“You talked to Annie?” Kitty moved to the edge of her seat. I had captivated her with only a few short words.
“So?” Sarah shoved a handful of Jade’s grapes into her mouth.
I sighed, “I think Jason saw us.”
The girls exchanged glances before breaking out in laughter. I rolled my eyes.
“Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the support.”
“Sorry,” Jade said before wiping away a tear, “We were just wondering what the newest episode of y’alls mini-saga would entail.”
I scowled, “It’s not that dramatic.”
“Okay, okay,” I tried to calm them down before they burst several blood vessels and we took a trip to the hospital. “I get the point.”
Sarah cleared her throat, “If anyone should be worried, it should be him.”
“Right,” Jade added with the same smug grin plastered across her face, “His ex and the girl he caught feelings for talking?” She whistled.
“He hasn’t cau-”
“Caught the love bug?” Sarah cut me off and made doe eyes.
“Face it, he likes you so much that he’d go down on you,” Jade interrupted the thought to take a large sip of wine. The bar is so low. She held up her finger to keep our attention, “On hardwood floors.”
“Ohhhh,” Sarah smacked the couch in excitement, “That’s true. Lucas always wanted a pillow to kneel on.”
I looked to Kitty for help but she was nodding along. She traded Sunday morning sermons for the drunk ramblings of her two best friends.
“That’s not true,”
Sarah scoffed, “Were you there?”
“What? No. Jason isn’t…” I thought about all the possible cosmic consequences that could come from lying. “We aren’t…”
Kitty raised a curious eyebrow, “Listen, if I have to live with the image of my brother railing you in the forbidden hole, then you can admit that you have a crush.” As soon as the words left her mouth, the room went silent. Kitty’s eyes widened as we all realized what she said.
Sarah’s jaw hit the floor, “Wait, what did I miss?”
“Can we go back to the part where he was fucking your ass?” Jade snickered.
“Only for a minute,” I struggled to respond, “Last year. Before I left.”
Kitty put down her glass and poured another, “Who doesn’t lock their door when they’re getting nailed?”
I blinked at the dig, “Who works in a sex shop with their brother?”
“Fantastic point,” Sarah raised her glass and turned to Kitty, “Rebuttal?”
Kitty pinched her lips, “Step-brother.”
Sarah and Jade cackled at the poorly constructed defense.
“I’m not the one on trial here,” Kitty said with forced laughter.
“Actually, you never have mentioned how you started working at Pink Cherry,” Jade wiggled her eyebrows and popped another grape into her mouth. Her once flawless lipstick had smeared into a Joker cosplay.
I tilted my head; Kitty never shared much about her past at all.
Kitty shrugged off the questions, “Jason needed my help managing things,”
“And how did he know you wouldn’t snitch to your bible thumping mother?” Sarah pried.
I watched Kitty shift in her seat, clearly we had delved too deep into the topic, “What did Annie tell you?” She shifted the spotlight back on me.
I sighed, “Apparently, Jason has been a sub before,”
Kitty sighed in either relief or disgust before drowning her liver with more wine. At the rate they were going, we’d be spending New Year’s getting their stomachs pumped.
“Ooh,” Sarah slurred, “The plot thickens.”
“And how do you feel about that?” Jade put on her best faux psychiatrist voice.
“Fine, I guess.” Their eyes wandered over my uncertain expression, “I don’t know. I thought...I assumed that he hadn’t ever le-”
“Let his dominatrix ex dominate him?” Sarah finished my thought.
I joined them on the glitter coated couch, “I know it’s stupid. I just feel like I don’t know anything about him.”
“Well that’s because you don’t.” Kitty chimed in.
We stared at her.
“Sorry, but all y’all have done is fight and fuck. Ever think about talking?”
I scoffed but failed to produce an argument to the contrary.
“If you want a relationship, you’re going to have to be direct.”
“Yeah,” Jade decided to jump in, “That’s how I got Henry Reed to go out with me in the ninth grade. I mean, he broke up with me a week later but my cojones were legendary to the whole class for a year.”
“I’m not sure I even want one,”
A collective groan went through the room.
“Well until you are sure,” Sarah tossed me a dime bag full of blue glitter, “Start making centerpieces.”
