Status: Active

All Good Things


“Maddie, it’s so good to see you again. It’s been too long,” Cora sat in the booth, facing Johnny and his wife.

“Oh, I know. We’ve been meaning to meet up, but things got busy. Finding out Zacky wanted to book you was just the push we needed. Did they book with you?”

“They did! Abby seemed reluctant, but,” Cora shrugged, sipping her martini. Johnny and Maddie exchanged looks then laughed. “What?”

“Well,” Maddie began. “Abby isn’t really…well, she’s got 8 months left and she thinks that she can pull this off by herself. Not with her schedule and drive!”

“Yeah, ZV came in to the studio the other day all pissed off, Brian said. Guess they’ve been fighting a lot again.”

Cora frowned, setting her drink down. “That’s too bad.”

“It really is. They’re good people, just…” Maddie paused, unsure if she should finish her thought. “Maybe not the best for each other.”

Cora hated hearing this about her clients. Zacky seemed so shaken after Abby’s mention of his first wedding. She wasn’t one to judge, but she could tell that was a rough spot for Abby.

As the check came, Johnny reached for it, grabbing it before Cora could.

“Guys…” she scolded.

“Oh, please, no. It’s on us,” Maddie insisted. “Johnny invited you.”

Cora forced them to let her leave the tip, then. As she reached in her purse she noticed something.

“Oh, shit…” she held up the paper. “I forgot to give Zacky his receipt.”

Johnny shrugged. “Matt’s having a little shebang at his place at 8. Tag along if you want. I’m sure Zack’ll be there.”

“Are you going?” she asked Maddie who shook her head.

“All they do is drink beer, play video games, talk about women, and eat greasy food,” she stuck out her tongue. “No, thanks.”

“Hey! We do more than that,” Johnny defended. “Look, Cor, just make an appearance. Not long. No pressure.”

She agreed, letting Johnny drive her car so they could go straight to Matt’s and Maddie could go home. When they arrived, Johnny introduced her to Matt and Brian, both of whom she vaguely recognized from Johnny’s wedding. Not many of them had come up to chat during the reception. Actually, just Zacky had. A very tipsy Zacky. They all looked a lot different in their t-shirts and shorts. The tattoos, for one, intrigued Cora.

“I promise I won’t stay long. I’m sorry for crashing your party,” she joked.

“No, no, please. Feel free to stay a while. Grab a drink,” Matt spoke. “No worries.”

So she gave in, letting Johnny lead her to the kitchen and pour her a vodka cranberry. As she sipped and waited, she wondered about how Zacky would perceive her being there. She always tried her best to separate herself from her clients, yet here she was. Her palms were sweaty.

When cheers erupted in the other room, she went to see what happened. Zack was in the foyer, Johnny’s hand clasping his shoulder as the other two spoke of how early it was and ‘she let you out?’

“Cora? Hey. What are you doin’ here?’ he smiled at her but brushed right passed her and to the fridge, taking no time to grab a beer and pop the top. He turned to her while she fidgeted in her purse.

“Forgot to give you this,” she extended the receipt.

“You’re kidding,” he laughed but her face was serious. “That’s why you’re here? To give me a receipt?”

“Yeah, I just…” her cheeks burned, embarrassment clawing up from the pit of her stomach.

The smile grew as he laughed. “I appreciate it,” he chuckled, stepping closer to her then touching her arm. “I really do.”

He stepped back, sipping his beer, then nodding at Brian who entered the room making clicking noises with his mouth. He grabbed pizza from beside Cora and leaned against the counter with her, nodding once before stuffing it in his mouth.

Her cheeks were still a little pink. “So is Abby happy with this decision?” Cora had noticed they didn’t seem to be the most open couple she’d worked with. Maybe she was reading them wrong.

Brian laughed once. “Abby? Happy? No…” he chuckled. “You may find that when she’s picking out flowers or dress shopping, she’ll have this permanent scowl on her face,” Brian imitated it. “Like that only prettier.”

Zacky laughed, smacking his friend on the arm and shushing him out of the kitchen. Cora stood quietly.

“Nah, I dunno if she is,” he sipped his beer again. “She hasn’t been home.”

“Long work day,” Cora nodded, taking a drink as well.

Zacky raised a brow. “Nope.”


“Partying with coworkers.” With that, he left the room and Cora stood quiet.

Coming here was a mistake. She should have just gone home, asked Johnny to give Zack the receipt. But she was always at home – always binge-watching something on Netflix by herself. Despite the fact that she felt left out, it was nice to be around other people.

Soon she made her way to the living room, glancing around the broad shoulders of the guys to see that they were watching football.

“Cora, who’re you rooting for?” Johnny called, drawing her closer to the group.

She shook her head. “Football’s not really my thing. Our team sucks so I never got into it.”

