The anticipation is killing him. Julian’s right leg jiggles up and down with anxiety as the tip of his foot taps against the marble floor of the restaurant. Sweat drips down his forehead and onto his face; he can taste the salt-water slip into his mouth. He groans in disgust and reaches for the napkin in front of him and then proceeds to wipe the liquid from his face with the fancy handkerchief. Along with the sweat falling from his face, a golf ball sized lump fills within his throat, causing him to choke and gag on his own saliva; he gets rid of this by reaching out his right hand wrapping his fingers against the stainless wine glass full of water.
The coolness of the water slips into his throat, along with a couple small cubes of ice. His lips close as his jaw moves up and down to crunch the ice into tiny pieces. He then sets the cup back onto the table while he swallows what’s left inside his throat. Finally, he checks his watch.
It’s 7:30. His meeting is late. He lets out a sigh of tension as his heart swells up and pounds furiously from behind his rib cage with worry, knowing that it’s been sometime since he’s seen her.
“Where is she?” He ponders. He checks his watch a second time, only a minute passes by. He bites his lower lip. Is she going to show up? Is she setting him up? “This was a mistake,” he whispers in doubt. “She isn’t coming”. He slowly begins to rise up from the chair.
“Julian!” His name is being called out from a distance. He turns his head and looks around to see where it comes from. Julian’s eyes catch the sight of Stephanie walking towards him and his heart stops in mid-beat.
She is dressed in a black dress that reaches pass her ankles. Her blonde hair is tied behind her back into a ponytail. Violet earrings dangle from her ears as she walks.
Julian stands to his feet, a smile of insecurity spreads across his lips as his friend reaches him. He embraces her and softly inhales her scent of roses and chocolate. The hug lasts only for three seconds. He stares at her a bit with lust before he realizes how he must look. He clears his throat and reaches for the chair across from his; he pulls it backwards and allows her to sit down. When she does rest within the seat, Julian returns to his own chair.
“So,” Stephanie says in her Southern accent. “What’d you want to talk to me about? It sounded urgent on the phone.” She gives a crook of a smile; the corner of her left lip twirls upwards.
This is it, Julian thinks to himself, don’t back down now. Tell her-tell her how you feel about her. “Stephanie,” his breaths escapes through his nostrils as his soft, yet slightly rasped voice penetrates through the air. “We have been best friends for how many years…twenty, right?”
“Just about,” Stephanie confirms with a nod of her head. Julian watches as her throat slides up and down.
“And during that time,” Julian continues with a shaken voice. “We have done some crazy-adventurous things. We were there for each other when our lives went to shit.” He lets out a coy smile.
Again, Stephanie acknowledges their history together, “Yeah, we have.”
He waves his hands in a gesture as he says, “Look, I’m just going to come out and say it.” Julian breaths in deeply and exhales just as deeply. His heart thumps wildly in his chest, like a rump rider trying to tame a horse. To conclude his words, he leans forward in his seat and speaks the question that he’s been dying to ask her ever since he’s known her.
“Would you go out with me?” He asks her confidently.
The words hit Stephanie like a bus. She isn’t prepared for this and doesn’t know how to take being asked this question from him. Her body gives a slight jolt backwards in surprise and her eyes enlarge as her mouth gapes, “Oh,” she manages to squeak out as her throat tightens; it feels as though a rope has wrapped around her neck with someone pulling it from behind her, slowly strangling her.
Stephanie licks her lips, not of lust or love, but out of extreme dislike. Her shoulders hunch as she sighs in conflict. “Julian,” she says as the last pieces of her sigh exits her mouth, “you’re a great friend and all…but…” She watches as Julian’s face turns from excitement and transforms into hurt. “I…can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” Her voice shakes and trembles. “I-I’m already dating someone.”
Julian’s heart shatters upon the rejection Stephanie has given him. His body is emotionless; he doesn’t move or bulge, he only sits there while he stares at her as his body shuts down completely. Apart of him wants to reach over and grab hold of her head and slam it down onto the table several times until she becomes unconscious. However, the other half of him knew that this was probably coming and doesn’t know what to do. He watches as Stephanie says nothing else and rises to her feet. She gives Julian a sly smile before she leaves, “I hope we can still be friends,” she tells him before she walks off, leaving him alone in the restaurant.
Julian’s brain just barely manages to send him signals to his body, telling him to turn around, which, in fact, he does. He turns his body around and watches as Stephanie walks out of the restaurant, and possibly, out of his life.
This was a mistake from the beginning; a voice tells him inside his head, you should never have asked her-now your friendship is ruined. Way to go, dumbass.
Once Stephanie leaves the building, Julian turns himself back around and reaches for the glass in front of him. He pulls the glass up to his lips and takes a long gulp, allowing the water to cool down his parched throat. He then stands and follows in Stephanie’s direction, leaving the restaurant.
Ashley sits peacefully against the cushion of her couch with a glass of red wine filled to the rim in her right hand. Her eyes focus against the television in front of her, which illuminates a light blue glow to fill the living room’s darkness. Although it is still early, Ashley sighs with exhaustion from the day’s troubles-both school and work keep her busy, as did her four-year old daughter, Lucy, and this is exactly what she needs in order to get her mind free from her troubles.
The television resumes playing some show that Ashley’s not really paying attention to as a vibration sound buzzes to her right. Her head shifts in the direction of her phone as she sighs and reaches for it. She grips the phone in her hand, glaring at the screen.
