production team already has a pretty good idea of what they want to do, but Alexis wants to scope out the place herself. Living in Schitt’s Creek gave her a good sense of how to find hidden treasures absolutely anywhere.

As she strolls through the main concourse, gaze focused forward, she catches sight of a guy who looks kind of like Ted in her peripheral vision. She does a double-take and notes that he’s wearing a light blue shirt that does wonders for his eyes and is holding an adorable bouquet of peonies, and then she does a triple-take, and holy shit -

It’s not a guy who looks like Ted, it is Ted, gorgeously tanned and more handsome than ever, his beautiful smile faltering in its corners like he’s nervous.

“Oh my god, Ted!” Alexis cries, rushing toward him. She flings herself into his arms, crushing her body to his, and feels him lift her up off the ground with the force of his embrace. “Oh my god, oh my god,” she says into his shoulder. He smells delicious.

“Hey,” he says on a laugh when she loosens her grip a little. He rests one hand against her hip, the other keeping a hold of the bouquet.

Hey,” she breathes, touching his cheeks. “Ted. What are you doing here?”

“I…” He shakes his head, then slips the bouquet between their bodies. “These are for you.” Alexis drops her hands to hold onto the paper wrapped around the flowers’ stems, and Ted brushes her hair back behind one of her ears. “I had this whole speech planned, but I’ve… lost my train of thought.”

His earnest humour makes her want to cry. “You’re here. In New York.”

“Yeah. I declined the offer to renew my contract.”

Alexis’ heart pounds with a hope she’s scared to let herself feel. “You did?”

“Yeah. I - Lex, there’s never been another woman. Anywhere.”

He’s looking at her with such sincerity, his hands skimming down her upper arms and finding her waist again. “Ted,” she breathes, giving her head a stunned shake and looking down into the bouquet.

He tilts her chin up gently. “Back in Schitt’s Creek, when I kept running into you at the café over and over again, it felt like the plot of a rom com. I know it was a small town and there was basically nowhere else to eat, and no one in your family could cook, but still… it felt like the universe was trying to tell me something. About you.”

Alexis’ eyes are watering. She presses a hand against his chest and toys with one of the buttons on his shirt.

“David told me you’d be here today,” Ted says. “I thought this seemed like the right place for the rom com to end.” His eyes search hers. “If that’s what you want, too.”

She nods, her throat so tight that, momentarily, she can’t manage to speak. She flattens her palm against his heart, feels it beat. “But what about your job, Ted? Your dream job.”

“There are all kinds of research opportunities here. Or I could join a practice - maybe one that cares for exotic animals.” He thumbs her bottom lip, like he just can’t resist touching her. “I have more than one dream, Lex.”

Her eyes overflow. “So do I,” she says, and Ted grins at her so widely that she feels like she could burst from joy, explode into a million tiny pieces of confetti.

“Alexis,” he murmurs, leaning in, but she pulls back and reaches into her dress with a shaky hand. She presses the bouquet toward him, and he takes it automatically while she undoes the clasp on her necklace and slides the ring off of it.

She tucks the chain into the pocket of his pants for safe-keeping and holds the ring out to him. “Theodore Mullens,” she says.

“That’s not going to fit on my finger, Lex,” he says, his voice low and adoring.

“I’m trying to propose, Ted,” she says, widening her eyes at him and flicking a scolding wrist in his direction.

He schools his expression into something more serious, his eyes shining back at her, and nods.

“Theodore Mullens,” she repeats. “Will you marry me?”

“Baby,” he says. “Of course I will.”

He’s right about the ring. Alexis manages to wrestle it most of the way onto his pinky before he puts a hand against her cheek and kisses her. She laughs into his mouth, unable to contain her happiness. The peonies get squished between them. It feels like finally.

“Ted,” she says softly when they break apart, their noses still brushing. She gives her shoulders a little wiggle and lifts an eyebrow to gesture to their surroundings. “Full steam ahead, right?”

“I love you so fucking much,” he says, and then her arms are winding around his neck as their lips meet again, and Alexis makes the executive decision that whatever Interflix’s production team has planned to do with Brynlee in Stamford is totally fine, and that just this once, they don’t need her very helpful input.

 

 

Two days after their reunion, Alexis posts a new picture to Instagram. It’s of her chest and Ted’s, though their bodies are blurry in the background, the photo’s focus on the rings hanging from chains around their necks, his a gold band that matches the engagement ring he picked out for her years ago, the ring that was held safe and tender between the two of them until it was time to find its mate.

She captions the photo love this journey for us and changes her bio to hide your diamonds, keep your exes. And then, when she feels Ted’s arms wrap around her waist and his mouth settle into the juncture of her neck and shoulder, she turns off her notifications and shimmies around in his hold.

“What’s this, future Mr. Rose?” she asks, her eyes dropping to his mouth.

“C’mere and see, future Mrs. Mullens,” he replies, and Alexis is only too happy to oblige.

 

 

fin.