“Piper, come on! It’s Friday night… and it’s my birthday! You have to come out with us!” Kenzie insists.
Kenzie Hartley, my best friend of the past 12 years. I love her, but she does not get it. I’m not one for crowds. My anxiety and depression make it difficult. Although I try to mask it, she still sees my hesitation, knowing me all too well.
“Come on!” she continues, “You will be with me, Tyler, and Mychal... forget everyone else. Please?”
“Ugh! Fine! But you have to help me get ready.”
I cannot say no to her and she knows it. Her victorious grin is infectious, and before I know it, I am grinning along with her. As much as I would rather be home with my book, she is my best friend… my only friend if I am being honest… so, I wouldn’t miss her night.
An hour and a half later, she has tortured my long brown hair with a flatiron and my face with makeup that is typically reserved for special occasions. Normally, I’m a mascara and lip gloss kind of girl. I am in a dress she insisted I buy more than a year ago and have refused to wear until now. It’s black, too short and clings to my too curvy body. I look in the mirror and all I recognize are my pale blue eyes. She insists I look beautiful; I feel over exposed. Kenzie is the exact opposite of me… long blond hair, deep blue eyes, and a body most would love to have. Where I’m standoffish and a loner, for the most part, she is outgoing and popular. How we became best friends is beyond me.
I will never forget how we met… I was 10 and had just moved here from North Carolina. My dad had the opportunity to move and buy his own construction company, it had always been his dream. That is how I ended up in the small town known as Russells Point, Ohio.
My first day of school was horrible. It was the middle of the year and as the new girl… no one seemed to care for me. The kids had been staring, pointing and whispering most of the morning. At lunch, I grabbed my tray and having no appetite I sat down at a table by myself. I was about to cry when she sat down beside me and said, “Hi, I’m Kenzie. Don’t worry about them. They are just jealous because you’ve been somewhere else, and they haven’t.” That was it. We were instant friends. Turned out we lived on the same street and once my parents divorced, I practically lived at her house with her, her parents and her brother Mychal. Now in our mid-twenties, we share an apartment together.
“Perfect! We ready?” Kenzie asks, snapping me from my thoughts.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I reply with a sigh. “You are so lucky I love you.” Her laugh makes it worth it as I give one last, longing look at my book and head out the door.
About 20 minutes later, Kenzie and I reach the little Mexican restaurant where we are meeting Tyler and Mychal. Tyler is Kenzie’s longtime boyfriend… I would say they are high school sweethearts, but their romance began in junior high. Him being the football star and her the cheerleader. They are perfect together. He is about a foot taller than her at 6’3” with sandy brown hair and brown eyes. He is really good to her; I can only hope that one day I will have a relationship as pure as theirs.
Then there is Mychal. Mychal is older than Kenzie and me by a couple years. I can’t help but wonder who his flavor of the week is now.
If I seem bitter, it’s because I am. I have secretly been in love with him for as long as I can remember.
No one knows. Not even Kenzie. She would probably be pissed if she did know… and I am pretty sure he thinks of me as just another sister anyway.
He keeps his dark blond hair a little long with a naturally messy look. His deep blue eyes are like oceans you could drown in. He has that rugged, bad boy look. At 25 years old he has made a name for himself. Not only with the ladies, but in the business world as well. It surprised no one when he chose to major in Business instead of Marketing like his mom or Law like his dad. He was always one to do his own thing. I have always admired their family for supporting each other in all they do. I wish it could be that way for me.
The guys are outside waiting for us as we park. I have to turn away because Tyler’s greeting for Kenzie is enough to make me blush.
I take my time as I walk over and say hello to Mychal. To my surprise, he isn’t here with a woman, but his best friend Drake… who by the way, is an asshole. He is tall, dark, and handsome… but an asshole none the less. I had the unfortunate privilege of dating him briefly. One date to be exact… about a year ago. It was awful. He took me to dinner and before we had our food, he was already hinting at sex. When we left the restaurant, he tried to shove his tongue down my throat and grabbed my tits… so, I kneed him in the balls and called Mychal for a ride home since he lived the closest. Besides, he was the one to set the date up, so I felt he owed me. I was humiliated, but Mychal made me feel better. By the time I made it home I was laughing so hard about the whole situation I was in tears.
Mychal returned my hello with a hug.
Drake smirked and waved.
Jokingly, I asked Mychal, “What, no date? Or is Drake your flavor this week?”
Mychal laughed answering, “Nah, just taking the night off for Kenzie… besides, Drake is still holding out for you.”
“Man, fuck you!” came Drake’s response.
“No, thanks.” Mychal and I say in unison.
By the time Kenzie and Tyler join us I cannot stop laughing. I love that Kenzie and Mychal are so close; That they have always wanted me around is a bonus. It is the only time I don’t feel like I’m an obligation.
Dinner has been great. I’m glad I came. The conversation has been flowing easily from all of us. To my surprise, there is not even tension between Drake and me. The past is the past, and he was a decent friend before our mistake night. When it comes time to leave however, my anxiety builds. I know Kenzie is ready to head out and party. Dinner with friends is one thing, but I do not party.
Mychal sees the panic rising and takes my hand. Squeezing it, he leans over whispering “It’s okay. I’m here. If it gets too bad, we can go, okay?”
Nodding my head yes, because that is all I can do, I take comfort in his words.
I ride along with Kenzie and Tyler, feeling like the third wheel I am. “Where are we off to?” I ask Kenzie.
She looks over at Tyler, since he is the one driving and says, “Take me somewhere I can dance!”
Tyler laughs and keeps driving.
Just a few minutes later we pull up to Kenzie’s favorite bar, it’s more of a club minus the door man. I don’t want to leave this car, but I will not let my best friend down. So, on a sigh I muster up my courage and get out.
