Home > California Girls(7)

California Girls(7)
Author: Susan Mallery

“Who can I call? You need someone here. A friend? Your mom?”

“No,” she managed. “Not my mother.” Not only wouldn’t she understand, she would make it all about herself. “Finola.” Yes, her sister would—“Wait. She and Nigel are leaving for their vacation tomorrow. I don’t want her to know.”

Not when they got away so infrequently and Finola was going to surprise her husband with the happy news that she was ready to get pregnant. Telling Finola what had happened would ruin everything.

Ali sniffed and pointed to the phone. “Zennie. I just saw her. She’s off today.” There was more to say but she couldn’t manage it. Not when the sobs returned and it was all she could do not to shriek at the unfairness and the pain. What had happened? Why would Glen do this to her? They were good together. Everything was so pleasant. Sure there wasn’t a lot of passion, but a lot of people didn’t want that. Passion could be exhausting.

The whispering, slithering voice returned, murmuring that Glen had been less attentive lately and that she’d wondered, more than once, if something was wrong. Only she hadn’t asked because she hadn’t wanted to know.

“You’re wrong,” she whispered out loud. “Glen loves me.” Except his were not the actions of a man in love. His were the actions of a total jerk who had never really cared.

She looked up just as Daniel pushed a button on her phone.

“Zennie’s on her way,” he said, looking both sad and compassionate, which only added to her humiliation. “I’ll stay until she gets here.”

Instead of telling him he didn’t have to, she scrambled to her feet and grabbed her phone. She quickly texted Glen.

Is it true?

She didn’t have to wait very long. Less than twenty seconds later, a single word appeared.


“Rat fink weasel lying shithead bastard!”

She threw her phone against the wall and watched it shatter into a thousand unfixable pieces. Obviously she would be replacing that in the morning, but so what? She automatically backed up everything every time she charged it and she had phone insurance. Besides, compared with a canceled wedding and losing the man, if not of her dreams, then at least the guy she’d planned to marry, did it really matter?

Seconds later, she realized the flaw in her plan. She turned to Daniel.

“I need to make a call.”

She had to give the man credit. Despite what he’d just witnessed, he handed over his phone without so much as a blink.

She walked into her kitchen and pulled open a drawer. After sorting through her takeout menus, she chose the pizza one and dialed.

She gave her name and address, then placed her order. “A large all meat with extra cheese and garlic bread. Two pints of Cherry Garcia. Oh, and the chocolate Bundt cake.” She listened, then said, “Forty minutes is great. I’ll be here with cash.”

She handed Daniel back his phone, then pulled out two bottles from the pantry. She offered Daniel the corkscrew. While he took care of the red wine, she chugged a mouthful of tequila. Because if she was going to be heartsick, she might as well have a hangover, too.

She waited for the alcohol burn to start in her stomach and hoped it would be bigger than the pain in her chest. Every part of her hurt and she couldn’t believe what was happening. Just like that it was over. Just like that, everything was different. She wasn’t going to be Mrs. Glen Demiter. She was just going to be herself and didn’t that suck.

“You don’t have to stay,” she said as she carefully screwed the top on the tequila bottle. “Zennie will be here soon and I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t mind waiting.” He nodded at the bottle. “You’ve got quite the party going.”

“I wouldn’t exactly say it’s going to be a good time,” she said as tears filled her eyes.

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”

“I know what you meant.” She brushed the moisture off her cheeks and tried to smile. “Daniel, you’ve been way more decent than I would have expected. Thank you for that, but to be honest, I just want a few minutes alone. Okay?”

He hesitated before nodding slowly. “I’ll check on you tomorrow.”

“You really don’t have to.”

“I want to.” He surprised her by moving close and lightly touching her face. “Try not to get too drunk or you’ll have a really bad morning.”

Her mouth twisted. “No offense, but I’m going to have a bad morning regardless.”

