“Ro, not tonight. I promised Mason I would cook him dinner.”
“Ellll, pleeeease,” I said. “it’s urgent.”
“We haven’t had a date night in weeks,” she said.
“But you’re the only one I can talk to. Please, El. Pretty, super, pretty please? You can cook for Mason anytime. I am having a transcendental crisis.”
“Do you even know what that means?” she asked.
“No,” I said, “but it sounds right.” I nodded. It did. I was having some kind of crisis, that was for damn sure.
“I hate it when you get needy,” she said. I heard the exasperation in her voice, but I could tell she was going to relent. “What the hell happened? Did Jesse come by the office?”
“You’re usually only this upset when Jesse is involved.”
I closed my eyes and pictured Jesse in my mind. So sexy! Maybe that was all I needed. Something else to think about. It didn’t work. Not even the image of Jesse was enough to distract me from my woe.
“No, not Jesse,” I said. “Something else.”
“Oh, dammit, Ro,” she said. “Mason is going to be so pissed.”
“I’m leaving in ten minutes.” I had to lurk around my office later now, because I didn’t want to run into J Dub, our CEO, as I left the building. I didn’t know if he had heard about me propositioning his son, but I didn’t want to find out. At least not face-to-face in the elevator. Although that was the least of my worries at that moment.
What I had on my mind was Zach, the sweet, sexy guy I’d had drinks with– and well, maybe a little more than drinks – the previous night. I had miscalculated something along the way, and now I was melancholy, when I should be happy.
As soon as I knew it was coast clear, I left. I slipped into my car and backed out of my space. No one got in my way – everyone knew it was best to wait until I was out of the parking lot before leaving their own spaces. I was always in a hurry, and not too good about mirrors. I slammed into to first gear, and was already in third by the time I reached the end of row. I heard someone lay on the horn as I whipped around the corner, looking in the rear view as I down-shifted. I held up my hand, middle finger extended, and uttered a few choice curses, realizing too late that I had just cut off J Dub.
“Oh, fuck,” I muttered. You’d think I didn’t need this job! Quickly, I raised all the fingers on my hand, and waved. He wouldn’t know it was me. Though I’m sure it would be easy enough to find out who the reckless woman in the black 86 was, if he wanted to. Everyone kind of recognized my car.
“You’re such fuck up, Rowena,” I told myself, as I merged on to the highway. I tapped my nails against the steering wheel, impatient with traffic. I switched on the audio, and Nowhere Fast by Eminem filled the interior of my small car, making the armrest throb and the mirror shiver. That was fine. The song suited my mood exactly. In fact, I was going to make it my personal anthem. “Fuck doin’ what your told. We’re goin’ nowhere fast,” I sang along.
El greeted me at the door. “Amelia! I’m miserable,” I said, pushing out my lower lip.
“Okay, babe,” she said, pulling me into a hug. “I’m sure it’s all going to be fine.”
I shook my head. “I made a terrible mistake.” I followed her into the living room, where she already had a generous glass of my favorite wine poured, the open bottle sitting right next to it on the end table next to “my spot” on her couch. God knows I don’t deserve such a wonderful best friend. I actually felt the sting of tears behind my eyes.
“Ro…” she said. “What’s wrong, babe? Come sit down, and tell me all about it.” She sat on the loveseat across from the couch. I sat down, lifted the wine glass, and downed most of it in one long draught. “So? Tell me.”
“Oh my god, El! I can’t believe I did this!” She waited, sipping her own wine. “Zach…” I said.
“Who the hell is Zach?”
“Oh. He’s this guy,” I said. She didn’t press for more, because they usually were. “I met him for drinks last night.”
“Your usual evening?”
“Yes,” I said draining my glass, and refilling it. “But no.”
“Don’t be cryptic,” she warned. “I’m not getting laid tonight, because you needed to talk. So talk.”
I downed some more wine. “I liked him.”
El stared at me. “You like all of them. That’s why you seduce them.”
“No, El” I said. “I mean I stupid liked him. Like, I wanted to say cute and clever things to make him smile. Like, I want to cook him dinner. He’s smart, and funny, and has a sweet smile. I mean, the conversation was my favorite part of the evening. Well, and the kissing.”
“Oh,” she said. Now she was beginning to understand. “How was the sex?” she asked.
“It was good. Better for me than him, though. This is the worst part, El…” I felt tears threatening again, so I poured the rest of the bottle into my glass and drank it all down in one huge, shaky gulp. “I don’t think he was into me at all. I think he was being polite.”
“Oh,” she said. She stood up. “I think we’re going to need another bottle.”
She picked up the empty bottle, and left me sitting on the couch. I felt like such an idiot. Finer feelings are simply not something I do. But I couldn’t get the memory of Zach’s kisses out of my head. “Oh fuck! Goddamn! Shit, shit, goddammit,” I cried in frustration.
“Ro,” El said, walking directly over to refill my glass. “This is not the worst thing ever.” I looked at her hopefully.
“He’s the first since you met Jesse, right?”
“Quit trying to distract me with Jesse! This has nothing to do with him.”
“Maybe it does, babe. Maybe you’re just transferring your obsession since you can’t consummate your lust with Jesse.” She laughed, and rolled her eyes. “Poor Zach!”
“What the hell good does this psychobabble do me?”
“I don’t know. I just think you need to examine what’s going on. I know introspection is not your thing, but you should probably do some. Do you want him more than Jesse?”
I sucked down some more wine, and considered. “It’s two different things,” I said finally, refilling my glass.
“Gun to your head, babe – one night with Jesse, or a dream date with Zach?”
“That’s not fair!” I swirled my wine, watching it leave viscous tracks on the glass, trying to do the introspection El was demanding. She was probably right. I counted on her to be sensible for me, because god knows I couldn’t do it on my own. But all I really wanted was to silence my thoughts. I hate being conflicted.
“Do you remember the last time you cooked dinner for someone?” El asked.
I racked my brain. “No,” I said, shrugging.
“Me either,” she laughed, “but I do remember you hated him before you even served dessert.”
I shook my head. “That can’t be right,” I said.
“Because I would have been dessert.” We sat quietly for a moment. I could tell El was searching for the magic words to make me feel better. I was just thinking about Zach’s lips on mine. So hot! God, the man knew how to kiss! I wanted to kiss him again. And again, and again…
“I told him about my vineyard,” I said. Planting a vineyard on my land is a dream of mine. It’s a personal thing. I share my dreams far less frequently than I share my body. In other words, besides my sons, El was probably the only person in the world that knew I wanted to plant Cabernet grapes in my backyard. Her brow furrowed. I could tell she was worried now.
“I get it, Ro,” she said. “It was sweet, and soft, and fluffy. But you’re not.”
“I am too! I am the softest, fluffiest…What was the other thing?” I knew I was drunk. “You know what, El?”
“Maybe I’m too old for this.” The tears that had been threatening all day escaped in a single, heavy drop, down my cheek. El jumped up, and sat beside me, pulling me into a hug.
“Oh, bullshit,” she said. “You just need to give up wanting what you can’t have, and concentrate on what makes you happy.”
“What makes me happy, El?”
“Hot, young guys,” she said, without hesitation.
I considered her words, as I stumbled off to bed. I knew she was probably right. She usually was. But it was the memory of Zach’s sweet lips on mine that I fell asleep with.