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One Week by Roya Carmen (1)

Chapter One

“WAKEY, WAKEY, LAZY,” I whisper in her ear.

A mess of tousled dark hair hides her pretty face as she turns to me. “Nooooo,” she whines, eyes squeezed shut.

I hate this. It breaks my heart every morning. I brush the hair out of her face.

She winces. “I don’t want to go to school.”

I smile. She says that every single morning. Yet, every night at dinner, she entertains us with stories of her day at school – she loves it. She just doesn’t enjoy getting up in the morning. She takes that from me. I have a hard time too. I typically press the snooze button about three times, all the while cursing my alarm clock.

“C’mon, Emma. It’s time to get up,” I tell her. “And it’s Friday!”

Her little brother is the complete opposite. I’m not sure where he gets that from. He’s always up early, raring to go and take on the day.

“I’m going to go wake up Theo,” I tell her, “and when I come back, if you’re up and putting on your clothes, I’ll give you a Kiss.”

By Kiss, I mean the chocolate, not one of my kisses. A mom’s kiss is nowhere near as powerful as candy. I know it’s kind of bad to give your kid chocolate first thing in the morning, but it’s called ‘motivation.’ If it gets her up in the morning, it can’t be that bad.

Theo is all smiles when I wake him up. His spiky blond hair is a mess, and he squints at me like he does every morning. “Love you,” he says, first thing every single morning. He grabs his glasses off his nightstand, and slips them on over his adorable nose.

The morning routine runs smoothly — a quick breakfast, teeth brushed, bags packed, a kiss goodbye on Daddy’s cheek (lucky Daddy, he’s still sleeping), and a short walk down the street to school.

Back to my day; I have breakfast and clean the kitchen, I return emails, and then head up to my studio in the attic, where I typically spend a few hours working on one of my latest paintings. I usually don’t notice when John gets up. He typically grabs a quick breakfast, which always includes a whey protein enhanced smoothie. That stuff tastes horrible — I don’t know how he manages to drink it. He’ll be on his office sofa for the next few hours, typing away. Then in the afternoon, he’ll pop by the gym. And then, more writing. And even more at night, late into the wee hours.

Some would say he lives a life of leisure, but he works pretty hard. He’s one of the lucky ones. A New York Times Bestseller, his crime fiction novels are devoured by masses of adoring fans.  

We often try to have lunch together. He kisses my cheek as I whip up some tuna on toast and a fruit salad. “How about spaghetti tonight?” he asks.

I smile. As long as I don’t have to cook, I’m happy. “Sounds great.”

John cooks every Friday night, and on Saturdays, we either order in, or go out. I only need to cook five nights a week – not too bad.

He squeezes in closer, and kisses my ear softly. “How ‘bout after lunch…”

A playful smile slowly traces my lips. He doesn’t need to say more. I know exactly what he’s hinting at. “We’ll see,” I say in a flirty voice. “If you’re a good boy, and eat all your lunch.”

This is my life. My perfect life. What more could I ask for?

* * *

Maeve gives me a tight hug. “How have you been?”

“Great,” I reply as we both settle at our usual table, the one by the cozy fireplace. “What’s new with you?” I ask as I wrap my fall jacket around the back of my chair.

An excited grin slowly curves her lips. I study her keenly with interest. She seems excited… happy. “What’s up?”

She presses a gloved finger against her chin, a twinkle in her eye. “I can’t tell you yet,” she says with a small pout. “We need to wait for Kayla and Corrie.”

My curiosity is officially piqued. I hate when people do this to me. I pout like a spoiled little girl. “Well, let’s get our coffee while we wait for them,” I suggest. This could take a while, since Corrie is often late. She usually strides in, dressed to the nines, a new pair of boots or shoes on, always fashionably late, of course. She always apologizes profusely, and it’s okay because we’ve come to expect it. That’s just Corrie.

The doorbell clangs as Kayla swoops in, full of life. She brightens up a space as soon as she enters it, with her colorful clothes and magnetic smile. “Hey, girls.”

The barista takes our orders, a chai latte for me, a cappuccino for Maeve, and a ginger lemon tea for Kayla.

We settle back to our table, and Kayla takes off her jacket. “What’s new?”

I sit up straight. “Well, Maeve’s got some news but she refuses to spill until we’re all here.”

Kayla rolls her eyes to the ceiling. “Well, that could take a while.”

We all laugh and reach into our satchels and bags for our notebooks and pens. Although Maeve, Kayla and Corrie were complete strangers a few years ago, they’ve all become best friends.

