‹ Prequel: Even Lovers Drown
Status: Paused for now

Happily Ever After

Chapter 17

Sage’s cellphone laid useless on the tiled countertop, waiting for her to use it, mocking her silly hesitation. It’s so easy, it seemed to taunt, just pick me up and make the call. Next to it, a scrap of paper with a number scrawled across the surface agreed. Just dial the number and call. How hard was that? Sage had done the very action billions of times before. She’d called her friends, called her support group, called fans, called interviewers. Hell, she’d even called her foster parents, and they were never easy people to talk.

But, Sage decided, sitting on her counter stool with her head cradled in her arms, calling Cadeau was certainly far more terrifying than telling her foster parents she had afterschool detention.

Sage didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to call Cadeau to inform her about the stupid Say Goodbye pool party she’d agreed to hosting so Cadeau could get her stupid contract. But someone had to and her so-called friends, who connected with Cadeau more successfully than she did—last time she had spoken to her, she made her flee the room—refused to make the call. Because they hated her.

Never mind that the party was at Sage’s house, in her pool, involved her fridge and barbecue pit, and she knew better than anyone what needed to be brought and how to give directions. Someone else could have done it.

She’d almost conned Blake into calling. She’d ranted and moaned over the phone for almost thirty minutes before Blake sighed and agreed to calling Cadeau.

Then, Saylor grabbed the phone.

That had been Sage’s downfall. She should have hung-up the phone the moment she heard Saylor’s voice, let Blake keep believing she had to inform Cadeau of the details of the pool party, but she hadn’t thought Saylor was going to do much more than say “hi” and prattle on for a couple minutes. Saylor did that. Often. And Sage enjoyed listening to her prattle on and having the opportunity to give her advice about her life.

But Saylor hadn’t wanted to chatter.

No, she saw it fit to reprimand Sage for passing on something that was her “responsibility.” It was her job to call Cadeau, invite her to her house, and tie the gap or whatever her lame ass phrasing had been. She ended off her fifteen minute speech by telling Sage Cadeau’s number. Three times. And making Sage repeat it back.

So, now, Sage was left staring at her cellphone and the number she had written on the back of a ripped receipt.

And she still had to call Cadeau.

She didn’t want to do it.

At no fault to Cadeau, for once. Actually, calling Cadeau, crossing that bridge of communication, could have been nice. Maybe calling her would actually get Sage somewhere. Like closer to making her dreams a reality. Just once, so Sage could get her out of her system.

Or twice.

Or maybe, three times.

She wasn’t really sure how long it would take to get over another pretty woman this time, but she did know that the process of getting to the point of recreating her dream was long and tedious. She didn’t just sleep with women like Blake used to do. She had a system, which she had to tweak in order to be the pursuer. Call her, woo her, ask her out a couple times, ask her to be her girlfriend, sleep with her, let the relationship drag on until Cadeau got so frustrated she broke up with her, possibly find another drummer.

That last one wasn’t part of her normal routine but the rest had become an art form.

She had the perfect excuse to call Cadeau and put her usual flirtation into motion.

But every time Sage thought about the things she needed to mention to Cadeau, like what she needed to bring and the fact that it was a pool party and to ask if she had any allergies or food restrictions so she could prepare properly, her mind clouded with images of Cadeau in a swimsuit. And Cadeau skinny-dipping. And Cadeau lying on her pool chairs naked.

And she got flustered.

She couldn’t call her while flustered. She wouldn’t call her. She couldn’t explain herself to that drummer. Especially when she couldn’t logically explain her intense switch of opinions about Cadeau to herself.

Cadeau was just different to her now and her feelings were different now and, damn it, everything was different now.

The same different that happened before she dated every one of her ex-girlfriends.

She didn’t think about the changes with them and she wouldn’t think about it with Cadeau, should she and Cadeau ever happen, because the only thing that separated Cadeau from her past girlfriends was her physical appearance. She was feminine in a way Sage wasn’t used to, but she was attractive, interesting, and had managed to force Sage to get to know her, just like the rest.

And she would end up another name on her list of ex-girlfriends, there just to fill an emotional void for a short period of time until Sage was itching to move on.

If Sage could call her.

“This is stupid,” she grumbled.

She grabbed the cellphone, dialed the number from the scrap of paper, and pressed call without a second thought.


The obnoxious ring of Cadeau’s cellphone drifted from the dining room, the normal, bland ringer reserved for unknown numbers. Cadeau glanced toward the kitchen, wondering for a moment who was calling her on her day off. Certainly no one she knew, judging by the tone she could hear. Maybe a telemarketer who’d gotten ahold of her number. Probably.

No matter. She would simply have to put finger-painting with her daughter on hold for a moment to answer the phone.

She looked back at her daughter, whose face was splattered with paint, and smiled. She had no doubt her own face held similar markings but she didn’t care. This was her day off, and she was spending it how she wanted to: with her daughter.

And now she had to deal with a telemarketer.


“Mommy will be right back,” she said, standing.

“Kay,” Jolie hummed. Then she snapped her head up from her artwork, concentration breaking, and looked up at Cadeau with hopeful eyes. “You get me s’ghetti? Only little bit?”

Cadeau raised an eyebrow at her daughter’s demand, ready to respond with a prompt for the proper way to ask for things. Jolie caught the look, seemed to understand it before Cadeau could speak—after all, she had received the look so many times by now, she knew exactly what it meant—and quickly filled in the missing polite addition to her question.

