Burn Book

I hopped off the plane at L.A.X with a dream and a cardigan (this really cute camouflage printed one from H&M). I couldn’t wait to get to our hotel and crash. It was 8PM PST, which meant it was 11PM in New York, and I hadn’t been able to nap on the plane even though I desperately needed to. You all know how much I hate to fly—hates it, hates it—so I’d taken my anti-anxiety pill right before I got on the plane, and chased it with a glass of wine because the doctor told me I could do that if I still felt on edge and I always still feel on edge. I was feeling all warm and sleepy as we boarded, and fully intended on passing out the second I sat down. I figured Frank would fly business class and I would fly coach, so I was surprised when we were seated next to each other in the pedestrian section of the airplane.

There was no way I could sleep with Frank sitting next to me (what if I snored? Or drooled? Or had a sex dream and said something in my sleep like, ‘Ohhh, Ian’?). There was also no way I was renting the movie I really wanted to watch (Pitch Perfect) with Frank sitting next to me because that would be aca-awkward. So I whipped out my copy of The Luminaries (which is riveting by the way) and Frank raised his eyebrows approvingly. If I had to be awake, I could at least score some brownie points with the man.

Frank and I were staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which Frank actually had the audacity to complain about. “It’s a little run down but it will have to do,” he sighed. I have never stayed in a more luxurious hotel in my life but I kept my mouth shut lest Frank think I was some kind of country bumpkin.

I really only had two full nights in LA since we got in so late on Sunday. Frank and I had meetings all day Monday and Tuesday, plus a book reading to attend Tuesday night. The only night I could see Ian was Monday. He had made reservations at one of his favorite restaurants. I asked if that restaurant happened to be called SUR and sadly, it was not.

I slept like a damn rock and woke up at 6AM feeling fan-freaking-tastic. I decided to go for a quick run in the hotel gym, assuming it would be quiet at that hour. Silly me I’d forgotten we were in LA! Every machine was utilized by some woman who looked like a video game avatar come to life. I did some ab work until a treadmill opened up, then banged out three miles before showering and meeting Frank in the lobby for our breakfast meeting with a manager.

“Did you have a good run?” Frank asked when he saw me.

“I did,” I said.

“I happened to pop into the gym and saw you in there,” Frank said. “I was going to go for a little bike ride before I saw every machine was taken.”

“It’s unbelievable, right?”

Frank nodded. “Totally different world out here.” The bellhop motioned to us that our car was ready. “I like a person who prioritizes their health,” Frank said as he strode towards the car. Was that…was that a compliment?

“Thank you,” I said, not really sure if that was the right response.

Frank fumbled with the keys and we drove to Nate ‘n Al’s in silence.

It was a long day, but I loved every minute of it. We met with a lot of high profile agents and managers who represent A-list celebs. Frank had set up the meetings, and I was really just there to take notes, but I was asked for my input on a number of things and I felt like Frank was genuinely interested in my perspective.

Finally, it was time for my date with Ian. I actually do have Morrison to thank for the outfit I settled on—just a white tee, statement necklace, and dark jeans with booties, a leather jacket thrown over my shoulders in case it got chilly. Simple, not trying to hard—every guy loves a form-fitting pair of jeans and a tee, right?

Apparently the answer is yes because when I walked into the restaurant, I saw that Ian was wearing the same thing (minus the statement necklace thank God).

Ian laughed. “I don’t know who this is more embarrassing for,” he laughed. “But regardless, you look fantastic.”

I laughed too. “Ditto.”

He gave me a big hug, his hands low on my back, just grazing the top of my butt and I would have been fine skipping out on our dinner reservation and just going right to his place.

“I can’t believe you’re in my hood,” Ian said, as we sat down.

“I can’t believe this is where you live now,” I said.

“Do you hate it?” Ian asked. “I think New York will evict you if you say you don’t.”

“I don’t hate it at all. But I don’t know if I could ever live here.”

“I used to think that too,” Ian said. “I used to think everyone here was lazy compared to New York. Then I realized, they’re not lazy. They’re happy.”

“That’s so funny you say that,” I said, “because lately I’ve been wondering if you have to always feel stressed out in order to be successful.”

“I used to be like that too,” Ian said. “The East coast conditions you to equate happiness with laziness. It’s not true. I actually have a work life balance here. My office clears out at 6, but we still work hard. That was never the case when I was in New York.”

“I’d have to ask for permission to leave at 6,” I said.

“That sounds awful,” Ian said.

I shrugged. “I don’t hate it. I like working late. It makes me feel like I’m doing something important and urgent when I’m in the office all alone, even if it is just a stupid book proposal.”

