Sophie Wharton is in control. Whether life is going according to plan or throwing her for a loop, Sophie is determined to remain calm and in charge. It's no wonder she's the successful owner of one of Seattle's most charming cafés, The Cup and the Cake. Her lemon meringue cupcakes, petite French treats, and cappuccinos always leave customers coming back for more. Naturally, her camaraderie of college girlfriends are still thick as thieves a decade later. And it should come as no surprise that she has her own cozy apartment in the hip part of town and grand goals for her future.
Of course Sophie has had her share of rough times, and recently some unexpected surprises have emerged. Her best friend Claire has moved across the state, the demands of her café are mounting, and some major changes among her circle of friends are shaking things up. But it's nothing Sophie can't handle.
When it comes to her love life, however, Single Sophie's at a loss. She approaches it the way she does nearly everything in life--by trying to call all the shots. But love doesn't work that way, and as Sophie examines her past relationships--thinking back on romantic trysts in Paris; college mistakes; the relationship responsible for the Year of Heartbreak--she must come to accept that love is an unpredictable, untamable, and often unexpected force.
This is the witty and heartwarming conclusion of the When Girlfriends collection, a novel about examining the past, moving forward, and following your heart. It's a story about friendship, relationships, acceptance, and learning to love again. About what happens when girlfriends find love.
“You’re crazy, girlfriend!” Jackie wails loudly over the quiet jazz music streaming from the iPod dock in my living room. “A guy asks you out on a date—single Sophie on a date—and you say no?! What are you smoking?”
“Stop it,” I say, carefully cutting out a picture of a swanky forest-green wingback chair from a magazine page. “If the spark’s not there, the spark’s not there.”
“Here,” Lara says. She reaches over me to retrieve a pair of scissors.
Jackie’s been pleading with all the girls to help her cut out pictures of interior decorating items for what she calls her “Inspiration Notebook.” She insisted that it was something all the girls did in her sorority when they wanted to redecorate their room, plan a party, even figure out what kind of gown to wear to the philanthropic ball. She’s certain it’ll help her with indecisive clients who don’t quite know what they want for their interior design project but aren’t fans of letting go and giving in to experimentation, allowing Jackie to work her magic unapproved.
I asked Jackie if she’d ever heard of Pinterest, and she told me to shut up and just cut.
“Oh, this book will look great!” Jackie gushes, looking fondly at the mess of cut-out images covering my large coffee table, some having floated to the carpet below. She excitedly claps her hands, scissors in one, a magazine page in the other.
“But not to get off topic.” Jackie points the scissors at me accusingly.
“Oh, Jack,” I moan. “Stop it or I’ll cut this picture all jig-jag.”
“You will not.” She purses her lips as she goes to work on her own cut-out. “You don’t have the balls.” She snickers. “Just like you don’t have the balls to go out on a date. Gaw.”
“Come on, Jack,” Lara says, pulling out that maternal card of hers. “Don’t pester her too much. If the guy’s not the right one, he’s not the right one.”
“Thanks, Lara,” I say.
“How will she ever know if he’s the right one if she’s not goin’ out on a date and hittin’ the sheets?” Jackie cackles loudly, tossing her head back in mirth.
“Whatevs, Jackie.” I finish cutting out the wingback chair, not a single crooked cut. “I’m just not…I don’t know…ready.”
“Well whatevs,” Jackie says all huffy as she retrieves a few magazines from her large Louis Vuitton handbag. “When you’re tired of cutting we can go back to searching. I brought tons of mags.” She waves the magazines about.
“Yes, please,” Lara says with a sigh. She immediately turns in her scissors for a copy of Design & Redesign. “My fingers are going to fall off.”
“I don’t even know why you’re waiting, Sophie, sitting around and passing on dates like this.” Jackie looks at me with a blank face. “I mean, what the hell are you waiting for? You think love’s just going to come a-knocking? You’ve got to search for it!” She slaps the top of the coffee table with vivaciousness. “Go after it, attack it, fight for it!”
“Damn,” Lara says, peering over her opened magazine. “Someone’s a tiger.”
“That’s right.” Jackie sits up higher on her legs, which are tucked underneath her in her seat on the floor. “You have nothing to lose by dating this Dean guy, right? It could be a nice way to get you back out on the market. You have been off the market for so long. I mean, when’s the last time you had sex, Sophie? You’ve probably forgotten how to do it!”
“Ha, ha. Whatever.” I try to dismiss the topic. “I’m not interested in Dean for sex, anyway.”
“Or for anything, I take it?” Lara says judiciously.
“Yeah.” I give a one-armed shrug. “I guess.”
“How about you go out on one date just to get to know him?” Jackie raises both brows inquisitively.
