And the man—he doesn’t look back, doesn’t even acknowledge my existence—he slips out of the elevator doors that have burst open.
My fantasy built the tension, but it never released it. As the doors shut, I bang the back of head on the wall. Stupid, Lily.
I reach my floor and walk down the hall. Right now, I wish I could revert back to my high school self. Where I had sex maybe once a month. Most hours were filled with p*rn and my imagination. Now, very little excites me, and when I find something that does, I think about it constantly. I can barely even last a whole day without being gratified by a set of hands and a male body thrumming against mine.
What’s wrong with me?
I throw my keys in the basket, hang up my coat and kick off my heels, trying not to think about what just happened. The smell of scotch lingers in the air. As I head to my door, I pass Lo’s and suddenly stop.
“Hey,” a girl giggles. “Don’t…” She moans. Moans.
What is he doing to her? The creepy thought loiters, and I bite my nails, picturing Lo.
His hands on my legs, my hands on his chest, his lips against mine, mine against his. Lily, he breathes, bringing me close, his hold so very tight. He looks at me with those amber eyes, narrowed with passion. And he knows just what to do to make me—
“Oh…God!” She starts screaming as he finds the right spot. He must be good in bed, and I find myself wishing she’d go away. What does it matter if he has a girl in the room? I told him he needed to have sex. And he’s having it. I should be happy he’s finally getting laid.
But I’m not swallowing a happy pill right now.
I bottle my feelings that begin to brew and confuse. I slip into my room, ready for a shower. My phone beeps, and I open the text.
Don’t forget, we’re dress shopping tomorrow. Thanks for coming tonight. Love you. –Poppy
Dress shopping. Oh yeah. For the Christmas Charity Gala. Even months away, the girls want to find perfect outfits for the event. Including jewelry, heels, and clutches. The whole ordeal will take hours, but I’ll be there.
Thump, thump, thump.
Lo’s headboard. Into my wall. A ball tightens in my throat, and I scroll through my list of contacts, hesitating on the escort service. After the last gigolo turned a physical day into an emotional one, I’ve avoided any interaction with paid-to-screw men.
I toss my phone on my purple comforter.
Shower, I try to remind myself. Yes. I head to my bathroom.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
I turn the nozzle to hot, shed my clothes, step in and shut my eyes—trying to think about anything other than sex. And Loren Hale.
I sit on a Victorian chaise in the dressing room lobby, surrounded by too many mirrors and too many racks of dresses, some costing more than bridal gowns.
While my sisters try on long, draping beauties in deep wintery colors, I protect the dozens of shopping bags from the jewelers and shoe stores. After choosing a plum gown with lacy sleeves—my first choice—I no longer have to agonize over what to wear to the Charity Gala. I happily sit outside, stealing glances at a cute guy one chaise over. He twists a ring on his finger and checks his watch, waiting for his wife in a curtained dressing room to the left of Rose’s.
I am not a proponent of infidelity, adultery, cheating, you name it. I’ve never intentionally hooked up with a married man, and I don’t plan to now, but staring…that’s not against my rules.
Anyway, I can’t help it. His whole jaw is lined with scruff, the kind you want to run your hands on. His light green eyes stay in his vicinity. For the best, I suppose, but a huge part of me wants him to look over. To stand up and come—
“This is so ugly.”
I jump as Daisy emerges from her dressing room. She pads to the set of mirrors in the lobby and does a little spin. I cringe. Yeah, the big bow situated on her butt is not helping. Neither is the puke-green color.
“It’s hideous,” Rose agrees, pushing back her curtains and joining us.
“Oh, I like yours,” Daisy exclaims.
Rose takes the time to check out her velvet blue dress in the mirror. The fabric cinches at the bust and hugs her slender frame perfectly. “What do you think, Lily?” We’ve made up since the “pregnancy” debacle at the luncheon. Rose apologized during breakfast one morning at my apartment. She brought over everything-bagels, my favorite, and subsequently, I said I was sorry too. For not being around more. That’s how our relationship goes. I disappoint her. She forgives me, but never forgets, and we move on.
“It looks beautiful on you, but so did the last fifteen.”
Poppy’s voice trickles from her dressing room. “Put your arm in here. Stop being so difficult.” She sighs exhaustedly. After a couple seconds, she enters the lobby with a squirming little brunette girl.
“Aw, Maria, you look so cute,” Daisy says, touching Maria’s lacy pink dress with white tights. Poppy finally coaxes Maria against her hip, settling down.
“What do you say?” Poppy tells her daughter.
“Thank you, auntie.” She puts her thumb in her mouth, and Poppy immediately takes it out.
“You’re too old for that.”
She’s three and in the Calloway clan, potty training, walking, reading, spelling, writing must all be achieved before the average age, lest we turn into normal people.
Rose inches closer to me, away from Maria who makes her grimace. Her hatred of children is actually amusing. I smile as she suffers, and when she notices it, I suspect a wave of bitchiness headed my way.