“Well, when you burn out you can move out here and be with me.” Ian winked, and I thought my uterus would explode.

After dinner, Ian suggested we go to this piano bar he likes. We drank martinis and played footsie under the table for a few songs before he asked me if I wanted to get out of there and hell yes did I want to get out of there.

Ian lived in a very nice apartment building in Westwood. He had two bedrooms even though he lived alone and I just found this unbelievable. “Wait, how much do you pay?” I asked, as I gave myself a tour of his apartment. I realized how rude that was and apologized. “Don’t answer that.”

Ian had followed me into his bedroom and he laughed. “Another reason to move to LA,” he said.

I turned around and smiled at him.

Ian suddenly seemed very aware of the fact that we were standing in his bedroom. For the first time since I’d reconnected with him, I could see the old Ian underneath his newly curated bravado. He looked nervous…shy even. “Do you, uh, do you want to watch a movie or something?”

“Sure,” I said.

I followed Ian into his living room and kicked off my shoes before curling up on his couch. Ian picked up the remote control and I could see that his hand was shaking.

Ian has been nothing but confident ever since he reappeared in my life, and that confidence is incredibly sexy, but for some reason, this side of Ian—nervous and unsure—was even sexier. I’m not sure exactly why that was. Maybe it was because it made me feel like he really wanted me, that us sleeping together was a big enough deal that it stripped him of his cool-kid demeanor.

Ian sat down on the couch, as far away from me as he could get. “What are you in the mood for?” he asked.

“Something funny maybe?”

Ian nodded and started browsing through the channels. The Hangover was on and he looked at me.

“Sure,” I said.

Ian put the remote control down on the coffee table and settled back onto the couch. It occurred to me that I was probably going to have to make a move if I wanted something to happen. But I didn’t know how to slide closer to him without seeming like a mega creep. What should I do? Oh my God, this was so middle school. Finally, I came up with a plan.

“Where’s your bathroom?” I asked, even though I’d seen it on the tour I’d given myself.

Ian pointed it out and I got up to use it. I didn’t have to pee, so I washed my hands and counted to twenty. When I came back to the living room, I sat right next to Ian. He lifted his arm so I could snuggle up against his chest. Victory!

We sat like that for some time before I realized once again that nothing was going to happen unless I initiated. So I let my hand roam over his chest, again and again. And again. I’m pretty sure the only reason Ian finally kissed me was because if he didn’t, he was going to get a nasty case of nipple burn. But whatever, because when he slipped his fingers under my chin and tilted my head up, it was a good kiss. Before I knew it, he was on top of me, hands in my hair and pressing the entire weight of his body into me, and it felt amazing.

“Want to go in the bedroom?” he whispered.

I did! I did!

It’s been a while since I’ve had really sweet sex, and that’s exactly what it was like with Ian. Every step of the way he asked me if what he was doing was okay.

When he finally put on a condom and came inside of me he slipped his hand between our bodies and pressed his fingers against me. “Here?” he whispered, and I dug my nails into his back in response.

“I can’t believe this is finally happening,” he said, nipping my lower lip, pressing his fingers against me harder.

There were no crazy acrobatics, no complicated sex positions. Our history made just plain old missionary intense enough without all of that.

In the middle of the night, I woke up to use the bathroom. When I climbed back into bed and snuggled into Ian, I felt that he was, ahem, very much awake. Without saying a word, he slipped inside of me from behind. He wrapped his arms around my body and held me tight, rocking me back and forth, his breath warm in the nook of my neck.

I woke up to my alarm at 6:30AM. Ian was already in the shower—he’d offered to drive me back to my hotel in time to get ready and meet Frank at 9AM in the lobby.

“Hi,” I said, loud enough for him to hear me over the water.

“There’s coffee in the kitchen,” Ian shouted back.

Coffee sounded good. I climbed out of bed, stopping in front of Ian’s dresser to find a t-shirt to put on before I walked into the kitchen. As I was rifling through the t-shirts, I noticed our senior yearbook, buried underneath a stack of sweaters.

“Oh my God,” I smiled. I hadn’t looked at our yearbook in so long. I pulled a t-shirt on and sat back on the bed, the yearbook in my lap.

