Sunday mornings were my one saving grace. Every Sunday, Stephen dutifully packed the kids in the car and drove an hour from our home in Mt. Juliet to his family church in Brentwood. He’d sit in the front pew next to his mother while the kids went to Sunday school. I’d made it very clear early on in our relationship that I respected his religion and his choice to attend weekly service, I would not be participating.
Instead, I lounged around and lazily drank coffee until ten. Then, I’d get in my peaceful car, thank God for a silent morning, and venture down to the Gulch to meet my sister and friends for Sunday brunch. The tradition started the year Stephen and I moved in together, and I almost made him work it into our vows. I promise to always be okay with Amanda going to brunch with the girls every Sunday. But I trusted him enough to not make him swear that promise in front of God and everyone. In the seven years since I’d only missed it four times. Both because I was recovering from childbirth. Those four Sundays, the girls brought Sunday brunch to me.
This time was sacred to me. It was the only three hours a week I had where no one needed me. No one touched me. No one demanded I feed them, change them, tie their shoes or play with them. There were no nagging deadlines. No emails. Nothing. Just adult conversation, mimosas and eggs Benedict. Every time I got in my car to head home, I felt refreshed and ready for whatever disaster I would walk into when I got home.
I handed my car keys to the valet outside Saint Anejo and passed a gaggle of hungover bachelorettes. I don’t recall when exactly Nashville became bachelorette central, but every weekend, they showed up in droves and took over the city. If I were still single or childless, I’d be highly annoyed by these young women infiltrating my city’s nightlife. But I’m not, so I just join in the chorus of groans about downtown traffic on Thursdays and Fridays and spend my weekends at soccer, the zoo and the Adventure Science Center; all of which are blissfully bachelorette free. My only encounter with them is on Sundays and by then all the wooing had made their voices too hoarse to get on my nerves.
Clad in a pair of clean leggings, a loose floral top and TOMS sneakers, I look every bit the soccer mom I was. Their size two designer jeans may be cute, but my not size two self is comfortable. I’d live in leggings and flats if I could. Some weeks I do. I don’t know at what point I decided leggings could fit into a business casual wardrobe, but I’m grateful I did. Never again will I force myself into uncomfortably pants or suits. I worked in marketing where it was important to look cool and creative. I could do that in leggings. Thankyouverymuch.
I walked past the hostess to find Amber, my sister. She was always there first. She lived in the Icon, a swanky condo building in the Gulch. She paid more for her one-bedroom condo than Stephen and I paid for our four-bedroom house. I reminded her of this every time she complained about being broke. Amber worked in the music industry as an underpaid publicist. She could have moved a little further out and gotten way more for her money. But my baby sister swore off marriage, babies and the suburbs. I imagine watching me inspired this decision.
I caught her eye and she waved me over.
“Hey, Manda,” she said. I leaned in and hugged her, gritting my teeth. She’d called me that ever since she could talk. I hated it as much now as I did then.
“Ambs,” I said, using the nickname I’d given her that she also despised. We irritated each other just enough to remember we were sisters.
“How is Barrett? Did Carly get over Croup? Did you kick your boss in his non-childbearing balls?” she asked in a rapid-fire sequence.
“Ornery. Yes. No,” I answered just as quickly.
“Sounds about right. You need to get over worrying about upsetting the patriarchy. You can’t let your boss talk to you like that.”
Easy for her to say. I rolled my eyes. “Anyway.”
“Have you heard from Morie or Jessica?” she asked.
“They are on their way. I text both just before I left.” As if on cue, I heard Jessica’s signature timid giggle behind me. I turned around to find her and Morie walking in together. Morie at almost 5’11” with electric red hair stood in stark contrast to Jessica’s petite frame and mousey brown hair. Jessica wore prim Ann Taylor capri pants and a pale pink sweater. Morie, as usual, was decked out in Lululemon from head-to-toe. She probably had a barre class after brunch.
Jessica, Morie and I went to college together. Amber got thrown into the mix a few years later when she moved back home after our parents died. She moved in with Stephen and me just after Barrett was born—hence her proclamation that she will never have kids. She’d witnessed first-hand the agony of breastfeeding and caring for an ungrateful newborn tyrant while trying to recover from a third-degree tear. I’ll never forget the horrified look on her face when I asked her to make me more padsicles. Her mouth hung open in disbelief as I explained the soothing benefits of aloe, lavender oil and witch hazel poured onto a maxi pad and frozen. I’m pretty sure she was celibate for a year after.
“Todd has the kids this weekend,” Morie announced as she sat down. “The house has been amazingly quiet. I got so much done and even had a date last night.”
“Still on Tinder?” Amber asked. Morie laughed and shook her head. “I’m telling you there is nothing better than a right-swipe one-night stand.”
“Amber!” Jessica scolded, shaking her head. “How are the kids adjusting?”
