Every day the life I’d known slipped further away from me, and the life I had threatened to swallow me whole.
We entered Fury Consignments, and I rushed to the burled wood coffee table near the entry. “I love this.” Its high-gloss shine was perfect for an upscale apartment or a downtown loft. Perfect for my old lifestyle. Maybe if I infused my new life with some reminders of the old one, I wouldn’t feel so out of place and lonely.
“It’s nice, but …” Ana flipped over the price tag, and we both gasped.
“Five hundred dollars?” I whisper-yelled. “Who has that kind of money in Fury?” A year ago, I wouldn’t have balked at laying down several big bills, but that was when I lived in a modern high-rise, worked as an executive assistant, and made fifty-five grand a year.
“What do you think of this?” I pointed to the ugly-ass table in the corner. It didn’t have the beauty, style, or grain of the burled table, but I could get used to it. After all, Fury didn’t have the nightlife, the options, or allure of Denver, but I’d adjusted.
Ana shook her head. “It’s fine if your last name is Planter.”
I leaned against a ladder-back chair. Tables and lamps, sofas and beds surrounded me, but I knew the consignment store had nothing affordable in my style. The peanut table was the worst. What had happened to me? I used to have good taste, but that was when I’d lived in Denver, dined in fine restaurants, and dated men who wore suits and cologne.
A man in jeans who smelled like hard work came closer. “A pretty fine piece at a good price.”
I rubbed my hand around the curve of the table. “All the corners are rounded, which means Blue’s head will avoid turning blue when he bumps it.” I kissed my five-week-old son’s bald melon and breathed in the combination of baby shampoo and innocence. The perfect scent on a perfect boy. Collisions with furniture were in the distant future, but moms took planning seriously. My life was all about him now.
“All these tables are making me think of food. I need to eat.” Ana smoothed her hand over her rounded belly.
“Are you kidding me? We just ate,” I blurted, before remembering I’d been a one-woman eating machine when I was pregnant. Baby brain was no joke.
“That was an hour ago, and I’m eating for two.” She looked around the secondhand shop. It couldn’t be helping that there were old signs for Coke and popcorn and something called an Abba Zabba, which seemed to be a sugary delight filled with gooey peanut butter. Even my stomach growled.
“I’ll get you real food after we find the perfect table,” I said, squatting next to the jumbo wooden peanut and fishing around Blue’s baby bag for my stash of protein bars. I was no longer pregnant, but I was always hungry. So was Blue. He never seemed to get enough time at the tit. Even now he stirred in the sling, his little mouth suckling toward my breast.
“What about this one?” Ana placed her hand on the round table that sat in the center of the room.
I handed her the snack bar and walked around it. “You think this is better?”
She took a bite of the bar and moaned in appreciation like she hadn’t eaten in years. “At least we can do something with this one.”
“Like what?” With her designer’s eye, Ana could make garbage look grand. “Not that it matters. There’s nobody in Fury for me to show it to. Unless you count old man Tucker.”
“Bob sure does have a thing for you.” Ana skimmed her fingers across the smooth wood.
I nodded and checked out the legs on the table. “He’s sweet.” Bob hadn’t just been sweet, he’d been sent straight from heaven, showing up with the crib and diapers out of the blue—part of the reason I named my son Blue.
The second leg of the table wobbled under my grasp, and the whole thing nearly toppled. “Not safe.”
Not that I could afford safe. I could hardly afford anything. When I’d moved into the house on Abundant, just doors down from Mona and Ana, I had a bed and little else. But within a week, my little bungalow was fully furnished. Fury might have had an angry name, but it was a town full of good people.
Ana knelt next to me and wobbled the leg. “Everything’s fixable.” She brushed her fingers across Blue’s light red fuzz. “Do you hear from his dad?”
