Brenda stood near the punch table, her smile flashing as she surveyed the crowd. She turned when her name was called. “Megan, you haven't changed a bit.”
Megan laughed as she hugged the classmate she hadn't seen in years. “I was wondering if you'd make it. How are you?”
“I'm hanging in there,” Brenda said as she reached for a glass of punch, her rings glittering. “And you?”
“We're doing great.”
“Do you still live in that little house on 4th Street?”
“Oh, no,” Megan said, smiling. “We fixed that up and sold it two years after we moved into it. Did you bring your family with you?”
Brenda's face hardened. “No, they're with their dad this week.” She smiled tightly and said, “So, where do you live now?”
Megan was thrown off kilter; Brenda had pursued Bob and then gloated over getting the richest guy. She looked at Brenda's false, but bright smile. “Well, at the moment we're living on Maple Street but we'll be moving again soon.”
“Moving up in the world, huh?”
“Actually, just another one of the old, run-down homes. Hi, Rachel.”
“Don't let her fool you, Brenda,” Rachel said as she joined them, “the houses might be old and run-down when they move into them, but when they move out, they're beautiful and they bring top dollar. Trust me, I know, I'm their real estate agent.” Rachel leaned over and hugged Megan.
“Rachel's been a big help by finding good deals for us. We wouldn't have done as well without her.”
“So you've done well?” Brenda asked Megan, her smile becoming sharper.
Warning bells sounded inside Megan's head, making her glad Mike, her husband, had been delayed.
“They've done fantastic, Brenda,” Rachel answered before Megan could stop her. “Did she tell you they just bought the judge's mansion on Lincoln Street, and that they...” Right as Megan went to stop her, Rachel turned to her with wide eyes. “Doug's coming this way. What do I do?”
“Just be yourself, Rachel.” She turned an amused look to Brenda but bit back what she had been about to say about new love because Brenda was suddenly oozing syrup. Shock spiraled through her. Nothing's changed with Brenda except that we're older. She's still up to her old tricks and chasing after the richest guys in town. It's not gonna work this time. I'm not gonna let her just step in and take the man Rachel's waited so patiently for.
Not knowing what else to do, Megan quickly turned to Brenda. “I'm so sorry to hear about you and Bob. What happened?”
Brenda's smile fell from her face and, to Megan's amazement, tears welled in her eyes. “He lost every cent we had, and a whole lot more. I kept trying to tell him not to spend so much, but he wouldn't listen. He was never happy. Every year he had to have a new car, vacations in Fiji, private school for the kids, the works. He lost everything we had and then he divorced me, saying it was all my fault. The kids don't even like being with him, and it just tears me up when they have to go to his apartment.” She turned away to dab her eyes and turned right into Doug.
Doug's eyes flared wide. “Hello, Brenda.”
“Oh, Doug, it's so good to see you.” Brenda sniffled, all syrupy sweetness.
“It's good to see you, too.” His eyes narrowed briefly then he turned to Rachel and smiled. “Shall we go sit before the program begins? I hope you don't mind the front row for tonight, Rachel, that's where they have the speakers sitting and I reserved a place for you, too.” He looked back to Brenda, “Ladies, I'm sure we'll see you later.” He shot a smile to Megan. “Thanks. Again.”
“You owe me, Douglas, and I'll collect next month,” Megan called after him, laughing.
Brenda scowled. “He owes you?” All pretenses had fallen away, leaving Brenda exposed.
“Yes. Can you believe that ladies chase after him simply for his money? I've saved him several times, now, and he pays me by watching the kids while Mike and I go off for a long weekend by ourselves. You know, Brenda, it was worth all those years of scrimping and working hard...”
Brenda looked over Megan's shoulder. “Isn't Roger the bank president now?”
A syrupy sweet Brenda fluttered her fingers and sailed off toward Roger.
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