I opened my mouth to protest, to tell Bennett that I was sure every couple went through this kind of crisis, but the truth was, I had no idea. Even at Jensen’s wedding—where I’d been the best man—the only thing keeping me going during the ceremony was the thought of taking the two bridesmaids to the coat closet to bang. I hadn’t paid particularly close attention to the more sentimental emotions of the day.
So, I closed my mouth, rubbing a palm across it and feeling a dose of self-loathing sweep over me. Fuck. I already missed Hanna, and being with my two closest friends who were so . . . situated made it hard. It wasn’t that I felt I needed to catch up to some milestone of theirs; I simply wanted that comfort of knowing I could go out with my friends for an evening and still come home to her. I missed the comfort of her company, the way she listened so carefully, the way I knew she said whatever came to mind when she was around me, a thing I noticed she didn’t do with anyone else. I loved her for being so wildly her own self—so fierce and confident and curious and smart. And I missed feeling her body, taking pleasure from her, and, fuck, giving her pleasure unending.
I wanted to lie in bed with her at night, and bemoan the ordeal of planning a wedding. I wanted it all.
“Don’t elope,” I said, finally. “I realize that I know shit about any of this, and I’m sure my opinion means nothing, but I’m pretty sure every wedding feels like a complete clusterfuck at one point or another.”
“It just feels like so much work for a single day,” Bennett mumbled. “Life goes on so much longer beyond this one slip of time.”
Max chuckled, lifting his glass, and then reconsidered, putting it back down on the table, before he started laughing again, and harder. We both turned to look at him.
“You were acting like zombie Max,” I noted, “but now you’re creepy clown Max. We’re all sharing here—I’ve had my heart stomped on by Hanna, Bennett is wrestling with the age-old crisis of wedding planning madness. Your turn.”
He shook his head, smiling down at his empty pint. “Fine.” He waved to Maddie for another Guinness. “But Ben, you’re here tonight only as my mate. Not as Sara’s boss. Understood?”
Offering a one-shouldered shrug, Max murmured, “Well, lads, it turns out I’m going to be a dad.”
The relative quiet we had been enjoying seemed like roaring chaos in comparison to the vacuum that now existed. Bennett and I froze, and then exchanged a brief look.
“Yeah, mate.” Max looked up, cheeks pink and eyes wide. “She’s having my baby.”
Bennett continued to watch him, probably assessing every reaction on Max’s face.
“This is good,” I said carefully. “Right? This is a good thing?”
Max nodded, blinking over to me. “It’s bloody amazing. I just . . . I’m terrified, to be honest.”
“How far along is she?” Bennett asked.
“A little over three months.” We both started to respond in surprise but he held up his hand, nodding. “She’s been stressed, and she thought . . .” Shaking his head, he continued: “She took a test this weekend, but didn’t know until today how far she was. But today, when I was out at meetings . . . we had an ultrasound to measure the baby.” He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. “Bloody hell, the baby. I just found out Sare’s pregnant, and today I could see there’s a f**king kid in there. Sara’s far enough along that the ultrasound technician guessed it’s a girl but we won’t know for sure for a couple months. It’s just . . . unreal.”
“Max, why the f**k are you out with us?” I asked, laughing. “Shouldn’t you be at home drinking sparkling cider and picking out names?”
He smiled. “She wanted some time away from me, I think. I’ve been f**king unbearable the last few days, wanting to remodel the bloody apartment and talk about when we’re getting married and all that shite. I think she wanted to tell Chloe. Besides, we’ve got a date planned for tomorrow.” He stilled, his brows pulling together in concern when he said that. “But now that this day is over, I’m just beat.”
“You’re not worried about this, are you?” Bennett asked, studying Max. “I mean, this is unbelievable. You and Sara are going to have a baby.”
“No, it’s just the same worries I’m sure everyone feels I imagine,” Max said, wiping a hand across his mouth. “Will I be a good dad? Sara’s not much of a drinker, but did we do anything in the past three months that could hurt the baby? And, with my giant spawn growing in there, will little Sara be okay?”
I could barely hold back. I stood, pulling Max out of his chair and into a hug.
He was so in love with Sara he could barely think straight when she was around. And although most of the time I gave him endless shit about it, it was a pretty amazing thing to behold. I knew without him ever having to say it that he was ready for this, ready to settle down and be the devoted husband and dad. “You’ll be amazing, Max. Seriously, congratulations.”
Stepping back, I watched as Bennett stood, shaking Max’s hand and then pulling him into a brief hug.
The enormity of this started to sink in and I all but collapsed back into my chair. This, here, was life. This was life beginning for us: weddings and families and deciding to step up and be a man for someone. It wasn’t about the f**king jobs we had or the random thrills we sought or any of that. Life was built from the bricks of these connections and milestones and moments where you tell your two best friends that you’re about to have a child.
You’re all I can think about anymore.
When I was little, I’d drive my entire family insane by not sleeping for days before any holiday or big event. Nobody understood why. My exhausted mother would sit up with me night after night, begging me to just go to bed.
“Ziggy,” she would say. “Honey, if you go to bed, Christmas will get here sooner. Time goes faster when you’re asleep.”
But it never seemed to work that way for me. “I can’t sleep,” I’d insist. “There’s too much in my head. My thoughts won’t slow down.”
I’d spend the countdown to birthdays and vacations wide awake and anxious, pacing the halls of our big house while I should have been asleep upstairs. It was a habit I’d never outgrown.