There was Ian, looking so awkward and gangly in his photo. I flipped through a few more pages, but some red scribble on Nicole Beddington’s page made me stop. Nicole Beddington had been the quintessential babe in high school. She was the star of her lacrosse team, tall and blond with absolutely perfect skin and bright blue eyes. She had a little mean girl streak in her, so we hadn’t exactly been friends. Next to her picture was a note, ‘Check, 9/3/09’. I wonder what that means, I thought. I continued to flip through and every now and then, and always on a picture of one of the popular girls in high school, was a similar note. On Erika Felding’s page, I sucked in a sharp breath. Written next to her picture were the words, ‘Check, 2/22/12, total dead fish’. I flipped for a few more pages and found on Tara Hunter’s page, ‘Check, 7/8/11 and again, 8/15/11, saggiest tits’. I quickly flipped ahead to my page. I thought I would throw up when I saw the words, ‘Will happen, 11/11/13′.

I heard the water turn off in the bathroom but I didn’t scramble to hide the yearbook. Instead, I just waited calmly until Ian entered the bedroom, his towel looped around his perfectly flat waist.

“Did you get—” Ian cut himself off when he saw the yearbook in my lap.

“What is this?” I asked, my voice shaking. I was dangerously close to crying.

“What do you mean?” Ian asked, innocently.

“You know what I mean,” I said. “These checks and dates next to the photos. The note next to my picture—’Will happen’, with yesterday’s date? Well congratulations, it happened.”

“That’s not what that means,” Ian said, but there was a flush creeping up his neck, giving him away.

“Oh really?” I slammed the yearbook shut. “It doesn’t mean that you aren’t making your way through every girl who wouldn’t fuck you in high school as some sort of sick revenge plan? And writing the most disgusting things about them? What are you going to say about me?” I tossed the yearbook on the floor and started gathering my clothes and my purse. “I thought you were my friend!” I yelled as I stormed past him and into the bathroom.

Ian followed me but I slammed the door and locked it. I got dressed quickly, and dug around in my purse for my cell. I called a cab and gave the driver Ian’s address.

“Josie, please open up,” Ian said. He was jiggling the door knob. “Let me explain.”

“Go ahead,” I said. “Explain.”

Please don’t make me talk to the door.”

I sighed. Reached forward and unlocked the door, letting it swing open. Ian was so big he took up the entire door frame.

He hung his head. “I’m so embarrassed. It started out like that, yes. But then I got to know you. I liked you.”

“You already knew me,” I said. “We were friends.”

Ian looked at me. “Come on, Josie. We were never really friends.”

“Yes, we were,” I insisted.

“I was your buddy you talked to during swim team practice. You knew I had a crush on you. But you never would have considered hooking up with me.”

“I’m not obligated to have sex with you because you have a crush on me!”

Ian slammed his hand into the door frame. “You strung me along.”

“By talking to you at swim practice?” I spat. “That’s how I strung you along?”

My phone buzzed in my hand and I looked down. It was an LA number. “Hello?” I said. It was the cab driver. He was outside.

“I have to go.” I pushed past Ian.

“Wait.” Ian grabbed my arm. I glared at him and he let go. “Sorry,” he said. “Please. I can’t stand the thought of last night,” he ran his fingers through his hair, “and then, leaving things like this.”

“Even if you changed your mind about whatever this was? What you wrote about those other girls… saggiest tits?” I shook my head, sadly. “Do you know my ex said that to me once? I don’t even like to get on top because of it.”

“It’s inexcusable,” Ian said. “I can’t even believe I wrote that. I hate that someone said that to you.”

I had a lump in my throat as I turned to go. I didn’t want to leave like this. But I didn’t know what else to do. I’d always thought of Ian as a good guy, a guy who would never have sex with a girl for sport, or say something so ugly about her body. It was like the guy I thought Ian was didn’t even exist. And that made me more sad than anything, because that guy? I’d really liked him.

Analye This

All the LA plans are in place and I’m so excited. Jessie Spano levels of excited. Also like Jessie, a little scared—the stakes are so high for the long overdue sex Ian and I are totally going to have. There is no room for error here, which of course means something will go terribly wrong. Like…what if we’re having amazingly intense, passionate sex and I go and ruin it by queefing or something even remotely human? 

I’ll only be in town for three nights, and Frank even asked me if I have any friends on the West coast who I’d like to visit while we’re there. “We have a dinner one evening, but the other two nights are yours to do with as you please,” he said. Oh, I will do with them as I please, thankyouverymuch.

In the meantime, I had some business to attend to on the homefront: That wax I desperately need, laundering my favorite pairs of Hanky Pankies, and cutting out carbs so that my stomach looks flat when we try weird sexual positions, which we are totally going to do.

Oh, and want to hear something really bizarre? Ashley found a therapist…and she wanted me to go with her for a session. She said that her therapist suggested she bring in an unbiased friend who can provide an outsider’s account of what Ashley had just gone through, and she knew I would be brutally honest.

