They jump-turned and flipped off their hoods.
It was Bethany and Georgie.
Rosie exhaled a laugh, even though her shoulders remained full of tension that wouldn’t quit. “What are you guys doing here?”
“I have the shopping bug,” Georgie said with a wince, setting down the pink bustier-shaped perfume bottle in her hand. “Ever since I got the makeover, I’m no longer satisfied with overalls and baseball caps. It’s very inconvenient. I have to wear the right bras . . .”
“And wash your hair . . .” Bethany added.
The sisters wrinkled their noses at each other.
“Anyway,” Georgie enunciated, giving Bethany her back. “We thought we’d pop in and say hello. We have a proposition for you.”
Rosie couldn’t have been happier to find her friends in the store. She needed the mental break and definitely required the laugh to maintain what sanity she was clinging to, but any minute now, Martha would stomp around the corner—
“I’m not paying you to socialize, Mrs. Vega.”
Pressure bloomed behind her right eye and started to pound. The voice of her supervisor was obnoxious any day of the week, but with Rosie’s diminished sense of smell, Martha’s syllables and vowels worked their way under her skin like thumbtacks.
“We’re customers,” Bethany said sweetly, picking up a random bottle without looking and handing it to Rosie. “This one, please. It’ll bring all the boys to the yard.”
Georgie buried her face in the crook of her elbow.
Rosie bit down on her lower lip to trap a laugh, but a snort escaped. And that’s when the avalanche effect happened. That show of mirth gave way to the beginning of hysteria. She’d just been spoken to—again—by her power-tripping supervisor, her marriage had gone from fractured to broken, her feet were killing her, and she’d inhaled enough scents to make her nose-blind.
On top of everything, she’d canceled the appointment to view the space on Cove Street with the realtor that morning. Dominic had said he’d come with her, but upon waking to no missed calls or texts, she’d been too afraid to find out if he’d show up or not. And God, that made her so mad. He was the one who’d asked for a second chance. Not her. She’d been prepared to move on and he’d come barreling back in, claiming they could fix what was broken. Well, he’d broken it all over again, and she was done.
Matter of fact, she wasn’t simply done with her husband. She was done with this job.
She hated this job.
It made her feel like scenery. And even though her confidence was shaky—it was so damn shaky—she needed to pick up and move on before she let herself drop back to that level of complacency she’d been in before leaving Dominic. She might even end up more comfortable with doing something she hated, unable to imagine a better situation. She could barely imagine one right now and that scared her.
A bubbling laugh escaped her mouth. “I quit.”
Martha reared back with a gasp.
Bethany’s and Georgie’s mouths dropped open.
Rosie exhaled in a rush and unclipped her name tag. She started to hand it over to Martha, but the woman crossed her arms, lifting her chin and refusing to take it. So Rosie dropped it on the ground and stomped it into a half-dozen pieces, little shards of plastic scattering on the marble floor of the cosmetics section.
“I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding someone to replace me. Everyone is looking for extra cash around the holidays,” Rosie said, putting some steel into her spine. “But you will have a problem keeping them. Especially if you keep reheating fish in the break room. That should be illegal. You, Martha, are the Le Squirt Bon Bon of bosses.” She tucked an escaped curl back into her bun. “Shall we, ladies?”
Rosie set down the perfume Bethany had handed her and swept down the aisle of glass cases, flanked by her two friends. At several of the registers, her coworkers stopped what they were doing to give her golf claps and respectful nods. By the time Rosie reached the exit, she’d grown several inches. Next time she came to this department store, it would be to splurge on another dress. No more perfume. No more puff princesses.
God, she was scared knowing she’d receive only one more paycheck and then she’d have to rely on her modest bank balance, but so be it. You couldn’t put a price on self-respect, and she desperately needed to take some back.
The cold October air reached right through her clothes upon hitting the sidewalk.
“Oh my God,” Rosie said, covering her cheeks with both hands. “I can’t believe I did that.”