Saturday wasn’t Christmas or the first day of summer vacation, but I was counting every day, every minute as if it were. Because as pathetic as it sounded, and as much as I hated that I was looking forward to it, I knew I’d see Will. That thought alone was enough to find me up every night, wide awake at the window, recounting the streetlights to his building.I’d always heard the first week after a breakup was the hardest. I hoped that was true. Because getting Will’s message on Tuesday night—You’re all I can think about anymore—was torture.
Could he have texted the wrong number by mistake? Or did he say that because he ended up alone, or because he was with another woman, but thinking of me? I couldn’t exactly be angry, and my initial self-righteousness over the prospect of him texting me while he was with Kitty faded quickly; I, too, had texted him when I was on my dates with Dylan.
The worst part was that I had no one to talk to about it, really. Well, I did, but I only wanted Will.
The sun had dipped low in the sky on Friday night as I walked the last few blocks to meet Chloe and Sara for drinks.
I’d tried to put on a brave front all week but I was miserable, and it was starting to show. I looked tired. I looked sad. I looked exactly how I felt. I missed him so much that I felt it with every breath, felt each second pass since I’d last seen him.
The Bathtub Gin was a small speakeasy in Chelsea. Visitors were greeted with an everyday storefront, the words STONE STREET COFFEE stenciled across the top. If you weren’t sure what you were looking for, or happened to pass by during the week when there wasn’t a crowd of people lined up outside, you might miss it. But if you knew it was there, illuminated by a single, glowing red bulb, you’d find the right door. One that opened up to a Prohibition-era club, complete with dim lighting, a steady hum of jazz, and even a large copper bathtub at the center.
I found Chloe and Sara sitting at the bar, drinks already in front of them and a gorgeous dark-haired man at their side.
“Hey, guys,” I said, sliding onto the stool next to them. “Sorry I’m late.”
The three of them turned, looked me up and down before the man said, “Oh honey, tell me all about the man who did this to you.”
I blinked between them, confused. “I . . . hi, I’m Hanna?”
“Ignore him,” Chloe said, sliding the menu across the bar to me. “We all do. And order a drink before you talk. You look like you could use it.”
The mystery man looked appropriately offended and the three of them argued among themselves while I scanned the various cocktails and wines, picking the first thing that seemed to fit my mood.
“I’ll have a Tomahawk,” I told the bartender, noticing in my peripheral vision the way Sara and Chloe looked to each other in surprise.
“So it’s like that, I see.” Chloe motioned for another drink and then took my hand, leading us all to a table.
In all reality, I’d probably just hold my cocktail for most of the night and absorb the comfort afforded by the option to get completely hammered. But I knew I wanted to race tomorrow, and no way was I going to run hungover.
“By the way, Hanna,” Chloe said, gesturing to the man currently watching me with curious, amused eyes. “This is George Mercer, Sara’s assistant. George, this is the adorable and soon-to-be-drunk and/or facedown-on-the-table Hanna Bergstrom.”
“Ah, a lightweight,” George said, and nodded to Chloe. “What in the world are you doing with this old boozehound? She should come with a warning label for girls like you.”
“George, how would you like my heel up your ass?” Chloe asked.
Sara leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Ignore them. It’s like watching Bennett and Chloe, but though they’d both rather screw Bennett than each other.”
“I see,” I murmured. A waitress placed our drinks on the table and I took a tentative pull from my straw. “Holy crap,” I coughed, my throat on fire.
I downed almost an entire glass of water while Sara watched me, appraising. “So what’s happening?” she asked.
“Not what she meant,” Chloe said bluntly.
I looked down at my glass, tried to focus on the tiny specks of paprika floating along the surface and not the hollow feeling in my gut. “Have you guys talked to Will lately?”
They each shook their head but George perked up.
“Will Sumner?” he clarified. “You’re banging Sumner? Jesus hell.” He motioned to the waitress again. “We’re gonna need another glass, lovely. Just bring the whole bottle.”
“Actually, I haven’t talked to him since Monday,” Sara said.
“Tuesday afternoon,” Chloe volunteered, pointing to her chest. “But I know he’s had a crazy week.”
“Uh-oh,” Sara said. “Didn’t he go home with you for the holiday?”
And now I was that girl, the one with the breakup story I didn’t even want in my head, let alone as something to share over drinks. How did I explain that things had been perfect that weekend? That I had believed everything he said? That I had fallen in—I stopped, the words hardening like concrete in my thoughts.
“Hanna, honey?” Sara reached forward to set her hand on my forearm.
“I just feel like an idiot.”
“Sweetie,” Chloe said, her eyes full of nothing but concern. “You know you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
“The hell she doesn’t,” George snapped. “How are we all supposed to make his life appropriately horrible if we don’t know every sordid detail? We should probably start at the beginning and work our way to the horror, though. First question: is his c**k as epic as I’ve heard? And the fingers . . . are they truly quote-unquote magical?” He leaned closer, whispering, “And rumor has it the man could win a watermelon-eating contest, if you know what I’m saying.”
“George,” Sara groaned, and Chloe glared at him but I cracked a smile.
“I’m sure I have no idea what you mean,” I whispered back.
“Look it up on YouTube,” he said to me. “You’ll get the visual.”
“But back to the part where Hanna is upset,” Sara said, eyes playfully stern and fixed on George.
“I just . . .” I took a deep breath, hunting for words. “What can you tell me about Kitty?”
“Oh,” Chloe said, sitting back in her chair. She glanced at Sara. “Oh.”
“Is this the . . . I mean, is Kitty one of his . . .” George trailed off, waving his hand meaningfully.
“Yeah,” Sara said. “Kitty is one of Will’s lovers.”