We stopped for a quick lunch at a little deli near the public gardens to regroup.
After making some calls to set up a last minute showing, Fiona joined me at the table. “So how do you know Blake?”
I choked a little on my lemonade. God, if she only knew.
“I’m in talks with Angelcom to invest in my business.”
“Oh wow, that’s great. I hope it works out.”
“Blake gets so involved in his investments. I’ve seen some of those companies really take off.”
I nodded and spared her the fact that he had “passed” on me. Well, he’d passed on the business anyway. He was pursuing me physically with a single-minded determination that one might expect from a ruthless businessman.
“What about you? Do you do this full-time?”
“Blake has several real estate holdings, so I mostly stay busy managing those, but I dabble with other listings in town.”
“I guess it’s good to keep it in the family.”
“Definitely. Blake keeps us busy with all his projects.”
“I met Heath recently too actually,” I said, conveniently leaving out the details of our Las Vegas rendezvous.
“He’s a character,” I continued, hoping to glean a little bit more about her charismatic brother and whatever issues Blake had with him, if only for Alli’s sake.
“You could say that. I have no idea how Blake keeps up with him.” She looked past me, her face carefully void of emotion. “Do you have any siblings?”
“No, it’s just me.” For years it had literally been just me. I often imagined what life might be like with a sibling or two. Someone to share the emotional burden with after my mother died or to make light of our hardships with and carry on together. The closest person to know what I’d been through was Elliott, but like me, he’d moved on.
Fiona and I finished our lunch and she drove us to the last apartment of the day, which she promised would be more in line with what I was looking for. She pulled in front of a picturesque brownstone on Commonwealth Ave. The street was tree-lined from one end to the other, with walking paths and beautifully manicured commons separating the two sides of the street. The location was address to many of the who’s who of the city, and while I enjoyed the change of scenery from the lackluster places I’d seen so far, I worried how far out of the budget this would fall.
Nonetheless, I followed her up a flight of stairs. We entered a light and spacious two-bedroom apartment.
“This just came onto the market,” Fiona said.
The appliances were new, the walls had a fresh coat of paint, and the dark wood floors were impeccable.
“This is perfect, Fiona, but I doubt I could afford something this nice.”
“The owner is listing it at the right price for the right renter. It’s above your budget, but it’s such a great find, I had to show you.” She handed me the listing sheet with the asking rent, a figure over budget, but well worth the extra features it offered.
I blew out a slow breath and did some mental math.
“You could always pick up a roommate with the extra room. It won’t stay listed long, Erica, so if you think you might want it, I can make a call right now.”
I’d have bay windows, a bathtub, and a second room to do with what I wanted. I was flying by the seat of my pants lately, so why stop now?
“Where do I sign?”
* * *
I stuffed the last of my clothes into a black trash bag and tossed it next to the others. Alli and I had barely spoken all day except to negotiate who would claim joint purchases. It felt strangely like a breakup, and in much the same way wreaked havoc on my already frayed nerves. Both finished, we each settled on the bare dorm mattresses, the springs squeaking below us. I wouldn’t miss these.
“Have you heard from Heath?” I asked, anxious to break the silence and the tension between us.
She raised her eyebrows slightly and nodded. Great, I was getting the silent treatment.
“And what?” she snapped. “It’s not like you give a shit, Erica.”
“Listen, I’m sorry. You caught me at a bad time, and I just—” a tear slid down my face and I immediately wiped it away. “I wish you didn’t have to go, but I want you to know that I understand why you do. I—”
She crossed the distance between us and hugged me hard.
“I want you to be happy, and I know you will be,” I whispered.
She pulled away and held my face in her hands. “You’re my best friend, Erica. A couple hundred miles isn’t going to change that. And don’t think for a minute that you can’t rock this business without me. This is your baby. There isn’t anything holding you back now.”
“You make it sound like it’s going to be so easy.”
“You’ve made this whole thing look easy from day one. I have no idea how we pulled it off, but I know we couldn’t have without you.”
I wanted to believe her, but now that her leaving was a reality, the weight of my responsibilities hit me hard. Thankfully I had a lot more time to manage them, but I started to question my decision to stay in Boston when it seemed like everyone who mattered to me was leaving.
* * *
Fiona met me at the door looking as polished as she had before in a colorful sundress.
“Congrats!” She smiled and gave me a quick hug.
“Thank you for finding me such an amazing place.”
When she glanced over at the SUV that had delivered me, her smile faded a bit. Brad stepped out and joined me on the sidewalk in front of the building. Brad was a friend of a friend. I didn’t know him really well, but he was nice enough and clearly he spent some time in the gym, so I didn’t feel too bad asking him to move my futon up a flight of stairs to the new place.
He did so with expert grace, leaving the immaculate walls of the stairwell unscathed. Fiona seemed nervous when she handed me the keys to open the door. After I did, Brad passed through the threshold toward the room that would be my bedroom. Before I could follow him in, someone came down the stairs.
Oh, a neighbor! I thought excitedly, until Blake Fucking Landon turned the corner and faced me with a heart-melting smile.
“What are you doing here?” The tone of my voice revealed more panic than I wanted it to. I’d just gone through three regretful days believing I’d be rid of him for good, while simultaneously questioning why I had permanently sworn off the best sex of my life.