Home > Come As You Are(14)

Come As You Are(14)
Author: Lauren Blakely

Now in the hall, he lifts his chin. “Flynn. How’s it hanging?”

“Hey, Kermit. It’s hanging well. How’s your night?”

“It’s been interesting.” His muddy brown eyes narrow, and he roams them over me, like he’s cataloging every detail. Briefly, I flash back to something Jennica told me about his podcast network—the guy is ferocious. He wants to smash down barriers, get everything out in the open, and let consumers decide on tech. In short—“tread carefully because he does what he wants. He’s rogue,” Jennica had warned.

“Did you enjoy the event?” I ask, keeping it innocuous.

He scratches his jaw, considering the question. “I did. Met a ton of people who want to work with me. You know what that’s like, right, man?”

I clear my throat. “Sounds like a good problem to have.”

“The best problem,” he says, puffing out his chest, then he takes a beat, narrowing his eyes. “When are you going to sit down for an interview with me?”

“You know how to reach Jennica. She’s in charge of all that.”

“You could say yes to me right now.”

Persistent, indeed. “Jennica’s the one though. She’ll have my head if I go around her. It all goes through her.”

“But you could say yes, right?”

Damn, she was right about him. I clasp my hands together. “Been hearing great things about your company, Kermit. That’s always a good thing.”

Deflection, may you please work?

His eyes narrow. “Flynn . . .”

“Kermit.”

He sighs, holds up his hands, then shoots me a smile. “Fine. You win. I’ll call Jennica.”

“Good plan.”

I take a step to leave at the same time he does.

“You go first,” I say. “So we don’t do one of those awkward dances.”

Kermit laughs. “Definitely let’s avoid awkward dances.”

As he steps around me, his eyes stray down then widen. He raises them, staring at me as he runs a hand over his beard, smirking. “Did you have fun with your angel investor?”

I jerk my head. “Excuse me?”

His eyes linger on the halo, and red flushes over my face. Damn, I wish I had a better poker face. But I can bluff. “I think it fell off, and I’m trying to find her to return it.”

“Ah,” he says with a nod. “Good luck with the department of lost and found.”

Yes, I’d very much like to find her again.

8

Sabrina

I end the call with Mr. Galloway, standing under a gorgeous tree bursting with emerald-green leaves. I turn to the right. I’m next to a glittering stoop in front of a red brick brownstone. I glance at the street, picturesque with no traffic.

I laugh happily. So damn happily.

This is a perfect New York night.

There might as well be a soundtrack. Cue it, because I’m ready.

I’m ready to lift my face to the sky and give all of New York City a kiss to say thank you. If you’d asked me eight months ago if a night like this would come my way, I’d have scoffed a big fat no.

Eight months ago, Ray called me.

“Hey, babe,” he’d said. “I’m ready. Are you?”

“Of course,” I’d told him, barely able to contain a grin. In two days, we’d be tying the knot. I’d met Ray two years before, via a matchmaking site. We’d seemed like a good fit, bonding over a shared love of Goldfish crackers, the Knicks, and our belief that New York City was the greatest place on earth.

As workaholics, we’d both implicitly understood that sometimes we were tethered to our laptops and our phones. But we’d made plenty of time to see each other too, and Ray had fancied himself something of a gourmet chef, whipping up tasty meals for us and hosting dinner parties for our friends. He’d worked in the export business, coached basketball at the community center, and played poker every Thursday with his buddies. He would come home flush with cash—because he was a lucky bastard, he’d said. Then he would take those same friends out the next night or over the weekend. Mr. Generous, they’d called him.

There had been no red flags.

Except maybe the poker. But that’s still the great unknown.

Even in retrospect, even with my twenty-twenty hindsight, I’m not sure I’d have seen it coming. The change was inside him. It was veiled. It was deeply secret.

We were rolling along, ready to say I do. The church was booked, the venue secured, and my brother was going to walk me down the aisle.

Until Ray called from the office.

“Hey, babe. I’m ready.”

“Me too.”

But he was ready for something else.

“Ready for a change,” he added. “See, I love you, but . . .”

My heart skittered up my chest, my skin chilling as the hair on my arms stood on end. No good sentence ever began with I love you, but . . .

His I love you, but was that he was moving to Macau in China. He’d landed a job there and would be moving out, putting the apartment up for sublet, and going away.

That was that.

There was no invitation to come along.

There was no explanation.

It was a clean break, and I was sliced from his life.

Neatly, without any blood spilled.

He did as promised. He left immediately.

Like any modern woman, I turned to my girlfriends, to my Singer sewing machine (which I used to make voodoo dolls of Ray, between crying and drowning my frustration in mojitos supplied by Courtney), and to the great World Wide Web for answers. As if I could find a hidden letter from him online. Like he might have pinned a postcard to Google explaining his departure.

But that’s the crazy thing about the internet.

We turn to it for answers. We think the answers exist. The internet has trained us to ask it anything. The search bar is filled with questions that we want the machine to tell us—why am I here, is my wife cheating on me, is he the one?

I tried every permutation of why did my fiancé move to Macau two days before our wedding, and shockingly, Google gave no answers.

All I could figure was he’d been lured by gambling. As soon as I dug into the search for any shred of comfort, I was reminded that Macau is the new gambling capital of the world. It’s rife with casinos and high rollers. Maybe he decided to roll the dice. To ante up bigger bets. For weeks, I clung to the possibility, but I found no closure online or in real life.

No matter where I turned to understand why I’d suddenly become the owner of an unused wedding dress and the seller of a modest diamond ring, I came up with a goose egg for an answer.

I moved out of the apartment I’d shared with him and into my cousin Daisy’s place, returned the gifts that had arrived in advance of the wedding, and buried myself in work until I lost my job.

Now, months later, I stare at a phone call, a dumb smile still splashed on my face, and think maybe I am on the other side at last.

As I head for the train, a nearly foreign sensation bounces around inside my chest.

Something I haven’t felt in a long time but do now, thanks to that phone call.

Hope.

A little later, that hope turns into the next course the universe is serving to me on its silver platter, when a text message arrives.

9

Flynn

Duke: I have your halo and your panties.

Angel: You’re taking excellent care of them, I trust.

Duke: Yes, I’m quite the keeper of angel accoutrements and lingerie.

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