Mom's in front of the mirror applying eyeliner in just a bra and tight jeans. There was a time she wouldn't dare be so exposed, but the married weight was another thing that went away with my dad. She's now thinner than I am.
"Perfect timing. I need your opinion on my outfit." She drops the stick and blinks to dry her makeup. Then she's back in her closet pulling a silky tank top from a hanger. She slides it on, fluffs her blond hair, which is two inches past her shoulders, and does a pirouette. "Well, how do I look?"
Sad. Broken. But that's not the answer I'm allowed to give. "Beautiful, Mom. What's the occasion?"
"I have a date tonight." She smiles wide like it's a new thing. It's not. Mom's been actively dating since Dad carted his last suitcase to the car. I think it's her payback for my dad's infidelity. A way to show him she's still desirable.
I lean against the doorframe and try not to show my disapproval. "Is this another one you met online?"
"No, actually. A friend from work set us up. He's recently divorced, too, and is supposed to be tall and handsome."
Great. Divorced—check. Attractive—check. Whatever happened to all those lectures I got growing up about wise dating and finding a guy who loves the Lord first and me second? It's like all the rules and values changed simply because she is no longer married. How is that right?
"Anyway, I'm nervous for some reason." She presses her palms to her cheeks and sighs. "I think this could really be something."
I can't hold in my snort. "How? You haven't even met him yet."
"Trust me, dear. When you get to be my age, a man who has a steady job and isn't addicted to smut on his computer is a rare find."
Ah...another qualification. Not a loser—check.
If I'd held to the same standards, I'd be married with children already.
"Well, have a good time." There's not a whole lot of feeling in my voice, but that's not new either. This scenario is just one more thing I'm stuck with now that I'm not moving. My brother gets to live hours away in Oklahoma City with his wife. He's had exactly four interactions with our mom and dad since they broke the news, whereas I've had to be parent, girlfriend, and shopping buddy. And let me tell you, there isn't much worse than going to Victoria's Secret with my mom, knowing the items she's buying are not for my dad.
Mom flips off the bathroom lights and settles into one of the chairs by the French doors to slip on her heels. "And how are you doing? Any more thoughts about my offer to live here?"
I'd rather camp in a tent in the Amazon rain forest...and I loathe spiders. "I have. There's another option I'm considering, as well."
"Really? What's that?"
"Possibly living with some friends."
"Oh. Yeah, I guess that would be nice." Her voice holds a hint of hurt, but thankfully she doesn't say so. "Anyone I know?"
I'm not eager to share, but then again, Mom's recent choices pretty much guarantee I won't get a lecture on propriety. "Yes, actually. It's Cameron."
Instead of a warning on all the dangers of living with a guy, I get a smug smile. "Well, that's quite a turn of events. I was beginning to think the two of you would never take that leap."
"And we still haven't. Cam and I are strictly platonic."
"For now," she says in a singsong, overly romantic voice. "But you two aren't kids anymore. Moving in together is not the same as a Friday night sleepover."
I bite my lip because she just summed up the pressing worry that's been haunting me since Cameron threw his offer in the ring: could we take this risk and still remain friends?
The two of us are such different people that I've often wondered if we would be close friends if we'd met as adults. I'm a realist, the first to call a spade a spade. Cameron will turn a spade into a heart and then try to convince me it's always been that way. It's irritating but it's also him, so I don't stay mad for very long. In twenty-nine years, there's been only one fight that's threatened to sever our bond, and I still blame our parents for it.
When we turned sixteen, our parents began to see our friendship as more, so much so that every time we hung out, they'd start to talk about weddings and how cute our kids would be. Cameron, being the dreamer that he is, bought into the madness and went so far as to ask me out our senior year of high school. "We're perfect for each other
," he'd said. "It's so easy with us, and isn't friendship the foundation of every good relationship?
But I didn't want just an easy friendship. I wanted passion and flutters in my stomach. I wanted the challenge of learning something new about the person I was going to marry. I wanted more than I knew I'd ever get with Cameron. I told him as much, and he didn't speak to me for a month. Then one day he called, and we never discussed the issue again.
This excerpt ends on page 19 of the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book Bridge of Gold by Kimberley Woodhouse.