Love, it’s a weird, uncanny and beautiful thing. And Sharon had been through it all. She had a lot experience at being one of those gaudy dramatic loving couples. She’d performed being in love; she’d held hands, stared meaningfully into eyes, and kissed passionately on street corners, flung drinks in restaurants and stormed self-righteously out of cafés. She’d spoken in glowing terms to her friends about her man of the moment.

But this, what she had with Grant, was truth—in all its divine glory.

He had come bounding into her life at a time when there was a part of her white-knuckling her heart. A part of her continued to fear, to mistrust, to regard each step towards a steady relationship as stepping barefoot onto black ice. And then, there he was—hands out stretched and unblinking. Her heart no longer palpitated with fear. It was serene and sure, positively azure in its certitude that she could trust this man. That this man, unlike the other men, won’t abandon her. This man, unlike the other men, was geared up for the long haul. This man, unlike the other men, believes in her in ways she can’t yet believe in herself.

The palpitations of her anxious heart remained, but for a more joyous reason. She was in love. And with the wedding only three weeks away, it was time to meet his family. His parents’ flight was due in 22.5 hours…not that Sharon was counting.

“My God, Look at it.” Joy said, twirling her spoon in her coffee cup.

“Damn shame she walked out of the house looking like that.” Sharon wrinkled her nose.

“What?” Grant took his seat and followed the ladies eyes across the café to a heavy set woman in white legging with panty lines to boot. “You guys staring at her?”

“Be quiet,” Joy fanned him down and muttered, “Disgraceful. Arrogant women like her always pay top dollar for their underwear. You know she’s paid like fifty bucks for those bloomers.”

“Yeah and she’s got 49.50 worth stuck up her ass.” Grant frowned while the ladies stifled their laughter. “It looks painful.”

Just passed the ill-clothed woman, four people stood from their table, said their goodbyes and left two of their companions seated. Squinting, Sharon was able to make out the male figure. It was Scott rubbing his eye, he looked exhausted. Seated opposite was a brunette whose hair draped her back like a curtain. Sharon’s heart skipped a beat when she caught a glimpse of the brunette’s radiant grin as she turned to bid farewell to the others. Undoubtedly she was Willow, the one Grant mentioned they’d met at the bar.

“Oh damn” Joy said, her teaspoon perched between her lips when she spotted Scott. “Why did I have to see this? What the hell is he doing with another woman?”

“Shut up. It’s not what you think” Sharon took a sip of tea and rose to her feet and traversed her way to Scott’s table.

“What is she going to do?” Grant asked, expecting to see furniture flying but instead Scott greeted her warmly, introduced Willow, and waved to him and Joy. They waved back. Sharon then walked back towards them beaming.

“I told you” She sat down, “It’s nothing, their study group met here for coffee. That’s Willow. They’re coming over so mind your manners.” When they arrived, she introduced Joy and Willow and they sat. Willows’ attraction to Scott was evident while he, on the other hand, was anything but interested in her—just as Grant had mentioned….although she wasn’t as dimwitted he’d made her out to be. She was articulate and bright; meek but no wallflower and she held her own amongst them. But, she was no Monica.

The cafes’ crowd thinned and gathered as time slipped by. It was after nine o’clock before anyone realized the time. Sharon’s phone buzzed noisily in her purse. She hastily retrieved it and excused herself from the table.

“Hey,” she said to Monica and leaned against the bricked hallway wall.

“Hey, I’m on my way from a marathon therapy session. I’ll be there in a second. I’m beat…..”

Oh SHIT! Sharon screamed to herself. Every possible excuse to keep Monica away from the café ran through her head but none made any sense. “How are far away are you?”

“I’m just pulling in. Where’s the stupid valet? I’ll see you. Bye.”

Sharon began pacing. Monica would be devastated to find Scott with Willow. There was no time to waste. She’d cut her off at the door.

The warm scent of Cafe Intermezzo’s signature pastries rushed Monica as she entered. The place was overflowing as usual and she was glad to see Sharon waiting. Her glee faded when she saw Sharon’s’ sorrowful demeanor. Its basis was clear when they arrived at the table. Willow greeted Monica kindly while Scott avoided eye contact. A brief hush fell over the table; no one knew what to say. The tension could be cut with a knife. Grant ran a quick mental calculation: How much would it be to buy off all the witness to the imminent bloodbath?

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Willow. Scott’s mentioned your name.” Monica lied for the benefit of all present. It seemed to work, everyone relaxed and she sat across from Scott.

“Scott talks about you all of the time,” Willow added, “it feels as though I already know you. It’s great to put a face with the legend.

