Calling Hudson back seemed pointless; instead, I crawled in bed for the night. The next morning, I was awakened by my bed sinking in and a body stealing the blankets, then curling up against me.
"Good morning, Cam."
He snickered. "Morning, hot stuff. So, Ashton got you home safely last night."
I rolled over and sat up with him. "He's a nice guy. He told me that you and Gavin have a thing?"
Cameron grabbed his chest in shock. "What? Okay, tell me everything he said! Oh, my gosh, so Gavin likes me?"
Oops, now I remember. Ashton said Gavin had a thing for Cameron, not that they had a thing together.
"Um, shoot. I'm not sure I was supposed to tell you that. Stupid martinis." I slapped my head then winced. "Ouch."
He put his hands together in a praying fashion and begged, "Baby girl, if you love me, you'll tell me. Gavin is the hottest guy I know and if he has a thing for me, it would make my lifetime!" He was giddy, to put it mildly.
He bounced on the bed next to me, as anxious as a kid on Christmas morning.
"Dude, hangover! Please stop bouncing."
He calmed himself and batted his eyelashes at me, not giving up on his quest for information.
I sighed, exasperated. "All I know is that Gavin has a thing for you and Ashton thinks you two would make a cute couple." Cameron fell back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
He was so still, I thought the news had sent him into shock. That was until he sat straight up and shouted, "Woohoo!"
I smacked my hand over his mouth to cover the sound, not sure if everyone was awake in the house.
Angel answered by knocking on the wall and yelling, "Zip it, Cam!"
We both snickered before Cameron wrapped his arms around my waist and tackled me back down on the bed in a hug. "Girl, I love you. You made my day!" he whispered loudly. He pressed his lips against mine fiercely, stood up and helped me out of bed.
"Let's go shopping today," he said. "I want to find a new outfit for the next time I see Gavin." Cam invaded my closet and assaulted me with one piece of clothing after the next.
"Let me get a shower first, 'k?"
He shrugged. "'K. I'll go make you my patented hangover cure—scrambled eggs."
When I stepped out of the shower, the smell of eggs made my stomach churn. Tucking the towel around me, I stepped into the bedroom, immediately focusing on Cam scrolling through my phone.
"Damn, does anyone understand privacy?" I snatched the phone from him.
He didn't laugh, his face suddenly pensive. "Check your texts. I picked your phone up to check my Facebook account and saw you had fifteen missed messages. I don't like that guy, Gracie."
I dropped my towel and slipped on black lace panties and a matching bra.
Cam whistled. "What's with the sexy unders?"
I shimmied into my blue jeans and buttoned them before answering. "I'm going to see Hudson later today. You don't know him, Cam. That's not the Hudson I know, so can you just lay off a little until I figure things out with him?"
Cameron wrapped his arms around my waist from behind. "You shouldn't be wasting your time with that asshat, Gracie. That's all I'm saying. You're smoking hot and you deserve someone better. Is this really a guy you can see yourself with forever?"
I scoffed. "Who's talking about forever? He's sweet and kind. And Jesus, the sex is good. I'm only twenty-one. I have plenty of time to find forever."
He shook his head. "Spoken like a true guy. I should be so hot for you."
I smacked him playfully.
Most people fall in love several times over a lifetime, but one always sticks out more than others, whether you end up with them or they are the one who got away.
When I was five, I thought I was in love with my best friend, Jimmy, who lived next door. That changed when he fed my favorite Barbie doll to the dog, breaking my heart. When I was ten, I fell for my schoolmate Robbie when he helped me up after someone pushed me into the mud. My heart later shattered when my dad told me we were moving to the big city of Nashville from our small backwoods town in Kentucky, and I had to say goodbye to him. At fifteen, I fell for Marcus Jacobs, the smartest guy in school. He was our valedictorian, and I never told him how I felt. He “came out of the closet” after high school. And then I turned twenty-one and met Derrick Collins.
Derrick was the guy who made me realize that I’d never known love before I met him. Reading about toes-tingling, heart-stopping kisses, and romantic gestures, I always questioned whether such things existed. My lifelong question was answered the first time we kissed, and I felt it course through my body from my lips straight to my toes with electric pulses racing everywhere in between.
Growing up, I always had an issue with weight and never felt comfortable with the opposite sex. Puberty hit and my waistline expanded more than my breasts. Luckily, I had a growth spurt around sixteen. I was taller than average, five eight to be exact, with blonde hair and light green eyes, with that I was happy. My pants size was a different story. My hips were curvy, and my breasts caught up to them, although they didn’t point forward as much as my hips pointed outward.
With friends like mine who built my confidence every day, I thought I knew what it meant to feel beautiful. It wasn’t until the day I felt Derrick’s undeniable passion for me that I truly felt like the goddess Cameron always tried to convince me I was. I’d tried every diet known to man to be skinny; it just was not in the cards for me, and I’d come to terms with that fact. My body may not have been perfect, but I ate right, and I wasn’t lazy. It was just my luck I had a crappy metabolism that allowed me to maintain a softer, slightly rounder stomach. Did it frustrate me? Yes. I would’ve loved to be one of those women who ate anything they wanted and never gained a pound. However, life didn’t deal me that hand, and I’d become content with myself.
It’s true that having a boyfriend wasn’t the most important thing in life, but it sure was nice. I loved my time with Derrick. I didn’t need him to make me happy; I wanted it. Derrick made the sky bluer, chocolate taste sweeter, and the sun shine brighter, at least it seemed that way with him in my life. Prince Charming had nothing on this man. At times I became discouraged, but Derrick was there to make me laugh. Other than Cameron, no other man had told me I was beautiful in a way that made me believe it. He was practically perfect in every way, like a male version of Mary Poppins. Wow, that wasn’t sexy I guess, but if Derrick was one thing for sure, it was sexy.