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Ashley said, “but it would mean a lot to me.”

“Are you going to be there when I’m talking to her?” I asked. “I don’t want you getting all annoyed with me if you don’t like my version of things.”

“I will be there,” Ashley said. “But Bess said it would probably be better if I leave while you two talk.”

“Your doctor’s name is Bess?”

“Well, it’s Dr. Schweiger,” Ashley said. “But she said to call her Bess.”

I found this all very unconventional, yet also extremely intriguing. I personally love the idea of therapy. If I was willing to give up going out and shopping to be able to afford therapy (I’m not) and if I felt like I really had some serious issues to work out, I’d totally be one of those annoying people who is all like, ‘Well, my therapist says that…’ all the time.

Ashley had already seen Bess the week before and given her the general rundown about her situation. “I think she wants to hear about it from an outsider to determine, like, how I perceive things,” Ashley said.

On Wednesday evening, after work and before my drink with Morrison (so fine, I didn’t cut out all carbs), I made my way to the Upper West Side. Ashley met me outside of Bess’ office and we headed inside together.

Bess was in her mid-40s, with dark, perfectly blown out hair and a Cartier Love bracelet on her wrist. No wedding band. I always find it interesting when therapists who specialize in relationships aren’t married.

She thanked me for coming in and asked me some basic questions, like what my relationship was to Ashley and how long I’d known her. After that, she asked Ashley to give us a little alone time.

“So,” Bess said, “I’ve heard from Ashley about why she thinks she needs to be here. But I’d like to hear it from you.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t think Ashley needs to be here more than any of us do, but I think it’s smart to look at yourself and see a pattern, and decide that you don’t like it and that you want to fix it. I’ve been there before.”

“And what was your pattern?” Bess asked.

“I hopped from relationship to relationship, even when I knew the guy wasn’t right for me, or that the timing wasn’t right.”

“You’d be surprised how much our patterns are a result of our blueprint, and how we were raised,” Bess said.

“I can totally see that with Ashley,” I said. “Her parents aren’t the most loving people and I feel like that’s the example that’s been given to her of what a relationship should look like. But my parents are awesome, so I don’t think that’s true with me.”

“It actually doesn’t matter how great your parents are,” Bess said. “I’m sure your parents are wonderful, selfless people who only want the best for you. They can still leave an impression on you that can be problematic when it comes to finding a successful relationship in your own life.”

We were totally getting off topic, but Bess had me hooked. “In what way?”

“Just a shot in the dark,” Bess said, “but were you a daddy’s girl when you were younger? Did your father light up when you walked into a room?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Gross, no. I hate that cutesy daddy girl stuff. Weirds me out.”

Bess just smiled.

“What?” I asked.

“Again,” she said, “just a thought, and I don’t know you well enough to say, but did you ever stop to think that because you didn’t get that adulation from your father at a young age, that now you seek it out as an adult through this incessant need to be in a relationship?”

I felt like I was drunk and someone had just dumped a bucket of cold water over my head. No, Bess, I’d never stopped to consider that before, but it made perfect sense.

“In any case,” Bess said, “we should get back to Ashley. But if you ever want to talk more about your own patterns, it could do you some good.”

And here I was, all cocky that I didn’t have issues. Apparently I was a textbook case!

I took Bess through my version of events with Ashley and Luke, and Ashley and Tom. The forty-five minute session flew by. Before I left, Bess pressed her card into my hand. “In case you ever need me.”

“She is good,” I said to Ashley, as we said goodbye.

Ashley smiled. “I know. I’m excited. I feel like this is going to help me turn over a new leaf.”

I gave Ashley a hug goodbye and we are not huggers. Then I made my way to my favorite wine bar by my apartment. Morrison had some business to take care of at Barney’s, which is only a few avenues from my apartment, so he said he would be happy to meet me somewhere in my neighborhood.

I was dying to tell someone about my conversation with Bess, and even though I don’t know Morrison that well, gay guys generally make good confidantes. Plus, with the crowd Morrison hung with, at least half his friends had to be in therapy, so he wouldn’t be that weirded out by it. A therapist on Park Avenue was better than the new designer handbag.

“Darling,” Morrison said, when he saw me. He pecked me on the cheek. He smelled like apartments that have washer/dryers and windows in the bathroom: expensive.

“I’ve had the weirdest day,” I said.

“Then you need a martini,” he said. He snapped his fingers at he bartender, which irked me a little (I was a waitress once and I just find it so demanding and rude). He ordered a drink for me, then rested his head on his hand, his beautiful hair spilling over his forearm. “Tell me.”

