"What are you doing here?" Phelps asked.
I watched in horror as he tried-unsuccessfully-to lift the obscenely pregnant Rhonda into a twirl. Though he couldn't get her off the ground, he threw his arms around her and returned the hug she gave him.
"You got fat," he teased.
She swatted at his shoulder. "Pay no attention to him," Rhonda advised me. "He's been incorrigible since we were children."
I must have looked as confused as I felt, because Phel-Elliot explained. "We're cousins."
Cousins? Well that explained the big bear hug. But that didn't mean she was welcome in my bedroom.
"Rick called me as soon as he dropped you off," Rhonda explained. "Said he thought he recognized Elliot from the family reunion a couple years back. And when I found out he was with you, Lydia, I rushed right over."
All this happy coincidence was making me ill. "If you'll excuse me," I said rather curtly, "I need to change for dinner."
I shut the door on three bewildered faces.
Whatever actually happened that night in Gavin's office, I was not ready to forgive all the involved parties. Rhonda may have found herself a new man-a husband even, if the nine-month bulge and impressive solitaire were any indication-but that didn't mean she was entirely innocent.
What kind of secretary kneels before her half-naked boss, no matter the situation?
My shoulders slumped. I knew I'd been rude. Mixed feelings about kissing Ph-Elliot, getting caught by my mom, and facing the woman responsible for breaking up my last relationship overwhelmed me. Definitely mitigating circumstances.
A soft knock roused me from my recriminations. I figured it was most likely my mother.
When I called out, "Come in," the last person I expected to see was Rhonda.
"Lydia," she said gently as she closed the door behind her, "I'm sorry if my presence has upset you."
"It hasn't. It's just-" I fidgeted with the hem of my blouse. "-it was a surprise."
She smiled softly. "We used to be friendly."
I sighed. "Yeah, before."
"I never knew what happened." She stayed next to the door, as if afraid to venture too far into the room. "Between you and Gavin."
She glowed with the inner light of expectant motherhood. A woman ready to nurture, and willing to use that nurturing instinct on me.
"Actually, Rhonda," I confessed as I lowered onto the bed. "What came between us was,"-my brained screamed out the word you, but my heart knew the real answer-"me."
"I don't understand."
As I started to explain what I saw that night, what I thought I saw, Rhonda walked over to the bed and sat by my side. Tears came as I recounted how betrayed I felt at the thought of Gavin cheating on me. And with a woman I had considered a friend.
"Sweetheart," she soothed, rubbing a reassuring hand along my back, "you know that never happened."
"It looked that way," I sobbed, "I was so sure of what I saw."
Rhonda patted her protruding belly. "This little angel will be our third. I've been happily married, and fully satisfied thank you very much, for five years. I would never cheat on my Rick." She leaned in for emphasis. "And if he cheated on me, I'd chop off his wiener and throw it in the blender on puree."