I think I’m in love.
I think this guy might be the one I’m going to marry.
Yes, I know I say that a lot. In fact, Mia says it’s my catchphrase. But obviously I was wrong all the other times before. I was too young and naïve back then. Now I’m a mature woman and I can look at this guy and absolutely KNOW he’s the one.
If you could see him, you would agree. He is, for starters, absolutely gorgeous. He has blond hair that practically glowing in the dim light of this tiny Mexican bar in the east village. A face that looks like he ought to be the latest teen heartthrob. And his body… well, I can’t see all of it because he’s sitting down, but the part I see looks pretty amazing. If you knew me, you’d know he was just my type.
And he’s looking at me! Me!
At least, I think he’s looking at me. He’s at least looking in my general direction. I try to play it cool as I sip my strawberry margarita, trying not to seem like I’m staring, although I obviously am. He’s definitely looking in my direction, but he might be looking at my best friend Mia, who is sitting across from me. Mia is prettier than I am, objectively, even though she laughs at me whenever I say that. She’s really beautiful, very tall and slender, like a model or something. However, I get approached by men much more often than she does. I’ve tried to figure out why that is, and I think it might be partially because I’m a blonde and Mia is a brunette, and somehow men are just drawn to blondes. But also I think that when I go out, I am always open to being approached. Mia doesn’t want men to talk to her when she’s out with the girls and I think she gives off that vibe.
“What are you staring at?” Mia asks me, because she knows me really well.
“Ten o’clock,” I say.
Mia very casually tilts her head. She is amazing at taking a quick look without staring or gawking. It’s her greatest talent. “I assume you mean the one with blond hair.”
“Of course,” I say. There is another guy at the table who is cute but not nearly as handsome as my future husband. “So what do you think?”
“Ugh,” she says.
“What?” I cry.
Mia shrugs and goes back to her own margarita. She chose mango. “He looks like a douchebag.”
“What?” How did I know Mia would say that? Every time I like a man, she says something negative about him. Of course, most of them ended up deserving it. I admit, I’ve dated some bastards in the past. But I don’t see anything about this man that screams out “douchebag.” I think Mia is just being difficult.
She shrugs again. “That’s just my opinion, Libby.”
“You can’t just say something like that,” I protest. “Why does he look like a douchebag? He looks completely nice to me.”
Mia glances back at him. “Okay, fine. So look at his hair, for starters. Bleached blond. What man colors his hair?”
I gaze at him again. Now he’s saying something to his friend and he throws his head back in laughter. He has a beautiful smile. “It looks natural to me.”
“Fine, so what if he colors his hair? Give me something else.”
She doesn’t even hesitate. “Look at his drink. It’s green and frothy. Only douchy men order drinks that look like that.”
“It’s true,” Mia says. “Look at his friend. His friend is drinking a nice, normal, non-douchy beer. And has normal non-douchy brown hair. I say, go for the friend.”
Mia isn’t convincing me of anything. And at this moment, me and my future husband are making some serious eye contact. He’s practically eye-fucking me. There’s no doubt anymore that he’s looking at me and not Mia.
He talks to the waitress and a few minutes later, another strawberry margarita has been plunked down on my table. “From him,” the waitress says, nodding in the direction of the guy. I look at Mia and let out a little squeal.
“Is there any chance I can convince you not to go over there?” Mia says.
“But look how sweet he is! He bought me a drink!”
Mia rolls her eyes. “Libby, can I remind you of your history with men? Exhibit A: Damien. Exhibit B: Roger. Exhibit C…”
“All right, all right!”
Mia has a point, I suppose. My dating history, especially lately, has been pretty dismal. Lots of men who seemed just fabulous when I first met them: clever, sweet, attentive, and of course, incredibly handsome. And all the relationships exploded in my face. Well, it might be a bit overdramatic to say they exploded. But let’s just say the guys turned out to be nowhere near as wonderful as they initially seemed. Mia claims that I have a pattern of dating players who have no chance of actually settling down.
