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Taking the Fall(3)

By:Alexa Riley

Maybe the romance novels have me jaded. I always thought my first and only would be Carter. I know now that’s not happening so I’ve been trying to move on, but not one person has sparked even a fraction of the feelings I had for him. Who am I kidding? Feelings I have for him is more like it. No matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I push, it still ends up back with him. It pisses me off. I started this new life to move forward but most of the time I feel like I’m just going in circles.

Maybe it’s time I stopped living in my books and pushed myself harder. A sexy night at the Kat House could be just what I need. Let loose and live a little. It’s why I came here, isn’t it? To be free. Maybe even a little wild. I should just get my first time over with. Just rip it off like a Band-Aid. I need to take a page from Jeanette’s book and have a no-strings, sex-filled night, aided by a little liquid courage.

It’s odd I’ve never even thought about doing it with Justin. I enjoyed the easiness of our relationship. I’m comfortable around him and that makes me feel safe for some reason. I know he can’t hurt me emotionally and I know if he ever dumped me or moved on I would pull through easily enough. I would miss his friendship but it wouldn’t be a love lost.

We’ve gotten hot and heavy a few times but I always pull back. Just when things start to go to the next level, I push him away. I’m going to have to meet him for lunch and end things. It’s not right leading him on when I don’t think this can go anywhere. I know he wanted the whole marriage and babies thing because we’ve talked about it before. I want that too, but I want it with a man I can’t live without. A part of me loves that Justin is so laid-back and doesn’t push me, but another, bigger part of me thinks I can’t keep going on like this. Maybe I should take the coward’s way out and just send an e-mail…no, I can’t do that.

Glancing back at the clock, I see I need to get a move on so I’m not late for work. I grab my work bag and head out the door without packing a bag for tonight. If I want to start making changes, maybe it won’t be so bad to see what Jeanette has planned for me. If I don’t pack a bag then at least I’ll have to wear what she brings, and there will be no backing out.

When I get to work, the day seems to fly by with seemingly endless groups of students and reading sessions. I try to set up a lunch date to meet with Justin but he tells me he’s too busy with work and that we’ll talk later. After clearing out the last bunch of students and locking up the library for the day, Jeanette drags me into the bathroom for a quick make-over.

She puts me in a black minidress and I protest that everyone can see my underwear if I bend over. Her only suggestion is that I should take them off. Well then, I guess I’ll just risk people seeing my underwear because ditching my panties is not an option. The dress fits me like a second skin and I feel totally exposed.

We leave our cars at the library and grab a taxi to a local steakhouse. Jeanette has somehow snagged us a last-minute reservation and we’re swiftly seated. Having skipped lunch to play the piano over at the high school, I’m starving and hope that the steak I’m about to devour will fit into this dress with me.

All through dinner I fidget with the dress. The only thing that makes me feel comfortable is my footwear—five-inch spiked heels. They’re the only things that feel like me, at least. I’m going to have to sneak to the bathroom before we head to the Kat House and maybe tone down the make-up Jeanette put on me. I swear my dark-red lipstick is screaming “I love to suck cock. Does anyone have one I can use?”

“Stop fidgeting, Lays,” Jeanette admonishes, taking a long sip of her cosmo. “You look sexy as all fuck.”

Maybe that’s the key, I think, grabbing my own cosmo and shooting it back. I need to relax and enjoy myself. I relish the burn and buzz of the alcohol but something is bothering me. I’m not sure if I’m fidgety because of the dress or because I feel like someone is watching me. I’ve had the feeling for a few weeks now, but lately it’s been constant. I can’t help but think my father has found me. I’ve done my best to hide my tracks using a few tricks I learned from the boys back home. I kept my first name but I thought it would be hard for people to track me with just that alone. I considered dyeing my hair to change my look when I first ran away. My red hair always seems to attract attention, but whenever I looked in the mirror it reminded me of my mother. She might have been a shit mom but it made me feel a little bit closer to her.

