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First pages

Chapter One:

26 Steps to the Boss’s Office

 

There were 26 steps from Nicole’s cube to Cassandra Ender’s office.

This was a general estimate. The final number didn’t include long strides, foot shuffles, or the moments when Nicole took a tentative step back, believing it would be easier to just retreat back to her cube and make up an excuse to her family.

Yup, couldn’t get the time off. I tried, but it looks like I’m stuck up here instead. Enjoy the wedding without me, and send my regards.

Nicole focused only on moving each foot forward. She had no clue what she’d say to Cassandra – which, to be honest, was probably for the best. Having a plan meant she could back out of the plan. Instead, she was freefalling, and there’s no real way to stop a freefall, save for reaching the point of impact.

After those 26 steps, Nicole found herself at Cassandra’s door. Before Nicole could knock on the frame, Cassandra looked up and gave a polite smile.

“How can I help you, Nicole?”

The printer is jammed. The toner is out on ink. The kitchen faucet is leaky. The office is on fire. Oh God, please let the office catch on fire.

“Um, I – uh.” Nicole swallowed and pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth. “I was hoping to get some time off.”

“That can be arranged,” said Cassandra. “What day would you need off?”

Nicole bit at the inside of her cheeks.

“Um, I actually need more than a day.”

“More than a day?” said Cassandra. “How many days are we talking about, then?”

Nicole cleared her throat.

“Like, three?”

“Three.” Cassandra folded her arms. “Is there a medical emergency?”

“No,” said Nicole, her eyes back at her feet. “I’m actually going to Florida.”

Cassandra leaned forward and placed both hands on her desk.
“You do understand that we typically don’t give vacation days to temp employees, right?” Cassandra said slowly.

“Yes, yes, I completely understand,” Nicole faltered. “It’s not a vacation so much as…a wedding?”

“A wedding,” Cassandra repeated. “Well, congratulations to them. Who’s the happy couple?”

“My brother, actually,” Nicole replied, gritting her teeth.

A small smile broke across Cassandra’s face.

“Well, why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?” said Cassandra in a considerably more jovial tone. “I’m sure we can arrange something. You do understand that this will be unpaid though, correct?”

“Of course,” Nicole answered.

“I wouldn’t dream of having you miss your brother’s wedding. You’re the sister of the groom.” Cassandra sat back in her seat. “I remember when my own brother got married. Those last few days were chaos. I think I was more worked up than the bride herself. It was hectic, but what a memorable time. I can imagine it will be the same for you.”

The corner of Nicole’s mouth twitched.

“Of course.”

“So what dates are we looking at?” Cassandra pushed her chair closer to the desk.

Nicole sighed and licked her lips.

“The fourteenth through the sixteenth.”

Cassandra’s brow furrowed.

“Of September?”

“Of August.” Nicole gave a tight smile.

“So, this month,” Cassandra stated slowly. “Next Wednesday, to be precise.” Cassandra paused and sighed. “Couldn’t you have told me this earlier?”

“I’m sorry about that, I…” Nicole trailed off and swallowed. “I guess I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

Cassandra sighed again, this time more audibly.

“It’s not favorable, but I guess it can still be done.”

Nicole dragged her fingers through her hair.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“No worries. Have fun next week.”

Nicole nodded absently, started to turn toward the door, and immediately turned back to Cassandra.

“I can work while I’m there,” Nicole offered. “I can even put more hours in today and next week, so I don’t fall behind in anything.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Cassandra smiled. “Your tasks are easily transferable. We’ll be just fine while you’re gone.”

“Great,” said Nicole, forcing her expression to stay blank. “Good to hear.”

“Is there anything else you need from me?” Cassandra asked.

“No, no, that’s it.” Nicole gave a wavering grin. “Thank you again. I know this was short notice…”

Cassandra waved away Nicole’s words.

“Not worth groveling over,” said Cassandra. “Besides, if I were in your shoes, I’d choose gaining a sister over some temp gig anyway.”

