Author's Note: Sorry for the long, long delay! Currently on my winter break, so I'm trying to get a few chapters out, fingers crossed!
Most of the week went by uneventfully, though at one point, I only barely made an article deadline. My editor was basically ready to pull me off being able to work at home. I wasn't too fond of the office, having only to report in monthly.
Nat, being as busy as she usually was, hadn't contacted me until she waltzed into my apartment on Thursday night, using the spare key I'd given her. Without greeting me, she wandered into my kitchen and poured herself a glass of water before settling down beside me on the couch. The sad bit was that she probably spent more time at my place than she did at hers, and more time at the hospital than she did at my place.
"My dad set me up on a date with that neurosurgeon... last Sunday." She said finally, looking at me through blood shot eyes, purely out of exhaustion. Nat was, as some may not be able to believe, a nurse at Mount Sinai, and that kept her pretty busy, but did give her the right schedule to prowl nightclubs.
"Really? Are we upset or happy or...?" I tried to make sense of this emotionless Nat. I couldn't tell if it was because she was exhausted or angry.
She downed the entire glass in one gulp and looked at me, thoughtfully. "He took me to Antonio's pizzeria. It was the cheapest fucking date that I've ever gone on." She scrunched her face up in reaction to the cold of the water and continued, "Which is nice, I guess. He's probably got a ton of gold diggers after him, and just needed to see if I was one of them." She sighed, looking into the distance.
"So what's wrong? Was he a gentleman during the date?"
She took in a deep breath before answering. "Yes, a complete gentleman. Totally different from all the other guys I've been dating. He didn't even try to kiss me good night! Just gave me a hug. Even walked me to my door, Addie. You know when the last time a guy walked me to my door was without expecting a little something in the sack? Never!" She covered her face in one of my throw pillow and screamed.
"Well, he sounds great! Is he not your type?" I scratched my head, trying to think of what could have made her so frustrated. Natalia wasn't one to fuss over a guy. None of them ever stuck around enough to annoy her. Of course, there was Mike Dane, Ted's cousin, but he was just Nat's emergency booty call. Good enough to hang around, but not of enough quality to actually marry some day.
"He's... I don't know, you know? He was really nice and he likes the same music and movies as me. I just don't know if I'm even ready to date, you know? Haven't really gone on one of those since high school. My life's been one meaningless fling after the next." She sighed.
Concerned, I enveloped her into my arms and maybe it was my maternal instinct kicking in, trying to console her as best as I could. "Hey, don't be like this. It's just one date. You don't have to marry the g-"
She pulled away from my hold and looked at me blankly "You don't understand, Ads, this could be the guy I marry one day. What if I screw up this whole soul mate thing and he runs off screaming?" She groaned into her sleeve, acting very much like a 6 year old.
"Why would he run off screaming? You're Natalia Yoon Wi, and you're a strong, independent, beautiful, successful woman and any guy would be lucky to have you. You don't need a man to validate anything. Just be you. He didn't run off on your first date and he even made a second date!" I tried to reassure her.
She sighed, pulling away from me. "Thanks, I really needed that. You always know what to say, Ads. It's a double date, so hopefully it won't be too bad. If anything, I get free sushi out of it." She smiled, contentedly.
"Wait, your date wouldn't happen to be this Friday, at Tachibana's, would it?" I paused, remembering the date I had with Victor this Friday.
"Yes, how did you know?" She freaked out, like I had just read her mind.
"I have a double date at Tachibana, this Friday... too." We both looked at each other, wide-eyed.
"Whoa! Freaky. But this is great, you can save me from being too... dorky." She jumped up, renewed. "Wait... who's your date?"
"Victor is. So, Victor and the neurosurgeon know each other?" We both looked dumbfounded, and I mentally tried to concoct a connection web with possible ways that a neurosurgeon and a poet/author could know each other, drawing blanks each time.
"Well, just look at us, we've been best friends since the beginning of time and I'm a nurse, while you're a writer, so it could happen. Anyways, we need to find you a flattering outfit, plus I need to borrow one of your dresses."
"You have a perfectly viable wardrobe back home, why do you need to borrow one of my outfits?"
"I need a dress that says, 'I'm gorgeous and stunning, but I'm not easy, and well, all my dresses say, 'I'm easy. Plus, you're not using it, so why can't I?'" Ah, the downfalls of being the same size as your best friend, except she's leggier and can actually pull off your clothes better than you can. Plus the whole, I'm pregnant and she's not, thing.