Two years ago, Morie became our first friend to get divorced. In the cliché of all clichés, she caught her husband red-handed with his secretary when she showed up to bring him dinner one night when he was working late. With her then-infant son on her hip, she walked in to find his secretary bare ass naked, sprawled out under her husband. She’d explained the scene to us in such detail, that Jessica had to excuse herself. Two weeks later, she’d found out she was pregnant with number two and was forced, by law, to stay married to the bastard until after the baby was born. Their divorce was finalized in January exactly eight weeks after their daughter was born.
“They barely even notice. I don’t think Evan even remembers when Daddy lived at home and Valerie hardly knows him.” She yawned. “He’s getting married next month.”
“Gross,” I said. Amber nodded in agreement.
“Such a shame,” Jessica said. “You guys were the it couple in college.”
Morie and I rolled our eyes. Jessica idealized every relationship. She’d met her husband Bill in elementary school and has never been with anyone else. They have three kids and the patience of saints. Sometimes I am completely baffled by her. Her entire world revolves around her kids. Bill is a surgeon, so she stays home. She doesn’t understand how Morie and I can go off to work every day, and Morie and I can’t understand how she survives surrounded by diapers and babies all day. But we all love and support each other.
“Did you talk to your boss?” Jessica asked. The waiter came by and we all ordered mimosas.
“Not since the priorities conversation.”
“At least he didn’t pull a Gary,” Amber said. I kicked her under the table. She knew better than to mention his name to me. “What?”
“Just don’t, Amber,” I said. I didn’t want to talk about Gary. Or Peter. Or my inability to stand up to my boss.
“Peter seems like a royal ass,” Morie said. I gave her a grateful smile.
“I know his wife,” she added. “Her son plays soccer with Hayden.”
I cringed. As much as I loved Jessica, her kid’s names were hard to stomach. In addition to her son Hayden, who was Barrett’s age, she had two daughters, Haylie, two, and Hayven, six months. I was scared to see what they might name a fourth kid if they had another.
“She can’t stand him,” she said. “He’s never home. I’ve never seen him at a soccer game and, apparently, he worked the entire time they were on vacation. And, get this, he is pushing for another kid.”
“What?” I asked, astonished. Peter didn’t strike me as the type to want one kid, much less four.
“Now this is just gossip,” she said casually. “But what I heard was she wanted to go back to work, but he is against it. Did you know she used to be some big shot lawyer?”
I shook my head, completely fascinated by what I was learning.
“Yeah. She stepped back when the first was born, but by the third, she’d quit altogether. Said it was too much to balance with a husband that didn’t pitch in.”
“That’s bullshit,” Amber said.
“Four mimosas,” the waiter said, pushing his way into the conversation. He placed a glass in front of each of us. “Are we ordering food too? Or sticking with a liquid brunch.” He laughed at his own cleverness.
We went around the table, each ordering something different so we could all share. This wasn’t something we planned. It just happened naturally. Once the food came, we’d all grab a fork and start stealing bites off each other’s plates. We’d been friends long enough to know what we could steal a bite of and what we couldn’t. For me, bread was off-limits. If anyone touched a biscuit on my plate, they’d pull their hand away to find a fork stabbed in it.
“He sounds like a royal douche,” Morie said. “And just like Todd.”
“At least Todd showed up for the births of both kids.”
“Even if you kicked him out both times,” I said laughing. “That should have been your sign. You were experiencing the miracle of birth and wanted nothing to do with the man that put you in that delivery bed.”
“Wait,” Amber said. “You’re saying he didn’t show up for the birth of any kid?”
Jessica shook her head. “According to Tiffany, he was working late or out of town for all three.”
“I feel bad for him,” I said. “He has no idea what he’s missing. But, I don’t understand why he thinks having another will change her mind about staying home. If she wants to work, what’s the big deal?”
Jessica shrugged. “Being a stay at home mom is hard, but so is being a working mom. I can’t imagine life from the other perspective, but I know Tiffany is more like you than me. She is miserable at home all day. She got an IUD put in a few weeks ago to ensure she won’t get pregnant again. Peter was livid.”
I shifted in my seat. As much as I loved bashing the asshole who asked me to prioritize his bottom line over my kids, talking about his personal life in this intimate of detail made me uncomfortable. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Morie looking at me. She shook her head.
“Are we still on for the Hayden and Barrett play date?” I asked in an obvious attempt to change the subject.
“Two weeks from Saturday?” she asked. I nodded in confirmation. “Yes. Bill is not on call that weekend, so he will be home with the girls.”
I smiled. “Perfect. I know Barrett is looking forward to it. Once summer hits, we should take all the kids on a zoo trip.”
“On a Saturday,” Jessica added.
“So we can bitch about it on Sunday,” Morie said. “We can drag Amber along to reinforce her birth control routine.”
Our laughter echoed through the restaurant causing the bachelorettes to cringe and cover their ears. Shrill girlfriend giggling was brutal on hangovers, but we didn’t care. We spent the rest of the morning laughing and talking loudly. This was our time and we were going to make the most of it.