“Katie!” squeals Lizzy, one of my best employees. “You look amazing. I can’t even tell you just had a kid!”
I laugh. “No need to butter me up. You’ve been doing great on your own. This place looks amzing!”
“Oh sure, but you and I both know I couldn’t have done it without your help. I know it wasn’t easy taking all my frantic calls in the middle of the night. I’m just really glad you’re here to oversee things tonight. This party is huge, and I’m nervous about anything going wrong because the lady who hired us is a bitch,” Lizzy says with a sour look and a roll of her eyes.
I smile wryly. I’ve had my fair share of snooty, difficult clients. “Customers are almost always difficult to deal with,” I reassure her with a sigh. “Consider it a rite of passage. So where do you need me? Keep me busy or I might just run back to my car and go home.”
Lizzy nods with understanding. She has two kids of her own, so she understands my plight right now. The brunette squeezes my shoulder kindly.
“It gets easier each time,” she says sotto voce. “But I miss the girls every time I leave home.”
My heart beats painfully.
“I miss Trentie so much,” I admit. “Which is why I need you to give me something to do. I’m serious about bailing to play bouncy ball with my son.”
Lizzy laughs, but then focuses on the task at hand. “Could you do a lap around the venue? The table settings should be done, but I’d like a second set of eyes to make sure it looks immaculate, just in case we missed anything.”
“I’m on it.” I give her a fake salute and head toward the dining area. Each table is set with a white tablecloth and all of the usual utensils. The centerpieces are miniature floral arrangements with red carnations and baby’s breath, mixed with plenty of green sprigs. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
I do my walk twice to ensure I don’t miss anything, but I know my employees made sure everything is in place. Everything looks amazing. The décor is ideal for a glamorous party for the upper class because it conveys subtle wealth without throwing it in your face. Silently, I congratulate myself for hiring such a great staff because in my time of need, they were able to band together and pull this off without me.
After verifying the dining area is good to go, I roam to the kitchen where Lizzy is tasting various courses to make sure they’re up to snuff.
I grab an hors d’oeuvre and pop it into my mouth.
“So whose party is this, anyway?” I ask once I’ve swallowed. The chef’s done a great job, as usual. I’m tempted to take another bite, but it’s unprofessional to sample too much of the food before the party starts.
Lizzy finishes chewing her own sample before she answers me. “Do you remember that huge party we did a little over a year ago, the masquerade one? Well, it’s being hosted by the same guy.”
What? My heartbeat triples in a matter of seconds, and I feel like I might pass out. I grip the edge of the counter, feeling woozy all of a sudden. Of all the parties in all the world, this is the one I chose as my comeback? The one being hosted by the father of my son, the man who doesn’t even know he even has a child from a one-night stand over a year ago?
I sit down hastily, slipping a bit before my rump finds the stool. Lizzy appears in front of me and waves her hand in front of my eyes.
“Are you okay, Katie? What’s wrong?” she asks, worried. “You look a little faint.”
My eyes feel unfocused, but I force them to meet hers.
“Sorry, yeah. I haven’t eaten all day. Just a little lightheaded.” I try to keep my voice light but it comes out shaky.
It’s not a total lie. I was so nervous about going back to work and leaving Trentie that I didn’t eat anything all day, but it’s not that. It’s the thought of facing the father of my child that’s making me feel weak.
“You should eat something and get some water,” says Lizzy in full mom mode. She gestures to the chef. “Can we get something for Katie to eat? Something light, maybe hot?”
The chef immediately springs into action, and within a few minutes, I’m presented with a steaming bowl of tomato soup. Lizzy and the chef both watch as I spoon the red broth into my mouth. It’s tangy and delicious and my eyes close with appreciation.
“Thank you,” I tell them with a grateful smile. “I don’t know what I’d do without you guys. Really appreciate it.”
Both of them smile back at me, clearly relieved that I’m okay.