© 2013 Ren Alexander
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“Some of these people here are scary as hell, Hadley.”
“Morgan, get off of me!”
“The closer I am to you, the further these people are from me.”
“Honestly, I think you’re a tad dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Not a chance. I should’ve stopped by urgent care on the way here and got myself a damn tetanus shot.” I nudge her away, and she scornfully asks, “Where’s your man anyway?”
I impatiently state the obvious, “He’s racing his dirt bike, Morgan. Where in the hell has your mind been all this time?” I sigh as I crane my neck to see. It was such a mistake bringing my best friend with me. She isn’t cut out for live sporting events. If it’s not college football or basketball on TV, she’s not interested. My longtime boyfriend, Finn Wilder, participates in a dirt bike race about half an hour outside of where we live in Richmond, Virginia. In the past, he’s raced in amateur motocross events, but today, he’s racing for charity. The Richmond TV station, where he is their star sportscaster, is here to broadcast the event.
“I’ve been here. I’ve just been distracted by Ma and Pa Kettle fighting over the last dip of snuff!” she criticizes loudly, turning up her nose and leaning onto me again, clutching my arm tighter.
“Morgan!” I hiss, looking past her to see if anyone heard her mouth. She drags her wavy, dark hair with one hand, draping it over a shoulder, using it as a privacy barrier between her and the riff-raff, as she referred to them earlier. “Why did you come with me if you don’t want to be here?”
“Something to do while Ivan is working.” She cringes as she’s jostled. Ivan is her personal trainer/boyfriend, who works at the gym we belong to. “Excuse you!” she shouts to a group of kids walking down the wooden bleachers.
“Morgan, stop!” I again shake her off and stand to see if I can see Finn’s black-and-blue bike. Morgan tugs on my arm, and I plop back down beside her.
“What?” I edgily ask.
“Have you talked to Finn?” she asks, digging into her purse.
“Hadley, do not play dumb with me.” I glance down at her duffle bag-sized designer purse as she continues to rummage through it. Oh, yes. Talking to Finn. Nope. Not looking forward to that.
“I did not,” I say, returning my attention to the track.
“Why not? There it is!” I see her holding a silver compact. “Now, to find my lipstick.”
“I have a couple of questions. One: Why do you have a purse that big if you can find nothing in it? Two: Why do you need lipstick at a racing event?” Morgan’s mouth drops open with a look of incredulity and disgust. She then rolls her eyes and hands me the mirror.
“Here, hold this. I can’t believe you asked me that question, Hadley Beckett,” she scolds and recommences excavating her bag. “A woman must always look her best, no matter where they are.” She stops searching, sending me a roaming, disapproving look. “You should try it sometime.”
Miffed, I automatically look down at my clothes, a light blue T-shirt with small, dark blue sequins scattered throughout, and blue jeans. “What’s wrong with my clothes?”
I assess what she’s wearing, a dark blue blouse with dramatic ruffles cascading down the front, khaki capris, and brown-heeled sandals. Her outfit’s very classy, as usual for Morgan, but not practical for watching a motorcycle race.
“It’s not just your clothes,” she distractedly answers toward her purse.
I tug my light brown ponytail self-consciously and scowl at her. “What do you mean?”
“Please, girl. Have you seen your boyfriend lately?” I glance to the track at the mention of him, but from where we’re sitting, I can’t see my number thirty-five yet.
“I see him often.” I grab her purse and put it on the other side of me.
“Tell me what you mean. You can’t just say that and not explain yourself.”
“I mean that you look as homeless as some of these people sitting here.”
“Shit, Morgan! Keep your voice down!” I loudly whisper, imploring her as I look around us.
“Oh, who cares?” Morgan dismisses the surrounding people with a wave of her hand, her orchid nail polish shining in the sunlight. She lifts her dark sunglasses so I can see into her dusky brown eyes. “I mean, you’re dressed rather plainly. You have a hotter-than-fuck boyfriend. You should dress up your equally hot, little body, so it doesn’t look like he’s dating a twelve-year-old.” My mouth pops open at her observation. “You also could use more makeup and a cuter haircut.” Her eyes float down to my fingers. “And stop wearing black nail polish. You’re not in a satanic cult, a heavy metal band, or a victim of teen angst.”
