When All The Girls Have Gone(4)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz

“Huh.” Ethel squinted a little. “Hadn’t thought about that angle.”

“I suggest you do consider it,” Charlotte said. “Writing a memoir entails certain responsibilities.”

“Good point.” Ethel nodded. “Okay, I’ll think about it. Now, I’ve got to go change for happy hour.”

Charlotte smiled. “Enjoy it.”

“Always do.” Ethel paused at the door and wrenched the walker around so that she once again faced Charlotte. “You got lucky, you know.”


“Just think how you’d be feeling now if you’d married the bastard.”

“As a matter of fact, I have given the issue considerable thought and you’re absolutely right, Ethel. I had a very narrow escape, didn’t I?”

“Yep. Remember that when it comes time to write your own memoirs.”

Charlotte smiled. “I will.”

Ethel maneuvered her walker through the doorway and disappeared.

Charlotte listened to the soles of Ethel’s sturdy shoes clumping down the hallway. Ethel was not the first person at Rainy Creek Gardens to point out that she had dodged a bullet. Everyone in the community—staff and residents—knew about the fiasco with Brian Conroy because they had all been invited to the reception.

Charlotte had booked the Fireside Lounge for the festivities. Jocelyn had been shocked by the choice. She had even offered to pay for a more elegant setting as a wedding gift. With her charitable foundation connections, she had access to any number of high-end venues. But Charlotte had been adamant. She had pointed out that she was new to Seattle, so most of her friends and acquaintances were connected to Rainy Creek Gardens. It had made sense to hold the event there. Besides, as she had told Jocelyn, most of the residents would have had a difficult time getting to an off-site location. Very few of them still drove.

The upcoming wedding reception had been the talk of the community for weeks. The sudden cancellation five days before the nuptials had stunned everyone. There was no getting around the fact that it had been the most dramatic thing that had happened at Rainy Creek Gardens since the last earthquake drill, when several residents had mistakenly believed it was the real thing.

She had, indeed, been lucky, Charlotte reminded herself. But the knowledge that she had come within a hairsbreadth of marrying Brian Conroy—aka Mr. Perfect according not only to her own criteria, but to Jocelyn’s, as well—sent chills down her spine.

When she went through her list of desirable traits in a husband, it seemed as if she could put a check mark in each box. Brian was a friendly, outgoing, well-mannered man. He had appeared to be thoughtful and kind. He was intelligent and interesting and he had a good job teaching social sciences at a local college. He was easy to talk to and the two of them had enjoyed many of the same things, including long walks, the symphony, blah, blah, blah.

Mr. Perfect. Right. What could possibly be wrong with this picture? Oh, yeah. Nobody was perfect.

But as devastating as the canceled wedding had been—dealing with the sympathy from others had been the hardest part—she knew she could not blame Brian, at least not entirely. She knew exactly why he had gotten cold feet at the last minute. Her therapist had made it clear that she had to accept a large portion of the responsibility. She had tried to play it safe, as usual. The bottom line was that at some point Brian had awakened to the realization that she was boring.

You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, the therapist had said. You need to try new things, open yourself to new experiences.

She’d given it a whirl with a class in kayaking—and quickly discovered that she did not like getting wet, especially when the water was cold. She’d also experimented with skiing lessons, only to find out that she really hated falling down in snow. As a last resort she had bought a bicycle, determined to bike to work for the sake of the environment. That plan had been shelved when she had nearly been crushed under the wheels of a delivery truck.

In the end she had settled for lessons in meditation. The therapist had not been impressed.

The truth was, now that the trauma of the canceled wedding was fading, Charlotte was aware that what she felt was a surprising sense of relief. Ethel was right. She’d had a very close call. But that didn’t mean that she wasn’t still pissed at Brian. A woman had her pride.

She gathered up her papers and notebook and headed for the door. When she passed the Fireside Lounge she was pleased to see a large crowd. Music from a bygone decade played in the background. Voices were raised in conversation.

She wished that she was looking forward to an after-work drink with someone. Usually she would have given Jocelyn a call and arranged to meet her at one of the popular downtown bars or restaurants. But Jocelyn was out of town for the month.

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