The bitter cold whipped around me and through my jacket. The icey weather wouldn’t lift until well after the new year. By then, Sarah would be married and I would be back at work with Ethan.
I was more excited for one event than the other.
Going back after weeks away from my desk job would feel odd. The idea alone had already begun to make me claustrophobic.
I yanked open the door to my apartment and climbed the polished stairs. One of the benefits of my job, however, was the increased paycheck.
My phone vibrated in my jacket pocket. I predicted at least ten new messages from Sarah. She was the kind of friend who pestered you until you reported back that you made it home safe.
As I rounded the corner on my hall, my feet ached. I had the kind of worries that only a hot shower could wash down the drain.
Unfortunately, I had already made other plans.
Jason waited for me by my apartment door. He leaned against the wall with his hands stuffed into his pockets.
He noticed me when I was a few feet away.
“Hey,” He shifted his attention towards me and watched as I opened the door.
The heat from my apartment engulfed us.
“Sorry it’s so late,” I said as I put my stuff onto the counter, “I thought we should talk.”
Jason nodded, “About what?”
“I mean,” He smirked, “If you really want a review…”
“Not about that,” I struggled not to laugh. My nerves were piling and tangling themselves into knots as each moment passed.
Jason slid onto one of my kitchen stools and stared at me, “Then what?”
I frowned at the question. Maybe he didn’t see us after all.
“Nevermind,” I blushed.
My ceiling fan creaked above us with every rotation and my mouth dried. Now what?
Jason cleared his throat, “Is this about Annie?”
My eyes snapped up and met his, “What?”
“I saw you talking,” He said with a less enthusiastic grin, “My ears were burning.”
I opened my mouth before quickly shutting it. Jason sat in front of me, waiting for a response that I couldn’t pry out of my throat.
It’s a free country.
That wasn’t me. It was my brother in a wig.
I swallowed down all the possible neurotic answers, “We ran into each other when I went to get my keys.” I avoided all eye contact, “I didn’t know she worked there.”
Jason nodded, “She must have moved clubs.”
That was it? “She must have moved clubs, Tara. Not that I’ve been paying attention.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you’ve been a submissive before?”
“Never came up.”
My jaw locked and Jason continued, “It’s not something I do often, okay?”
“What does that mean?” Not often? Not every week? Twice a year?
“I didn’t-” More painful silence filled the space between us. “I don’t-” Jason laughed and struggled to find the words hidden in the back of his throat. My feet ached after traveling all over town. We still had dozens of decorations to make for the wedding and reading the list of supplies Jade slipped me for the bachelorette party gave me a headache.
All at once my desire to have a productive conversation sunk, “It’s okay. We don’t need to talk about it.”
His soft eyes met mine before I started to walk past him and towards the bedroom. Jason grabbed my arm. His touch comforted me despite the unsaid thoughts building up between us.
“I’m not a submissive often,” Jason said, “Last time I was, it was with Annie.”
I faced the wall, trying not to focus on the gentle tug from his fingers, “Then why did you offer to be one for me?”
“I wanted to make us even.”
I turned, “Even?”
“Did you ever consider that I don’t want to be even?” Maybe I just want-”
He furrowed his eyebrows at my cut-off sentence. What did I want? I pinched my lips together and stared at the floor. After all the time I spent gazing out of my window, dreaming about Pink Cherry and the man behind it, he wasn’t even there.
“You should go.”
Jason opened his mouth to argue or ask pointless questions. Then, he shut it, grabbed his keys off the counter, and walked to the front door.
He was already out of the apartment when he turned back around to face me, “I thought we had a nice time tonight.”
I gathered my nerve and walked to the entrance. Jason’s expression faded to an emotion I lacked the energy to decipher. Meeting his gaze sent a pang of regret through my body.
“We did.” I said with the most fake confidence that I could muster, “I’ll see you later.”
Before he could respond, I shut the door. The scent of his cologne lingered where I stood. I refused to move. My body ached and begged for rest and still, I waited by what felt like the only obstacle keeping us apart.
I waited for him to knock despite knowing I told him to go.
I waited for my exhaustion to bubble over into tears.
I waited for too long before dragging myself to bed.