Cassandra lazily kicked on leg from beneath the blanket. A pale expanse of thigh appeared as well as she groaned softly and turned over. She cautiously opened one eye and peered towards the far side of the bed. It was empty. Samantha... no. Sasha... no. Sabrina... Ah, yes, Sabrina. That was it. Cassandra's whole body stretched, cat-like, as she grinned at the memory. Sabrina had already gone, then. Hopefully she'd left her number.
On the dresser, her phone rang again. Cassandra arched her eyebrows thoughtfully. A glance at the blue numbers of the clock decided it. The only person who would call her at the ungodly hour of 9 am was Maggie.
"You'll just have to wait a moment, Mags," she told the ringing phone as she clambered out of bed. Shrugging into a t-shirt, she rescued the phone from the tangle of accessories massed on top of the bureau just before it could send Maggie to voice mail.
"What could possibly require you to drag me from sleep at this disgustingly wholesome hour, Mags?" she said cheerfully, attempting to wind her tangled auburn hair into a knot at her neck.
"Cass..." Maggie answered quietly, the pause causing Cassandra to picture her already big-eyed friend even more wide eyed as she fought to hold back tears. "Cass, I've got to talk to you."
"Well, I should think so, hon. And about damn time, too." When Maggie didn't reply, Cassandra continued, "Shall I pick you up then?"
On the other end of the line, Maggie's shoulders relaxed minutely. "Please," she agreed, relief brightening her voice slightly. "Um, I'm at your office, your assistant let me in to use the spare office."
Maggie glanced towards the hall as she hung up the phone. Cassandra's assistant had left the door to the office slightly open but Maggie didn't think he'd have heard her conversation. She'd been perilously close to completely losing her composure though.
After a moment to calm herself, she called the paper and let them know she'd have her assignment filed shortly but would be out of the office. Then she spent the next half hour concentrating on one last proofing before sending the piece. When that was finished she packed her laptop back in her bag and glanced at her phone. She opened it and sat for a moment with her thumb over the power button, trying to will herself to turn it on. Instead she closed the phone and dropped it into her purse. She collected her purse and bag and headed back out into the waiting area. She nodded towards Daniel, Cass's assistant, and headed for the door. On her way out she paused to grab the newspaper from the lounge table.
Cassandra was surprised when she pulled up in front of her office and saw Maggie sitting on the little bench out front, mostly because her friend seemed to be doing a crossword puzzle.
She zipped down the Jeep's window and called, "The crossword, Mags, honestly?"
Maggie started the shoved the newspaper into her bag with the pen. "Trying to occupy my mind," she answered as she climbed into the Wrangler with her friend.
"Drinks?" Cassandra asked, slinging the Jeep back into gear the moment Maggie was inside.
"It's ..." Maggie paused to consult her watch, "barely 10:30, Cass."
"Didn't answer my question, Mags."
Maggie pursed her lips as moment. "Drinks." She affirmed.
Just over twenty minutes later they were in one of the private back rooms at Anthony's, Cassandra's brother's restaurant. Cassandra must have warned him before picking her up, Maggie realized when Anthony wordlessly answered Cass's quick knock and showed them in. With a quick, one-armed hug and brief kiss to the forehead, he disappeared again to leave them alone.
"Okay, spill," was all Cassandra said, though she politely waited until one of Anthony's waiters had delivered drinks and let them know the chef was already preparing something for them.
"I slept with Adam," Maggie finally admitted quietly, looking at her hands where they were clenched tightly on the table, every bit as pale as the linen cloth covering it.
"Yeah..." Cassandra prompted, confused.
Maggie met her friend's eyes. She chewed her lip a moment before she continued, falteringly, "We hadn't... since the night before... we got... " but she couldn't finish.
"Maggie!" Cassandra's surprise was more than Maggie could bear and she shrank in on herself, her shoulders drawing in, her hands pulled into her lap.
"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry," Cassandra jumped up and came to kneel beside her friend, pulling Maggie's hands into her own, "I didn't know, hon', really, I'm sorry."
Two tears spilled from Maggie's eyes and then the words were coming just as fast. Maggie pulled her glasses off and rubbed her eyes as she spoke.
"It was our first date, Cass. And I slept with him. I don't do that, you know that's not me..."
She looked up, her eyes pleading for agreement.
"I know, sweetie," Cass acknowledged. She gave her friend a quick hug and returned to her seat.
"He asked me out and I accepted... It was... We.. I... " Maggie swallowed. "Will didn't call."
Cassandra held her tongue this time but her surprise was clear on her face.
