“I was four years old,” Georgie complained. “Let it go, already.”
Rosie moved so quietly Georgie didn’t know she’d decided to come closer until she dropped gracefully into a cross-legged position, putting the women in a triangle facing one another. “This seems like a private moment . . .” Rosie hedged.
Bethany waved her off. “Oh, stop. All three of us have man trouble. It’s not a secret.”
The rich brown of Rosie’s skin deepened with red. “It’s not?”
“No,” Georgie muttered, shooting her sister a look. “No, it’s not, but no one is going to force you into admitting it. We came to do Zumba, not group therapy.”
“It’s true.” Rosie kept her attention on the ground, but her fingers were trembling where she kept them laced in her lap. “I’m married to a man I don’t even know anymore. We sleep in the same bed—when he doesn’t fall asleep on the couch—and he’s a complete stranger.”
Bethany and Georgie traded a look of surprise. Rosie usually kept herself detached when they were in a group setting together. To be fair, the Castles never shut the hell up long enough for someone new to speak. But this admission from Rosie was unusual to say the least.
“I’m sorry you’re dealing with that,” Bethany said. “Do you guys fight?”
Rosie barked a laugh, then slapped a hand over her mouth to cage the sound. “He’s barely talked to me since he came back from Afghanistan,” Rosie murmured, dropping her hand. “It’s hard to find things to argue about in all that silence. We mostly avoid each other. It’s easier.”
“Easier than what?” Georgie asked.
“Finding out it’s over, I guess.” As if becoming aware of her surroundings, Rosie shifted on the floor. “I didn’t mean to make this about me.”
“It’s about all of us,” Bethany said slowly. During Rosie’s admissions, Georgie had sensed her sister growing more and more fidgety. Now she seemed antsy enough to break-dance. “Look at us, ladies.” Bethany jumped to her feet, jabbing a finger at Rosie and Georgie. “Three smart, hardworking women, moping on the floor all for the same reason. Men. They’ve failed us. But I’m willing to bet we’re shouldering all the blame. God knows Travis and Dominic and my collection of shit sticks aren’t sitting around, wondering where they went wrong. No, they’re out having beers and consoling themselves with YouPorn.”
Georgie raised a hand. “To be fair, that is also my preferred method of consolation.”
Rosie snort-laughed into her wrist.
“What is your point, wise elder?”
“My point is . . .” Bethany dropped to her knees, taking each of them by the shoulder. “Fuck. Them. We should be out having beers and shrugging off their feelings. We should be the ones deciding what we want in our relationships, friendship or otherwise. Not waiting around for these bitch-asses to get over themselves and see what’s in front of them.”
When Bethany started this passionate tirade, Georgie had been all prepared to laugh. She couldn’t deny a winded sensation in her chest now, though. Like she’d run far and fast and landed on this floor. The wry smile on her face had fled. Bethany was right. While Georgie had been crying into herbal tea and angrily sorting clown makeup earlier this evening, Travis hadn’t been thinking about her at all. What was the freaking point of all this sadness? It didn’t change the course of history or make a dent in Travis’s man brain. It had no point.
Travis didn’t owe her anything. Deep down, she knew that. But him blowing off their appointment was just another disappointment in a long line of them she’d learned to live with. From her family. Her friends who’d moved away and started calling less and less. The drop in business. She’d allowed everything to happen because she was afraid of proving that she was nothing more than the inconsequential last in line to the throne.
“Let’s end this now,” Bethany continued. “Right here, right now. Let’s fucking liberate ourselves. Not only from brother-mandated Zumba, but from the dudes bringing us down. Let’s start making decisions that don’t land us in this state of mourning.” She waggled her eyebrows through a dramatic pause. “It’s time to fix ourselves up, ladies. Because look around. We’re alone here. We’re more alone with them in our lives than actually being alone.”
“And since we’re alone anyway, we might as well be alone and moving forward. Making ourselves happy.” Georgie nodded. “No one else is going to do it.”