Nicole’s mouth went dry as she tripped over her words in her mind.

“And, if I don’t see you beforehand, I hope you have a nice weekend,” said Cassandra.

“Yeah, you too,” Nicole croaked. Cassandra turned back to her computer and resumed typing at a rhythm that gave no hint that she had ever paused in the first place. Nicole pressed her lips together and exited Cassandra’s office, taking a longer, more circuitous route back to her cube.

Nicole stared at her desk, desperately trying to continue what she was working on. She moved a few papers around. She opened an email and looked at the words without actually reading them. Within minutes, Nicole gently placed her head in her hands. She pressed her fingers into her brows and sighed. She moved only when her elbows started slipping out from under her.

***

Nicole called her girlfriend the second she stepped out of the office building that evening.

“I shot myself in the foot at work,” said Nicole.

“Oh no – what happened?”

“I just…” Nicole paused long enough to check for traffic as she crossed the street. “I messed up and my boss let me know I was expendable. They’ll never hire me as a full-time employee now.”

“What happened?” asked Laura. “How did you mess up?”

“I…I asked for time off.”

“Wait, I’m confused – why would time off do that? If they were okay with you taking time off for Andrew’s wedding…”

“No, no…that’s the thing.” Nicole pressed a hand to her forehead. “It was for Andrew’s wedding.”

“Wait…you asked for that…today?” said Laura. “Nicole…”

“I know, I know, I just…” Nicole sighed. “I kept putting it off. I was scared that my boss would be pissed. And then I…kinda got the opposite.”

Laura paused before sighing into the phone.

“So…did your boss really say you were expendable?”

Nicole faltered.

“Not in so many words. But she made it pretty clear that I wasn’t an asset.”

Laura sighed again.

“If she gave you that much time off on such short notice, I would just be thankful that she wasn’t upset by it,” she said. “Better to have a happy former boss who will gladly give you a recommendation than a boss who is mad at you and probably wasn’t planning on hiring you permanently in the first place.”

Nicole clenched her jaw. Her hand holding the phone tightened.

“Was that really necessary?” she said.

“I’m just trying to give perspective,” said Laura. “Temp jobs are temp jobs. Sometimes people get hired from them. Sometimes people don’t. Given the circumstances, the only thing we can do is be thankful it went as well as it did.”

Nicole kept silent, her teeth locked, until the anger dissipated.

“I’m just…” Nicole sighed, her face hot. “I’m frustrated and mad and…”

“You resent the fact that you had to take time off for a wedding that you don’t even want to go to in the first place,” Laura finished.

“I hate that you know me so well,” said Nicole, her shoulders drooping with a sudden fatigue.

“And, in a way, you blame your brother for putting you in this position in the first place,” Laura continued.

“I don’t blame my brother…” said Nicole.

“You blame his fiancée, then.”

“That sounds more like it.”

Nicole rounded the corner and made her way up the steps to the elevated train platform.

“And, in a way, you blame your brother for making her his fiancée in the first place,” Laura added.

Nicole simply made a small grunt in the affirmative. She pressed her toes into her shoes, tensing up her legs in the process. She waited for Laura to say something else. When she didn’t, Nicole cleared her throat into the phone.

“Am I coming over tonight?” Nicole asked.

“Of course,” said Laura. “I figured you would.”

“I’m getting on the train now,” said Nicole. “I’ll probably get there in like a half hour or so.”

“You’re coming over straight from work?” Laura asked.

“Figured as much,” said Nicole. “Don’t really feel like going to my apartment anyway.”

“Works for me,” said Laura. “I’m at the grocery store now. I’ll just make sure to be back before you get there.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Nicole.

“I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“Okay.”

“You know I love you.”

Nicole smiled faintly.

“And I love you too.”

“See you soon.”

“I’ll see you soon.” Nicole leaned back against the wall and breathed slowly until her train pulled up to the platform. She boarded the last train car, found a seat in the back corner, and called her mom. The phone rang two or three times before someone picked up.

