Here’s the first scene of my next book (still untitled), due in mid-October. I’ll post a few more excerpts before the release!
The baby had gotten fat.
Not in a bad way. Babies were supposed to be fat. But this one had been a skinny little thing when it was born, long and lanky, and it had stayed skinny for the first two months. The last time I saw it, only a week ago, Regan had been convinced that it had failure to thrive and that she was a horrible mother. No longer a concern, it looked like. Kid had ballooned up overnight. It had two separate fat rolls between its wrists and its elbows.
Surprise: I wasn’t much of a baby person.
I held it carefully, hands beneath its armpits, and stared at it. It stared back, a thin trail of drool running down its chin. It looked about as unimpressed as I felt.
Babies were fine. They were cute, mostly, when they weren’t funny-looking. After they learned how to smile and sit up, they could even be fun to play with, for about ten minutes. But this one was still in the newborn slug phase, what Regan called the “fourth trimester.” It was like a little grub: eat, poop, sleep, repeat, sometimes in a slightly different order.
“He’s adorable,” I told Regan. Part of friendship was knowing when to lie.
She beamed. “Isn’t he? I’m so happy he’s finally gaining weight. I thought maybe I wasn’t producing enough milk, but I guess he just wasn’t ready to start growing.”
The baby squirmed in my grasp and let out a tiny mewl, and I hastily returned it to Regan, who draped it over one shoulder and made some cooing noises, kissing its slimy face.
My personal feelings about babies notwithstanding, it was nice to see how much Regan adored her tiny slug creature.
“No, you’re not hungry yet,” she said to the baby. “Oh, what a fussy little dumpling!” She patted his back, and looked at me and smiled. “Sorry. I feel like having a baby has killed off at least half of my brain cells. Let’s have some grownup talk.”
“Do they teach you how to make that voice before you leave the hospital, or is it innate?” I asked.
Regan groaned and scrunched her face up. “I know, okay? It’s so embarrassing. It just happens! I can’t help myself.”
“Does Carter do it too?” I asked, genuinely curious.
Regan laughed, moving her hand back to support the baby’s diapered butt. “He’s worse than me,” she said. “I’ll have to record him and send it to you.”
“Oh my Lord, please do,” I said. “I could sell it to the tabloids for eight million dollars, and never have to work again.”
“That bad?” Regan asked, frowning at me. “I thought your boss—”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. “Whatever. I’m working on it. It’s fine.”
Regan gave me a skeptical look. “If you say so. It’s just that you’ve been unhappy for so long, Sadie. You won’t look for a better job, you won’t leave that awful apartment, you won’t date…”
This again. I gritted my teeth. Regan was my best friend, and I loved her like a sister, but she really needed to stop harping on my love life. “I’m not ready to date,” I said.
“It’s been a year,” she said. “He wouldn’t want you to mourn forever.”
“I don’t think,” I said, really annoyed now, “that any of us are really in a position to say what Ben would or would not have wanted.”
Regan leaned away from me slightly, eyes widening.
I sighed, and closed my eyes. That had come out sharper than I intended. She was so sensitive “Sorry,” I said. “I’m just… I’m not ready.”
“Not ready for what?” a voice said behind me.
I turned to see Carter, Regan’s husband, coming into the room, briefcase in hand and suit jacket slung over one arm. He must have been at the office. It was Sunday afternoon—did the man never take a day off? He smiled at me as he crossed to where Regan was sitting, and bent to kiss her on the top of her head. He brushed one hand over the baby’s downy skull. “How’s that fussy baby?”
“Fussy,” Regan said, smiling up at him. “Sorry I didn’t tell you that Sadie was coming over. I didn’t think you’d be home so early.”
“Mi casa, et cetera,” he said. He looked at me, one eyebrow cocked. “What’s she hassling you about now?”
“Dating,” Regan said, before I could open my mouth. “Don’t you think it’s time?”
“Hmm,” Carter said. “Maybe you should let Sadie decide that for herself.”
At last, a voice of reason. I hoped Regan would listen to him, and stop giving me the business.
