Erica Hayes had spent the better part of the weekend sending back the wedding gifts. Writing the apologies was the hardest part and as much as she hated doing it, the truth was that she could not stand having gifts that reminded her of the wedding that was supposed to take place. She took a deep breath when she was done writing the last note and put it in the envelope. She never really did understand why the woman was always left to deal with the mess in the aftermath. She always wondered why it couldn’t be the other way round. Maybe for once men needed to have a taste of what life was like when the shoe was on the other foot. She sat down and sighed before switching on the TV. From the corner of her eye, she could see her phone screen blinking on and off. She had put her phone on silent mode and unhooked her house phone. She needed her space. She needed the silence. And it was better that way because every time her phone would ring it would be some person with heartfelt apologies about her wedding and honestly she’d heard enough of that already.
As she sat there, she thought of Eli and the times they’d had. But even though she was trying to focus on the better days of the relationship, her memories seemed set on the day she busted Eli cheating…
It was on a Thursday afternoon and she was feeling on top of the world as she walked to her white BMW.
“You really showed them, Hayes,” Morris Kirkland, her boss said with a smile.
“Thanks, Mr. Kirkland,” she said with a smile. Morris leaned on the hood of her car and looked at her.
“You keep that up and I will definitely be seeing you in the partnership list soon,” he said. Erica smiled and nodded.
“That is perfect because I have really been wondering when that raise was going to come,” she said. Morris smiled and then laughed.
“At this rate, sooner than you think,” he said before he walked away leaving Erica standing there with butterflies in her tummy. She could not help but feel proud of herself. She had taken on one of the most difficult cases she had ever heard of and she had killed it. A five million dollar settlement was not something people expected especially since the initial offer had been four hundred thousand dollars. Actually, no one had seen that coming, not even the other lawyers. Everyone thought that she would probably get a million or a million and a half, not more than that. Guess everyone was more than a little shocked when they heard the ruling.
As soon as she got in the car, she cranked up the radio and smiled to herself as she sang along to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.
“Oh yeah. There ain’t no school like the old school,” she thought as she sang along. She passed by Antonio’s Grill, one of her favorite restaurants. She had made it a habit to get a celebratory dinner of ravioli and cherry tomatoes from Antonio’s and as usual, she always got two dinners. She had just walked out of Antonio’s when she decided to give Eli a heads up and let him know she was on her way.
“That’s odd,” she thought when Eli didn’t pick up. “Maybe he is in the bathroom or something,” she thought as she started her car. She shrugged and buckled in before she began driving home. She had considered getting a touch up on her hair but she shrugged the thought off. “If it was good enough for the jury, then it is good enough for Eli,” she said to herself as she caught a glimpse of her reflection.
Erica liked to consider herself as a small person with a big personality. She had learned to love and appreciate her height the day she discovered high heels. After spending her years in high school and college being the short girl, she had made a decision to see her glass as half full especially since she was the most promising student in her class. After college, she got into the prestigious Kirkland & Smith, the leading law firm in the country and according to Forbes, the third largest firm in the UK and US combined. Most of her classmates were jealous since she was earning almost triple what they were making in her first year alone. Two months into the new job, Erica had already earned a name for herself. She was like the Bethany Horowitz at Kirkland & Ellis, small but dangerous.
When she finally got home, she looked at her reflection in the mirror before she pulled out the pin that held her loose bun in place, letting her thick luxurious brown hair flow on her shoulders. She grabbed the takeout boxes from Antonio’s Grill and stepped out of the car but when she saw her reflection in the driver seat window, she frowned. She put the boxes on the car roof before she took off the jacket she had on leaving her in a cream colored pencil button down knee-length dress. Braving the cold Vermont weather would definitely be worth it in a few minutes. She twisted her head to the side wondering what to do to look a little sexier, not that she needed any help or anything.
“A button or two should do the trick,” she thought as she undid two buttons –and then a third. A smile played on her lips when she saw how perfect her cleavage looked. It was like looking at two amazingly perfect cushions on her chest. She grabbed her bag and the takeout boxes before she walked into the house.
