Authors: Kate Stewart
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary
“Well, now that’s what I like to see. On time and looking good, Laura,” Gary mused, rounding the corner of the bar with a case of beer. “Wouldn’t have anything to do with the reference I had to give today, would it?”
“Please, Gary, tell me you were good about this?”
“Of course I gave you a good one, Laura. Don’t make me regret it.”
Oh the difference a day could make! If only I could see those green eyes again. I had thought about Seth all day. He must have been the one to get me to Dave’s couch. I wondered how long he had to sit there with me sleeping against him to get me in the confines of quiet. Poor guy. I owed him. Especially for the busted lip that got me out of hot water at work and got me into my new place. Sure, I was a dreadful human for manipulating people with it. Karma was coming for me. One day it would come for me. I had better get ready.
It was Saturday night and the bar was hopping. I could barely stay on top of the orders being shouted to me. This was a good thing. I couldn’t help but count the tips coming my way. I was close. I only needed fifty dollars more to enter my dream apartment. The private walk, the fact that I wouldn’t have a neighbor to deal with, was too good to be true. I was shaking my ass while mixing my drinks and it was helping the tip jar. I was just about to down my first shot of the night when I caught those green eyes on me.
“Hey,” Seth muttered. His eyes dark and lips twitching in amusement.
“Hey yourself,” I flirted, my insides doing a happy dance. I was never pressed for male attention, but right now I was so happy to have his. This was new.
“You’ve come a long way since we met,” he remarked of my newly happy demeanor.
“Sleep depravity, it turns into mental illness for me. By the way, thank you for last night. I don’t know how long you had to sit there with my head in your lap, but I owe you.”
“Forever is how long, and I will collect,” he said, his eyes and smile made my heart skip a beat.
“Let’s start with a drink.” I started with my bottles and he quickly interrupted.
“I actually can’t tonight. I came in to check on your lips. They look great.” His eyes were not even close to on my lips, but instead were roaming my body from neck to boot and back up.
I raised an eyebrow. “My lips appreciate your attention.”
He bit his lip and gave me another thorough once over. “I’m going out with friends tonight, but can I take you to lunch tomorrow?”
“I can’t tomorrow for lunch, but how about dinner?”
“Deal. What’s your number?”
“This is my pager,” I said jotting it down on a bar napkin.
“Tomorrow,” he said appreciatively, keeping a hot gaze on me.
“Tomorrow.” I was frozen again. This guy was really getting under my skin. I could feel my legs start to shake. He turned around quickly and left the bar without glancing back.
I spent the rest of the night in a small daze. If I wasn’t so tired last night, I probably would have jumped him at my brother’s house. I couldn’t wait until tomorrow. All good things were happening tomorrow.
At noon the next day, I met Marcia Barbie to sign the lease.
“Laura, welcome home.” She beamed as she handed me the key, but not without the slight indication in her voice that she was patting herself on the back for helping out a charity case.
“Thank you!” I beamed right back. Screw what she thought. In the end, I got what I wanted. I lingered in the empty apartment. I sat on the bare living room floor envisioning how I would decorate it, room by room. I was allowed to paint, but only in tasteful neutral colors. I would make it work. I unloaded all of my clothes from the car, along with my treasure chest full of items from my past life, the life where I actually belonged in their world. And there was a ridiculous amount of satisfaction from placing my one person place setting of dishware into the kitchen cabinets. The first item I would get for my new place would be a couch slash temporary bed. I would make the money for that on Monday. For now, I was stuck penniless and sleeping at Dave’s. But there was an upside to my predicament: no more Chris, hello green eyes.
As if he was reading my mind, my pager went off with an unfamiliar number. I quickly turned off the lights and locked up my new place. Sliding my new key on my key ring, I made a beeline for Dave’s house. He wasn’t home, but had given me a key. I quickly headed for the phone.
One ring and I heard his voice “Hello, mad bitch with a busted lip,” he chuckled.
“Awe come on, are you going to give me a break?”
“Yes, it’s dinnertime. I’m at work right now so I’ve got to go. Pick you up at your brother’s in an hour?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“See you then.”
I took a scalding shower and tried to wipe a day’s worth of Texas heat from my body. I had picked a simple sundress and sandals. I had a softer side to me. It wasn’t all about bearing all in public, even though I was told time and again I had a killer body. I took in my reflection. I had carefully painted my lids with a wispy layer of liquid liner and a thick layer of mascara. My eyes looked more aqua than green against my light blue spaghetti strapped sundress. My lips had finally started to heal a little and I was able to dress them in a thick layer of dark pink gloss. I blow dried my hair and parted it down the middle. The only bit of sexy I had was the length of the sundress. It was as short as a go go skirt. It showed a large amount of leg, the one attribute of mine that I was proud of. Pleased with my appearance, I walked outside to light a cigarette. I wasn’t much of a smoker; I actually smoked less than half a pack a day. I could easily put them down, but loved the ritual and the small high of it.
I leaned down to dig into my purse on Dave’s front porch, searching for my lighter. I felt the cigarette being plucked from my lips and quickly looked up to catch Seth with a look of disdain as he broke my cigarette between his fingers.
“Gross, you can’t do that tonight.”
“Because, I’m going to want to kiss you later.”
“Well, who says I want to kiss you?” I had no idea where he had come from. He seemed to have snuck up on me. I looked for his car and saw a Mercedes in the drive. Surely this wasn’t his car. I hadn’t even heard it pull up.
“Oh, I do.” His eyes danced with anticipation and heat. I took a step back since he was too close for me to drink him in. He had on khaki shorts and a white tee with a long sleeve white button down open around his waist and—oh no—were those loafers? This was not the look of the guy I had seen the last two days. This was the look of a…a…Ken Barbie.
