#71 You’ve got a friend in me
Francesca is dancing with Aston. Really dancing, not the grinding – basically dry humping – both of them normally prefer. He’s spinning her around as she giggles and sways to the music. I watch them with a smile, happy to see that they’re trying to be friends. This was a great idea.
“Drinks!” Dshawn shouts when he pops up next to me. He hands me a beer and takes the other two to Aston and Fran, who follow him off the dancefloor so we can all sip our drinks. I’m already buzzed, but not drunk and I’m not planning to go there tonight. I’ve got a morning shift and judging by how much fun we’re having, I probably won’t get any sleep tonight. I can’t show up at work drunk as a skunk, manager or not. I have to be a responsible boss. Or well… at least not a drunk one.
I spin around when I hear my name and a grin breaks across my face when I recognize Joshua. He’s with two other guys his age, and they are looking at Francesca, obviously more impressed with her short skirt and purple hair than with my work clothes that I’ve been in all day. I didn’t change before coming here, so I’m still in jeans and a T-shirt. Who cares? I’m not here to attract guys, I’m here to dance with my friends.
“Joshua!” I move over to hug him, happy to see that he no longer seems to be angry at me. “How are you?”
He smiles. “Good, I guess. You?”
I turn and motion for Dshawn to join us. “Joshua, this is my boyfriend, Dshawn.”
They shake hands and take a good long look at each other. They’ve got that “so you slept with my girl” thing going on, but Dshawn doesn’t seem too bothered. Joshua looks a little intimidated by the big muscular guy in front of him, but his jaw is set like he doesn’t want to show it.
Joshua introduces us to his friends, but I forget their names immediately. I’m not interested in them anyway. I just want to know how Joshua is doing.
“How about we head outside?” I offer, motioning to the exit. “Catch up?”
Dshawn pulls me back to him when I take a step away from him. “Hell no,” he grunts. “Not without me.”
“Come on,” I plead. “There’s nothing going on between me and Joshua. I just want to hear how he’s been doing since the Jasmine debacle.”
“I’m not worried about that,” he says with a massive eyeroll. “It’s Melchior I’m worried about.”
“I won’t be alone.” I gesture towards Joshua, who is waiting for me with a frown on his face, probably assuming that Dshawn doesn’t want his girlfriend to head out of the club with some guy she used to sleep with. “Come on. Just for fifteen minutes.”
Dshawn sighs and drops his hand from my arm. “Fine. Fifteen minutes. If you take longer than that, I’m coming out.”
Before he can change his mind, I rush out of the club, grabbing Joshua’s sleeve to pull him along with me. It’s a little chilly outside, but I don’t care. We lean against the wall and to my surprise he pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights one, holding it up to me in a silent question.
“I don’t smoke,” I say, wrinkling my nose. “And I thought you didn’t either.”
He shrugs. “New habit.”
“A filthy one.” I know Dshawn sometimes smokes when he’s had a few drinks, but I don’t care for it. It makes him taste like I’m kissing a goddamn ashtray. Horrible.
“Did you seriously come out here with me to chastise me for smoking?” Joshua asks, pulling a hand through his blonde curls. His hair grew out since I last saw him and I have to admit he looks even cuter than he did when we first met. More confident too, judging by the way he’s leaning against the wall like he’s used to chatting to girls outside of clubs, smoking a cigarette and winking at them with those sparkling blue eyes.
Yeah, Joshua is winking at me.
“You seem to be doing better than the last time we saw each other,” I say with a little smile. “How did things end up between you and Jasmine?”
“I told her to go to hell.” He grins and takes a drag, blowing out smoke in little huffs. “Haven’t seen her since, blocked her on my phone, so… good riddance.”
Okay, wow. He’s obviously doing way better than a few months ago. “Good for you,” I tell him, giving him a playful shove before leaning against the wall again, resting my left shoulder against it while I angle my body in his direction.
