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Author’s note: Thank you to Jax for your inspiration!
Julie took one last look in the mirror. God, she hated fluorescent lighting. Even with the slight tan she’d managed to acquire she looked like Casper, or his much older sister. Well, at least she was having a halfway decent hair day, nothing hanging out of her nose. Eyeliner and mascara were on and unsmudged. Lipstick was in place – subtle, but inviting and none on the teeth. No spinach there either, though come to think of it she hadn’t eaten anything yet today. She’d been too nervous. Why was she nervous?! It was just a silly happy hour. Sure, she hadn’t seen most of the other attendees in ten years or more, but Heavens, she’d known them most of her life. And, fluorescent lighting notwithstanding, she had to acknowledge the past ten years had been favorable to her appearance. She’d been a bit of a late bloomer. Not that she was hideous in high school. But even as she’d entered college, she’d still carried the awkwardness of adolescence with her. Now, the image staring back at her was of an attractive, polished, young woman…sexy even, she had to admit, as she cocked an eyebrow. The dress she’d chosen accentuated her slender figure and skimmed her smooth, shapely legs just above the knee. She’d always thought her legs were her best assets. They looked long and lean now. The strappy heels helped. Yes. Yes, she did look good!
“All right, enough with the primping and preening,” Julie thought. “Onward to face the crowd.” To face: him. No! Not him! Not JUST him, anyway. Who knew if he’d even be there? He probably wouldn’t. He wasn’t much for nostalgia. He’d never been much of a joiner. Not that he was anti-social, just not so caught up in the social scene. Anyway, why was she even worried about it? It didn’t matter whether he was there or not. She hadn’t seen him in years. Three years and three months, actually, but who was counting? She was here to have fun, to see old friends and catch up on their lives. Who was married? Who had kids? Who was working where? God, she hoped Cindy and Diane had arrived. She needed some moral support. Should have ridden with them. Oh well…
Out in the bar, Julie saw several familiar faces. She nodded, smiled, and waved, as she picked her way to the bar. It was definitely time for a drink. Maybe several. Maybe four or five tequila shots… No, that probably wouldn’t be good, not on an empty stomach. Sloppy drunk bad. She may be reuniting with her classmates, but she didn’t want to actually re-live the high school social scene. How had any of them survived all that drunken debauchery?
“Ah, here we are,” Julie said to herself.. “I’ll have a glass of Piesporter, please,” she told the bartender as he grinned. He was cute, actually, if not a little young. She scanned the room again. Saw Cindy and Diane over at a table. Diane caught her eye and waved at her. She saluted.
The bartender set her glass on the bar. “That’ll be $4.00, Ma’am.” Ma’am? Ma’am??!!! istanbul escort Sheesh. She was only 28. What was with the Ma’am crap?! She rummaged through her purse for some cash, thinking, “There goes your big tip, junior.”
She looked up, and caught a pair of eyes coolly appraising her from the other side of the bar. HIS eyes. Damn! Damn, damn, DAMN! He wasn’t supposed to be here! She’d half convinced herself he wouldn’t be. Now what was she going to do??!! Pay for her drink, smile casually and go over to sit with her friends, THAT’S what she was going to do. She pulled a ten out of her purse and handed it to the bartender, absently waving for him to keep the change. “Thank YOU,” he said, his grin bigger than ever. She ignored him. She gave her best Mona Lisa smile to the pair of eyes across the bar, turned, and headed to the table. She managed to make it without tripping, thankfully, though how she’d never know. Her legs felt like jello.
“God, Julie – you look great!” Diane exclaimed.
“Thanks. So do you.” It wasn’t a lie. Diane was gorgeous. Naturally beautiful. Skinny and curvy at the same time. Never a hair out of place. Cindy had a quieter beauty. Something regal about her. Until she opened her mouth.
“Got your fuck-me heels on, I see. Hopin’ anyone will take you up on that??!”
“Shut up, Cindy.” She said it with affection. Both Cindy and Diane had been her closest friends since ninth grade. They still talked by phone almost every day.
Cindy had obviously caught the quiet exchange at the bar. She didn’t miss much. “So, you gonna talk to him, or what?”
“Him WHO?” Julie asked, wide-eyed.
“Him. Mr.-I’ve-been-in-love-with-him-half-my-life, him,” Cindy countered.
“I have NOT been in love with him half my life. I didn’t even know him when I was fourteen. I met him when I was sixteen.”
“Yeah, yeah – I know. I was there, remember?” came Cindy’s exasperated growl.
“Besides,” Julie continued her denial, “I have nothing to say to him. It’s all already been said. I’ve moved on. Screw him!”
“Speaking of which,” Diane chimed in, “why didn’t you? The way you two used to circle around each other, I can’t believe you never did it!”
“I don’t know. We just…the timing was never…we were never…we just…didn’t.” Her voice trailed off.
“Cryin’ shame if you ask me,” Cindy smiled, then continued, “Ah well, let’s drink up, ladies. Pretty soon, we do need to start mingling with the rest of these losers.”
All three raised their glasses. Julie gulped at the wine greedily and then had to stifle a choking fit. “Wine, not beer, dumbass,” she reminded herself. “Guzzling doesn’t work so well.”
A waitress came by, and they ordered another round of drinks. Soon, several other friends had joined them at the table. Julie found herself relaxing and enjoying the conversation. Everyone seemed the same – but different. Better. avcılar escort More refined. More complete. Her third glass of wine was half gone. Suddenly, a cigarette sounded REALLY good. But Cindy was trying to quit and would kill her if she lit up in front of her.