I told him all about Bess and her take on my ‘pattern’.

“One time a therapist told me that I would never find true love until my parents get divorced,” Morrison said. “They have a miserable marriage and she believed that I was subconsciously sabotaging my relationships because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be happy until my parents were.”

Ohhh,” I said, “that’s deep.”

Morrison nodded and sipped his drink. “But if I’m really being honest with myself,” he smirked, “I think I don’t want to be in a relationship because I’m too horny.”

I laughed. “Speaking of…” I told him all about my trip to LA and Ian.

“Why didn’t you just sleep with him when you had the chance?” Morrison said.

I shrugged. “I’d just cut ties with my ex. I was all emotional and mixed up. I didn’t want to complicate things. But I feel much clearer now. Like I could just go and have a good time with Ian and not make it into a bigger thing than it needs to be.”

“I get it,” Morrison said. “So what are you going to wear when you see him?”

I laughed. “I’ve been agonizing over that for the last few days! I don’t know. It’s going to be warm-ish out there, so that kind of throws me off. And it’s LA, which has such a different vibe than New York. I feel like I should run all the nominees by you.”

“I think you should,” Morrison said.

I laughed again, then realized he wasn’t joking. “Wait? Are you serious?”

Morrison shrugged. “If you want me to. I love that sort of thing.”

I was feeling all warm and silly from the martini, so I said why not.

We paid for our drinks and made our way to my apartment. Morrison wanted another drink when we got there, so I poured us both a glass of wine and led him into my bedroom.

I pulled out my first choice, a pair of oversized white leather shorts that I’d snagged at a crazy good price from Ruelala, and a grey t-shirt.

“With black peep toe booties?” I asked.

Morrison shook his head. “Those are cute for like, brunch with your friends. But a guy is going to think that looks like a fucking diaper.”

He was so right. I took another sip of wine, feeling invincible. Man, I was so smart to get his opinion.

“Okay what about this?” I pulled out a pair of distressed boyfriend jeans and this cool white silk top that dipped down low in the back.

“That’s hot,” Morrison said. “Let me see it on.”

I paused for a second, waiting for him to leave the room so I could undress. When he didn’t, I figured, eh, whatever, it’s no different than if Nina were sitting there.

Still, I turned around when I pulled off my top. I was just about to put the white tank on when I felt Morrison’s hands around my waist. Instinct kicked in and I shoved him off.

“What are you doing?” I spun around, clutching my shirt to my chest.

“What do you mean, what am I doing?” Morrison grinned. He took a step closer and tried to get handsy again. I slapped him away.

“Aren’t you gay?” I asked.

Morrison’s eyebrows jumped halfway up his forehead in surprise. “Gay?! I’m not gay.”

“Oh my God,” I said. “Can you turn around so I can put this on?”

Morrison didn’t move so I repeated myself, much more shrilly this time. When his back was to me I pulled my shirt on quickly.

“Okay,” I said, once I was clothed again. “This is really awkward. I thought because of all the styling advice and the—”

“I work in fashion,” Morrison said, huffily. He delivered the word ‘fashion’ with dramatic flair, exactly the way a straight guy would. That is sarcasm, people.

“I thought you were interested in Kevin!” I said.

“Kevin?” Morrison reeled back, like what I’d suggested was so off the wall. “My co-worker was. That’s why we invited you two.” He held up his hands. “You’re not really my type, honestly, but you invited me up here and you were all on that kick about how you don’t want a relationship, just sex, so I thought that’s why I was here.”

I covered my face with my hands. “This is so uncomfortable. I’m sorry. You should just go.”

“Fine by me,” Morrison said. As he was walking out, he shrieked, “And those jeans are hideous!”

I held up the jeans and gave them a good hard look. He was kind of right. I threw them in the bag I reserve for Goodwill donations. I swear I will actually get around to taking it to Goodwill one day.

At least Morrison gave me some good advice before he stormed out! No diaper, no overworked jeans. Check, check. I set to work finding my new perfect LA outfit that would be sure to knock Ian right out of his hipster-y Chucks.

Betting woman


The friendship separation with Ashley was feeling more and more official every day that went by that we didn’t speak, and I decided it was time to reconnect with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I started with Kevin.

Kevin was recently single, and he told me he was going to treat himself to a new suit as a consolation prize. He had an appointment at this custom men’s clothing store that had been featured on an episode of Suits. “Come,” he said. “A woman’s opinion helps when you’re trying to pretend you’re straight for your career.”

