We’d figure something out. We had to.
I turned down Fifty-Sixth and caught sight of the Parker Meridien near the end of the block.
The gray stone façade was as bleak as the morning sky; the clouds overhead fat with snow that was certain to start falling any minute. Winter in New York after Christmas was dreary: cold and wet, dirty slush, and days at a time without a hint of blue sky. But this year had been blessedly mild compared to others, and warm enough for Max to regularly push the bundled-up stroller alongside Will and Hanna as they ran through the park.
My phone buzzed in the front pocket of my coat. I didn’t need to look to know it was Chloe, sending the third Where are you? You are not backing out on us Sara! message in the last hour. So maybe I’d missed a few lunches with the girls since Anna had been born, it wasn’t easy getting out of the house with a newborn who would be permanently attached to my breast if given the chance.
I ignored my phone, my head still full of my morning with Max. Chloe could wait.
But of course only two steps later I was clutched with the fear that maybe the text hadn’t been Chloe. Maybe it was Max with a message that Anna was sick or had hurt herself or—
I moved off the sidewalk to stand in the shelter of a nearby building, and pulled out my phone.
Will might come over for dinner, Max had written. You good with that?
I replied that it was fine and slid my phone back into my pocket. With each step, my favorite boots crunched through the salt that had been scattered along the sidewalk. Chloe wanted to take me shopping before I braved the office today, but I’d declined. I wanted the comfort of my favorite skirt and the heels that added just a little swing to my step, the sweater that rendered Max speechless and then consumed this morning. I needed to feel like myself.
I straightened my jacket and tightened the grip on the purse Max had bought me for my birthday. A Burberry clutch, not a diaper bag. I hadn’t been out of the house without my baby, let alone diapers, bottles, wipes, and a change of clothes, since Anna was born, and the soft leather felt too light in my hand.
Just a few hours away from her today, I reminded myself. Just see how it goes.
I smiled at the doorman as I stepped inside the marble lobby. The floors were gleaming white and inlaid with glossy black squares, the walls made of polished stone. People gathered on benches and sat hunched over their phones. Conversations carried through the giant space and up, echoing off stone walls. I walked under a giant arch and turned left, climbing a set of stairs that led to Norma’s. As usual, I could hear Chloe before I could see her.
“There she is,” Chloe said, standing on skyscraper-tall boots, all long legs and cascading wavy hair and an expression that said there was no way I’d get out of being late without getting a little shit for it first. “Fucking finally.”
“I know, I know,” I said, crossing the wood floors to reach them. “Sorry. Just trust me that time warps when you have a kid, and you think you’re getting out of the house on time and then suddenly you’re half an hour late.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t because Max saw you in that outfit and got a little handsy?” Hanna asked from beside Chloe.
“Spoken like a woman who’s with a boob man,” I said, laughing. “And . . . maybe.”
I adored Hanna, but Max in particular had grown especially fond of her in the past year, saying that anyone who could keep Will Sumner by the balls was aces in his book.
“Just ignore Attila the Hun over here,” my assistant and good friend George said, motioning to Chloe. “The woman isn’t happy unless she’s bossing someone around.”
I hugged them all and hung my coat on the back of my chair before taking my seat.
“How’s the princess?” Chloe said, blowing over the top of her mug. “Where’s the princess?”
“Perfect. She’s with Daddy today.” A proud smile spread across my face. “How’s the Bennett?”
“And what’s new with you and Will?” I asked, turning to Hanna. “I feel like I hardly see you, even if Max has taken it upon himself to crash your runs lately. Sorry about that.”
Hanna leaned an elbow on the table and smiled. “I love when he comes along. And judging by the goofy look Will gets on his face when he sees that running stroller heading down the path, I can assure you he doesn’t mind, either.”
“Good, because as bad as I feel, the extra hour of sleep I get makes me feel a lot better.”
“Maybe I should join those runs,” George offered. “Does Will run shirtless in the spring?”
“George,” Hanna said, ignoring this, “are you going to tell Sara about the little dreamboat you’ve been seeing?”
“Was seeing,” he corrected. “As in past tense. Ugh, it was a stage-one breakup. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“A stage one,” he clarified. “I swear, do I always have to be the gay urban dictionary for you people? Stage one is where you break up via text message trying to come off not looking like a total douche bag. Stage two is where you tell the person, ‘Look, you’re not ringing my bell and I’m clearly not ringing yours. Let’s move this train along to grander stations.’ Stage three is where it’s not working and you sort of fade the person out over time. It’s painful because by then the other person has become sort of a habit. They know how you take your coffee and what days you can have carbs and just . . . it can be sad.”