I am happy to see Mychal and Drake are out of Mychal’s SUV, waiting. Before I know it, Kenzie and Tyler have disappeared into the bar. Shaking my head, I laugh and walk up to the guys. Mychal smiles while guiding me inside. With him here I feel safe. I know that it is wrong, but in my heart, I wish he could feel the same for me.
We have been here about an hour when Drake starts being his old self. I wish I could blame the alcohol, but I am sure it is just him.
We had all been talking and having fun, so when he asked me to dance, I said sure. Before I knew it, he was trying to kiss me, and his hand was on my ass. “Stop!” I yell as I try pushing him away, but I am unable to break his hold. I panic, fearing no one will hear me because his mouth is on mine.
Suddenly, I am out of Drake's grasp. Mychal is in front of me growling at him, “What the hell, man!?”
Drake glares at him and shouts. “Whatever, that bitch is going to die a virgin!”
I am mortified. I stand there, unable to move or speak.
Mychal comes over, putting his arm around me he leads me back to the table. He sits me down, turning my chair to face his; placing his hands on my knees he says, “I’m sorry. He’s an asshole. Are you okay?”
I feel the tears brimming my eyes as I respond with a simple “No.”
He takes me into his arms, apologizing again.
In his embrace I find comfort, allowing myself to cry for a few minutes. Once I’m able to speak I ask him why he is apologizing.
“Because I’m the one who brought that bastard with us. I should have never let him get close enough to hurt you again. You will never know how sorry I am.” He drops his eyes from me and I think I hear him sniffle. When he looks up again, his eyes are red, and his cheeks are wet.
I shake my head and laugh. With confusion written all over his face, he arches his brow and asks, “What’s so funny?”
“He’s right, you know?” He still looks confused, so I continue. “I will probably die a virgin. It’d just be a lot easier if the world didn’t seem to know about my love life… or lack thereof.”
He laughs, shaking his head he says, “That’s what happens when you live in a small town; everyone knows everything about everyone.”
I sigh with a “Yeah.”
We sit there quietly for a while; I break the silence when I say, “One of these days I think I’m just going to have sex… just to get it over with.”
He laughs out a “What?”
“I’m serious!” I reply “I’m tired of being the virgin. I have no hope of a serious relationship when the guys only want me to have a chance at my v-card. Once they find out it’s not happening right away, I either never hear from them again or it ends up just like it did with Drake… them thinking they have the right to go for it anyway. If love isn’t going to happen for me first, then maybe it will come along after.”
“Piper, look at me.” When I look up, he is staring at me intently. “You’re serious?”
I wait a bit before I softly respond, “Yeah, I think I am, Mychal. I’m just tired… tired of disappointment. It’s not like I’ve been saving myself for my wedding night. I didn't expect something special or romantic. I just wanted it to be with someone who somewhat cared about me. Someone that would still speak to me after. I know all of this sounds stupid. I sound like one of the hopeless girls in my books.” I finish, saying the last part to myself.
Oh my god, I am a complete an idiot… why did I tell him all of that?! I think to myself and feel the heat rising in my face.
He says nothing, and I grow more embarrassed by the second. Not only did I just say the most idiotic thing I could possibly say... I did it with zero alcohol in my system to blame.
I'm about to excuse myself to find Kenzie, tell her I'm not feeling well and going to find a ride home… when he finally speaks.
“I'll do it.” He says… so softly, I think I have heard him incorrectly.
“What?” I ask.
Just as he looks up at me to answer, Kenzie and Tyler join us at the table.
Kenzie looks back and forth between us and questions, “What's wrong?”
I have no words; I just sit there with a blank expression.
Mychal seeing I'm not going to answer anytime soon says, “Drake, being an asshole like usual.”
I can hear the concern in her voice when she looks at me and asks, “What the fuck did he do to you? I will to kill him.”
I cannot control my nervousness any longer and burst into a fit of laughter. “What the hell is wrong with you?!” she demands but I can't stop laughing to answer.
She looks to Mychal.
He shrugs. “She is laughing to ease the tension, I would guess. We were all having fun. Drake asked her to dance; then being Drake, he tried forcing himself on her. She tried pushing him away and when I saw her struggling against him... I handled it. Well, as much as I could while being in here. I will thoroughly handle it later.” He finishes with venom in his tone.
Kenzie leans over and hugs me apologizing.
“Would you two quit apologizing? You have no control over that asshole’s behavior!”
It's Kenzie's turn to laugh as she says, “We can't help it... we love you!” she continues, “Anyway, we are heading out. You ready?”
I hesitate, looking over at Mychal who hasn't taken his eyes off me.
Before I can answer, he says, “Stay and talk a while longer? I will get you home safe.” When I don't answer right away, he smirks and continues. “Let's give the birthday girl and her man a little alone time before I take you home, okay?” His eyes are pleading with me.
I have no idea what I'm in for, but I smile and agree.
We say our goodbyes and I am once again alone with Mychal; once again feeling the heat flame my cheeks.
After a few moments of sitting in silence he turns, “Piper, please look at me.”
I sheepishly look up at him. I am embarrassed, and it shows.
“If you are serious... if you are completely sure that is what you want to do... I'll do it.” I still can’t speak, so he continues. “Look, I’m impressed that you’ve waited as long as you have; I admire you. But if you truly just want to get it over with... I’ll do it. If it’s going to be this way, I want it to be me. I wouldn't intentionally hurt you. I care about you, and there’s not a chance I would ignore you after. I'd rather it be me, then some asshole like Drake.”
He has rendered me speechless, but he allows me time to think without saying another word. When I feel I can I finally speak, “Okay” is all I say.
He stands and reaches for my hand; I take his, completely numb, feeling as though I am dreaming.