Midnight Dreams(6)

By: Kayla Perrin



professionals, and she was proud of the success she’d

achieved. It wasn’t uncommon for businesswomen to stop in

her salon over lunch for a cut, a wash, or even a color if they

had a two-hour break. She opened early and closed late,

allowing for people who needed to come in at different hours

to get different jobs done. Sometimes she would be at her

salon until close to midnight, finishing a weave or braids or

whatever time-consuming job needed to be done to have her

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clients looking their best. She didn’t mind, however, because

she loved her job.

And while she’d initially feared the long hours she put in at

the salon would affect her marriage negatively, Nelson hadn’t

seemed to mind her hours, mostly because he worked as an in-

house Vice President of Finance for an advertising firm as well

as a freelance accountant. In other words, he worked crazy

hours as well. He was nothing if not dedicated to his career, as

Jade was to hers, and she thought he’d make the perfect

business partner as well as the perfect marriage partner.

Jade had never been more stunned than when she’d learned

Nelson had been stealing money from her salon. Having met

him when she’d already owned her salon and when he’d

already worked ten years for a Manhattan advertising firm, she

had easily trusted him with her salon’s books once they were

engaged. However, five years into the marriage, she’d discov-

ered the painful truth that Nelson led a double life. He loved

to gamble, and when he’d run out of his own money to throw

away on stupid illusions of striking it rich, he’d stolen hers.

Jade had thought everything was fine until her checks started

bouncing. Unable to fathom what was going on, she’d con-

fronted her bank manager, who had told her that her account

had been depleted. Stunned, Jade had confronted her husband.

Nelson angrily denied any knowledge of a problem, saying the

bank must have made a mistake. But three weeks later, after a

lot of tension and no answers, he packed his bags and left. His

note said that he was leaving her for someone who trusted him.

At first Jade had been so devastated with the knowledge that

she’d pushed Nelson away, until the bank records showed the

whopping amount of money he’d withdrawn. Then she’d

gotten angry, but a lot of good that did. In the end, with no

assets, Jade was forced to sell the salon, and even the money

Kayla Perrin

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from the sale was used to pay her overwhelming debts. She’d

barely had two pennies to rub together after that.

Shaking her head, Jade forced the disturbing memories

from her mind. She didn’t want to think about the depth of

her husband’s betrayal. Thinking about it wouldn’t change the

facts. With a new year approaching, she had to concentrate

on moving ahead and forgetting the past.

That thought in mind, she walked to the table that housed

her new customers, forcing herself into “cheerful waitress”

mode. The couple sat on the same side of the booth, their

linked hands resting atop the table, the sides of their faces

pressed together as they giggled at some private joke. Jade

stopped midstride as she saw the loving couple, a pang of

sadness gripping her. She didn’t miss Nelson, but she did

miss the memory of what they’d had in their early years.

But even the memory was false. Nelson had never been the

man he’d claimed.

“Good evening,” Jade said, forcing a smile on her lips as

she moved forward to stand at the edge of the table.

The giggling couple looked up. “Good eve—” the woman

began, but abruptly stopped. Recognition flashed in her eyes

as she looked at Jade. “Hey!” she exclaimed. “Jade?”

Jade’s own eyes narrowed as she regarded the other

woman. Her hair was longer than she remembered, but the

pretty face and bright brown eyes were certainly the same.

“Cassandra!”

“Jade!” The other woman jumped out of the booth and

wrapped her in a bear hug. “Oh, my God! I can’t believe it!”

“Neither can I.” Jade pulled back and looked at her old

friend, her brain still processing the fact that it was really her.

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