CHAPTER THIRTEEN

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"Here is fine."

Deciding that my legs can take me to my destination faster than a taxi stuck in mid-morning traffic, I pay the driver and exit on West 14th street. Tilting my head towards the sunshine, I take a moment to savor this mild spring day before I begin my short journey to my destination.

I join the collection of individuals that walk with determination along the sidewalk. Weaving in and out, I focus on avoiding collisions while keeping my hurried pace.  I'm late, not that that's surprising; time has a habit of always escaping me.  I silently curse myself for wearing my high heeled boots as I falter on the uneven edge of the poorly laid concrete. Regaining my balance, I reach into my black tote to retrieve my now ringing cell phone.

"Sorry, Soph! I'm just down the road. I'll be there in two minutes." I say breathlessly as I take a right onto 8th Avenue. The scent of fresh fruit hits me as I pass a corner fruit stand. My appreciation of the glistening red apples is momentary as I rush along the street. 

"I'm calling to tell you that I'm also running late. There's a breaking story and I can't leave right now."

"Oh, no problem! I promise Liam and I will stall by eating as much cake as possible until you arrive."

"Liam can't make it today. He's also caught up at work."

My fast stride falters. Something isn't right; Liam would never miss an opportunity to eat cake. 

"Ok," I respond suspiciously and add, "if you want, I can re-schedule the tasting for next week."

"No, it's fine. I trust you to pick something amazing. Besides, Ethan has volunteered to help so if you choose something disgusting, you can both share the blame."

I abruptly halt on the sidewalk. The individual who was trailing closely behind me doesn't have enough time to stop and crashes into my back. The stranger gives me an angry look in response to my apology.

"Sophie!" I exclaim into my cell as I move to the side of the walkway and out of the way. "Please tell me this is a joke."

"I spoke to Liam and we decided that it would be good for both of you to spend some time together to clear the air. You'll spend a lot of time with each other in the week we're away for the wedding so it's the perfect opportunity to talk things through."

"We have nothing to talk about."

"Then enjoy trying delicious cakes in silence.  Besides, I did the right thing and gave you a heads up this time."

"Thanks, Soph, for all of the two minutes warning you gave me. You and Liam are the best." I answer sarcastically with an exasperated sigh.  

"Awww, you're welcome. We are the best." She gives a snort-laugh on the other end of the line.  "Have fun and I expect a play by play later. Gotta go, love you. Bye." 

She ends the call before I get a chance to vent my irritation. Placing my cell back into my bag, I look upwards. Not even the beautiful blue sky and warm sunshine can suppress the storm I'm feeling inside. Glancing to my right, the big sign that says 'CAKE' in the distance tells me how close I am to my destination. How close I am to Ethan. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach reveals my nerves.  Turning my head to the left, I contemplate running in the direction I came from; away from him and back to the safety of my restaurant. I could have also got caught up at work. I could have fallen through a sidewalk grate on my way or hit by a car as I crossed the road.

I exhale a long breath, my resolve wavering. No one would believe that I'd miss the chance to eat cake, especially Ethan. Not even being hit by a car would stop me. He would see right through any excuse and assume that I couldn't handle being alone with him. He would be right, given how appealing an injury sounds right now but I refuse to have him know this. I can act as though it's completely normal to be hanging out with an ex-boyfriend. I can be the bigger person and remain civil despite everything. Most importantly, I need to do this for Liam and Sophie. I can do this.

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