“Oh my gosh how many times do I have to say this to you? Nothing happened!” I said for what had to be the third time in five minutes. Olivia and I had decided to grab a drink at Fat Black Pussy Cat after class that evening, and Cassandra insisted on coming along. Michael and Alex also jumped on the idea to drink away Dr. Van der Stein’s lecture on organic chemistry, and were meeting us soon. “Non capisco! I just don’t understand you!” Cassandra threw her arms up and shook her head at me, her chandelier earrings bouncing from side to side.
“Woah, was that English?” Olivia said with a huge smile on her face, obviously entertained by Cassandra’s latest outburst.
“Please don’t encourage her, Olivia,” I buried my face in my hands.
“You have this good looking guy, alone in your apartment,” Cassandra continued to berate me, ignoring Olivia’s question. But before she could finish, I interrupted.
I held up my right hand. “Christina was home, we were not alone,” I said declaratively, as if that was some sort of justification for my lie.
“Oh really? Was she in the living room with the two of you? Or was she once again cooped up in her bedroom reading some obscure novel, and being completely antisocial?” Cassandra cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow.
“Jeeze!” I shook my head.” First you attack me, now Christina?”
Olivia just sat there in silent bewilderment, her light brown eyes as wide as possible. She had met Cassie several times before but was still confused by her boisterous demeanor. Olivia was the polar opposite of Cassandra and I. Being that we were both from Staten Island, Cassie and I prided ourselves on being loud, outspoken, and at times bitchy. Olivia on the other hand was from Providence, Rhode Island. Having only moved to New York four months ago, she was still quiet, polite, very shy, and free of any New York City style dialect. She had attended college at the University of Florida. No city experience what-so-ever. Olivia had newcomer writer all over her. The only unpolished thing she did was smoke Newports. I found it to be very uncharacteristic of her, but it did give her a little bit of an edge. However, despite their differences, the two got along famously, as if they balanced each other out.
“Dire! Just answer the question!” Cassie demanded, her hazel eyes flashing.
Being that her grandparents were right off the boat from Italy, they demanded she learn to speak Italian and this she bestowed upon us when she was excited.
“Were you, or were you not alone with him?”
I felt defeated.
“I was, alright, but nothing happened!” I said for now the fifth time. “Also, can we stick to English tonight?”
Cassandra smiled triumphantly.
Through all of my annoyance, I felt a smile tug at the sides of my lips.
“I’m going to slap you,” I said jokingly.
Olivia shook her head at the two of us, a wide grin decorating her face.
“I’m going to record the two of you and upload it when you aren’t looking,” she said laughing at us.
She reached into her gorgeous Michael Kors purse, and pulled out her cell.
“Oh hey guys, it’s actually almost nine thirty. Michael and Alex are going to be here any minute so maybe it would be a good idea to cap this conversation until tomorrow?” she asked.
“You know what?” I leaned forward. “No need to, ladies because I am done pretending. Cassandra, you were right all along. We did it, Michael and me. We had hot, dirty sex right on my Ikea couch all while Christina was in the next room. It was amazing. I mean, it was the kind of sex you could only have when you’ve been stuck screwing the same person for years, boy did I let go of my inhibitions. Phew! Feels so good to get that off my chest!” I slammed my right hand down on the table, hoping this would finally shut Cassie up.
Olivia burst out laughing and then raised her glass of wine to toast me. Thinking I had finally silenced her, I shot Cassandra a look.
Cassandra gave me a blank, unamused stare, and flipped her hair back. “Fine, but Amalia this conversation is not over. I’m heading to the ladies.”
She dramatically pushed her chair in and marched to the ladies’ room.
“C’mon! Champagne for everyone! Don’t you want to know if he wears boxers or briefs?” I shouted to her as she walked away.
Her three inch heels clacked loudly on the bar’s old wooden floors. Every man at the bar turned to watch Cassie walk. Having come straight from her office, she was wearing dark gray dress pants, patent leather pumps, a bright red button-down top, and oversized chandelier earrings. I had to hand it to the girl, she looked great. Suddenly feeling self-conscious about my own outfit, a dark brown dress paired with gray blazer, and a jeweled headband, I turned to Olivia. She was wearing a lime green cardigan with a white camisole underneath, a knee-length black pleated skirt, and understated basic black flats. Her mousy brown hair was pulled back into a plain pony tail, minimal jewelry, and from what I could tell no make-up other than clear lip gloss. I couldn’t help but wonder if she felt underdressed. Before I could complete the thought, I suddenly felt two hands on my shoulder causing me to nearly jump out of my seat. I quickly turned around to see who it was.
“I always say it Hastings, you’re too highly strung,” Alex said, holding on to me tightly.
“Maybe it’s because of the lack of personal space I have in this bar,” I countered, as he continued to hold onto my shoulders.
I brushed him off, and wondered why Michael was friends with him. He and Michael had appeared out of nowhere wearing what appeared to be matching outfits. They both had on dark denim jeans, loafers, and button-down shirts with fitted v- neck sweaters over them, allowing the pattern of the shirt collar and cuffs to show. I pretended to be disgusted and dust off my shoulders.
“Hey you two,” said Michael, pulling an empty bar stool from a neighboring table.
“So how ridiculous was Dr. Van Der’s class today?”
“Oh no!” Cassandra said as she strutted back to her seat. “If you’re going to talk about class, I’m out of here!”
Cassandra was the only one at the table who did not currently take classes at NYU.
“Who are you?” she said to Alex.
“Hey, I’m Alex”, he said, holding his hand out, seemingly unfazed by her sharp question. “You must be Cassandra.”