I have to admit, my self-esteem has been in the mud lately after getting dumped five straight times in a row. I look in the mirror and wonder what it is that I’m doing wrong. I’m attractive, I think. At least, I am when I get dressed up like now, in a dark red dress that comes down to my knees but has a slit that goes all the way up to my hip. Maybe I look like crap in the morning? Maybe my morning breath is intolerable? Or what if I’m just… boring?
Great, now I’m feeling insecure about going over there.
I take a long sip of my margarita, and my dream man is giving me an incredibly sexy smile. I need to go over there. I can’t let my potential future husband walk out of my life. Mia is surely wrong about him.
“I’m going over there,” I say.
Mia sighs. “It’s your life.”
“Would you come with me?”
Actually, I’m relieved Mia doesn’t want to come with me. If she did, there was a chance that the guy might prefer her to me. And maybe up close, Mia would decide he wasn’t such a douche after all. I hate competition.
“Do I have lipstick on my teeth?” I ask.
“I wouldn’t tell you if you did,” Mia says, suppressing a smile.
I smooth out my hair with my left hand and pick up my margarita with my right. I take a deep breath and plaster a sexy smile on my face as I sashay across the room to talk to my new boyfriend.
And god, he is much more gorgeous up close than he was from across the room. His skin is deliciously tanned and he’s got bulging muscles in his chest and arms. Mia might have been right about his hair being colored, but I think that loads of guys dye their hair and it isn’t necessarily a sign of anything awful.
I notice that the other guy at the table (who is also cuter than I thought, but still doesn’t ring my bell) has the same disapproving look that Mia wore. I wonder if he just got through telling his friend that I was a bitch and he shouldn’t get involved with me because I had dyed blond hair. I wouldn’t have given the other guy at the table a second look, except that I notice as I come closer, that the guy is sitting in a wheelchair. I’ve never known anyone my age who was in a wheelchair, at least nobody normal.
“Thank you for the drink,” I say in my throatiest, sexiest voice.
The blond guy raises his eyebrows at me. “You’re welcome, love,” he says. A bonus: he has the most amazing British accent. It’s so refined and sexy. And he called me love! I’ve never been called that before! I love the English. “Except the drink wasn’t from me.”
I stare at him. “What?”
“It was from Will,” he says, gesturing at his buddy in the wheelchair.
No, it can’t be. I didn’t come all the way across the room to talk to some (no offense) crippled guy. I feel all the blood drain out of my face. I look at the guy in the wheelchair, Will, who appears just as horrified as I feel. Finally, the awful silence is broken. “He’s joking,” Will says in a flat, irritated voice. He has a boring American accent, much like my own.
The blond guy laughs like he’s just made the funniest joke of the year. I don’t know whether to be angry or relieved. So I just stand there awkwardly.
“I’m sorry, love,” he says, redeeming himself with that silky accent. “Please have a seat. My name is Jude. Jude Sampson.”
Jude. Oh god, I love that name. Like Jude Law, who is also gorgeous. I can pretend I’m dating Jude Law! “I’m Libby,” I say, sliding into the spare seat at their table. Their table is actually only for two people, but I guess the chair is the one Will would have used if he didn’t come with his own seat.
“Lovely to meet you, Libby,” Jude says. Then he takes my hand and, I swear to god, he kisses it. I’ve never in my life had my hand kissed by a man who was trying to hit on me. I’m blown away.
Jude looks over at Will, who is mid-eyeroll. “You’re being very rude, Will. Say hello to Libby.”
“Hello, Libby,” Will says. Our eyes meet for a second and I see him shake his head almost imperceptibly. I wonder what that means.
“Hello, Will,” I say. I wonder if I can drag Mia over here to take up Will’s attention. They can bond over their disapproval of us. I turn back to Jude, “So do you guys come here often? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here before.”
“We’re first timers,” Jude says. “Will and I work over in midtown as barristers.”
I frown. “Barristers?”
