A Bad Boy for Christmas

By: Jessica Lemmon

But when she pictured Michael at the service counter, or Cookie uncorking bottles for samples as the new wine girl, Faith’s insides seized. The potential of running into the woman who soiled Faith’s future—and her favorite rug from IKEA—was too great a risk.

C’est la vie.

With a wave of her hand, she swept the worries aside. She arranged three wineglasses near the bottles just as chattering outside drew her attention to her front door. Charlie and Sofie had arrived.

Faith brushed her hands over her slim capris and simple blue T-shirt, ran a hand down her long ponytail, and pulled open the door.

Her friends squealed when they saw her as if they hadn’t all just seen one another earlier this week for lunch. She had no idea how she would’ve gotten through the Michael/Cookie disaster without them.

Charlie hustled in and wrapped her arms around Faith’s neck. “You look beautiful.”

“Oh, thank you. So do you.” Charlie wore an orange dress—Charlie could almost always be found in a dress—with a floral pattern on it. Faith’s newly married friend could also almost always be found in flowers. Her hair, honeyed blond rather than Faith’s near-platinum, had recently been cut. The shoulder-length style suited her round face and huge, hazel eyes.

“She always looks beautiful.” Sofie entered behind her with a grocery sack in hand. She winked as Faith relieved her of the handled bag. Sofie—Ms. “I Don’t Do Weddings” Martin—since she’d met and become engaged to one Donovan Pate, now did do weddings. Charlie’s nuptials had been her first climb back into the saddle, and soon, though she hadn’t announced a date, Sofie would marry her mansion-owner.

It was times like these when loneliness threatened to overshadow Faith’s happiness. And, at times like these, she reminded herself that she was independent now and would do just fine on her own, thank you very much.

Sofie unloaded the crab dip and pita chips she brought while Charlie searched the cabinets for another plate. Faith reached the serving platter on the top shelf and handed it over. She was taller than both of her friends, Sofie being the curvier of the two with a sizable backside her fiancé, Donny, couldn’t get enough of. Every chance he got, the man wrapped his hand around Sofie’s rear end and gave it a squeeze.

“I have wine. I have food. I have Devil Dogs.” Faith gestured to the breakfast bar in invitation.

“Be still my heart,” Charlie commented, eyes widening at the sight of the cakes. She used to claim not to be much of a “sweets person,” which was impossible to understand, but after her first Devil Dog, she reassessed her position on sugar.

“I don’t know why you say you don’t like this as much as your old apartment,” Sofie said, taking a tour of the tiny living room. “This place is cute. Quaint.”

“That’s just a nice way of saying small.” Yes, her new place was smaller than her old apartment on Bent Tree Avenue, but she did like it. Sofie was right. It was quaint, and quaint was fine. It would take some getting used to. She’d only been moved in for a week.

“How much space do you need, really?” Charlie asked rhetorically as she walked into the living room and dropped her purse on the sofa.

Charlie meant that supportively. At one point, right after finding Michael in the snares of Cookie Monster, Faith may have been sensitive to the fact that Charlie’s statement could imply Faith didn’t need that much space since she was now alone. She didn’t feel that way now. Sensitive, reading into every little thing. She knew her friends had her best interests in mind. Losing her ex was a blessing. One she wouldn’t have wished for at the time, but things had turned out exactly as they should have.

Healing was a beautiful thing.

The trio settled down to eat, filling their wineglasses, chewing on chicken wings, and eating the crab dip Sofie brought. Faith moaned in ecstasy as she took another scoop and chewed. “Oh man. I forgot how much I liked this stuff.”

“Second best thing Abundance carries besides their potato salad,” Charlie agreed, scooping some dip onto a toasted pita.

Faith couldn’t be happier as she watched Sofie chew merrily away. The last couple of years, Sofie had lamented the few extra pounds she’d gained. She was not fat, not by any stretch of the imagination, but since she’d been single, her body was a constant source of stress. Then Donny Pate, the man Sofie swore she hated, came back to town, invaded her space, and those issues had gradually dissipated.

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