By the time nightfall came on Saturday, Ginger had spent hours playing dress up with me. She fixed my dark hair in a fishtail braid that fell over my shoulder and made me squeeze into a short, black dress with long, sheer sleeves. Upon her insistence, I also put on a pair of uncomfortable and dangerously high black heels. She had created a smoky eyed look that made my hazel eyes pop.
The clock on the nightstand read nine; it was almost time to leave. A horrid feeling of anxiety washed over me. In less than an hour, I would be in a room full of people. I began to feel nauseous. As my breathing became irregular, I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down before leaning against my dresser. No one knew me here; no one would stare at me. I would no doubt be the most uninteresting person there and that was exactly what I wanted.
I can do this I can pretend to be normal. I can pretend to forget. Don’t look back.
I stared at myself in the large mirror above my chest of drawers. I pulled my hand down my sleek braid and ran my fingers over the fake lashes that Ginger had applied. The girl in the mirror was different, pretty almost, but all the makeup in the world wasn’t enough to cover the ugly person hidden behind the façade. No matter how hard I tried.
“Quinn! Get your butt down here…. I want to leave!” Ginger called from downstairs. I gave myself one last wistful glance in the mirror and made my way to the grand staircase.
I took one step down, careful to keep my balance in the shoes. The last thing I needed was to fall and break my neck. Though I might deserve to. I pushed the morbid thought out of my mind; if I wanted to start over I needed to stop thinking that way. When I felt safe, I proceeded down another step with a bit more confidence. I can do this. Halfway down, my stiletto heel slipped off the edge of the solid oak below me. I promptly found myself sitting on my butt; a sharp pain shot though my back as it slammed into one of the steps behind me. I winced and kicked off the heels. “Stupid shoes,” I cursed.
Ginger popped her head over the banister. I could tell she was trying hard not to laugh at my klutzy behavior. She looked exquisitely put together, as always. Her lips were a bright red that matched her low-cut red cocktail dress. She flipped her long ponytail behind her bronzed shoulder. “Come on,” she said.
“Do I gotta?”
“Yeah, you need to do something other than lay in bed.”
“I don’t just lie in bed.” I pulled myself up by grabbing hold of the banister. “Anymore,” I added after a second. Ginger bit her lip, like she wanted to say something else.
“What?” I snapped. No one ever told me what thoughts were inside his or her head, and I hated it. Her face softened slightly before speaking.
“Your mom told me about everything that was going on. I want you to know that…even though we aren’t as close anymore… I am here, if you want to talk. I want us to be just like old times.”
That was great; I’m sure she and my mom had a grand ole time talking about poor, pathetic Quinn.
“I’m sick of talking ‘bout it, I’m sick of thinking ‘bout it, and I’m sick of people whispering ‘bout it when I go into town. I want to put the past behind me. Be someone else for a change.” By the time I’d finished talking, I’d made it to the bottom of the stairs. I couldn’t look Ginger in the eyes; they held nothing but pity.
“Then remember I’m here,” she repeated. I gave her a tight smile and grabbed my black clutch on the entryway table. “Can we go now?” I asked.
Ginger laughed. “I thought you didn’t want to go,”
She was right. I still didn’t want to go to the party, but I also didn’t want to have this conversation anymore. She grabbed my hand to pull me to the front door. “Wait up!” I cried out, motioning towards my bare feet.
“Where in the hell are your shoes?” Ginger exclaimed, as if taking off my shoes were some huge crime.
“They hurt my feet; I’m wearing my own shoes.” Ginger only rolled her eyes
“Hurry. I’m gonna go wait out in the car.” She said as she walked out the door.
I poked around the front hallway; I’d stashed my shoes there that morning after going for a walk. I pulled out a ratty, old black pair of converse high tops and quickly slipped them on my feet. They fit like a glove and I sighed as my feet sunk into their depths. These were definitely not the shoes that Ginger expected me to put on, but I didn’t care. No one would be paying attention to my feet anyway. Celebrities and models would overshadow me. If I were lucky, I would be a wallflower. I ran out to the car and hoped that Ginger wouldn’t notice my feet. With her porch light off, it was pretty dark. I didn’t want to change back into those heels; they would be the death of me.
