An Excerpt From:
by S.J. Matthews ~
She climbed atop the horse that most reminded her of Hershey and trotted off to Central Park. Her form was a little off at first, but she synced up with the rhythm of the horse. They took to the riding path. She watched the flushed faces of joggers. They appeared to be as content in running shoes as she was in the saddle. One of the faces grabbed her eyes. He jogged with a petite ponytailed blonde. She turned the horse around and followed the pair. Could it really be him with another woman? Was that the reason for his absence?
She eased up on the chase as she neared the sweaty figures. The woman’s ponytail swished back and forth as she worked to keep pace with her companion. Hannah decided it wasn’t worth it to run two probable strangers down because of her paranoia. She could almost see the headline in the New York Times. She might even be deemed unfit to be a teacher. She patted Callie’s lithe neck and felt bad about dragging her into the angst. It was time to head back.
Upon leaving Claremont, she headed to a payphone.
“Hello?” asked Christie, her best friend.
“Will you be my movie date?” asked Hannah.
“If you buy me some popcorn,” said Christie. “What are we going to see?”
“Romancing the Stone, of course. Craig was supposed to take me, but you know how that goes.”
Hannah could almost hear the eye roll on the other end of the line. Christy always thought Craig was an asshole, which made her job as maid of honor at their wedding somewhat uncomfortable. Her toast was laced with contempt disguised as sarcasm. She promised bodily harm if he ever hurt Hannah. Craig dismissed her as a half-witted bimbo who drank too much. Christy confessed to Hannah that steady alcohol was the only way she had survived their wedding.
“Yeah, I know. He’s so fucking romantic.”
“Are you okay with my choice?” asked Hannah.
“You mean the movie, right?”
“What did you think I meant?”
“Nothing. The movie is perfect. Michael Douglas is so hot.”
“I went riding today,” Hannah said before polishing off her turkey sandwich. She and Christy had a once a month tradition of eating dinner at Katz’s Deli. They normally topped off the meal with a luscious slice of New York Cheesecake, which was a meal in itself.
“Really?” said Christy. “I had no idea. I thought you dress like this all the time.”
Hannah groaned. “Do you have to be so sarcastic?”
“Yes. It’s a survival method. How was the ride?”
“It was great until I thought I saw Craig jogging with another woman.”
Christy pushed her empty plate aside and said, “Do you really think it was him?”
Hannah sighed. “I don’t think so. Maybe I’m just paranoid.”
Christy patted her hand. “Not like your fears are unfounded. After all, he does have a history of doing s*** like that.”
Hannah flinched. She knew the words weren’t meant to hurt her. They stung nonetheless.
“I’m sorry,” said Christy. “Let’s talk about anything else.”
Hannah managed a weak smile and nodded.
“Are you all packed for your trip? I am so jealous, by the way.”
“I’ve started. I’ll finish up tonight.”
“How’s your dad? You think he’ll cooperate?”
Hannah took a lengthy sip of her root beer and said, “He’d better. I’ll leave his ass behind otherwise.”
Christy chuckled and said, “No you won’t.”
Their waitress returned with the check. “You ladies need anything else?”
Christy smiled. “We both want the cheesecake.”
Hannah shook her head and said, “No, I can’t eat a whole one. We can share.”
Christy looked at her like she had asked to share her Prada bag.
“I’m not sharing. Get your own.”
“No, I’ve gained a few. I’ll pass this time around.”
“They only thing you’ve gained is baggage,” Christy said. She glanced at the waitress and said, “Two cheesecakes with strawberry syrup.”
The rich dessert was too much for Hannah. She forced it into a carryout box. Christy ate everything. She was blessed with a size two figure and the metabolism of a hummingbird.
“Do me a favor while you’re out there.”
Hannah eyed her with suspicion and said, “What is it?”
“Find a hot guy and bone his brains out.”
Anyone else might have been shocked by words like that. This was everyday speak for Christy, though. Hannah rolled her eyes and bagged up her box.
“I’m married,” she said. “Besides, two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“You wouldn’t be in the wrong. He cheated on you, remember. That gives you proxy rights.”
“This conversation is finished. I mean it.”
Christy whipped out her credit card and said, “All right. Fine. Just trying to help. You need a Jack T. Colton.”
Hannah laughed. “I’m not exactly Kathleen Turner. Put your card up. It’s my turn to buy.”
“You’re hotter than Kathleen Turner,” said Christy. “I’m buying because your birthday is coming up.”
* * *