“Brie?,” Mrs. Nash whispered, as she gave my shoulder a jiggle. “I don’t want to wake you, darling, but, your Dad’s funeral is in a few hours.”
My eyes fluttered opened. I peeled myself off of the Nash family’s crackled leather couch and made a face that probably looked liked Lucille Ball’s “ewwwwww”, whenever Lucy made a mess of things.
“I have to get back to my hotel,” I croaked, as my thoughts flew around like debris in a tornado. “My clothes…oh my gosh, Dillon…Leah. They are probably calling the police right now reporting a missing person!”
My heart felt like it had received a jolt of electricity after a sleep of death. I jumped up and the red, velvety blanket that Nash draped over me, just hours before, slid to the ground. My feet carried me to the miniature downstairs bathroom off of the kitchen. I cranked the faucet on and splashed icy water on my cheeks. Everything shivered.
Mrs. Nash had followed me and was standing in the door frame. Her expression was ultra-maternal under her feathered bangs and short, soccer mom hairstyle.
“Sweetheart, I have a plain black dress somewhere in my wardrobe. You are so tiny, but I kept a lot of dresses from my ‘before kids days’.”
A brief smile sprouted on my face. I couldn’t seem to hold onto it for long. My thoughts jumped to my dead father. It was like the truth of his death/manslaughter exited my brain for a few hours. Then, in a flash, it was back. Along with the slow, painful, burn in the winding cracks in my heart. The burn was a new normal, ever since he died.
“Thank you Mrs. Nash,” I managed to say. “That would be a great help to borrow something, and I really have nothing in my closet next door at home. When I left last, I wasn’t sure when I’d be back.”
“I understand,” Mrs. Nash said, giving me a sympathetic smile. “I am glad to see you back, but, of course, not under these circumstances. Oh Lord. I just, I’m not sure what to say.”
“Let me get you a towel and a few options.”
When she left, I grabbed my phone from my purse next to the couch, and an iPhone charger that the Nash family left in the kitchen by the toaster. I trotted up the, plush carpeted stairs to the full bathroom. It was just remodeled, and it still had that fresh paint, new drywall scent about it. The mint green paint color was pretty and there were vanilla scented candles on the marble counter tops. I suddenly wished I had time for a bath.
I glared at sleepy-eyed Brie in the mirror. Through the years, I’ve been in self-dug holes. But this was the biggest ‘oh shit!’ of my life. I spent the night at Nash’s house. Drunk on nothing but passion, we left out of the bar, unnoticed. My phone died at some point, but I didn’t even consider that I should charge it. It was as if the rest of the world melted into a fuzzy, black and white, backdrop. The only thing I saw was Nash.
My stomach flopped when I thought about how tiny I felt in Nash’s arms, snuggled into the cozy couch. I’m sure that we broke the Guinness Book of World Records with the length of our make-out session. It lasted for hours until sleep pulled me away. I suppose that we both had it pent up for years. It was difficult to come to terms with what was happening between us. Although, I couldn’t fully appreciate the flames that he set in my heart. My feelings blended together in a unsavory kind of soup. It was almost too much for me.
I inhaled new construction and exhaled through my mouth. The way that Dr. Jones suggested. Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones. A single eyebrow inched higher.
All of this and I haven’t even considered cutting, I pondered. I ran the pad of my index finger over my deep, silver scar on my wrist. I shook my head. No part of me wanted to injure myself. Not even a little. I flashed my reflection a sideways grin.
It took me a half an hour to get completely ready. My phone charged as I showered and primped. Mrs. Nash even gave me a set of freebie Mary-Kay samples. She let me try on a sleeveless, stretchy cocktail dress with a lacy hem. The stretchy material made it so that it fit like it was tailored for my body. It was much cuter than I expected when she first suggested borrowing her clothes. Mrs. Nash wasn’t exactly a fashionista. I twirled my hair into a thick, bun and pinned it in place. I heaved a sigh at my reflection. At least I looked okay. Actually, I looked pretty, if I was being honest with myself.
I jumped when Nash joined me in the bathroom and shut the door. I watched in the mirror as he looped his arms around me from behind. It was like an out of body experience, peering at our reflection. We looked like a couple. The kind of couple that everyone stopped at stared at.
Nash, already dressed in an ironed button up and dark blue Levi’s, planted a small peck on the place where my neck and shoulder met. My limbs tingled at his touch.
“Hi,” I said, biting my lip.
“You look beautiful,” Nash said as he spun me around. He placed his lips upon mine. His familiar smell and the warmth of his body pulled me away from my predicament. Yet again. His touch was like a prick of heroine. When he leaned back, I wiped the shining golden brown lip gloss off of his lips.
“Not your shade, I’m afraid,” I said.
“Bitch, please,” Nash said with a pretend lisp.
I couldn’t help but giggle.
I had a flash in my mind of wiping lipstick from Dillon’s lips. I felt a trickle of ‘icky’ down my spine.
“Well, I let you get ready. I just had to kiss you before we have to go back and pretend none of this ever happened. That’s what you want, right?”
I scrunched my nose and shook my head. With my hands settled in his back pockets I said, “Now what?”
Nash shrugged. “I know you have stuff to sort out, and it’s only fair to give you time. I just…I just hope you don’t take too long.”
I ran my fingers through his hair and traced a line down his cheek to his strong jawline. His stubble tickled my fingers.
“I already know what I want,” I said, gazing right through Nash’s eyes. “You.”
“I am yours for the taking,” Nash said, tugging me closer. “But first, you must cut off your Dill-do”
I burst out in laughter. “He really is a dildo, isn’t he?”
“I would call him a tool… but tools are too useful.”
“Lord, Nash, why didn’t you tell me how you felt as soon as Tabitha dumped you?”