“We’re lawyers,” Will clarifies.
“We’ve known each other since law school,” Jude says, flinging an arm around Will’s shoulders. “Will’s my best mate. We share a flat on the upper west side.”
“An apartment,” Will says, apparently having taken on the role of our official English-to-English translator.
“And what do you do, Libby?” Jude asks, staring deep into my eyes. His are an amazing hazel color. I’m falling deeper in love by the second.
“I work as an administrative assistant,” I say.
Now Jude looks at a loss. “Pardon?”
“She’s a secretary,” Will says.
I stare at Will and for the first time since I’ve sat down, he’s actually grinning. Asshole. He’s probably bitter because he’s in a wheelchair.
Anyway, I’m not a secretary. My boss Harvey is a big cheese in the company and I’m his assistant. He wouldn’t be able to find his left testicle without my help. Yes, I do typing for him and answer phones and I guess pick up his laundry, but I also sit in with him on very important meetings and make suggestions that I think would benefit the company. Harvey respects my opinions. Well, sometimes. Occasionally.
Okay, my job sucks.
“A secretary is an important job,” Jude says. “I don’t know what on earth I’d do without my secretary Nola.”
Will mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like, “Hire a prostitute.” I pretend not to hear it or to notice the look that Jude shoots his friend. It’s obvious at this point that Will doesn’t like me any more than Mia likes Jude.
Speaking of Mia, I see her out of the corner of my eye dropping money on our table and walking over to us. I know before she opens her mouth what she’s going to tell me, “Libby, I’m going to head home.”
“Oh, don’t!” I cry. I instantly feel guilty. Mia and I haven’t had a good girls’ night out in a while and I’d been looking forward to seeing her all week. I suppose I have no one to blame but myself. “Won’t you join us?”
Jude’s face lights up. He obviously thinks Mia is very attractive. “Yes, please join us!”
Mia smiles and shakes her head. “I don’t think so.”
“Then… I’ll come with you!” I say, hoping she’ll turn me down.
Mia shakes her head again and I breathe a sigh of relief. “I’ll call you next week, sweetie.”
As Mia turns to leave the bar, I can’t help but notice Jude checking out her ass. Alarm bells start going off in my head. We haven’t even made out yet and already he’s eying other women. Maybe Mia was right. Maybe Jude is just like the others and this relationship is inevitable heartbreak.
But then Jude turns his attention back to me, flashes a thousand watt smile, and I silence the alarm bells. This man is gorgeous. How could someone who looks like that really be a bad person? “I hope you’re not leaving any time soon,” he murmurs.
My face flushes because I’m always just a bit embarrassed whenever a man very blatantly comes onto me. When I’m around a really incredible looking guy, I revert to being an awkward teenager.
“I think I’m going to head out too,” Will says as he downs the last of his beer, and I think, “Thank god.”
“But we haven’t found a girl for you yet,” Jude protests. He adds, “Anyway, we haven’t finished celebrating properly.”
“Oh, what are you celebrating?” I ask politely.
“Will here got a bloody fantastic promotion,” Jude says, beaming. “And he deserved it. He’s a genius, this one is.”
“I’m kind of tired though,” Will says. His eyes meet mine for an instant and I realize that the only reason he’s leaving is because of me.
Jude doesn’t try to stop him again. “Would you like me to hail you a cab?”
“I think I can handle it,” Will says. He backs away from the table and I catch a full length glimpse of his wheelchair. I sat in a wheelchair once when I was in the hospital having my appendix removed, but this chair is different from the one at the hospital. It’s smaller and sportier. Will catches me staring and this time I blush really red. I’m sure by now he completely despises me.
The bar is crowded, but Will squeezes his way to the door by grabbing onto tables and chairs to propel himself forward. There’s a step at the front door and he does a little wheelie before bouncing over it. And then he’s gone.
“It’s impressive how well he maneuvers, isn’t it?” Jude says.
