Chapter 1 - The Set Up

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CHAPTER 1


CAT


"Just a minute, I'm coming handsome."

Her son was crying and now Catherine couldn't find her damn phone underneath the mess that was her little kitchen. She fumbled around, trying to follow the sound of the device as it vibrated against the linoleum countertop.

"Gotcha!" she said triumphantly, sliding her finger across the screen before putting the phone to her ear. "Hey Hannah, what's up?" she greeted her best friend only slightly breathlessly.

"Are you alright?" Hannah snorted.

"Fine," Cat answered with a dismissive wave of her hand that Hannah couldn't see.

"Is the little one okay?" Hannah asked, more than likely cringing at the sound of Luke's wails.

"Yeah, he's just teething... we were up all night again," Cat replied.

"Poor little guy... tell him Auntie Hannah will give him a popsicle the next time she sees him," Hannah said.

"Will do," Cat smiled.

"Anyway," Hannah went on. "I was just calling to make sure that you're still coming tonight?" she asked, speaking in a very enthusiastic tone. It took Cat five cups of coffee to achieve that level of energy nowadays, and knowing that Hannah didn't drink caffeine at all made her feel so freaking envious.

"No, Hannah, come on, I told you I'm not interested in—" Cat said quickly, her cellphone tucked between her shoulder and her ear now as she whisked a cranky toddler out of his high chair, balanced him on her hip and grabbed the empty bowl of oatmeal left on the table with her free hand. Still rocking and hushing a wailing child, she skillfully dumped the bowl into the kitchen sink, letting it fall into the pile of last night's dishes with a loud clink.

"Come on Cat; it's just one date! If you don't like the guy, then that'll be the end of it. I won't ever set you up again!" Hannah argued.

"Dude, I don't even know this guy!" Cat argued. She put down her son in his playpen and gave him a yellow Tonka truck to play with in addition to the teddy bear and teething rings already in there. She then doubled back into the kitchen, ran hot water into the sink and added a little too much dish soap, distracted by a mix of her best friend's nagging and Luke's whining.

"I told you! His name is Nick Bradley. He's friends with Josh. He's a junior, just a year above us. He's majoring in communications or something like that... and he does something with music too," Hannah sighed, exasperated. "So you've already got one thing in common, and at least you can expect him to be a decent conversationalist, otherwise he'd be a physics major or in accounting or something dull like that!" she added.

Cat groaned.

"Cat," Hannah said, unrelenting.

"No, Hannah... I'm not getting my hopes up just to watch everything crash and burn again. You know how it is. Most guys turn right around when they find out I'm a nineteen year-old college sophomore with a toddler at home. I can't do it again... it's not worth it... and it isn't worth putting Luke through getting attached to someone only to have them—shit... I mean... crap," she trailed off.

"What?" Hannah asked. There was a spike of worry in her voice.

"Nothing, Luke's just being fussy," Cat replied.

Luke was shaking the playpen with his little fists and trying to get one of his legs over the side. His Tonka truck had been discarded on the carpet a few feet ahead.

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