“The best thing about Trenton Kehoe is his absence.” My baby boy didn’t look a thing like his dad except for his blue eyes, and I was waiting for them to change. “I do miss men, though.” I pulled Blue close to my chest. “What I really miss is being held. And, if I’m honest with myself, I miss orgasms.” They weren’t as good when self-induced. There was no buildup or anticipation. I couldn’t fake myself out. I didn’t have the willpower to pull myself to the edge and back off just to frustrate me. No, I was quick and efficient when it came to self-pleasure.
“You won’t be single forever.” She snapped the price tag from the round table and handed it to me. “This is the one.”
“You think?” She was right. Given that there were only a handful of coffee tables, this was the one. “I wish picking out a guy was so easy.”
A shit-eating grin spread across Ana’s face. “So, Bob is definitely out, huh?”
“Did I really move here?” At the time, I’d had nowhere else to go. Now I questioned the sanity of my decision. “I’m a single mother living alone in a dusty mountain town. I have nobody.”
We threaded our way through the cast-offs to the register. The sour-faced cashier took the price tag. “I’ll need $102.65.”
“So much for dining out this month.” I handed over my credit card, and Ana pulled me close to her side. She had that thoughtful look about her, the one that usually softened her face before she gifted me with some quote or words of wisdom.
“You’re not alone. You have Ryker and me. And don’t forget, Ryker is on his way to pick up Silas. They’ll be home tomorrow.”
“Why tomorrow?” It wasn’t that I was desperate to meet the man, although anyone south of sixty was appealing at this point.
“You know, male bonding and all that stuff. Besides, Silas hasn’t been back since that day, and Ryker thought he’d ease him in to it.”
“Seems wise.” I couldn’t imagine coming back to the place where my parents were slaughtered. “Do you think he’ll stay?”
“It’s hard to say. I know Ryker wants him to stay. But Silas needs a constant supply of endorphins to keep him happy.”
A puff of air rushed from my mouth. “I could show him endorphins.” I looked down at my now-sleeping baby. “Nothing ups the blood pressure like a baby with a high-pitched scream at two in the morning.”
I wrote down my address and arranged for delivery of the table. It was the only thing that hadn’t shown up on my doorstep on its own. Not bad for a woman who’d left everything behind. Somehow my less had turned out to be more in many ways.
The grumble of Ana’s tummy was my cue to take her to the diner. It had become our favorite place to eat. That was quite possibly because it was the only place to eat in Fury.
We walked across the street and slid into our favorite booth in front of the window. It was a good place to watch what life there was in a sleepy town crawl by.
We ordered the special, and I discreetly pulled out my boob for Blue to feast on. Once he was hooked up, I opened three packets of sugar and added them to my tea. I knew I’d pay for this later—anytime I had caffeine or sugar, the baby was up all night—but I needed it. I was exhausted.
“You think our kids will be best friends like us?”
“No doubt.” Ana dropped her hand to her stomach. “Maybe mine will be a girl, and they’ll fall in love and get married.”
“That would be nice,” I said in a dreamy way, knowing the reality would be they’d fight like siblings.
My phone rang, breaking my reverie, and once I saw it was my dad, I silenced it and pushed it away. He’d been calling nonstop all day but hadn’t left a single message. That meant no emergency. I took another look around the restaurant at all the seemingly functional families.
“Who keeps calling?”
“My dad.” I said it like I was throwing up the word.
“What’s up?” She followed my gaze. Mothers and fathers and kids in tight little units. Grandparents ogling the little ones. “You haven’t told them yet?” She reached across the table and snatched my hand into hers. “They’re your family. He’s their grandson. You have to tell them.”
“You’re my family.” My throat tightened, and my voice cracked. “And you’re all I need, which is why I wanted to ask you to be Blue’s godmother.”
It wasn’t how I planned to ask her, but if it got Ana off the subject of my family, then my question served two purposes. I hadn’t told my parents a thing. I’d managed to stay one step ahead of them the whole time, but something told me they were hot on my barely affordable Payless pumps.