Home > California Girls(10)

California Girls(10)
Author: Susan Mallery

“Okay,” she said slowly. “You’re right, it is.”

He looked from her to his drink and back. “Don’t take this wrong, but I get the impression you’re just not that into me.” His mouth curved up slightly. “Ignore the movie reference.”

She honestly didn’t know what to say. While he was nice and all, she wasn’t the kind of person to get all giddy about a guy. But how to say that without making it sound like she was blowing him off?

“I like you a lot,” he continued. “I think you’re great. Smart and interesting and pretty. But this can’t be one-sided.” His dark gaze met hers. “Don’t get mad, but is it possible you’re a lesbian?”

She sagged back in her chair and glared at him. “No, I’m not. Jeez, why do people ask me that? Is it the short hair? You know that’s a cliché, right? I’m not gay.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. The problem isn’t men, it’s me. I’m just not good at relationships. I don’t get the appeal. I have a great life. I have friends and my family and my work. So why do I need more? Why do I need to be paired up? I just don’t have that in me. As for the lesbian thing, I’ve thought about that a lot and I’m honestly not interested in women sexually. I went to college, I could have experimented and I didn’t. It’s not about wanting to be with a woman.”

“I’d wondered.”

“Now you know.” She leaned forward. “Not everyone has to pair up every single second. I get there’s a biological element to it, but that was established back when everyone died before they were thirty. I don’t think it’s necessary these days, but we still do it and maybe I don’t want to. I don’t think that means there’s anything wrong with me.”

“I don’t either.” His voice was annoyingly mild. “Have you had sex?”

She wanted to pound her head against the table. “Yes, I’ve had sex. With a man, before you ask. Really? You think a penis is going to make this better?”

“I just wondered.”

“It was fine. Nice, but a lot of things are nice.”

She waited for a smart-ass comment that the guy must have been doing it wrong and that he could save her or change her or convince her.

But instead he said, “It sounds like you’ve figured out exactly what you don’t want and I’m on that list.”

“What? Clark, no. That’s not what I meant.”

“Zennie, I started this by suggesting you’re really not that into me, and nothing you’ve said has changed my mind. I think you’re terrific and I wish this had worked out. I’m really sorry because I’m going to miss you, but I don’t think you could say the same thing about me, could you?”

Instead of waiting for an answer, he put two twenties on the table. “To cover the bill,” he said, before he stood. He hesitated only a second, then walked out of the restaurant.

Zennie sat there, not sure what had just happened. Obviously she wouldn’t be hearing from Clark again. Normally she was the one ending things, but he’d beaten her to it. She was okay with that, she told herself. It wasn’t as if she was in love with him. They barely knew each other. Now she could return to her regularly scheduled life.

As she got up and started for the door, she realized that in the space of twenty-four hours, both she and her sister had been dumped. Not that what had happened to her was anything when compared with what Ali was going through. Still, they were both now single. Their mother would be less than pleased, that was for sure. Her dream of grandchildren was fading by the second. Poor Finola—it was going to all be up to her. At least they could count on one of their relationships staying strong, no matter what.

Chapter Five

Sunday morning Ali started her day with yet another hangover, only this one was emotional rather than liquor-induced. After getting her new phone and going to two movies, she’d come home to face the reality of her broken engagement. She’d spent Saturday night looking at pictures of her and Glen, had played their favorite songs and sobbed until she was empty of tears. Then she’d slept on the sofa again, fighting dreams of standing in an unfamiliar church, surrounded by everyone she’d ever known, waiting on a man who never showed up. She woke up with a sore back and determination that she was going to be a grown-up, regardless of how much she didn’t want to.

She fixed herself breakfast using the groceries Daniel had left. While her omelet was no one’s idea of a thing of beauty, all the elements were there. She ate it, then filled her mug with coffee and opened the folder he’d dropped off the previous day.