“Another hand shaker, eh?” she said sarcastically.
I kicked her under the table and shot her a look of warning. Her iPhone started to vibrate, shaking the entire table.
“It’s Bryce,” she explained.
A smile crept across her face, and something made me think it was a booty call.
“The yuppie from Oliver’s?” I grimaced; a little disappointed she was seeing him again.
“That’s the one,” she answered without looking up from her phone. “I forgot I was supposed to be meeting him. I have to run. Boys, always a pleasure. Arrivederci.”
“Goodnight,” we all said in unison.
“Who’s Bryce again?” asked Olivia.
“Ugh, you don’t want to know,” I shook my head.
The bar was starting to clear out thankfully. In New York City, no one was ever home. Most of the population inhabited bars, or boutique coffee shops instead of ever returning to their respective homes. I couldn’t decide if it was the size of their apartment that kept them away, or the constant need to feel “busy.”
I caught Michael’s eye and for a second I forgot anyone else was with us. He smiled at me and the increasingly familiar rush of heat started to creep up on me.
“So, Amalia,” Alex said, breaking me out of my daze. “I heard you’re going to Panama when school’s over in the spring.”
“Brazil,” I answered quickly.
“Same shit,” he shot back.
“Actually, they’re two completely separate countries, on two completely separate continents,” I answered, annoyed at his ignorance and attitude.
Alex and I had always had a love–hate relationship, and he was closer with Michael and Olivia than me, but I tolerated him for the sense of the group.
“Whatever, they speak Spanish there don’t they?” he smiled sarcastically.
“No. Actually, they speak Portuguese. Seriously dude, get a map,” I mumbled and took a sip of my beer.
“Brazil! That’s so exciting!” Olivia said, trying to recover the uncomfortable moment.
Michael looked up at me and said, “I didn’t know you were leaving the country? For how long?”
“About three months”, I answered. “I’ll be there from the end of May until August. I have a cousin who lives there so I am going to spend some time living with the locals.”
“Are you going for your job?” he asked.
“No, nothing like that,” I shrugged. “I’ve just always wanted to go there, it just looks so beautiful. I spent all of last summer working as a receptionist so I could save enough money to buy a plane ticket.”
“Very ambitious, Amalia. What does your boyfriend have to say about that?” Alex asked, challenging me.
“Nothing. He feels fine,” I shot back.
No need to go into details, to explain Nicholas and I had gotten into a small argument that morning, over the length of time I was going to be away. Our minor argument was none of Alex’s business, and also I didn’t want Michael to think Nick and I had any problems at all.
“Well, I could use a smoke,” Olivia said to Alex, attempting to break the tension. “Care to join me?” She could tell I was getting annoyed by him and gave me a small smile. He nodded and stood up, motioning for her to walk in front of him. As obnoxious as he was, he had good manners. I was relieved to have the questions stop, and also to be alone with Michael. I noticed once again how well put together he looked and wondered how he looked when at home, alone, with no one to impress.
“Hey, listen sorry I skipped out last night with just a note,” he leaned closer over the table.
His cologne smelled very masculine, like deep sandalwood and a touch of something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He leaned back in his chair and laughed. “It’s just that, you looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Yeah, um, don’t worry about it,” I muttered nervously. I tucked a stray curl behind my ear and sat up a little straighter. “I’m just embarrassed I fell asleep!”
I was definitely more disappointed than embarrassed, having wasted my time with him unconscious. After I ran into him on the street two nights ago, Michael had come back to my apartment to talk. After opening a bottle of Pinot and, pouring us both two oversized glasses, I asked him what was bothering him.
“I’d actually rather not discuss it,” he said. “Is it all right if we just sit here?”
I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Our reason for being at my place alone was gone, and I felt even more awkward than before.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied, noticeably confused by the request. “Anything to help.”
The night was, as I told the girls, uneventful. After we finished the wine, we sat and talked about school, applying for internships, and what our lives were like before we moved to New York. Apparently I had been so exhausted that I fell asleep on the couch while we were watching The Daily Show.
I woke up the next morning, still on the couch, with a throw blanket around me and a note on the coffee table that read, “Thanks for the company, see you in class.”
My assumption was right, that Michael had left right after I fell asleep. I looked around and noticed the bar was emptying out. Now this was more like it, no fighting over the bartenders tonight.
“So, um, how’s Marge doing?” I asked, and then immediately regretted the words.
He seemed a little taken back by the question. The only information I had on Michael’s girlfriend was her name, and the fact that she was two years younger. Since she was still in college, a senior at Arizona State, they only saw each other once every month or two.
“She’s doing fine. I spoke to her earlier today on the phone, but it’s not the same,” he said. “Long-distance relationships are hard. Even harder when you’re older. I mean, I’m not an undergrad any more.”
I looked at him surprised. I wasn’t expecting such a detailed answer.
“Anyway, isn’t your birthday coming up? Twenty-three right? Getting old,” he said playfully, obviously changing the subject.
I played along.
“Yeah, next week,” I mumbled. “Don’t remind me.”
“Ha, not a birthday person?” he asked, looking amused, and gave me a poke on the shoulder.
“No actually I’m not. Does it matter?” I answered, now laughing myself. “You’re all going to make me do something lame anyway!”
“No way! We’re going to have fun,” he motioned to the bartender.
I cocked my head to the side and said, “Michael, every time you say we’re going to have fun, we end up drunk, completely broke, and lost in neighborhoods no one should ever be lost in.”
“Yes, Amalia,” he smiled at me, flashing every one of his perfectly straight teeth. “That is how I define fun.”
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