“Look…” He shifts as well, mirroring my stance so he can meet my curious gaze. “I never should have called you a bitch. The delivery of the news could have been a little less dramatic, but you ultimately did me a favor.” He pauses to take a drag of his cigarette. “Turns out two of my friends already knew about Jasmine’s affairs. One of them even slept with her while I was dating her.”
“Oh shit,” I breathe. Still, he seems calm when he talks about it. Like he’s over it.
“Yeah, she wasn’t a very good girlfriend,” Joshua says, laughing. “I see that now. I’m just grateful you helped me see her for who she really was. Sucks that I lost two friends over it, but at least I now only have people in my life who I can trust.”
“I’m so happy to hear that.” I smile at him, glad to see him like this. He looks older than he used to, with the longer curls and the newfound confidence. “I hope I can be one of those people.”
“Of course!” he says immediately, dropping the cigarette bud to the ground and stepping on it. “Like I said, you did me a favor. I was hoping I’d run into you, actually, but you don’t seem to be in the club as much as you used to be.”
“You could have called me.”
He shrugs. “I didn’t know what to say. It took me a while to forgive you for blowing up my life. And when I did… it had been so long since we talked, and we didn’t date for that long, if dating is even the right term, so… I mean, what reason could I have to call you?”
I reach out to touch his arm, seeing a little of the old insecure Joshua on his face. “I’m your friend, if you’ll have me. You don’t need a reason to call me other than just wanting to chat.”
“I’d like that.” Joshua puts his hand over mine briefly before dropping it to his side again. “Your boyfriend… He’s the guy in the pictures with Jasmine, right? He dated her?”
I nod. “He didn’t know she was with someone already. It was a long time before he and I got together.”
“How long have you been dating him?”
“About six or seven months, maybe even longer, depending when you start counting the days. We’re not really the anniversary types.” Dshawn and still haven’t decided when exactly our relationship started. When I woke up in his bed and we started talking? The night we went to the Mexican restaurant? Or when we agreed to be exclusive? Maybe when we first kissed? Or had sex? Perhaps New Year’s, when Caroline gave us her blessing? Truthfully, we don’t care. Picking a moment would always be random. What matters is that we’re together and we love each other.
“That’s… quite a while.” Joshua gives me a lopsided smile. “I guess that means I don’t get a second chance, huh?”
Oh man. This is awkward. I have the urge to take a step back, but I feel like that would be a little too harsh. He’s not making a move or anything, he’s just talking to me.
“Sorry,” I reply, trying not to sound too apologetic. “I’m taken.”
“Figured.” Joshua laughs. “No need to look so freaked, Shaughna. I’m not going to try anything. I’ve not been pining for you. I’m on all the apps, been dating quite a bit lately. I just had to ask. Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
I smile at that. I still like him, and he’s ridiculously cute, but he’s got nothing on Dshawn. “I don’t blame you. I’m just very much in love. This slut is closed for business.”
“I guess you got over the ex-boyfriend, huh?” Joshua asks, probably remembering the time he saw me lose it when I thought that Melchior was at the restaurant. “He must have done something horrible to you for you to take seven years to move on. I thought what Jasmine did was bad, but burning all of the stuff she left at my place did the trick for me. Closure.”
“I didn’t…” I pause, taking a moment to think. Did I ever get closure? “It didn’t take me seven years to move on.” I’m absolutely certain about that time had nothing to do with it. “It took Dshawn for me to do that.”
“Did someone say my name?”
I turn around to see my boyfriend standing a few feet away from me, smiling at me. Guess the fifteen minutes are up.
“That’s my cue to leave.” Joshua pushes himself up from the wall and gives me a sweet smile. “Good to see you again. I think I’m going to take you up on your offer. Talk to you soon, Shaughna.”
Dshawn puts an arm around me as we watch him walk back into the club, his back straight and his steps determined. That’s not the Joshua I slept with, nor is he the guy who threw me out of his apartment. He’s a new and improved version of himself.
“What offer was he talking about?” Dshawn’s hold on me tightens a bit, even though Joshua is already inside.
“To call me if he needs a friend.”