“Morgan Yates!” I shriek, but roaring dirt bikes drown my protest. A flurry of motorcycles emerges through the small tree grove the track snakes in between, and I, along with everyone else in the stands, minus Morgan, jump up and cheer. She reaches around me to snag back her purse.
Finn’s bike is near the front, so I squeal as I hop up and down, clapping around Morgan’s compact still in my hand. The riders begin their last circuit, and we all sit again.
She says, “You didn’t answer my question, bitch.”
I irritably scoff, “After all of your gushing flattery concerning the clothes I’m wearing and my overall horrid appearance, I forget what you asked.” I glance down at my shiny, black-polished nails before I curl my fingers under my hand. What’s wrong with my nail polish?
“You know I love you, Hadley. I’m only trying to help you keep your man.”
I morosely glower at her. “I don’t need help.” Do I?
“Really? So how come you won’t answer me? Why haven’t you talked to Finn?”
I sigh heavily and slump my shoulders. “Because we’ve had similar talks in the past, Morgan. He doesn’t want to get married. He has said that repeatedly.”
“Hadley, you’ve been dating him for three years and living apart from each other, at that. When are you two going to grow up and stop the weekend-only fuck fests?”
I wince. “Do you have to put it that way?”
“Don’t tell me that isn’t what you and that fine specimen aren’t doing every weekend.”
“No, we knit,” I mutter and look away from her. I practically hear her rolling her eyes at me.
“You need to talk to him again, Hadley. Three years is enough for you to have wasted your time on a man who won’t commit to you or give you children. You’re thirty-three-years old. Won’t he be thirty-four in a few months?” I swing my head back to her and nod. “His sperm will last forever. You,” she raises an eyebrow and shakes her head sadly, “are in a time crunch. Those eggs of yours won’t wait around forever, you know.” So says the woman who is almost four years younger than me.
Annoyed, I reply, “I know this, Morgan. It’s all I think about lately, but I can’t force him to change his mind and propose.”
“Then, you do it.”
“No. I can’t do that because I know what he’d say.” He’d reject me without a second thought.
“Well, you have your answer. If he said no, break up with him and move on.”
“I’m in love with Finn. He’s all I want.” I stare at her, waiting for her to elaborate, her russet skin glowing in the sun, no doubt from wearing a dark color on an unseasonably warm, mid-April day.
“He is not all you want. You want marriage and kids. He doesn’t. But for some ridiculous reason, you let him string you along, and who knows how long he’ll do that to you. He may never grow a pair. It could be indefinitely, Hadley. I don’t want that for you. You need to give him an ultimatum.”
I furiously shake my head at her. “I won’t do that to him. I know he loves me. He just…” I aimlessly look at the track as we wait for them to finish the race.
She finishes my sentence with what I wouldn’t say. “He’s getting his milk for free.”
I look over at her, frowning. “Thanks for calling me a cow.”
Morgan laughs, but the smile soon fades from her face. “You are so stubborn,” she accuses me. She sighs. “Remind him of what you want. You deserve happiness. Talk to him. Your eggs will dry up and blow away.” I know. That’s what I’m afraid of each passing day.
“Talk to who?” a familiar voice asks from above me. I angle my head up, squinting to see my friend Rod.
“Nothing,” I dismissively mumble, looking down as he scoots closer to me.
“Come on, Hadders. What’s up? Sorry, I’m late. I had to do a couple of things, and they ran over.”
“It’s a Saturday, Rod. What the hell were you doing?” Morgan asks, pushing me forward so she can see him.
He taunts her, “None of your beeswax. Are you casting a spell on me now?” Morgan reaches behind me and punches Rod’s arm.
“Ow!” he cries, rubbing where she hit. “You’re a lawyer, Morgan! You should know that’s assault and battery!”
She protests, but I sit back and put my arms out to restrain both. “Come on, you two! Cut it out!”
He clutches my shoulder. “What’s going on with you, Hadders? Is your man losing the race? I know what you could do to make him feel better,” he merrily insinuates.
“Shut up, Rod.”
“What? Buy him an ice cream cone! Damn! You’re bitchier than your friend Morgan over there. Are you on your period?” I shove Rod as he shakes his head, his short, brown hair lightly blowing in the breeze. He laughs while looking over at Morgan, who flips him off.
