“Whoo-hoo, I’m going to California!” I yelled to Jared, my best friend and roommate, as I hung up the phone. Bella was prancing around my legs, which was semi-dangerous, since she was almost a year old and weighed in at one-hundred-plus pounds. I gave her giant mastiff head a few pats and moved her out of my way.
“What?! That’s not fair. Details, chick, details,” he said, walking over and flopping down on our overstuffed, chocolate-brown Pottery Barn couch and looking at me expectantly. Bella, lumbering over at a glacial pace, tried to squeeze herself on Jared’s lap with limited success. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight, much to Jared’s annoyance. Though he loved Bella as much as I did.
I sat down facing him, barely able to contain my excitement. “That was Cooper. He’s been nominated for some award. Something in his field—I don’t know all the details—but anyway, that’s not the point. He wants me to fly out and be his date for the event. Not only am I thrilled about seeing San Diego and spending time with Cooper, but this thing is black tie so I even get to buy a fancy dress. I’m so ready to get out of this cold Chicago weather, getting to buy a new dress is icing on the cake.”
Cooper was my long-distance boyfriend. We had gone to high school together and recently reconnected. I lived in Chicago and he was in San Diego, so geography was making it difficult to have a relationship, but we were trying.
“Good.” I giggled. “I don’t know what’s more exciting, the trip to California or the black-tie event.”
“It’s a toss-up. You can count me in on helping you shop. When is it?”
“Two weeks. Cooper said he would take care of the plane ticket and to let him know how long I wanted to stay.”
“So, what are you thinking?” Jared asked.
“If I can get the time off, I think at least two weeks, since I’m flying all that way. Cooper is paying for the ticket and I can stay at his place, so I want to take advantage of the opportunity. Plus,” I said slowly, “if we are going to take this relationship to the next level, one of us has to move, so it would be a good time for me to check out the area. Cooper told me at least ten times that except for the actual event, he was swamped with work and wouldn’t have time to entertain me so I’ll be on my own a little and can explore.”
“Do you think you can get time off from the shop?”
“Yeah. Things are in a good routine now and there aren’t any big events coming up,” I told him. “It shouldn’t be a problem.”
I worked as a manager of an upscale boutique called Silk. We catered to mostly rich, needy women. While the customers could be a little annoying at times, we had amazing merchandise that I would never be able to afford without the generous employee discount; that alone made it all worth it. I had been working at the boutique for a while after getting fired from my regular corporate job in human resources. Though getting fired had totally been worth it for the satisfaction of telling my jerk of a boss off.
I was now in what I liked to call the “finding myself” phase of life, a phase my mother felt I should be out of already, since I was in my thirties. She had an ulterior motive though, wanting me to come back to my hometown of Hunter’s Hollow and take over her flower shop, which was a recent development that she shared with me the last time I’d called home. I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to do either. I had stayed at the boutique rather than look for the real job my mom kept bugging me to find. The events of the past year had given me a new perspective, one that showed me life is too short to not do what you love, or at least attempt to do what you love. Hence the job at Silk; it wasn’t going to make me rich, and I didn’t plan on doing it forever, but it would allow me the time to figure out what I was passionate about while I stayed financially solvent.
“You’re lucky I’m right in the middle of a big project at work or I’d be completely fine inviting myself as the third wheel,” Jared said.
“Well, about that, do you think you could watch Bella for me while I’m away?” I gave him my best grin, hoping it would sway him.
“You know I love Bella. I’ll take good care of her,” he said as he gave her a belly rub while her tongue lolled out of her mouth.