She blinked at Mrs. Florentine, her lower lip trembling as she tried to speak, but couldn’t.
“Susanna,” Mrs. Florentine put some steel into her voice. “Take a deep breath. You’re going to pass out if you keep gasping like that. Now, breathe with me.”
Sunny tried, but her chest kept hitching. After struggling for a few minutes, she finally managed to do as Mrs. Florentine ordered. Wrapping the damp linen napkin between her fingers, she allowed Mrs. Florentine to pull her into another hug.
“I’m going to get your dress messy,” Sunny managed to stutter out.
“Darling, you’re scaring me. Please, what has you so upset? I’m going out of my mind with worry.”
She gently rubbed Sunny’s back in a way that her mom used to, and Sunny lost it again.
A low growl entered Mrs. Florentine’s voice. “What has that bitch done now? I told her if she messed with you again she’d regret it.”
Sunny had told the club owners about her mother when she’d come to work seething with anger. Mrs. Florentine had taken her aside after she’d broken down in helpless tears in the female employee’s dressing room. The whole story had poured out—about how her mother stole her car, and how stupid Sunny felt for letting her into the house for the night. It had been wintertime and so cold, ten minutes exposed to the outdoors could’ve caused frostbite. As much as she despised her mother, she couldn’t condemn her to possible death.
So, she’d let Lisa in and, once again, Sunny woke up with her purse, some jewelry that she’d left in the bathroom, and her car gone. She couldn’t call the police—her mother would’ve gone to jail for a long, long time if caught.
Mrs. Florentine had listened to her intently, asking a lot of questions, before she’d patted Sunny’s hand and assured her everything would be all right.
Sure as shit, three days later, her car had been returned, freshly washed and with a new hood. The old hood on her reliable car had become dinged in a couple places, the result of a summer hailstorm that her shit insurance still refused to cover. But her newly returned car almost looked restored to showroom condition. And most of her jewelry had even been recovered. At first, she’d thought Hawk was responsible, but his honest bafflement was solved at work the next night. Mrs. Florentine casually requested that if Sunny’s mother ever contacted her again, if she would let the Florentine’s know.
Mrs. Florentine did not like Sunny’s mother.
Something proved still evident in the animalistic growl in the other woman’s normally cultured voice.
“No, she hasn’t done anything. It’s just…” Sunny took a shuddering breath and rubbed at her upset stomach. “In order to have my dream wedding, my dad would still have to be alive. My mom wouldn’t be a drug addict, and I wouldn’t have a tumor.”
Mrs. Florentine’s jaw dropped a little bit, the color washing out of her face until her blush stood out like pink splotches on her cheeks.
Sunny hadn’t intended to add that last part, but the words just fell out.
“You have a tumor?” Anya barged into the room, with Lucia and Kira following quickly behind.
Sunny hung her head, covering her face with her hands as she internally groaned.
Keeping her attention focused on picking at her nail polish, she told them about her meeting with the doctors and her terrifying diagnosis. By the time she finished speaking, all the women were crying. They kept their sobs muffled, but Sunny knew, if she looked up and saw their tears, she’d lose it herself. It was easier to stare at her sparkly blue fingernails and talk about the upcoming surgery as if it was happening to someone else. Some poor girl that needed everyone’s prayers. Some sad thing who might become a fractured mind trapped in a useless body.
She found herself held tight in Mrs. Florentine’s arms as the older woman rocked her. “We will be with you every step of the way, Susanna. Whatever you need.”
“I don’t want to be a bother,” she muttered.
“Be a bother?” Kira sputtered in an indignant voice. “What—?”
“Hush,” Mrs. Florentine interrupted, her voice returning to a soothing murmur as she added, “You are not a bother. You’re family. Not by blood, but by choice.”
“Thank you.” Sunny let out a watery sigh.
Though she hadn’t believed it was possible, sharing her bad news with her friends made her feel so much better. She should have listened to Hawk when he’d urged her not to hide her diagnosis. Having friends she could rely on when times got tough, ones who actually stood by her and didn’t abandon her—like her mother had—helped to heal a hurt she’d been carrying around inside her heart for a long time.
“Hey,” she cleared her throat, but her voice remained thick as she said, “can someone text Hawk and let him know it’s okay to share the news of my…my medical issues with the guys?”