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Melanie. I wasn’t always an only daughter
I wasn’t always an only daughter. I was born with an identical twin. She was born first at five and a quarter pounds, and I followed weighing a little more.
My mother says we were both precious, small and pink, but she can never seem to manage the rest. It was Dad who eventually told me the whole story. That I was not born perfect . . . that I was born with a malfunctioning kidney and my twin was born with a severe heart condition. We were both struggling to live and within the hour it became obvious she was struggling the hardest.
When her heart gave out, they gave me her kidney.
They named her Lauren and buried her next to my dad’s mother. Every year my birthday is my saddest day of the year. But I go visit her grave with my favorite flowers—I figure, as my twin, they’d be her favorite too—and then I have the wildest party of the month because I sense she wants it to be worth it. “I want you to show me you are joyful and happy, always,” my mother cheerfully tells me. So I do. Even when there’s that ache of loss that never goes away, I am determined to be happy.
My parents told me they wanted me to be happy because they were so happy I survived. And so I try to live happy and I never, ever show them that I’m not.
My dad counts my smiles and says I have five smiles—total—and therefore I always make sure he gets to see one of them.
I’m living for two people. I’m trying to stuff into one lifetime what could fill two lives. So I get up every morning and put on my perfect face and promise myself to have the perfect day and to someday have the perfect family. But I’m failing.
And my parents know it.
“Your mother wishes, one day, when you marry, and settle down, maybe you’ll have twins,” my dad said wistfully to me once.
“That would be nice,” I said with a heavy heart and a big bright smile on my face.
Sometimes I wonder if she’d be married already. Lauren.
Sometimes I have a bad day and am certain that maybe she’d have made my parents prouder or happier than me. All I know for sure is that if they’d picked her, she’d make the same hard efforts I do to live happy.
I won’t even be picky about having twins, but I do dream of falling in love with the perfect guy, and having a baby girl and naming her Lauren.
I dream of my guy so much, he gives me an ache. I dream of that look, like the one Greyson looked at me with, a look that tells me that this guy—right here, this breathing human being—thinks I’m enough. Thinks, and is glad, that the one who’d survived was me. Because sometimes I really wish that if only one of us would make it, it would’ve been Lauren.
♥ ♥ ♥
The day after Greyson
WALKING OUT OF the corner Starbucks cafe is Pandora, one of my three closest friends. The man-eater. Well, not man-eater. She’s just supremely independent, dark, gloomy, and secretive. But that’s okay because I’m happy, chatty, and sunny, so we mesh. Well. We try to. Today she’s going for her Angelina Jolie badass look and her usual dark lipstick and those boots she got on sale that reach her thighs. Even the way she walks intimidates men as she carries our usual coffees up to where I’m waiting at the corner—this was her day to get the coffee, after all—and without a word, we both sip and cross the street on our way to Susan Bowman Interiors.
You could say making things pretty is something Pandora does to make a living, but I do it as art. Because there’s something about a room welcoming you that can brighten your crappy day, and I like making people happy, even in that small way.
“So,” she prods me.
I smile secretly against my coffee lid.
“So, what?” I say. I want to make her beg because I’m a little evil like that. She just brings it out in me. The thing about Pandora and me is: we’re different as hell. So it’s always a push and pull with her, which we both secretly enjoy, I guess.
“So what the fuck. Tell me about the prince who charmed your pants off.”
“Pandora, I can’t even . . . I just can’t EVEN.” My grin hurts on my face and I shoot her a look that says He fucked my brains off and I loved it. “It was . . .” Out of this world. Perfect. Beyond perfect. “I never knew sex like that existed. I never knew I could feel a guy’s touch in my BONES.”
As we reach our floor and head to our L-shaped desks, situated right next to each other, I can’t stop smiling.
Truly, I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I almost feel shy about sharing him with her. But at the same time, I feel like getting a loudspeaker and telling my work colleagues that I think I may, just may, have found the ONE!
“Well, don’t stop there, coy virgin! Tell me the rest,” Pandora insists, booting up her computer. “Dude, getting Starbucks today entitles me to some gory details.”
“I got coffee yesterday and always get shit from you,” I counter as I sit and absently rub the little mark behind my ear, almost a hickey. . . . “I’m not giving you gory details, those are for me to dwell on and fantasize over. But, Pan, the way we connected. The way he looked at me. And looked and looked and couldn’t stop looking at me.”
“Oh, boy, you really are on ecstasy.” She sighs and puts her forehead on her palm as if she’s in for a headache. I know that she hates it when I’m in my bestest mood, so I just grin, start humming, and wonder what my mother would say if she knew about this.
I was married and had you before I was twenty-five, she’s told me all my life.
And I tell her that I’m twenty-five in three weeks and have great friends and a damn career.
But now, maybe, there’s a boy . . .
As Pandora and I start mixing and matching fabrics for our current assignments, my mind drifts off to my phone.
I have this rule that the last one to text should be the one who is next texted.
Greyson texted “And accurate” last night and before I know it, I text him back.
Are you there?
To be honest, I don’t know what to expect. This is uncharted territory for me. I hardly know what my name is today.
One moment I was at a party with so many people . . .
And then I was with him.
And he was with me.
Entirely focused on me.
And what frightens me—no, what haunts me—is not that he gave me the best orgasms of my life, though that rocked, but that I felt something. That his touch went farther than my skin, it went into me.