“Hey there, kiddo,” her mother’s voice effortlessly sung out. “How are you doing?”

“Fine, fine,” said Nicole with a half-hearted singsong. “I just wanted to let you know that I was able to get the time off.”

“Wow, they took this long to get back to you?”

Nicole pressed her lips together and stared at the train car’s floor.

“Something like that.”

“Still though, so good to hear,” said her mom. “I was worried, you know…”

“Mom…” Nicole began.

“I know you wouldn’t abandon your brother or anything,” she continued. “But this is important to him. He’s still your brother. He needs you there.”

“I really don’t want to get into this now.” Nicole turned in her seat and faced the wall. “I had a long day.”

“Okay, okay.” There was a pause. In the silence, the train came to a stop. It opened its doors, let its passengers exit and board, and closed its doors again. “Have you talked to Andrew recently?”

“No, Mom,” Nicole answered half an octave lower than her usual speaking voice. “No I haven’t.”

“I’m sure he misses talking to you,” said her mother. “You two were so close.”

“Mom.” Nicole attempted to have her response come off as a terse warning, but came out more like a young child’s pleading.

Nicole could hear her mom sigh on the other end of the line.

“The flight is at 7:30,” said her mother. “Do you think you guys will get here in time?”

“Yes, Mom, we will,” Nicole answered with a weary smile to no one.

“And Laura was able to get the time off too, right?”

“Of course, Mom,” said Nicole.

“A mother always worries,” she said. “And that worry extends to significant others. You’ll learn someday, if you ever have kids.”

“I bet, Mom,” Nicole replied. “I appreciate the concern, either way.”

“Well, if I don’t hear from you beforehand, I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

“As long as I don’t see you next Tuesday,” Nicole said with a small chuckle.

“What?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Nicole responded. “Just a bad joke.”

“Well, all right then,” said her mother, her voice saturated with concern. “You take care, okay?”

“I will, Mom,” Nicole replied. “And I’ll see you at O’Hare. I’ll call if we get held up.”

Nicole ended the conversation, placed her phone in her purse, and stared out the window. Her eyes darted from the ground, to the buildings, to the sky. The train slowed to a stop and the doors opened again. She let the train rock her as she closed her eyes, the dings of the train doors ringing in her ears. She hugged her purse closer to her stomach and leaned her head back, counting down the stops until she’d be in Laura’s neighborhood.

Chapter 2

Red Leather Leggings and a Mink Coat

 

“I just don’t get it.”

Nicole and Andrew’s mom brushed off a piece of lint from Andrew’s shoulder.

“It’s really no big deal, Mom.”

“But it’s your senior year,” their mom pressed, stepping back from her son. “Homecoming is so important for the seniors…”

“I’m saving money on corsages,” said Andrew. “Just being financially conscious.”

“I just don’t understand why you’d rather go alone,” their mom continued.

“Because I don’t have a girlfriend?” Andrew responded.

“She doesn’t have to be your girlfriend,” their mom offered. “At least not yet.”

“And who is this mysterious ‘she’?” Andrew asked, checking his hair in the living room mirror.

“Any of the nice girls who seem to like you so much,” their mom answered.

“I know a few of my friends who would gladly volunteer,” Nicole spoke up from the couch.

“You know, I was talking with Mrs. McGregor,” their mom continued. “You know her daughter, Patricia? She won’t stop talking about you, but she wouldn’t ask you to Homecoming. She was worried sick that you’d say no.”

“That’s because I would,” Andrew answered.

“And why would you do that?”

“Because she follows me around enough as it is,” Andrew said, straightening his suit jacket as he did so. Outside, a car stopped in front of the driveway and honked its horn.

“Besides…” Andrew pulled her mom in for a hug. “I’ve already got two great girls in my life.”

“You flatter,” their mom said and gave her son a kiss on the forehead. She had to rise up on her toes to do so, and even then Andrew had to bow down slightly.

