Home > California Girls(12)

California Girls(12)
Author: Susan Mallery

“Aw, that’s so sweet. Thank you. How are things?”

“Complicated,” Zennie admitted. “Glen dumped Ali.”

“What? No. He couldn’t. The wedding’s in what, two months? Hayes and I already got our invitation.”

“She found out on Friday.”

Zennie filled her in on what had happened. As she spoke, they picked up the pace.

“Ali is devastated and with Finola out of town...” She grimaced. “I spent Friday night at her place. I should probably call her later, to make sure she’s okay.”

“I’m sure she’d appreciate that. I’ve never met Glen but now I have to hate him for sure.”

“You and me, both. I just had the fitting for my bridesmaid’s dress. It was a good one, too. Navy and a pretty style.”

Bernie grinned. “No lime green ruffle extravaganza?”

“Nothing like that.” Zennie grimaced. “It’s so awful. I swear, if I didn’t have Finola’s marriage to Nigel and your marriage to Hayes to believe in, I’d say the whole concept of falling in love and being happy is a hoax.”



Bernie shook her head. “You had a date last night. If you’re talking about love being a hoax, then it didn’t go well. What happened? I thought you liked Clark. I thought you two had a chance. He sounded adorable. Anyone who devotes his life to caring for animals has to be a nice guy, and you need a nice guy.”

Zennie groaned. “It was only four dates. How can you be this upset?”

“I want you happy.”

“I am happy. I love my life. Not everyone needs to be paired up. It’s not the law.”

“Fine. Be a freak. I’ll still love you no matter what. So how did you end things? Please tell me you were gentle. I’d hate to think you hurt poor Clark’s feelings.”

The question was oddly unsettling, Zennie thought as they picked up the pace. They always ran the middle three miles faster and used the last mile as a slow cooldown.

“I didn’t break up with him. He’s the one who said it was over. Actually what he said was that he could tell I wasn’t that interested in him.” She decided not to mention the lesbian thing. That was just too weird and embarrassing.

“No! Did you tell him he was wrong?” Bernie glared at her. “You didn’t, did you? Zennie, come on. What didn’t you like about him?”

“Nothing. I liked him. Just not that much. Look, can we talk about something else? How’s your work? How’s Hayes? Are you still thinking of getting a cat?”

Bernie laughed. “We were never thinking of getting a cat. I’m much more a dog person and we’re still talking about it. As for work, things are great. This week our main focus is money.”

“Isn’t six a little young to enter our capitalistic society?”

Bernie taught kindergarten at a prestigious private school in Sherman Oaks. She was the most popular teacher at the school, and parents put their kids on the waiting list for her class within six months of their babies being born.

“We’re learning about different types of money. That’s part of our math studies. Next week I’m going to bring in currency from different countries and blow their minds.”

Conversation continued through their run. When they got back to the parking lot, Bernie collected smoothies from a cooler in her back seat. They walked over to the picnic benches. After stretching they sat across from each other.

This was part of their ritual, as well. A protein-based smoothie and a half hour more of conversation before they returned to their busy lives.

Bernie picked up her drink, then set it down. “I had my two-year scan a couple of weeks ago.”

Zennie’s stomach instantly knotted as fear, worry and terror bathed in her cold sweat. “And?”

Bernie’s smile was big and broad. “It was clear. It was perfect in every way. The doctors are convinced they got it all and while I still have to have scans, at least for the next couple of years, they told me to go live a happy life.”

Relief was sweet and immediate. Zennie sagged a little. “You scared me. Next time lead with the good news.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean for you to get upset. I’m fine. I feel great. Better than I ever have.”

“Hayes should take you on a fancy trip to celebrate. You both deserve it.”

“Funny you should say that. Hayes and I do want to celebrate, but in another way. We want to have a baby.”

Zennie was both thrilled and sympathetic. Bernie’s cancer treatment had included surgery that had taken her uterus and her ovaries. There was no way she could carry a child or even use her own egg. Because of her cancer diagnosis, some pregnant women looking at adoption might not want to consider her and Hayes.

