Then, he held the tray up like a cater waiter would, and he looked at her. She probably went for the smooth guys with the nice hair. Probably didn’t give a second glance to the awkward, chubby ones like him. But somehow, in this moment, he didn’t feel foolish for at least trying. And he briefly considered that maybe that had been the problem all along: that he spent so much time feeling foolish instead of just letting go and risking looking like a fool. “Care for a line?” Bobby said.
Caroline was enchanted by the reversal. It was more effective than Bobby ever could have imagined. She would so much rather be the one being served than the one doing the serving.
She smiled at him and took the rolled-up hundred he’d extended. She leaned in. It felt cold in her nose, burned her sinuses. She lifted her head back up and said, “Thank you.”
Bobby smiled at her. “Sure, anytime.” Then he added, “Just to be clear, for you, I would do absolutely anything at absolutely any time.”
What was it about him? He wasn’t cute. He didn’t seem cool. But he did make her feel admired. It was as if he understood that she was the true star of this party. And she had come out to Los Angeles all the way from Maryland in search of that very thing: to feel like a star.
“You’re a nice guy,” Caroline said. “Aren’t you?”
Bobby gave her a lopsided smile. “Cripplingly so.”
“Can I get in on that?” asked Kyle Manheim, who appeared out of nowhere. Caroline had seen him come in with that woman Wendy and the rest of the Riva’s Seafood staff right at seven. He seemed to be intent on having the greatest night of his life.
Bobby held the tray out to him, magnanimously. “I brought enough for everybody!” he yelled. Caroline tried to slink away, but Bobby mustered up all of his courage and grabbed her hand. “Stay,” he said. “If you want to.”
“I’m working,” she said.
“But there’s no more shrimp.” Something about the way he said it, the way he was pleading with her to stay by his side, the simplicity of his desire for her company … it was one of the most romantic things Caroline had ever heard. But there’s no more shrimp.
Caroline will think of that moment later on tonight, when she and Bobby have sex in the coat closet by the front door. No one will know they are there. And Bobby will cradle her hair in his hands to make sure her head doesn’t hit the wall behind them. And it will be tender and sweet. And when they are in the throes of passion, cramped up together in that tiny space, barely air between them, Bobby will say, very quietly, “I never thought I’d have a chance with a girl like you,” and Caroline’s heart will flutter.
They will not know what the future holds or if their paths will ever cross again. But they will feel that—for one night at least—someone has seen them as they have always wanted to be seen. And that will be enough.
One tray of coke being passed around the party quickly became two trays of coke being passed around the party. And, just as swiftly, it was six trays of coke, waitresses offering blow like it was hors d’oeuvres.
To Kit, it felt like one moment she was at a fancy kegger and then she blinked and suddenly everyone around her was high as fuck and believing their own myths about themselves. I am the greatest. I am the funniest. I have it going on.
Kit was offered a line of coke by no fewer than three waitresses before she finally said, “I’m good. Stop offering me cocaine, thanks.”
She walked to the patio by the firepit because she wanted some fresh air and because Ricky was there. She figured she should give him an opportunity, if that was what you could call it. If he was even interested. Which now she was thinking maybe he wasn’t.
“Uh, hi,” Ricky said as she stood next to him. He had a small dab of feta dip on the very corner of his lip and Kit wondered if she should tell him.
“Hi,” she said.
“Yeah,” Ricky said. He looked down at his sneakers. Then realized what he was doing and looked back up. “I mean, yeah. Totally hi.”
Kit smiled. Maybe he was interested.
“You have a tiny bit of feta,” she said, pointing. “On your lip.”
He took a napkin from the table behind them and wiped it off. “That makes sense,” he said. “Because now is the moment that I’m finally talking to my dream girl, so yeah, cheese on my face sounds about right.”
Kit blushed. Ricky smiled.
And Kit started to think this was all a lot easier than she’d made it out to be.
Nina was standing next to Brandon in the living room. He was holding tightly on to her hand and whispering into her ear.
“Thank you,” he said. “For making me the happiest man in the world.”
It didn’t sit right with her, the finality in his tone. “I think we still have a lot we have to talk about,” she said.
“Of course,” Brandon said, pulling her closer to him. “I know I have a lot of making up to do. I’m just thankful to be given the chance. I’m grateful you’re allowing me to right my wrongs.”
Nina smiled, uncertain what else to say. She wasn’t quite sure how he ever possibly could right his wrongs. But she supposed she had told him she would let him try.
“So, Bran, tell us,” said a lanky guy in a striped rugby shirt and salmon-colored chinos. He was standing next to a guy in Bermuda shorts and buckskin shoes. Every year more and more preppies were showing up at her parties and if she was honest with herself, she knew it was Brandon’s influence. “Think you’ll grab another Slam title next month?”
The front door opened and Nina looked up to find that the person coming across the threshold was a great excuse to leave Brandon’s side. Her closest friend, fashion model Tarine Montefiore.
Eyes turned to look at the singularly gorgeous woman that had just walked in. Most people recognized her from her multiple covers of Vogue and Elle, her contract with Revlon. But even those who could not place her knew she had to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. With dark hair, warm brown eyes, and cheekbones that looked like they could cut you, Tarine seemed carved of marble, with too many casual perfections to be human.
Her hair hung long and straight, her eyes were shadowed in silver and black, her lips were covered in a high clear gloss. She was wearing a white microdress and a black leather motorcycle jacket. She had on black pumps that would have broken anyone else’s ankles if they took a single step but she glided into the room effortlessly.
And then there was the accent. Tarine had been born in Israel to Spanish Jewish parents and then moved to Paris when she was eleven, Stockholm at sixteen, and to New York City when she turned eighteen. She had an accent entirely her own.
She and Nina had met on a Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot in Panama City a couple years ago. They posed together in yellow bikinis sitting on opposite sides of a dinghy. The photo became so well known, two guys had parodied it on SNL.
Nina had liked Tarine instantly. Tarine would tell Nina which photographers were handsy and which agents tried to screw their clients. She would also tell Nina not to smile too wide or she’d show her lower, crooked teeth. Tarine was kind, even when being kind meant not being very nice.