Julie got up, excused herself, and made her way over to a side door. She slid outside, lit a cigarette, and inhaled. She really needed to give up the cigarettes. Nasty things. But sometimes… They were just so damn good. It was nice out. A beautiful night. Still warm, with a light breeze that had her skirt dancing flirtily around her legs. Whew. The wine was making her giddy.
She heard the door beside her open, and she tensed. She knew, without looking, who it was. An all too familiar voice said, “You know those are bad for you.”
“Yeah,” she said. “So are lots of things. Oh well.” She sounded flippant. She hadn’t meant to. She meant to sound calm, cool, collected, and utterly indifferent.
“Share one with me?” he asked.
“They’re menthol,” she warned.
“I can take it.” She handed him one. He lit up, took a drag, slowly exhaled.
“So,” he went on, “why are you hiding out here?” “I’m not hiding. I’m just enjoying the night air.”
He eyed her slowly. “You look good,” he said.
“Thanks,” she said warily, “So do you.” She flicked her cigarette to the ground and crushed it out with the toe of her shoe.
“You still into triathlons?” she asked.
“Yep. Got one coming up in six weeks.”
She shook her head. “I could never do that.”
“Sure you could,” he said. “You could do anything if you put your mind to it.”
“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence,” she smiled wryly, looking up at him. Damn! She shouldn’t have done that. The eyes got her every time. She averted her gaze and took a step back. He was still too close. She started to turn and go back into the bar.
“You don’t have to run away,” he said quietly.
She stopped. Turned back. “I’m not running away. I’m just…” Ah, hell. Why did this always happen with him? Why did her thoughts muddle and her heart hammer? She was a grown woman, for God’s sake.
“Always got that guard up, don’t you, Jules?” he asked.
“Not always. But I, I have to around you,” she stammered.
“No. You don’t.” He reached out, traced a finger along her jaw. She sighed. Took a deep breath.
“Yes. I do. Because if I don’t…”
“You’ll have to let me in?” he asked.
Damn. “Here we go again,” Julie thought. “Alright, to hell with it.” She was done playing cat and mouse. She’d just be direct. The words tumbled out. “No. You alreadyare in. Don’t you see? You’vealways been in. You set up camp in my heart a long time ago, and for some unfathomable reason, I’ve never been able to get you back out.” He remained quiet, staring at her, bemused.
Julie rambled on, “It’s like, you know, that feeling you get right before you’re going to kiss someone for şirinevler escort the first time.”
“Maybe,” he said, unsure.
“That feeling, when youknow you’re going to kiss them, and your faces are so close together that your breath mingles with theirs. And your heart starts to pound in your ears, and your eyes lock with theirs. And the only thing in the universe at that point is that kiss that’s about to happen.”
“Yeah,” he said quietly, leaning closer.
“That’s, that’s how I feel ALL the time with you,” Julie continued. “And….it scares the bejeesus out of me because that’s not reality. No one can live their life like that.”
“Why not?” His finger lightly skimmed her bottom lip as he leaned in further.
“Because,” she said with exasperation, “it’s not… It’s notreal.”
“This feels pretty real to me,” he smiled.
“Maybe. But it’s not. I think…”
Now he placed his finger firmly on her mouth, as if to silence her. “Julie, you’ve always thought too much, you know that?”
She started to protest, but he leaned even closer, and she knew he was going to kiss her. She closed her eyes tightly. This wasn’t happening. She was not going to go there again.
“Julie,” he said softly. “Look at me.” “No,” she shook her head. “Look at me,” he insisted. She slowly opened her eyes and looked directly into his. She knew she was lost. She couldn’t stop this and wasn’t even sure she wanted to.
She felt his breath on hers, felt her heart pounding, felt the rest of the universe melt away. God, this was insane. Slowly, he brought his lips to hers. She felt their warmth as they slowly caressed hers, felt that familiar tingle of electricity course through her body. And she shivered. His kiss was soft at first, gentle. Then firmer, more insistent. Her lips parted and she felt his tongue flick across them, dance through them, and begin mating with her tongue. So strange, this kiss. So like the many they’d shared before but different. Deeper.
As it consumed her, she flashed back on all the other times. She was sixteen, and they were in the backseat of a car, tentative, exploring. She was seventeen, and they were in her room, lights out, driven, hungry. She was twenty, and they were in her friend’s pool, skinny-dipping, teasing, tantalizing. She was twenty-one, and they were in her parents’ family room, taunting, angry. She was twenty-five, and they were on the back porch, cuddling, seeking…
She was twenty-eight, and they were, well, they were standing outside a bar, making out in the parking lot like teenagers. Nice reality check. “Was this any more ‘real’ than the other times?” She wondered. There was only one way to be sure. She pulled away, looked up at him. Arched an eyebrow and gave him another Mona Lisa smile.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing. I was just thinking…”
“I thought we agreed you think too much,” he interrupted.
This time, it was her finger on his lips, quieting him. “I was just thinking,” she continued, “we’re at a bar.”
“Yes,” he said, puzzled.
“A bar that’s located in a hotel.”
“Yes,” he smiled now.
“Well, then, what are we waiting for?!” She took his hand, and headed toward the hotel entrance. “This time,” she thought, “this time, they’d make it real.”
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