Table of Contents
“Eew, is this drool?” Jan said in a self-mocking tone. She took one hand off the wheel of her Jeep and hit herself in the forehead. “I can’t believe I said that,” she chastised.
Jan had woken up ten minutes earlier, figured out that she had fallen asleep on Bob’s desk, asked herself the aforementioned question, and ascertained that yes, the wet stuff she had on her cheek was in fact drool, hers
“Why am I so stupid?” she continued, reaching for her CD case. She flipped through her CDs, one eye on the road and one eye scanning for the perfect music to ease her embarrassment. Oddly enough, she couldn’t find anything that fit her particular situation. She settled on her old standby, Godsmack; she definitely needed “Serenity.”
She felt a little better on the drive home but as she reached her apartment complex she became paranoid that someone she knew would see her and respond with horror. She was judging this reaction based on what her mother would think. She parked in the handicap spot directly in front of the entrance, darted from her car like a mad woman, and ran up the flight of stairs in record time. She slowly peeked around the corner to see if anyone was in the hallway before flattening herself to the wall Mission Impossible-style and slinking slowly toward her apartment.
After she took a shower, she got a text from Lisa inviting Jan to join her and Becki for dinner at Olive Garden.
Jan sighed and accepted the inevitable. She responded that dinner sounded great.
An hour later, precisely, Jan heard a knock on her door.
“Just a minute,” she yelled and ran into her bathroom to grab her makeup bag. She ran a brush and some mousse through her hair. She hurriedly threw on some foundation, lip gloss, eye shadow, and mascara that complemented the turquoise T-shirt and jeans she wore.
“Hi there,” Jan said smiling sweetly to Lisa and Becki. Lisa had one hand on her hip and was tapping her fingers impatiently, but she returned the smile.
“Hey,” Lisa replied. “Nichole is meeting us at Olive Garden in fifteen minutes.” She checked her watch. “Make that four minutes.”
“My boyfriend, Danny, is coming too,” Becki chirped. “I hope that’s okay.”
Jan swallowed her protests. She did not have fond memories of Danny. Also, she hadn’t planned on seeing Nichole so soon after their fight, but if Nichole didn’t care then Jan wouldn’t either.
“Great,” Jan replied with false enthusiasm. Lisa squinted at Jan and put her hand on her forehead, right on the spot Jan had smacked earlier.
“Are you feeling okay? You looked peaky, then your face just got all red.”
“I’m fine,” Jan snapped. Lisa shrugged and dropped her hand. “So, I assume I’m driving.”
Becki offered, “I’ll drive if you want.”
“It’s fine,” she grumbled, walking past the girls and locking her door behind her. “I’ll drive.”
When the trio arrived at the restaurant Danny was chatting with the hostess. Jan thought it looked more like he was chatting up the hostess, but that didn’t stop Becki from running and flinging her arms around him. He accepted the hug uncomfortably and looked guiltily at the hostess. If Jan had walked in on her boyfriend flirting with another woman she would have dragged him aside and ripped him a new one.
The sound of the door opening behind her brought Jan’s awareness back to the present. Nichole had arrived.
Jan glowered. Nichole looked amazing in a red halter top and a pair of just-tight-enough jeans. The two alphas said hi and simultaneously flipped their hair as they turned their heads in opposite directions.
The hostess fixed her eyes on Lisa and asked, “Five?” She was refusing to look in Becki and Danny’s direction.
“Follow me, please.”
The hostess led them to a booth and they all slid in. Nichole waited to sit down last and take the outside spot. Jan walked around and sat on the other end of the booth. She still felt too close to Nichole.
Lisa, a bleeding-heart liberal, and Danny, a staunch conservative, were soon debating the war in Iraq. Becki was trying very hard to follow along and Nichole was scoping out the bar, presumably looking for another hot bartender.
Two angry faces immediately turned toward her.
“Sorry if we’re boring you,” said Danny sarcastically.