I hopped into Ginger’s black Range Rover. She didn’t even give me a moment to put on my seat belt before she screeched out of the driveway. I threw on my belt before giving her a stink eye. “Where’d you learn how to drive?” I joked.
“Same place you did; the cow pasture,” she replied.
I laughed, only because it was true, and if the paparazzi ever found out about that story they would have a field day. We had both driven her father’s old beat up Mustang in the cow pasture, wrecking many times into hay bales, and ploughing over knee-high brambles, I might add.
“Maybe you should have kept the rented limo,” I teased.
“Hey! I’m not that bad!”
We flew past the palm trees and mansions then as wildly as we’d pulled out, my body swayed to the right as Ginger pulled into another driveway.
“That was fast…” I mumbled, confused as to where the party was.
“We all live on the same street. My Timeline buddies and I,” she replied.
She was speaking about the other stars of her daytime soap opera, but I found it creepy that they all lived on the same street. The driveway was long, secluded, and off the street. She pulled in behind a slew of other cars, all luxury SUV types, and pulled out her compact to check herself out in the mirror.
I took a deep a breath and reached up to play with my braid. Ginger grabbed my hand to stop me from fretting. “Calm down,” she said, “These are normal people. They are my friends and they will love you.” She gave me one of her blindingly white, mega-buck smiles. I immediately was at ease. She wouldn’t put me in a situation I couldn’t handle.
“It’s been so long since I’ve had any fun,” I told her reluctantly.
This party was a new beginning.
“You have allure on your side. Be mysterious, and maybe we can find you a new boyfriend,” I rolled my eyes at her comment. I didn’t have any desire for men; romance was the last thing I needed. My heart was already too damaged.
“Don’t ditch me,” I told her as we got out of the car. The house in front of us was breathtaking. Everything, from the exterior made of white stone to the large bushes, were perfectly planted around the perimeter. Every light in the house shined through the glass to the rows of cars outside.
I followed Ginger up the driveway to the large French doors made entirely of glass. Ginger pressed the doorbell and turned around to speak to me. “You’ll love these people, they-what in the-what is on your feet?” I sheepishly cocked my foot to the side to show off my high tops.
“Ginger, they’re just shoes; I doubt anyone will be staring at my feet.” She huffed at me and turned around as the doors swung open.
Right in the middle of the doorway stood almost six feet of pure jaw-dropping, mind-melting hunk on a stick. Literally, a hunk on a stick. He held a large shepherd’s cane in his right hand, which he leaned against. His hair was a dirty blond that fell down to his shoulders in loose beach-like waves. His eyes were a bright blue and his skin rocked a deep brown surfer tan. When he smiled at us, his teeth were a perfect white. I let my eyes wander down from his face and over his loose brown robe. Even the dirty bunch of fabric couldn’t hide the obviously fit physique that most definitely had to come from hours of surfing.
“What are you auditioning for this week, Barrett?” Ginger asked, only slightly amused by his ensemble.
“Why, I scored an audition for a biblical role; don’t I look great?”
Ginger snorted and pushed past him, dragging me behind her. “There is nothing biblical about you, Barrett.”
I sensed tension between the two and made a mental note to ask Ginger about it later.
“Wait, who’s your friend?” he called after us. Ginger didn’t stop. She only pulled me through the lavishly decorated hallway.
It was a modern home. Everything was either black or white, and it was spotless.
“Stay away from him, Quinn,” she warned when we were out of earshot. His cocky laugh echoed from down the hallway, and I immediately decided that I didn’t like him, no matter how good-looking he was. If Ginger hated him so much, she must have had a good reason.
In a similarly decorated living room, crowds of people stood around, glasses of wine in their hand. Some people drank beer. For the most part, everyone seemed mellow and normal. A few girls rushed up to Ginger; I recognized them from the soap opera Ginger was on, though I hadn’t watched it in some time.
“Girls, this is my cousin, Quinn. Quinn, these are the girls,” she said. I was a little confused as to why I didn’t get their names, but I went with it.