“Yes.” Bethany let out a slow breath and squeezed Georgie’s forearm, reaching for Rosie’s as well. “A club. I’m proposing a club for women, of which we’re the founding fucking members. We all want things. Let’s go get them together.”
“I can’t . . .” Rosie blurted out, shaking her head. “I agree with everything you’re saying, but I’m not in the same position. He’s my husband.”
“You’re right. You have a different situation.” Bethany ducked into Rosie’s line of sight and smiled. “But you can still be in the damn club. There must be something you want, Ro.”
Rosie took a moment to answer, but her chest began rising and falling faster. “I’ve wanted my own restaurant. Argentinian. For my mother’s side.” She shook out a laugh. “I’ve never told anyone but Dominic and we haven’t spoken about it in years. It’s like he forgot.”
“But you didn’t forget,” Georgie said.
“No. No, I think about it every day.”
Close friends or not, Georgie couldn’t stop herself from reaching over and taking Rosie’s hand, relieved when the other woman didn’t hesitate to cling. She didn’t know a lot about Rosie’s past, but she remembered the small Argentinian woman Rosie used to squire around town, along with her father—an African American man named Maurice who’d owned a local auto body shop. He’d since passed, too. Bethany took Rosie’s free hand, linking the three women where they sat on the floor. “What about you, Bethany?” Rosie asked. “What do you want?”
“Me? I’m giving up on men. Full stop. I’ve been shafted for the last time.” She wiggled her blond eyebrows. “I want to swing a sledgehammer.”
That shocked a laugh out of Georgie. “What?”
Bethany sighed. “I’m tired of just making things pretty. Been sick of it for a while, actually, but our brother won’t let me set foot into a project until it’s ready to be staged.” She snapped her teeth at an invisible Stephen. “We took over the business from Dad together. I’ve been doing this just as long. I want my own projects. If Stephen won’t give them to me . . . I’ll figure out another way to get them.”
Georgie shook her head. “I had no idea. I thought you loved staging.”
“There are a lot of things we don’t know about each other. Let’s fix that,” Bethany told her softly. “Can you forgive me for having my head up my ass?”
“Yeah,” Georgie managed, hope fluttering in her chest. “If I can forgive you for the tie-dye hand-me-downs, I can forgive anything.”
Bethany laughed. “Good.” They traded a smile. “And I do love staging. But I want more. I want to look at a house and know its bones. If I’m ever going to do that, I have to build them myself.” She nudged Georgie with her knee. “And you, little sis? What’s your big dream?”
Moment of truth. “I like being a clown.” Georgie shrugged, allowing her ideas to transform into actual words. Possibilities. Something she’d never done before, except for scribbles and drawings in a spiral notebook, never to be voiced aloud in case someone told her she was too young or too naive. Or just ignored her altogether. “But I turn away half my business. I’m either already booked or they want a balloon maker, too. Pony rides. If I want to stay viable . . . or work anywhere outside Port Jeff . . . I have to expand. Turn my one-woman show into a full-time entertainment company.”
Bethany squeezed her hand. “What’s stopping you?”
No one takes me seriously. I was afraid everyone would laugh. “Nothing, I guess,” Georgie said instead, having made more progress tonight already than she thought possible. “So, when is our first meeting?”
“Let’s not lose momentum.” Bethany appeared to flip through a calendar in her head. “How about Friday night? Seven o’clock at my place. I’ll have tequila on hand and we’ll come up with a name, you know, just to make it official. But most importantly, we’ll figure out a way to reach our goals. Together alone.”
“Together alone,” Georgie and Rosie echoed in a whisper.
They let go of their linked hands, stacking them like pancakes in the center of the triangle.
“I could save this until Friday night, but I’m very clever and I’ve already thought of a name,” Georgie said, beaming at the other two women. “Just Us League on three. And let’s hope DC Comics doesn’t come after us for copyright infringement.”