“Hey!” Matt started, but Johnny held up a hand.

“She’s from Cleveland, dude.”

Brian laughed. “Yeah, the Browns suck.”

Cora’s laughter joined Brian’s. “They really, truly do. But those Indians…” she shook her head.

“Whoa, Zacky’s a big baseball fan too!” Matt nodded at him. “Hey, man, maybe she’ll go for a baseball-themed cake.”

Zacky snorted at that, shaking his head. “Doubtful.”

As the game went on, Cora sat quietly, finishing her drink out of pure boredom. Since Johnny rode with her, she felt bad about considering leaving this early, though she was sure one of the guys would offer him a ride if she were to go. It’d been a long day.

“Yeah, I wish this was baseball too,” Zacky said as he sat down beside her. He was on his third beer already. “Indians are playin’ really well this year.”

“About damn time,” she acknowledged. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch whenever, but it’s been so much more exciting this season.”

“Oh, for sure.” There were a couple minutes of silence between the two of them while Matt, Johnny, and Brian all screamed at the ref for a bad call. “How’d you get into the wedding planning thing? You married?” He glanced down at her hand but didn’t find a ring.

“Oh, no. Not yet,” Zacky saw the sadness in her eyes but it was gone in a split second. “My friend got married the summer we graduated college. I was the maid of honor and so I got to plan the bridal shower, bachelorette party, you know. It was a lot of fun! I decided to look into my options and make it a career.”

Zacky nodded. “What’s your degree in?”

“Psychology,” she shrugged. “I was one of the few who stuck with it all four years and didn’t happen to switch my major to it. It’s just such interesting stuff.”

“Then why not do something with that?”

Cora scrunched up her nose. “I did a year of grad school but I was tired of being in school so I stopped. You can’t get much with only a bachelor’s degree in psych. So I started working for a company in Cleveland that did the whole wedding thing – planner, Dj, florist, the whole bit – but I hated how it was run.”

“What brought you out here?” Zacky felt like they were playing 20 questions, but he was legitimately interested.

“My brother, Mike. He settled down and asked me to plan his wedding, so I did and fell in love with it out here. The lack of snow, mostly.” They both laughed at that. “So I started on my own. Mike helps me sometimes, but mostly it’s just me.”

He nodded and they fell into a comfortable silence. Soon, though, he asked if he could make her another drink, but she turned it down.

“C’mon, live a little!” he joked. She stared at him, finally breaking into a smile and nodding, following him into the kitchen with her empty glass. She hoisted herself on the counter and watched Zacky pull out the vodka and cranberry juice. “So, what’ll that be, miss, three shots?”

Her eyes widened, “Oh, God. No!” They both laughed. “I had a martini at dinner. God, I still have to drive home.” She glanced at the clock as Zacky poured a shot.

“How long does it take you?”

“About 25 minutes.”

“That’s not too bad.”

“Not usually, but when I’ve been drinking…” she held her head.

Zacky stilled. “If you’re too tipsy to drive, I’m sure you could crash with one of us.” He stopped pouring the third shot into the drink.

“I couldn’t ask to do that, Zacky,” she insisted. He noted that it was the first time she’d used his nickname.

“Go home with Johnny. Ask Maddie, I’m sure she’d have no problem.”

“True…” she was glad he didn’t offer his place. It was bad enough they were drinking together.

“And if she says no, I’ve got an extra bedroom,” he spoke it so simply, like there wasn’t a single problem with that statement. He turned to hand her drink over to her, noticing she was embarrassed.

“Oh, no. You’re clients now,” she shook her head. “Wouldn’t that be weird?”

“No?” Zacky let go of the drink when she grabbed it.

Matt came in then, eyeing Cora on his counter and Zack close to her. “You know, we have comfier furniture in the living room.”

“I’m sorry,” Cora set her drink beside her then jumped down nervously, bumping into Zacky.

“You can stay. It’s not like you’re gonna break it,” he shrugged, grabbing another beer. “Smaller than Johnny…” his voice grew quieter as he left the room.

Zacky noted the blush on her cheeks once again. “He’s not mad, you know.”

Cora shrugged her shoulders. “I know. I just…” she sighed. “I should have left after I gave you the receipt. I feel like I’m imposing.”

“Well, you’re not,” Zacky shot back. “I don’t remember much of Johnny’s wedding, but I do know that you were quite the wallflower – always watching what was going down but never getting involved.”

She stood dumbfounded. He’d noticed that. “I had a job to do.”

“Yeah: plan the wedding. And you did. And it was great. He wanted you to stay for the reception to party, not hold up a wall.” He took the last sip of his beer.

She bit her lower lip, replaying that night. She was often invited to receptions, but she would leave after the ceremony ended and she got to peek in to see if the reception hall was set up correctly. She hadn’t really realized that she was seen as a wallflower and that stuffiness made her feel awful. Did she really come across like that?

