Authors: Abby Brooks
© 2016 by Abby Brooks
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
, my happily ever after.
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you do when the guy you knew better than to go out with steals your purse and disappears when you’re in the bathroom? First, you sling curse words around the restaurant—loudly of course. Maybe bang your fist on a table, causing the silverware to clank against the plates and making all the people around you gasp, jump, and then stare at you like you’re crazy. Then, you call your sisters for help and complain about it with them over margaritas.
At least that’s what I did.
And it hasn’t been working out the way I expected. Not at all.
What did I expect? Comfort. Commiseration. A gentle hand on my shoulder and a kind word for their poor little sister and her bad luck with men.
What am I getting? Not that.
“Come on, Dakota. You just left your purse at the table?” Chelsea, the oldest of us London girls lets loose one of her patented, Judgmental Older Sister sighs and gives me a look that sits somewhere between condescending and sympathetic.
I take a long drink of my margarita—the bartender here at this restaurant is good, but I’m better—and suck in my lips as I swallow. “I didn’t call you out here to point out how this is all my fault.”
“Well of course it’s not
your fault.” Maya, my slightly-sweeter-than-Chelsea-but-still-judgemental-because-she’s-older sister smiles at me as if that will make it all better.
“So it’s still kind of my fault?” And here it comes. All the reasons that Dakota London fucked up once again given to me one line at a time from the two people I trust most in the world.
Chelsea tucks her super straight platinum hair behind her ear and crosses her arms on the table. “Well, you
go out with him even though you met him at the bar called The Bad Apple.”
“Hey! That’s my place of employment, thank you very much! What’s wrong with the bar?”
The Bad Apple,
” Maya says, as if that clears it all up. “What kind of guys do you think it’s going to attract?”
“I think it’s just the kind of guys
attract.” I drop my chin towards my chest, fully prepared to pout my way through the evening.
Chelsea politely sips at her margarita and puts on the sweetest of faces. “Yeah…” She draws out the word. “About that. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your choices on the man front.”
“See! There you go blaming me again! This is
not my fault.” I gesture at my empty purse and the people at the surrounding tables who are still eyeing me warily. So I got a little mad when I saw The Asshole had stolen my wallet and left me with a huge ass check to pay and no way to pay for it. I don’t think I’m the only one who would find that just a tad upsetting.
“Aren’t you even a little bit tired of having this conversation?” Maya asks with that same mix of condescension and sympathy that Chelsea has been using.
I should have just called Maya and asked for some help paying the bill and getting home. What was I thinking, calling both of them out here and asking them to have some conciliatory drinks with me?
“I’m sorry,” I say, so ready for this night to be over. Isn’t there like a sister code or something where they’re supposed to stick up for me no matter what? “I wasn’t aware that we’ve had the
jerk stole my wallet and stuck me with the bill
“No…” Chelsea picks at the salt on the rim of her margarita glass and hits me with a look.
look. The one that says I’m not going to like what she has to say. “But we have had the
some jerk took advantage of you and now you need our help
conversation a lot. Like
“Oh. That one.” I might not like hearing it, but I can’t deny it’s true. I run my hands up into my shoulder length blonde hair. And to think I actually took the time to style it in honor of this night with The Asshole. Wanted to look pretty for him. Just so he could rip me off.
“Yeah. That one.”
“Well. Okay. When you put it that way. I’m very tired of this particular conversation.” I fiddle with the salt shaker in its little metal stand on the table while the waitress come to check on us—eyeing me like I might jump up and bite her or something. “It’s even worse that we’re having it here. Everyone thinks I’m crazy.”
“Well, I’m sure you handled the whole thing so gracefully,” says Maya with a smile that says she knows just exactly how I handled it. Loudly. With much cussing.
“Oh sure.” I put on a Very Serious and Sweet face and nod. “I handled it with my typical grace and charm.”
Chelsea laughs into her margarita and pulls the glass away just enough to speak. “Is that why everyone keeps staring at us?” She takes a long drink and sits the glass down. She’s still laughing, but it’s not at me anymore. It’s because of me. I know she’s always secretly admired my ability to say whatever I’m thinking without worrying what people will think of me. Just like I’ve always admired her ability to hold her tongue when it’s appropriate.
“Maybe.” I draw out the word. “I’m very threatening.”
Maya laughs. “Oh yes. All five foot three inches of you. The scariest little blonde thing in at least three counties.”
“It’s the tattoo,” I say, flashing my wrist to show off the three tiny birds taking flight there. “Terrifying.”
“Utterly.” Chelsea nods knowingly.
“You know,” I say, drawing up my shoulders and releasing them with a sigh. “You two are my favoritest people. Ever.” I mean it. Chelsea and Maya are my best friends. A bond made all the stronger because we shared the same room for most of our lives.
“Sure,” says Maya. “You say that now that you don’t have a way to pay for the drinks.”
