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.

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