“Ben and you?” Lauren stares at me expectantly. “What does that mean - something happened?”
I take a deep breath and grimace. “There’s been this weird tension between us from the start, and then we went out for drinks Tuesday night. It was a nice evening - and then we kissed...”
Lauren gasps. “You and Ben? Our Ben? Wow, I did not see that coming. Even though-”
I sit up straight and look at her with narrow eyes. “Even though what?”
Lauren taps her chin. “When I think about it, Ben’s probably liked you since your first day.”
I draw in a sharp breath. “I beg your pardon?”
Lauren chuckles. “When I took you to Luke’s office, Ben stopped me on my way back and asked about you.”
I blink at her rapidly. “Asked what?”
Lauren shrugs. “Who you were. But he sounded so casual that I didn’t give it any more thought.”
I sigh. “If he felt something from the start like I did, I wonder what his problem is.”
“Oh, honey, you don’t always have to understand men.” She taps my hand and bites her lips to suppress a grin. “So Ben?”
I nod. “I guess I have fallen for his charm. I felt attracted to him right away. Every touch and every look has affected me. And then this kiss...” I sigh heavily. “It was only a tiny moment, but what I felt-I didn’t think I’d ever be able to feel that again.”
Lauren raises her eyebrows. “Why’s that?”
I sigh. “My last relationship was-well, not great. We didn’t exactly part on good terms.”
“Ugh, that sucks! I know what you mean. I came to New York to escape the memory of my ex. He was a huge ass.”
I frown. “Oh no! What happened?”
Lauren’s eyes darken suddenly. “He was violent,” she whispers. “But that’s in the past. I learned my lesson and left.”
I gasp and take Lauren’s hand. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry.”
She waves me off. “That’s okay. It’s over and won’t happen to me again.”
For a moment we silently sit next to each other until Lauren says, “What are we going to do about Ben now?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. He told me that nothing could happen between us, but he remains vague about the reason. Things are really awkward between us now.”
Lauren groans. “Ugh, men! They make life hard for you.”
I laugh. “You can say that again. I almost believe Aaron is right.”
Lauren looks at me questioningly. “Aaron?”
I nod. “He told me about how he usually takes what he wants. Ben, on the other hand, hesitates too long.”
“Well, you just met. Maybe Ben just doesn’t want to rush things.”
“Maybe,” I sigh. “But it’s so hard. I can’t be near him all this time at work when I have all these feelings and know he likes me too, but for some reason doesn’t want me.”
“Oh, Amy. If it’s so difficult for you, you have to talk to him.”
“That’s what I wanted. But we were so busy at work, and after that, he didn’t have the time or didn’t want to. I don’t know.” I sigh resignedly.
“What about this weekend?”
“He wants to come to the Avalon tomorrow night. At least, he wanted to at the beginning of the week.”
Lauren stares into space for a moment before an impish smile forms on her lips. “Is Aaron coming too?”
“Uh, no idea. I haven’t talked to him since last week, and I don’t think Ben told him.”
“Maybe you should invite him.”
“Aaron?” I look at her questioningly.
“If Aaron is around, he’s sure to make advances again, right?”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. So what are you saying?’”
“If Ben sees Aaron flirting with you, maybe he’ll know what he wants.”
I purse my lips. “I don’t know.” But after thinking about it for a moment, I know I have to do something. Maybe Lauren is right, so I grab my phone and text Aaron.
"Hey... I know it’s been a while, and maybe you don’t even remember me... we’re going to the Avalon tomorrow night. Do you want to come along? Amy"
I don’t have to wait long for his answer: "As if I could forget you! I thought you forgot about me. I’ll be there. A."
"Sorry, it was a busy week."
"Oh, is that the reason my brother is in such a pissy mood?"
Pissy mood? Hm. ”I thought you didn’t like talking about Ben."
"Right. I prefer to talk about you and me. Tomorrow night, then. See you there."
I drop my phone next to me on the couch and look at Lauren, who leans closer to me. “And?” she asks with raised eyebrows.
Lauren grins. “Wonderful. And now tell me more about that kiss.”
I chuckle and give her a recount of the events leading to my current state of frustration. And we continue talking late into the night. She tells me a little more about her past, and she accepts that I don’t want to talk about mine yet.
When I’m finally lying in bed, I feel utterly exhausted, but my thoughts keep on revolving around Ben, preventing me from falling asleep.
I just hope we can talk things out and act reasonably normal around each other again soon.
I spend all of Saturday thinking about the evening. I know Ben and I have to talk, but we’ll hardly be able to do that at the Avalon. Maybe I’ll ask Ben to take me home after? Fuck, I’m driving myself crazy! I need to stop overthinking this.
When it’s finally time to get ready, I stand in front of my wardrobe trying to pick out a dress I can dance away all my frustration in. I’ve texted Ben earlier, asking if he’s coming, and his response was just a simple yes which just added to that frustration.
Lauren is going to pick me up soon, so I need to decide on a dress now. I sigh and reach for two dresses that I throw on my bed. I will ask Lauren for advice. Still in my underwear, I go to the bathroom and take care of hair and makeup. I curl my hair a little, leaving the waves to fall on my shoulders and choose a light makeup. I’m not up for anything complicated tonight.
With one last satisfied look in the mirror, I go back to my bedroom. I stand in front of my bed and cross my arms. I hope Lauren will be here soon. That very second, there is a knock on my door. Perfect!