Michael Andrews Bespoke is on Great Jones street and looks like a set designer’s conception of a cool store in New York—something you’d see in a movie that doesn’t actually exist in real life. Sort of like the enormous doorman apartments on Fifth Avenue that all the female leads in every New York based rom-com live in (throwing shade at you in particular, Andi Anderson). Michael Andrews Bespoke is designed to resemble the Mad Men era, with kitschy wallpaper and 50s style furniture, a beautiful oak bar, and an even more beautiful model who greets you at the door and takes the wind right out of your sails even though you really liked your outfit that day.

Kevin had an appointment with someone named Morrison. I scanned the stylists while we sipped the drinks that the Glamazon had brought us, and immediately zeroed in on an Ed Westwick look alike in an impeccable suit, brown hair to his shoulders, working an intense lockjaw when he spoke. “Please God, let that be Morrison,” Kevin whispered to me, and I nodded intently.

The Gods must have been listening, because Ed Westwick’s doppelganger made his way over to us and introduced himself as Morrison. Both Kevin and I fixed him with our most charming smiles.

Over the next hour, Morrison brought out fabric book after fabric book, going over every damn stitch and shade of blue imaginable. And I thought finding the perfect pair of skinny jeans was hard—so much goes into making a custom suit! At one point I couldn’t help myself and I yawned.

“I think we’re boring your girlfriend.” Morrison winked at Kevin.

“I’m not his girlfriend,” I said at the same time Kevin said, “She’s not my girlfriend.”

“Oh,” Morrison said. Then he smiled a smile that would be just cause for mothers to lock away their teenage daughters. “Good to know.”

As soon as Morrison went into the back to get another fabric book, Kevin and I turned to each other and grinned. “So hot,” Kevin said.

“So hot,” I agreed.

“Should I ask him for his number?” Kevin asked.

“Wait,” I said. “What? No. He’s straight.”

Kevin laughed. “He’s blatantly hitting on me.”

“Squeeze me,” I said. “He’s blatantly hitting on me.”

“Let’s make this interesting,” Kevin said. “One hundred bucks he’s gay.” He stuck out his hand.

“One hundred bucks he’s straight,” I said, and shook Kevin’s hand.

Morrison returned from the back room and he and Kevin finished up the appointment. As we were putting on our coats, Kevin said, “I hope you have fun plans for later. It’d be a shame to waste that suit.” Damn him! That sneaky bastard had gotten the jump on me.

Morrison ran his fingers through his beautiful hair. “Ah, I’m here until seven. Then I’ve got this thing.” He nodded at his co-worker. “Going away party for this guy.”

“Oh?” I chimed in. “Where’s he going?”

“Hong Kong,” Morrison said. “To see up our new operation.”

“Very cool,” Kevin gushed, and I had to dig my nails into my palms to keep from rolling my eyes. Am I that lame and obvious when I flirt too? Ugh, probably.

Morrison disappeared into the back with his co-worker for a bit. When he came out, he leaned on his elbow and tucked his hair behind his ear. “Hey, you guys wanna come tonight? Should be a good time.”

I looked at Kevin. “We’d love to.”

Morrison gave us all the party details. “Oh, that’s right in my neighborhood,” I said.

“Really?” Morrison said. “Where? I’ll swing by and grab you on my way uptown.”

I could feel Kevin prickle beside me. He was wishing he didn’t live in the Financial District so hard at the moment.

I put my number in Morrison’s phone. “Why don’t you give me yours too?” Morrison said to Kevin, flashing that smile again. “Just in case.” Kevin rattled off his number faster than you could say underdog.

“It doesn’t mean anything that he’s picking you up,” Kevin hissed as we stepped out onto the street.

“Ohhhh, I think it does,” I taunted, even though to be totally honest, I wasn’t really sure myself.

“Well, tonight will tell,” Kevin said.

A few hours later, I was standing outside my apartment building, waiting for Morrison. He had texted me that he was close, and to come downstairs.

My street is pretty empty, so when I saw a cab idle to a stop in front of my building, I knew it was him. I stepped to the curb, and opened the door.

“Hi,” I said.

Morrison’s eyes flicked up and down my body, and I felt a warmth spread through my limbs. He was checking me out—this guy was totally straight. I was just about to climb into the cab when he stopped me.

“Wait,” he said. “Is that what you’re wearing?”

I glanced down at my outfit. I was wearing a leather (fine, pleather) skirt and a black t-shirt. “Why?”

“It’s just that….” Morrison brought his fingers to his mouth and furrowed his brow,”it’s just not really a dress kind of party.”

“It’s a skirt,” I said.

