My lips curled into what I hoped passed for a happy, relaxed grin.
I tuned my girlfriends’ incessant chatter out as I sat and stared at the woman on the platform. The woman began to sway her hips and suggestively gyrate to the club’s bass-heavy music. She arched her back thrusting her breasts front and center immediately drawing the attention of nearly every male in the vicinity of her toxic fumes. She swung her long ebony hair over her shoulder and fixed her gaze on a good looking business man seated near the stage. She licked her lips suggestively and gave the man a lascivious wink as she slithered around a greasy pole.
I hated her on sight.
I imagined my hands around her throat, my fingers giving her a necklace of bruises, her breaths becoming short and choppy as her eyes bugged out of her head from lack of oxygen.
My lips curled into a genuine smile at the thought of squeezing every last drop of life from the bitch.
“Girl, it’s so good to finally see you smile,” my friend Chelsea chuckled while giving me a friendly nudge.
I tore my eyes from the Medusa on stage and turned back to my table of friends.
“What are you talking about, I smile all the time.”
“You don’t smile, you grimace. You haven’t been truly happy in a while.”
I sighed and lifted a shoulder into a half shrug. “What is there to be happy about? Jeremy left me.”
“Now listen here,” Nora started, her hand going up as if to shush the rest of the club so she could say her piece.
“Jeremy,” Tara placed a hand on Nora’s shoulder to quell her tirade, “is a confused piece of shit that doesn’t know his head from his ass. You don’t need that drama in your life. You’re better off without him.
I disagreed. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. “Sure, okay,” I acquiesced with a toss of my head.
“He’s doing his passive denial thing again,” Nora said with a flick of her wrist. “Listen sweetie, he may have been your first lover but he won’t be your last. You have to learn from your mistakes so that you can recognize the real deal when it slaps you in your face.”
“I loved him, Nora.”
She released a heavy sigh and placed her arm around my shoulders giving a small squeeze. “I know you did, love.” She briefly placed her soft lips to my cheek before jerking back. “Girl, did you even shave tonight?” She leaned back and rubbed a hand over her lips.
I chuckled despite my dark mood. “Of course, two hours ago. I’m telling you, I’m Sasquatch incarnate. I fucking hate facial hair!”
“You could always look into laser hair removal,” Tara mumbled behind her glass. She had lifted as if to take a drink but her eyes were focused on something across the room.
“Yeah, I could, but I hear it’s expensive,” I murmured, distracted by Tara’s suddenly pale face. I arched a brow at her to silently ask, “what is going on.” Tara quickly shook her head and took a large swallow of her drink.
Nora surreptitiously glanced over her shoulder to try and see what Tara was looking at and then just as quickly whipped it back around to face our group. “You know what, this place is a dump. Let’s go somewhere else.” She downed the rest of her drink and made to get out of the booth.
Chelsea shook her head at me as if to say, “I have no idea why these two are acting so weird” look.
But I knew. I knew without even turning around what was happening behind me. I could feel the small, but strong electric tingle worm it’s way up my spine and my groin tightened. This was always the reaction I had whenever Jeremy was close by.
“He’s here, isn’t he.”
“Yes baby, he is,” Tara said while reaching across the table to grab my hands and squeeze them.
I looked at Nora. “He’s not supposed to be here, He’s supposed to be on his way to Chicago tonight.”
She nodded. “Something must have changed.”
Nora and I stared at each other, a silent moment in time to give our brains a moment to adapt to the change in plans.
I knew Jeremy’s schedule intimately. I knew where he was at all times. I knew this because he is a creature of habit, he likes to stick to a schedule because it gives him control over his life and helps control his chaotic confusion.
His confusion being me.
I didn’t dare turn around, I knew he was there. I could sense him near. I could even pick out his throaty chuckle underneath the obnoxious music blaring from all corners of the club. What had changed? Why had he postponed his flight? He had been talking about this important meeting, ad nauseam, in Chicago for months. I knew how important it was to him, I knew how important it could have been for both of us.
A catcall from the audience caught my attention and my eyes darted to the girl on stage.
Her. His change of plans had to be because of HER. I narrowed my eyes at the harlot and ground my teeth together to prevent myself from saying anything that might incriminate me later.
“Oh shit,” Chelsea said and subconsciously slouched down in her seat. “I think he saw us.”
All three of heads turned in his direction. I looked at each of my friends’ faces and taking a breath, turned around in my seat.
Our eyes locked across the room. Jeremy was the first to look away. He turned to address one of his friends who slapped him across the back and pointed to the stage. Jeremy smiled and nudged his friend in the ribs. I released a breath not even realizing I had been holding my breath.
So that’s how he wanted to play it.
“What an asshole,” Tara hissed. “He didn’t even acknowledge you.”
I shrugged, swallowing the bitter feeling that had formed in the back of my throat. “I’m not surprised.”
“What do you mean, you’re not surprised? You guys dated for nearly three months!” Chelsea shouted to compete with the music.