“Eli! Babe I’m home,” she announced when she walked into the three bedroom house she shared with her fiancé. She looked around the living room and raised an eyebrow. There were two wine glasses and some Chinese takeout boxes. The TV was on but there was no sign of Eli. She shook her head as she put her bag down and kicked off her shoes before she began clearing the table. This was classic Eli. He would always entertain his friends and forget or ignore to clean up. “Too bad you ruined your appetite. I brought us ravioli for dinner and you know what that means. I won!” she said excitedly as she walked the two glasses to the kitchen. She put her hands on the counter and wondered why Eli was not answering. A smile played on her lips when she realized that Eli must have been in the bathroom. He hated talking while on the can. He always said it was bad manners. But Erica could not wait to share her good news. She quickly made her way out of the kitchen and began walking down the hallway. But when she touched the doorknob, her heart skipped a beat. She saw a shoe outside her bedroom door, a shoe that didn’t belong to her. She tried taking deep breaths as she walked towards her bedroom. There was no telling what she would find. Her mind was going crazy with all the different but possible scenarios waiting for her on the other side of the door. When she got there and pushed the door open, she gasped in anticipation but all she saw was an empty bed. An empty unmade bed. She looked around and blinked back tears when she saw a black satin skirt and a flowered blouse on the floor. She could hear the shower running in the bathroom and the clothes on the floor along with the unmade bed told her more than she needed to know. But for some reason, she found herself slowly walking towards the bathroom. She wanted to stop herself but for some crazy reason, she couldn’t.
“Oh my God,” she said in a low voice when she opened the bathroom door and came face to face with a naked Eli who was pinning a naked woman to the bathroom wall. She opened her mouth to speak but she was not sure what she was supposed to say. She gave him a disappointed look before she pulled off the princess cut engagement ring and threw it at him. She spun on her heel and walked out of the bedroom leaving Eli calling out to her but she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear anything he had to say. All she knew was that the wedding was off and she could not stand being in that house a second longer. As the tears finally began rolling down her cheeks, Eli chased after her as she ran out to her car and started the engine. As she drove away, the red Prius parked opposite her house finally registered in her mind. She had seen it before, many times before…which meant that this, Eli’s indiscretions had been going on for a while. As she drove off, she could not help but wonder if he had cheated on her because she was always busy working.
“No, this has nothing to do with you, Erica. He made the choice to cheat because he didn’t deserve you,” she told herself as she drove off but even those encouraging words were not enough to make her feel better about herself. The next thing she knew, Eli’s stuff was gone from the house. He had moved out and moved on with his life without giving her as much as an explanation. And even though Erica knew she deserved an explanation, she didn’t really want anything that reminded her of Eli’s betrayal.
Erica was staring at the ceiling with the sounds of Pierce Morgan in the background when she heard her apartment door open. She rolled her head to the side to see her sister Emily and her longtime friend Cassandra walking in.
“That officially marks the last service provider canceled,” Cassandra said as she sat down next to Erica.
“Thanks guys, I couldn’t have done this without you,” Erica said forcing out a smile.
“By the way, you should really lock up. The world is a dangerous place to be in nowadays,” Emily said in a cheerful voice. Erica looked at her and shook her head.
“I literally live in a building practically owned by the police department,” she said. That may have not been reason enough but for her it was enough. It had always been enough knowing that eighty per cent of her neighbors had firearms; legal firearms.
“Well, we came bearing gifts,” Emily said as she pulled out a bottle of champagne from the brown paper bag she was carrying. “We pinched it from the caterer’s van. I mean, they shouldn’t get to keep everything right?” she asked.
“Yeah, they are keeping the security deposit,” Cassandra said matter-of-factly. Erica looked at the two and shook her head.
“I hate to burst your bubble guys but you do know that bubbly is usually used for celebrating stuff right?” she asked. Emily and Cassandra looked at each other and smiled before Emily popped the bottle.
“Well, we are celebrating,” Emily said. Erica raised an eyebrow. She wanted to ask what her sister meant but she was too tired to let her brain work out the kinks. “Well, you and Eli are officially over and trust me, if ever there was a reason to celebrate, this is it,” Emily added with a smile. Erica shook her head and grabbed the bottle from her sister before taking long gulps from the bottle.
“You do have glasses, right?” Cassandra said as she held her long dark hair up in a bun. Erica put the bottle down and stifled a burp. “Well,” Cassandra pressed. Erica rolled her eyes and walked to the kitchen. She caught a glimpse of the matching his and her mugs. Normally, she would have smiled and probably held Eli’s cup in her hands, maybe even kissed it at some point. She sighed and dumped the two mugs in the trash causing Cassandra and Emily to run into the kitchen. “Are you okay?” Cassandra asked when she and Emily walked in.
“Yeah we heard something break,” Emily said.
Erica turned around and smiled at them. “Never better.”
Emily looked inside the bin and smiled. “I also thought a little spring cleaning could do this place some good,” she said.
Erica smiled and reached for the wine glasses.
“So, what exactly are we drinking to?” Erica asked as she leaned against the counter.
Cassandra handed her a glass and smiled.
“There is the obvious reason, freedom from Eli but then again we could also just celebrate the fact that you never have to be in the same room with his family ever again,” she said. Emily laughed and Erica nodded. Cassandra was right. One of the best things about her and Eli being over was never having to spend a day with Eli’s judgmental family ever again. She raised her glass and took a long sip.
“You know what I don’t get?” Emily started as she looked through Erica’s fridge. “The fact that men get off so easily.” Erica’s eyes lit up when her sister said that.