He spins me around so I’m in front of him, his fingers digging into my arms slightly, but not enough to hurt me. “Really? You want to be friends with someone you slept with?”
“You’re friends with Caroline,” I point out, laughing at his sulking face. “And Aston and Franny are trying really hard right now to get back their friendship.”
“True, but Caroline is married. Aston is a player, and Franny isn’t my girlfriend.” Dshawn grunts. “Is it really so weird that I don’t like the idea of you hanging out with him? I bet he’s hoping you’ll end up in his bed again.”
“Maybe,” I admit, shrugging. “I guess it’s a good thing that I’m the only one who decides who I sleep with, and the only person I want is you.”
“Fine.” He rolls his eyes at me. “Let’s go back inside and dance, alright?”
We head back in and head to the dancefloor, where Fran is now dancing with a cute guy and Aston is rubbing up against a tall leggy blonde. Joshua is leaning against the far wall, chatting to his friends and a girl who just joined them. He notices me and Dshawn right away, giving us a nod. Dshawn pulls me against him and starts moving, really moving. Not the way Aston and Franny are grinding, but truly dancing the way only he can. He’s a goddamn God.
After a while, he slows down, and I follow his lead. He pulls me in for a kiss, slipping his tongue and grabbing my ass through my jeans. I moan into him when he squeezes, digging my fingers into his back.
When we break apart, Dshawn is smirking, looking over my shoulder. I look over mine, seeing Joshua dancing with his friends right behind me. He looks away the moment our eyes meet, and I turn back to Dshawn with a frown. Did he just put on this show of affection just to make sure Joshua knows I’m not on the market?
“Seriously?” I yell into his ear over the music, trying to keep a grin off my face and failing miserably. I know it’s bad, but I’ve always liked it when a guy gets territorial. Especially since I know that Dshawn wasn’t like this when he dated Caroline. It’s a side of him that rarely comes out. It’s hot as fuck.
“Just making sure he knows that the role of friend is the only one still up for grabs.” Dshawn leans in for another kiss and I swat him away, laughing, but when he moves in again I reply hungrily. I know I already made it clear to Joshua that he’s not getting between me and Dshawn, so this display is unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.
We spend some more time on the dancefloor before heading to the bar where Fran and Aston are doing shots. Francesca didn’t like the guy she was dancing with enough to go home with him, so he’s now with some other girl. Aston could easily have taken the leggy blonde back to his place, but I suspect he didn’t want to ruin his progress with Franny, so he’s sticking with us tonight instead of choosing a quick fuck over his friends. He’s a good guy.
By the time Dshawn and I make our way back to our apartment, I’ve only got time for a quick shower and two hours of sleep before the alarm blares me back to world of the living. Giovanni’s is waiting for me.
I somehow manage to pull myself through the day. I’m pretty sure I’m still drunk when I start my shift, but I don’t think anyone notices. As the day goes on and I get some coffee and one of Kieran’s patented hangover cures in my system, I start feeling a little better. Less like a zombie.
There’s one thought that stays with me throughout the day. Something Joshua said, surprisingly. He said something about closure and how it helped him to move on. I already moved on from Melchior a long time ago, but not from what he did to me. Maybe if I somehow find a way to truly close that chapter of my life, I will stop having panic attacks. Dshawn will allow me talk to Melchior, but there might be another way to get closure.
When Melchior left me, I used to spend my nights looking at the pictures of the two of us together. That is, until Caroline forced me to delete all of them and get out of the dorms to get some sunlight. Some food in my system. To get back to having an actual life.
Those pictures… I deleted them. But I’m pretty sure that they’re not truly gone. I’m not good at cleaning my memory drive or whatever it’s called. I still have that old laptop in a box somewhere. I still have the password to the account I used back then. And… my boyfriend is an IT guy. Surely there’s a way for me to get those pictures back.
Maybe confronting myself with the memories – both happy and horrifying – will help me find the closure Joshua was talking about.
Maybe. I don’t know.
I have to try.