“What’s the plan for that?” Zennie asked, doing her best to sound upbeat. “Adoption?”

“Surrogacy. We’d use a donor egg and Hayes’s sperm. We’ve been doing a lot of research and it’s a relatively simple procedure.”

Zennie smiled at her. “So basically artificial insemination. That would be easy enough. I think they use a turkey baster to insert the sperm.”

Bertie rolled her eyes. “There’s no turkey baster, but the process is similar. We find a surrogate, wait for her to ovulate and ta-da, pregnancy.”

“That sounds a lot easier and faster than adoption. And it’s legal, right? You wouldn’t have to worry about the surrogate changing her mind?”

“It can always be a concern, but California is ahead of the curve when it comes to surrogacy.” Bernie gripped her smoothie. “Zennie, I want to say something. Just listen and then speak from the heart. No matter what, you’re my best friend and I’ll always love you. Please, please feel free to say no.”

Zennie stared at her friend. She half knew what Bernie was going to say, but was still surprised to hear, “Hayes and I would like you to consider being our surrogate and egg donor.”

It made sense, Zennie thought. She was young, healthy and strong. She wasn’t in a relationship, she had good insurance, and it wasn’t as if she was using her girl parts for anything else. But carrying a baby was a big deal, wasn’t it? Honestly, she didn’t know much about pregnancy beyond her nursing school rotation in delivery and pediatrics.

“We’d cover all your expenses,” Bernie went on. “Co-pays and your maternity clothes and any special food you needed. You would be entitled to maternity leave when you had the baby and we’d cover an extra month at home so you could fully recover.”

She paused and shrugged. “I want to say more, but I’m going to stop now. If you need to say no, then do it. I’ll totally understand.”

Zennie reached across the picnic table and squeezed Bernie’s hand. “Stop. I’m not going to say no this second. I’m surprised, but I also think I’ve totally been expecting this. I mean, I never thought about it, but who else? I’m your best friend, Bernie. I love you and Hayes and I want you to be happy. I know you’d be great mom. It’s just big and I need to mull for a bit.”

Bernie’s eyes filled with tears. “Of course. Take as much mulling time as you’d like. Take a year. You have to be sure. You have to know what you’re getting into.”

“I will think and investigate and I won’t take a year.”

Bernie brushed away her tears. “Thanks for even considering this.”

“Thank you for asking. It’s an honor. Now we need to get going. You have to go home to your handsome husband and I need to do a little research.”

They stood and hugged.

“I’ll be in touch,” Zennie promised.


As she got in her car, Zennie knew she had a lot to consider and think about. While her first instinct was to immediately say of course she would be their surrogate, she understood that this was possibly the biggest decision of her life and not one to be made lightly. Still, it was Bernie and she had no idea if it would be possible for her to ever say no.

Chapter Six

Finola had a little trouble reading the digital clock on the nightstand. The numbers were big enough and even projected onto the ceiling. The problem wasn’t the size of the display or the brightness—it was that they wouldn’t stop moving.

Back and forth, they jumped like numerical fleas doing a dance that made her head spin. Dang numbers, she thought, wondering if the concept was funny enough to make her smile because nothing else had.

She was pretty sure she was still drunk. She’d been chugging vodka steadily since, oh, sometime Friday night, and now it was Sunday. She still hurt all over and she constantly felt sick and inside her chest, where her heart was supposed to be, was just a hole.

She looked back at the clock and saw it was maybe nine forty. At night, she told herself, looking out the window just to be sure.

Yup, it was dark, so nighttime. Nine forty on Sunday night. A day she’d spent entirely alone because, despite his promise, Nigel had never stopped by.

She’d known he wouldn’t, she admitted, but only to herself. There was no way he would want to talk to her after what he’d done. Nigel loved pointing out her flaws but didn’t like hearing about his own. There was no way to put this on her, no matter how he tried, so of course he was avoiding her. It was just a character flaw.

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