Three Years Later…
“All this wedding planning is tiresome. You’re lucky that you’re not married,” I say. I change out of my scrubs. It’s Friday, and I should be relishing that the weekend is here, but I have to work tomorrow.
The workday is over, but I’m not ready to go home and face Mark or my toddler, Bay.
Madisyn shoots me a look. “Planning your wedding is supposed to be fun.”
“Well, it’s not. Mark doesn’t want any involvement. He’s leaving everything up to me, which is good because we’re not fighting, but I also find it stressful. Sometimes it would be nice for someone else to have an opinion about something wedding-related, other than me.”
“I can help, not that I’ve ever planned a wedding, but I’m sure I can vet your vendors for the big day,” Madisyn says.
I chuckle under my breath. “What are you going to do, run a background check on them? That sounds a bit drastic, Madisyn, even for you.”
“I meant look at their past clients and reviews for their services. Or I could just come with you,” Madisyn says. “I promise I’ll only offer advice if you need it.”
“Are you that desperate to get away from your boyfriend you just moved in with—what’s his name, again?” I ask.
“Mikhail,” she says, and her cheeks redden. “And no, I’m offering to help because I genuinely want to be there for you. You’ve been a good friend to me, and I want to return the favor.”
“That’s sweet. But if you want to be here for me, how about you tell me where you disappeared for the past two months?” I’ve been curious why she, out of the blue, was gone from work. She doesn’t appear unhealthy or grieving, but maybe she had a private client whom she tended to on the concierge’s request? No one at work knew where she’d vanished for the last several weeks.
But she kept her job and wasn't reprimanded as far as I know. I can’t help but wonder what she’d gotten herself involved with.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Madisyn says.
“Try me.” I fold my arms across my chest. If we’re friends, don’t I deserve the truth?
“I used to work for the FBI. This job was just a cover.”
She can’t be serious.
Madisyn doesn’t crack a grin, but that seems like the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t even make sense! “Fine, don’t tell me the truth.” I pull on my black winter boots, lacing them tight. There’s no sense in staying mad at her for more than thirty seconds. Her business is entirely hers. If she doesn’t want to tell me, I should respect her privacy.
“We should grab drinks after work. I’m dying to go dancing and have a night off. Mark is letting me have a girls’ night. So, you have to come out,” I say.
I’ve wanted a night out to unwind, and Madisyn is the perfect person to conquer the world alongside me. Plus, Bay has been waking up every night with nightmares, and I need a few hours of me-time or at least time to cut loose with my new bestie and chill.
Quickly, she changes out of her scrubs and asks me a dozen questions like am I letting him watch my daughter, Bay.
Of course, who else would be watching her? He’s going to be her father. And while he’s not super excited about diaper duty, he’s a responsible adult.
Besides, we can’t bring Bay to a bar or a nightclub.
I grab my phone from my locker. I can’t help but boast about my little girl, how much she’s grown, and how adorable she is. The kid is the one accomplishment I’m genuinely proud of, raising her and doing it on my own.
Madisyn pulls on her shoes and grabs my phone, cruising through my photos.
“You’d better not have any naked pictures on here,” she warns.
Naked pictures? Mark wouldn’t be caught dead taking off his shirt for a photo, let alone being naked. He’s got a great body, but he has more issues than a magazine subscription.
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen, and no, Mark is a bit of a prude.” I’ve tried to suggest we take some naughty photos and try some toys in the bedroom, but he’s always against everything I come up with. He enjoys the same vanilla ice cream every time he gets to the ice cream shop.
I’m trying to be nice. That’s like the understatement of the century.
“That’s too bad,” Madisyn says and gasps. She drops my phone against the bench, and it hits with a thud on the ground.
I just bought that phone a month ago. I slug her on the arm. Could she be any more careless? “Madisyn! If you break my phone, you’re paying to replace it.”
Madisyn grimaces and bends down to grab the phone. Flipping it over, she examines it. “Who is this guy?”
My breath catches in my throat when she brings up the selfie of my one-night stand. Luka and I grabbed a photo together before we went back to my place.
Exhaling a nervous breath, I snatch the phone back. “Bay’s father. My hot one-night stand. I should delete that picture, but I thought Bay might want to see it one day.”
“And he’s not in Bay’s life. Why?” Madisyn asks. She doesn’t avoid the tough questions.
I run a hand through my hair. My stomach is filled with butterflies. Just talking about him, makes me nervous. There’s also anger that bubbles up under the surface because he lied to me, and I fell for it.
“The dick lied to me, said he worked at the bar. It’s not like I even know if Luka is his real name. It’s for the best,” I say, wanting to drop the subject. I’m getting married in a few short months, and Luka will always just be a distant memory of the past.
Madisyn clears her throat. “I know him, Hannah. He works with Mikhail. His name is Luka Ivanov.”
The breath is stolen from my lungs, and I slump onto the bench, needing a minute to sit. "How long?" I rasp. Sweat beads at my forehead, and I hang my head forward, trying to exhale through my mouth while my stomach churns.
She slumps down beside me, a hand on my back. "A few months. I had no idea; what do you want me to do?" Madisyn asks.
"I'm going to be sick." Tonight is supposed to be fun, a girls’ night away from the house.
"Just breathe," she says, settling me down with deep breaths. "Focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth."
"It's not working." I'm trembling. My entire body is filled with a plethora of energy that I can't seem to release.
"Look at me, Hannah." Her voice is strong and steady, and while my vision wavers, she's my rock.
I glance up at her, and my breathing calms just a bit.