“Yes,” I say, blushing again. I don’t want him to think I’m the kind of rude person who stares at the disabled guy.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Jude says. “Everyone stares at him. Believe me, he’s used to it.” He puts his arm along the back of my seat and my heart speeds up a notch. “Anyway, enough about Will.”
He’s close to me. So close I can smell the alcohol on his breath. I love that smell. It’s the smell that’s kicked off a thousand passionate hook-ups and that alone is enough to get me excited. I feel a throbbing in my underwear and I cross my legs.
“I’m going to freshen up my drink,” Jude says. “Could I get you another?”
I look down and sure enough, I’ve nearly drained by second margarita. I can already see where this evening is going. Jude will invite me over to his place and I’ll go because I’ve had too much to drink. Also, I don’t have any insurance. For example, when women go out and a date and they want to make sure they won’t go too far with the guy, the best surefire method is not to shave their legs. No girl with hairy legs would dare go to bed with a new guy. But of course, I didn’t know I’d be meeting irresistible Jude and I wanted to wear my new dress out, so my legs are as smooth as a baby’s bottom. So instead of playing hard to get, I’m going to give Jude exactly what he wants on the first night I meet him.
“Sure,” I say. “Make it mango.”
All right, yes, I will have sex with Jude. But this time will be different. He won’t be a bastard. He’ll be there in the morning.
I wake up in the morning and Jude isn’t there.
For a moment, I feel completely disoriented like I always do when I wake up in the bed of a man I just met. Then the night before comes rushing back to me and I feel slightly ill as I realize I just slept with a complete stranger who didn’t even have the courtesy to be there in the morning when I woke up. Even thought it’s his fucking apartment. Stupid as it sounds, I start to feel a lump in my throat. Why do I always do this? Or better yet, why do I always let them do this to me?
I sit up in bed and rub my eyes, taking in Jude’s room. The whole place has the same musky odor of his cologne. It’s fairly tidy, but very obviously a man’s room, even without the boxers slung over the edge of the dresser. It’s all brown wood, nothing too colorful or stylish. I’ve woken up in a dozen rooms just like this one.
I hug my knees to my chest as I try to remember the details of last night. After Jude and I finished another round of drinks, we hopped into a cab and ended up at his apartment, where we polished off the better half of a bottle of chardonnay. Oh, my poor head. Yes, anyhow, we were quite wasted at that point but I still very clearly remember Jude’s hand sliding up the inside of my thigh, and not only did I not push him away, but I was quite eager for him to proceed.
And I remember the sex too. I can’t say it was bad sex, because it wasn’t. It was good sex and I could tell Jude was very experienced. But it was a little light on the foreplay, although I can’t really blame him considering how drunk I was.
I force myself to get out of bed, my head throbbing with each step. I stumble into Jude’s bathroom, although the light is so painful that I have to flick it back off almost immediately. I lift my eyes and stare at my dim reflection in the mirror. I look like a train wreck. My eyes are bloodshot with nice big bags under them. My hair is not only a fright, but I can see that my roots need a touch up. I run my hand under the hot water and smooth it out, trying to at least not look like someone the children will run from on the street.
God, I need a cup of coffee.
I throw open the door to Jude’s bedroom, deciding that even if he didn’t think I was good enough to date again, I was at least going to get a free coffee and maybe breakfast out of this. Okay, maybe not breakfast… my head hurts too much to cook. But I’m sure I could at least put together a pot of coffee.
I march into the kitchen and stop short when I see that I’m not alone. Jude’s roommate Will, who I had completely forgotten in the passion of the night before, is in the kitchen, cooking something in a stove that’s lowered to a height that accommodates him in his wheelchair. He’s dressed in an undershirt that reveals some surprisingly impressive muscles in his upper body, then sweatpants over his legs, and his feet are bare. He obviously recently woke up and his hair is mussed.
My first thought is, “Will isn’t half bad looking. It’s a shame he’s in that chair.”
My second thought is, “Christ, what he’s cooking smells amazing.”
My third thought is, “Shit, I’m in my underwear.”
