"Are you sure this is going to work?"
"Hang on. Let me see you."
I stopped my hurried pace down the street and turned to face Angelica.
A pang of envy hit me as her chocolate brown eyes traveled over me in a thorough inspection. She was my best friend and I loved her to death but that didn't mean I couldn't wish to look like her.
Tall and statuesque with bronzed skin, long dark hair, perfect makeup and impeccable fashion sense, she was mistaken for one of the Kardashians on a daily basis.
Sure I had long dark hair too, but I was short with a small mouth, pale skin and a permanent Resting Bitch Face that more closely resembled Wednesday Addams.
With a long manicured finger, Angelica nudged my already-low top down even lower so that my lacy pink bra cups peeked out, contrasting sharply with the black tank top. If I had any doubts that men would stare at my chest, they were completely erased now.
"There," Angelica said proudly, hands on her hips as naturally as if she were born in front of a camera. "Now there's no way it can't work."
"I dunno," I muttered, feeling uncomfortably exposed. My dad would have a heart attack if he saw me like this. Mom would call me all kinds of creative names if she wasn't such a bimbo that only knew the word whore.
"What are you talking about? You look at least twenty-one," Angie insisted.
"Maybe my tits do, but my face still looks like I'm fourteen."
It didn't matter that my face was caked in makeup and I tried unsuccessfully for years to get a tan. I still got carded when I bought cigarettes and lottery tickets.
People always said, "Oh, you'll be grateful when you're older!"
I always thought, that's great but in the meantime, I'm nineteen and I get constantly mistaken for a child. It's kind of fucking annoying.
"Now they'll be too distracted to look at your face," Angelica said, gesturing toward my chest. "Anyway you have Marcy's ID, don't you?"
"So we've got nothing to worry about! Seriously, it'll be fine. I go to this bar all the time."
Yes, Angie. Because you're you.
We continued down the street. If my young face wouldn't betray me, my nervousness surely would.
Just act natural, Angie told me. Well, I'd never try to sneak into a bar while underage before so it didn't exactly come naturally to me.
It was still exciting nonetheless. The novelty of buying smokes and scratch-off cards wore off pretty soon after I turned eighteen. Getting my hands on alcohol proved more difficult than I imagined, but I finally struck pay dirt when Angie hooked me up with her cousin’s ID that hadn’t expired yet.
Sure, our eyes, lips, and noses were completely different shapes but you could barely tell in that tiny, shitty license photo. Especially in bar lighting.
The forbidden fruit was always the sweetest.
At school, there were twenty-one-year-old guys who would be down to buy booze but they always wanted something for it, and not extra cash. They wanted exactly what I had no desire to give.
And as far as my mom knew, we lived in an alcohol-free household but I knew Dad hid a bottle of whiskey in his desk drawer. Too bad he guarded it like a dragon over a treasure chest and I never got a chance to sneak a sip.
At some point, I wondered when my parents would realize that punishing me harder and treating me worse would only make me rebel more.
We were a deeply religious household according to my mother. I started noticing the hypocrisies around seven years old. By the time I was eight, I learned to not ask her questions like, Mommy, how could Noah fit two of each animal on the ark? My teacher told me there are over a million species of animals on the planet.
"Do not question your faith, Magdalene!" she screamed at me, stabbing a finger in my face. "If you turn away from Him, He will not welcome you into his arms in Heaven! You will join the non-believers in Hell!"
Hell sounded like a much more fun place to me.
So I read books and searched the internet instead. My parents were never smart enough to block certain websites or check my browser history.
By the time I was twelve, I learned that it was my fault that I grew breasts noticeable enough for grown men to catcall me. Mom made me wear turtlenecks no matter how hot it was and shorts that went no higher than my knees.
So while I definitely felt exposed walking down the street with my bra showing, the tops of my breasts covered in gooseflesh from exposure to the cool night air, it also felt freeing.
"Here we are!" Angie said excitedly as we approached a brick building with neon beer signs in the windows and a large man dressed in black standing in the doorway.
"Hrm," she said as we got closer, slowing down her high-heeled gait and chewing her lip.
"That's not the usual bouncer at the door."
"Are you kidding?" I stopped dead in my tracks.
