Excerpt: Chapter 1
I straightened myself in my chair; Kelly was late as usual. I flicked my wrist and checked the time, then raised my gaze to the window. A frantic Kelly whipped her black mane over her shoulder and strutted into the gastropub.
“Hey, I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said, throwing her handbag onto the chair next to me. She looked around her frantically, scanning the place and adjusting her hair at the same time. I caught her sniffing one lock of hair and then tossing it over her shoulder. “Hey, excuse me, can I get a Bloody Mary?” she said, waving her arms around. Just like every time, I waited for her to settle in, curse the weather, and wonder why her drink was so late even though she had just ordered it.
“I’m so pissed off,” she blurted out, inching forward in her chair.
“Well, that’s new,” I said, sitting up in attention. Kelly always liked to complain. “What happened?”
“My shoes didn’t fit me this morning,” she spat, burying her face in her hands.
“You heard me,” she said, looking up at me. “My shoes didn’t fit me. My feet have gotten bigger!”
“Kelly, I don’t think that’s possible,” I murmured, pausing for a moment, eyeing the cute waiter approaching our table. I basked in that short stretch of silence as he reached out, set down our drinks, flashed me a smirk, and walked away.
“Well, it’s possible that my feet have gotten swollen,” Kelly said. I narrowed my eyes at her.
“Nah, that’s not why you’re upset.” I shook my head. “Something happened. I just don’t know what it is.” Immediately her cheeks flushed, and her gaze dropped to the floor. She grabbed one thin lock of her hair and started picking at her split ends, something that she always did when she got nervous.
“Ugh, fine. You’re right,” she snapped, tossing her hair over her shoulder again. “I’m just low key ashamed to tell you.”
“Herpes? Is it herpes?” I said, only to be met with Kelly’s famous pitbull scowl. “I’m kidding.”
“I’m jealous of Tyra, okay? There! I said it!” she threw her hands up in the air and slouched in her chair. The cute waiter was staring because Kelly’s voice was so loud.
“Why am I not surprised?” I said, squinting at her. “You do realize that these feelings are natural, right? I mean, she did land Kevin Dane. Who wouldn’t be jealous?”
“But it’s not that,” Kelly whined, cocking her head to the side like a miserable toddler. “You know how I’m always partying?”
“Yep,” I said. Suddenly, I got intrusive thoughts of Kelly’s head hanging over a toilet.
“Well, recently I’ve been thinking that maybe I should slow down a bit, maybe reevaluate my life.”
“What about your life do you feel like you need to reevaluate?” I asked. For a while, she just looked really confused. She kept clasping and unclasping her hands, pushing her hair behind her ears and stirring her drink with a tall stalk of celery.
“I mean, I already have my degree, right? I have a good job. I have a lot in savings…” She trailed off then paused for a moment and licked her lips. “Yeah, I don’t know where this is going.”
I didn’t say anything. Sometimes Kelly just needed someone to listen to her vent, to nod profusely while she arrived at her own conclusions.
“I love jersey chasing, right? I’ve been doing it for years,” she started again. “You get to meet cool people, hook up with the hottest stars, maybe even get their numbers.” She closed her eyes momentarily. “And if you’re very, very lucky, you might end up with one of them.”
“Like Tyra ended up with Kevin?”
“Yeah,” she said, batting her eyes open. “I don’t know why I’m so bitter about this, but I am.” She stirred her cocktail again and then raised the glass up to her mouth.
“Maybe you just need to start a new chapter?” I realized that I was pretty much everyone’s therapist. The truth was that I could go hours listening to someone rant about anything from a messy breakup to a bad hair day; all I had to do was smile, nod, and ask them loads of questions.
“I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to grow up,” Kelly said quietly, like she was having an epiphany. “I keep thinking about all that stuff Tyra said about a big house with a white picket fence. I made fun of her at the time, but…”
“Now you feel like you want the same thing?”
“Maybe.” Kelly was visibly struggling to recognize her own thoughts. Her Bloody Mary was just sitting there, untouched, save for a slurp or two. Her doe eyes were fixated somewhere over my shoulder, following people as they appeared in the window frame then disappeared out the other end. Her eyebrows were furrowed like she was deep in thought. I just waited for her to snap out of her trance.
“Do you like… want a family and stuff?” I asked her, breaking the silence. Kelly’s body jumped, as though affected by a mild electric shock.
“I think so,” she replied, nodding. “Man, I think I have baby fever.”
I chuckled. “See, that’s normal. I get that all the time, even though I’m not planning on having kids before I’m like forty.”
“Yeah but when you see one of them cute little munchkins in a baby stroller…”
“Kicking their legs in the air…”
“Ah! Makes my heart melt!” she said, her hand flying to her chest. Hanging out with Kelly made me contemplate my own life. She was the type of person that liked to stir shit up, and even though I didn’t mind that most of the time, she always seemed to catch me at my weakest moments. Just talking about the future made me uneasy, like I was standing on shaky ground, barely able to balance myself.