After several hours of digging through my closet, Nat finally chose a dress that fit what she wanted to say about her. It was a classy little black dress with an empire waist that went to my knees but would go slightly above Nat's. And so she turned to me, ready for gossip. "I haven't seen you since before you left for the Parri family reunion, how was it? Anyone get to sleep with the fishes? Namely Ted?"
"No, everyone was surprisingly civil. Except my Uncle Barto and cousin Vito tried to scare him a little. They're teddy bears though, wouldn't hurt a fly." I waved Nat off, finding a comfy spot at the foot of my bed to sit.
She continued digging through my closet for something suitable for me to wear. "I love your Uncle Barto, he was always so nice. Doesn't he have that huge mansion that they threw your college graduation party in? That was a good party." She sighed, entering into a dream like state, probably about whatever boy she'd had her way with at my party. Gross. "Your cousin Vito was something, too."
"Focus, weren't you just going on about finding the right man to settle down with?" I rolled my eyes, trying to snap her back down to Earth.
"Right, but the neurosurgeon isn't necessarily the one. Your cousin Vito could be the one. What's he up to these days? A girl can never have enough options."
"He's in dental school right now. He's also currently engaged to his longterm girlfriend of 5 years, so I'm gonna say he wouldn't be too interested."
Frowning, she passed me a knee-length plum dress and plopped down beside me. "Well, that puts a damper on things. Never mind though, I've got a date with a neurosurgeon." She ran into my closet to search for shoes, twirling around when she found a pair of black Manolo Blanhnik's that she got for me as a birthday present a few years back, one of the few designer items that I owned.
"Speaking of which, what's his name? And how does your dad even know him?" Nat's dad owned a Korean restaurant in a small Connecticut town, there was no way that he knew a New York Neurosurgeon unless he somehow just waltzed into the restaurant and Nat's dad identified him as a possible son-in-law.
"His name is Nathan, his mom works with my stepmom at the bank." She shrugged.
"Wow, Nathan. So you guys would be Nathan and Natalia. How cute! But if he's from little old Toolings, Connecticut, why didn't we know him before? We have a population of like 4,000, basically everyone's connected."
"Ah, well, he's a child of divorce so he grew up with his dad in California." Satisfied with the pieces she'd picked, Nat's eyes zoomed in on my protruding abdomen. "Wow, you've gotten really big. Anything exciting happen this weekend besides your teddy bears trying to protect you?"
"Well, I found out that I'm having a girl, and she started kicking!"
"That's so exciting! Sorry I was so into my own drama that I didn't ask. A girl, huh? You should name her Natalia." She smirked.
I rolled my eyes, ah, my good ol' best friend had snapped back to her senses. "Sorry, Nats. I'm going to name her Elodie, after my grandma."
"Oh, Elodie. She's your grandma who's living in Florida with Albert, right?"
I was surprised that Nat would remember something like that. My grandfather died a few years back, and one day my grandma brought her car in for a tire rotation where met my step-grandfather, Albert. It was basically love at first sight, eventually he sold his business and they moved to Florida. But that aside, as I'd told Ted earlier, Granny Elodie was the one who encouraged me to pick up a pen in the first place. She was the sweetest and was the perfect namesake for my daughter. It was too bad that she was all the way in Florida and her health was declining, so she hasn't really been able to make a trip to New York or Connecticut in awhile.
I still hadn't told my gran about my pregnancy, because she still held some old-fashioned beliefs about sex before marriage and especially babies before marriage. My dad hadn't talked much to her because he was still a little upset that she'd remarried, so I wasn't too worried about him spilling the beans.
Remembering that Nat was still waiting for my reply, I gave a nod. "Yeah, she's the best."
"No hard feelings. Let's compromise. How about Elodie Natalia Hines, then?" She wiggled her eye brows in a joking way and I shoved her playfully when I felt kicking.
"Nat! Give me your hand, the baby's kicking, you've got to feel this!" As soon as she did, the kicking stopped and she glared at me, as if I was just messing with her. "Sorry, she stopped as soon as you put your hand on her. I don't think she likes the name." I started guffawing, and Nat continued to glare at me.
"OH, you are so NOT going to be spoiled by your aunt Natalia." She huffed, turning away, pretending to be mad and scooting across the floor.
"Sorry, I apologize on her behalf."
"I accept! So, I was thinking about planning the baby shower. I know, I know, you're only 18 weeks along, but... it takes some time to plan a baby shower and you know how hectic work is, so I'd just like as much time as possible to be able to plan it. That cool with you?"
"Yeah, I guess." Shrugging, I shifted the pillow on my bed to make myself more comfortable.
"Great! I just need to know the guest list and the rest will be taken care of. You don't have to lift a finger on any of the planning."