“I can,” Georgie said, laying a sympathetic cheek on her shoulder. “After what happened with Dominic yesterday, you earned the right to stomp a name tag or eight. Martha is lucky it wasn’t her face, as far as I’m concerned.”
Bethany took Rosie by the shoulders. “Look, that was completely badass, but it was a big, bold move that’s going to come with changes. Are you okay?”
“Yes.” Rosie shook her head, nerve endings snapping in her wrists and fingertips. “No. No, I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin. But tomorrow I’m going to come back better than ever. I have to believe that. I just don’t want to think for a while, you know?”
“Girls’ night out,” Georgie piped up, breathing warm air into her hands and rubbing them together. “It’s the only solution.”
Bethany’s mouth curved into a smile. “Fair warning, ladies. I don’t do any half-assed girls’ nights out. If we’re doing this, we’re swinging for the fucking fences.”
Her sister whooped.
“Manhattan, here we come,” Bethany murmured, eyes sparkling.
A fire built in Rosie’s belly as she listened to Bethany formulate plans. How long had it been since she’d really cut loose? Tonight she’d make up for lost time.
Dominic had just ordered his second beer when Travis and Stephen walked in looking like someone had pissed in their Cheerios.
“Whatever it is,” Dominic said, taking a pull from his fresh Heineken, “I don’t want to know.”
Travis snorted and kicked out a stool, signaling the bartender as he sat down. “Shot, please. Whiskey.”
“One for me, too,” Stephen said, choosing to pace instead of sit down. “Make it a double.”
That gave Dominic pause. Stephen’s idea of partying was adding a second scoop of protein powder to his morning smoothie. His wife, Kristin, ran a tight ship, and since Stephen was trying to prove he was wholesome-family-man enough for her to start popping out babies, he didn’t drink beyond the casual beer. Whiskey meant the world was falling down.
Dominic knew a thing or two about that. He’d gotten shit-faced after the impromptu therapy appointment that had ended in disaster—and he was well on his way there again tonight. Every minute he spent sober, he replayed the moment Armie had told them his marriage to Rosie wouldn’t work. That it was really over. Deep in his bones, he knew that was impossible. But he had no goddamn clue how to prove that to his wife. Worse, if he could go back in time and relive that therapy appointment, he still wasn’t sure he’d come clean about the house. So there he sat. Flawed beyond belief and missing his wife like hell.
The bartender set down two shot glasses and sloshed whiskey into them from a pour spout, taking the twenty-dollar bill Travis slid across the bar. Travis tossed his back, the ex–professional baseball player swiping a hand across his mouth.
“You want to know,” Travis said.
“No, I don’t.”
Stephen leaned against the bar, holding his semi-full shot glass.
“Let me paint the scene for you,” Travis continued.
Dominic frowned. “Are you sipping that shot, Stephen?”
“I like to savor the taste.” To drive his words home, he took another dainty sip, visibly trying not to gag. “S’good.”
“Jesus, man. Just order a Coke.”
“A soda won’t erase the memory of my wife in ice-pick heels and a miniskirt trotting off down the driveway.”
“Christ. I knew this was woman-related.” Dominic eased back from the bar. “Look, I’ve got my own problems.”
“Yeah, you do.” Travis leaned an elbow on the bar and faced Dominic. “Again, let me paint the scene for you. I’m standing in my kitchen, minding my own business. Georgie is in the bedroom and I’m getting ready to . . . you know, go see her there—”
Stephen dragged his hands down his face. “That can’t be relevant to the story, you asshole.”
“It is.” Travis seemed to be fighting back a smile. “I was carrying her a glass of wine to the bedroom—our bedroom, Stephen—when she comes out . . .” His skin paled and he seemed to be having a hard time swallowing. “She’s in this dress I’ve never seen. It’s pure white. White.” He got off the stool and turned, looking back at Dominic and Stephen over his shoulder, one hand indicating his ass. “I could see the shadow between her—”
“Enough.” Stephen held out a stern finger. “Don’t say another word.”
“I’ve never seen those shoes, either,” Travis muttered, sitting back down and burying his face in his hands. “I can’t believe this is happening.”