Those two are natural-born frenemies. I know there is some love there, but not a lot of it lost, either. I’m always the buffer. I love them, yet it gets tiring, refereeing their fights.
Greg Rodwell has been a friend of ours, mostly mine, since he started at the law firm where Morgan and I work, Rhodes, Dryden, Charleton & Associates, about two-and-a-half years ago. She’s a lawyer, and I’m a paralegal for partner, Val Dryden, while Rod assists Amos Vaughn. Rod’s first name is Greg, but nobody has called him that since Morgan dubbed him Rod. Now, everyone calls him Rod at work, even Fred the mailman and the people who work in the building’s cafeteria.
He sneers to Morgan, “By the way, cool shades. It’s so nice seeing you out in the daylight with the rest of us lowly mortals. I thought you’d be sleeping in a coffin, or hanging upside down from a tree branch or a belfry. What gives, Elvira?”
“I’m here supporting my best friend and her boyfriend, Ass Rod.”
He huffs, “Name-calling. How mature of you, Morbid.”
I intervene, “Please! You two are acting like bratty children!” Leaning forward, I rest my head in my hands.
Rod bumps my arm with his. “What were you talking about before I got here?”
“Hadley won’t give Finn an ultimatum,” Morgan interjects before I can blow him off again.
He asks, “An ultiwhatum? I’ve never heard of that one before. I’ve heard of a rusty trombone, a Hot Carl, a Dirty Sanchez, and an Abe Lincoln, but not whatever you just said. Does Wilder do it to you, or do you do it to him?”
I immediately straighten. “Oh, my God! Shut up!” I demand as I move closer to Morgan.
“That’s disgusting,” Morgan says as she finally takes her compact out of my hand. “You would know that shit.”
“What shit?” Rod asks, genuinely looking confused.
Instead of elaborating, I answer Rod’s original question. “Morgan wants me to tell Finn that either we get married or break up.”
“Why would you do that, Hadders? Your man loves you! He gave you this pretty necklace.” Rod reaches over to lift my silver key necklace off my chest, playing with it some. I clutch onto the precious two-inch charm. The top of the key is a heart that encases an intricate F and a W for Finn Wilder. The back of the key shank is engraved: The key to my Wilder heart.
As he has the key to mine.
I had met Finn in the emergency room three years ago. My dad had been visiting me from my hometown, Annapolis, Maryland, for Easter. We had gone out to dinner when I slipped on a patch of ice and landed on my wrist. My dad drove me to the nearest hospital after the pain became unbearable. While leaning against my dad, waiting for my turn in the waiting room, I noticed a handsome yet familiar-looking man staring at me from a short distance away. I also observed that he had a short cast on his left arm, so he knew the pain I was experiencing.
Even amidst my tears and pounding agony, I peered over at him a few times, only to catch him watching me. To my surprise, he walked over and asked my dad if he could get me anything as I tried to wipe my ugly tears away. The man gave me a breathtaking smile before he introduced himself. Finn Wilder. Yes, the local news. That’s where I had seen him.
Finn handed my dad a cup of water for me. He then told us about how a wrong judgment call in his depth perception while snowboarding caused him to land left, instead of right, and he fell hard against a tree, breaking his arm. He said we were kindred spirits. When I was getting my cast, he got my phone number from my dad. He even checked on me. More than once.
“Finn gave me this necklace for my birthday two years ago.”
“See. He loves you.” Rod smiles and bounces my shoulder with his. “Why do you have to marry him? Can’t you just live in sin?”
Morgan scoffs, “Rod, she doesn’t just want to live with him. She dreams of marrying Finn before he gets her pregnant.” I shrink, knowing how old-fashioned I sound to most. Morgan must sense me freaking out because she puts her arm around me and rests her head on my shoulder. She softly says, “I love it.” I lay my head against hers and smile.
Rod grins. “Hadley wants to have sex with Finn Wilder? Wow.”
Morgan lifts her head up, and her arm falls from me. “No shit, Rod. She’s crazy if she isn’t banging the hell out of him by now.” Not this again.
