Page 18 of What Lies Beneath

Gwen smiled and squirted some ketchup on her cheeseburger. “The people in your life care about you, as weird as all of this is for everyone involved. The sooner the new you gets out there, the sooner everyone will adjust. Are you planning on returning to work?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Sometimes getting back in an old routine can help.”

“Maybe, but I think it’s an impossibility. I mean, if I were a doctor, would you want me to jump back in the saddle and operate on you, hoping my years of medical training would magically come back to me?”

Gwen wrinkled her nose. “I guess not.”

“I was in advertising, which I know isn’t like brain surgery, but I remember nothing about it. I don’t really have an interest in it either.”

“So what are you going to do? Become one of those society wives that organize fundraisers?”

“Uh, no,” she groaned. “Right now I’m just trying something out.”

“Do tell,” Gwen urged, taking a large bite.

Cynthia thought about the pages and pages of clothing designs she’d sketched over the weekend. At first, it had been a wreck. At least twenty sheets of paper had been crumpled into balls and tossed in the trash bin. But then they started getting better. She let go of her inhibitions and the ideas started flowing. The color combinations she put together worked even when she worried they wouldn’t. The pieces coordinated beautifully. She was itching to see some of them leap off the page and onto a hanger. But that was a whole other hurdle to climb over. She might be a good artist and a horrible seamstress.

“I’m trying my hand at designing clothes. Just sketches right now, but I did what you told me and I’m following my instincts. Trying to do what my heart tells me feels right.”

“Fashion design? Wow. Are you enjoying it?”

She couldn’t hide her smile. “I am. I just sketch and sketch and when Will comes looking for me, I’m shocked to find I spent hours working on it.”

“Sounds like you may be on to something.”

“I think so. I mean, right now it’s just sketches, but I’m thinking about getting a sewing machine and trying to actually make some of it.”

“You should open a boutique and show at Fashion Week,” Gwen encouraged.

Cynthia had to laugh at her friend’s enthusiasm. “You are way ahead of me on this. First thing I have to do is figure out how to thread a bobbin. Then, if what I make doesn’t suck, I’ll go from there. I’m a long way from Bryant Park.”

“But it’s progress in the right direction. You’re building your new life. I think that’s great.”

That made her feel good. She had Will’s support, but a part of her wondered if he felt obligated to be her cheerleader. Her mother had feigned interest at brunch, but Cynthia could tell she’d been hoping her daughter would settle for being a society housewife like she was or at least go work for the family company. Knowing Gwen supported the choice made all the difference. “It is. I just wish everything else was working out, as well.”

“Like what?” Gwen asked with a concerned frown.

“Like Will and me.” Cynthia sighed, the weight of her situation heavy on her shoulders. He was sending conflicting signals. One minute he’s discussing how she can support herself after he moves out and the next they’re kissing on a park bench and holding hands. But even then, there was a part of him holding back. He was determined to keep one foot firmly out the door for a quick escape. That wasn’t a good sign. “I don’t know where I stand with him. With us. He seems distant sometimes.”

Cynthia knew she couldn’t tell anyone, not even Gwen, that they’d called off the engagement. Or about Nigel. He’d started calling again after Will left in the mornings. She’d considered telling Will, but it just seemed like dragging up the past after they had agreed to set it aside. Eventually he would stop calling. He had to.

“Maybe he’s just not sure how to deal with the changes. You guys have been together a long time. It’s like being with a new person. Whether the changes are good or bad, it’s still an adjustment.”

She looked down at her half-eaten burger and fries, which she was pleased to discover she adored, and nodded. Gwen was right. This had to be just as hard on Will as it was on her. Even as they kissed in the park, she could sense an internal battle raging inside him. The part that wanted her and the part that held back for whatever reason had fought hard. She wasn’t certain which side won. They’d held hands in the park on the way home, but he holed up in his office after that.