“I don’t usually attend the reception,” she admitted.

Zacky nodded slowly. “Well you better attend mine.” He laughed. “Hell, if things go awry I’ll know you’re there with backup.”

When the two of them talked, he seemed like a completely different person than he was at lunch that day. Cora noticed how stiff and nervous he was, and she just assumed it was because of the tension of a first meeting. Watching him interact with the guys and feeling that comfort made her realize – it was Abby that made him tense. That worried her. Not for the sake of her job with them, but more for the sake of their marriage. What must it be like to marry someone you can’t relax around? Someone you have to keep your guard up with; fearing that one wrong sentence could send them into a tirade.

“I hope I can at least lessen the tension between you two,” Cora spoke after sipping her drink. Zacky stilled and Cora’s eyes widened. “My God, I’m so sorry if that…was that rude? I…”

“No. You’re right to say that. I’m sure Johnny told you that tensions have been high between Abby and I. It’s not a secret.” He ran a hand down his face, glanced up at the ceiling, sighed. “It’s just…scary as shit, yanno? I feel like I’m stuck in that movie Groundhog Day.”

For a moment all the pieces fell into place. “With your ex-wife.”

“Yeah,” Zacky felt like he was spitting word vomit. “I don’t mean to burden you with this shit, I just…” he looked away for a moment. Talking to the guys about stuff like this was hard for him. They were all so damn happy in their relationships and no one had made a mistake marrying who they did. Yet Zacky felt that weight once again.

Cora honestly felt uncomfortable. On one hand, she thought Zack was a good guy and wanted to let him vent. On the other, this was totally unprofessional of her. She tried to think of this moment as a friendly relationship – not her client, just her friend. What would she say to a friend?

“Zacky, you need to be happy,” she spoke it so softly and the next part even quieter, “Are you happy?”

Now Zack was staring right at her, breath caught in his throat. He didn’t move. And then Cora watched as he shook his head while saying “yes,” and she noted the discrepancy.

She pursed her lips a moment, feeling the air still between the two of them. Simply, she nodded then brushed passed him into the living room to join the others. They were basically strangers and she had no business poking her nose where it didn’t belong, so she kept quiet once again; the moment of courage long gone.

Brian and Matt were busy with the video game they turned on so she took a seat beside Johnny on the couch to watch them. There was a ten minute period that she didn’t speak a word, just swallowed down her drink and pretended not to notice that Zacky still hadn’t come out from the kitchen.

“You okay?” Johnny asked quietly beside her ear.

“Yeah,” she answered. Johnny gave her a knowing look. “I may have just crossed a line with Zacky.”

Johnny sat forward, eyes widened. “Wait…did you, like…make a move or…?”

That startled her. “No! No. I asked him if he’s happy with Abby.”

A laugh sounded and Johnny grasped her on the shoulder. Cora stilled. “Aw, Cor, you’re so tense. Zacky’s cool.” He paused, sitting back against the couch once again. “I thought somethin’ else happened.”

Cora’s courage was still nowhere, but she wanted to know what Johnny meant. Did he know something she didn’t? Did Zacky mention something about her? If he had, what would it matter? Would it matter? The realization struck that yes, yes it would matter. Because he was a handsome guy and she’d noted that at Johnny’s wedding. But time had worked its magic and she’d forgotten his name and now here she was planning his wedding. This was wrong of her.

“I just don’t want to make him mad,” Cora admitted. She glanced over her shoulder to see him leaned against the door frame of the room and when he caught her looking, she faced away.

“He’s a pretty chill guy. I don’t think that pissed him off.” Johnny shrugged.

She decided to speak with him, smooth things over. When she stood, she felt him staring still which made her more nervous.

“Look, I’m sorry if that was the wrong thing to say. I should just keep my mouth shut and-”

Zacky smirked. “-I’m not mad,” he laughed. “More like surprised. Didn’t think you had it in you to go for the jugular.”


He sent her another smirk, clinked glasses with her, and moved on to take her spot on the couch.

Cheeks reddening again, she set her glass down and went to find her purse. A few minutes went by with no luck and when she glanced up Matt was staring.

“Lose somethin’?”

“Huh? Oh…uh…my purse is M.I.A.”

Matt’s eyebrows furrowed and he stood, handing off his controller to Johnny. “Thought I saw it in the foyer…” he went to look with her. “You leavin’ us already?”

Cora blushed again. “I…I was thinkin’ about it. I really don’t wanna overstay my welcome.”

He shook his head. “C’mon, the night’s still young. We haven’t even started our drinking game.” She stood silently. “We let Johnny play Call of Duty and every time he dies we take a drink.”

Cora couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Oh my God…”

“I’ll find your purse, but you gotta stay at least a little longer – it’s hilarious.”

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