Lonely and Alone

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It's a slow news morning at the St

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It's a slow news morning at the St. Augustine Times, and back before Rafael came into my life, I'd dreaded days like this. They were boring and bad for business. Bad for circulation and sales.

I'm in my office at the paper, reading an email about the day's news lineup. It's a snoozefest. Features about found pets and charity golf tournaments and a new playground near the beach. Now, I'm thrilled it's slow. I yearn for boring. I don't want more excitement. Rafael's money has brought a measure of security to the paper, and his assistants are still here, helping us make money. For the first time in years, things at the paper are not only okay, but they're pretty good.

And thank God for that. I wouldn't be able to handle chaos in my personal life and at work. The office is my refuge. I haven't seen Rafael in almost a week. Talking with him on the phone, texting, Skyping, isn't enough. I'm four months pregnant, getting bigger by the hour, and I want him near. I can't tell anyone about the undercover investigation, not even Diana. When I got back from the Caribbean, I'd told everyone that Rafa and I were working on things.

"It's complicated," I'd say and pat my stomach. That usually shut people up.

And so I'm left alone with my thoughts and my work, and it's the most lonely I've ever felt in my life.

"Be patient," he'd said this morning during our daily wake-up call. "The investigators say I've gotten almost all the details needed for an indictment. They need more audio, a lot of evidence. More than I ever thought imaginable. It's not like television."

"Of course it's not," I snapped. "Which is why I'm so concerned. How long will this drag out? And has Christina set a date for the wedding? Surely you won't be forced to actually marry her."

He chucked. "Babe, of course not."

We've danced around the obvious question: whether he's had to be physically affectionate with Christina. I mean, he proposed to her a week ago. Surely he couldn't do that with a handshake.

"Justine!" It's Diana's voice, and she's practically screaming.

I twirl around in my seat, and she's standing on the other side of my desk, waving a piece of paper.

"What?"

"Did you see this?"

"See what? Close the door if you're going to scream." I sigh and rub my stomach. It's only nine-thirty in the morning. What now? Even though Diana had a baby only a few months ago, she's back at the paper part-time while her husband stays home with their daughter.

From the look on her face, I'm wondering if she's taking on too much responsibility at work.

"I think we should discuss your schedule," I say.

Diana slams the door and slaps the paper on my desk, and that's when I realize this isn't about work. It's a printout of the Miami paper's gossip column, and my chest tightens with rage when I see the photo of Rafael and Christina and read the headline.

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