Before Jan could defend herself, Nichole responded, “Don’t mind her. She’s just pissy because she isn’t getting any.”
Jan’s cheeks burned.
Danny licked his lips.
“Jan isn’t dating anymore,” Becki said. She began rubbing Danny’s back. “I think that’s really brave.”
Instead of dimming, the look of interest in Danny’s eyes intensified.
Jan, meanwhile, had slid down in her seat and was practically hiding under the table. All eyes turned to her way. She sat back up and tried to appear self-confident.
Danny asked, “So you’ve decided to be a bachelorette for life then?”
“Yep,” she squeaked. Mortified, Jan cleared her throat and tried again. “That’s right. I’m given up on dating and am much happier now,” she managed in a steadier voice.
Danny eyed her closely. “Hard to believe,” he commented.
Jan snapped, “Why is that?”
Danny replied, “In my experience when girls say they aren’t interested in dating it is because they are desperately interested in dating but no one is interested in dating them.”
Nichole laughed through her nose.
Jan replied evenly, “I am not that girl. I have my own reasons.”
Danny continued to eye her with fascination.
“That’s right,” said Nichole in a nasty tone. “Jan thinks that she can quit dating cold turkey. I bet she won’t make it past Halloween. No way she will be single for Thanksgiving.”
“How come?” asked Becki. As usual, Becki was clueless that she was asking an unwelcome question.
Nichole smirked. “Because Thanksgiving is a family holiday. Jan hasn’t been single on one of those since she was fifteen and discovered that girlfriends automatically get invites to their boyfriends’ houses on holidays.”
“I’m sure Jan doesn’t date people just to get invited home with them and avoid her parents,” said Lisa. Jan wasn’t so sure, but kept her mouth shut.
“So, are you saying that you’d be willing to bet that she will make it past Thanksgiving?” said Danny slyly. “To Christmas maybe?”
Everyone looked at Lisa.
“I’m not saying anything either way,” said Lisa quickly. “Besides, I don’t gamble.”
Gee, thanks. Nice to know none of my friends believe in me.
The betrayal tore into her stomach, reminding her of how she felt during Nichole’s verbal assault. The tightness in her chest said she needed to escape. When she had agreed to dinner she had been counting on Lisa’s kindness and Becki’s neutrality to negate Nichole’s rudeness. She hadn’t known Danny would be there. The lack of support from Lisa made her question whether Danny and Nichole were right, and that she was pathetic.
The remainder of the meal was consumed in silence. Becki kept attempting to start a conversation, but no one felt like talking. Lisa was so withdrawn the waitress seemed to think she was by herself and kept coming up to her separately to refill her water and ask how everything was.
Much to Jan’s annoyance, Danny kept smirking at her and trying to catch her eye. She had never known a guy to get so excited by a girl who wasn’t putting out. Her discomfort at the unwanted attention and the obvious boredom of everyone at the table made her think that it was past time to go home. She asked if everyone was done and Danny signaled for the check.
As they were on their way out, Lisa excused herself to go to the bathroom and pulled Becki with her. Nichole headed to the bar. Jan called out to Lisa that she would wait in the car and darted away from Danny.
She was halfway there when a strong hand grabbed her arm, nearly giving her a heart attack. She jumped in fright, almost right out of her sandals, before she heard a familiar chuckle and felt the hand let go.
“Geez, girl, calm down,” mocked Danny. “You might have actually hurt me if you’d landed on my toes. I’m sure Jet Li would be very interested in stealing that move.”
“Dammit, Danny!” Jan exclaimed loudly, not caring that she was showing him how much he had scared her. “If you ever do that again I will beat you to death with a pair of stilettos.” She mentally added, We’ll see how funny footwear is to you then.
Danny hooted with laughter.
“That’s why I like you, Janey. You’re fun. Other girls take everything so seriously. I feel like I can relax around you.”
Jan frowned and tried to pull away.
Danny continued. “I am sorry about teasing you earlier. I think it is very mature of you to realize that you don’t need a guy to be happy.”
