When there was a quiet night at home—which wasn’t very often, since Karl was always “working”—it was more of a Netflix-and-sleep kind of night. Or a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of night, which weren’t exactly my favorites. I guess that should have told me something even before the divorce, considering it’d been a long time—if ever—since sex with Karl made me smile the way Angela is smiling and practically glowing.
A little voice whispers in the back of my head that maybe that’s why Karl started banging his paralegal. Is it really his fault I wasn’t interested in sleeping with him myself in years? I swallow. Hard. And push that thought down. Cheating is never the answer. He could have easily just said he wanted a divorce. As could I…
I cough. “Legit, you look amazing, Angela.”
“Thanks. Looking hot when I go out without him guarantees Manny is thinking about me all night. Gotta keep them on their toes,” she says with a wink.
Maybe that’s where I went wrong. I didn’t keep Karl “on his toes” with evenings planned to drive him wild with lust, have him wanting to take me against the wall the second I returned. Instead, he was the king of the three-in-the-morning dick poke to my ass followed by a few minutes of pumping, before he came with a grunt and rolled back over, asleep before his head hit the pillow.
“So what do you think of Mikey?” Angela asks when we stop at a red light while she riffles through her voluminous purse.
“I think he’s a really nice guy.” I scramble for something else to say. “Plus, he can put together a really readable spreadsheet.”
“He’s the best,” she says as she tosses a pacifier into the back seat. “And I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother-in-law. It’s true. He did all the remodeling on Manny’s and my house, and it looks like a million bucks now.”
A tiger-print glasses case follows the pacifier into the way back, then a blue toy truck whizzes through the air, and finally one giant purple-feathered earring. The light turns green just as she pulls out a Buzz Lightyear doll. “Here, hold this, will you?” She shoves the action figure into my hands. “Johnny will kill me if I lose his favorite toy.”
We inch forward but don’t make it through the light before it turns red again, which means Angela is back to digging in her purse. Another pacifier, two more cars, and a hair ribbon are tossed in the back seat before she comes out triumphant with a bright red lipstick that she applies with abandon to her already bright lips—while still singing Mikey’s praises.
I’m beginning to think she has some ulterior motives with this party invite, after all—and they revolve around getting me to date Mikey. Since I need Mikey for my new vaginal exorcism plan, I’m more than willing to hear of her plans, too. She drops the lipstick back into her bag and holds it out for me to do the same with the Buzz Lightyear. Then she abruptly changes the subject.
“This party is going to be so fun! I have a ton of people I’m dying to introduce you to!”
“A ton?” I ask, heart starting to pound because I’m really more of a small-group girl. “How many people are going to be at this party?”
“Fifteen? Twenty?” She waves a hand as the light turns green and she starts to drive again. “Does it matter? I’ve told them all about you, and they are dying to meet the girl who’s managed to turn Mikey’s head. I mean, there are a whole lot of women who’ve been trying to do that, but you’re the lucky one who finally made it happen.”
I have no idea what to say to that, and before I can think something up, she makes a quick left turn followed by a quick right. Seconds later, we pull into a driveway behind a dark-green minivan that looks an awful lot like the one I’m currently riding in.
“We’re here!” Angela announces triumphantly, and then she reaches over and adjusts my bow. “Ready to get your wine on?”
My stomach does the Cha Cha Slide for a million and one reasons—none of them good.
Angela practically frog marches me up the driveway to her friend’s house. “Don’t be nervous,” she says as we climb a porch that looks very much like mine is supposed to. “They’ll love you. Especially Christee—”
“Who’s Christee?” I ask.
Angela laughs. “My bestie, of course.”
She knocks on the door, then throws it open without waiting for her friend to answer—and we walk straight into a Pottery Barn catalog. Seriously.
And I’m shaken with envy. Not gonna lie. After spending a day surrounded by clutter, this is like a breath of fresh air. Everything perfectly matched and in its place. Nothing extra would dare invade this space. The only nod to personalized items is the enormous oil painting hanging over the fireplace of what is probably her and her husband and their five children of varying ages, magazines about parenting scattered on the large wooden coffee table, and random small, framed photos atop a short bookcase near the front door that features the family doing various activities together.
A birthday party. New puppy. Camping trip. School play. Paris.
I swallow the sudden lump in my throat. They took their kids to Europe.
I wrap my arms around my waist and stare at the picture, their grinning faces in front of the Eiffel Tower blurring as tears well in my eyes. Christee is living my anti-Karl life. The life I naively thought was mine for the taking if I didn’t make a fuss, did what was expected, made everyone comfortable.
I desperately want to go home now, but I know I won’t. A masochistic bitch has control of my body, and she greedily glances around with a macabre fascination to see what else I missed out on.
A woman whose hair is stick straight, parted down the middle, and as black as the mental hole I fell down rushes up to Angela and pulls her into a huge bear hug before leaning back again and giving me a wide, toothy smile.
“Wine or whiskey?” the grinning woman asks as she loops her arm through mine and guides me across the giant foyer.
My gut—obviously still horrified by last night’s bender—gurgles. “Water, please?”
“Water?” She raises an impeccably groomed eyebrow and smooths her fingertips over her shiny hair as if she needs a moment to process. “Tap or bottled or sparkling? Perhaps tonic with just a splash of vodka?”
“You two are going to love each other.” Angela squats down and scratches a mop dog who trails behind our host before standing back up and waving an arm between us. “Mallory, Christee. Christee, Mallory. And if she doesn’t want that vodka and tonic, I’ll take it.”
“Nice to meet you?” It comes out sounding way more like a question than I intended. But that’s only because Christee is dragging me down her picture-filled hallway like she’s a prison guard and I’m the most reluctant inmate in the yard—which, as I think about it, might be a fairly accurate summation of the situation.