“I’ve gotten to know him, Jack. He’s at the café all the time. We’ve talked before. And,” I lean into the coffee table and point the scissors at Jackie, “if after all that I still have no interest in him…then…well…”
“Take a chance!”
“Take a chance?” I wag my head.
“We’ve all taken chances!” Jackie looks from me to Lara, who’s now abandoned her magazine and is looking at the both of us thoughtfully.
“Me with Andrew,” Jackie continues, “getting back together this summer! Major chance. Claire and Conner getting married! Robin and Bobby tying the knot, too. Marriage is one big chance. And Lara!” Her eyes dart back to Lara. “She’s taking a chance on Worth, even though that Nathan guy tore her heart out, the son-of-a-bitch-bastard. I so should have given him a real piece of my mind…slashed his tires, or—”
“Thanks, Jack,” Lara says with a flutter of the lashes.
Jackie crosses her arms over her chest and huffs and puffs a bit. Then she blurts out, “And after she shacked up with that Paul guy from work!”
“Thank you, Jackie,” Lara says, her words louder and more pronounced. “We get the picture.”
“She’s made some horrible choices along the way,” Jackie runs on.
I try my hardest to suppress a big burst of laughter at Lara’s growing exhaustion at hearing the run-down of her life’s less-than-stellar choices when it comes to the opposite sex.
“And I’ve made some horrible ones, too!” Jackie says, finally taking the heat off her BFF. “I’ve done a ton of jacked-up shit in my life, and I can’t even begin to tell you the number of lousy choices I’ve made, chances I’ve taken. But babe.” She rests a manicured hand on my arm. “Oh, Sophie, Sophie. If you don’t take those chances and risk something, even if it means your dignity, your virginity, or your homecoming crown, once upon a time.” She titters like a little girl. “If you don’t take a risk, you’ll end up living a half-lived life. Trust me, I know all about that.”
“Girls,” I sigh. I lean back against the sofa and cross my arms, sinking slightly further down in my position on the floor.
“She’s kind of got a point,” Lara says. “I mean, I disagree with a good seventy-five percent of what she’s spewing.” She puckishly tosses a wadded magazine page at Jackie. “But, she does have a point. It’s one date. One harmless date. If things truly aren’t going anywhere, then you can just tell Dean thanks but no thanks and move on.”
“At least you tried!” Jackie cuts in.
“Yeah,” Lara says with a nod, “at least you tried.”
“Make it a no-strings-attached kind of thing.” Jackie flashes me her bleach-white, million-dollar smile.
“I’m not sleeping with him, Jackie, if that’s what you’re hinting at.” I raise one brow.
“I’m not saying you need to test out those goods,” she defends with a groan. “Although that’s not the worst idea ever.” She simpers to herself. “Just a…you’ve-got-nothing-to-lose thing.”
“No strings, yeah,” Lara agrees. “You expect nothing, he expects nothing. Just—I don’t know—I guess let him know you’re not really looking for a relationship—”
“Liiiiie,” Jackie interrupts in a high-pitched, singsong voice. “You so want a relationship, Sophie. You want that L-O-V-E! I can see it in your eyes.”
“Whatever,” Lara brushes off, leaving Jackie to her own personal bout of giggles. “He expects nothing from the date, and you expect nothing from it; no-strings-attached. Nothing but fun and getting to know someone.”
“Yes!” Jackie shouts. She makes a fist and pumps it against her side. “Just fun!”
“Come on.” Lara opens her magazine, eyes still on me. “Think about it.”
“Fine,” I say at last. “But not until after Thanksgiving. The holidays are a busy time, and—”
“That’s just around the corner,” Jackie cuts in.
Lara says that’s right as Jackie presses with, “We have a deal then, yes? A no-strings-attached, crawling-out-of-your-hole, getting-some-action date in a couple of weeks?”
I pick up a loose cut-out from the floor and say, “I don’t like the idea.”
“Sophie,” Jackie drawls.
“Fine,” I say, reluctant. “Deal.”
It’s not like I haven’t done a no-strings-attached arrangement before, I think as I busy myself with a new cut-out. That just didn’t go as planned, that’s all. Sex was involved, so that was probably the problem. The thing totally spiraled out of control. But that’s okay, because I’ve learned from my mistakes. I can forge ahead a wiser and more experienced woman now.
I catch Lara’s eyes on mine over the top of her magazine, and I give a weak smile. “No strings attached, Sophie,” she says merrily. “And you’ve got weeks to think about it, anyway.”
“Yeah,” I say, but I think, I don’t need weeks to think about a no-strings-attached arrangement. All I need to do is close my eyes and remember.
Savannah Page is the author of the seven-novel When Girlfriends collection, heartfelt women's fiction that celebrates friendship, love, and life sprinkled with drama and humor. When she isn't writing, Savannah enjoys a good book with a latte and jazz tunes, Pilates, and exploring her home of Berlin as an American expat.
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