I always thought it was a matter of time until someone found me—either my father or someone looking to use me against him. That’s the reason my father says he kept me so tightly locked away. He did it because he has so many enemies who could use me as leverage against him. As the years have passed, nothing has happened and I’ve started to think he either gave up or he just didn’t care enough to find me. Maybe he even thought it was for the best I was gone.

“Sorry! I just feel like a slut,” I say, tugging my hem down my thigh once more.

“Hey bitchness, that’s my dress you’re wearing,” Jeanette responds, giving me a little smirk.

“Yeah, but it looks longer on your skinny ass whereas my size twelve sucks up some of the important ass-covering length.”

Jeanette snorts and sips at her drink. She’s the definition of beautiful. She’s the picture in your head when you hear the word ‘model’—long, flowing, perfectly tousled blonde hair, sun-kissed skin that makes her aquamarine eyes almost glow. She makes men take notice when she walks into a room. She looks wholesome and sweet when she’s dressed casually, but tonight she’s done up like she’s about to pound the runway. I’m not sure how she pulls off that tiny waist because the girl could out-eat me any day of the week. Some girls get all the luck.

“Nothing wrong with showing a little slut now and again, Lays. It’s good for you. What do you think Justin would say if he could see you right now?”

I know if Justin saw me like this he would probably give me a scolding about what is and isn’t appropriate attire. I hear it about my shoes on the regular from him. I could be covered from neck to ankle and he would say my shoes were too suggestive. No way was I giving up the shoes. This should have been a red flag months ago and nipped us in the ass. He and Jeanette never really got along either. She thinks there’s something slimy about him and always loves to give him a quick jab about something or other. It’s gotten so bad that I don’t ever invite them to the same events anymore. They’re like oil and water—it’s just never going to work.

“It doesn’t really matter what Justin thinks. I was planning on ending it today, but he couldn’t meet me for lunch to give me the chance.”

“Oh shit! So you’re a single bitch tonight! Just when I didn’t think this day could get any better. You and me, both single and heading to the Kat House. Lays, it’s going to be one kickass night,” she chirps giddily, a giant smile on her face.

“Hate to burst the bubble but didn’t you hear when I said I didn’t get to break up with him?”

Snatching my phone from the table, she fiddles with it for a moment before dropping it back down.

“Well now you have,” she says with a grin.

“No, you didn’t!” I exclaim and grab my phone. Yep. She did it. She sent a text to Justin: “Sorry, this isn’t working.” She even added a winky face at the end. I don’t know why I’m shocked.

“A winky face? Really?”

“Hey, just trying to soften the blow a little. I felt like a winky face could do that,” she says, nodding as if this is a known fact. “Lays, really, Justin being out of your life is a good thing. He wasn’t the right fit for you and I’m telling you something weird is up with him.”

“You’re just saying that because you don’t like him,” I reply.

“No, I’m saying that because the man has a stick up his ass, but can’t seem to get his own stick into you.”

I blush because the elderly couple sitting at the table next to us begins staring at us in shock. Jeanette gives them a wink.

“I’m just not ready yet,” I whisper, hoping not to draw more attention to us.

“Lays, come on now. You’re twenty-four years old. The problem is he isn’t working for you. You two have been together for over a year. A year. If you still haven’t given it up to him by now you’re not going to. So let it go.”

I know she’s right. It’s time to move on and try something different. Staying with him just because he can’t hurt me is actually hurting me. Sometimes not caring is just as bad as caring.

“I know. I wish I could be more like you.”

“Gotta look at men like I do, Lays. They’re only good for one thing, and 90% of the time I either have to tell them how to do it or finish the job myself.”

Rolling my eyes, I motion for the waiter to bring another round. I notice a man dressed in all black staring at us as he leans up against the bar and that uneasy feeling returns.

“Hey, let’s finish this round and head out,” I say, glancing back to see if the man is still staring. He is.