“Okay, you’re absolutely positive about this?”
“One-hundred-percent positive. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
“And you’d tell me if you weren’t, right?”
“I’m your best friend, Heather. Of course I would.” A beat of silence passed. “But now you have to give her over.”
I glanced down at Faye, my six-month-old baby daughter. She let out a coo, a big smile on her face.
“Okay, kiddo,” I said. “Hope you’ll be good without me for one night.”
After taking a deep breath, I handed her over. Julia, my best friend and Faye’s babysitter for the night, took her into her arms and brought her close.
“Hey, little baby!” she said, wiggling her finger in front of Faye’s face. “Who’s the cutest little girl?” Then Julia flicked her big brown eyes up to mine. “After my own kid, of course,” she said with a warm smile.
“Naturally,” I said, then shook my head. “This is so weird. I feel like I’m being a negligent mother or something.”
“Oh, please,” said Julia. “I’ve seen how you’ve been since you had Faye—if anything you’re a helicopter parent in the making.”
“It feels so wrong, you know?” I said, my eyes still on Faye. “Me going out and having fun while you’re looking after my kid.”
“It only feels wrong because you’re a worrywart,” said Julia, gently rocking Faye in her arms. “You’ve been all about this girl since she came out of you, and you deserve a night off. Besides, you’re not leaving her with a stranger—this little munchkin’s going to have her first baby sleepover with Melanie. I bet it’s going to be the start of a lifelong friendship.”
I smiled. “It’s a nice idea,” I said. “And you’re right—it’ll be good for her to hang out with another baby, even if they just roll around and babble at each other.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Julia. She stepped back from me, giving me a once-over. “And besides, look at you! You look hot as eff.”
I glanced down at the dark blue cocktail dress I had on. “You think so?” I asked. “I still feel like I haven’t finished losing the last of my baby weight.”
“That’s because you’re crazy,” said Julia. “Even when you were nine months pregnant you were one of those insanely lucky women who stayed thin and just had a baby bump. You barely had anything to lose.”
“You’re saying all the right things,” I said with a smile. I ran my hands over the dress as I stepped over to the wine bottle that Julia and I had already had a glass from. “It still feels weird to be wearing something like this. I think other than going to work, it’s the first time I’ve had anything on besides sweatpants since I had Faye.”
“All the more reason to go out tonight,” Julia said. “Go out there and fetch yourself a man with that hot bod of yours.”
I shook my head, a smile on my face. I tucked my strawberry-blond hair behind my ears and sighed.
“You’re making it sound so easy,” I said, turning back toward Julia. “‘Just go out there and get a man.’”
“Because it is that simple,” said Julia. “Lady, you’re gorgeous. Guys out there are going to be smashing barstools over each other’s heads just to get a chance to talk to you.”
“It just…feels weird,” I said. “Going out there and trying to find someone when I’ve just had a baby. I thought getting pregnant would be the end of stuff like this. I thought Brad and I were going to…” I trailed off, the mention of Faye’s father, the man who’d left me a few weeks after finding out I was pregnant, bringing back memories that were still raw.
“Don’t even worry about it,” said Julia, still rocking Faye. “Sure, maybe in a perfect world you’d be living happily ever after with Prince Charming. But you got dealt a bad hand.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
“It’s the right way to put it. You did everything right—you were about the best girlfriend you could be and were so ready to be a mom.”
I nodded. “Brad seemed so excited about it, too. I was so worried to tell him, but when I did, he was just as happy as I was. That’s what I thought, at least.”
“Maybe he got scared,” said Julia. “He may have seemed sweet and kind before, but he showed you his true colors when things got real.” She waved her free hand through the air, dismissing the topic. “Anyway! This is the last thing you should be thinking about right now. Tonight, you’re going to go out and have fun. You’re going to have some wine, maybe even do some dancing, and who knows after that?”
I chuckled. “You’re making it sound like I’m going out to a royal ball or something.”
“Hey,” said Julia, stepping toward the window in my apartment and pulling open the curtains, revealing the glittering Manhattan skyline beyond. “You forget what city you live in? Anything can happen here.”
“You’re such a romantic,” I said with a small smile. I took my phone out of my bag and checked the time. “Shoot. I need to get going if I want to actually have this night out.”
“Good call,” said Julia. “Time for me to take this little darling to my place.”
We both grabbed our things, Julia grabbing the diaper bag, and I took Faye from Julia and held her close. Faye let out an adorable giggle as I held her, her gorgeous blue eyes shimmering.
“Aw, my little lady,” I said. “It’s only going to be one night, but I’m going to miss you like crazy.”
Faye cooed again, grabbing onto my finger with her tiny little hand as I stroked the soft skin of her face.
“Hardly even twelve hours,” said Julia. “You still want to meet for lunch?”
