“That is so cute, though,” Mandy said. “How old is he?”
“His name is Austin and he’s four,” I replied.
“Ahh, so is there a crazy ex in the picture, too?” Mandy asked. It was a good question. I’d no idea where Austin’s mom was. Was Cayden divorced? Had it been a one-night stand?
“Actually, I’m not sure,” I responded. “He didn’t give any information, and I didn’t ask.”
“It’s an instant family, just in time for the holidays,” Mandy joked. “By the way, what are you doing for Christmas?”
I shook my head.
“Hopefully nothing,” I said. “I feel bad because I want to see my sister, but I cannot deal with another Christmas with my mother. You have no idea how awful she is, Mandy. I haven’t talked to her since last Christmas, and I have no intention of talking to her anytime soon. It’s hard because my sister is so important to me and it’s not her fault that my mom is a bitch, but I can’t be around any of my family.”
Mandy nodded, letting me know that she understood. Suddenly, my phone began to vibrate. I looked at the caller ID. Cayden. My heart skipped a beat. Should I answer it?
“Answer it!” Mandy hissed, obviously reading my mind. I picked up the phone.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hey, Tiffany,” Cayden’s voice came across the line. He even sounded gorgeous on the phone.
“Hi,” I said.
“How are you?”
“I’m good,” I responded. “Just wrapped up a yoga class with Mandy and we are out grabbing a coffee before we head back home. How are you?”
“Good!” He said. “I was hoping you would answer. Would you be free tonight to go out with me?”
Holy shit, he was asking me out again. It was both something that I hoped for and feared at the same time. I wasn’t sure I could go out with him again, definitely not as soon as tonight. Even though it had happened Thursday morning, my sex dream was still fresh in my mind.
“I’m busy tonight,” I told him. “Mandy and I are going out to dinner.”
Mandy opened her mouth with surprise. We didn’t have any plans that night. In fact, she was working.
“I am not!” She said, but I’d already covered my phone, so Cayden couldn’t hear her.
“That’s too bad,” Cayden said. “Tomorrow night, then?”
He was relentless.
“I’m busy tomorrow night, too,” I lied. Suddenly, Mandy snatched the phone out of my hand.
“Hi, Cayden,” she said. “This is Mandy… I’m good, thank you for asking… You know, Tiffany and I can go out any night, plus I think I may need to pick up an extra shift at the hospital. She will be ready tonight at 7:00.”
With that, she hung up on Cayden. It was now my turn to sit with my mouth opened in shock.
“Mandy!” I yelled. “What the hell was that for?”
“You can thank me later,” she said. There wasn’t a trace of regret on her face. Part of me was furious with her, but the other part was secretly happy. Despite my weirdness after our first date, the initial date and kiss after did go very well. I needed to stop blocking myself off from what could be a great thing.
“It will be good for you, Tiffany,” Mandy said. “Please don’t be mad at me. I just thought you needed an extra push.”
I rolled my eyes.
“The damage is done now,” I sighed.
“Oh, please,” she said. “You’re acting as if I’m making you go out with a loser. Cayden Lewis looks like he just walked off a movie set. I’m definitely going to mention this little moment today in my Maid of Honor speech at your wedding.”
I swatted her from across the table.
“Hush,” I said. “Let’s go home, get changed, and head to the mall. You need to help me find an outfit for tonight.”
If I was going out with Cayden again, I’d to make sure that I looked damn good.
* * *
Two hours later, we were rummaging through the racks at one of my favorite stores.
“What look should I go for?” I asked Mandy.
“The Fuck-Me look,” Mandy said. I playfully swatted at her.
“No,” I responded. “Not the answer I was looking for.”
She picked a hot pink dress from the rack.
“This?” she asked, holding it up. I shook my head. I could never wear something like that. For starters, the color was way too bright for me. Second, the dress was extremely short. The black one I wore the other night was as short as I was willing to go. She sighed and put the dress back on the rack.
I noticed a woman walking into the store. She looked just like Jessica, but she was too far away for me to see her face. Mandy caught me watching the woman walk to the opposite side of the store.
“Who is that?” she asked. I shook my head.
“I thought it was a co-worker,” I lied. “On second thought, let’s get this dress.” I picked up the pink dress that I’d previously rejected. Although my head knew that Jessica was on the other side of the state, I also knew there was a slight possibility that she could be in town. She probably still had family and friends in Miami. If it was her, I did not want to be seen.
As the cashier was ringing up my purchase, the mystery woman left the store. She never looked my way, so I was unable to confirm if it was Jessica or not. Still, the sighting put a bad taste in my mouth. It brought up all sorts of feelings about being cheated on by someone who I thought had loved me.
“What’s wrong?” Mandy asked as we left the mall. She had noticed the sudden shift in my attitude.
“I just thought I saw someone,” I said. “The girl in the store, I thought it was Jessica.”
“Shit,” she said. “I wish you would have told me. I would have gone right up and punched that bitch in the face!”
Her unexpected reaction made me laugh.
“Thanks, Bestie,” I said. I shook the sighting off as nothing, just my imagination trying to self-sabotage my date with Cayden.
Later that day, I was fully prepared for my date. Since I’d a few hours to kill, Mandy and I went and got spray tans, manicures, and pedicures before she had to go to work.
“Have fun,” Mandy said on her way out. “And remember, no glove, no love!”
I lightheartedly threw a magazine in the direction of her head as she left my bedroom. I turned to look at myself in the mirror. I did look good, especially with a bit of added color on my skin. Despite growing up in Miami, I’d naturally light skin. The spray tan made my eyes pop.
The dress that I’d been nervous about fit me great. It wasn’t as short as I’d expected. It was about the same length as the black one that I wore the other night. I’d decided to straighten my naturally wavy hair. It looked sleek and sexy. I hoped that Cayden would like it.
Mandy helped me with my makeup. While I could do the basics, Mandy knew how to do the perfect winged eyeliner and contouring. I looked better than I’d in years. Just looking at myself in the mirror had boosted my confidence a tiny bit. But, just a tiny bit.
I still wasn’t sure what Cayden was doing with me. I didn’t care if Nikki and Mandy both said that I was a catch. They were my friends. They were supposed to say things like that. I didn’t know how this all had happened. It seemed like this whole week was on turbo drive. We had our group lunch on Monday and two days later, I was kissing Cayden. Now, we were already going on our second date. Things were moving at a rapid speed, at least for me.
I knew whatever I did tonight, there was one thing that I’d to prevent from happening. No matter how much I wanted it, I could not have sex with Cayden. I could not let sexual feelings make this get more complicated. I would go out to dinner with him and come back home. We would end it with a kiss, just like last time. Even though I desperately wanted to reenact my hot dream, I could not give into him this easily.
“These aren’t Mickey Mouse pancakes.” Austin frowned as I presented him with the pancakes I’d just made. He was right. I was utterly awful at making cute pancakes. In fact, I was awful at making any pancakes, but it didn’t stop our Saturday morning tradition. No matter what was going on in my life, I always made time for Saturday morning pancakes with Austin.