Excerpt from WITH BENEFITS
“I should fire his punk ass,” Cheryl said. “Nobody disrespects my girl.”
“You can’t fire him without cause,” Britt sighed. “Being a punk ass isn’t cause.”
“Yeah, I guess. And our memberships have picked up since we hired him. Wenches are signing up for personal training with Justin like it comes with chocolate and orgasms. Maybe I should tell Mike to beat him up.”
“You probably don’t want to go there. He looks even bigger with his clothes off.”
“Speaking of which, what’s the down and dirty?”
“Let’s just say you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
“What? You mean that big ass cyborg has a little wee-wee?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say little.”
“He’s fighting with a rapier, and I’m more of the broadsword type, you know?”
“Ooh Britt, damn! Now see, I’m not gonna be able to look him in the face again without thinking about his skinny sword and trying not to laugh!”
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with it. He just wasn’t for me.”
“I guess not if he’s got a Zorro blade but you need Conan’s sword.”
“No, I mean that I don’t need to be jumping into bed with people all willy-nilly.”
“Are you okay?”
Britt had had better weekends in her life, but she didn’t see any point in expressing the depth of her regret and making Cheryl feel guilty. Anyway, Cheryl had only led her to the water. Drinking it had been her own stupid decision. “I’m fine. I just know that there are some things I can’t do. Yesterday was a harsh reminder of that.”
“Britt, don’t let one asshole turn you off to enjoying life, okay? Everybody isn’t like that self-centered prick.”
“Maybe not, but I learned my lesson. I can’t sleep with a guy I don’t know and don’t even know if I like.”
“Then that could be a problem.”
“How many men do you know outside your job? You don’t do anything but work and go to movies. You need to take up some hobbies, something that’ll get you out of the house.”
“I started playing racquetball again.”
“Since Friday. I played with Kyle.”
“Remember the IT guy I met last spring at work?”
“Get outta here! He called you?”
“I called him. It was a spur of the moment thing but it turned out nice.”
“And you’re just now telling me? What the hell and exactly how nice?”
“I was going to tell you yesterday, but you threw Justin in my face so fast I didn’t get a chance.”
“Well damn, look at you, getting your groove on.”
“It wasn’t like that. We just played racquetball; just a fun activity.”
“A fun activity with a man attached to it. You gonna get some?”
“It’s not like that. Anyway, he’s involved with somebody.”
“He can’t be that involved if he’s playing racquetball with you.”
“Well, I kind of put him on the spot. The gym is at his job and I just showed up so it wasn’t like he wasn’t already there. And he’s a nice guy so he probably would’ve felt bad saying no. Or maybe he sensed that I’m easy.”
“Hey, quit that shit. You’re not easy. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Britt was sitting in her bed with the covers tucked under her chin and a box of Kleenex by her side, at the ready. So far this morning as she’d reflected over what she’d done yesterday she hadn’t needed any tissues, which was a good thing since she’d gone through most of the box while trying to get to sleep last night. “I’m fine; just a little tired.”
“Hey, I’m sorry if I pushed you into Justin. I just wanted you to have some fun.”
“I’m a big girl. I make my own decisions, even if they’re dumb ones.”
“So when are you going to see the IT guy again?”
“I don’t know, but he has my number. He asked for it. He said he didn’t want to wait three months again.” Britt felt herself smile as she relayed that information. It was the first time she’d come anywhere close to smiling since yesterday afternoon.
“So then you’re okay?”
“About yesterday with Justin. Are you really okay, Britt?”
“When I got home I took a shower, then a bath, then another shower before I went to bed. I think ten or twelve more showers should do the trick.”
“Damn. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’ll be fine.”
“Okay well, Mike is staring at me and tapping his watch and his foot at the same time, so I need to get off the phone so we can get to church. But if you need to talk later you’d better call me, okay?”
“So what are your plans for today?”
Staying in bed and wallowing in self-pity felt like a pretty good idea. Except that she was starving. After her debacle with Justin she hadn’t been in the mood to eat, and so she hadn’t had a bite since lunch in New York yesterday. What she really needed was some coffee, but she didn’t want to get out of bed.
“I don’t know,” Britt said. “I’ll probably just make it a lazy Sunday and do nothing.” Nothing, like staying in bed all day adding to my snotty tissue collection.
Staying in bed felt like a good plan, but Britt’s stomach was trying to twist itself into a knot. She needed to eat something. She decided that coffee and whatever was left in the box of Krispy Kreme’s she’d bought last week would make perfect comfort food, so after talking to Cheryl she made herself crawl out of bed.
Britt crawled back into bed, thinking that she hadn’t been this stupid even back in high school. Back in the day if fine Tony Manchester or cute star forward Marcus Banks had tried to talk to her or asked her out she would have known that something was up, that it was a trick. The popular boys wouldn’t be caught dead with the giraffe. She would have known that, and she would have run away. So how could she be stupid enough to sleep with Justin…
She didn’t even know his last name, for god’s sake.
Britt felt her face grow hot and full. She felt her eyes well with tears. She couldn’t cry, not now. If she started crying now, tissues would be no help. She’d need a beach towel and a bucket to sop up the flood.
Britt told herself to not think about yesterday’s mistake, but to think about the positive present; what was good about her life. She had a roof over her head. She had food in her cupboard, though she wasn’t in the mood to eat it. She was safe in her bed.
The bed sheets had cooled while she was down in the kitchen. Britt pulled the covers over her head and burrowed deep, trying to accelerate their warming to her body’s heat. It felt so nice, being hidden away from everything and everyone. She thought that if she could stay in her comfortable bed forever her life would be just perfect. She closed her eyes. Maybe she could sleep the day away and not have to think about things.
From the nightstand her house phone chimed.
It probably wasn’t Cheryl again; she was at church. Britt hoped it wasn’t her mother. Her mom had that mother radar that would detect something wrong in her voice. Britt had never had a problem talking to her mother about sex, but she didn’t want to talk to her about yesterday. Negative judgment of herself was bad enough. Judgment from the one who’d brought her into the world was one step below judgment from God.
She reached out from under the covers, fumbled on the nightstand, found the handset and dragged it into her bedcover cave.
The caller ID showed a local area code and a number she didn’t recognize.
“I’m sorry; did I wake you?” Kyle asked. “You sound kind of croaky.”