I don’t have a chance to absorb that final thought before Will catches sight of me. His eyes widen as he gets a good look at me in my bra and thong. I might have stared at him a bit yesterday, but that is nothing compared to the way he’s looking at me right now. “Uh, Libby?”
I’m horrified. I’m blushing so bad that even my toes are pink. “I’m going to, um, go put on my dress.”
“Good idea,” he says.
I sit in Jude’s bedroom in my dress for at least five minutes, too mortified to go back out there. I haven’t been that embarrassed since fifth grade, when a sidewalk grate blew my skirt up in front of my classmates, a la Marilyn Monroe except not nearly so sexy. The worst thought is that maybe Will thought I was doing it to flirt with him, crazy as that sounds. Why else would I flounce around his apartment in my underwear? But then again, it’s not like I was entirely naked. Really, it was no worse than if I were wearing a bathing suit.
I work up my nerve and stride back into the kitchen like nothing had happened. Will looks up again when he sees me and he grins. “Let me guess, you forgot I lived here.”
“Something like that,” I mumble. I locate a rubber band in my purse and pull my hair back into a slightly messy ponytail. “Anyway, I’ve got to get going, but could I trouble you for a cup of coffee?”
Will pulls what appears to be an omelet off the stove. It smells completely amazing and my stomach growls. “I made a pot of coffee,” he says. “Help yourself.”
Sure enough, there’s a pot of coffee on the counter. I grab a coffee cup and nearly spill coffee everywhere in my eagerness.
“You need cream?” Will asks. “Sugar?”
“I drink it black,” I say. I grab a second cup, “You?”
I watch Will pouring the eggs onto two plates. Dare I hope that the second plate is for me? “Are you… expecting company?”
Will grins. “The second plate is for you, obviously.”
I love Will right now.
He takes one of the plates and places it on his lap, then puts the coffee I poured for him between his legs. “Watch, I’m probably going to scald myself,” he says. But he manages to get everything to the dining table without incident.
I try Will’s eggs. They are Amazing. These are the best eggs I’ve ever had in my life. I want to have sex with these eggs. I was wrong about Jude—these eggs are going to be my future husband.
“These eggs are fantastic!” I say, gesturing wildly.
“Is there a secret ingredient?”
I stare at him. “Seriously?”
He shrugs. “You’re hungover, right? Beer eggs are the perfect antidote to a hangover. I always make ‘em for Jude’s...” And then he stops himself mid-sentence. I don’t know exactly what he was going to say, but I can figure out the gist of it. Jude does this a lot. He picks up girls at bars, has a quick fuck, then Will makes them eggs in the morning and sends them on their way. I’ve just become one of a long string of one night stands. Suddenly, I don’t feel so hungry anymore.
“So,” I cough. “Jude told you to make me eggs?”
Will stares at me for a minute, shifting the beer-coated eggs around on his plate. “Actually,” he says, “Jude told me to tell you he’d like to take you to dinner tonight.”
For a second, I’m too shocked to respond. Jude wants to take me to dinner on a Saturday night. I had convinced myself this was a one-night stand. Suddenly, I find myself grinning like an idiot. “Really?”
Will nodded. “Yeah, he had to work today, but he asked me if you’d meet him here at eight.”
“And when were you planning on telling me this, you bastard?” I say, a huge smile still plastered on my face.
“I thought I’d torture you a little first,” Will says, now grinning along with me. “Boy, you really like him, huh?”
I blush and lower my eyes. “I… I guess.”
“Mind if I ask… why?”
I didn’t expect that question. I blush deeper red, cursing the fact that my pale complexion always manages to give me away. I know why I like Jude, but I also know that if I say it out loud, it will sound incredibly shallow. “I… I don’t know. I just do.”
“It’s okay,” Will says. “If I were a woman, I bet I’d be in love with him too.” He adds, “Just… make him wear a condom, okay?”
I laugh and dig back into my beer eggs. Damn, these are good.
To be continued...