After handing a meat loaf special to her mom and a ham dinner to her aunt Dolly, Mia sat down next to her mom, Dotty. These two came in a few times a week and were always fun. They got along so well for women in their sixties, but they had lived such parallel lives that it was no surprise.
Both had married in their early twenties and stayed in the same town they had been raised in. Both had a bucket of kids, six for her mom and four for her aunt, and at almost the same time. Though Dolly’s were all older then Dotty’s, Mia and her cousin Julia were the same age. Mia was the first born, and Julia the baby of her family.
But for as long as Mia could remember, the families were in each other’s pockets. From holidays to birthday parties to school functions, the Lawson and Nordskov families were there. Though the two sisters were originally Haans girls, nobody thought of them as that anymore. But nobody could miss that they were sisters.
“How is Mia?” Aunt Dolly asked like every week.
“Mia’s good,” Mia answered, like every week.
“How is the waitress shortage?” her mom asked.
“I’ve got it covered now. I hired two more and have one more I might hire if one doesn’t work out.” She was always having trouble getting and keeping waitresses—nobody wanted to be a waitress these days.
“That’s good,” Dotty said.
This was actually the same conversation the sisters always had with her, but she enjoyed them getting along. It was hard on everyone when they started to fight, as all sisters do. Mia was an expert on sisters—she had five little ones.
In her pocket, her phone made a noise, signaling she had a text. Excusing herself, she pulled it out as she walked back to the kitchen area. It was from Ruth at the rental office, formerly the insurance office across the street.
Sliding it into her pocket, she turned to the other two waitresses working today and told them to take over. Of course, it was only her mom and aunt in the restaurant. Hurrying over to them, she told them she had to run over and see Ruth. They didn’t ask any questions, they never did.
Tossing her order pad at Kelly behind the counter, she hurried across the street. So far, it wasn’t too cold for a mid-October day. Sure, it was chilly, but not cold enough for a full-blown jacket. You just needed a sweatshirt or sweater to ward off this cold. She didn’t skip the jacket because she was still wearing the pink one since she hadn’t found anything to her liking when spring brought winter clothes sales.
Pushing her way into the rental office, she found herself missing the insurance office it used to be. With Anderson in the back office, and Ruth right her at the window. Ruth ready for conversation at a moment’s notice. Now she was busy in the back office, writing most of the time since the rental office was basically only open if you had an appointment.
Today Ruth was in the back office when she came in, looking the same as she always had. Well, happier now than she used to be, now she had Anderson and the ability to do what she loved all day long: write books.
“You wanted to see me?” Mia said from the doorway. This was the first SOS she had ever received, so she didn’t know if it was good or bad.
“Could you close the door, Mia?” Ruth stated calmly.
Mia closed the door and walked over to the chair Ruth had on the other side of her desk. Then, as usual, she looked at all the black blinking boxes that lined the shelves behind her friend. What any of them did was beyond Mia, but Ruth knew what they all did. All those black boxes kept Ruth’s computers running and connected to the world. Anderson teased her about her network sometimes when Mia was around, but she knew he was impressed that she was an expert. Enough so that she maintained his internet connection at his insurance office as well.
“What’s the emergency?” Mia asked.
“First, I want to know if you can get a few days off?” Ruth asked cryptically.
“What days?” Mia leaned on the desk with her elbows and rested her chin on her hands, looking closely at her nervous friend.
“The rest of the day today, tomorrow, and maybe the next one,” Ruth stated.
“So, today and Friday. I get the weekend off this week. I think I can swing it.” Smiling, she rescheduled in her head. She knew two of her waitresses would fill in for her, no questions asked.
“Good,” was all Ruth said.
“Why?” Mia wanted to know..
“I want you to come with me and Anderson to Las Vegas We’re getting married.” Ruth grinned as she said it.
Mia knew her mouth was wide open in shock. Ruth and Las Vegas seemed like oil and water, but Mia really wanted to see them together just the same, “Why?”
“Because I think I’m pregnant, and no way am I having a baby without being married. I’m not making my mother’s mistakes.”
Which made perfect sense Ruth had been raised by a single mom with no man in the picture for most ofher life. Though she and Mia hadn’t been friends, Mia knew life hadn’t always been easy for Ruth.
“You’re getting married, like, today?” Mia asked in confusion.
Ruth shook her head. “Tomorrow.”
“When do we leave? Will I get time for some shows? Some gambling?” Mia jumped up and started to pace, starting to pack in her mind.
“The plane leaves in three hours, so we have to leave soon. I only need you sometime tomorrow, and we’ll know more when we get there. The rest of the time is yours. But …” Ruth stopped shifting the stack of papers on her desk.
Mia turned quickly—there was always a but. “But?”
“Anderson is asking Rafferty to go as well.” Ruth bit her l!p.
Rafferty. Of course, Rafferty. She had been avoiding him since the wedding—the “not wedding.” Once again, she had woken up hung over and naked after spending time with him. Once again, she couldn’t remember anything. Had they had s*x? Had they had s*x in a church? Had they used protection? There was no evidence of it this time. The last thing she remembered was kissing him while dancing at the church, then nothing. But she’d woken up in her own bed.
So far, he hadn’t said anything, and she was never going to ask him about it. So, she had no idea what had happened. All she knew was that she had his tie wrapped around her hands when she woke up. Bondage? Was she even into bondage? She had no idea!
“He’s my brother, Mia, and Anderson’s best friend. There’s no way Anderson would want his own brother here, so can you put up with Rafferty for me?”