“Funny. I was just thinking that before you guys came in,” Erica started. “When a high school girl gets pregnant, she has to take a year or two before she goes back to school. But the guy could very well be on to his next target, maybe even getting another teenager pregnant,” she said.
Cassandra looked into Erica’s brown eyes.
“Is this really about some high school boy?” she asked.
Erica took another sip of her champagne and shook her head.
“No, it is about me dealing with all this crap while Eli is away having the time of his life with his boys and his new woman in Ibiza,” she said. “Maybe he should have been responsible for returning the wedding presents. It was brutal,” she added.
Emily shut the fridge door and looked at her sister.
“Hey, you know what? I am really proud of you,” she said. “Cousin Trisha would have most definitely gone ahead with the wedding just to make sure she wasn’t embarrassed,” she added with a smile.
“Yeah she would have done that, wouldn’t she?” she laughed. Cassandra looked at them a confused look on her face.
“Trisha? I have been friends with you two since senior year and I think I would know of a Trisha given the fact that I have met most of your extended family,” she said.
Erica took another sip and nodded.
“Actually, you have met her,” she said. Cassandra raised an eyebrow. “Four years ago at the Thanksgiving party. The pretentious light skinned woman who was acting all diva like,” she added. Cassandra frowned.
“Oh, you are talking about miss ‘I can’t believe you don’t have any salad at this party because everything is so fatty.’ That girl?” She asked. Emily and Erica nodded. “I always knew I didn’t like her.”
“Yeah, two years ago she paid someone to act as her boyfriend because she hated being the only one in the family who didn’t have a man,” Emily said. “I guess I was too thrilled to tell her that my date was actually a gay friend,” she added.
“Yeah. I’m sure she is having a field day knowing that Eli and I called the wedding off,” she said. “You know she once had a thing for him, right?”
“Does she have a thing for everyone?” Cassandra asked shaking her head. Emily and Erica looked at her.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Emily asked.
“The guy I brought to the Thanksgiving party four years ago,” Cassandra started.
“Yeah that guy was amazing. What ever happened between the two of you? What was his name anyway? CJ, DJ…” Erica wondered as she played with a strand of her hair.
“JT,” Cassandra said wondering why Erica was throwing around random letters. “He was cool and everything but he had to move to Guam. Career choices and everything. So anyway, we’ve been keeping in touch over Facebook and stuff but I always notice a Miss Tee posting on his wall. I didn’t know who Miss Tee was at first but when I checked her photo out, I remembered who she was.”
“Really? What exactly does she say to him?” Erica asked.
“Well, she is always asking if she can visit him in Guam and everything,” Cassandra said as the three of them walked back to the living room.
“Well, that’s Trisha for you,” Erica said sitting back down. Emily and Cassandra sat down and looked at her. Erica noticed her phone ringing again and sighed.
“Need to get that?” Emily asked. Erica shook her head.
“I really don’t. It’s a whole lot of apologies I can’t handle,” she said. Emily gave her an apologetic look. “Don’t give me that look. I’m okay. Actually the way people are handling this whole thing is the main reason why I have to leave,” Erica said as she looked at her sister.
Emily shook her head and then shrugged. “I’m just concerned. I mean you have been talking of this trip for a week and…are you really sure this is what you want to do?”
“I have never been so sure of anything in my life,” she said with a smile. “A change of scenery is exactly what I need to snap me back into reality.”
“But what about your job? What did your boss say?” Emily asked.
“I can’t think of that right now. Besides, the guys at Kirkland & Ellis owe me. I haven’t taken a day off in two years,” she said in an authoritative tone. “Besides, my bags are packed and I already bought my ticket. So there is no going back,” she added.
Cassandra topped up her glass and smiled.
“You’re right boo. This is to a new start,” she said as she raised her own glass.
Erica smiled and raised her glass.
“To a new start,” she said before taking a sip. She could already see herself in her new start with the wind blowing in her hair and the sand tickling her feet.
When Erica landed in Acapulco International Airport, she was already thanking her lucky stars that she had chosen Mexico over Hawaii for her first destination. The weather was perfect and the people were all too friendly. For the first time in a long time, she was happy she was not on the receiving end of people’s pitiful stares. It had been months since she and Eli broke up, six months to be exact but people were still looking at her like she had come to the end of herself.
When she checked in into her room, she took a long nap before hunger pains woke her up. She considered having room service but when she looked at the time, she realized that what was initially supposed to be a short nap had actually turned out to be a six hour rest. She got out of bed and sent a quick text to her sister to let her know that she got to Acapulco safely. After that, she took a long shower and then changed into a spaghetti strapped peacock maxi dress that showed off her perfect curves. She then straightened out her hair and put on some light makeup and some gold hooped earrings. A smile played on her lips when she saw her reflection. It had been a long time since she put on a maxi dress. Thanks to Vermont weather, she rarely ever got a chance to wear anything sleeveless without a coat. She put on some pink lip gloss and then picked up her purse before she walked out of her room. She could not help but notice just how perfectly tanned the hotel guests were.
