She was silent for a while. Then she sniffled again. “Love. You. So. Hard,” she repeated. “And that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever offered, but I can’t take money from you guys, Lucy. I just can’t. Okay?”
I didn’t need an explanation. I got it.
“Okay,” I said, realizing Holly was as much like me as she was like Jude.
“Holy bloodcurdling scream, caveman,” I said, making a mental note to start baking brownies for my neighbors now so I’d be in their good graces when the shrieking little boy moved in.
“I gotta go. I’ve got thirty seconds before he craps his pants,” she said, sounding like she was rushing across the room. “Call you tomorrow to work out the details?”
“Call me tonight after you put caveman to bed so you can be here tomorrow,” I said, popping off the couch. I needed to start preparing for new housemates.
Holly chuckled. “Someone have a bad case of the lonelies?”
I blew out a breath. “The worst case.”
“Don’t worry. Soon you’ll be done with school, married to one of the top-paid football players in the nation, and living in some house the size of this craptastic town.”
That statement, minus the marrying Jude part, made my stomach queasy.
Even though it felt like Wednesday night would never arrive, it was finally here. After a grueling afternoon session at the dance studio, I’d come back to the apartment and enjoyed tofu stir-fry for one. I was lonely. Morbidly so. I never thought I’d be the girl who couldn’t stand to be alone, but this was the first time I’d lived on my own. Alone. All alone.
I was one of those girls.
However, tonight was the last night I’d have to spend all by my lonesome, because I would be with Jude tomorrow night through the weekend, and then Holly and little Jude were flying in Monday afternoon.
In the course of four days, Holly had managed to score a sweet deal on airline tickets, find someone to buy her trailer back home, get packed up, apply to every last one of the salons in White Plains, and start looking for child care for little Jude.
I took a while with the dinner dishes, deciding what to do with myself for the next couple of hours. It was too early to go to bed, I’d scrubbed and sanitized every surface in the apartment three times this past week, and we were smack into summer rerun season.
I was heading toward the bathroom to take a long bubble bath when a knock sounded at the door. I jumped—it had been a while since I’d had a visitor.
“Coming!” I called out as I headed to the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and none of Jude’s or my friends lived close enough to make the drive this late at night just to say hi.
“Come on already! Put a robe on, and get one of your asses to the door!” a familiar voice yelled on the other side of the door. “I’m developing crow’s-feet out here.”
I was smiling when I opened the door. “Hey, India.”
“Hey, girl,” she said, propping a hand on her hip. “What took you so long?” She peered over my shoulder.
“He’s not here,” I said. “But if he was you would have been waiting a lot longer than you were. A lot longer.”
I matched my straight face to India’s, waiting for one of us to crack. She did first.
The corner of her mouth moved. “There’s my girl. Now get your bony ass over here and give me some sugar.”
Laughing, I wrapped my arms around her. She was in platforms, so she was freakishly tall—so tall her chin fit over my head.
“This is a surprise,” I said, motioning her into the apartment.
India sauntered in, peeking into the bedroom like she didn’t believe Jude wasn’t in there. “A good or a bad surprise?”
“When it comes to you, Indie,” I said, walking into the kitchen, “the best kind of surprise.”
She winked. “Yeah. I’m pretty great, aren’t I?”
“Like you and half the male population on the eastern seaboard aren’t aware of that,” I teased, filling the kettle with water. “You want some tea?”
“Only if you’ve got the kind I like.” Dropping her purse on the dining table, she took a seat.
I rolled my eyes as I thumbed through my tea stash. “Will this do, Your Highness?” I asked, waving the packet in the air.
India inspected it before nodding. “Perfect.”
I turned on a burner and set the kettle on it. “So predictable,” I chided.
“Come on, Lucy. You know my rule. I take my tea the way I like my men.”
“Dark and strong,” I murmured, giving her a look.
“Yeah, well, at least I don’t take my tea green and earthy like you,” she shot back. “I mean, what does that say about Jude?”
“I sure have missed you, Indie,” I said.
“Of course you have,” she said, checking her phone. “What’s not to miss?”
Indie and I could go another five rounds easy, but I had to get to bed sometime tonight, and, judging from the way she was dressed, she had plans to dance the night away at some club.
“Not to sound rude, because you know I love me a piece of the India pie, but what are you doing here?” I asked, dropping the teabags into a couple of cups. India was a big-city girl. She dodged being in the suburbs like it spelled social ruin.
She lifted a shoulder while texting a quick message. “My brother’s up here for work, and one of his old college lacrosse teammates working for him is hot. And single. And Puerto Rican.” She waggled her eyebrows at me, her eyes sparkling.