I still remember the day when I first saw the small blurb in our local paper — ‘A small journaling club looking for new members.’ As a long time journal keeper, I thought it’d be right up my alley.

I was so nervous when I first stepped into the quaint bookshop café in our old historic downtown. I’d never actually been in it, and that was quite a shame, because the place is just awesome. Rows of stacked books line the walls, and old antique tables and chairs dot the worn wood floors. A gorgeous fireplace centers the space, and a collection of eclectic teapots and coffee mugs decorate the walls and the bar, where they serve sandwiches, treats and drinks.

It seems so long ago now. Kayla welcomed me with open arms and a friendly smile. Maeve and Corrie showed up not long after. Throughout the years, there have been many new faces who’ve come and gone, but the four of us, we’ve always been a constant. The intimate nature of the club has led us to become fast friends — we know everything about each other. We don’t always share everything, just the stuff we’re comfortable with. I know all about the ups and downs of Maeve’s relationship with Peter, Kayla’s crazy dating stories, and Corrie’s issues with fertility, and recent separation.

The barista serves us our drinks just as Corrie finally makes an appearance. A little flustered, she bounces quietly over to us, as if she’s walking on clouds. Today’s outfit is fabulous; a vintage looking blue leather jacket with a silver fur color and tall grey suede boots. “The usual for me,” she says to the barista, a smile as wide as the day is long. “Sorry, I’m late again. Sadie was taking her sweet time again doing her business this morning.”

I laugh a little. Sadie is one of her adorable Pomeranians. She’s a bit of a diva, like her owner. “Thank god you’re here,” I tell her. “Maeve has some news and she’s been waiting for everyone to be here.”

We all turn to Maeve in unison, eager as puppies staring up at a treat.

Without a word, Maeve stretches her hand out to us. The diamond on her finger is striking; a square cut set on classic white gold.

“He finally asked you,” Corrie exclaims. “I’m so happy for you!”

Maeve is beaming. “It’s about time… I know.” She contemplates the ring on her finger. “I thought he’d never ask.”

Truth be told, we were all starting to wonder. Maeve’s been with Peter for seven years now, since they were both twenty — they’re college sweethearts. I’m so happy for her. Maeve is a good person. Among my small group of friends, she’s the one who is most like me. “Did you buy any wedding magazines yet?” I ask.

She reaches into her satchel. “Did I?” she says, and whips out three magazines.

“Wow,” Kayla exclaims. “That dress is gorgeous.”

Needless to say, there’s not a lot of journal entry sharing today. None at all, in fact. The journal entry scribbled in my notebook about loneliness will have to wait until next time. Sometimes our meetings are like that — sometimes we forget to talk about our journaling, all together. We just yap about our lives. We call ourselves a ‘journaling club’, but what we really are is a ‘friends club.’

“Well, I’ve got to run,” Kayla says. “I’ve got a class in thirty minutes.”

“Yeah, my shift starts in an hour,” Maeve adds. They both work on Saturdays. Maeve is a manager at a children’s clothing store, and Kayla is a yoga instructor and massage therapist. Corrie is at home like me, working on a small jewelry business. We actually have a lot in common, Corrie and I. She worked as a paralegal, and I worked as a Marketing Manager. We’ve both left our jobs to pursue our artistic passions, and raise children. Except for her, the children haven’t come yet. Her two Pomeranians are her babies.

“I should get going too,” Corrie chimes in. “Lots to do.”

“I’m going to stick around for a bit,” I tell them. “See you all next week.”

Saturday mornings are my ‘me time’. Maeve, Corrie and Kayla don’t have children yet. But I have two. And I adore them to death. They are truly the best things that have ever happened to me. It’s just… it’s just that sometimes I need a little break. My Saturday morning journaling meetings and my painting are my escapes. I just need an extra ten minutes today to check my social media. And when I get home, I’m all theirs.

I check my Instagram, and smile when I have ten new likes and a new comment. My Instagram consists mostly of a few selfies, the occasional photo of a fabulous meal I’ve prepared, small excerpts from my journal, and my art. I don’t post too many photos of my kids and family. I don’t really like the idea of random people looking at pictures of my children. I suppose that’s the paranoid Helicopter Mom in me. Most of my followers are strangers. I don’t know why the heck I care if strangers like my photos, but I do, for some reason. Maybe I like the attention, maybe I need the excitement, and maybe I’m lonely. I don’t know.

In just a few seconds, my actions are about to change my life, and set off a chain of dominoes. Just a few taps of my finger are about to turn my world upside down, shake it to its core, bulldoze right through my white picket fence. I just don’t know it yet.

Oblivious, I tap away...

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