“Shut up, Chelsea, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Chelsea started at Nora for a long moment, realization dawning as she turned to look at me. “No one knows you dated for three months”
Tara gasped. “Are you serious? How does Jeremy’s friends know he’s not gay?”
“Because he never told them,” I snapped. “He was trying to figure things out. He wanted to keep it quiet until he sorted it out in his head. No one in Jeremy’s world knew we dated.”
All eyes searched out Jeremy’s posse of friends again as they took a table near the stage. The witch performing paused a moment in her routine to blow a kiss at Jeremy. He caught the pretend kiss and placed it in his pocket. His friends whooped and hollered in appreciation.
“Gross,” I muttered.
“Oh my God,” Tara gasped again, “I’m so sorry, Kyle. We had no idea. No wonder you’ve been so tense lately.”
Jeremy’s chair was positioned so that he was facing our table. Our eyes locked again. I gave him a small salute of acknowledgment.
Jeremy got up from his chair and asked a friend of his to switch seats so his back would be to us. His friend looked toward our table as he took his seat, learned forward to say something to the rest of his table which prompted loud laughter all around.
“His friend knows,” Nora said quietly.
“Yeah, it looks like it. That’s Brian, Jeremy’s bestie. I never met him but Jeremy talked about him. They grew up together and are now working to partner on their new project.”
“I can’t believe he did that to you, Ky,” Tara said.
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “It is what it is. I can’t make someone love me. He has to sort it out with himself before he can give himself to someone else. I’m just not that someone else, I suppose.”
“What do you want to do?” Nora said quietly. She was studying me closely and I knew what she really wanted to ask me was, “do you still want to do this?”
I lifted my dirty martini to my lips and watched the witch on stage flirt with Jeremy. She was ignoring the businessman she had flirted with earlier and I could see the man was getting irate at her lack of attention. With a huff, the man stood up, nearly knocking his chair over in the process, threw down some bills and stomped out of the club. Jeremy’s friends noticed and started laughing again.
I gave that man the best three months of my life. I know that sounds melodramatic but it’s absolutely true. I had never felt more comfortable with someone in my life and it was the first time I felt like I could truly be myself. I had never felt more complete and secure and to have that ripped out of my hands was devastating. But I didn’t blame Jeremy, how could I? I loved him. I know how hard it is to come to terms with one’s sexuality and I couldn’t blame him for trying something new and different, it just wasn’t a good fit.
But HER. I shifted again to give my full attention to the whore on stage. She I could blame.
She didn’t come out of nowhere. She-who-shall-not-be-named dated Jeremy in college but things got rough when Jeremy met me. They eventually broke it off. But she never knew why they broke it off, only that he needed some space and to focus on his career.
The bitch didn’t know about me.
Jeremy agonized over their relationship. He felt so conflicted. He knew she was supposed to be part of his plan, according to his family’s expectations, but he just didn’t feel anything for her. She was manipulating and sometimes cruel in some of the things she text him and how she treated him. But he got used to her.
She was safe.
No one, outside of Jeremy, his close friends and me, of course, knew about the bitch’s side job. She wasn’t very bright and when Jeremy broke up with her, no longer supported her, she needed to make money to keep up appearances that she was an excellent catch so she turned to stripping to maintain her “lifestyle”. I knew Jeremy’s father would be livid with the bitch’s life choice and would pressure Jeremy to marry her to get her off the streets. The fact that Jeremy hadn’t taken that “easy” route spoke volumes.
I could see what was happening now. Jeremy’s father must have been pressuring him to get back with the bitch. He needed a wife to complete the corporate picture, to help him with his all-important career. And he caved. Jeremy was weak.
But I still loved him. I knew, in that moment, that Jeremy and I didn’t have a future together, it was never going to happen. Jeremy’s world would not permit it. But perhaps I could help him find happiness in other ways.
The bitch’s raunchy routine was over and with one last kiss and a kick of her leg, she waved and left the stage.
I shifted my gaze back to Nora. I tightened my jaw and never felt more determined than I did in that moment.
“You know what? I have an early morning tomorrow. I’m going to call it a night.”
That was the cue.
Nora stood up and smoothed her skirt. “Yeah, me too. I’m going to run to the bathroom, I’ll see you guys later.”
“I’ll go with you,” Tara said while slinging her purse over her shoulder.
“No,” Nora said. “Why don’t you and Chelsea go to the bar and pay our tab? We’re treating Jeremy tonight. Besides, he’s been drinking and I don’t want him driving. Why not just take him to my place? he can crash there. He has a key.”
Tara and Chelsea gave me pitying looks and nodded. “Of course.”
As they walked off, I turned to Nora. “If I was straight, I would marry you,”
She smiled and patted my cheek. “And I would accept.” She patted her purse. “Now go. You can’t be anywhere near here when it goes down.”
I leaned forward and gave her an affectionate kiss on the cheek. I whispered in her ear, “Please make her suffer.”
Nora winked. “Oh sugar, it will be my pleasure. I’ll meet you back at my place later and show you the video.”