Monica gave a short laugh and turned to Scott and asked, “How are you?”

“I’m doing well. Working, going to class, the usual.”

“Yeah, he’s been very busy these days,” Willow chimed in. “I have a hard time getting him to sit still. But I’m working on him.”
Tension; More tension, Heavy, intense thick tension.

“Good luck” Monica nodded with a grin to Scott. “He can be so stubborn.”

“I’m not that bad.”

“Please, I’ve been in town two days and this is the first time I’ve seen you,” Grant cut in. “Hell, you don’t even return my calls. I’m beginning to feel like your bitch.”

“Hey,” Monica spoke up. “Give Scott a break. He is risking his life for us.”

“Thanks, babe.” Scott blew Monica a kiss.

“Suck up.” Joy called Scott.

It was most definitely the wine. The rest of the evening passed smoothly. No cat fighting. No hair pulling. No tears or rendering on clothes. No tension…not even the smallest amount. To everyone except Willow, it appeared Scott and Monica’s relationship had turned a corner. A few months prior this scene would’ve ended in blood and gore whereas that night it ended with them gathered outside waiting to reclaim their vehicles. Scott and Monica passed flirtation glances…none of which was lost on Willow. She bore it bravely.

“I’d better go.” Monica said when the valet returned with her car. “I’ll see you at the Fitzpatrick’s for dinner?” she asked Scott.

“The study group is meeting.” Willow piped in.

Scott exhaled. “She’s right, But I’ll be there.”

Willow smiled but it was obvious she was heartbroken.

“Willow, it was nice to meet you,” Monica hugged her, said her goodnights to everyone else and turned her attention to Scott. “I’ll talk to you later.” She sauntered off to her car keenly aware Scott was watching her ass.

He was. Oh, he was.


A $25,000 cashier’s check, two attorneys, one accountant, and a signature—a simple signature was all it took to divide their partnership into thirds. Joy relinquished the check to the accountants to hold for four years and scribbled her name…binding her to Cara as an equal partner. Monica lay staring up at the ceiling of her darkened bedroom, her chest tight with grief and relief. Her business, her baby, was now mature and standing on its own after years of scheming, dogged hours, and losing the one relationship that made her feel alive.

Yet she smiled.

She smiled because through it all she’d found herself. The real her: Unmasked, naked, blemished, and bruised by her childhood, at times troubled by the necessary steps she’d taken to get ahead—to provide for her and Sharon. This was the real her and she was alright with it.

She was enveloped in the emotional aspic that was their lingering break up. Scotts’, apparition haunted her thoughts, and as much as she wanted to exorcise him, she liked him lingering, kind of like the rank, smell of flowers so past their prime that they approach the loam readiness of mulch. Their break up had been so very painful she’d fantasized of simply vanishing—of walking the streets invisible, in glorious obscurity. Just cease to exist. But Scott, even then, held her head above water and made her take another breath. Now he was a ghost…thawed, melted and soon, gone. And she was still standing…proudly so—full of herself and complete. And she knew, wherever he was, wherever he would be, he was smiling at his Pretty Girl.

Now, it was time to pull up stakes and head to Los Angeles. Joy was still green and managing the Southeast, steady as it was, wouldn’t be difficult as running the West Coast office and Monica’s name carried more weight. So it was settled, she was leaving. It was time to tell the Fitzpatrick’s and Scott.

Unbeknown to her, word reached the Fitzpatrick’s like a shovel to the back of the head. Mrs. Fitz flew into a fevered tizzy, and Mr. Fitz went to prevent Scott from making the biggest mistake of his life. The station house was empty as most of the firemen were in the yard washing the trucks and engines. Scott and Mr. Fitz retreated into Case’s office for privacy. They sat on either side of the desk and immediately Scott was unnerved.

“Tomorrow, at dinner, Monica will announce that she’s moving to Los Angeles and I’m here to stop you from overreacting,” Judging by Scott’s reaction, Mr. Fitz had been correct in heading him off. “This was a business decision; it has nothing to do with how she feels about you.”

“I don’t understand.” Scott said.

“Monica doesn’t need your understanding or condemnation. She needs your support. Do you imagine this is easy for her? She’s leaving the only place she’s called home…the only true friends she has. She needs to know that you care.”

Scott exhaled heavily. “I have to stop her.”

“Trying to stop her would be your folly.”

“So I’m just supposed to let her leave?”

“Yes,” Mr. Fitz sat forward. “Help her make the transition, show her that you’ll stand behind her, and in the end…let her go. You won’t do either of your any favors if you don’t.”