"Relax, we'll still get in," she said, tossing her long, silky mane over her shoulder. "The bartender knows me."
The lights from inside the bar silhouetted the big doorman like some kind of halo. Music from a jukebox played some classic rock song that my dad would recognize instantly.
"Hey, how's it goin'?" Angie greeted the bouncer as we approached, flashing her perfect model smile. "You new here?"
"IDs, ladies," was his only reply.
"Sure, hun." Her tone was relaxed as she produced the card from her wristlet but I could sense her nervousness, which only kicked mine into overdrive.
I handed her cousin’s ID over from my rear shorts pocket and stuck my thumbs through my belt loops as we waited.
Then I wondered if that was too childish-looking so I mirrored Angie and crossed my arms in front of my chest.
I then realized that doing so squished my boobs together to create more cleavage and perkiness.
The bouncer paid no attention to our chests though as he inspected our IDs with a small flashlight. Maybe it was just my nerves but he seemed to be taking a long time. The people at the corner store never took this long when I bought my smokes.
His eyes flicked up to meet mine and I did my best to keep my Resting Bitch Face neutral and bored.
"What's your middle name, Marcy?" he asked me.
"Rebekah," I answered, hoping I didn't pause for too long.
"And your birthday?"
"January sixteenth, nineteen-ninety-four."
"Sorry, darling," he said, returning the card to me. "There is no damn way you're twenty-three."
"What?!" Angie and I cried out in unison.
"And this is straight-up fake. And not a very convincing one." He returned Angie's card to her.
"What the hell?" I demanded. "I answered your questions right!"
"Yeah but that ain't you in the picture," he smirked. "Try again when you're twenty-one, ladies."
"Oh come on! This is bullshit," Angie huffed. "I've been here tons of times before, our friends are waiting inside. This has never been an issue!"
“Alright,” the bouncer said with an amused chuckle as he turned to the side. “Point out your friends. Let’s see who knows you in here.”
Angie stuck her head inside the doorway and looked around at the patrons. My hope started to falter, giving way to disappointment.
“Where’s Manny?” she demanded. “The bartender.”
“No longer working here,” the bouncer replied. “Busted for reasons I’m sure you can guess.”
Serving alcohol to minors, I take it. What prize do I win?
Angie glanced over her shoulder at me, throwing me a helpless what do we do now? look.
I shrugged but took a cursory glance through the doorway.
No one looked like they would be willing to cover us on the spot, from what little I could tell. Everyone was at least ten years older than us and completely absorbed in their group of friends or significant others.
Except for one.
One guy sat at the bar by himself, but he was the last person on earth I expected to see alone.
He was beautiful.
His side profile looked carved from marble, from his straight nose, sharp cheekbones and jawline to his sandy blond hair that was clipped close around the sides of his head but in longer, sandy waves on top.
His body looked just as hard and defined. His dark slacks hugged large, muscular thighs and an ass that I could bounce a quarter off of. Biceps threatened to tear through the sleeves of his dress shirt that were pushed up to his elbows.
This beautiful man looked down into his drink, his large dark lashes shielding his eyes from view. My body felt light like a cloud as I stared at him. I wanted to see his eyes. I wanted to see what was behind them, what his story was.
He also appeared to be the youngest person in the bar and therefore our most likely ticket in.
“John!” I yelled into the bar, using the first male name I could think of. “Hey, John! It’s Marcy and Angie!”
His eyes lifted lazily in my direction as he cocked one perfect eyebrow. My heart crashed against my sternum as my gaze caught his. Would he play along? How lucky would that be if his name really was John? I wondered what his voice sounded like. Deep and manly, most definitely. Nothing like dumb frat boys who still squeaked like rats.
I suddenly really wanted and willed for him to pretend he knew us. Not for the alcohol, but just so I could sit next to him and talk to him. This perfect stranger captivated me and I could not begin to understand why.
“John, can you believe this guy won’t take our IDs?” I gestured at the doorman and made an eye roll that I hoped was convincing.
He raised his glass to his lips as an amused smirk crossed his face. A thin chain around his neck caught the light when he moved. A simple cross pendant hung delicately from the chain.
“Sorry, ladies.” His voice was velvety smooth and deep as thunder. “You’re trying to play the wrong guy.”