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No Strings Attached

By´╝ÜHarper Bliss

CHAPTER ONE





“To one year of freedom.” Amber held up her cup of green tea.

Micky stared into her latte and shook her head. “Let’s not toast to that.” She looked up and found Amber’s eyes. “Freedom’s overrated.”

Amber cocked her head. “What’s wrong with you today? This is not the effect my yoga class is supposed to have.” She kept holding up her mug.

Micky averted her glance. Amber was always beaming with positive energy and obvious physical and mental health. Some days, it was just too much. “I’m not saying I’m not happy that my divorce became official exactly one year ago, but I don’t have that much to show for it. This yoga session is the highlight of my week. My children don’t need me anymore, which they keep reminding me of at every turn. I had foolishly believed my life would become better after leaving Darren, but it doesn’t feel that way.”

“You’re still finding your feet. And Olivia and Christopher do still need their mother very much. They’re still getting used to the situation as well. Think long-term, Micky.”

“Well, I definitely don’t want to get back with Darren, I just… feel so empty, so meaningless. My days are filled with literally doing nothing.”

“They’re filled with the exact same activities as before the divorce. It’s just your perspective that’s different,” Amber said.

Amber was a good friend to have, but her spiritual mumbo jumbo did irritate Micky at times like these. Micky could also do with a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc much more than this latte.

Micky shrugged as Kristin, The Pink Bean’s owner, headed in their direction.

“Hello, ladies,” she said. “I hope you had a good class.”

Micky let Amber reply to that question. Amber explained how she’d had her students stay in pigeon pose for longer than usual and asked Kristin when she was going to join again.

“As soon as I find a new employee.” She thrust a sheet of paper in Micky’s direction. “Are your children old enough to have an after-school job?”

“My children?” Micky bristled. “Actually work for pocket money?” She feigned an exaggerated laugh, then clasped a hand to her chest. “It’s my own fault. I spoiled them too much.”

“How about you, Micky?” Amber’s voice rose.

“Me what?” Micky stared at the text on the piece of paper. Barista wanted. Being upbeat is much more important than being experienced.

“You’re looking for something to do with your time. Why don’t you apply?” Amber looked at Kristin, possibly for words of encouragement, but Kristin had a business to run so why would she hire a washed-up divorcée like Micky? And why would Micky take a job in the first place?

“It could be fun,” Kristin weighed in. “You come in here every day, anyway. I’ll show you the ropes.”

“Me?” Micky leaned back. “Work at The Pink Bean?” The idea sounded ludicrous to her. “I don’t know the first thing about making complicated cups of coffee like this.”

“You’re an expert at drinking them, though,” Amber offered.

“Think about it.” Kristin shot Micky an encouraging smile, then walked off and pinned the sheet of paper on the notice board by the door.

“Why did you say that in front of her?” Micky gave Amber a wry look.

“You know me, Michaela, I’m always only trying to help.”

It was infuriating, but true. “Can you imagine me serving coffee at The Pink Bean?”

“Why not? You were just telling me about how empty you feel inside. You basically said you’re bored. Working here for a few hours a day can change that. You’d meet new people. You wouldn’t be alone. And you can take my evening classes. They’re a bit fuller, but I’ll still pay special attention to you.” Amber drew her lips into that wide smile of hers. A ginger curl had escaped from her ponytail and danced along her temple as she nodded.

“But”—and Micky was embarrassed to admit this—“I haven’t worked a day in my whole life.”

“What are you talking about?” Amber’s voice rose again. For a yoga teacher, she really had problems keeping her voice level in social situations. “You raised two children. You made a home for them and for your ex-husband. It’s not because you don’t get paid for it that it isn’t a job—and a tough one at that.”

“If you put it that way.” Was Micky actually starting to consider this crazy idea? What did she really have to lose apart from a few hours of her time, which she didn’t do anything useful with, anyway. “But I’ve certainly never had a boss before.”

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