“And don’t think you’re getting out of a hug, either.” Andrew turned to the couch. Nicole looked up just in time to get scooped up and slung over Andrew’s shoulder.

“This is not a hug!” Nicole shouted out between laughs.

“Close enough!” Andrew shouted, spinning her around before letting her down. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, giving her a long bear hug. The car outside honked again.

“Why don’t you invite your friends in first?” their mom asked. “Maybe they’d like a soda?”

Andrew smirked.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine, Mom.”

“Okay, well, you have a good time, then,” she said, brushing another invisible piece of lint of Andrew’s shoulders. “Be home at a good time. And no drinking.”

“Yes, Mom. I promise.” Andrew gave his mom a kiss on the forehead before walking to the front door. “What was that again? Stay out late and drinks lots of booze?”

“Not funny, Andrew.”

“Fine, fine. I’ll be back before midnight.” Andrew opened the door and took a step out.

“You’re in charge while I’m gone, Nicky. Take good care of Mom.”

Nicole gave a salute.

“Aye aye, Captain.”

The car gave one more honk.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” Andrew shouted at the car, letting the screen door close behind him as he jogged across the lawn.

***

Her name was Cora, and Nicole had met her that previous November.

She didn’t know much about her, minus the fact that her name was Cora and Andrew had met her sometime during the summer. And that it took Andrew until the fall to even tell Nicole about Cora in the first place.

“We’ve been together, ah…three or four months?” Andrew had said off-handedly in October. “We met in July, so…I guess so. Yeah. Four months.”

“Four whole months?” Nicole had responded with dramatic gusto. “That’s like a decade in Andrew-time. So, when’s the wedding?”

Andrew had waited a beat before calmly replying with: “Ha. Ha ha. Very funny.”

“So, where did you meet her?”

“Y’know,” said Andrew. “Around.”

“At a beach, at a party…” Nicole pressed. “In jail, at a strip club…”

“Y’know, through friends,” Andrew responded.

“So long as she’s not a mail-order bride, I’m set,” Nicole continued, before adding: “She isn’t a mail-order bride, right?”

Andrew gave a small, tired laugh, before saying: “No, no. She’s legit.”

It took an additional month before Andrew would even agree to letting Nicole meet her – and then an additional two weeks before Andrew would finalize a date and time.

“And I’ll bring Laura, too,” Nicole had offered. “We’ll make it, like, a double date, so she doesn’t feel pressured to pass the Sister Test.”

“Doesn’t she have to pass the Sister Test anyway?” Andrew chuckled nervously.
“Well, obviously. But this way she’ll feel better about the testing process.”

That following weekend, Nicole and Laura waited at a café in the downtown area. It was an unpleasant afternoon, the kind that foretold an exceptionally dreary and cold winter. The sky had been overcast since the day before. The air was cold enough for snow, but not a single snowflake had dropped. The winds whipped around the buildings, turning even the busiest streets into wind tunnels. Nicole was on her second cup of coffee while they waited for Andrew and Cora.

“What do you think she looks like?” Laura asked after a few minutes.

Nicole shrugged.

“I don’t know. Maybe tall, maybe not. Maybe brunette. Maybe not.”

Nicole sighed and tapped at her cup.

“You’re terrible at this game,” Laura said with a smirk.

“And it’s because I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know,” Nicole countered, shrugging again. “I guess I never gave any thought to who would be a proper girlfriend for him.” Nicole slouched forward over her cup.

“Well, what were his other girlfriends like?”

“If he ever had a girlfriend before, I could tell you.”

Laura tilted her head to the side and cocked and eyebrow.

“Are you honestly telling me that he has never been in a relationship, ever,” said Laura. “Not even in high school?”

“That’s the God’s-honest truth,” Nicole replied. “And it wasn’t even for lack of opportunity. Girls were always throwing themselves at him in school.”

“Most guys would’ve lost their minds to get that type of attention,” Laura noted.

“Yeah, most guys would,” Nicole agreed. “I don’t know why, but it was just annoying more than anything else for him.”