There were a half dozen articles on what to do to cancel a wedding. One even provided a checklist. She read a couple, then closed her eyes and told herself it was okay. She could get through it—only, the concept was daunting. Basically canceling a wedding was the same as planning one, but in reverse. She was going to have to print out all her contracts, read them for terms, then contact her vendors. Payments would be due for some, regardless. She was pretty sure everyone had required a cancellation clause. Given that the wedding was nearly seven weeks away, the payments might not be too horrible, but still.

Because he made so much more than her, Glen had been paying for most of the wedding. Her parents had both claimed poverty and had offered her a thousand dollars each. She’d used that money to pay for her dress. As Glen had been the one to walk away from their relationship, she doubted he would be very willing to cough up any cash to pay for what remained. Regardless, she was going to have to figure out a way to make him cover at least half of what they still owed. She’d signed all the contracts in good faith and...

She groaned. She’d signed all the contracts. Not her and Glen, just her. She’d been the one to find the various vendors. Glen was always so busy with travel. So if he didn’t come through, she was going to totally be on her own. Not a happy thought.

She glanced at the to-do list and wished she hadn’t already wasted her first-of-the-morning groan. Item number two, after informing vendors, was to tell the guests.

Humiliation flooded her. All the people she loved most in the world were going to know Glen had dumped her. All her friends and his friends and everyone she worked with. She was going to have to come clean.

She pulled out her new phone and started a text to him.

What the hell happened?

After a second, she deleted that and tried again. We have to talk. We have a wedding to unravel.

She started to put her phone down only to realize he was answering her right away. She waited a minute or so, then gasped when she read his message.

I never wanted to get married. This is on you.

“No!” Ali came to her feet, glaring at her phone. “No way, you jerk.” She typed furiously.

This is not on me. You proposed. Until that moment, I hadn’t said a word about marriage. You bought a ring and you proposed. This is on both of us. There’s a lot to undo and you should help. I also expect you to pay for half of what’s left.

The three dots appeared and she waited.

I’m not going to help but I’ll send a check.

She supposed that was something. She hesitated for a second, then typed, Want to tell me why you ended things and why you couldn’t tell me yourself?

More dots followed by, I don’t want to be with you anymore and I didn’t want to listen to you beg.

“What? Beg? In your dreams, you sick bastard.”

She almost threw her phone again before coming to her senses in time. This was good, she thought. Better to suffer before the wedding than to have married him, popped out a couple of kids and then discovered he was a total asshole. Beg. As if.

Tears burned, but she blinked them away. Just send the check, she typed and tossed her phone on the sofa.

After pacing back and forth a few times, she managed to regulate both her breathing and her temper. There was lots of work to be done and she was the only one showing up. She would do the right thing and accept that she was building her character. Once everything was taken care of, she would find someone to make a voodoo doll of Glen and then stab it over and over again with a very sharp, very large pin.

She got a pad of paper, used her all-in-one printer to make a couple of copies of the checklist, then sat down to figure out what to do when. Contracts, vendors, guests and a thousand things more, she thought.

Two hours later, Ali had a rough idea of all the work that had to be done. She’d read a couple of the contracts and had learned that she was on the line for cancellation fees for sure. The venue—a building and garden high up in the foothills at the north end of the valley—would bill her for the full amount unless they could book the space within two weeks. Ali hoped all their talk about a waiting list was true. The same with the bartenders and the caterer. She wouldn’t be able to get anyone on the phone until Monday, so she was going to have to cross her fingers that it worked out.

The florist had a kinder, gentler contract. She could get back 75 percent of the total amount due for the flowers, which was about the amount of her deposit. Yay on that. She was stuck with the dress. It was bought, paid for and altered already. No way she could return that.

While there was more to deal with, the last issue Ali wanted to solve today was notifying all the guests. She didn’t want to have to make a bunch of phone calls, which meant doing another mailing. She had the addresses in a file on her computer, so in theory all she had to do was get something printed and send it out.

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