Morrison narrowed his eyes at the offending garment. “I just don’t want you to be uncomfortable. You looked so great in what you were wearing earlier.”

“I can go up and change into jeans?” I suggested.

“If you want,” Morrison said, like the whole thing was my idea. “They would look great with the tee you have on and like a long pendant necklace.”

I turned and trudged back to my apartment, tail between my legs. No straight guy tells you your outfit is bad and then gives you extremely detailed instructions on how to fix it. Also, straight guys don’t say tee. Tee! That’s fashion blog speak. Now I owed Kevin a hundred dollars and I really needed to put that towards a bikini and eyebrow wax. I had let myself get a little wild since I wasn’t getting any at the moment.

I changed into skinny jeans and booties, realized I had no idea WTF a ‘pendant’ necklace was and if I owned one, so I googled it. Turns out I do, a tarnished one from Urban Outfitters, so I looped that over my head.

When I attempted to climb into the cab this time, Morrison didn’t try to stop me. “You look hot now,” he said. “Very model off duty.” I mean if I had a dollar for every time someone said I looked like a model, I’d have, let’s see…ZERO DOLLARS. He was clearly overcompensating and trying to make me feel good because he’d insulted me earlier. Nina was at Brad’s apartment right now, drinking beer and playing Apples to Apples, and I was so wishing I was on my way there instead of where I was going.

We arrived at the party and there were gorgeous hipster-y girls in black skinny jeans, black tees, and long pendant necklaces as far as the eye could see. Was this like the cool girl uniform and I’d missed the memo?

“There’s your friend.” Morrison nodded across the room, and I spotted Kevin. “I’m going to get a drink, you want anything?”

I asked for a vodka soda and made my way over to Kevin. I passed a crowd of people bent over a hot pink coffee table, blatantly doing coke.

“I’m not cool enough to be here,” I said to Kevin.

Kevin brushed his shoulder off. “Speak for yourself.”

“Anyway,” I said. “Pretty sure you won.”

“Yes,” Kevin pumped his fist int he air. “Did he say it was love at first sight with me? He did, didn’t he?”

“Calm down,” I said.

Kevin poked me in the ribs. “Don’t be a sore loser. I won’t really make you pay me. I’m not that mean.”

I stayed for a few drinks, but by eleven, I was ready to go. “I’m going to stop by Nina’s boyfriend’s place,” I said to Kevin. “He’s having a few people over. Want to come?”

Kevin wanted to stay, so I gave him a hug goodbye and went to find Morrison. I hadn’t seen much of him since we’d gotten there. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey,” I said. “I’m going to take off.”

Morrison pouted. “We hardly got to hang out.”

“It’s okay!” I said. “Thank you for inviting me. It was fun.”

“What’s your schedule like this week?” Morrison asked. “We should grab a drink or something.”

“I usually work pretty late,” I said. “But maybe Wednesday?”

“Wednesday works.” Morrison gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Bye, gorgeous.”

Well, he wasn’t interested in purchasing my goods, but I could always use a friend with a keen eye for fashion who could also probably recommend some good hair products. His hair was really shiny.

I sent Nina a text letting her know I was on my way over to Brad’s, and hopped on the subway. I didn’t bother to check my phone again, and I really wish I had, because Nina had texted me, ‘Cool. Just a heads up Ashley is here.’ I still would have gone, but I just would have been more mentally prepared to see her.

Ashley had turned it out in a backless tank top and jeans that looked like they had been painted on. She was sitting on some guy’s lap when I walked in. We politely nodded to each other and Ashley went back to her canoodling.

“Who’s that guy?” I whispered to Nina.

“Kenny,” Nina said. “One of Brad’s friends.”

“Do you like him?”

Nina shrugged. “He seems nice. But I think he gets around a lot.”

“Well, whatever,” I said. “Maybe a good boinking is what she needs to get over Tom.”

I had just cracked open a beer when someone pounded on the door so hard I spilled some of it down my shirt.

“What the fuck?” Brad grumbled, pulling himself off the couch and making his way over to the door. Whoever was on the other side was still pounding.

Brad pulled the door open. “What?”

It was Tom. And his face and bald head were both purple. I was so shocked I didn’t even stop to wonder how he knew where Brad lived.

“Tom!” Ashley said. She jumped off of Kenny’s lap. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“You wouldn’t pick up your phone,” he seethed. “And now I see why.” He charged at Kenny. Thankfully, Brad stepped in and stopped him.

“Dude,” Brad said. “I’m sorry, but you need to go.”