I opened the front door of my little apartment and let Julia out first. Then I locked the door behind us.
“Yeah, definitely. You’ve got Faye tonight, and I’ll take Melanie tomorrow.”
“Such a good team,” said Julia.
“Pretty convenient, us getting pregnant at around the same time,” I said as we headed down the stairs of my walk-up. “Couldn’t be any more perfect if we’d planned it.”
“I’ll say,” said Julia. “Okay. Go out there and have some fun. And if I hear that you didn’t talk to a single guy, I’m going to be really disappointed. I’ll wag my finger at you and everything.”
I laughed, still holding Faye close.
“But you’re going to have to give up the kiddo first,” Julia added.
“I don’t know,” I said, looking back down into Faye’s eyes. “You sure I can’t take her with me?”
“Maybe you could,” said Julia. “She looks like she’s got what it takes to be a party baby. And one way to find out if she can hold her booze.”
“Julia!” I said, letting out another chiming laugh.
“I kid, I kid,” she said. “But seriously, hand over the munchkin.”
“Bye, sweetie,” I said, leaning down and planting my lips on Faye’s almost impossibly pudgy cheeks. “You promise I’m not being a bad mom?” I asked Julia as I handed Faye to her.
“I promise,” she said. “The worst thing you could be doing right now is not giving yourself a chance to blow off some steam every now and then. Seriously, you’re killing this whole ‘single mom’ thing—you deserve more than a night off as far as I’m concerned.”
“Aw, thanks,” I said. I had no idea what I’d do without Julia. When Brad left, I felt like I was alone in the world. But the two of us, both pregnant—though she was still with her husband—had each other’s back. The girl was a lifesaver.
“Okay,” she said. “Time to get going. Have a drink for me, and I’ll see you for lunch tomorrow.”
One more hug for Julia and one more kiss for Faye, and they were off. I stood still for a time on the busy sidewalk, watching them move down the block and disappear around the corner, pedestrians moving around me like I was a rock plopped down into the middle of a river.
“Okay,” I said out loud. “Time to have fun.”
The street outside my building in Greenpoint bustled with Friday-night activity, young men and women gathered in groups as they headed out for the night. It was hard for me to believe that only a year ago I was one of those kids, nothing on my mind but partying and having a good time.
How quickly things can change.
The evening air was warm and mild. The recent July heatwave thankfully easing up for the time being.
The idea of having fun was so strange to me. I’d spent the last six months since Faye’s birth so wrapped up with her that I’d almost forgotten that I was my own person. Not that I was complaining—I was more than happy to give every little bit of myself to my baby girl. But it left me wondering just what the heck I was supposed to do with myself when I was alone.
Like right then. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk, trying to remember what I did when I wasn’t a mom.
Then it occurred to me.
“Booze!” I said, sticking my finger into the air as if I was a detective who’d just figured out a breakthrough clue. You drink booze when you want to have fun, right? And besides, I wanted to be a good guest, and not show up to the party empty-handed.
I laughed at myself as I started off toward the liquor store. It was almost as if I had to relearn how to be social.
The fresh air felt great on my exposed legs and arms as I headed down the block. I caught sight of myself in the glass front of a closed store, and I took stock of how I looked out of the corner of my eye. As far as I could tell, I was looking pretty trim. Sure, my boobs were still totally huge, but that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. I’d been making sure to eat right and sneak in exercise when I could, and it looked to be paying off. I was getting back to my normal shape, albeit with a bust that I couldn’t believe was mine.
But what did it matter if I looked good? Was I really going to go out and meet a guy tonight?
I loved my baby girl to death, but a nagging thought in the back of my mind had been that my dating life was about to get complicated. Not only was I still dealing with the fallout of Brad leaving me, but now I was a single mom, and I wasn’t optimistic enough to believe that that was exactly what most guys had in mind when they pictured their ideal girlfriend.
I did my best to put the thought out of my head as I stepped into the corner wine shop. The air inside was chilly, the sight of delicious red wine hitting me as soon as I entered. I walked up to the reds, my eyes scanning over the labels.
Truth be told, I didn’t know all that much about wine. I liked red, but I didn’t like ones that were too sweet. Usually, I just went for the bottle with the coolest-looking label.
I continued on, my eyes flicking from bottle to bottle. Finally, I settled on a bottle of pinot noir with a nicely sketched picture of a duck on it, which worked for me.
My eyes locked on the bottle, and I kneeled down to pick it up. But as soon as I reached out to grab it, another hand shot out and collided with mine. I stepped back, shocked by the sudden touch of my skin against someone else’s.
“I’m sorry,” I stammered out. “Wasn’t paying attention, I guess.”
But when I glanced up at the person I bumped into, I nearly jumped out of my heels.
He was freaking gorgeous.