“I’m finding that hard to believe.”

“It’s the truth, though,” said Nicole. “I don’t know. Maybe it was a case of too much opportunity. Or maybe he was too focused on everything else to care.”

“Like…?” Laura asked with a knowing smile.

“Well, like, school.” Nicole shrugged again. “And sports, and getting into college, and…”

“You?” Laura chided.

“Well, sure.” Nicole moved her purse from the table to the floor. “And my mom…”

“No, I get it. I really do,” said Laura. “He was the man of the house. He probably felt an obligation to look after you.”

“Well, yeah.” Nicole shrugged again and picked up her cup. “And I owe a lot to him as well.”

“That makes sense. From the sound of it, he really looked after you.”

“He really did. I mean, he’s why I never got made fun of in school.” Nicole took a small sip and smirked. “At least not more than once.”

“Let me guess,” Laura stirred her drink before blowing on it. “Because all the girls loved him and all the boys were afraid of him.”

“When an 18-year-old varsity football player tells you to stop messing with his kid sister, and you’re a puny 12-year-old boy, you listen,” said Nicole. “Or, if you’re a 12-year-old mean girl with a crush the size of Illinois on said football player, you listen.”

“Sheesh, I could’ve used a brother like that,” said Laura. “Middle school would’ve been a completely different playground, then.”

“You would’ve also had to have lived in Hampshire, most likely,” said Nicole. “The good thing about smaller towns is that everyone knows everyone else. Not the case in, say, Chicago.”

“Touché,” Laura replied.

Both girls let the silence fall easily between the two of them. They focused on their cups, on the outside windows, on the clock by the registers.

“They’re running late,” Laura said matter-of-factly.

“My brother has never been on time for anything in his whole life,” Nicole stated.

Laura nodded, her gaze going back toward the windows.

“Holy crap,” Laura breathed out. “You need to see this.”

Nicole turned to where Laura was looking and immediately bit at the inside of her cheek. Outside, by the front door, stood a girl with her back to the café. She appeared to be about average height, but that was the only thing that anyone around Chicago would have labeled as “average”. She wore 5”, glittered stilettos that turned her medium stature into something downright Amazonian. Skintight, bright red leather pants wrapped their way around her legs, matching the fire-engine-red hair that had been teased to be three sizes bigger than its natural state. But all of that paled in comparison to the full-length fur coat that skirted the ground, even with the stilettos on.

“Jesus!” Nicole yelped, her voice loud enough to attract the attention of the rest of the café, who in turn looked out the window as well.

Laura pressed her lips together and shook her head, her eyes still locked on the girl outside.

“Is that mink?” Nicole went on, her voice still loud enough to attract attention.

“I wouldn’t even know,” Laura answered in a casual, low tone.

“Someone needs to tell her that Halloween was three weeks ago,” Nicole continued, this time in a whisper.

“Where would you even get something like that?” Laura asked.

“Do you think she’s getting paid to look like that?” Nicole quipped. “Because I can’t imagine actually paying money to wear that.”

The girl started pacing the sidewalk by the entrance, her eyes darting from her phone to somewhere off in the distance. Nicole kept her eyes on the girl, nearly spilling her coffee in her lap in the process.

A tall, broad-shouldered figure walked down the sidewalk from the opposite end of the café. An unsteady smile crept across her Nicole’s face.

“This can’t be good,” Nicole murmured. “Andrew is alone.”

Nicole watched as her brother bypassed the entrance and walked over to the girl in the stilettos. The fur aficionado had her back turned to Andrew as she stared blankly down the opposite end of the road. He tiptoed behind her before poking her torso from either side. The girl jumped up with a squeal – a squeal that could be heard inside the café as well – and jumped into Andrew’s arms. After a quick spin from Andrew, the girl slid back onto the sidewalk, wrapped her arm around Andrew’s waist, and followed him into the café. Nicole turned and faced her coffee, pretending like she hadn’t been staring for the last few minutes.