“Or the meal you had with that jerk.” Chelsea shakes her head and that Judgy Big Sister look creeps back into her eyes. “Let me guess. You guys had appetizers
it was his idea,” Maya adds while I nod, pouting.
“I am such an idiot.” The Asshole had suggested we go all out. Order everything we could possibly want, without worrying about anything. And here I’d thought he was just being romantic…
Chelsea and Maya exchange a look, one that makes me wonder how long they’ve been waiting for a chance to say whatever they’re about to say.
“About that…” Chelsea takes a drink and eyes me with the same wary look the rest of the people in this stupid restaurant have been giving me for the last hour or so. I sit back and prepare myself for whatever they have to say.
“We think you should be more selective about the guys you date.” Maya says it in one big rush of words and then sits back with worry clenching her eyebrows together.
“In fact…” Chelsea sits back, too. The same look of concern tightening her eyes. “We think you should be more selective about everything in your life.” She pauses. Watches me like I’m a wounded tiger who might spring up and eat her at any moment.
I nod. I’d like to say that I have no idea why they’re acting so nervous right now, but I do have a tendency to react emotionally. They’re probably waiting for me to cry. Or yell. Or storm off and leave them with the bill. I won’t lie. I consider all three. But since I pretty much agree with them, I just take a careful drink of my margarita and wait for them to continue.
With another quick glance to Maya, Chelsea leans forward and unleashes The Speech. “You’re so much more than a bartender who works at a cheap bar. You’re so smart. So talented.”
“And too pretty for the jerks you keep picking up.” Maya reaches out and puts her hand on mine.
“What happened to the girl who wanted to travel? The girl who always said even her
were places and if that wasn’t a sign that she was supposed to see the world, then what was? The girl who used to write?”
I clear my throat and fiddle with the salt shaker again. “Travel costs money I don’t have and writing sure won’t pay the bills.” I shrug, trying not to show them how much the realization that real life sucks bothers me. “Besides. I like making drinks at The Bad Apple. Never a dull night, that’s for sure.”
Which was true. I do like the energy of talking to different people all night long. Of the music playing super loud. Of the lights careening off the bottles of liquor lining the shelves on the wall behind the bar. So I’m not a physical therapist like Chelsea or a pediatrician like Maya. So I’m not on the traditional London Fast Track to Success. That doesn’t bother me. At least not a lot. But I am getting really tired of picking up jerks.
“So what do I do?” I ask and hold up a hand as both of my sisters suck in a big breath as if they have an entire novel’s worth of advice for me. “About the not dating jerks thing. The rest of my life is fine.”
Which it is. Kind of. I just need a little more time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up is all.
My sisters both close their mouth against whatever it was they were going to say and each of them lets out a long breath. Chelsea bites her bottom lip while Maya twirls her finger in her long brown hair and looks at the table.
“My life is fine.” I repeat myself because clearly they were more interested in talking about my career choice and living situation than they were about the guys I go out with. “But I have a seriously bad track record with the men. What do I do?”
The girls are quiet. Still. Some more. I’m busy trying to ignore the rush of indignation and irritation roaring through my veins. I’m only twenty-five. So what if they were both college graduates by the time they were my age? I’m not them. That’s been clear our whole lives.
“For one,” Chelsea finally says. “No more picking up guys at the bar.”
bar or at
bar. Because where else am I supposed to pick them up?”
“At bars in general. Just think about the kind of people who hang out in bars all the time.”
“Uhh … the fun kind?” I know Chelsea’s only trying to help, but I love spending my nights off at a bar, drinking in the energy of many people gathered in one place, the music and the dancing, the laughter. Hell, I strike up conversations with strangers just for a chance to see life through their point of view.
“Okay,” says Maya, clearly seeing the landmine Chelsea just stepped onto. “Just
bar. No more bad apples from The Bad Apple.” She chuckles at herself and takes a sip of her margarita, amusement dancing in her eyes.
‘Okay.” I bob my head in agreement. “It’s probably a bad idea to be dating people from work anyway. Next?”
“He needs a home.”
“And a good car.”
“A decent job!”
“A life plan!”
My sisters ricochet their requirements right off each other, one after the other, information coming at me machine gun style.
“Clearly you’ve had time to think about this.”
“We may have talked about it once or twice.”
“Okay, so you want him to have a home, a car, a steady job, a life plan, more brain cells than tattoos. I think I can get behind that.” Even if I don’t have one single clue as to where I was going to find a guy like that. A guy who met those requirements would count as an actual, honest to goodness adult. I’m not exactly the best at adulting and the guys that end up in my circles aren’t that good at adulting either.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Just remember,” says Chelsea.
Maya and Chelsea took one last look at each other and in then in one rush of words so perfect and in tune they might as well have been choreographed they hit me with their most important requirement.
“You can’t meet him at The Bad Apple.”