Or maybe the baby would start crying, and that would be the end of it.
But instead, Regan frowned and said, “I just want her to think about it.”
“Leave her alone, darling,” Carter said. “Let’s hassle her about something else. Sadie, have you quit that terrible job yet?”
“Oh, God, you’re ganging up on me,” I said, groaning dramatically and flopping to one side on the sofa. “Lord take me now. I can’t deal with the stress.”
Carter laughed. “Just think about it. That’s all I ask. Are you staying for dinner?”
“Oh, you should!” Regan said to me. “Caleb goes to bed early, and then we can drink wine and talk about grownup things.”
I grinned. Again with the grownup talk. Regan was spending a year at home with the baby before she started law school, and it seemed like she was going a little bit stir-crazy. I didn’t blame her. Being stuck at home with a newborn sounded like an absolute nightmare.
Regan’s home wasn’t anything like my tiny apartment, though. She and Carter had recently left his penthouse in the Meatpacking District and moved to a brownstone in Chelsea. It was shockingly unpretentious for one of the richest men in the country, but still pretty damn swanky. I didn’t think I would mind being at home all day if I got to drink coffee in my private garden every morning.
Basically, Regan’s life was ridiculous, like something from a movie. She and Carter met when she was working as a cocktail waitress at a high-class, trumped-up strip club. Regan had always been sort of cagey about the exact circumstances, and Carter didn’t really seem like the sort of guy who frequented nudie bars, but somehow they had made it work. They’d been married for almost three years now, and seemed happier than ever.
And of course I was thrilled for her—overjoyed for her, so happy that she had found someone who treasured her the way she deserved—but it hurt, still, even after a year, to see how much they loved each other.
I’d had that, once. That kind of love.
And then I lost it.
I didn’t want to think about it. “If you’re offering to feed me and give me free wine, I am definitely down to stay for dinner,” I said.
Regan beamed at me. “I’m so glad,” she said. “Let me go change this dumpling and I’ll see what I can throw together. Carter, do you want something to drink? Marta got that Scotch you wanted to try.”
“Lifesaver,” Carter said. He took the baby from Regan and kissed it on each fat cheek. “This is a smelly baby.”
“He has to poop to make room for more food,” Regan said, standing and moving behind the sofa to join Carter. “Maybe I’ll feed him, too. How was your day? We never talk about anything except the baby, anymore.”
“Much better, now that I’m home with you,” Carter said, bending to kiss her.
I sat and watched them talk to each other, the fond, familiar sort of conversation that flowed between lovers. Maybe Regan was right. Maybe I needed to start dating again.
It was so daunting, though, the thought of putting myself out there, going on first dates, making awkward conversation, trying to find someone whose eccentricities meshed with my own. Relationships were work, finding them and building them, and I was tired. I just plain didn’t want to. I didn’t know if I had the strength to go through all of that again.
Regan went upstairs with the baby, and Carter poured himself a drink and joined me on the sofa, loosening his tie and rolling up his shirt sleeves. “You want a drink?” he asked me.
I shook my head. “Not that nasty Scotch you drink. I’m holding out for the wine crypt.”
That was an old joke between us—Carter’s apocryphal medieval wine cellar. Carter and I weren’t friends, exactly, but we got along well, and I enjoyed talking to him. It didn’t hurt that I was basically the reason that he and Regan were still together, and he would be in my debt until the end of time.
“Regan’s been hoarding a few bottles of that horrible Riesling you both like so much,” Carter said. “I imagine you’ll have a good evening.” He sipped his drink and frowned at me. “Look, I know you’re tired of hearing about this, so if you really aren’t interested, I’ll never bring it up again. You should go freelance. Your job is a waste of your talent. I know so many people who are desperate for a good designer that you would never be out of work.” I opened my mouth to protest, and he help up one hand and said, “Just think about it. We won’t talk about this any longer. I’m going to get you some wine.”
“Well,” I said, mollified by this blatant peace offering, “I guess I won’t yell at you, then.”
“Think about freelancing,” he said. “That’s my only condition.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll think about it.”
I wasn’t willing to promise him anything more than that.