#3 We all need a friend sometimes
Caroline and Shaughna talk for a moment about how they are doing, and I can tell that Caroline knows how shitty Shaughna has been feeling the past week. I may feel a little jealous of their friendship, but I know that Shaughna needs her friends more than ever right now. All of them. She used to date an abusive prick during the summer after high school and he recently contacted her again, making her relive the trauma she went through back then.
I didn’t know Shaughna back then. We met about five years ago in the restaurant she still works at. I used to be a parttime waitress before getting a fulltime nursing gig, and we kept in touch after I left Giovanni’s. She told me about her troubled past a while back and I hate the guy who hurt her.
He’s the son of a rich douchebag who owns this huge international phone company, and he seems to think he’s above the law. I don’t need to meet the guy to know I hate him. Shaughna is such a sweet person. Anyone who hurts her is a horrible excuse for a human being.
Shaughna notices Nathan sitting in the booth next to Aston and she grins. “Nathan? Oh my God, how did Caroline manage to get you to tag along?”
Aston replies before Nathan can. “He’s whipped,” he says, smacking Nathan on the back of his head playfully. “Car did a great job training this old dog.”
Nathan pulls his wife back against him the moment she sits down and he rolls his eyes at Aston. “I just felt like spending the night with my wife. And since she insisted on driving all the way over here, I couldn’t exactly stay home, now could I?”
Aston makes the sounds of a whip cracking. “Whipped,” he insists with a wide grin on his face.
“I talked to Annabel the other day,” Nathan says, giving Aston a warning look. “She had some interesting things to say about you, Aston.”
Next to me, Aston tenses up. His whole body becomes rigid and I see his hands curl into fists underneath the table. “Don’t you dare, you old asshole,” he grunts out to Nathan.
Annabel. That must be her. The girl he met. The one who he gets all flustered over in a way he never did over me. The others all ask Nathan what he’s talking about, since apparently even Caroline doesn’t know that Nathan heard something about Aston from Annabel. I tune them out and sip my drink, trying to keep smiling. All I want to know is who this woman is, why Aston gets all weird when he talks about her, and if they’re serious. And why. I’d like to know why. Am I not good enough? I offered myself to him, all of me, yet he wasn’t interested. I thought it was because he doesn’t do relationships, period, but now it turns out that maybe he does. Just not with me.
Suddenly, everyone is laughing, and I join in, not wanting them to see that I’m not even listening to them anymore. It was obviously a joke at Caroline’s expense, since she is blushing and asks Dshawn a question about his job, trying to steer the conversation away from whatever they were teasing her about. I try to join in, but I just don’t feel like being social. I am so tired from my shirt at the hospital and all the emotions raging within me. I should be in bed right now.
“Fran,” I hear Shaughna whisper in the middle of a loud conversation between the guys about motorcycles.
I look up and turns out she’s on her feet, motioning for me to get up too. I scoot out of the boot, wincing when I feel Aston’s leg brush against mine when I move. I always gravitate towards him, even though it would be wiser to put as much space between us as possible.
Shaughna pulls me into the bathroom and she pushes open the three small stalls to make sure there’s no one in here. I thought she needed to go to the bathroom, but apparently not.
“Hey,” she softly, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Are you sure you’re up for this? I’m sorry if Dshawn and I keep dragging you into outings with Aston. If we need to stop, just say the word. I’ll happily hang out with you without him there.”
Guess I wasn’t doing a great job hiding my feelings, huh? Then again, Shaughna is perceptive. My mind goes back to me trying to kiss Aston earlier today. Ugh. I’m such a mess.
“No, it’s fine.” I tell her, faking a smile. I look at myself in the mirror, relieved that I look better than I feel. I take my hands through my hair and put on some more lipstick, although I don’t really need it. I just need something to do. “Aston and I even hung out together a few days ago, after I ran into him at the gym. We’re getting back to being friends, but it still stings when he talks about Annabel.”
Shaughna doesn’t need to know that I didn’t know about Annabel until just now. Obviously, Aston didn’t want to tell me because he knew it would hurt me. He probably only said something because he was startled by me kissing him. And we did hang out earlier this week, but it was awkward as fuck. We watched a movie at his place, and he sat on the other end of the couch with two large pillows between us, like he was building a goddamn wall of pillows between us so I wouldn’t try anything.
“Like I said,” Shaughna continues, checking her own appearance in the mirror as well, “we can totally hang out more, just the two of us, without the guys. I know I haven’t been a good friend to you lately and I-”
Before she can finish that sentence, I pull her against me for a hug. She’s not a bad friend. She’s the best. That’s why I get a little jealous when I see her with Caroline sometimes. I need Shaughna right now, and she’s the closest friend I’ve got, but she’s always calling Caroline to talk about stuff. I’m in the loop as well, but not the way Caroline is. I guess that’s what happens when you know someone since you were little kids, playing in the sandbox. I don’t have that with Shaughna.
