The final decision re: the hiring of a new associate was yours to make. But you don't say if you and Gina are equals on the company totem pole (i.e., each the head of your own department). If she's beneath you, the woman needs to concentrate on getting a promotion—not being mad at you for already having one! If you're equals, it's more complicated. You also don't say if, by company tradition, new hires are made with some degree of consensus among the middle management. If this is the case, I can see how Gina might feel peeved, especially if you just (re)hired someone with whom she had a particularly negative experience without first seeking her input.
In any case, approaching this conflict with the pre-condition that you refuse to apologize isn't going to get you anywhere. You may not have broken the Ten Commandments. And Gina may be acting like a big baby. But people apologize when they accidentally brush against each other on the sidewalk. By the same token, there's no reason you can't apologize for the fact that she seems to have felt written out of the hiring process. If you're serious about repairing the friendship, I'd (yes) sit her down and begin by saying exactly this. You can add that making her feel excluded wasn't your intention. What's more, you now feel hurt that, rather than coming to you to express her grievance, she seems to have taken the passive-aggressive route. You thought the two of you were better friends than that.
See what she says. I suspect she'll welcome the chance to vent. Hopefully, the conversation will clear the air and lead back to the lunch table.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I met "Rachel" a few weeks before she married her husband "Mike," who went to college with two of my guy friends. After they got married, Rachel and I hung out a few times. As their first year of marriage went by, Rachel eventually stopped suggesting girls' nights. By that point I'd realized that Rachel was kind of mean and socially awkward and has anxiety issues that need a treatment stronger than friendship. After that, I didn't make much effort to maintain the relationship. However, Mike has also stopped hanging out with our (coed) group of friends, which is far more disappointing because we all like Mike a lot. It also seems as if Rachel is intentionally keeping him away. When we invite both of them to a group event, Mike replies that they'll both be there, and Rachel replies that they both have to work. Most of the time, Mike goes along with the lie and doesn't show up. This has been going on for several years.
Recently, Rachel has started asking me to hang out again (usually when Mike has other plans) and behaving as if we're best girlfriends. I always say I have other plans because I'd rather sit at home alone than be around her pointless arguments and political tirades. Plus, I'm tired of the obvious lying. Can I maintain a separate friendship with Mike, who is understandably just sticking by his crazy wife? Or do I give up and quit trying to invite Mike to things?
We Like You, but Not Your Crazy Wife
The wife has reached out to you (again). If you want to continue your friendship with the husband, you're going to have to reciprocate. In fact, it wouldn't entirely surprise me if it was Mike who encouraged Rachel to call (or email or text). He loves this woman, and he wants you (his old friend) to love her, too—or, if love isn't possible, then tolerate her for a few cocktails, a couple times a year. Is that too much to ask? As a general rule, I don't believe that married people need to be treated as a single unit on the social front. However, this situation is complicated by the fact that a) the good friend is male, and b) the wife is an anxious type. I simply don't see an exclusive friendship with Mike happening. As you've already seen, Rachel is quite capable of nixing his plans, too. If you continue blowing her off, she'll have even more reason to nix, whether out of jealousy or out of hurt that, well, you can't stand her. (After the fourth turn-down, people tend to get the message.)
Friend or Foe