“Get the fuck off of me!” Tom shrieked. He shoved Brad off of him so hard Brad crashed into the wall, knocking that same print off its hook that Nina had months ago.

Brad regained his balance. His hands were shaking as he said, “If you don’t get out of here right now I’m calling the cops.”

“Ashley,” Tom said, ignoring Brad, “if you don’t come with me I swear to God it’s really over. I have never been so serious in my entire life.”

I thought it already was over. I glanced at Nina, but she looked just as confused as I did. Ashley had tucked herself into a corner as far away from Tom as possible, and now she took a step towards him.

“Ashley, don’t,” I said.

Tom spun around and pointed his finger at me. “Stay out of this, bitch.”

Nina gasped.

“That’s enough!” Brad said, louder this time. “Get out now or I’m calling the cops.”

Tom stared me down for one more second before making his exit. He never took his eyes off of me. It was like he was marking me or something, and a shiver went down my spine.

When he was finally gone, Kenny was the first to speak. “Who the fuck was that?”

“Are you okay?” Nina asked me.

“Not really,” I said, shakily. “I’ve seen too many Lifetime movies to know what happens to the friend who meddles.”

“Relax,” Nina said. “This is not a Lifetime movie. But I do kind of think you should spend the night here tonight.” She nodded at Ashley, who was now sitting on the sofa looking at her hands. “That one too.” Nina leaned in close and dropped her voice. “She mentioned she thought he was following her. He could be waiting outside, who knows.”

I threw my hands up in the air. “This is just like a Lifetime movie.”

The party thinned out after that, and Nina went through the apartment, finding extra pillows and blankets for Ashley and me.  Ashley and I didn’t speak much beyond figuring out who got what spot on the couch. Brad has one of those L-shaped couches, and I volunteered to take the smaller arm since Ashley is a few inches taller than me.

Everyone went to bed. Curled up on the couch with Ashley’s feet by my head, I couldn’t take the silence anymore. “Ash, is he really following you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Ashley sighed. “I thought I was just being paranoid. But I don’t know how else he would have found me tonight.”

“But I thought he…I mean I thought you said he broke up with you. Why would he be following you?”

“He did,” Ashley said. “But now he wants to get back together. Says he forgave me.” Ashley laughed, bitterly. “Right. Like I’m the one who needs to be forgiven.”

I was surprised. Of course I agreed with her, but it was the first time I hadn’t heard Ashley make an excuse for him. Maybe some time apart from him had given her some clarity.

“I’m really embarrassed,” Ashley said, and I heard her sniffle.

“Ash,” I said. “Why are you embarrassed?”

“Because he is such a jackass and it was so obvious but I was too stubborn to listen to you guys.”

“Hey,” I said. “It’s hard to see the truth sometimes, especially when it’s right in front of you. How many times did Justin tell me he did not want to be in a relationship, and I just didn’t want to believe him? I looked like such a desperado. That’s embarrassing.”

“I guess,” Ashley said.

We were quiet for a really long time. I thought Ashley had gone to sleep, and I was drifting off too when she said, “I’m going to therapy.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah. I need to figure out why I’m attracted to these losers who treat me like shit. Luke, now Tom.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” I said. “A professional is going to see things in you that you don’t see, that your friends can’t even see. It’s like we’re too close, you know?”

Ashley didn’t say anything for a moment. “I didn’t mean to come down on you so hard. I know you were just trying your best. It’s not like there is a right way to handle a situation like this.”

“I just worry that you think life has to be hard,” I said. I’d never brought up Ashley’s parents before, but I felt like we were being totally transparent, and it was now or never. “I feel like that’s the lesson your Mom has imparted on you, and it’s just not true. Everything doesn’t have to be a struggle. And if something is, maybe it’s not worth it.”

“My Mom is a miserable bitch and I don’t want to be anything like her,” Ashley said. I’d never heard Ashley speak about her Mom like that. “I will do anything not to become like her.”

Ashley turned over and pulled the covers over her head. After a while, her breathing deepened, and I knew she’d fallen asleep.

Frank called me into his office first thing on Monday morning, which was unusual because Frank made it very clear he does not like to be disturbed on Mondays.

“Do you have any personal conflicts next week?” Frank asked. “Family events? Doctor’s appointment?”

“Um, nothing,” I said. “Why?”

“I’ve been asked to go to LA to meet up with some potential clients,” Frank said. “I’d like you to come with me. What do you think?”

I thought it sounded awesome. Ian did too. I emailed him the second I got back to my desk.



Note: I dont own this story. Read it from Jessica Knoll’s blog years back and I thought I should share it with you guys. Enjoy!