Authors: Mari Carr
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Erotica
To any woman struggling to find her happily ever after. Never stop believing you are truly worthy of love.
And to Lisa. She knows why.
“Why the hell do you want to get married?” Laura Sanders asked as Kristen kicked off her shoes and plopped her feet on the ottoman.
“Why not?” Kristen had just blown Laura away by revealing she intended to find a husband before she turned forty this July.
Laura took a sip of her red wine. “Do you want me to make a list?”
It was New Year’s Eve. Another year had come and gone. For some reason, Laura thought she’d have more to show for this past one. Instead the entire twelve months had passed in the blink of an eye. One long blur of utter uneventfulness.
She had been equal parts annoyed and excited by Zoey’s suggestion that each of them think of a second-chance goal for the coming year. That was when Kristen had revealed her marriage plan. Shelly wanted to lose weight and Zoey wanted to get healthy. Josie had created some absurd sex list and Georgie—the commitmentphobe—had declared she was going to look up her old fiancés. All three of them.
While Laura hated resolutions—typically failing to follow through—perhaps being forced to speak her goal out loud to friends was the kick in the pants she needed to get motivated. She really didn’t want to spend another year in limbo-land.
Kristen leaned her head against the couch cushion and sighed. “No thanks, Laura. I don’t need a list. I’m well aware of your feelings regarding the institution of marriage.”
Laura lifted her feet to the ottoman as well. “I’m not completely against it, you know. I’ve seen plenty of people who have mastered the art, couples who are perfectly suited and wonderful companions. The problem is I’ve seen just as many marriages fall apart. It seems to me you’ve got this single-woman thing down pat.”
Laura wished she could say the same for herself. Having been divorced for only a year, she still had a hard time living on her own, coming home to an empty house that was always exactly as she left it. No dirty dishes, stray toys or laundry lying around. No tripping over her son’s tennis shoes as she walked in the front door. She’d gone from being a wife and mother in a chaotic, loud house to a single lady, living alone. Regardless of how often she’d wished for her own space and a bit of peace and quiet, the transition wasn’t as easy as she’d expected.
Laura twisted, tucking one foot under her to look at Kristen. “I don’t understand why you would give up all that freedom.”
Kristen grinned. “I’ve been free for nearly forty years. I need a change.”
Laura considered that. How could she fault her friend for wanting to shake things up in her life? Wasn’t that what she had done? She’d walked away from twenty-three years of marriage after waking up one morning and realizing she was miserable.
“Well, then I hope you find a man who will love you as much as you deserve.”
Kristen raised her eyebrow. “That’s it? That’s the extent of my lecture? Either you’re drunker than I thought or you’re losing your touch. What happened to the list you just offered?”
Laura laughed. “Blame it on the holidays. I’m too tired to give you shit today.”
Kristen tapped her wineglass against Laura’s. “Happy holidays to me, then.”
“Bitch,” Laura teased.
Kristen glanced around Laura’s living room, her gaze landing on the Christmas tree Laura dreaded having to take down. All the ornaments were new except for the handful of special ones her kids had made throughout the years and that she’d claimed when she packed up after the divorce. “I think you’re right, though. The holidays are exhausting. Whoever invented Christmas should be shot.”
Georgie crossed the room and claimed a corner of the ottoman. “I’ve been thinking about your goal, Laura, and I’m totally on board to help.”
Laura fought to restrain a groan. There was the need for motivation to make some positive changes…and then there was Georgie. Kristen chuckled under her breath and Laura shot her a dirty look.
“I appreciate the offer, Georgie, but I’ve already got some ideas.” Laura had foolishly admitted to her friends that she wanted to rediscover the girl she’d been before marriage and motherhood took her from fun loving to boring in nothing-flat.
“Oh yeah? What kind of ideas?” Kristen grinned, enjoying Laura’s unease far too much.
“Well…” She didn’t have a freaking clue. Not one. That was probably why the past year had been such a bust. She’d forgotten how to have fun. She knew her girlfriends considered her the mother hen of their group. Need a button sewn on or a hem stitched? Ask Laura. Need a killer recipe for a work social? Go see Laura. Need advice based on wisdom, rather than emotion? Laura’s the one to talk to.
Laura was sick of being the predictable old woman. There had been several times over the past few months when Zoey, Shelly and Georgie had gotten together to go clubbing, dancing until the wee hours. She’d tried to pretend it didn’t hurt her feelings that they hadn’t asked her to tag along. Once she questioned Shelly about why they hadn’t invited her. Shelly had simply said, “We didn’t think you’d want to go.”
And the sad part about it was…Laura probably would have turned them down.
“We’re waiting,” Georgie prompted. “How do you intend to get your groove back?”
Laura released a long, slow breath. “I have no idea.”
“I knew it. Hey, girls, come in here!” Georgie yelled for Zoey, Josie and Shelly to come back into the living room. The three of them had gone to the kitchen to slice more cheese and veggies and to retrieve a new bottle of wine.
“Anybody ready for a top up?” Josie raised the bottle of wine.
Laura lifted her glass so Josie could refill it. Something told her the next few minutes were bound to be painful—her friends were determined to put her on the hot seat.
“What’s up?” Zoey plopped down in a chair.
Georgie grabbed a piece of cheese from the plate Shelly had just set down on the coffee table. “Laura needs suggestions on how to have fun.”
Shelly claimed a chair near the television. “That’s easy. You should go out dancing with us.” Obviously sweet Shelly had worried they’d hurt Laura’s feelings by not inviting her before.