“Nicky!” Andrew called out from the entrance. Nicole turned toward her brother and feigned a bemused surprised. She paired her surprise with a forced smile and slid out from her seat.

“Hey there, big brother!” she said far too loudly. She went to embrace Andrew, but found that the girl had not removed her arm from his waist, and he had not removed his hand from her shoulder. Already with her arms outstretched, Nicole gave an awkward side hug before backing away.

The café goers – who’d clearly been watching everything transpire – had all now turned back to whatever it was they were doing. Or, at least, they were pretending like they had gone back to whatever it is they were doing.

Laura pushed her seat back and stood up.

“Good to see you again,” she said, shaking Andrew’s free hand.

“And likewise!” he replied. “This is Cora, everybody.”

“Hi there, y’all,” she replied in a thick southern accent.

Nicole stood there with a dumbfounded grin on her face.

“Cora, this is Nicole.” Andrew picked up the conversation after a moment of silence. “Nicole, Cora.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Cora, her arm still around Andrew’s waist.

“And likewise,” Nicole said in monotone.

“Cora, this is Laura.” Andrew gestured over. “Nicole’s girlfriend. Laura, Cora. Cora, Laura.”

“Ah,” Cora replied, looking at Laura briefly before turning her gaze back to Andrew.

“Hey, my name rhymes with yours,” Laura offered. “Cora, Laura.”

“It does, doesn’t it,” Cora replied, staring vacantly at Laura, slowly looking her up and down. Laura shuffled her feet and looked towards the cash registers.

“Yeah,” Laura answered to no one. “And it’s, uh, great meeting you.”

“And great meeting you, too,” said Cora after a moment, warmth returning to her eyes and a welcoming smile now on her lips.

“Do you want anything?” Andrew turned to Cora.

“Do you think they have sweet tea here?” Cora asked.

“I don’t know,” Andrew replied slowly, scanning the chalkboards above the registers. “But I can ask. And if they don’t?”

Cora sighed.

“I guess a water with lemon will do.”

Andrew gave Cora a quick kiss on the temple before getting into line.

“I swear, there is no place around here that serves a proper sweet tea.” Cora crossed her arms. “I’ve tried doing unsweetened with sugar, but it’s just not the same, ya know? Just doesn’t mix right.”

“I have to admit: I don’t think I’ve ever drank sweet tea before,” said Nicole.

Cora laughed.

“Oh, bless your heart! You are missing out! I don’t know how you yanks handle it. Tea is so bitter otherwise!” Cora flipped her hair back and looked over at Andrew. “Well, things are always sweeter in the south, as they say.”

“I actually have family who live in the south. What area of the south are you from?” Laura asked.

Cora turned back.

“Florida.”

“Florida,” Nicole found herself echoing.

“Yeah, Florida,” Cora repeated, her accent now stronger, if not slightly different. “The Great State of Florida. Born and raised.”

“Oh, nice,” Laura continued. “My aunt actually lives in Florida, right by the Georgia border. What part of Florida are you from?”

Cora shrugged.

“South.”

Laura glanced at Nicole before directing her attention to Andrew’s return.

Andrew cradled his ceramic coffee cup while he handed a plastic cup to Cora.

“They didn’t have sweet tea, so they mixed sugar with their morning blend,” said Andrew.

Cora looked at the cup for a second before taking it and playing with the straw.

“Well, I appreciate the effort,” Cora said with a sigh.

The group stood there for a second. Nicole found herself nodding absently to the scenery around the room.

“Shall we sit?” Laura offered. “We saved one of the best spots in the place.”

“Of course, that sounds great,” said Andrew.

Laura led the way as the group surrounded the small wooden table. Nicole moved her cup and her jacket over a seat and pulled out the chair in the corner next to Laura. Andrew placed his cup in front of his seat, shrugged off his coat, and draped it over the back of the chair.

“It’s so great to finally meet you,” Cora said as she took the spot where Nicole had been seated, her fur coat still fully buttoned up. “Andrew’s told me so much about you.”