My skin prickles pleasurably remembering the way our eyes met as we made love, and I keep staring at my phone, waiting for him to text me.
♥ ♥ ♥
Two days after Greyson
TODAY WE’RE DECORATING one of my client’s new homes. At Susan Bowman Interiors, no matter who’s in charge of the project, everyone pitches in on “the” day when the actual delivery and arrangement of furniture takes place. Basically it works like this:
I meet with a client and get the hang of their budget and taste.
I make a proposal detailing the approximate costs, room by room, and propose the decorating concepts.
I make the room plans, take room measurements, then deliver the PDF files with the prices of several options and images and fabric swatches, based on the concepts we discussed.
Once the client approves our choices, I show it all to Susan, get her stamp of approval, then I order the fabrics, the furniture, the window treatments, the rugs and carpets, and everything is shipped to the company warehouse, where it is checked and assembled and upholstered. And then, the fun begins. For we actually get to set a date, usually when our client is out of town, and we will get to make everything that we visualized mentally happen in real life.
I’m a visual person, and this is what I do. This is what I love. Since I was three years old, I visualized everything. From the way I would dress for the first day in school. To the way a certain boy would look at me. To the way the teacher would smile in delight at the apple my mother always had me take. She said if I put an apple in their hand, I would be putting their hearts in my pocket. I always felt ridiculous giving them the apple, but my mother is very big on being “generous” to everyone and is always giving out things, even hugs. Yes! She’s done the FREE HUGS posters at charity events and just hugs everybody—and she’s taken me with her. So I guess I’m big on hugs too. They just feel good. In any case, pleasing people and living a happy, relaxed, colorful life is what I love.
“Where’s this going to go?” Pandora asks as she unwraps a pretty glass lamp.
“Oh, that little darling goes in the girl’s room,” I say, then I check all my files for the third time today. “It’s over that old pink vanity and this little fellow.” I toe a small striped ottoman that is so fun, it takes all my effort not to hug it. “Isn’t it cute?”
“What’s cute is how you keep pulling out your phone like it’s a warm, live puppy.”
“Oh, hush! I’m checking my signal.”
And my signal looks . . . okay.
NO text. Still.
Sometimes guys need nudges. They’re scared. It was too intense. He gave me “the” look. Right now, he could be sitting at home thinking—What the fuck, Greyson man?
I mean, it’s very possible he could be having problems like I am. I cannot go to sleep without fingering myself. So there. He’s made me think of only him, his skin, his touch, and I want it . . . I crave it . . . I freaking need it again. I’ve mentally checked myself into the Greyson Addicts Anonymous and only he can remedy my disease.
So for the sake of helping him, for the sake of easing the little sting of disappointment that’s starting to grow on the left side of my chest, hell, for the sake of him knowing I am definitely still interested and please, dude, if you liked me at all, do as you said and call me, I consider breaking my cardinal rule of texting and maybe texting him again.
Rules say I shouldn’t. But I’ve never liked rules, and Greyson doesn’t look like a rule man either.
What do I do?
I want to ask Pandora but I already loathe the smirk on her face.
I want him to know the truth, that I want him to call me. I don’t want to play games. Not with him.
Even so, I force myself to tuck my phone back in my bag and remind myself Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any worthwhile relationship.
“Melanie,” Pandora says, her lips flattening into a thin black line.
I blink innocently and smile. “What?”
“Face it. He was a douche.”
“Is . . .”
♥ ♥ ♥
Four days after Greyson
“NOTHING YET?” PANDORA asks.
I want to groan when she comes up to my desk, where I was hoping I could hide from her and her peering black eyes. But today, it happens that she’s the one with a flat, angry little smile, and I’m the one with the scowl.
On Monday I didn’t know my name; I was on cloud nine. On Tuesday I was still hopeful and upbeat, on about a cloud three. Today I’m not only back on earth, I fell a couple notches down to purgatory or maybe even all the way to hell. All I know is that today is Thursday, and I have heard zip, zero, nada from him in days.
Like a fool, I’ve been smiling, glancing at my phone and waiting for something, but to be honest, my phone has started to feel like a heavy, motionless boulder in my bag, and its silence is telling me things—things that GREYSON probably doesn’t have the balls to tell me himself.
It was good. For a one-night stand. Thanks for the fuck. You won’t be hearing from me again.
“Nothing yet,” I defensively tell Pandora as I stand up and carry my phone to the ladies’ restroom. I lock myself inside and go wash my face in the sink. I think of hazel eyes with flecks of green and the look Greyson King kept giving me . . . and I feel so beyond wretched and disappointed, I slowly type another text while a well of emotion keeps growing in my chest.
I keep thinking I imagined you.
I wait for a couple of minutes. I wash my hands, dry them, check my phone, stare at my nails, check my phone. There’s a knock on the door and one of my colleagues calls, “Anyone in there?”
I shout, “I’ll be right out!” then I pace a little, reread the text I sent him, including that mopey sad face, and suddenly, I feel like the world’s biggest fool.
This morning I Googled him and found, surprisingly, nothing at all.
No trace of Greyson King on the Internet. He could’ve been a ghost.
A ghost not answering my texts, not interested in me, not feeling the connection that has been eating and gnawing, haunting and consuming me.
A ghost that I, drunken Melanie, made up to stop feeling lonely.
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