Jan felt the corners of her mouth rising slightly. She did not want to encourage him, but how could she be rude when he was giving her a compliment?
“It’s sexy really, a girl that isn’t obsessed with trapping a guy into commitment. Being free-spirited and hooking up with whomever, whenever without it having to mean anything.”
Now wait a second, I didn’t say anything like that, did I?
Jan racked her brain to remember anything she might have said that indicated a desire to be “free-spirited.”
Her thoughts were interrupted by Danny pulling her into his massive body and enveloping her mouth with his. What resulted was an impassionate, sloppy, and one-sided kiss. Jan might not be good at a lot of things—like school, sports or making polite conversation—but she’d had enough experience to be a good kisser. Part of being a good kisser meant being able to recognize talent in others. Jan thought the kiss she was currently receiving was on par with being attacked by a suction cup.
“Git uff,” Jan said, her lips barely able to open because Danny’s were squishing them together.
She felt Danny pull her closer, one hand reaching down to cup her butt. She fought not to throw up. Panic demanded she put her hands on his shoulders and push. It felt like trying to pull a vacuum cleaner off her face. She softened him up by biting his tongue.
He jerked back, his hand reaching for his mouth to check for blood. She hadn’t bit him that hard, though she should have.
He started to raise his arm and before she even knew what he intended she felt her arm come up in response.
She caught Danny across his left eye, missing her intended target of his cheek by a couple of inches. She didn’t care. She’d only wanted to hurt him.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” she yelled.
Danny’s head had snapped to his right when she hit him. It came whipping back to face her dead on, fury in his eyes.
Suddenly, Jan was frightened. She’d just hit a guy that outweighed her by eighty pounds, could more than handle himself in a fight, and was not exactly showing signs of restraint.
She scanned the parking lot frantically for her car and was about to run in what she thought was the right direction when, again, she felt a hand grab her wrist.
“It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?” Danny screamed in her face.
She shook her head.
“Becki told me you sleep around,” he spat. “Why else would you push me away?”
“I’ve never given you a reason to think I was interested,” she protested. “Please let go of me.”
He let go of her hand and wiped his hand on his jeans as if touching her had been repulsive.
She began to rub her wrist and forced herself not to panic and run.
Danny started to reach for her again but was interrupted by Lisa and Becki coming up to them. Lisa charged past them without stopping, dragging a submissive Becki along with her. Lisa called back that Becki wasn’t feeling well and needed to get home.
“Okay,” Jan said and followed them, grateful for any reason to get away from Danny. She did not look back to see if he was following them.
Instead she caught up with the girls and asked Becki if she was okay. A wave of guilt washed over her as she saw tears in Becki’s eyes.
“I’m okay,” Becki said with a sniffle.
They couldn’t have seen us kissing, Jan assured herself. This is not my fault.
Danny had “player” written all over him and because he wasn’t very good-looking he tried all the more to prove his prowess.
They drove home in silence. Lisa and Becki sat in the back together. Lisa was holding Becki's hand and whispering to her that it would be okay. Jan could not help but feel jealous. She was the one who had been assaulted. She couldn’t believe that Becki would have said that she slept around. Jan’s jealousy and guilt battled inside her.
When they arrived at her complex, she dropped the girls off with barely a word and hurried to her apartment. She went straight to her bathroom and rubbed her washcloth across her lips.
She could still feel Danny forcing her against him and putting his mouth on hers, or more accurately around hers. Even washing her face and brushing her teeth didn’t get rid of the feeling. She finally tried taking a shower.
As she sat in her bathtub and felt the water raining down on her she felt better. Or maybe she was just becoming numb, which was preferable to feeling violated. That was until a single tear seeped out of her left eye and joined the many drops of water gliding down her cheek. Soon she couldn’t differentiate between her tears and the filtered water coming out of her shower head. But she didn’t particularly care to try, either.
Jan sat in the tub thinking for a long time.