“Trust me, babe,” I say to Shaughna, my voice thick with emotions. “You’re not a bad friend. You’ve been great throughout this whole thing. Even this week, when you’re going through your own shit, you still text me throughout the day and call me while you drive home to see how I’m doing. I seriously would be in a far worse state if you hadn’t been there for me these past few months.” Damn, I’m on the verge of crying. Get it together, Fran! “You get it. You know Aston, you know me, and you’re a really great listener.”
Shaughna is tearing up as well, but she hides it by rolling her eyes. “Please, bitch, I’m not.”
For the first time tonight, I notice how worn she looks. That’s understandable, with everything that happened. When she was 18, her boyfriend abused her, and she’s been afraid of love ever since. She would never admit it, but the main reason she chose sleeping around over getting into a committed relationship these past seven years is fear. Until Dshawn, that is. I wish I would find someone like him. Not that I like Dshawn, but he’s so good to Shaughna and he’s not one of those douches who plays things cool. He made is clear he was into her from the start and he gave her all the time she needed to get over her fear of commitment. I want that. I want someone to truly be all in for me. Preferably Aston, but that’s never going to happen.
I focus on Shaughna again, a little worried about how tired she looks. A few weeks ago at Nathan and Caroline’s wedding – that I wasn’t invited to – Shaughna and Dshawn were having a little kinky fun, as one does at a wedding, I guess. She had this remote-control vibrator inside of her and somehow her ex Melchior hacked into it and made her feel violated. The bastard never showed his face, but she hasn’t truly felt safe since. She’s been trying to confront her demons, but it seems things are only getting worse for her. I’m not the only one with problems. In fact, mine aren’t even in her ballpark. It stings a little that she wasn’t the one to tell me about recent events, but I know I’m just being petty. Dshawn told me what happened over the phone last night when he asked me if I was free for drinks tonight. For Shaughna, I always am.
“Okay,” I say, giving Shaughna a real smile now. She needs a friend just as much as I do. “Fine, be like that. Just know that I appreciate you. And Shaughna… look, I know that you don’t like talking about the whole Melchior thing, but next time you’re going through something, you can talk to me, okay? When Dshawn called me last night to ask if I was free for cocktails tonight, I was so shocked to hear what a crap week you’ve been having. We talked almost every day – why didn’t you say something?”
She grunts and doesn’t answer immediately. I don’t think she knew before now that Dshawn told all of us what happened this week. Apparently she found some old pictures of Melchior and her, and whatever she saw when she flipped through them had her throwing her laptop against the wall. Shaughna’s not a violent person, so it must have been bad.
“I didn’t want to talk about it,” she says forcefully. “And I still don’t. But that’s not because of you, that’s just because I want to stop dwelling on the past.”
Fair enough. I’m not one to pry when it’s obvious that she’s not in the mood to share. “Okay, then we move on to plan B.”
I grin and wink at her. “We’re going to get totally shit-faced drunk tonight.”
“Hell yeah. It’s been too long.” She pulls me in for a hug and when she pulls back, I have to say I think she looks a little less drawn. Good.
I’m looking forward to going out now that I’m embracing this night, but I don’t want to be stuck with Aston while Caroline and Shaughna dance with their men. As hard as I’m trying to just be friends with Aston, it’s difficult for me, and dancing with him isn’t going to help. I pull out my phone while we make our way back to our booth and I text Thomas, the guy that lives next-door to me. We go out sometimes and he’s ended up in my bed more times than I can count, but with him things are simple and easy in a way that it never was with Aston. There are no feelings there and that’s just what I need tonight.
Text me when you get to the club, Thomas responds almost immediately. I’ll meet you there.
“Booty call?” Aston asks, reading my texts over my shoulder when I sit down next to him. Apparently, privacy doesn’t mean shit to him. I used to like that about him, but I’m annoyed now. Doesn’t he get that almost everything I do is a desperate attempt to get over him?
“Thomas,” I reply.
“Ah, the neighbor.” He nudges me, grinning. “That’s sure convenient, huh? To have sex right around the corner every single night?”
“Like you don’t,” I shoot back, not able to match his teasing tone.
“No, I don’t,” Aston says, sounding a little sad now.
What the fuck is he talking about? Is this about Annabel? Because from what I know, he sleeps with a whole string of women every single week, and he never has to work hard to get them to come home with him. Or follow him into a bathroom. Or to scoot underneath a table and blow him in a Burger King. And yeah, those are all things him and I did together, and that’s not even half of it. There was that time in the woods, and in the small office in the gym he works at… That time he pleasured me with his fingers while I was driving my car, and of course the time we did it in an elevator.
I miss that. I miss the closeness more than the sex, actually, although the sex was mind-blowing. Aston has the most massive cock I’ve ever seen, which happens to be exactly my taste. Damn, I get aroused just thinking about what he’s packing in those jeans of his.
And now Annabel gets to ride that beautiful black cock instead of me.
Life is so unfair.