Page 9 of Pretend Ring Girl

Font Size:  

I’ve had many a fantasy about that night, where Zorro would come find me after the party and do all sorts of dirty things in the name of my pleasure. Perhaps he’d climb through the window and whisk me away from my parents’ house, and we’d spend the weekend making love in a sailboat. Even though part of me doubted it, I always imagined it was Elian. Tonight, especially after he kissed my hand, I thought it was possible. I tried to hint about it to see if he’d react, and after his assertion that he didn’t attend parties, I had to let go of that fantasy.

The fantasy had been replaced with something so much better. The reality of kissing Elian was far better than a drunken hookup at a frat party. This Elian was mature, intense, and incredibly sweet. It was pretty vulnerable of him to share what he went through in college, to admit that he’d been so poorly behaved growing up.

But he’d shared it all with me. And all the time I’d been dreaming about him, he’d been thinking of me.

That thought warmed me all the way home, through parking in our driveway and walking through the front door.

Then reality set in.

“Sloane, where the fuck have you been?” Mom’s voice is an equal mix of fury and panic, and my heart sinks in my chest.

I realize I never turned my ringer back on after work. “Mom, I’m sorry, I should have texted you. I didn’t even think about it. One of my friends from college asked me out for dinner.”

If I thought that was the end, I was mistaken. “Yeah, no shit you should have. Did you even check your phone? I must have called you a half dozen times. They wanted me to come in to work. I needed you to babysit. Now my lieutenant is pissed. Thanks a lot.”

Indignation rises in my chest, but I do my best to tamp it down and speak with a calm voice. “I’m sorry I didn’t let you know I’d made plans, and I apologize if I worried you. But tonight isn’t one of the nights I’m supposed to babysit, and I’m an adult. I don’t have to run everything I do by you any more. I agreed to babysit three nights a week to cover your evening shifts, and Tuesdays aren’t part of that agreement.”

Instead of agreeing with my clear and rational point, as I had imagined, Mom only gets more furious. “Oh, so you’re a big-shot architect now and what your family needs doesn’t matter anymore, huh? Well as long as you live under my roof, young lady, you helpas needed. It doesn’t matter if it’s not one of your assigned nights. If I have the opportunity to work, I need you to watch your brother and sister because my paycheck puts food on the table. Food that you eat. So when I need you to help, you hightail it back here, no questions asked, or you find yourself another place to live. Understood?”

My head hurts. “Yes.”

One eyebrow goes up, and she glares at me with what I can only describe as the crazy mom face. “Yes,what?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“That’s right. Well, since you went out for dinner with your fancy friends, I’m assuming you won’t be raiding the fridge tonight. I packed up your dinner. You can take it for lunch.”

“Thank you,” I murmur, not daring to make eye contact.

Abruptly, as if she realizes she’s been too harsh, Mom’s tone softens. “Sloane, I was really worried about you. The extra shift is one thing, but the last I heard from you was this morning when you left. If you’re not coming home right after work, you just need to let me know, okay? Girls turn up missing or dead all the time, and I’m the one who reports to the crime scene.”

I risk a glance up and find her expression much more understanding. “I know, I’m sorry I worried you. I’m still finding my bearings at my new job, and today was a little crazy. Then my friend picked me up right after work and I just never turned my ringer back on. I didn’t even think about it.”

She nods and steps close enough to wrap her arms around me. “I’m very proud of you, Sloane. Both your dad and I are. But what I understand, that he doesn’t, is how hard it is to be a woman in a field full of men. I know that’s going to be a struggle you face for the rest of your career, just as it has been mine.” She’s still wearing her uniform, the shiny Miami PD badge digging into my arm and reminding me of the many struggles my mom has faced.

“Any time I have to beg off of something because of the kids, they use that as an excuse not to promote me or give me opportunities. Your dad and I were in the same academy class, but he’s a detective and I’m still a beat cop because of those reasons. Because I stayed home with sick kids while he advanced his career. And I agreed to it, and I supported him. Always have, and always will.

“But you, my dear, you put your careerfirst. You’re smart, and you’re driven, and you can go very far. You don’t take shit from men, and you’ll make it.” She pulls back and places both hands on my arms so she can look me dead in the eye. “And when it comes to men, never choose a man’s career over your own, you hear me? Your dreams are just as important as his, and any man who doesn’t see that is not worth your time.”

I nod at the familiar lecture, and she pulls me in for another hug. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, baby girl. I’m glad you went out with your friends. You’ve earned it. Just check in next time, okay?”

“Okay Mom,” I agree, hugging her back.

“Good girl. Go on, take your shower before your dad gets home. You know he’ll hog the hot water for at least an hour when he gets back.”

I head down the narrow hallway toward my room as she finishes cleaning up in the kitchen. My parents care about me deeply, and being on the police force, they have raised me to be particularly cautious about living where we do. I’m just grateful she was too pissed off to ask me who I’d been with—it didn’t even occur to me I’d need to come up with a lie until I’d walked through the door. My parents had been involved in too many investigations into Vargas Enterprises; there is no way they’d be okay with me dating Elian.

As I take my shower and settle in for the night, I prepare to cut ties even as I hope I’ll see Elian again.

Realizing once again that I’d forgotten to text someone, I shoot Elian a quick message that I’m home and thanking him for the evening. He replies with a kissy face emoji, and I doze off with a smile on my lips.


The next day, I get ready for work eagerly. I have no reason for assuming something exciting would happen again, and yet we’re two for two, so why not three?

Rebecca greets me especially warmly with a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye, but she doesn’t say a word, for which I’m grateful. I do not know how AJ would feel about my date with Elian. Technically, we were college friends, so even though I read an entire five-page document about inappropriate relationships with other employees or clients, I can’t imagine that it applies here. It’s not like I picked him up in the office, we’ve known each other for years.

After enjoying the fragrance of the lush bouquet for a moment, I get logged in and see a slew of new email, including a few from AJ requesting sketches with new particulars about the Vargas Enterprises warehouse. I refill my coffee and get immediately to work, losing myself in the designing process. First, I’ll work through some basic ideas on angles, shape, and design, and then once Kellerman selects one or two I’ll build them in the 3D modeling software with the dimensions.

Articles you may like