“I’d like that.” Laura used to love to dance.
“I’ll hop in on that outing too,” Kristen said. “Never going to find a husband if I’m always hanging out on Losers’ Lane with you gals. No offense.”
“None taken,” Josie replied with a laugh.
They all lived in a townhouse complex on Lovett’s Lane, but Kristen had decided early on in their friendship that the other name fit better. For whatever reason, life had pretty much dumped all of them here after their first attempts at happily ever after failed.
“That sounds like fun, but I hardly think one night of dancing is going to do much good. We need to go deeper, think outside the box.” Georgie’s enthusiasm told Laura there was no way in hell her goal would fail. Georgie simply wouldn’t rest until Laura was so young again, she’d need a damn babysitter at nights.
“You could always come to the gym with me. I’m thinking about signing up for a kickboxing class,” Shelly offered.
Zoey glanced at Shelly. “Kickboxing? Seriously? That sounds so cool.”
Shelly grinned. “I’ve never lost an ounce sitting on my fat ass, so I figure it’s time to get moving. Plus, I caught a glimpse of the instructor. He is incredibly gorgeous.”
Josie laughed. “I knew it. Knew there had to be a hot guy in there somewhere. Although I guess that would motivate me to exercise. You sure it has to be kickboxing? You can burn some serious calories in the bedroom too.”
“I’ll stick with the class.” Shelly lobbed a pillow at Josie as they laughed.
“Going to the gym sounds like a great idea, Shelly.” While Laura wasn’t exactly overweight, she’d noticed the number on the scale had begun creeping up over the last few years. Time to nip that in the bud.
“If you’re going for a new bod, then I think you should go all the way. Hip hairstyle, new clothes. Maybe you could lose the mom jeans and try some skinny ones?” Zoey suggested.
“Mom jeans?” Laura looked down at her pants. “I just bought these.”
Georgie made a face. “New doesn’t always equate to
. Zoey’s right. A new look would help. We’ll go shopping this weekend.”
“My hairdresser is amazing. I’ll give him a call and see if he can squeeze you in.” Kristen had been after Laura to cut her hair for months.
“Shit,” she muttered, as Kristen laughed.
Kristen tugged at Laura’s ponytail. “I’ve been trying to convince Laura to get an actual style—cut and highlights—for ages. I’m not sure this trim job she does herself even counts as getting a proper haircut.”
Laura never wore her hair down. Instead she always pinned it up in a long ponytail. It was a quick, efficient hairstyle she thought suited her.
“Fine. I’ll do the salon, the gym and get some new jeans. But, personally I don’t see how any of this equates to fun.”
Josie agreed. “It doesn’t. What you really need to do is get laid.”
Kristen leaned forward. “I’m starting to become alarmed by your recent obsession with sex, Josie.”
Josie grinned. “I’m horny. So sue me. All I’m saying is Laura might want to explore options other than changing her looks.”
“That’s what I was saying earlier,” Georgie piped up. “We need to think more along the lines of a bucket list, but nothing quite so morbid. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try, but didn’t because you were too busy playing the grown-up?”
Laura didn’t hesitate. “I missed the fun most of my friends had while they were away at college—fraternity parties, rock concerts, stuff like that. And I’ve always wanted to take a photography class. I love taking pictures. I think it would be cool to learn more about that.”
“They offer photography classes at the local community college. You should sign up,” Zoey suggested.
Laura liked the idea.
“You should have theme dinner parties too.” Georgie lifted the wine bottle to refill her glass.
“What the hell does that mean?”
Georgie’s eyes widened with excitement. “Just what it sounds like. I love theme parties. We could do an eighties night or a princess party or a slumber party where everyone shows up in PJs or one of those murder mystery game nights. There’s no way you can go to a party in costume and not feel decades younger.”
The idea was completely out there, totally Georgie, and just a little bit inspired. Laura loved planning and throwing parties, but that was something that had fallen to the wayside in her later married years as her husband became more withdrawn and depressed. “I’ll give that some thought.”
Kristen ran her finger along the rim of her glass. “I have to admit I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned smoking pot.”
While Josie and Zoey seemed completely shocked, Laura laughed. Leave it to Kristen to call her out. The two of them had gone out to dinner a few months ago and somehow they’d gotten onto the topic of Kristen’s wild college days. She’d admitted to smoking marijuana a few times and Laura had confessed she’d always wanted to try it. “Maybe I’ll start with the easy things and leave the illegal acts for next year. Don’t want to go completely off the deep end.”
Kristen shrugged. “Suit yourself, but Zoey is living with a musician. Bet he could score us some marijuana if you really want to try.”
Zoey laughed. “God. I can see Robbie’s face now if I asked for pot.”
“Oh,” Georgie said, “and one more thing. You have to join Facebook. Look up some old friends from high school and start reminiscing. That’s a great way to kick-start your journey back to youth. They’ll remember things you did that you forgot about. It’s the perfect place to start. I bet by the end of the year, your December status updates will be so fun and young and hip, you’ll have trouble remembering the woman who’s sitting here with us today. It’s the year of Laura. I can just feel it.”
Laura sat back, amazed. In fewer than ten minutes, Georgie had given her the perfect plan and a much-needed pep talk.
Suddenly the New Year wasn’t looking so bad after all.
Hello Facebook. This is my first status update. I feel like I should say something exciting, but considering I currently only have five “friends”, I think I’ll just say I’m here. Damn. That was boring.