“P’ease,” she asked.

There was the magic word.

And the unnecessary puppy dog eyes to go along with it. Cute and persuasive but unnecessary when asking for a serving of spaghetti.

“Of course, princess,” Cadeau said, turning and walking the short distance to her dining room.

“Only little bit,” Jolie called after her.

She chuckled at her daughter’s demanding reminder. She wouldn’t forget, but Jolie would in the few minutes Cadeau spent on the phone. Finger-painting, it made Jolie’s memory span shorten considerably.

Cadeau grabbed her cellphone from the table, pressed the answer call button, and brought it to her ear.

“Cadeau Johnson,” she said.

“Hey, Cadeau,” came a familiar voice, mildly distorted by the speaker. “It’s Sage.”


Cadeau’s heart tripped over itself, her breath seemed to disappear from her lungs, and her stomach twisted into knots. Sage was calling her. Actually calling her. She sought out her number—she had to because Cadeau was certain she hadn’t given it to her personally, so she would have had to ask a band member and risk their teasing torment—and called her. She was contacting her outside of band practice. Progress, amazing, wonderful, progress.

“Uh, hey. What’s up?” Cadeau said, attempting her casual, friendly, “not excited about making progress with a guitarist who originally hated her” voice.

Nailed it.

“I just wanted to apologize about what happened yesterday. It’s not our place to make you talk about… well, you know.”

Oh, that. Cadeau had been effectively blocking out the “introduction” video she would have to do. Between making spaghetti and finger-painting and coloring and playing with Barbie dolls and doing laundry and cleaning dishes and washing every surface Jolie’s sticky fingers had gotten on, she hadn’t taken the time to think about addressing the topic of her suicide attempt with a bunch of strangers.

“It’s okay. I know the video’s important. I just need time to think about it.”

And to get up the nerve to tell the band she had a child.

“You’ll have time. Don’t worry, no one’s making you do it immediately. We could probably talk Andy out of the idea if you don’t feel comfortable. With Davy’s help. Davy has Andy whipped.”

Cadeau smiled, more grateful for the offer and light tone of her voice than Sage knew. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Sage said. She paused for a second, hesitating as if she were uncertain or nervous, then spoke. “So, we’re having a Say Goodbye pool party Saturday at my place. We’d like you to come.”

Sage personally inviting her to a pool party. How nice. How exciting. Sage was warming up to her. She hugged her, called her, and now, she was inviting her to a party at her house.

Too bad Cadeau couldn’t go without her conscience nagging her. She’d have to leave Jolie at her parents’ house while she was out enjoying a pool party that Jolie would have loved to go to but couldn’t because Cadeau couldn’t tell her soon-to-be-official band mates that she had a daughter. No, she couldn’t go.

“I don’t know…” Cadeau trailed off.

“You don’t really have a choice. The party’s for you. To get your contract, welcome you to the family, all that. Your attendance is required.”

For her? How was she supposed to get out of it now? Maybe she could get the contract later. Over coffee before work at Charlie’s. She could spend thirty minutes with the band, be comfortable, know her daughter was safe and sound and probably sleeping next to Grayson at Reese and Emily’s house, and get her contract out of the way. That would work.

“That’s really nice but—”

Sage cut her off before she could make an excuse and suggest the coffee shop plan. “Come out and have fun. There will be barbecue and lots of food and you can have fun with us. Bring a bathing suit, maybe some cookies or something, and your girlfriend if you want.”

She’d been ready to assert her inability to show up until the last bit of Sage’s sentence registered.

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Well, that’s one less thing on your list.” Was she imagining the pleasure Sage seemed to get from the knowledge of her unattached status? Why would she be happy about that? “What do you say?” Sage asked. “And it can’t be ‘no’ because Saylor will kill me.”

Cadeau opened her mouth but no response slipped past her lips. Saylor was in on this. And she would call Cadeau demanding a reason for not showing up. And she wouldn’t accept Jolie as a reason not to go. In fact, she’d probably encourage Cadeau to bring Jolie, somehow manage to talk her into it. But she couldn’t bring Jolie yet. She had to sign her contract. She had to ensure her spot in the band. She had to be sure they wouldn’t care if she had a child.

Saylor getting involved was dangerous.

Sage used her hesitation to add-on, “Reese won’t be there. And we need a drummer somewhere to bang on things until we want to drown them in the pool. You’re our only hope.”

And her solution shone brighter than the midday sun. Reese wouldn’t be there. Cadeau knew that, she knew she knew that already. He mentioned studio work for Saturday earlier that week. Emily would be at home, taking care of Grayson. Cadeau could drop Jolie off for a couple of hours, go to the pool party and get her contract, then hang out with Emily until Reese returned home.

Jolie would like being with Grayson more than going to a pool party with adults anyway.

“Okay, sure, why not?” Cadeau said, “But only for a little while.”

♠ ♠ ♠
I've been neglecting y'all.
I'm so sorry!
For some reason, I haven't felt like updating or writing.
Until recently.
Don't know why that is, but this story got neglected as a result.
Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Forgive me?
(Though I don't have the most consistent updating schedule anyway so... yeah)
Maybe I'll try to make it up to y'all by updating again in the next couple of days.
Thank you to SpencerG, Hidden away, CreativeClassic, and choliecole for the story comments.
Thank you to the new subscribers.
And thank you to for the recs
I hope you enjoyed.
X's and O's,
Dakota Ray