She walked him to the door and waited while he walked to the end of the landing and headed down the stairs. When he was gone, she sank to the floor and leaned her head against the wall. Sobs overwhelmed her as she fought against the ugly reality that once again she was the one left behind.

Glen had promised to love her forever and he couldn’t even get through an engagement. What was it about her that made her so easily abandoned? Why didn’t anyone love her best?

A flash of light caught her attention and she glanced down only to realize she was still wearing her engagement ring. The modest but pretty diamond winked up at her, mocking her and her pain. She pulled off the ring and threw it in the direction of the phone. It bounced a couple of times before sliding to a stop in the electronic debris.

The bits and pieces lying there were the perfect tableau of what had been her life. Once whole, and now just a bunch of garbage.

Chapter Four

When Ali opened her eyes Saturday morning, her first concern was to question whether or not she had to throw up. Thanks to the wine and the tequila chaser, much of last night was a blur. Zennie had been sweet and supportive, but she’d never been more than a single glass of wine kind of girl, which meant the two empty bottles of wine were mostly Ali’s doing.

She shifted on the sofa, assessing her situation. She felt awful—her head pounded, her stomach hurt and her heart was little more than a torn and damp tissue, but she didn’t think she was going to vomit.

“Yay, me,” she whispered before pushing herself into a sitting position.

She winced at the bright sunlight filling her living room. Her headache cranked up two levels. Why couldn’t she live somewhere that it rained all the time, like Seattle? Rain would suit her mood better.

She leaned back against the sofa and tried to summon some small measure of energy. She needed to pee and she should probably brush her teeth. After that, a shower would be good. Once she’d done all the normal stuff, she was going to have to face where she was in her shattered life and deal with the detritus that was her broken engagement.

Glen was gone. That much she remembered from the previous night. Zennie had been sympathetic and caring but at no time had she tried to convince Ali that it was going to work out. Sending Daniel to do Glen’s dirty work kind of said it all. Glen was past done with her. There was no going back, no turning this into a funny story to tell the grandkids.

“Not my first breakup,” she reminded herself, speaking aloud, then winced at how loud she sounded. Or maybe that was just the hangover. No, not her first, but by far her worst, because she’d allowed herself to believe Glen really loved her.

She wouldn’t think about that, she thought as she stood and waited for the room to stop spinning. Once again she assessed her need to throw up and found that, despite the thudding in her head, she wasn’t feeling that awful. Maybe the pizza, ice cream, Bundt cake combo had mitigated the wine.

She took a couple of steps, only to trip over a half-open pizza box. Once she got her balance back, she looked around and saw there were dishes everywhere, along with a second pizza box and remnants of the cake. She vaguely recalled her sister wanting to clean up, but Ali had insisted she was going to party on, even after her sister left. Zennie had offered to stay, but Ali had been feeling drunk enough to think she would be just fine on her own.

At least she’d survived the first night, she told herself, then nearly fell over when someone knocked on the front door.

“Stop,” she said, hurrying over and opening the door. “Just stop making that—” She blinked against the blazing sunlight, then blinked again because she had to be seeing things.

“What you doing here?”

“Checking up on you,” Daniel said, stepping past her and into the apartment. “How was your night?”

“What?” She stared at him, trying to figure out why he was so much more in focus than everything else in the room.

He’d obviously showered. His clothes were different from the ones he’d worn the previous afternoon, but maybe not. He looked a lot fresher than she felt, but his beard was confusing. The three-day growth thing never changed, and how did that happen? And how was it so perfect all the time? Every hair exactly the right length. Did guys take a class on how to do that, or maybe use a special razor or clippers?

She felt herself smiling. Yeah, it had to be clippers, like those dog clippers that measured how long you wanted the cut to be. Not that she could imagine Daniel using dog clippers, but still, the thought was amusing.

“I might still have a little alcohol in my system,” she murmured more to herself than him.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” He handed her a large to-go cup. “I made this for you.”

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