“Hi, girls.” I waved my hand and they gave me what seemed to be fake smiles. Even if Ginger had given me their names, I’m not sure I could have told them apart. They were the spitting images of playboy bunnies. Ginger pointed to a bar in the corner of the room.
“Go get yourself a drink, Quinn. I need to deal with something for a minute.” I gave her a pleading look that begged her not to leave me alone, but her sights were set on Barrett, who eyed her from the hallway. I let it go. I walked towards the bar, feeling a little out of place among all of the attractive people. Most of the girls wore dresses and none of the men wore jeans. They all looked perfectly put together for the public eye. I sucked in my stomach and held my head high as I walked past, but it didn’t help. I cursed myself for wearing the high tops. I was stupid to think I could mingle among the upper crust. How could I blend in and be unnoticeable when I stuck out like a sore thumb? When I reached the bar, a man in a white shirt and pants with black, slicked back hair leaned forward to speak to me.
“What will it be, pretty lady?”
I hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol in months. It was part of my treatment. I was supposed to keep a clear mind, but screw clear minds tonight.
“Give me whatever is the strongest.” He gave me a subtle wink and pulled out a cup full of ice. He poured some brown liquid in it and pushed it towards me.
I silently sipped on the liquid, almost gagging as it hit my taste buds. It was strong and revolting. Perfect. I scanned the crowd for Ginger, but I couldn't find her. Should I leave and walk home? Maybe I could give it a few extra minutes. I wanted a fresh start to ease the pain, and the only way to do that was by leaving the old Quinn behind. New Quinn is going to stay and get a few free drinks. I walked to the side of the bar, away from the crowd. I wanted to be on the outside spying in.
“Nice shoes,” a deep voice said from beside me. I almost spit my drink out in surprise. Only two inches away from my face stood a man with chocolate colored eyes and short brown hair that stuck up all over his head as if he had just rolled out of bed. I detected some sort of Hispanic descent in his good looks. He wore a pair of khakis and a tight long-sleeved black t-shirt. He actually seemed normal compared to all the Barbie and Ken dolls around me, and it made me feel at ease. I took a step back so that our faces weren’t so close. “Yeah, I reckon heels aren’t really my thing,” I replied and took another sip from my cup. He chuckled and folded his hands across his chest, one hand stroking his chin as if he were studying me.
“Whiskey...high tops...no French manicure...”
He picked up one of my hands and studied it. Shocked by the way my heart sped when he touched me, I pulled it out of his grasp. I could feel my face turning red, but I willed my breathing to slow down and hoped that he couldn’t see me blush under all of the makeup. He was quite literally the most striking man I’d ever laid eyes on. The reaction from my body was pure agony. I wanted him, needed him. My loneliness was getting the best of me. No. You don’t need him as a distraction. You need a job, a hobby. He is the last thing you need. You’re having a whiskey reaction.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said. I forced myself to look away from his smirk, and finished off the drink in my hand. I turned around and asked the bartender to fill me up again. The drink had already started to affect me, make me loosen up, but I needed a little more to help me with the anxiety.
Say something. Don’t just stand there!
“Don’t worry about it,” I mumbled and picked up my filled glass. I was surprised that he was still standing there; I allowed myself to sneak another peek from the corner of my eye. From the way he carried himself he was a bit older than me, maybe in his mid-twenties. The way he laughed and his body language told me that he was charismatic, a charmer. This guy was persistent!
“I’m Chase,” he said, holding out his hand. I reluctantly took it, afraid that he could see how unnerved I was.
“Quinn, nice to meet you.” He didn’t seem to notice my hand trembling as he lifted it up to his lips to place a light kiss on it. He gave me a slight wink that made me go weak in the knees. I was glad that I had high tops on my feet to steady me. Toughen up, Quinn. You can talk to a guy. But only talk. I took another big gulp of my liquid courage.
“So Quinn, how do you know Gillian?” He reached out to pick a piece of lint off my shoulder. I narrowed my eyes in on him. Why was he touching me?
