Speakeasy (True North #5)(14)

Jesus Christ. How did it come to this? I never wanted to be that delicate flower that others have to maneuver carefully around.

I fucking hate my life right now.

“Look,” I gasp. “You are the best friend I could ever have. And I’m so happy for you.” My eyes are wet, too, though I ignore it. “Is there a ring? I want to see it. Where did he propose? At the beach? Don’t you dare hold out on me.” The first tear rolls down my face, and I clutch my knitting in sweaty hands.

Lark hesitates another moment. We’re both stuck here in this awful place. Come on, I beg her silently. Help me get through this without forking over a fatal portion of my dignity.

She reaches inside her purse and emerges with a perfect little velvet box. She cracks open the lid to reveal a rose-gold band with a shimmering diamond solitaire.

“Ooh!” I breathe through my panic. “Put it on. It’s perfect.”

She does, and it is. “There’s no big proposal story, sorry. He asked me when we were waking up at the hotel in the morning,” she whispers. “We were just lying there listening to the waves crash outside. Just like that.”

“Oh.” I sigh with genuine appreciation. Of course he did. Because Zach knew it was the right time to ask her. He didn’t need a spectacular sunset, or a flash-mob dancing to their favorite song, or a table at a very exclusive restaurant. Zach and Lark are the real deal.

When they stand in that church and promise each other everything, they’ll both mean it.

I wipe my tears with the back of my hand. “Well, that is just perfect. Thank you for telling me first. I’m honored. Now when you tell your mother, and she tries to book the ballroom at some palace on Beacon Hill, I can talk you off the ledge.”

Lark laughs with shiny eyes. “Okay, fine.”

I smile back as credibly as I can.

“I’m really sorry about the shitty timing.”

“Don’t be,” I say, shaking my head. “If I’m helping you plan your wedding instead of planning Daniela’s murder, that’s a good thing.”

Lark looks down at the ring on her hand. “What do you think about a wedding at the Woodstock Inn? It’s fancy enough to please my parents, but still Vermont.”

“I love that idea,” I say immediately. “It’s Vermont Fancy, if you know what I mean. It should please her, but still be comfortable. And there’s golf. Your dad might go for that.”

“Good idea. I’ll lead with golf.” She smiles, and I match it. For real this time. I love Lark enough to want this for her. Even if it hurts.

A lot.

The rest of the day is a meaningless blur. My fledgling law practice isn’t exactly slammed with business, but today that’s a blessing. Because I don’t actually need to think.

I have to look up some real estate records at the Tuxbury town hall that afternoon, only a few miles away from Shipley Farm. Making the copies I need doesn’t take very long, though. I’m finished by four thirty, and so I knock off work early.

When I walk in to the farmhouse kitchen, my brother Griffin is there, leaning against the counter, deep in conversation with Lark’s fiancé, Zachariah. There’s a plate of cookies between them.

Fiancé. I rehearsed this word in my head earlier, trying to get used to the idea. Their conversation stops the second they notice me. They both glance at me, their eyes wary.

Fuck. I’m so sick of that look in people’s eyes. The Poor Lark expression. And now it’s sinking in that with Zach and Lark planning their wedding, nobody will ever stop looking at me that way. Not for months.

I want to scream. But I can’t. “Hi guys!” I say instead. On goes the plastic smile. I don’t even take off my coat. I march right up to Zachariah and plant a kiss on his cheek. “Congratulations. I’m so excited for you.”

“Thank you,” he says quietly.

“Nice pick with the ring,” I say, my bravado holding up. “It’s gorgeous.” Then I steal a cookie off the plate, give them both a wave, and walk out.

A minute later I arrive upstairs in my bedroom, coat and shoes still on. I close the door and throw the cookie right in my trash bin. Then I crumple onto the bed. My eyes sting and a headache teases my temples.

This has been the longest day of a really long week. Everyone who loves me is treating me like an emotional leper. I have absolutely nothing to look forward to.

And I really, really want a drink.

This idea settles over me like a wool blanket—warm but irritating. I want a glass of wine, red and plummy. I want the scent of the tannins in my nose as I swallow a hearty gulp. And another. And another. Until the gentle ease of numbness overtakes my senses, and the sharp edges of my life blur sweetly.

I want it so badly. If I could just have a little, that would help. Just one more time, my addiction whispers. Nobody has to know.

My addiction is such an asshole.

In two hours I’ll get off this bed, and I’ll go to an AA meeting. I’ll sit in a dingy community room at a church and listen to strangers talk about how hard they fought to get sober, and I’ll feel a little less alone.

A little.

Heading out to a meeting will have the added advantage of getting me out of this room. Lark asked me how I was doing today, but I didn’t tell her the truth. I haven’t told anyone, because they’ll only worry.

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