Ugh, she thinks while the three letter word spreads through her mind in annoyance. She leans her head against the back of the couch and her eyes stare at the ceiling. She doesn’t want to answer the phone, but she knows that if she doesn’t, it will continue to ring. Lowering her head, her thumb swipes against the green check mark on her screen and she quickly lifts the phone up to her ear, speaking into the receiver.
“Hello?” She asks.
“Hey, Ashley,” A voice resembles that of her classmate, Charlotte, who speaks on the other end of the line. “Let’s go out tonight.”
Ashley lets out a sigh of aggravation, “Charlotte,” Her breath escapes her lips as she twirls the glass in her hand; the red liquid swishes and splashes inside its container, “I’m exhausted. I’ve had a long day; all I want to do is sit down, watch TV and drink some wine.”
Charlotte puts on a begging tone as she pleads with Ashley, “Pleas-s-s-e?!” The hiss of her ‘S’ spreads out, sounding like a slithering snake as it hisses through the grass.
“Charlotte-” Ashley begins, however, her friend cuts her off with the continuation of her pleads.
“Please, please, please, please, please!” She sounds like a child begging their mother to buy them a piece of candy at a grocery store.
The annoying pleads continue on and on. Finally, Ashley has enough of her friend’s begging and decides to give her what she wants, “Okay,” her breaths falls through her nostrils, “you win-we’ll go out tonight.” On the other end of the line, her friend shrieks with joy; the screams are so loud that Ashley has to pull her phone away from her ear in hopes that it doesn’t ruin her hearing. Once the screaming stops, Ashley returns her phone to her ear and asks, “Where do you want to go tonight?”
“There’s a club that just opened a few weeks ago that I’ve been dying to go to,” Charlotte says, “we can go there.”
Ashley rubs her forehead, “Alright,” she confirms.
“Great! I’ll pick you up in a half hour or so,” Charlotte tells her. Before she hangs up, she adds, “Oh, and wear something sexy!” Then the phone goes silent.
Ashley removes the phone from her ear and stares at the glass in her hand. “Something sexy,” she repeats the instructions given to her. Ashley places the rim of the glass up against her lips and parts them; her hand tilts upwards and the wine flows into her mouth, swallowing it into her throat.
A few seconds later, when the glass is nearly empty, Ashley begins to dial a number. As the phone rings, Ashley places the phone back up to her ear.
“Hello?” A female voice responds; this one sounds younger, almost adolescent.
“Heather, hey, it’s me,” Ashley speaks.
“Oh, hey, Ms. Bonnet.” The younger woman’s voice greets her with enthusiasm.
“Hi,” She returns and gives the reason of her calling, “listen, I know it’s late and your day off, but would you mind watching Lucy for me for a few hours? A friend of mine wants me to go out with her.”
“I don’t know, Ms. Bonnet.” Heather begins to make excuses, “I have a test to study for and-”
“I’ll pay you double what I normally pay you.” Ashley negotiates.
“Um,” Heather thinks the proposal over and then replies, “Okay, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Thanks Heather.” Ashley gives her gratitude to her babysitter.
“Not a problem,” Heather replies and then hangs up.
Twenty minutes, should give her enough time. Ashley stands to her feet and takes another sip of her wine, finishing it. She places the empty glass down against the coffee table and heads to her room in hopes she can get ready before Heather and Charlotte arrives.
Twenty minutes later and Ashley finishes dressing herself in a dark red, skin tight dress with a strap which hangs diagonal from her left shoulder. The ends of her hair are in a curl and her eyes are bland in mascara. Ashley is in the middle of brushing her teeth when she hears a knock at the front door. She finishes up her brushing and rinses her mouth with water as the knocking continues against her front door for a few more seconds.
While Ashley hops on one foot, trying to get her high heels on, she walks through her living room and towards her front door. Ashley’s right arm reaches out and her painted fingernails grip hold of the doorknob. She turns her wrist and pulls the door open.
A seventeen year old now stands in front of Ashley as the door opens. She’s a chubby girl with a fair skin complexion along with brown hair that reaches her lower back and green eyes. She’s dressed in a blouse, jeans and a jacket.
“Hi, Ms. Bonnet,” She greets her employer with passion, “O-o-o, don’t you look sexy.”
“You think so?” Ashley asks the teenager as she looks at herself, judging her own appearance.
“Yeah! All the guys are going to gawk at you!” Heather compliments.
Ashley smiles and then clears her throat. “Right,” she nods and allows the teenager into her home. Once Heather is inside, she turns and gives out her instructions, “Well, Lucy’s already asleep; she shouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night, but if she does-”
“I know what to do Ms. Bonnet,” Heather smiles and waves her off. “Go and have fun.”
Ashley nods her head just the moment she hears her phone ring. She sighs and then smiles once again, facing the babysitter. “Alright, well, have a good night and thanks again, Heather, I owe you one.”
With that, Ashley passes Heather, who closes the door behind her. While she makes her way down the hall, Ashley pulls out her cell phone from her purse and answers it, “Yeah, I’m on my way down.” She says and then enters an elevator a few doors down from her apartment.
Not too long after, Ashley arrives at the entrance of her apartment building and is Charlotte greets her just outside. She has a smile on her face.
“Well,” she chuckles, “Don’t you look like a fine piece of ass?”
“Nice to see you, too,” Ashley replies and embraces Charlotte.
The two of them pull away from each other and Charlotte grins.
“Come on, babe, let’s go raise some hell.”
The two climb into the back of a yellow taxi cab, which speeds off into the city.