Sticking your fingers in me. “For getting you involved in Sunday’s luncheon.” I uncertainly take a seat in a red recliner opposite the couch.
He watches me like he always does, assessing my current state. He swallows his bite of pizza. “Honestly, I don’t mind going.” He wipes his fingers on a napkin and picks up his glass. “Better your father than mine.”
I nod. So true. “So…are we okay?”
“Are you?” His eyebrows rise.
“Mmm-hmm,” I mumble and avoid eye contact by grabbing a slice of pizza and scurrying back to the safety of my chair. Safe distance, check.
“I’ll take that as a weak yes, considering you can’t so much as look at me right now.”
“It’s not you; it’s me,” I say through a mouthful, licking sauce off my finger.
“Again, what every guy loves to hear.” I can feel his eyes grazing my body. “I’m not even coming on to you right now.”
“Don’t even start,” I warn, holding up a finger. “I swear, Lo.”
“Okay, okay.” He sighs. “You’re going to The Blue Room tonight, aren’t you?”
I jerk back in shock. “How’d you know?”
He looks at me like seriously. “You rarely go to the same club more than three or four times. For a while, I thought we were going to have to move one city over so you could find a place to…” He pauses, trying to find the words. “…fuck.” He flashes that bitter smile.
“Very funny.” I pick a pepperoni off the cheese. “Do you need a sober driver tonight? I can drop you off somewhere before I leave.” I have no problem shooing away beer and hard liquor.
“No, I’m going to the club with you.”
I hold in my surprise. He only ventures out with me on selective nights, and they vary too often for me to make sense of them. “You want to go to The Blue Room? You do realize this is a dance club and not some smoky hole-in-the-wall bar?”
He shoots me another look. “I’m well aware.” He swishes the ice cubes around in his glass, staring at the liquid. “Anyway, it’ll keep us from staying out too late and missing tomorrow’s luncheon.”
He has a point.
“You’re not going to care if I…” I can’t even finish the thought.
“If you leave me to go bang some guy?” he says, kicking his feet on the coffee table beside the pizza
I open my mouth but lose my thoughts again.
“No, Lil,” he says, “I won’t get in the way of what you want.”
Sometimes I wonder about his desires. Maybe he does want to be with me. Or maybe he’s still pretending.
I remember the first moment when I realized I was different from other kids. And it had nothing to do with boys or sexual fantasies and everything to do with my family. I sat in the back of my sixth grade English class, tugging down my plaid skirt required by all prep school kids. As the teacher left, a few boys scooted their desks to mine, and before I could form a reason for their closeness, they whipped out soda cans. Diet Fizz. Fizz Lite. Fizz Red. Just plain Fizz.
They took swigs and then left the cans scattered on my desk. The last boy opened his can of Cherry Fizz and smiled mischievously. “Here,” he said, actually handing me the soda. “I popped your cherry.”
The boys snickered and I turned the color of Fizz Red that stained a ring on my notebook.
In retrospect, I should have thanked them for buying all the Fizzle products. Every soda bought from the vending machine would line my pockets one way or another. They were probably the sons and daughters of oil tycoons, not nearly as exciting as being able to say that my father created the company that outperformed Pepsi last year. But I was too shy and mortified to do anything but sink further in my desk and wish for invisibility.
Lo can relate in some ways. He isn’t faced with his family fortune on billboards and in restaurants, but every would-be-mother knows a thing or two about Hale Co. products. Baby powder, oils, diapers, basically anything for a little newborn is created by the company. So Fizzle drinks may appear all over the world, but at least the Calloway name isn’t scribbled on the label.
Only in my family’s ring of socialites and business investors do we have to worry about teasing and reputations. Everywhere else, we’re just two spoiled rich kids.
All throughout prep school, guys harassed Lo, calling him baby—not even close to being endearing. They even vandalized his gym locker by pouring Hale Co. rash powder on his clothes. Lo was an easy target. Not because he was skinny or short or shy like me. He had lean muscles to his name and even outran a soccer player. Lo chased him down the halls after learning he keyed his new Mustang.
But Lo only had one friend throughout his adolescence. And without a male entourage, he became enemy number one for other guys. An outcast to be picked on.
I regret most of my actions, and high school is full of wrong choices and bad decisions. Sleeping with someone who tormented Lo was one of them. I didn’t care when it happened, but afterwards, I couldn’t be more ashamed. I still am, and I wear it like a thick scar.
College changed everything for the better. Away from the small inclusive prep school, I no longer have to worry about gossip finding its way back to my parents. The freedom offers me more opportunities. Parties, clubs, and bars practically serve as a second home.
Tonight at The Blue Room, the ceiling glows with hundreds of glass bulbs. Midnight fabric drapes overhead, veiled as a night sky. True to its name, everything in the massive club is decked in a shade of blue. The dance floor blinks in teal and the upstairs furniture has navy velveteen chaises and buttoned chairs.
