Staying Around You Is All I See
“What are you doing? Are you insane? I thought you really liked Steve,” Brittany says.
For the moment, we are alone at the table in the Saloon. Megan has coaxed Steve to dance and Clayton is dancing with my grandmother. Riordan and Mark are playing pool.
I sip my glass of pinot noir and shrug.
Brittany sighs. “You’re letting that leech who calls herself your best friend just steal him from you?”
I laugh. “What? Megan a leech? She’s one of the best people I know.”
Brittany leans forward. “Why?”
“Because she’s so nice and she’s always been so supportive of me when I’ve been going through things. And she’s kind.”
“Princess, I don’t know about you.” Brittany folds her arms across her chest and shakes her head. Tonight, she’s dressed in a rather subdued manner for her: a t-shirt with “Bite Me” scrawled on it and daisy dukes that are much longer and looser than her last pair.
I stare at her expectantly, wondering if she’s going to continue, but she takes a sip of her honey blonde ale and watches Steve and Megan and my eyes wander toward them as well. Megan is smiling up at him so sweetly and then they share a laugh. I swallow hard.
“You seem to have things messed up in your head,” Brittany says.
Brittany opens her purse and removes her wallet. She yanks out a picture and hands it to me. It’s of a mousy looking woman with thick rimmed glasses, her brown hair pulled back into a pony tail. She wears no makeup and the first description that comes to mind is that she’s plain.
“Do you know who that is?” Brittany asks me.
“What?” I take the photo in my hand and look from it to Brittany and see only the vaguest of resemblances.
“No, I haven’t had plastic surgery. I got rid of the glasses, got my hair done and dress sexy. But I might go back to being Sarah Devlin when I get back home. Sarah Devlin is my real name. But Brittany sounds sexier, doesn’t it?”
I shake my head. “I’m confused.”
“I’m not real, Callie. This person I’ve been on the writer’s retreat doesn’t really exist. I know it sounds excessive, but I wanted to be someone else. I’m just like you. That’s why I know you. In my real life, I’m not flirty or promiscuous. I had one long-term boyfriend who ditched me for someone like Megan.”
“But, Megan’s a good person.”
Brittany snorts. “Tell me one thing.”
I shrug. “What?”
“When you thought a guy was cute and you said something to Megan, what happened?”
“I don’t follow.”
“I know you’re brighter than this.”
I think back to college when I told her I had a crush on Nick Delgado or a year later when there was Henry. She ended up dating them both. I glance at her and Steve. She has her face tucked against his throat.
Brittany laughs. “Yeah. Just as I thought. You’re the nice one, Princess. You are uptight and a little snooty, but you’re the nice one.”
“Yes. She’s a drama queen and an opportunist.”
“She’s my best friend.”
“Really? Who did you go to when you found out your husband was cheating on you?”
I look at Grams, who’s always been there for me.
“Your grandmother is cool.”
We sit quietly. I feel a little sick because I think that Brittany/Sarah might really be telling me the truth.
“Go cut in. Go dance with Steve.”
“He likes her.”
“Really? I could have sworn he liked you, but you’ve done nothing but avoid him and pretty much offer her up to him.”
“Can I really just go out there and cut in?”
“Yep. But wait. Let me get the DJ to play something good.”
Brittany scampers over to the DJ and gets him laughing and nodding. He glances at me and then her and shrugs but nods. She kisses him on the cheek and then sends me a thumbs-up. When the Taylor Swift song ends, I hear the familiar notes of a song I always thought was one of the sexiest I’d ever heard. I gulp. Can I do this?
Suddenly I am striding across the dance floor. Steve looks at me. His eyes seem filled with me. It’s like we’re the only two people who exist. Megan is still hanging on him as I tap her on the shoulder.
“What are you doing, Callie? Go back to the table,” Megan says, irritation tinging her voice.
“No. This is my dance with Steve,” I say, my eyes still connected with his.
He drops his hands from her shoulder and smiles at me.
“Callie, I’m having a nice time with Steve.”
“Well, yay. I’m going to dance this dance with him and then you can go back to having a nice time with him…if he wants.”
He raises an eyebrow at that and his grin widens. Carp, I love it. Parts of my body simmer.
“God, you just get so jealous sometimes,” she says, but she leaves, heaving a huffing sigh as she walks away.
“Hello,” Steve says.
“Hi.” I grin, feeling my face redden. I wrap my arms around him and we sway to “Let’s Stay Together.”