At forty-six years old, Rosalie Hale McCarty was a force to be reckoned with—not because she was a partner at a major Philadelphia law firm and mother to three very rambunctious boys. She was gorgeous, efficient, and didn’t waste time with bullshit. When she arrived at my house seven minutes after I called her, she didn’t bother ringing the doorbell before entering. With a Wawa coffee cup in one hand and her BlackBerry in the other, she breezed into my living room in all her flawless blonde beauty. If she weren’t my best friend, she’d terrify me.
If I were to be completely honest, sometimes she terrified me anyway.
“Would you believe those motherfuckers were out of Splenda?” she said, walking right past me.
“Sure, make yourself at home.”
“Thanks, don’t mind if I do,” she called from the kitchen.
I leaned back against the sofa and took a deep breath. The banging coming from the other side of the wall only added to my anger at my husband. In all the years I lived here, I almost never heard my neighbors. This was especially true of the past two months during which the twin attached to mine was vacant. Of course, today would be the day new people moved in. As if the pounding in my head wasn’t already bad enough.
A minute later Rose re-emerged, her coffee in one hand and a tall glass of water in the other. She sat beside me on the sofa, then handed me the glass. “Calm down and start at the beginning.”
“I kicked Edward out.”
“I got that part; I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t. What’s this about your pre-nup?”
“What pre-nup?” I said bitterly. “For all intents and purposes, I don’t have one.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Apparently, I signed it without legal counsel so it won’t hold in a court of law.”
“I thought you used Esme’s attorney?” Her brow wrinkled slightly as she took a sip of coffee.
“So did I!” Just thinking about it made me rage again; I was certain if Edward were here, I’d bludgeon him to death. “Apparently, she hired an actor to pose as an attorney.”
Snorting, she wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “Just what I needed to start my day—coffee nasal spray. An actor? Are you serious?”
“Damn, rich people are inventive. How’d you find out?”
I thought for a moment. There was no way for me to explain this to Rose without outting Esme and her new boy-toy. As furious as I was with my mother-in-law, I didn’t want to break her confidence. At the same time, I desperately needed to talk to someone.
“This can’t go beyond us,” I said.
“I mean, you can’t even tell Emmett. I don’t want him to be tempted to tell Edward–”
“I don’t have all day,” she said, holding of the back of her hand and rotating her arm at the elbow.
“Esme’s dating Kate Fleury’s brother. She met him at Kate’s engagement party, which apparently Edward and I were also invited to. He declined without mentioning it to me and that made me furious.”
“Wait, how old is Kate’s brother?”
“I don’t know, around my age?” I shrug. “He’s old enough to be divorced.”
“Wow, go Esme. If anyone could pull off that kind of age difference, it’s her. Though the fact it’s her son’s ex-girlfriend’s brother is borderline incestuous–”
I cleared my throat.
“Sorry, I’m not trying to be gross here.” she said. “So as you were saying…”
“Anyway, this morning Edward talked about how his mother will probably ride his ass at work now that he’s joining her practice, blah blah blah. Without thinking, I let it slip that she’s not around enough to be hard on him. He asked what I meant, and I told him she was seeing someone without disclosing any additional details. He flipped out on me for keeping this from him, and I told him he was being a hypocrite and that I’d come clean with him if and only if he afforded me the same courtesy. I was expecting him to tell me about the engagement party. Instead, he told me about the fake lawyer at the signing of the pre-nup.”
“Damn. Is that why you kicked Edward out?”
She opened her mouth as if she was about to speak then closed it, narrowing her eyes.
“What?” I asked.
“It’s kind of a mess, isn’t it?”
“No; I followed the turn of events. I just don’t understand what the fuck the problem is.”
“The problem, Bella. Why am I here?”
“He lied to me.”
“Okay.” She drew out the last syllable and gestured for me to elaborate.
“That’s a pretty big problem.”
“That’s all?” she asked.
“Isn’t that enough?”
“I’m trying to remember last day I went without lying to Emmett about something.” She tapped her fingers against her coffee cup. “I honestly can’t.”
“Yes. In fact, just this morning when we were showering together, I told him he was still every bit as ripped as he was when we met. Honesty is over-rated. I mean, if it’s something that doesn’t make a difference and will only hurt feelings or start a fight—why not fib a bit? Marriage is about picking your battles.”
“Except this does make a difference.”
“How? Tell me something—do you have any intention of divorcing Edward?”
I thought for a moment. I kicked him out, yes, but that was mostly because I was livid and needed time to myself. Though there have been times I’ve wanted to kill him, I’d never once considered divorcing him. I couldn’t; he was the best part of me.
“And we both know if there was any chance of him leaving you, he would have done it long before now. I mean, you’re not the easiest person to love.”
“Thanks a lot, Rose.” I rolled my eyes. “That’s helpful.”
“What?” She threw up her hands, shrugging.
“Did you have a bowl of bitchy for breakfast this morning?”
“As if I need to supplement what comes naturally,” she said, laughing. “Look, Edward lied. And I agree, it was shitty. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything. So you’re still legally entitled to half if you split up. You’re not obligated to take the money. My advice? Get a massage and a pedicure and calm your ass down. Then call him and tell him to come home after work. Talk it through.”
“And Esme? She orchestrated the whole thing. In a lot of ways, I’m even angrier at her than I am with him.”
“Same thing. When you’re capable of having a calm discussion, invite her out to lunch and ask her. If you’re in a public place, you won’t say anything you’ll regret.” The banging from next-door resumed; Rose paused for a moment, listening. “That’s really annoying. How have you put up with it all this time?”
“I haven’t. The other half has been vacant since it was sold. I guess the new owners are moving in.”
“That would make me crazy.” She turned her focus to her BlackBerry. “Shit. I need to get to the office. Will you be okay?”
She gave me a quick squeeze before rising to her feet. “Let me know if you need me to swing by after work—especially if you pussy out and don’t call him.”
“Thanks, Rose.” I followed her to the front door in a bit of a daze. What she said made sense, I supposed. I knew this wasn’t a marriage-ending offense. Still, I couldn’t help but feel betrayed. Ultimately, this was about trust. I’ve never trusted easily.
Rose’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. I whipped my head around to see through the doorway; sure enough, Esme was standing on my front porch.
“Good morning, Rose.” She smiled at Rose before turning to me. “Hello, Bella.”
“I was just leaving.” Rose stepped past Esme but lingered behind her just long enough to mouth the words talk to her before hurrying off to her car.
I stared at the woman I’d come to love as if she were my own mother, torn between telling her to leave and asking her to hold me while I sobbed.
“Aren’t you going to invite me inside?” she asked.