The next morning, Kathy and Lincoln showed up bright and early to pick up Emma for their weekend adventures. Right as I was about to walk out of my house, I heard pounding on my front door. Opening it, I pasted on my biggest fake smile as I stared at three women who lived on my block—three women I hadn’t missed one bit. “Marybeth, Susan, Erica, hi.”
I should’ve known it wouldn’t be long before the three most dramatic and gossipy women in town were standing on my porch. “Oh, Liz,” Marybeth gasped, pulling me into a hug. “How are you doing, darling? We heard rumors that you were coming back into town, but you know us, we hate gossip, so we had to see for ourselves.”
“I made you a meatloaf!” Erica exclaimed. “After Steven died, you left so fast that I wasn’t able to make you any comfort food, so now I was finally able to make you this meatloaf to help you mourn.”
“Thanks, ladies. I was actually just on my way out to—”
“How’s Emma handling everything?” Susan cut in. “Is she dealing? My Rachel was asking about her and wondering if they can have their play dates again, which would be great.” She paused and leaned in. “But, just to be clear, Emma’s not suffering from depression, is she? I hear that can be quite contagious with other kids.”
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. I smiled. “Oh no, Emma’s good. We’re good. Everything’s good.”
“So you’ll be back at our book club meetings? Every Wednesday at Marybeth’s. The kids stay in the basement playing while we chat it up about a novel. This week we’re reading Pride and Prejudice.”
“I—” …really don’t want to go. Their eyes zoned in on me, and I knew if I said no, I would be causing myself more trouble than it was worth. Plus, it would be nice for Emma to be around other girls her age. “I’ll be there.”
“Perfect!” Marybeth’s eyes glanced around the yard. “Your yard has quite a personality.” She said it with a grin, but what it really meant was, ‘When are you cutting your grass? You’re embarrassing all of us.’
“I’m working on it,” I explained. I took the meatloaf from Erica and placed it inside before hurrying out and locking my door, trying my best to give them the signal that I was on my way out. “Well, thanks for stopping by, ladies. I better get going into town.”
“Oh? What are you doing in town?” Marybeth questioned.
“I’m actually looking to see if Matty needs an extra hand at Savory & Sweet.”
“Even though they just hired someone? I doubt they’ll have room to add you on,” Erica explained.
“Oh, so the rumors were true that you aren’t starting up your company again? It makes sense that you wouldn’t, without Steven,” Marybeth said.
Susan nodded in agreement. “He was quite the business man. And I know you only had the interior design degree. It must be sad to go from something so great to something so…mundane, like being a waitress. I know I couldn’t do it. What a step backward.”
Screw you, screw you, screw you. I smiled. “Well, we’ll see. It was great running into you. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon enough.”
“Wednesday at seven!” Susan smirked.
Pushing myself past them, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I listened to them whisper about how it looked like I’d gained a few pounds and how heavy the bags under my eyes were.
I walked toward Savory & Sweet Café, and I tried my best to shake the nerves. What if they didn’t need any help in the café? What would I do to make money? Steven’s parents told me not to worry about those kinds of things, saying they would help us out for a while, but I couldn’t help it. I needed to find a way to stand on my own. Pushing open the door to the café, I smiled when I heard the loud shout from behind the counter.
“Please tell me I’m not dreaming and my best friend is back!” Faye screamed, leaping over the counter and tackling me in a bear hug. She didn’t let me go and turned to Matty, the owner of the shop. “Matty, tell me you’re seeing this too and I’m not just screwed up from the crazy amount of drugs I took before coming to work.”
“She’s really there, crazy.” He smirked. Matty was an older guy, and the way he dealt with Faye’s loud, vibrant personality was normally with eye rolls and smirks. His brown eyes locked with mine and he nodded once. “Good to see you, Liz.”
Faye snuggled her head against my breasts, as if they were her pillow. “Now that you’re here you can never, ever, ever leave again.” Faye was beautiful in all the perfect, unique ways. She had silver-dyed hair—unique for a twenty-seven-year-old age—with strands of pinks and purples running through it. Her nails were always dressed with vibrant colors, and her dresses always hugged her curves in all the right places. The thing that made her so beautiful, though, was her confidence. Faye knew she was stunning, and she also knew that it had not one thing to do with her looks. Her feeling of pride for herself came from within; she didn’t need the approval of anyone else whatsoever.
I envied that in her.
“Well, I actually came in to see if you guys were currently hiring. I know I haven’t worked here since college, but I could use the work.”
“Of course we are hiring! Hey, you, Sam!” Faye said, pointing to a server I didn’t know. “You’re fired.”
“Faye!” I shouted.