My heart sank immediately. Shit, I was going on a date with Ken Barbie in his Mercedes. What happened to my hot club kid?
Whoops, he must have seen my expression change.
“Nothing,” I lied.
“Should we go then?” He gave me a pensive look, but put his arm around my waist as he guided me down the steps of Dave’s porch. He unlocked the doors and opened mine for me. Whoa, this was new.
“So I thought we would go to Chantilly Lace and then go see a band my buddy plays in, sound good?”
Chantilly was a really nice restaurant in the heart of downtown Dallas. He obviously could afford it. I took in a deep breath as I scanned the interior of his ridiculously expensive car. He cranked the car and it was no longer a mystery why I never heard him pull up. The engine was eerily silent. He pushed play on his CD player, but kept it low. I heard the Beastie Boys
come on. My surprised eyes swept his face and he gave me an odd glance.
“Laura, what the hell is going on with you?”
Wow, I thought I was blunt.
“I need a drink first.”
“Before you can tell me why you’re acting so strange?”
“How would you know? We just met.”
“I know this isn’t pretty pissed in the park Laura, or playful in the bar Laura, or dance floor Laura, or kiss me Laura.”
“Kiss me Laura?”
“Yeah, there’s a kiss me Laura.”
“Call me Laurs, all my friends do.”
“I will not. I like your name.”
“Suit yourself, Chantilly sounds fine. I haven’t had lobster and crème brûlée in years.”
“Oh?” His lips twitched at my sarcasm.
“Really, you don’t need to take me to a place that nice. We can go to Hanny’s or South Dock, something more suitable for a sundress.” I crossed my legs to emphasize just how short my sundress was and he didn’t miss it.
He slowed to an ease at a stop light and stared at me with confusion and hunger.
“Laura, Chantilly is where I want to see you in this dress.”
“Okay.” I felt his eyes on me and the light was refusing to change. I was so uncomfortable. I felt myself warming up in my seat. I was completely helpless against this guy. I finally met his eyes. This sudden shyness was pissing me off.
“What, Seth?” My tone wasn’t rude, but it was forceful. He didn’t answer me, but traced my lips with his finger and then raked his hands through my hair. I took in a breath and licked my lips. I didn’t care if that damn light ever changed. Oh, God. I felt my breathing accelerate. These amazing, beautifully tender touches, was there some sort of school for this shit? He had a way of making me melt instantly. One look, one touch, I was hopeless! I heard the horn behind us give a gentle reminder and he immediately snapped to. I smirked, happy not to be the only one caught in the ridiculous pull.
We arrived to Chantilly and the valet took his keys. I rolled my eyes. I hated subservient people for servicing the wealthy’s laziness. It made me sick. It was one thing to sling beer; it was another thing to have someone park your car so your lazy ass didn’t have to walk too far to get into a restaurant. There wasn’t much about the way this world was set up that didn’t piss me off. My date seemed like a prime example of why I kept to my own clique. He kept his hand on the small of my back as we entered the restaurant. We got a seat with a great view of the surrounding buildings and bustling Dallas residents and tourists.
It wasn’t that I hated money; it was that I hated most of the people with an abundance of it. I knew just how to spend it. I was brought up in that environment after all and knew how to make a wallet sweat. I liked Seth; I had no intention of being the expensive date I threatened to be. I ordered water and a glass of red wine and waited for him to order some expensive extravagant bar drink.
“I’ll have a draft beer. And I’ll go ahead and place our order. Two lobster’s with salad, dressing on the side and crème brûlée for dessert.”
“Seth, I was kidding.”
“Sounded good to me.”
Another eye roll from me seemed to tick him off. “Could you please tell me why you keep rolling your eyes?”
“This is nice, it’s just a bit much, don’t you think? I mean, I would have been happy to go anywhere else, you didn’t have to go to all these lengths to, ya know…”
“No, I guess I don’t. I dine here twice a week.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize. I’m sorry.” I opened the drink menu burying my head in it.
“We already ordered, Laura.”
“I’m hiding my, ‘I am a jackass, you have been nothing but nice to me and I am being a total bitch’ face.”
He laughed out loud and pulled the menu down between us.
“I take it your boyfriend didn’t take you here often.”
“To be honest, I really don’t date Ke…guys who drive Mercedes and dine at Chantilly.”
“Why is that?”
“Not the world I’m comfortable in, I guess.”
“I get it. But then again, indulgence is one of the best parts of life. Why deny yourself any of it? I’m sure they don’t serve lobster at the Lemon.”
Our waiter returned with our drinks and I downed my wine. I knew better, but I felt uncomfortable under Seth’s stare.
“Another wine, please.” He didn’t hesitate to order it for me, but raised his eyebrows as if to inquire about my current mental state.
“I’ll get over it. I’m just a little uncomfortable.”
“Having dinner in a nice place makes you uncomfortable?”
“Okay,” I said pausing to sip my wine, “let’s start this over. Where are you from and what do you do?”
“Is this really what you want to talk about, Laura?” He drew out my name with a hint of southern twang and I immediately thought of my mother and the way she did the same when I was under fire.
“Might as well. I’ll start. I went to school in Lancaster, you?”
The towns were fairly close to each other. I had actually dated a few guys from there. The Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis had too many towns to count. I had dated more than my fair share of guys, the lesser of them being from my own hometown.
“How old are you?” He couldn’t be too much older than I was.
“Twenty-three, and you?”
“I’ll be twenty-two next month.” I was proud to be twenty-one. I didn’t know why it was so important for me to casually add a year to my age. I knew why, this guy intimidated the shit out of me. What the hell was a twenty-three year old man doing driving a thirty-five thousand dollar car and dining at Chantilly?
“Are you in school, Laura?”