I walk to the door as I hear my phone ring in the bedroom. I run to the door, open it quickly, and run back to my bedroom. On the way, I call, “Come in!” I look for my phone, but then it stops ringing. Great.
Well, then I can welcome Lauren properly. I grab the two dresses and head for the front door. “Hey, Lauren! You have to help me with what to wear.”
I come out of the bedroom and look over to the door. But it’s not Lauren. I freeze and gasp in shock. “Ben! What are you doing here?”
While he stares at me, his eyes widen before he squeezes them shut, and he draws in a breath. That’s when I realize I’m standing in front of him in only my underwear. A hot blush creeps across my cheeks, and I quickly cover my body with the dresses.
Ben stammers, “Uh - yeah - sorry. I - uhm - didn’t Lauren tell you?”
I shake my head. “Tell me what?”
“Uh, something came up, and she asked me to pick you up instead.”
I glare at him even though it’s Lauren I’m a little pissed off at right now. “No, she obviously didn’t tell me. Now if you would excuse me for a sec!”
I walk backward into my bedroom and close the door. Once Ben is out of sight, I drop the dresses on the floor and bury my face in my hands. Did that really just happen? The way he looked at me! Damn! I thought I had some more time before the drama started tonight.
I pick up the clothes and finally decide on the short blue dress. I take the matching black shoes out of the closet and take another deep breath before heading back to Ben, who’s still standing by the door, stepping from one foot to the other and looking to the floor.
I clear my throat, and he lifts his gaze. “Hey, uhm, I’m sorry about that,” he mumbles. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
I sigh. “That’s all right. No use crying over spilled milk. But you’ll be sorry if you make any kind of stupid remark about this!” I point my finger at him.
Ben gives me an amused smile. “Of course! My lips are sealed.” He comes up to me and puts his arms around me. I hug him back, and for a brief moment, it feels like it did before all this crap happened, and sure enough, those stupid butterflies instantly remind me of their constant presence whenever Ben is near.
Ben whispers in my ear, “I have to admit, though, I’ve never had such a nice welcome before.”
I take a step back and hit him against his chest. “Ben! What did I just tell you?”
His lips stretch in a silly grin, and I roll my eyes. “Come on, let’s go. I need a really strong drink.”
I get my phone from the bedroom and see a missed call and a message from Lauren. I snort. “Lauren can’t make it and sends you to pick me up instead.”
Ben chuckles. “Come on then. I’ll take you to the party.”
We take a cab, which drops us off at the Avalon after a short drive. After our awkward moment earlier, Ben is unusually quiet, but I don’t feel like talking to him either. A long line of people awaits us in front of the club, and they are let in one by one by the two bouncers-or not because apparently, there is a dress code. I’m already impressed with what I see. “Wow, this looks like a classy place. I hope they’ll let me in.”
Ben laughs. “Are you kidding? I’m glad I’m here with you because I’m the one who has to worry. You can just tell them I’m with you.”
I look at Ben with a raised eyebrow. I prefer not to comment on his good looks; I don’t want to enter this terrain now.
Of course, we’re both let in without any problems. The inside of the club looks just as noble as I expected. We look around, and in the crowd, Ben discovers Isaac, who saved us a table. And Paul is there, too.
Ben takes my hand and pulls me after him, but I can only think how uncomfortable this is for me right now. I withdraw my hand and hate myself for it at the same moment, but it’s just too weird between Ben and me right now.
When we reach the table, Ben introduces me to Paul. “Paul, this is Amy, my new colleague.”
Paul shakes my hand. “Hey, Amy. Nice to meet you.”
I smile at him. “You too. I was at the pub last week. Your band is awesome!”
Paul waves his hand. “Aw, thanks! We’re playing again next Friday. You should come.”
“Oh, I’d love to.”
Paul turns to Ben. “Are you coming, too?”
Ben laughs. “Are you asking for my help again?”
Paul grins. “Maybe.”
While the guys talk about Paul’s next gig, I take another look around. Yes, I like this place. Now I only need Lauren so I can finally dance.
Ben asks me what I want to drink and goes over to the bar. I stand there with Isaac and Paul in silence for a few minutes when Lauren shows up next to me.
She almost jumps into my arms and whispers into my ear, “Hey, pretty! You look stunning. Ben must have been impressed.”
I glare at her. “That was some idea you had there! I thought you were at my door, but instead, it was Ben who I greeted wearing only my underwear.”
Lauren looks at me incredulously and then bursts out laughing. “What? How did that happen?”
“I’ll tell you exactly what happened, but not here; Ben’s coming back.”
She nods. Ben returns with our drinks and hugs Lauren. “Sorry, I didn’t know when you were coming, so I didn’t get you anything.”
She waves him off. “No problem. I’ll get something myself. Amy, are you coming?” Without waiting for an answer, she takes my hand and pulls me after her.
Once we’re at the bar, she looks at me. “Now shoot!”
“I could have killed you!” I grunt. “I opened my door without checking who it was because my phone was ringing at the same time. As I was expecting you, I walked out of my bedroom in only my underwear, and then there was Ben.”
Lauren can hardly stifle a laugh. “His jaw must have dropped to the floor, right?”
I sigh. “Honestly, I have no idea. I was too busy wishing the ground would open and swallow me up.”
She can still hardly hold in her laughter. “In any case, that’s a good start.”
She winks at me, and I can’t hold the small grudge I had against her any longer. She meant well, after all. “Well, it better be,” I say with a hopeful smile.