Elaine inhales again before meeting my eyes.
“What I’m saying is that Henry and I have called off the wedding.”
I sit there dumbstruck for a moment. What in the world? This isn’t what I intended to happen!
“Oh no, Mom,” is my sorrowful cry. “Please don’t say that. I feel terrible. I know how hard it is to meet Mr. Right.”
Elaine laughs, squeezing my hand.
“Carrie, you’re a good girl, which is why you deserve this chance with Conor. If you two want to be in a relationship, you should be free to pursue it. It’s okay. This was going to be my fourth marriage and Henry’s fourth as well. We’re both fine with the decision we’ve made.”
I gasp in incredulity.
“Do you really mean this? I mean, are you sure?”
“You have my blessing, sweetie. Both mine and Henry’s,” she smiles at me, and I can see she means it. But then my heart sinks and tears well in my eyes again.
“What’s wrong, Car?” asks Elaine kindly, stroking my head. “Isn’t this what you wanted?”
I bite my lip.
“It is but I just never thought that it would come to this. You deserve to be happy too, Mom. It was hard having me when you were just a teenager, and now that you’ve finally met Prince Charming, I’m the roadblock in the way. I wish it didn’t turn out like this.”
But again, Elaine reassures me.
“Honey, I’m forty years old now, and I can handle it. Henry can handle it too. We have years under our belt, giving us perspective, whereas you’re new to relationships and love. And if this is love, then you have to go for it, and not let old fuddy-duddies like us hold you back. So take the gift, sweetheart. You mean more to me than life itself, and if it’s a relationship with Conor that’s your destiny, then go for it with your heart and mind open.”
I turn wide, trembling eyes to Elaine.
“Do you really mean it, Mom?” I ask in a wavery voice. “It still feels wrong somehow.”
Elaine shakes her head, smiling.
“Betting on love is never wrong, and you deserve as much as anyone else. So go,” she urges. “Find what you need. Call Conor and make happiness your number one pursuit in life.”
I embrace Elaine gratefully, a couple wet tears sliding down my cheeks to soak her blouse.
“Thank you, Mom,” is my muffled murmur. “I love you too.”
Elaine’s hand comes up to stroke my head again.
“You’re my baby, Carrie, and you always will be. I only want what’s best for you, even if your current relationship got started in a sex club here in little old Riverbend. So go for it,” she urges again. “Find that which makes you the happiest, and live a wonderful life.”
I smile again, although my mother can’t see. Because who knew that my mom could be so forgiving and open-minded? I’ve always thought of Elaine as “Mom,” with her mom jeans and conservative ways. And yet people never cease to surprise.
So now, the road has been cleared for a real romance with my handsome alpha male. The only question is … am I too late? Will Conor still want me after everything that’s happened?
My heart beats in my chest as I look around for the handsome man, and I’m just about to leave when he comes walking over to me, a drink in hand, that ridiculously charming grin on his face. I swallow, and smile back shyly.
“You looked as if you were about to leave,” Conor says.
“I couldn’t see you,” I answer, and my voice sounds unduly husky. I hope he thinks it’s sexy.
“That’s because I was hiding, taking all of you in,” he winks, and my insides turn to mush. “I’ve got a table in the corner,” he adds, and indicating to it with his drink hand, he places the other in the small of my back. Before I know it, I’m sitting across from him, sipping a peach bellini.
Because this is where we are now. I reached out to Conor via text, and fortunately, he texted right back.
No problem babe, his words read. It’s cool. Meet me at Crosby’s tomorrow at eight?
I texted back immediately.
Yes, see you then!
And now, I’m at the bar with my gorgeous lover. It’s insane that we’re here like any other couple, except that we were caught by our parents having wild sex on the kitchen counter just yesterday. So I smile shyly.
“How are you?” is my soft question. “What’s new?”
It seems stupid to ask that given what’s happened, but he doesn’t bat an eye.
“Nothin’ much,” is his casual drawl. “You look gorgeous by the way,” he says, staring into my eyes. “I like the jeans.” I blush, relieved. They had been a conscious choice. I’d always hated wearing them because I felt like they made me look fat, but if Conor likes them on me, then I was going to be wearing them a lot more often.