Her hopes were shot to hell by the time the evening began.
When they reached the nightclub that Matt had picked out Nathaniel still hadn’t made an appearance.
Zara sat at their table for four, her palms feeling slightly sweaty. Susan and Matt were busy grinding on the floor and Zara had to avert her eyes from seeing Matt groping Susan every chance he got. They looked like they were having fun and for a second, Zara had been tempted to join them.
She wasn’t much of a dancer. Never had been. But she could move her body to the beat and she enjoyed it when no one was watching her. Not even Susan.
Half an hour had passed by and she had checked her phone around thirty times already, hoping he had texted her or something to explain the reason for his delay.
Zara hadn’t told Susan anything about the previous day. They had yet to be alone for a while and she thought she would unload everything tonight.
She took a sip of the cocktail that Susan had ordered for the two of them. The tangy sweet taste soothened her to a certain extent and she was glad for it.
She was just about to down the whole thing when she saw him.
Nathaniel made his way through the crowd, his eyes wandering around, undoubtedly searching for a familiar face. In the dim lights of the club, she saw his tall frame tower over almost everyone. He wore a short sleeeved shirt with a v-neck and a pair of snug dark jeans.
She almost tripped in her haste to call out to him.
When she stood up, his eyes landed on her and he smiled.
Zara felt a warmth bloom in her chest, when he maintained eye contact, walking purposefully to where she stood.
When he was close enough, she saw the way the material hugged his body making him look as though every inch of him had been sculpted in marble. His hair had been combed back neatly, the purple overhead light shone off it.
He was just two steps away from her when someone stepped between them.
Zara froze midway through reaching out for him.
It was a tall, curvy redhead.
She saw Nathaniel’s mild expression change to disbelief and then he suddenly smiled wide and laughed.
“Danielle! It’s you!”
Zara felt her heart sink when the girl flung herself into his arms without an invitation, hugging him tight and planting a kiss just near his mouth.
Wow. She certainly hadn’t expected that.
Nathaniel didn’t even glance at Zara as he hugged the redhead back.
“It’s such a great surprise to see you here!“, she cooed in his ear, trailing her manicured fingers over his bicep.
Suddenly feeling incredibly small and unwanted, Zara made to move away when the girl turned around and she finally saw her face.
That was the first thing Zara thought.
The girl was fucking beautiful. Light green eyes framed by long, curled eyelashes, perfectly pouty lips that were painted a dark shade of red, thick lustrous hair that literally had a bounce and a willowy figure that looked like she had just stepped off a runway.
Danielle looked straight at her and Zara froze when she saw the disdain in her eyes.
“Zara, this is Danielle, my longtime neighbour since we were five. Danielle, Zara.“, Nathaniel introduced them.
Zara swallowed and put on a brave smile.
“Hi”, she offered her hand, “nice to meet you.”
Danielle ran her eyes over her in a subtle glance. As though satisfied that Zara didn’t match up to her, she gave her a cold look and a haughty smile, “Nice to meet you too.”
So much for pleasantries.
Zara felt her heart sink further when Danielle slipped her arm through Nathaniel’s as though they had been going out for years.
“Why don’t you join us?“, she asked expectantly, placing her palm flush against his chest.
Zara glanced at Nathaniel, hoping he’d notice the sultry look on his childhood friend’s face.
He seemed oblivious to it all.
Her face flamed when he leaned in closer to her ear to answer her.
The moment was broken when a deep voice spoke behind her.
Zara turned around to see a spectacle bearing blue eyed boy who looked to be around her age staring back at her before he seemed to shake himself and walk around to grasp Nathaniel by the shoulder.
“Finn! It’s been such a long time, dude.“, he hugged the boy, clapping him on his back.
Zara felt like a stranger in the midst of a family reunion.
Nathaniel continued speaking to Finn as the DJ increased the volume of the music and Summertime Sadness echoed through the room, the thumping of the beat reverberating through her chest.
Zara looked around and stilled when she saw Danielle staring at her with narrowed eyes.
What the fuck was wrong with that girl?
Deciding to go find Susan, she had just turned around when the blue eyed boy, Finn spoke.
“And who is this?“, he asked politely, his eyes watching her with interest.
Before Nathaniel could answer, Danielle interrupted.
“Yes, who exactly are you?”
She abruptly turned to Nathaniel, a sweet lilt to her voice.
“How do you know her, Nate?“, she clutched his arm even tighter.
To Zara’s complete surprise, Nathaniel placed his hand over her perfect one and stroked it gently.
“She’s a friend. We are in the same class in university.“, he said lightly, giving Zara a smile.
She felt as though she had been rudely awakened.
They had watched each other orgasm. He had touched her, though only through her clothes, in places no one else ever had.
She hadn’t been expecting girlfriend. But atleast something more than a friend?
Feeling humiliated and unsure if she was in the right, Zara nodded.
Danielle interrupted again, “Oh so you guys are classmates then.“, she declared happily before she turned back to Nathaniel and flashed him a dazzling smile.
“Nate, come on. Let’s dance.“, she shouted over the music as she began dragging him toward the dance floor.
