Friday night rolls around and I walk into the convenient store to meet Tony. Before I start setting up any of my painting things, I hug him.
I hug him long and hold him tightly. It feels nice to be so physically close to him and to feel his warm arms wrapped around my body in return.
I’m a firm believer that the guy should always be the one to make the first move when it comes to kissing... but when it comes to hugging, no one ever said anything about that.
When I pull away from him to end the hug, I notice that he’s blushing. Why does hugging Tony feel so much better than it ever felt to hug Doug?
His shift begins and he turns his focus to ringing up customers while I wait to see if anyone wants me to paint them. Riley and Ruthie walk in.
“Hey, girls,” I say waving at them.
“Hey,” they reply in unison.
“Is everything okay?” I ask.
“Can we talk to you outside?” Ruthie asks.
I follow the twins to the parking lot to listen to whatever they’ve got to say.
“You never texted us,” Riley says, crossing her arms. “It’s been weeks and we haven’t heard from you at all.”
“I know… I’m sorry. I’ve just been really focused on trying to save money which is why I’ve been here almost every night painting.”
“Yeah, we heard from everyone in town. We would have come earlier but we felt like you should have at least communicated with us that you have a new job.”
“It’s not an official job or anything like that,” I explain. “I’m just a handful of customers away from reaching my goal so that I can pay for a trip to Los Angeles.”
“Los Angeles?!” they exclaim in unison.
“Yeah.Tony has been encouraging me to get down there and maybe pursue a career in fashion.”
“Tony told you to do that?” Riley asks.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“It’s just the fact that he seems to know more about you then we do… and we’ve been your best friends for over a decade. Are you like… dating him now?”
“No… we’re just really good friends.”
“Oh my goodness, thank God!” Ruthie gasps.
“Would it be so horrible if I was?” I ask.
“Rumor has it you’ve just been making a fool of yourself, flirting with him at this loser store every day. We’re just making sure that isn’t true.”
“Okay… well, first of all this isn’t a ‘loser store.’ I’ve raised almost $1,000 dollars being here, thanks to him asking permission from his boss. And second of all, I think I do actually like Tony. So... I’m going to need both of you to stop being so judgmental and rude.”
“Nora, Nora, Nora,” Riley gripes. “You need to be focusing on how you’re going to win Doug back. Not how to deal with Tony.”
“Ew, why would I ever want to do that?” I ask, making a gagging face to express my disgust.
“That’s kind of the main reason why we decided to come over here and see you in action,” Ruthie says, with a slight attitude in her tone. “Truth is we’ve seen Doug and Trixie… out and about… together.”
“PDA included,” Riley adds.
They drop this bomb on me and stare at my facial expression for my reaction. I don't have one.
“I’m happy for him if he’s happy,” I say shrugging.
“You don’t care?” Riley asks. “I don’t believe you.”
“I’m not going to get pissed and let fumes blow out of my ears because my ex is dating someone new. He’s free to date whoever he wants.”
“But it’s Trixie!” Ruthie hisses at me.
I shrug and remain entirely calm. The twins seem annoyed that my reaction is so nonexistent. Truthfully I could care less about Doug and who he’s hooking up with-- Whether it’s Trixie or not. I’ve got bigger fish to fry and better dreams to pursue.
“Looks, you guys,” I finally say, “I’m sorry I haven’t stayed connected with you since I lost the pageant. And I appreciate you coming here to give me the heads up about Doug and Trixie. But I’m politely asking you both now to keep any negative energy and bad vibes away from me. I’m striving for self-improvement right now. I have no desire to be the same person I’ve been in the past. I have no interest in tripping over things as dumb as that.”
The twins nod their heads and look at each other with that look I know all too well. It means that as soon as I’m out of ear range, they’re going to be going hard talking smack about me.
I head back inside the store and march straight over to Tony without any regard. I plant a kiss on his mouth without giving him a second to think. The kiss we share is something passionate… unlike any kiss I ever shared with Doug. Waiting around for him to make the first move went out the window.
“Whoa,” he says, totally flustered after I pull away.
“When the store closes in an hour do you want to come spend the night at my place?” I ask him.
The whole ride home from the store, my body is filled with nervous waves of excitement. I never once felt this hyped to hook up with Doug. I hate that I’m comparing them so much but how can I not?
We get inside my house, go up to my room, and once we're in bed, Tony proves that I had no business wasting a year of my life with Doug.