Mia looked at one of her best friends, who chosen her over all her other friends for this. “I can do it for you. But you owe me. Big time.”
Ruth jumped up and hugged her. “Thank you, Mia! Now go get packed, and don’t tell anyone. We want to keep it secret until we get back.”
With only an hour, Mia ended up not having a lot of time to pack. She got the restaurant organized for her to be gone for a few days and then threw some stuff in a bag, grabbing as much cash as she could find for gambling, and her currently empty travel credit card. She rarely got to travel. After changing into more Vegas-appropriate attire—a yellow sundress—she was ready.
Climbing into the back seat next to Ruth, she wished she’d had time to color her hair. It was supposed to be platinum blonde, but the black it had been before had actually made it so close to her natural color that she usually just stared at it when she looked at herself. It had been years since she had brown hair. But the bleaching had done some damage, and she couldn’t fix it for a while. So she was stuck for a few weeks with the brown.
“Is everyone ready?” Anderson asked from the driver’s seat.
“You bet! So excited that in a few hours, I’ll be betting on anything and everything.” She laughed in excitement, which seemed catchy because everyone laughed with her as they headed out of town.
Since she was next to Ruth, they chatted the entire way to Grand Forks to catch the plane. She hadn’t even noticed Rafferty was there except she could hear his voice, but he was in front of her, so she could only see the back of his head. He was easy to ignore this way.
It was even easier on the plane, because those seats were way bigger. There he was still right in front of her next to Anderson, but she couldn’t hear or see him.
“So, I’ve come up with my payment for putting up with your family on this vacation,” Mia said to Ruth, who was sitting by the window, looking out at the ground far below.
“What would that be?” Ruth turned to her and asked.
“Godmother to your first born.” Mia pointed at her stomach and grinned.
“Really? Because I bet I can tell you who Anderson will pick as godfather then.” Ruth pointed to the seat in front of Mia. The one Rafferty was in.
“But you don’t need a godfather. I’m enough of a godmother that your baby will never even know there are other families not like ours out there, two godparent families,” she stated boldly, because she was losing her dream. So far, not one of her sisters had picked her either. What was it about her that nobody wanted her to be a godparent to their children?
Ruth stared at her in confusion for a moment before she shook her head. “Nope, you will have to share. We want two people.”
“What if I’m married?” Mia asked. She could swing it. She would just have to double down on her efforts. And since effort hadn’t been being put forth in a long time, it would be easy.
“So, in less than nine months, you’ll not only fall in love, but be married?” Ruth’s perfect eyebrow went up in question.
“You doubt me and my abilities?” Mia said more confidently than she felt.
“Just a little. You’re waiting for your true love, and he might not show up in the next few months.”
“Maybe I already know him, like you and Anderson.”
“And who would that be?”
“I don’t know yet. Maybe when I move to Grand Forks, I’ll meet my neighbor, and it’ll be true love. Like in a rom*nce book. Do you know anything about those?” Mia asked, knowing that Ruth had written more than a dozen books on the topic. Mia had read all her books since she’d found out about Ruth’s big secret. And that exact scenario had been in not one, but three of her books.
Ruth just rolled her eyes. “But you can’t leave anymore, Mia. I’m having a baby, and Tess will have her baby any day now. You can’t leave.”
“But it’s my destiny, Ruth.”
“No, it’s not. You’re a Landstad Tiger, through and through.” Ruth argued, a Tiger was the not only the school mascot, but the nickname for a Landstad High graduate who chose to live in Landstad long after they could have left.
“I can be a Tiger from afar.” It was true; she wasn’t going to cut her ties with the town. After all, she did love it there. Just not every day, day in and day out.
“Nobody is a Tiger from afar.” Ruth shook her head.
“Then I’ll be the first.” She tried to convince Ruth … and herself.
“I’ll let it go for now,” Ruth said, then took out a paper from her purse. “So, last night Anderson found this on line. I think this is the place.”
Taking the paper from her hand, it was for a cute little wedding chapel that looked like an actual church. Stopping, Mia looked at her. “Last night? You gave me an hour to get ready!”
“Sorry. We were just going to go alone, but Rafferty found out and insisted he had to go. So, I decided to bring you.”
“You at least made a good choice. Anderson didn’t.” She looked at the back of the seat in front of her, it was the first time she made it sound like she didn’t want Rafferty there.
“So, we’re going to swing by the place today when we get in, and then get married tomorrow,” Ruth explained, taking the paper back and folding it up again.
“Why not today? Why wait?” Mia questioned. There was no way she would be able to wait.
“Because tomorrow is the anniversary of when Anderson took over the insurance office from Frank. When we met.” Ruth got a dreamy look in her eyes, making Mia wonder if that was the true reason behind the wedding and not the baby excuse.
Mia giggled, “You’re so rom*ntic I thought you were knocked up?”
Ruth shrugged. “I am. It just happened that I realized right as this was coming up. Couldn’t miss the chance to do it that day.”
“It’s the day I would’ve picked, too.” Mia loved how cute a couple they were.
When the stewardess came by with drinks, she dropped off a tiny bottle of whiskey for her and a pop for Ruth from the guys in front of them. Mia happily drank it. This was actually the most exciting day of the year. She was getting out of Landstad. She may have to go back in a few days, but for today, she was free. And she was getting to see one of her best friends get married in a secret ceremony to her long time crush. What a vacation it was going to be.