Nathaniel didn’t look at Zara even once, instead, he seemed to happily oblige and turned away without further coaxing.
Zara realized that the boy named Finn was staring at her and she looked away, trying in vain to locate Susan and Matt.
Meanwhile, Danielle had Nathaniel wrapped in her arms as they found a spot on the dance floor. Zara wanted the earth to split open and swallow her whole when she saw the redhead put her arms around his neck and murmur something into his ear that made him laugh. His arms had encircled her waist and Zara felt a stab through her chest at the image they formed.
The perfect couple.
Gorgeous. Beautiful. And equally heightened.
She looked down at her silk shirt and the floral skirt. So much effort for nothing.
Zara jumped at the voice in her ear.
Bluey was staring down at her.
He was quite good looking if you really looked.
With wavy black hair that fell lightly across his forehead, a chiseled jaw and a lean-bordering on lanky- physique, he looked handsome in a very unconventional way.
“Uh, hi.“, she said uncertain whether he would treat her the same way the red bombshell had.
“Sorry my sister can be a bit pushy sometimes.“, he said apologetically, offering her his hand.
Zara took a deep breath to keep her voice from cracking and smiled at him.
“I didn’t notice.“, she lied as she grasped his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Finn.”
His skin was warm. But not as warm as Nath-
She cut off the thought.
He obviously didn’t care about her right now.
“The pleasure is all mine.“, Finn smiled back at her, a genuine warm smile and Zara felt the knot in her chest loosen a little.
“Should we sit down?“, he gestured to the seats.
When they had taken their seats, he turned so that he was facing her. Zara had glanced at the dance floor once again and her heart stopped.
The DJ had changed the track to a slow love song and now Danielle and Nate were dancing together even closer now, their heads touching. She had her fingers on his neck and he was smiling at her like they had just shared a private joke. Zara tore her eyes away from the scene, her heart feeling like it was being wrenched painfully. What happened to the wall around the fragile damn thing that had been so secure before?
“Do you study at USC then?“, Finn spoke into her ear and she jumped. Immediately covering it up with a cough, she nodded her head.
“Yeah, I’m majoring in Social Work. What about you?”
“That’s great. And I’m done with graduation.“, he explained sheepishly.
Zara stared at him, agog.
“No way. How old are you?”
He grinned, flashing her a set of white teeth.
“I’m twenty-four. I’m working for a technological company. Apps and stuff. Pretty boring.“, he said lightly, “I’m on a one week vacation here with Danielle. We live in Silicon Valley, otherwise.”
“I grew up in Silicon Valley.“, she offered.
He seemed surprised.
“Woah. Really? I would have remembered you if I saw you before now. It’s hard to miss such a beautiful face.“, his voice was laced with sincerity and for a second Zara thought he was teasing her.
When she realized he was serious, her cheeks turned red and she blushed. Did he just call her beautiful?
“It’s hard to miss you too.“, she mumbled without thinking.
Then her eyes widened when she realized what she had just said.
Finn stared at her for a second and then he laughed.
“Glad you think so, Zara.”
She turned redder and looked away.
Her heart let out a silent cry when she saw Susan’s familiar face watching her from a few feet away.
Matt and she made their way to the table. As soon as she was within reach, Zara jumped up and hugged her friend. She saw the concern in Susan’s eyes and was so relieved that she hugged her for a whole minute.
“Zara are you okay?“, Susan murmured into her ear.
Consciously, Zara pulled back and nodded, forcing a bright smile on her face.
“Yeah. But we need to leave now, remember Susan?“, she pleaded with her eyes.
The other girl seemed to understand and turned to Matt.
Finn just stood there, looking confused and Zara, not wanting to seem rude, made the introductions. Matt spoke to Finn for a bit and Susan joined them, sneaking glances at Zara.
“Are you guys leaving?”
The familiar deep voice asked from directly behind her and she froze.
Nathaniel stood there with Danielle, his arm casually around her shoulder.
The redhead looked like a cat that had just gotten all the cream.
Susan gave him a neutral look and then answered succintly.
“Yeah, we have to get going.”
To Zara’s extreme disappointment, Nathaniel didn’t move, but shrugged his shoulder and then turned back to Danielle.
Danielle shook her head and said in a cheerful voice, “We’re here just for a week, Nate. Let’s stay a bit longer? I was hoping you could show me and Finn around for the next few days.”
Nathaniel readily shook his head.
“Yeah, sure. That’d be fun.“, he smiled.
It felt like a bucket of cold water had just been splashed on Zara.
She saw the way their bodies touched. The way he lightly stroked her arm, almost friendly.
But there was something else.
The realization hit her when Danielle placed her hand on his waist.
They were too familiar in the way they touched.
He had slept with her.
Nathaniel didn’t glance back up when the three of them left the place. He was speaking animatedly to Danielle who was hanging on to his every word.
In the open street with the cool breeze in her face, Zara blinked back the tears that had already begun to form.
Susan took one look at her and then snapped at Matt to hurry up with the car, squeezing Zara’s hand the entire time.
“Fuck him, Zara. He doesn’t deserve you.”
Only when they were on their way back home, did she realize what Susan had