I’m late, of course, but she’s even later, and when she slides into the booth across from me she’s overflowing with both excitement and apologies.
“Don’t worry about it, James. I was late, too. And I don’t even have a full hour because I have a client coming. But what’s up with you?” Honestly, she’s bouncing so much it’s a wonder people aren’t staring.
“Two words,” she says. “Weekend. Anchor.”
My eyes go wide, and then I lean across the table and grab her hands, forcing myself not to squeal. “Jamie, my god, that’s huge.”
“I know, right?”
I’m not surprised—Jamie’s not only camera-ready gorgeous, she’s also incredibly talented. She’d tried her luck as an actress, but despite her hard veneer, she has a soft heart, and the sharks that swim in the Hollywood waters smelled blood and attacked. Journalism is different, though, and I really think she’s found her niche.
“Are you still going to get the reporting gigs? Or will you just be behind a desk?”
“Hopefully I’ll end up in the prime-time anchor spot—that’s where I’d like to be one day. But right now, I’ll file stories for the weekly edition and anchor the weekend.” Her smile practically lights up the room. “It’s really cool, right?”
“Cool? It’s amazing. I’m so proud of you,” I say, and I swear she actually beams.
“So how about you? Anything notable since I saw you? Normally, I’d assume it’s same-old, same-old, but in the last eighteen hours, I have a whole new job description. Considering your financial means, you might own Australia this morning.”
I roll my eyes. “No new real estate,” I admit as the waitress brings the Cobb salads I’d ordered for both of us before Jamie arrived. “But my mom called yesterday,” I add once the waitress is gone.
Jamie had been drizzling dressing over her salad, but she stops in mid-pour. “After you got home?”
I grab my fork and stab at a hunk of avocado. “On the island, actually. Sunday morning.”
Jamie puts the dressing down. “Okay, what? Wait, let me rephrase—what the fuck?”
My instinct is to keep poking at my salad, but I force myself to look up. And when I do, I see Jamie gaping at me, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open.
“You didn’t tell me?”
“It wasn’t—” I drag my fingers through my hair. “I’m okay, James,” I finally say. “Damien was there when she called, and so—”
“Yeah, I get that. But come on, Nicholas. This is me.”
I lift a shoulder, feeling oddly guilty. Because Jamie is my best friend and has been forever. But more and more, I don’t need her the way that I used to. I’ll always need her, of course. But I’m finally in a place where I can either work through my crap on my own, or I have Damien there to hold my hand and help me cope.
“I’m sorry,” I finally say, apologizing not for my silence, but for this gap that I fear is growing between us.
Her chest rises and she draws a breath and then noisily exhales. “Oh, god, Nicholas, there’s nothing to be sorry about. You’ve got Damien now, and you guys are so good for each other. And I have Ryan, and I know I’m dumping more of my shit on him than on you, and I guess that’s good, but—”
I reach across the table and snag her hand. “You’re still my best friend.”
Her shoulders dip as her whole body relaxes. “I know. You’re mine, too. But it’s different now. We’re both in relationships and you’ve got this whole family now with Syl and Jackson and Ronnie, and pretty soon you’re going to start having kids, too, and—”
“Whoa, there, cowboy,” I say, laughing. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
She looks sufficiently contrite. “Sorry. But you know what I mean.”
“I do. But different isn’t bad. It’s just different, right?”
“So we’re good?”
Her smile is wide and genuine. “We’re great.”
“So rewind—back to your mom. She called? Why?”
“I have no freaking idea,” I admit. “Said she was thinking about Ashley and my dad.”
“Huh.” From her expression, I can tell she’s as befuddled as I am. “Any particular reason she was thinking about them?”
“Not that she told me.”
“She’s up to something.”
I grimace. “Wouldn’t surprise me.”
Jamie violently stabs at her salad. “Well, fuck her. I mean, where does she get off calling you out of the blue and messing up your mojo.”
“Mojo?” I can’t help but laugh. “Seriously?”
“I’m just saying forget her.”
I wave my hand over my head as if shooing a swarm of gnats. “Already done.”
“And the rest of it?” Jamie asks, a mischievous lilt to her voice.
“Rest of what?”
“Duh. Hello. Babies. Following in Sylvia’s footsteps. What’s going on there?”
“What is up with you and the baby questions? I told you at Christmas that I’m overwhelmed enough with my job. It’s not exactly the best time to start a family.”
“And that’s the only reason you and Damien are waiting?”
I put my fork down. “You know it’s not.”
Jamie sighs. “You’re not your mom, Nik. For that matter, you’re not your sister or your dad.”