The Social Media party was crawling with ombre haired girls in leather crop tops and guys doing their best Brody Jenner impressions.
“It’s the reality star effect,” Kevin said to me. “It’s made fame attainable to the masses. Every single person in here has probably filmed some pilot that never aired.”
I’d noticed the same effect going on with the fashion bloggers I’d met through out the week at various events for New York Fashion Week. Gorgeous girls in adorable outfits, all with blogs and “brands.” I had no idea who they were or how they paid the bills, but I swear I stumbled upon the younger, cooler version of Martha Stewart. William was extremely pleased with that find, and she’s working on a book proposal for us as we speak.
I’d watched the first two episodes of the show in Martin’s office earlier in the day. The show wouldn’t air for another few weeks because the start date got pushed back. I think I had a total of sixty seconds air time in each.
“We get into your storyline later in the season,” Martin promised. I was just trying to get used to hearing my voice on camera. I sounded like homicidal valley girl.
Both Kate and Richard were at the party—Kate because she has a bit spot on the show and Richard because his boss had no interest in attending and gave Richard his invite. I was holed up in the corner with the two of them, snarking on the the fame monsters, filling them in on the Peter situation, when Kevin stole me away. “Stuff like this is for mingling, not for clinging to your security blankets,” he snipped. Excuse my lameness.
But he was right—I don’t like socializing with randos and I need to get better at it. It’s how you open up your network, make contacts that could help you further down the line, etc, etc. It’s just that I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that I have to dig really deep to be “on” come 9 PM.
Kevin introduced me around, and I collected quite a few cards. When people heard I worked in publishing and was responsible for the book deal that Kevin’s “boss” has (air quotes because she only played his boss in the show, but she is writing a book for us IRL), they descended on me like vultures. “My blog this and my blog that, would make a great book, yada yada.” I collected cards and stashed them in my purse. I’d take a look at their little slices of Internet real estate tomorrow. Half of these people don’t understand the difference between to and too, your and you’re, and it’s William’s biggest pet peeve. The onus was on me to weed out the grammatically weak.
After I’d put in my mingling time, I tried to find Kate and Richard, but they seemed to have disappeared. Finally, I ran into Richard coming out of the bathroom.
“There you are!” he said. “I thought you’d left.”
“I thought you both left too,” I said.
Kevin looked at his watch. “It’s almost midnight. And it’s a school night.”
I couldn’t believe how late it was. I should have been exhausted, but I was having such a good time that I must have been running on adrenaline. Even so, I needed to be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow, so I told Richard I needed to head out soon.
At that moment, William approached. “Josie.” He patted me on the shoulder. “You’ve really turned it around in these last few weeks.” His words strung together in a drunken slur. He shook his finger at me, “I almost went to HR about you but I’m glad I didn’t.”
Richard was standing right there—inappropriate! “I’m glad you didn’t too,” I managed to say, which made William roar with laughter. I hoisted my purse on my shoulder. “I’m about to take off.”
“What?!” William looked stricken. “No! Stay! This is your party.”
Yes, the producers threw this party for the girl with the sixty second spot. “We have work in the morning,” I reminded him.
William waved his hand and made a pshhh noise. A spit bubble formed in the corner of his mouth and I stared at it, transfixed. “Take tomorrow off. Hell, I’m going to. Let’s do a shot.” He acknowledged Richard for the first time. “Kid, you too.” Richard rolled his eyes and whispered to me as we made our way over to the bar, “Why can he never remember my name?”
I hurried after William. “Um, that’s very nice of you,” I said, close on his heels. He moved surprisingly fast for a portly middle aged man. “But is Megan okay with that?”
“Don’t worry about her,” William said. We were at the bar now, and he raised his hand to get the bartender’s attention.
“I kind of have to because she’s my boss too,” I said.
“Not for long,” William shot back.
I looked at Richard. He raised his eyebrows.
“What do you mean?”
“Three shots Patrón!” William shouted. The bartender said they didn’t have Patrón. “What do you mean you don’t have Patrón?” William fumed. “What kind of cheap ass event is this? Whatever, just give me what you got.” William turned to me, his face red. “What did you ask? Oh! Yeah. She’s not long for this world, trust me.”
I wanted to get more information out of him—and in the state he was in I certainly could have—but William was pushing three tequila shots towards us. I took mine back, wincing, and that’s the moment I can pinpoint the night taking a turn.
William was like a shot pusher, encouraging me to do two more. Before I knew it, it was 2am and the party was over. Kevin stopped by to tell me a group of people were headed to an after-party, and invited Richard and me to tag along. I saw William stumble off with some Lauren Conrad wannabe. On his way to his own after-party, I guess.
The cab ride to the Boom Boom Room, in Meatpacking, was the stuff that corny party movies are made of. We begged the cab driver to crank up the music, and the three of us—me, Kevin, Richard—sang-scream at the top of our lungs, sticking our heads outside the window and demanding that other cars beep their horns at us.
At one point, Richard had his hand on my thigh…and I didn’t move it.
We’d worked ourselves up so much that by the time we got to the bar, we didn’t even order drinks. The three of us just hit the dance floor, continuing to scream-sing in each other’s faces. At one point, I attempted to reenact that scene from Dirty Dancing with Richard. We jogged backwards away from each other, and I charged at him. Richard caught me at my hips and tried to lift me up, but his arms failed him, and we ended up crashing to the floor. We knocked into some girl, causing her to drop her drink. Glass shattered everywhere. She started screaming at us, but the music was so loud we couldn’t hear a word she was saying, and for some reason this was hysterical to us.
