Royal Games by T.K. Leigh



“Again!” Gretchen calls out.

“Fuck Jeremy!”

“One more time,” Chloe encourages, eyes brimming with pride.

“Fuck Jeremy!” I screech at the top of my lungs, all the frustration and annoyance that’s built up over the years of hiding my true feelings spilling out of me like lava, burning yet satisfying at the same time.

When applause breaks out around me, I return to the present, smiling at all these people who care enough to support me during this trying time. That should be all that matters, shouldn’t it? Don’t they say you find out who cares about you when you’re at your lowest?

These women have always been there for me, even when I tried to keep them out. They didn’t have to go through the trouble of throwing this party to commemorate my failed marriage. Yet they did because, somehow, they realized I needed it. Isn’t that the mark of true friendship? Realizing what you need when you’re too stubborn to admit it?

I wrap my arms around Chloe, Evie and Izzy joining in on our group hug. “I love you girls.”

“Hoes before bros,” Evie says.

“Chicks before dicks,” Izzy adds.

“Pussy before… I got nothing.” Chloe laughs, and we all follow.

I glance at my circle of friends, my family. Until this moment, I’d been apprehensive about the divorce being finalized and being thrust into the next chapter of my life. Now I look forward to it. Because no matter what’s written on the pages, these three amazing women will be a part of it. They’ll be with me until the last word.

That’s a love worth celebrating.





Chapter Two





Nora


“Is that the sun?” I slur, taking a swig out of a bottle of champagne as I rest my head on Izzy’s shoulder. We must be a sight, all of us collapsed on a spacious patio sofa on the rooftop terrace of the Gramercy Park townhouse Izzy shares with her boyfriend, Asher.

After leaving Chloe’s, my friends dragged me out to Staten Island, where they’d rented out a paintball arena for the night. Mannequins with photos of Jeremy’s face were set up throughout, allowing me to take out my frustrations on inanimate objects. As if that weren’t enough to help me release this pent-up aggression, Chloe had snuck into my apartment and stole my wedding dress, which waited for me toward the end of the course.

When I first saw it, I hesitated, not wanting to damage the dress I’d dreamed of wearing since I was a little girl. But this would always be another memory of Jeremy. If I wanted to turn the page on this chapter, I had to let go of those memories.

Now, as I stare at the wedding dress covered with splats of paint, the rising sun illuminating it from behind, I feel less bound to Jeremy and more like the woman I was before I swiped right on his picture.

“Impossible,” Chloe responds in a lazy voice. “It’s probably just the bright lights of Manhattan or some shit.”

“No. I definitely think that’s the sun,” Izzy remarks.

“What time is it?” Evie asks.

“That would require me to move.” Chloe takes another long pull from her bottle.

“But you can find the energy to take a sip of champagne?” Izzy snips playfully.

Chloe shoots her a pointed stare. “I have priorities.”

It’s silent for a moment as we bask in our denial over the fact we managed to drink the night away, something I doubt we’ve done since our college days. I glance around the rooftop terrace that’s now littered with bottles, as well as the remnants of the Jeremy piñata I’d obliterated after just a few smacks with a stick. It will take me at least a week to recover from tonight’s festivities.

“So, what’s next?” Evie asks in a scratchy voice, floating her gaze toward mine.

I take another large swallow from my champagne, the liquid having grown warm and flat over the course of the past few hours, but I can’t be bothered to get up to find a fresh bottle.

“Maybe I’ll take a page from Jeremy’s book and turn gay,” I joke, then scowl. “But I like the dick too much.”

“So did Jeremy,” Izzy snort-laughs, and we all join in, the sound echoing against the relative stillness of early morning.

“But seriously,” Evie continues after a beat. “What is next for you, Nora?”

I sigh. “I wish I knew. It probably sounds stupid, since Jeremy and I were only together for less than three years, less than the time it takes people to earn a college degree, but he was such a big part of my life during that time. Sure, we haven’t lived together for several months now, but…” I expel a breath. “It’s hard to explain. There’s something so final about the divorce being, well…final.”