“Or are they locals and I just had a racist thought?” she wondered as she rode in the elevator. When she got to the first floor, she made her way to the restaurant and took a seat with a beautiful beach view. “So is it lunch or breakfast?” she wondered as she looked at her phone. Three in the afternoon. “A really, really late breakfast.” She was still looking at her menu when a waiter walked up to her carrying a glass of fresh pineapple juice. “I’m sorry…I didn’t order this,” she said as she looked at the waiter.
“Complementary drink for all our guests, miss,” the waiter said with a smile. Erica looked up at him and smiled. She couldn’t help but notice the boyish telenovela star vibe. “The hotel also has a pineapple venture,” the waiter added.
“Thanks,” Erica said as she held the cold glass and lifted it to her lips. “This is really good,” she said when she put the glass down. The waiter smiled in appreciation.
“Three years serving that and I am yet to get a disappointed customer,” he said. Erica smiled and took another sip.
“I’ll have the chicken fajita,” she said but she wasn’t sure that would be enough. She was famished. “Could I also have a side of salsa and chips?” she asked. The waiter scribbled something on his pad and nodded before he walked away. She took another long sip of her juice and looked up just in time to see a perfectly toned muscled man walking into the restaurant. “Damn,” she thought as she looked at him. He was in a pair of white linen pants and a light blue shirt. Even though the shirt was buttoned all the way down, she could see the perfect muscular structure, she could almost picture it in her head. The man had perfect dark wavy hair and Erica had to admit, he was the hottest man she had ever seen. When the man began walking towards her, she realized she had been staring and looked away. She took another sip of her juice and tried as much as she could not to make eye contact with him. “Oh come on,” she thought when the man took a seat right next to her. She thanked her lucky stars that she had a seat with a view otherwise she would have been stuck staring at an amazingly hot guy. She was still looking at the beautiful scenery below when the waiter came back with her order. “Thank you so much. Please charge this to my room,” she said as she inhaled the rich aroma. She was trying hard not to moan when she took her first bite. It was simply heavenly.
“I am surprised I can’t hear pleasure sounds coming out of you right now,” the man seated at the table next to hers said. She turned around dabbing the sides of her mouth where the food was threatening to mess up.
“I beg your pardon?” Erica asked.
“That’s the fajita right? When I first had it, I was with a few board members and the whole restaurant thought we were having a sexual experience or something,” the man said. Erica smiled and then laughed.
“Cute and funny,” she thought. “Well, maybe I was trying to make sure I don’t get branded a pervert on my first day in Acapulco,” she added.
“First day, huh?” he looked at her and smiled. She nodded. “Mind if I join you?” he asked. Erica almost jumped up in joy.
“Sure,” she said before taking another bite. “Sorry, my manners…Erica Hayes,” she said when she swallowed.
“Daniel Reese,” he said. She looked at her hands and smiled.
“I would shake your hand but…maybe we can do that in an hour or something?” she asked. He smiled and nodded. Erica took a tortilla chip and dipped it in salsa before she took a bite. “Would you like some?” she asked. Daniel frowned and Erica followed suit. “Come on, don’t be a baby,” she said. Daniel smiled and then reached for a chip before he dipped it in the salsa.
“That’s good,” he said as he chewed. “Really good,” he said as he reached for another tortilla. “Three years I have been coming here and I have never thought of ordering this,” he said.
Erica raised an eyebrow.
“I have to ask, what nationality are you?” she asked.
“Are you trying to tell me that you’ve never had tortillas?” she asked in surprise.
“Well, I don’t like admitting it in public but I have actually never had any,” Daniel shrugged. Erica’s eyes grew wide. “Given the look on your face right now, I can assume that you are genuinely surprised,” he said.
She nodded and took a bite of her fajita.
“I am,” she said before taking another bite.
“Why? I don’t think it’s that weird,” he said.
“Actually, it is just as strange as a Chinese man never having had rice in his life,” Erica looked at him and smiled.
“Okay when you put it like that I sound like an absolute…snob,” Daniel said. The waiter who had served her earlier came carrying a tray and stopped at their table. “Thank you Emilio,” he said as the waiter put a plate in front of him coupled with a glass of pineapple juice. “I see you already had a taste of this glass of heaven,” he said before taking a long sip from his glass.
Erica smiled and took a sip from her own glass.
“It is perfect,” she said.
“I have been having a glass every single day since I got here. I don’t know what I am going to do when I go back home. I mean you can never get something this good and authentic back at home,” he said.
Erica looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Just how long have you been here?”
“Fourteen days and counting.”
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