My eyes focused on her. The way her hips swayed back and forth hypnotized me. Her dance partner moved his hand down her sides and began to lift her dress up her thighs. Anger boiled inside me; I was ready to pounce. For anyone else, I’d be flagging down our bouncer to get rid of the guy, but I wanted to rescue her myself. I strapped on my metaphorical superhero cape, and as I approached—to save the day—I noticed she had not only pushed his hands away but punched him in the nose as well. She turned red when she spotted me, and I raised my hand up. “High-five.” She smacked my hand. “It’s hard to believe you complain about jerks. Looks like you can take care of yourself pretty well.”
“I have three older brothers who taught me how.” She pushed passed me, reclaiming her seat at the bar. “Can I get another of those beers?”
“Sure. And if you tell me about the other two guys, it’s on me.”
“Deal,” she agreed. After I had popped the top on the beer, she took a long pull and then began her story. “Guy number three thought he was all that and a bag of chips. He was nothing but crumbs if you ask me. He took me to a strip club. I’m open-minded and all, but a first date… at a strip club?”
“Ouch. I agree. There should be a warning and intimacy already present. What kind of perverted weirdo was he?”
“See, told you I know how to pick them. Last, but not least, the date from the night I met you. We had a great time. He’s charming, sophisticated, well-mannered, all around great guy.”
“I’m not getting a problem with him,” I said, thoroughly confused.
“There was no problem. Until he reached out to touch my hand on the table, and a wedding ring circled his finger.”
“That was my reaction!” she exclaimed with annoyance. “He told me his wife cared more about the kids than him these days, and it was practically a dead marriage.”
“What was your response?”
“I told him to call me when he found a woman to believe that line.” She took another swig from her beer bottle. “I’m done dating for a while. I’ll find something else to occupy my time.” And my bubble burst with those words. Maybe I could change her mind about dating?
“How’d you end up here the other night? Is this where you met?”
“No. A friend of mine told me about this club, and I’d wanted to check it out. Ending the date abruptly offered the perfect opportunity.” Peering up at me, she added, “The night definitely ended better than it began.”
“Tristan!” Marcus yelled from behind me. When I turned, he waved his hands to show the fullness of the crowd in front of the bar.
“Shit! I’ll be back.” I sprinted across the bar to take orders. Normally someone can shout something at me, and I can get it easily. With Melanie clouding my thoughts, I wrote everything down with descriptions of who ordered it. Gorbachev: Bud Light beer. Barney: a shot of whiskey. Ginger: Jägerbomb. Fake boobs: cosmo. Mullet: MGD. With five orders written down, I stopped to get them ready before taking five more and repeated this until the bar was clear. Turning to Marcus, I said, “Sorry, man. I was distracted.”
“I noticed. She’s hot, by the way. I’d be distracted too. Sorry you missed out on talking to her.”
“Oh no, she’s….” I started to say as I turned toward her. Her seat held a large, hairy, redneck-looking man. I cursed at missing a chance to ask her out. My relief bartender for the night, Xander, walked toward me from where I’d left her.
“The hottie at the bar paid her tab, then gave me this for you.” He handed me a twenty-dollar tip wrapped around a business card. “She suggested you give her a call and she’d finish telling you a story.”
“My name is Angel, and today is my one-year anniversary of sobriety,” I said into the microphone at my weekly AA meeting. Dozens of faces stared up at me, ranging from newly sober to people celebrating decades of sobriety. Twirling my year chip in my hand, I smiled at how far I’d come.
“Last year I spent Thanksgiving in rehab talking with my friends through Skype for a few short minutes. This year on Thanksgiving, I had so much to be thankful for. My friends accepted me back into their lives and forgave me for my actions when I was under the influence of alcohol. Rehab gave me more than sobriety. It gave me my life back and it gave me two friendships, which I will cherish for eternity. Only one of them is here with me today. Gus-Gus.” Gus walked down the aisle to me and gave me a hug at the podium. His strong embrace was the best high I could achieve without falling off the wagon. He stood by me as I continued my story. “The biggest struggle in maintaining sobriety for me is grief. I don’t deal well with it on my own. Gus and I were in rehab with a man named Mike. He was a sweet southern gentleman who never hurt anyone other than himself. Two months ago, he committed suicide.” Gus grabbed my hand, squeezing for support. “Gus called to tell me, and the first thing I did was pick up a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at the liquor store. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, and then I opened the bottle and poured a glass. As I took in the scent of whiskey, my old friend, I picked up my phone and dialed Gus. He came over immediately, and instead of drinking, we sat and traded stories of Mike and laughed about his thick southern accent and his goofy behavior.”
I held Gus’s hand up in the air. “This man is the reason I am sober today.” Everyone in the room gave Gus and me a standing ovation. We embraced and cried for a few moments over our lost friend and our mutual sobriety. Mike’s death had been hard on both of us. We felt we should’ve known he was ready to break, but deep down we knew there was nothing we could have done. After reading his suicide note, which mentioned only Gus and me, other than his wife and the child he never met, it gave us a little peace knowing we meant so much to him.
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Amy K. McClung was born in Nashville, TN. She is the second oldest of four girls and occasionally suffers from middle child syndrome. She met the love of her life online in August of 2004, on his birthday of all days, and married him in September 2005. Currently they have no human children only the room full of colourful robots that transform into vehicles and the large headed Pop Funko's who represent their favourite characters. Collecting movies, shotglasses, Pop Funkos, and dust bunnies are some of her favourite pastimes. She began writing in September of 2011 and independently published her first YA novel called Cascades of Moonlight, Book one of the Parker Harris Series the following May. Her first book was a means of therapy for her as it enabled her to escape reality for a while during a difficult transition in her life.
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