“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 being a tad dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Not a chance. I should’ve stopped by an urgent care on the way here and got myself a damned tetanus shot.” I nudge her away and she scornfully asks, “Where’s your man anyway?”
I impatiently state the obvious, “He’s racing on his dirt bike, Morgan. Where in the hell has your mind been all this time?” I sigh as I crane my neck to see if I can see him anywhere. It was such a mistake bringing my best friend with me. She definitely 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, is participating 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, not to mention the event is being covered by the very same Richmond TV station where he is their star sportscaster. When he’s not risking his life.
“I’ve been here. I’ve just been distracted by Ma and Pa Kettle over here 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 like 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’s her personal trainer, as well as her 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. You know what I’m talking about.” 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 look over at her to see she’s holding a silver compact. “Now to find my lipstick.”
“I have a couple questions. One: Why do you have a purse that big if you can never find anything in it? Two: Why do you need lipstick at a racing event?” Morgan’s mouth drops open and she gives me a look that’s a cross between incredulity and disgust. She rolls her eyes and hands me the mirror.
“Here, hold this. I can’t believe you actually 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 and gives me a roaming, disapproving look. “You should try it sometime.”
Miffed, I automatically look down at my clothes. I’m wearing a light blue t-shirt with small, dark blue sequins scattered throughout, and blue jeans. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I ask, confusion painting my tone.
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 towards her purse. I tug at 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 #35 yet.
“I see him often.” I grab her purse and put it on the other side of me.
“I want you to tell me what you mean by that statement. You can’t just say that and expect me to not want you to 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 people around her with a wave of her hand, her orchid nail polish shining in the sunlight. She lifts up 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 be dressing up your equally hot, little body so it doesn’t look like he’s dating a 12 year-old.” My mouth pops open at her observation. “You also could use some 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 the sound of roaring dirt bikes drown out 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 take our seats 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,” she poses dubiously.
“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 isn’t going to commit to you or give you the children that you want. You’re 33 years-old. Won’t he be 34 in a few months?” I swing my head back to her and nod. “His sperm will last forever. You, on the other hand,” she raises an eyebrow and shakes her head sadly, “are in a time crunch. Those eggs of yours aren’t going to 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 his answer will be.” He’d reject me without a second thought.
“Well, you have your answer then. If he said no to your proposal, then you would break up with him and move on.”
“With whom? I’m in love with Finn. He’s all I want.” I stare at her waiting for her to elaborate, her dark 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 a 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 shake my head furiously at her. “I won’t do that to him. I know he loves me. He just…” I aimlessly look to the track as we wait for them to finish the race.
She finishes my sentence with what I was not going to say. “He’s just 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, Hadley. Your eggs are going to 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 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 bees’ wax. Are you going to cast 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 starts to protest, but I sit back and put my arms out to restrain the both of them. “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? I was going to say 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 both, yet it does get 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 one of the partners, Val Dryden, while Rod assists Amos Vaughn. Rod’s first name is in fact, Greg, but nobody has called him that since Morgan started dubbing him as Rod shortly after being hired as a paralegal. 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 innocently, 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, before dropping it. 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. By the time we arrived, I was crying from the severe aching radiating from my wrist. We stopped at the desk and my dad helped me fill out a couple forms before we took our seats in the rear of the room. While I was leaning on my dad as I waited to be called, I noticed an extremely handsome, yet oddly 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 definitely knew the pain I was experiencing. I was positive he thought I was making a bigger spectacle of myself than I should’ve been.
Even through 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, nightly 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 landed hard against a tree, breaking his arm. He said we were kindred spirits. When I was getting my cast, he surprisingly got my phone number from my dad. He even made sure to check on me. And not just once, either.
“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. Her dream is to marry Finn before he gets her pregnant.” I shrink, afraid of how old-fashioned that makes me sound. Morgan must sense me freaking out because she puts her arm around me and rests her head on my shoulder. She says softly, “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 a while. 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 had told me he wanted to keep me away from beds, couches and the backseats of our cars because he wouldn’t be able to control himself. That thought alone almost made me rip his clothes off on several occasions.
I contend, “I’m right here, you know. You two are talking around me like I’m not even here.” Rod grips my chin, turning my head towards 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 at him.
“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.” Right now, we each live on opposite sides of Richmond, so we don’t even see each other much during the week because the drive to work is long for at least one of us.
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 at his unanticipated merriment.
“You said hard-on.” Rod begins to giggle more than I usually do in any given situation.
I grumble, “I’m done talking to you.” I redirect my attention away from him and look out to the track.
I ask either one who will seriously answer me, “How do we overcome our issues by just moving in together? Our impasse will be glaring us in the face all the time. That’ll only make our problems even bigger. I want to live with him so much, but I don’t feel right about it at the moment.”
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’re always going to be there, not wanting anything more than to be his adoring little girlfriend. No solid commitment. No ring on your finger, or even his for that matter. You know he’s a big flirt. He has nothing showing the world that 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 to get to where he is in his career. But, I have to share him with anyone who recognizes him. It doesn’t help that 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 absolutely is in love with the field part of his job. He hates when he has to sit at the desk. It’s not where the action is. He loves being involved with people and sports. It can get crazy, though. Finn has come straight over to my apartment covered in paint, food, and one strange time, feathers. I do have to say that I love when he comes over to my place after his show and 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 start boisterously yelling for Finn as his bike is the first to cross the finish line. Rod and I excitedly twirl to each other and he animatedly 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 loudly from the bench.
Rod leans over my shoulder, still clasping my hands above our heads. “Go back to hanging from a church tower, Morticia. Oh, never mind. You’d burn a church to the ground!”
“Why don’t you go blow Finn as soon as we can go see him, Rod. 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 that covers me prior to even saying it?”
I giggle and poke his chest. “I don’t care that you say the word, Rod. I say it. 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 surprisingly, shoots him the finger.
He throws his hands in the air. “What the fuck did I do?”