The next thing I knew we were being escorted out by security. I remember Richard arguing with someone—the manager, maybe? I don’t remember what he said, but I’m pretty sure we are permanently banned from the Boom Boom Room.
“Your loss,” Richard shouted at the bouncer as he guided us out onto the street. We also found this hysterical, of course, and doubled over laughing. We walked like that for a few blocks until we finally stopped, exhausted from laughing, panting, and a little bit sweaty. We stared at each other, catching our breath, and in the next instant we were kissing.
Richard had me up against the wall of some random store front, closed for the night. I think it was the DVF store? Love your work, Diane!
Even though I’m technically a free agent, deep down I knew this wasn’t right. And not just because of Peter—because of Kate, because Richard is my friend and co-worker and because I know how he is with girls and I didn’t want to be just another notch on his belt. These rational thoughts bubbled to my head all at once and I pushed Richard away. “Wait,” I gasped. “Wait.”
Richard tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “What?” he smiled.
“We can’t do this.”
“Why?”He kissed my neck and I groaned.
“Come on,” I pushed him off again. “You know why.”
“Fuck it,” Richard said. “Just let yourself live, Josie.”
Just let yourself live, Josie? Under normal circumstances, I’d scoff at such emo-ness. But I was so caught up in the moment, and Richard felt so good, I didn’t push him away when we started kissing me again.
As though God himself had intervened, suddenly there was a flashlight on us. “Hey!” It was a policeman. “You kids need to get going.”
“Sorry, officer,” I murmured, pretty sure I had hot pink lip stick smeared all over my face.
Richard and I headed east. I saw a few cabs loitering a few blocks away. Richard tried to grab my hand as we walked towards them but I pulled it away. That cop had broken whatever spell I was under, and now I was just feeling like I’d made a huge mistake.
“What?” Richard asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “I just need to get home. I’m exhausted all of a sudden.”
Richard put his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. “My place or your place?”
“Come on,” I said. I gently nudged him off me and kept walking.
“You’re unbelievable, you know that?” Richard had stopped walking. He was saying this, and not quietly, from a few steps behind me.
I turned around. “What does that mean?”
“It means you might be the biggest cock teases I’ve ever met.”
Now he started walking, and he stormed past me. “Excuse me?” I said, catching up with him. “I’ve already told you I don’t think this is a good idea—weeks ago—and you know it isn’t.” Richard didn’t slow down, and I had to jog to keep up with him. “We had a lot to drink tonight, neither of us is thinking clearly. I don’t want to mess up our friendship or hurt Kate. Or Peter.”
That got him to stop walking. “He’s not even your boyfriend!” Richard laughed, meanly. “He has got you right where he wants you—thinking you’re the one calling the shots, that you’re the one who’s on the fence about being in a relationship. It’s genius, really.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Josie, no guy wants to be in a relationship. Ever. They just want to have sex and fall asleep and not have to meet your parents or do any of those bullshit boyfriend things. Peter is the happiest man on earth right now because he’s getting to do just that and you’re dumb enough to think it’s on your terms.”
I reeled back like he had hit me. No one had said anything that mean to my face in a long time.
Instead of easing up on me, Richard twisted the knife even deeper. “It’s pathetic that you can’t see it. I feel bad for you, really.”
I blinked back tears. Even though I knew what he was saying wasn’t true, even though I knew Richard was just mad and drunk and trying to take a pot shot, it still hurt. “You’re such a fucking asshole sometimes.”
I turned and started towards the cabs.
“Aw, Josie.” I heard Richard behind me, and I broke into a run.
“Josie, wait!” But I was already in a cab, giving him the driver my address, telling him to go. We sped past Richard and I saw him throw his hands up in frustration. Moments later, he texted me, “I didn’t mean what I said. I’m sorry.”
I ignored it.
I have no idea if I should tell Kate about what happened or not. Part of me feels like telling her is a selfish move, because it will only be to alleviate my guilt. And it’s not like anything happened, happened. The other part of me feels like I do owe her the courtesy of telling her, and that I’m just trying to talk myself out of it because I’m scared she’ll be mad at me. No matter what, I wouldn’t be able to hide how angry and hurt I am, and she’s going to wonder why I’m giving Richard the cold shoulder all of a sudden. One thing I did know for sure was that I wasn’t going to tell Peter—even though it wasn’t the most decent thing to do, he’s not my boyfriend. I didn’t violate any exclusivity code because as Richard so kindly pointed out, we don’t have one.
As for Richard. The thought of having to see him at work the next day made me want to throw up—despite William telling me I could take the day off, I was planning on going in any way. That five minute scuffle on the street showed Richard for who he really was: An overgrown baby who wanted to screw everything in sight but oh, woe is me, I have twust wissues so I won’t stick around after I have sex with you and if you get mad at me then you’re a crazy bitch. God, I hate guys like that. If I had just slept with him weeks ago he would have zero sexual interest in me now, I can promise you that.
But what made me the most angry was that even though I knew Richard was just trying to get under my skin with everything he said about Peter, he’d managed to touch a nerve. Damn him. Now I was doubting myself. Was Peter using me? Was it possible that Richard could see something, guy to guy, that I couldn’t?