“Well, I’m nowhere near ready to get married and have kids,” I said suddenly, mirroring Kelly’s movements. I played with my hair a bit before finally twisting it into a tight bun at the top of my head.
“Are you over him?” Kelly asked me. She was quite a confrontational person, and even though I didn’t mind it most of the time, I was feeling particularly emotional that afternoon. I could feel my eyes well up with tears, but then I fanned myself with my hands and nodded solemnly.
“I think so,” I replied, steadying myself for an unrelenting wave of emotion. It crashed over me, but I stood tall, trekking through the pain of talking about Drake like never before.
“He’s old news, girl,” Kelly said, the shallowness of her contribution making me chuckle a little. “It’s time that you move on to better things.”
“Like big backyards with white picket fences?” I asked, almost cynically. “Yeah, I don’t think so.”
Whenever I thought about Drake, I didn’t feel that sting anymore. I was sleeping better, going out more, partying often and enjoying it – most of the time.
I left my bed at the curb and bought a new one.
Nine months ago, I had a roommate named Claire. She and I were inseparable; we woke up together, made breakfast together, even worked together. She was just like me, albeit a tad more artistic. She had a stack of brushes that she left everywhere, all around the house, and needless to say, it pissed me off. I often found paint brushes lying at the bottom of our pots, in our sink, and under my bed. Claire seemed to have an obsession, but for the longest time, I embraced the fact that she wanted to become an acclaimed artist.
It was not long before I introduced her to Drake. I remember being so excited, and then feeling absolutely mortified when the two of them didn’t get along. If anything, Drake actually thought Claire was quite annoying. He thought she was “trying too hard,” that she talked a lot, that she wasn’t genuine. Oh, and he hated her art.
For a while, I defended her. She was my best friend, the one who stood by me as I stumbled through life. When I finally got my job as a university research assistant, she was the one standing at the sidelines, cheering me on.
I never would’ve thought that, two months later, Claire would turn into my worst enemy.
I had been collaborating with a professor on a case study, and one day I told Drake that I would be spending the night on campus. He smiled and pretended to be excited for me. He wished me good luck, even drove me to work. That same day I finished work earlier than I thought and decided to go back home instead.
They say all athletes are cheaters; I couldn’t agree more. I caught Drake and Claire in bed together, and the rest is history.
So like I said, I left my bed at the curb and kicked Clair out of the house, with all of her canvases, paint brushes, and curly hair products. I broke up with Drake, obviously. I also decided never to get into a serious relationship again.
When Kelly brought up the whole husband and kids thing, I couldn’t help but cringe. I just didn’t see myself sitting cross-legged on a porch, watching my kids play tag. I didn’t see myself settling down anytime soon. In fact, I didn’t see myself settling down at all.
“Well, if you ever need to talk,” Kelly said, gulping her drink. “I’m here for you, girl.”
“Yeah, I know.” The silence seeped into the gastropub, to the point where all the clinking and clanking and chatter in the world couldn’t break it. “It’s been months but I still think about it sometimes,” I said, despite not having the energy to talk. There was something about Kelly that just reeled you in, made you want to pour your heart out. Not because she was a good listener, but because she liked to gossip.
“You know what? We don’t need this.” Kelly raised her hands up in the air. “You know what we need?”
“A night out on the town.”
I rolled my eyes. “What happened to settling down, popping out babies, and running around in the park?”
“I can want all those things and still party, right?” Kelly shrugged and tilted her head to the side. I agreed with her. “I feel like you and I need to put on a pair of slutty stilettos and get drunk somewhere.”
The truth was I wasn’t really up for it this time. All that effort I’d been putting towards “living my best life,”making memories of blurry disco lights and dressing to the nines did not change the fact that I wasn’t a party girl; I wasn’t that big of a dancer, either. In fact, I tended to get pretty intimidated by all those girls at the club—all made up and dressed to kill. “I don’t know if I’m up for it,” I admitted finally. Kelly’s eyes widened, like she was about to pounce at me.
“You say this every time, Sadie, and you know what happens? You end up having the time of your life.”
I wasn’t sure about the having the time of my life part, but I had to admit, I had a peculiar, mostly annoying habit of shutting Kelly down whenever she tried to cheer me up, only to give in a second later. I was beginning to think that, the party lifestyle was kin to a lingering identity crisis, one that haunted me with every night out, and perhaps that was why I resisted going so much.
“I’m just not a club person, you know that.”
“Then maybe it’s time for a change.”
I sighed.. Kelly was just so pressuring, but despite how erratic she was, despite her nosiness and unquestionable thirst for gossip and thrill, I still considered her a good friend. “Fine,” I said through clenched teeth, caving like every time. “But if some perv grabs my ass on the dance floor, you’re gonna throw the first punch.”
“Deal.” Kelly beamed, extending her hand out to me.