My black shorts stick to my sweaty thighs, and my silver halter dips low in the back but sucks to my clammy skin—the result of cramming two bodies in a bathroom stall. Blue toilet seats? Check. I thought I’d be floating on a high after hav**g s*x, but he barely satiated my desires. Plus, the heat makes me feel gross.
I spot Lo at the bar, his jaw tightening as he watches the bartender dart from one end to the other, the counter full of young patrons waiting to be served. Lo looks more peeved than usual, and I notice a blonde in a bandaged red dress sitting on a stool to his left, her long bare legs brushing up against his thigh. He acts oblivious to her advances, keeping his hardened gaze on the liquor bottles that tower behind the bartender.
“Come on, Lo,” I encourage under my breath.
Then a guy sidles up and grabs my waist, dancing behind me. I ignore him, but he tries to move my h*ps while he rubs his pelvis against me.
The blonde beside Lo bites her lip and runs a hand through her hair flirtatiously. She leans in and says something to him, and I wish I was close enough to hear.
Lo’s eyebrows bunch together, and I already see where the conversation is headed. He replies back and the girl’s face twists in contempt. With venom in her eyes, she retorts something and departs with her blueberry martini in pinched fingers.
I curse and disentangle my dance partner from my backside. Quickly, I rush to the bar and replace the blonde. “What was that?” I ask.
“Go away. I’m busy and bodies are still here that you can fuck.” He takes a large swig of beer, washing down his statement.
I inhale strongly, trying to let his comment brush off my shoulders. Trying to ignore his sudden moodiness. Some days, he can be sexy. Others, he can crush you with a glare. I narrow my eyes at the deep royal bottle in his hand that says Berry Beer. “What the hell are you drinking?” It’s been months since Lo has ingested anything weaker than port wine.
“All their liquor is f**king blue,” he complains. “I’m not drinking blue whiskey. Or blueberry vodka.”
At least I found the source of his agitation. The bartender approaches and I shake my head at him since I still plan on being the sober driver. He takes an order from a couple of other girls by my side instead.
I lean an elbow on the counter, facing Lo. “I’m sure it’s not that bad.”
“I’d offer you a sip, but I don’t know where your mouth has been.”
I glower. “I don’t want your Berry Beer anyway.”
He chugs the bottle and motions for another at a lady bartender. She pops the cap and slides it over.
I take a quick peek back at the electric blue dance floor, and my eyes meet with…
Oh no. I spin back and plant my gaze on the racks of liquor and then bury my head in my hands. Maybe he didn’t see me. Maybe we didn’t make eye contact. Maybe it’s all in my mind!
“Hey, can I buy you a drink?” He touches my shoulder. He’s touching my shoulder. I glimpse from my palm to steal a glance at Lo. He looks detached from the situation, half his leg sliding off the stool, as though ready to go and give me space that he thinks I need.
“I didn’t get your name,” the guy adds. A redheaded girl beside me stands to leave, and I want to scream out for her to come back. Keep your butt in that seat! As she disappears, the guy scoots onto the stool, his body language open for me.
My luck has officially been thrown in the toilet bowl.
I lift my head, avoiding his bushy blond eyebrows and the stubble around his chin. Yep, he’s the guy I led to the bathroom. He’s the one who locked the stall, pulled down my panties, grunted and heard me moan. At least he looks twenty-something, but I can’t discern his exact age. I don’t ask. In fact, I don’t ask anything. My confidence has sputtered out with my cli**x, and all I feel is the heat of shame blooming across my ears.
I manage to mumble an answer. “My name is Rose.” Albeit a lie.
Lo lets out a short laugh at this, and the guy puts an arm on the bar, leaning forward into my personal space to see my friend. “You two know each other?”
“You could say that,” Lo says, finishing off another beer. He motions to the lady bartender again.
“You’re not her ex or anything, are you?” the guy wonders, easing back just a little. Oh yes, please go away.
Lo wraps a hand around his new Berry Beer. “She’s all yours man. Have at her.”
I am slowly dying inside.
The guy nods to me. “I’m Dillon.” I don’t care. Please go away. He extends his hand with a giddy grin, maybe expecting a round two. Thing is, I don’t do round twos. Once I sleep with a guy, it ends there. Nothing more, ever again. It’s a personal rule that I’ve sustained thus far. I won’t break it, especially not for him.
I shake his hand, not knowing exactly how to shoo him off without being rude. Some girls have an easy time with saying no. Me on the other hand…
“What are you drinking?” He tries to flag down the male bartender who’s busy with serving a group of girls. One wears a tiara and an I’m 21! sash.
“Nothing,” I say just as a lady bartender in cut-off shorts and a cropped blue top stops in front of us.
“What can I get you?” she asks over the music.
Before I can add, I don’t drink to the statement, Dillon says, “A rum and Fizz and a Blue Lagoon.”
“We only have blueberry rum,” she reminds him.