“I suppose I could ask you the same question.”
“True. Honestly, though, I’m not sure if I really ever liked Dillon. I think I lost myself, a little, with this Mascot Girl thing. And Greek life. Then he gave me that ring and everything spun out of control.”
“He didn’t seem like your type.” Nash said. “I knew he wouldn’t last.” He interlaced his fingers with mine and leaned into my lips.
The bathroom door swung open. Nash jumped back.
“Oh!” The surprised Mr. Nash said. His beady eyes grew five sizes behind his square glasses. He nervously ran his hand over his bald spot. “I-I should have knocked. Um, pardon me.”
He shut the door, sending a gust of wind our way.
Nash’s raised brows mirrored my own. “Well,” he said, “that just happened.”
I shook my head. “I have bigger issues,” I glanced at my phone resting on the bathroom sink. “My messages should be interesting.”
Nash made a sour, twisted, face and headed towards the door. “Good luck.”
“I’m with my grandma, Dillon, for Christ’s sake, chill the fuck out,” I hissed into my iPhone. I reached over to lock the door. Then, I turned on the fan in the bathroom. I didn’t want the Nash family to hear this. I began pacing back and fourth, like a lion trapped in a cage.
“Why don’t I believe you?” Dillon responded, with icicles forming on his words.
“Well, I don’t know!”
“Put Grandma on the phone, then.” I thought I heard Dillon grinding his teeth.
“Hell, no. What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong is… I can’t remember seeing you at all last night. Then, I couldn’t get a hold of you. I am so fucking pissed off.”
“Are you really?” I snapped. “Because I couldn’t tell!”
“Brie! Where the fuck did you go?”
I pressed the red button and growled.
“Screw you, you pompous ass!” I wanted to toss my phone, but didn’t want to break it. Too bad I couldn’t have the satisfaction of slamming a old-school phone into the receiver. Giving a red dot a little ‘boop’ wasn’t satisfying. I needed to end that conversation with some kind of hypothetical exclamation point.
I felt my cheeks burn. If only I could call him back and tell him that I spent the night in Nash’s sexy arms. Dillon’s reaction to not getting his way would be absolutely priceless. I felt an evil smile curve on my face.
Then, my smile faded. The faces of the Theta social committee flashed in my mind. And worse than that, what would Lauren Cunningham say? I thought of the repercussions on campus when the most popular guy gets castrated by a member of the ‘left over’ sorority. I actually felt a wave of fear.
He wouldn’t hurt me, I reassured myself. He’s a brat, but he’s not that kind of guy.
My mind quickly went to my closet full of free clothes. The way I get my nails and highlights on the dollar of the sorority. My fury transferred from Dillon to myself. I should have listened to my gut.
My phone started ringing again. Dillon. I cleared my throat.
“Listen!” Dillon hollered.
“Wait,” I said, forcing myself to be calm. “Truth is, I didn’t feel like being at a bar. Okay? My dad just died because of alcohol and you and Billy were at the bar getting lit. I don’t judge you for it, but it was difficult for me to witness.” Half truths.
“You should have told me that!”
“I didn’t want to ruin your good time. So I went back to the hotel. My grandma came really early and we went to breakfast. Now I’m…I am…back at my old house. I needed to do this for me.”
Dillon let out a gust of air that sounded like static on the other end.”And I need to be with you.”
“I’m fine. I’ll just see you at the funeral service. You and everyone have the directions, right? If not, I can text them again.”
“Brie. You need to get back here right now.”
I took two cleansing breaths. “I can’t. There is not enough time. I’m not going to be late to my dad’s funeral.” And certainly not for you, I added in my head.
“When I arrive, you are not to leave my side. Do you understand? I am your guest. Act like it.”
“Fine, okay, whatever,” I grumbled. I heard a click.
I went back downstairs to find a table jammed with breakfast food. Ruby-red strawberries, silver dollar pancakes, fluffy scrambled eggs… There was a collective steam that swirled together and crept into my nose.
“Breakfast Heaven,” I muttered. Four pairs of eyes gleamed at me from the table. Nash’s brother, Anthony, had arrived home last night from dentistry school, just for the funeral.
I saw Mr. and Mrs. Nash exchange glances. Mrs. Nash’s cheeks looked like two apples, hovering besides her button nose. Her eyes twinkled as she watched me pull out a chair next to Nash.
Nash grinned; cheeks stuffed with food when I took a seat. He reached down and squeezed my knee.
I shrieked and my leg, involuntarily jerked up, knocking into the table. The dishes chattered, and Anthony grabbed his glasses of orange juice to steady it. Mrs. Nash’s coffee splashed over the rim.
I whipped Nash in the chest. “Nash! I hate when you squeeze my knee. That, like, ultra tickles in the worst way.”
“I know,” Nash said, his eyes shining with mischief, “that’s why I did it.”
“Grow up!” I said, sticking my tongue out at him.
“Well, hello, kettle,” Nash stabbed his fork full of eggs and stuffed them into his mouth. “My name is pot.”
I pointed to Nash and pressed my lips together firm, to prevent the smile that was desperately trying to form. “Mrs. Nash, do I really I have to sit by him? He is nothing but trouble.”
Mrs. Nash’s eyes darted to Mr. Nash and then back into mine. She tilted her head and heaved a sigh. “Brie, you can sit wherever you want. James, you behave.”
I sent a mocking expression to Nash. He responded by stealing the bacon that I had just put on my plate.
“James, good lord,” Anthony said with a chuckle. “Here, Brie.”
Anthony dumped the rest of his bacon onto my plate. I gathered up as much food as my plate would allow. My moth watered. Then, without any games and without any cutting pancakes into little pieces. Without counting, or thought, or guilt, I devoured the best meal of my life.