They both paused, awkward silence broken only by quiet thank you's as Anthony delivered beautiful plates of pasta to them then diplomatically retreated again.
Cassandra prompted gently, "What does Will have to do with this, hon?"
"Will went back to Texas after graduation but we kept in touch. He'd been trying to help his dad with his business but they'd had a huge fight and Will's dad told him to get out. Will came here. We spent the day together and... everything was perfect. It was finally happening but... then his dad's neighbor called. She'd tracked him down somehow because his dad had a stroke. Will left and went home to take care of him. Other than the funeral a couple years ago, that was the last I saw him. But we talked on the phone. And every year, every single year, he always called on that day, the same day that he came to see me."
Maggie drew a ragged breath and then took a long swallow of her drink. "But he didn't call this year."
Maggie let out a long sigh then drained her glass. "Adam asked me out and I went. And I slept with him. I just wanted to forget Will and move on."
Maggie sighed again and pushed her hair back behind her ears. When she continued, her tone was flatter and more business-like. "I woke up and realized what I'd done, what I'd been hoping it would make me feel... and that it didn't work. I was leaving but I decided to take a shower. Adam found me in the shower and..." Maggie's cool tone cracked, "...and he was afraid I had gone. He was relieved I was still there and then..." Maggie swallowed, her expression pained, "...then he asked me to marry him."
"So when was this?" Cassandra asked when Maggie remained silent.
"Two months ago." Maggie answered quietly, her eyes still intently examining the table and the cooling, untouched food in front of her.
"You married him on your first date?"
"I thought you'd just been keeping it quiet. I assumed you guys had been going out a while. Everyone knows how close to the vest you play things and he'd clearly been all about you for a while."
Maggie shook her head, still looking down at the table where she kept nervously smoothing the edge of her napkin.
"So you married him? What, to get back at Will? To get over Will?"
"I don't know why I said yes. It just came out and then it became this course I'd chosen and even a wrong course or at least an impulsive one seemed better than this limbo I'd been in with Will.
"Then I called Will from the courthouse. I thought he'd talk me out of it, thought he'd say 'Marry me', thought he'd say 'I love you', thought he'd say SOMETHING.
"But he didn't. And I married Adam.
"Then Will showed up."
"Will showed up?!" Cassandra nearly screamed. She clamped her hand over her mouth and ducked her head apologetically. She lowered her hand slowly. "Sorry," she said then motioned locking her lips together.
"I went to my apartment to get some things and Will was there. But it was too late. He finally showed up right after I stopped waiting. I left." Maggie shook her head slowly, as if she could negate the reality of it all. "And he left... took my journals, too."
"Adam has been patient. He's given me space, not demanded answers, realized this was all a rush... And we've really just been dating. Granted, it's been 24/7 dating, but it wasn't marriage, either. Then, last night I thought I was ready, ready to really be his wife and move out of the limbo I'd put HIM into. But as soon as it was over... I don't know, Cass, I felt like a liar. He fell asleep and I left. I can't do it. I can't face him. I can't believe what I've done. I don't know what I was doing. I'm scared to go to my apartment in case Will is there. Or not there. I haven't slept..."
Finally Cassandra gave reign to her natural instincts. "Okay, first off, give me your phone. Then, eat. Otherwise Anthony will kill me and that very large glass of wine you demolished won't do you any favors either."
"My phone?" Maggie asked, but fished it out of her bag all the same. "It's off," she said, handing it over.
"I know that, hon." Cass opened the phone and turned it on. Immediately it began chirping to announce voice mails waiting and text messages missed. Cass flicked through the missed and refused calls. "Mags... you haven't even programed him into your phone?"
Maggie bit her lip and shook her head. She opened her mouth to answer but the phone rang and she jumped, moving back from the phone as though it might bite.
Cass answered, "Maggie's phone."
Maggie wilted in shame as Adam's voice came from the phone at Cassandra's ear. Maggie couldn't hear what he was saying but the tone of worry was clear and buried her in guilt.
"Stop, stop, listen to me," Cassandra instructed, "She's fine. Okay? She's fine. I'm her friend Cassandra. Look, I know this is hard but... she needs some time, okay? I'm going to take her home and make sure she gets some food and some sleep and after she's had those, she will call you, okay?"
Adam's voice drifted from the phone again. Cass let him speak for a few moments then interrupted. "I know," she said with a glance at Maggie. She turned away then added, "I will, I promise." Another moment for his voice to respond.
"You're welcome," Cassandra replied then closed the phone.
"What did he say?" Maggie whispered, her expression painted with tortured guilt.
Cassandra frowned, her own expression also pained as she answered her friend, "He said to tell you he loves you."