The weight of the room seemed to press down on Scott all at once and rational thought was beyond reach. “When is she leaving?”

Mr. Fitz rose from his seat. “She’s going to LA to sign the lease on the office and find a house day after tomorrow,” Scott’s eyes flew to him but he continued. “She’s moving the day after the wedding.”

“So soon?”

“I think she wanted to get it over with.” He went to the door. “We’ll see you tomorrow night.” He slipped through the door as Case entered.

Scott drew a long painful breath.

“The old man gave you bad news, buddy?” Case said plopping on the sofa with his crossword puzzle.

“Yeah, I’m going to need a couple of weeks off. I have some personal matters…”

“Sorry, can’t help ya! I’m short on men as it is.

“Pull a few guys from Dunwoody. Figure it out,” Scott rose angrily. “…or fire me.” He left.


The dining room at The Plaza wasn’t exactly the ideal setting for which Sharon imagined meeting Grant’s parents. She pictured it would take place in some dramatic scene from Dallas or Falcon Crest; his mother would loom over her like a tyrannical matriarch while his father, a shell of a man, would sip brandy until summoned.

Sharon, a tad disappointed, thought they didn’t remotely resemble the Ewing’s. Martin and Barbara Ellis were typically classic WASP couple. His mothers’ timeless beauty and cheerful disposition called to mind Dame Maggie Smith, she was stunning. His father, tall with the same ragged handsomeness as Grant, resembled Clive Owen on a good day.

Dinner was pleasant, not uncomfortable in the least. Still Sharon felt there was something going unsaid. Finally Mr. Ellis opened the conversation.

“Have you heard from Barry? She’ll need to sign the pre-nup within the next week.”

“Pre-nup?” Sharon questioned Grant.

“Yeah, the pre-nup. Barry, the family’s attorney should have the final draft ready for your signature in a few days.”

“You never mentioned a pre-nup.” Sharon smiled falsely.

“Why would he,” Mrs. Ellis chuckled. “Sweetheart, we never talk about money or property. Those unpleasantries are handled by our attorneys.”

“But…I…” Sharon stuttered. “I don’t want…”

“Don’t worry,” Mr. Ellis interrupted. “You’ve been provided for. We didn’t cut any corners.”

“But I don’t want anything.” She turned to Grant and said through a clinched smile. “I’ve never asked you for anything. Hell, I didn’t know anything about this. Why wasn’t I informed?”

“Relax, it’s all family business, nothing more than legal bullshit to protect the family.”

“Protect the family from what? Me?” Sharon’s irritation rose to the surface.

Mr. Ellis placed his fatherly hand on Sharon’s. “It’s all paperwork, nothing to worry yourself about. Grant is inheriting wealth from both families. He’s the only heir. When we die, everything is his.”

“Do you have to say it like that?” Mrs. Ellis pinched his arm. “What my husband is so eloquently trying to say is Grant is all we have. This pre-nup is in place only to legitimize your rights should something happen to him.”

For the first time, Sharon saw the loneliness in Grant’s eyes. He led such a full life, but in the end he was as alone as she. In that moment her love and respect for him grew leaps and bounds. His carefree nature, his philanthropy, his love of children, his desire to find someone who loved him for himself—it all made sense.

It all made perfect sense.

“The wedding is off.” Sharon’s napkin hit her plate with a clink. “Call it off.” She stormed from the table.

The maid brought coffee in the study after dinner. Scott and the Fitzpatrick’s had waited all evening for Monica to make her announcement. Mrs. Fitz had even practice her “shocked” expression. A gap in conversation presented the right moment.

“I…um,” Monica started weakly and cleared her throat. “While I have you all here, I should tell you that I’m moving to California.” The words spilled from her mouth before anyone could interrupt her. “The business has grown and we have no other recourse but to grow with it. Sharon will manage the New York office Joy will remain in Atlanta,” she looked to Scott. “And I’m going to LA.” You could’ve heard a pin drop as she awaited his reply.

“Good for you,” he smiled and asked softly. “Have you found a place yet?”

“No,” she barely choked before a lone tear streaked her cheek. “I’m leaving tomorrow. I…I…I have to sign the lease on the office. I’ve scheduled an appointment with a realtor, he is going to show me a few places.”

“Can I come along?”

Monica nodded frantically. “I’d really like that.”

“We’ll all go,” Mrs. Fitz proclaimed. “We’ll make a week of it…relieve some stress before the wedding.”

“Yeah,” Monica laughed in relief. “Thank you.”