Fuck that guy.
These are the words screaming through my brain as I storm through the front doors of my New York City apartment building and make for the elevator like there’s an open bar and a chocolate fountain inside.
For the record, I don’t mean “fuck that guy” like it’s something on my to-do list. I’m talking about my boyfriend, CJ. Make that ex-boyfriend.
Shit, would I even use the word “boyfriend”? What’s the word for a guy you meet on Tinder, sleep with on the second date because he has a cute laugh and a really sweet labradoodle, and you think maybe there’s a chance this could turn into something serious, so you delete your Tinder profile after a only week and show his photo to a friend who takes one look and says, “Wait, that’s my friend Brittini’s fiancé”?
That’s the new word screaming through my head as I stomp past the bank of brass mailboxes and the handmade wood desk in the lobby. I punch the elevator button a lot harder than I should—not that it’ll speed the ancient machine up. The elevator car eventually wheezes to a halt on the first floor, doors groaning open with a sound my best friend and roommate, Kymber, describes as a ghost hacking up a hairball.
I charge inside, snagging the heel of my slingback stiletto on the plush carpeting that always catches me off-guard. Who the hell puts plush carpeting in an elevator? An idiot, that’s who.
I swallow hard as the door swishes shut behind me and the car starts to move.
Idiot. That word stings more than the others.
What kind of idiot falls for the same kind of guy over and over again and expects something different?
Me. I blink back tears, determined not to cry. I’m the idiot, Bekka Zoler, the dummy who thinks she’s going to find her soul mate on a dating app. Like that’s even a thing. Not that I’m looking for a soul mate, exactly. I’m a 21-year-old college student, for crying out loud. I’m hardly ready to settle down.
But is it too much to wish for a genuine connection once in a while?
The elevator shudders, and I grab the handrail to steady myself. A hunk of hair falls free from my ponytail, blurring my vision behind a curtain of red-gold.
Yeah, I know. It’s always the gingers with the hot tempers and the bad judgment. I’m a walking goddamn cliché. I reach up to fix my hair as the elevator starts moving again, headed for my apartment on the fourth floor and that pint of Chunky Monkey waiting for me in the freezer. That’s assuming Kymber hasn’t eaten it, but I’m positive she’s a good enough friend to save me half.
I glance at the elevator’s control panel, surprised to see we’re still only at the second floor. Or maybe the damn thing’s broken again and the readout can’t be trusted.
Not unlike CJ, or my own taste in men.
Seriously, what was I thinking? And he didn’t even deny it when I showed up at his apartment and confronted him about it. Just gave me that slow, sexy—make that sleazy—smile and suggested we continue the conversation in the bedroom. I told him I’d love to, just let me grab a fillet knife from the butcher block in the kitchen.
He lost interest after that.
The floor lurches beneath me, and I grab the handrail again. “Goddammit!”
This time I curse out loud instead of in my head, which feels better, so I do it again. “Stupid fucking piece of shit! I don’t have time for this.”
I stomp my foot, which only makes my heel wobble again. We’re not moving, so I yank my phone out of my bag and hit speed dial for Kymber. If she can tear herself away from my ice cream, maybe she can hit the call button from the fourth floor and get this bucket of bolts moving again.
A man answers on the third ring. Daniel. I recognize the huskiness of his voice. “Kymber is unable to come to the phone right now,” he says stiffly.
“Stiff” being the operative word. Knowing them, he’s probably got her bound with a mouthful of cock.
Jealousy spears through me as I think of the goofy, satisfied look on my best friend’s face every time she talks about her sex life with the building’s hot-as-fuck owner.
“The goddamn death trap of an elevator is broken,” I bark at Daniel, since he is the owner, and therefore more likely than Kymber to fix my predicament anyway. “I’m stuck between two and three. Get me out of here.”
I hang up before he has a chance to say anything, which is just as well. At this point I shouldn’t be talking to anyone, especially not the guy who owns the building and gives my best friend multiple Os.
Could this day get any worse?
As if to answer, my pulse starts to jackhammer, and my palms go clammy. My chest is tight, and I can’t breathe.
Hello, claustrophobia, my old friend.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” I chant this as I pace back and forth, my heart drumming harder with each footstep. I hate enclosed spaces. I hate tiny rooms. I hate this goddamn elevator. Am I running out of air?
I’ve never had a panic attack before, but maybe that’s what this is. It feels like CJ sitting on my chest waving his stupid, not-that-impressive dick in front of me in an oh-so-classy request for a BJ.
“Fuck you, asshole!” I yell, grateful no one can hear me. “Fuck you and your stupid, tiny penis. Fuck you and your ‘you came, right?’ after thirty fucking seconds when, no, dumbshit, of course I didn’t come. Are you kidding me?”
I’m really on a roll now, with anger bubbling up like hydrogen peroxide on a fresh cut. “Fuck you and your fiancée! Fuck you and your stupid Tinder profile and your inability to distinguish between ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’ It’s not that goddamn hard!”
“Sort of like your dick!” I add, even though there’s no one around to appreciate my joke. “Fuck you and your tighty-whities. Does your mother buy those for you at Sears?”
I’m totally screaming now, screaming and pacing like a crazy person. My hands are clamped into fists, and I swear to God I would junk-punch CJ so hard if I saw him right now. Christoph, too, and Kevin and Nate and all the other jerks I’ve met through these stupid dating apps.
But hell, I can’t just blame the dating apps. There was that Uber driver I hooked up with a few weeks ago, Ben? The fact that I’m not a hundred percent sure about his name should be a red flag, and so should the fact that he never called me after that first night, even though I know for damn sure I rocked his world in the bedroom.
At least I think I did. Hell, I’m not sure about anything anymore, except that I need to seriously reevaluate my dating choices.
I keep pacing as my heart continues to gallop. I don’t know how much time passes. Five minutes? Ten? This pacing isn’t helping, and neither is my current line of thinking, but I can’t stop. Should I be more panicked about my shitty love life or the likelihood of dying in this death trap of an elevator?
Another lock of hair slips from my ponytail, but I leave this one alone. It’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone in this four-by-five-foot hell box. I’m all alone.
And probably will be forever.
“I’m so over this shit,” I snarl, not sure if I mean the elevator or the men. Maybe both.
I pivot and stomp toward the control panel. There has to be something I can do to get this steel hellhole moving. Maybe if I punch a few buttons.
I’ve just lifted my hand to hit the up arrow when something thuds to the ground behind me.
I whirl around, convinced some huge, greasy elevator part has just fallen through the fucking ceiling.
But it’s not machinery at all. It’s a man—a living, breathing, tight-T-shirt-wearing man, and he’s towering over me in the goddamn elevator.
So I do the only logical thing.
I scream bloody fucking murder.