When Finn and I first started dating, Morgan asked me about the sex with him. She nearly had a stroke when I told her we were waiting. We wanted to get to know each other before jumping into bed. We made it three-and-a-half months. There were a lot of cold showers and outdoor activities during that time. He said he wanted to keep me away from beds, couches, and the back seats of our cars. That thought almost made me rip off his clothes several times.
I contend, “I’m right here, you know. You two talk around me like I’m not even here.” Rod grips my chin, turning my head toward him.
“You’ve seen the famous Finn Wilder naked? I bet that man is rock hard all over. Does he have a six-pack? How many tattoos does he have?” I petulantly push his hand off my chin and roll my eyes.
“Stop teasing me.” I twist to look at Morgan. “Both of you. This is serious. My future is at stake. He wants us to find a place together somewhere in the middle of our commutes to work.” We live on opposite sides of Richmond, so we don’t see each other much during the week.
Rod champions, “Yes, but he drives that slick, red Mustang with the two white racing stripes. I’m sure he gets to work in no time from your place.”
“He does, but it’s also hard on gas, and he can’t drive fast when it’s gridlock.” Rod laughs. “What?” I probe, confused about his merriment.
“You said hard-on.” Rod giggles more than I usually do in any situation.
I grumble, “I’m done talking to you.” I redirect my attention away from him and to the track.
I ask, “How do we overcome our issues by just moving in together? Our impasse is glaring. That’ll only make our problems even bigger. I want to live with him so much, but I don’t feel right about it.”
Morgan asks, “Does he leave money on the nightstand Sunday night, or does he have a running tab?”
I scoff, “Morgan, he is my boyfriend.”
“True, but the flippant way he treats your feelings, your needs, is just as bad, Hadley. He acts like you’ll always be there, not wanting anything more than to be his adoring little girlfriend. No solid commitment. No ring on your finger, or even his. You know he’s a big flirt. He has nothing showing the world he’s taken. Why would he want that, I suppose? He’s Finn Wilder, Richmond’s hottest Sports guy and local daredevil. He has legions of women who’d only be too happy to take your place. Those Finnatics are crazy bitches.”
I know Morgan is right. He’s friendly. Too friendly. He laughs when his Finnatics try to grab his ass, ask him to sign body parts, or try to kiss him. He almost encourages it, loving the attention. Don’t get me wrong. I’m immensely proud of him. He’s worked so hard in his career. But I have to share him with so many people. He even has his own Friday segment, The Wild Side with Finn Wilder. He participates in dares, games, and sports that many schools, professional teams, or any viewer challenges him to try. He loves the field part of his job but hates sitting at the anchor desk. It’s not where the action is. It can get crazy, though. Finn has come to my apartment covered in paint, food, and one strange time, feathers. But I love it when he’s amped from taping a segment or has just finished a live show. He usually pulls me into the shower to help wash him clean, which is a perk.
The crowd jumps to their feet again, and I snap my attention back to the race. Rod unceremoniously yanks me to my feet, and we both yell for Finn as his bike is the first to cross the finish line. Rod and I excitedly twirl to each other, and he high fives me, locking our hands above our heads.
“He won an amateur race for charity, not Olympic gold for the U.S.,” Morgan complains from the bench.
Rod leans over my shoulder, still clasping my hands above our heads. “Go back to hanging from a church tower, Morticia.”
“Why don’t you blow Finn? We all know you want to.”
I let go of Rod’s hands and turn around. “Morgan!”
“I’m not gay! Fuck, Morgasm!” An elderly woman in a floral print dress glares at Rod. I make an apologetic face at her before spinning around and slapping Rod’s stomach.
“Watch your language, Rod. Some people don’t like to hear that word.”
“Which word? Gay, fuck, or Morgasm?”
“Very funny, Ass Rod,” Morgan says as she checks her phone.
I say to Rod, “You know which word.”
He puts his hand on his chest. “I’m sorry, Hadders. I will apologize every time I say it. Should I just apologize after I say it, or should I sign a blanket waiver now?”
I giggle and poke his chest. “It’s the volume you use and where you say it. You, too, Morgan.” I look down at her as she studiously ignores me, checking her phone’s calendar. “You both are so careless and rude sometimes.”
“Shit! Don’t forget we’re damn badasses!” Rod shouts as the same old lady he offended earlier again passes by us. She frowns at him and shoots him the finger.
He throws his hands in the air. “What the fuck did I do?”