“Really?” Nicole replied, her voice sounding every bit as incredulous as she felt.

“Of course!” Cora downright squeaked. “Andrew told me you just got your degree in design.”

“Yeah.” Nicole slowly and deliberately drew out her words. “Um…in May. I graduated with my degree in May.”

“Oooh, how exciting,” Cora said with a broad smile. Nicole couldn’t be certain, but she swore Cora’s accent had shifted again, like she had gone from one type of southern accent to another. “So what do you do now?”

“Uh…” Nicole tapped the edge of her cup. “I’ve been looking. Just signed up with a temp agency, so we’ll see.”

“Oh, bless your heart, that’s a tough situation to be in.” Cora’s right hand twirled the straw of her sweetened unsweetened ice tea. The straw danced in slow, methodical circles. “Which college did you go to again?”

Nicole took a long sip from her coffee and carefully set the mug down.

“UIC.”

“Oh, nice,” Cora replied. “That’s near Northwestern, isn’t it?”

Nicole looked to Andrew, then Laura, then back to Cora.

“Kind of.” Nicole looked away and out the window. “Like a thirty-minute drive by car, in good traffic.”

“Aah, never mind, then.” Cora giggled. “This city is way too big. How everyone is not wandering around completely lost is totally beyond me.” Cora sighed and followed Nicole’s gaze to the window. “Almost done, though. Seven more months and I’m out of this place.”

Nicole stared at Cora as Cora contently stared out the window. Nicole looked over at Andrew, who had not looked her way since they had sat down.

“What brings you to Chicago, then?” Laura asked, straightening herself in her seat.

“Northwestern, of course.” Cora gave Laura another one of her huge smiles.

“Are you in the same graduate program as Andrew or…” Nicole asked in monotone, her eyes still on Andrew. Andrew played with his cup before looking over at Cora.

Graduate program?” Cora laughed out. “Goodness! I’m not even done with my bachelor’s.” Cora giggled and shook her head. “Did Andrew never tell you how we met?”

Nicole let out a steady breath while she stared at her brother.

“No.”

“He was my TA last semester,” Cora went on. “Chemistry 101. It was such a brutal class. Probably wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for his tutoring. In fact, a good portion of the class would’ve failed if it weren’t for his help. He’s incredible at chemistry, isn’t he?”

Nicole opened her mouth, a sarcastic response rapidly forming in her mind. She pressed her lips together and took a deep breath.

“Yes, yes he is,” she eventually said,

“So, as a way of saying thanks, we all went to a celebration dinner after the final exam.” Cora looked over at Andrew and touched his arm. “One thing lead to another and, by the end of the night, we were an item.”

Nicole played around with the dates in her head, her eyebrows slowly furrowing in the process.

“So was this a…summer semester?” Nicole asked.

Cora grinned and shook her head.

“Oh my, you yanks are funny. Summers are for having fun!” Cora’s grin broke into a smile. “This was my spring semester.”

“Ah, so you guys started dating in…May...then?” Nicole said coolly.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Abby Rosmarin is a yoga teacher, a former model, and the author of Chick Lit & Other Formulas for Life, I’m Just Here for the Free Scrutiny, & No One Reads Poetry: A Collection of Poems. Her work has been featured on Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Bustle, Thought Catalog, and others. While always a Bostonian at heart, Abby currently resides in New Hampshire with her husband and a small arsenal of animals.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
This is more than just a story about a crazy wedding in an absurd town. This is a story about family, communication, and respect. It is about good intentions going horribly wrong and what happens when we don't nip problems in the bud.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
The best place is on social media! I'm @thatabbyrose on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! I also have a blog -- thatabbyrose.wordpress.com -- that I update frequently. You can also find my word on Thought Catalog and Huffington Post.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I write for the same reason I inhale and I exhale: if I attempt to stop, I will turn red in the face, or pass out, and become compelled to do it. It is my oxygen, my ventilation system, my saving grace. It is what keeps my spirit alive and my head above water.

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