We Were Once - Page 105

38

Chloe

I’ve spent the past month taking breaks at the coffee shop down the street too often, eyeing the ice cream parlor like I might catch him still in there, and nervously expecting to see him behind every curtain in the ER.

I thought healing from the accident was hard but surviving Joshua Evans has been a whole other level of recovery. Trying to salvage my heart, I’m moving on the best I can.

Just as I settle on Ruby’s couch with a glass of wine, there’s a knock on the door. “Are we expecting company?” I call over the back of the sofa. She has a doorman, so surprise visits aren’t really a thing in this building. When she doesn’t return, I get up. “Do you want me to answer it?”

“Yes,” Ruby shouts from the bedroom. She has to shout. Her apartment is the size of four of mine. A lot has changed in Ruby’s world. She may come from family money, but she makes her own these days. Her college years were colorful and designed in whimsy. She took a year off to pursue photography and became a sensation in the fashion world. She’s talented with models, but I still prefer her landscapes. She still manages to fit shoots in during her travels.

She makes money by the bucketloads, but I love that she stays true to who she is. Over the past few years, her taste has turned to cleaner palettes, but the starkness of this apartment has me missing the girl who used to drape scarves over lamps. I ask, “What are you doing anyway?”

“Getting dressed.” She looked fine in the sweats and tank top she was wearing, so I don’t get why she’s changing clothes.

Swinging the door open, I see the familiar face of my mother. Huh? I guess I stare too long because she enters the apartment. “Guess I’ll invite myself in.” She kisses my cheek before she passes. “Hello, by the way.” She’s developed a nice portfolio of sarcasm over the years. It’s usually appreciated, but I’m still confused about why she’s here.

“Hi, Mom.” I snap out of the shock of seeing her at my best friend’s apartment. “Sorry. I didn’t expect to see you.”

Setting down her purse, she replies, “Ruby invited me over. We were chatting about a girls’ night—”

“What? When?” I’m still standing at the door like an idiot, my mind boggled while my mom makes herself at home. Pushing the door closed, I say, “I seem to be missing something.”

With a grand entrance, Ruby comes from the bedroom in a deep red-colored duster unbuttoned to reveal a skintight, black leather bodysuit underneath. I do a double take. With her hair bordering on the deepest of black these days, she’s quite the bombshell. “Wow!”

She spins for us, arms out, full smile, and confidence built into her small frame. The heels allow for some of the height she’s missing when standing barefoot next to me. “You like? I got it in Dubai. It cost me a full paycheck, but I’m not regretting the purchase.”

I say, “I’d pay more to look half as good.”

My mom peers on like a proud parent. “You look fabulous.”

They embrace, and Ruby replies, “It’s so good to see you again, Cat.”

Skeptical, I ask, “What is going on?”

Scooping up the wine from the dining table, Ruby moves into the kitchen, the deep plum liquid sloshing up the sides and then falling. “We ran into each other last week at Zabar’s.”

They laugh like they’re old friends, tag-teaming the story. “She tried to steal the last chocolate Babka.”

“You’re a terrible tease, Cat.” Returning her eyes to me, Ruby says, “I gave her the Babka. Anywho, we got to talking about you—”

“Me?” My interest is piqued even more. Oh, great. Nothing brings two people together like the desire to coordinate the dating life of a third. I’m the third.

“Yes, I thought it would be fun to have Cat surprise you and join us.”

“Do you not want me here?” I swear to God my mom’s bottom lip pops out just a little when she asks that.

While Ruby fills another glass with red wine, I sigh, tilting my head and inwardly rolling my eyes. “Of course, I want you here. I’m glad you came.” I hug her, resting my head on her shoulder briefly, finding comfort in the embrace.

When we part, I notice their outfits are very similar, which has me wondering . . . “Why are you both dressed up?” I glance down at my baggy jeans and floral sweatshirt, tugging at the hem like I can hide my lack of fashion. There’s no point, though. They know I never have time to shop. I’m lucky my socks don’t have holes while they look like they’re ready for a night on the town. “Wait a minute. Oh, no. Nope. Not going to happen. This was supposed to be a night in, watching a movie and ordering food delivery.”

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