For the uninitiated, Galentine's Day is the creation of Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler's character in the awesome TV series Parks and Recreation. Every February 13, Leslie takes her best gal pals to brunch to celebrate their friendship and let them know how much she appreciates them. I adore Leslie and I adore this concept. Our women friends are so very, very important in our lives.
In celebration of Galentine's Day, I am stepping away from Set Me Free for a moment, and into my next book, Open My Eyes, which will be the second chapter in the Evans Family trilogy. The scene below is not in Open My Eyes, I have put it together just for today. It does however, provide a bit of a sneak peak, introducing you to a couple of the new characters. I hope you enjoy it!
'You should make them a little smaller,' Annie advised Emily, as the innards of Emily's last roll burst through the rice paper and landed on her plate; a mush of noodles, tofu, cucumber, carrot and mint.
Emily glanced from the perfectly neat, tight roll in Annie's hand to her perfectly neat hair, coiled into a chignon, and chose not to comment. Without even looking in Charlotte's direction, she knew her sister was nodding in agreement. Charlotte had been telling her the same thing for as long as she could remember.
Emily looked at Bridget instead, and found her feverishly stuffing random bits of salad into her mouth. For the most shit-together woman she knew, Bridge was the messiest eater. Something had to give, Emily supposed.
She dipped another sheet of rice paper into the bowl of steaming water on the table, then reassembled a slightly smaller roll, and ate it quickly.
Wiping her hands on her napkin, she surveyed her dearest friends. Annie, the best friend she didn't know she'd been looking for until she found her; Bridget, her smart-mouthed mentor, and Charlotte, her incredibly patient and supportive sister. She couldn't thank them enough for everything they did for her, for everything they put up with from her, but at least today was one way of showing them how much she treasured them.
'So,' she said, crumpling her napkin and resting it on the table. 'We're here today to celebrate Galentine's Day, which is about celebrating the women in your life, thanking them and showing them how much you love them.'
'Cheers to that,' said Bridget. She lifted her wine glass full of water and the others followed suite.
Emily cleared her throat and continued. 'I've never really had cause to celebrate Galentine's Day before, because apart from Charlotte,' she looked at her sister, 'who knows how much I appreciate her, I've never really had any close female friends. I can't believe how lucky I've been to find not one,' she tipped her glass towards Annie, 'but two,' she nodded to Bridget, 'amazing women to call my friends. And despite all the shit I am dealing with at the moment, you've stuck around, and you still hang out with me.'
'Oh come on, Em,' said Annie, leaning back into her chair. 'You're awesome. Of course we've stuck around.'
'And that's not a compliment Annie hands out lightly,' said Charlotte. 'We love you, Em,' she added, then led another round of cheers.
Emily reached under the table for the bag at her feet. 'In the tradition of Galentine's Day, I've made you all a present.'
'What?' her friends shrieked in unison. 'You didn't tell us anything about presents!'
'I know, I know.' She grinned. 'You're supposed to handmake your girlfriends a gift for Galentine's Day, but I didn't want you making presents. You three are the busiest people I know. How could I possibly say thank you, and expect you to fit craft into your lives at the same time.'
'I don't do craft. I would have bought something,' said Bridget. She wagged her finger at Emily. 'Tsk tsk. You should have told us.'
'Look, it's not anything big, just some sketches I did for you,' said Emily. She handed over their presents one by one. As they unwrapped them, she explained. 'They are all variations of a theme. I've drawn you as the superheros you most remind me of.'
Charlotte was first to pull hers out of the wrapping paper. 'Wonder Woman,' she said.
Annie giggled. 'Nice one.'
'Charlotte,' Emily said to her sister. 'You are Wonder Woman to me. You're capable of anything and everything and you're always turning up in your invisible jet when I need you most.'
Ignoring the tears welling in Charlotte's eyes, Emily turned to Annie, who was studying her sketch. 'Annie,' she said, 'you're my Black Widow. Elusive, and mysterious. Mostly you keep to yourself because you don't really like people. But the ones you do like, you stand by them one hundred percent. If anyone tried to cross them, you'd strike.'
Head down, Annie nodded and blinked.
'Bridge,' said Emily, turning to Ben's sister-in-law. 'You're my Hit Girl. You're just plain crazy and you don't take shit from anyone. You're teaching me to do the same.'
'Yes!' said Bridget, fist-pumping the air. 'I love it! Thanks, Emily.'Before Emily could say anything more, Charlotte, Annie and Bridget were out of their chairs, enveloping her in a group hug. And just for a moment, as she let herself be soothed by the strength of their arms, Emily believed everything would be okay. Galentine's Day was awesome.