“Who are you bringing?” she asks.
Oh. Not too bad. “Lo, of course.” My smile widens. “The better question is who you are going to bring.” Rose constantly fights for the right to go stag, since no guy can ever live up to her impossible standards. But our mother insists on dates, believing that if you arrive without a man, you look cheap and unwanted. Something that I disagree with—Rose even more vehemently than me. Fighting our mother exhausts me, and for Rose to back down, my mother must have brought the waterworks. Rose hates tears almost as much as she dislikes children.
“I’m working on it.”
She usually takes Sebastian, her go-to arm candy, but apparently he’s ditching her this year for his boyfriend. I listened to her rant about it all last week, and I think she’s out of fire to reignite the same conversation.
Daisy chimes in, “I’ll probably bring Josh.”
I frown. “Who’s Josh?”
She pulls her brown hair into a pony. “My boyfriend. Of six months,” she emphasizes, her voice still light.
“Sorry,” I apologize. “I just…” Am never home to see her. Or him. And I don’t listen well.
I know it’s not.
She shrugs and disappears into her dressing room to take off the green monstrosity.
Rose shoots me a cold glare. “Who do you think she’s been texting all day?”
She’s been texting? “Dad?” I try.
Rose rolls her eyes dramatically.
Maria throws her ballet flat at me. Jesus!
“Maria!” Poppy exclaims.
Rose laughs loudly. I think this is the first time a child has made her smile. And it was by abusing me with a shoe!
I gape. Did she call me stupid? Is everyone really that mad at me? Even a child?
“Don’t use that word,” Poppy scolds. “Tell Lily you’re sorry.”
“I hate shoes!” Okay, good. At least someone still hasn’t fallen out of love with me. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
“What about these.” I point to a box of glittery silver flats with pink clips. Maria’s eyes widen and calms. I smile. “Are you sure she’s not Rose’s kid? Toss her some Prada and she shuts up.”
Rose’s laughter dies down. “Funny.”
Poppy says, “I’m going to take Maria to the bathroom.” She’s going to spank her. My mother used to threaten with a wooden spoon. Those hurt, you know. They’re pretty damn scary, and I learned to quiet in public places, fearing the wrath of my mother and the swat of a utensil. “Can you watch my dressing room, Lil? My purse is in there.”
Once she disappears from sight, Rose moves a few bags and finds a seat next to me. “Is it Loren?”
I frown. “What?”
Her yellow-green eyes meet mine. “Is he keeping you from us?”
My stomach churns with acid. Lo keeping me from them? I want to laugh or cry or scream, anything—maybe, just maybe, even shout the truth. I can’t fit you into my schedule, not when it’s booked with sex, not when you wouldn’t understand.
“It’s not Lo. I’m just busy, sometimes even too busy for him.”
“You’re not lying to me, are you?”
I look at my hands, a small tell, but I doubt she’ll pick up on it. I shake my head. “No.”
After lingering silence, she says, “I told Mom that Penn would be too hard for you. Of course she didn’t listen. You weren’t the model student at Dalton.”
I laugh, that’s an understatement. “My grades sucked.” Dalton Academy rode me hard, in many ways. Without my family’s achievements, I wouldn’t have been accepted to an Ivy League, that much is clear.
“I remember filling out your applications,” Rose says with pursed lips, but there’s a shimmer in her eyes, as though the moment is a fond one for her. I barely remember it. I must have been surfing the internet, looking at porn. Thinking about sex.
“You did a good job,” I say. “I got in.”
“What did it matter? You chose Penn, not Princeton.” She stands and pretends to admire herself in the mirror, but I can tell she’s trying to hide her real feelings. We fought a lot when I made the decision to go to college with Lo and not her. She never talked about being roommates with me, but Poppy later told me that Rose had already begun picking out dishware and furniture for an apartment off campus that she hoped we would share.
At the time, I blamed my choice on Lo, telling everyone that he hadn’t been accepted to Princeton. Of course, he was, but how could I enjoy my freedom and live in close proximity to Rose? I couldn’t. She would find out about all the boys. She’d be repulsed by me and cut me from her life for good. I can’t take that rejection or criticism. Not from her. Not from someone I truly adore.
Very softly, I say, “I’m sorry.” I feel like all I do is apologize.
Rose looks blank. Completely shut off. “It’s fine. I’m going to try on that black dress.” She slips into her curtained room, leaving me alone. Well not totally alone.
I glance back at the other Victorian chaise.
My heart sinks. Empty. He’s gone. Great, now I don’t even have someone to ogle.
My phone vibrates in my jeans. I pluck it out and frown at the unknown number. Hmm. I open the text.
Want to hang out? – 215-555-0177
Must be a guy I drunkenly gave my number to after we hooked up. I usually keep personal information to myself, considering it provokes attachment and stalking.