“Oh, I don’t know her. I’m here with a friend.” I forced myself to look into his eyes, to show him I wasn’t intimidated.
“Who?” he asked
“Ginger Teague,” I told him. He continued with his inquisition, to which I gave short answers.
“You a party crasher?”
I raised an eyebrow and answered, “No, I was invited.”
I scoffed at his question; as if I had the looks to be a model. “Uh, no...” I shook my head in disbelief.
“Who are you then? I don’t think I’ve seen you around before. I wouldn’t forget your face.”
I didn’t know what to say. It had been so long since I’d had any male attention. He probably wouldn’t give me the time of day if he found out who I was or how much baggage I carried.
“What?” I asked
“This party. I bet you’ve never been so star struck.”
Is this guy for real?
“I don’t know who any of these people are.”
“Well then, it’s high time you found out.” He leaned in close and motioned toward the three blonde girls Ginger had introduced me to earlier.
“Those three bimbos are twiddle dee, dumb, and twit.”
I spit my drink back out into my cup, almost choking from laughter.
“Did you call her a twit?”
“Damn straight. Though I’m not sure if it’s from her lack of common sense or her twitter addiction.”
This was kind of fun. My eyes scanned the room for our next victim
“What about him?” I pointed toward an older balding man with a twenty-something on his arm.
“Ah, yes. That is Jordan one of our writers. The girl on his arm just screwed her way up to a leading character.”
“Isn’t that a bit… unethical?”
“Everyone in Hollywood is unethical, my dear.”
That was my cue to leave. I didn’t need guys like him.
“As much as I want to continue on with this flirty banter, I really must get going.” I boldly stuck my drink in his empty hand and spun around on my heels. I couldn’t believe that I had the guts to walk away from such a gorgeous guy. The drink running through my veins had definitely helped.
Ginger stood amongst the crowd only a few yards away. As I walked past her, she pulled me close and walked with me.
“I didn’t want to interrupt…but were you talking to Chase Crowley?” she asked once we were out of earshot.
I didn’t know who Chase Crowley was, but I wanted to, no matter what my rational brain told me.
“Just talking, who is he?” I asked her. She giggled and turned around to stare at Chase. I let myself sneak a peek as well. He was still in the same spot, sipping away on the drink I’d shoved in his hands. His eyes were set straight on me, and he raised his glass when I turned around. When the cup hit his lips, a traitorous heat spread through my body.
“I don’t know him all that well, he kind of keeps to himself, but he’s on Timelines. He’s also one of Barrett’s friends. He never dates, but I hear he’s amazing in bed…” Her eyes grew huge as realization dawned over her. “Oh honey, you should totally hook up with him,” she urged.
I gave her a disappointed look. One-night stands were not my thing, but from the way my body was reacting, I wanted it to be my thing, very badly.
“Are you kidding me? I don’t do one-night stands,” I reminded her.
“Correction. You didn’t do one-night stands. Maybe you need to let loose and have some fun.”
“I need another drink.” I stole the drink from her hand and finished it off. My throat screamed in pain.
“Oh, come on. I’m not saying you have to sleep with the guy. Just let loose and have some fun. Flirt a little.”
“I wouldn’t know what to say.”
“Just say this.” She stuck her nose in the air and batted her eyelashes slightly.
“Hi, my name is Quinn.”
“I’d rather go home.”
“One more hour.”
“Oh, Quinn, you’re in for a treat. Chase is so hot. If he weren’t friends with Barrett, I would be all over that like butter. I need to go get a new drink. You need to get past everything and have a good time. Go…” Ginger smacked me on the ass, causing me to jump forward. Chase was still staring at me, a twinkle in his eye. I hesitated and took a step back; I wanted to go back over and talk to him, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. Was this a betrayal to Bash? I stood there like an idiot, staring back at him. Our eyes locked for a single, heart-wrenching minute. It was like a scene in the movies when two characters lock eyes and time seems to slow down. It was just him and me. No one else. There was a magnetic attraction between us that only grew stronger. I found myself imagining what his lips tasted like and licked my own in yearning.
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