“Nah, she’s just well loved.” I give her a smile and pull on my tight, black dress. It hugs my belly perfectly, and the pencil skirt makes my legs look great. I’ve been putting on a little weight in my thighs, but now that I look closely, I just look curvier. My breasts, on the other hand, have really benefited from my pregnancy. I actually have cleavage without having to use a damn good expensive bra to get. “How are you doing, Megs?” I ask, pulling on my black silk blouse.
Today is the second birthday of her late husband since he passed away. It’s a testament to how far she’s come since the sad girl who was at Cohen’s going away party. She’s smiling today when I fully expected her to be locked in her house, crying.
“I’m doing a lot better, Dani. Really, I am. It gets easier every day that passes. I still miss him like crazy, but I’m trying to follow your lead and see the beautiful things in life and focus less on the things that I can’t change. I was a mess when he was deployed during my pregnancy with Molly. I still don’t know how you’re able to wake up every day with such a positive outlook.”
I look over at her with a small smile. “I don’t know if it’s so much of a positive outlook or the knowledge that, regardless of what life throws at me, I’ve been blessed with what life I’ve lived. I can’t spend my life worrying about what might be or what could have been. I lost a lot of time with Cohen. We had one brilliant, eye-opening night together, and it might sound ridiculous, but if that was the last night I ever have with him, I’ll cherish it forever.”
She gives me a nod, and I know she understands. We’ve talked about her holding on to her happier memories and letting go of the hard ones. She understands where I’m coming from.
I know it sounds stupid. One night of us being an “us” was all it took for me. I could have had an hour and the outcome would have been the same. He’s the other half to my heart. It’s been like that for as long as I’ve known him, and no time frame could change that.
I look over my bed at the photo I had blown up and framed in a huge display of just how much I miss the man.
The image my mother gave me months ago—the one of Cohen and me sitting on my parents’ dock almost twenty years ago. The one that proves that we’ve been building this connection for longer than we both could even imagine.
I spend a little more time with Megan and Molly before I have to head into work. After hating the cameras in my face for so long, it’s going to be weird embracing them today. Megan was right. Now that my bump is one hundred percent recognizable, I want the world to know about my little baby.
“Hey, Sway,” I say when I walk into the salon.
He spins on his solid-gold—with glittered embellishments on the heels—stilettos and gives me a big smile.
“Oh, darling girl, come and let Sway rub that belly! My lord, I love babies. Stella!” he screams, and I watch her wince.
I swat his hands away when he tries to open the top buttons of my blouse.
“Yes, Pops?” she responds with an eye roll. “God, leave her tits alone! Sometimes, I wonder if you’re not really straight.”
“Don’t you give me that ’tude! I’ll go get your dad next door and have him remind you that you’re supposed to be sweet to me. I’m just trying to make sure little mama gets her tips. She’s got four male heads to work on today.” He gives me a wink.
“I’m always sweet to you, you weirdo.”
I laugh at them and move around Sway and into the madness of the salon. Looks like a full house today, too. All eight stations are busy—minus Sway’s and mine, of course.
“Where are the cameras at, Sway?” I call over my shoulder as I head to the breakroom to throw my purse in my locker.
“On the way, little mama.”
I manage to get myself in order and a good head start on Mrs. Cartwright’s highlights—without Sway seeing me doing color—before I hear Devon bang his way through the door.
“Ah! If it isn’t my favorite home away from home! Are my little bees ready to buzz today?”
I roll my eyes in the mirror, causing Mrs. Cartwright to giggle.
“Hey, Dani,” Don says from right over my shoulder. “We’re going to need you to look over these story lines.”
I spin on my amazingly kickass black heels and look down at Don. Yeah, down at him. My heels make me maybe right at five foot five and he’s still shorter.
“I’ve already told you, Don. I don’t do fake. If you want someone to beef up your show, then hire an actor.”