Find Your Date
I clambered out of the front seat of my best friend Lydia’s car snorting with laughter at her smartass jokes. Lydia had a weird sense of humor, which was cool because I did too. Lydia was my best friend in the whole wide world and she totally got me.
“Jenny don’t forget to Whatsapp me those PDFs,” she called through the wound-down glass on the passenger side of her car.
I turned around, my long red hair swinging close to my waist as I raised a cheery hand in a wave. Lydia drove off with an answering wave; her smooth sedan soundless as she left.
As I turned back towards the house, a flash of movement from the corner of my eyes drew my attention and I looked over. In few seconds, my eyes were bulging from their sockets. The new neighbors’ son, Derek Sommers, was stark naked on their balcony!
Worse, he wasn’t alone! He was dancing with a short brunette who was equally naked. It was a slow, nonchalant dance on the balcony upstairs as though the rest of the world did not exist.
My tongue got stuck in my throat as my helpless gaze feasted on miles of taut, bronzed, tantalizing, male flesh. Derek was my greatest dream and my worst nightmare, I admitted to myself as I watched the couple. I had never been able to get out of my head the afternoon I had gone to his house. Try as I might, I couldn’t forget it.
He was so handsome it should be illegal and in the three months since the Sommers had moved in next door, I had been treated to an endless parade of either a flash of bare chest or naked, well-muscled,athletic thighs. After that kiss in his kitchen, he had become even more unbearable; sometimes I thought he was trying to seduce me. But who was I kidding? I was just eighteen going on nineteen and I still had a smattering of freckles around my nose and cheek. I must seem as boring as Goldilocks to him. He always had a selection of exotic sophisticated women on his arm; I never saw him with the same woman more than twice.
Derek liked to work out every morning and he liked to wear shorts so tiny they were practically non-existent. Sometimes he raced by wearing his trademark shorts and nothing else; it was disgusting!
Disgusting? That tiny voice inside my head taunted knowingly.
Okay maybe not exactly disgusting but how else could one describe how it felt watching sweat course down a man’s taut, whipcord, silken fleshed body in rivulets as he raced past, muscles bunching and clenching with every move?
I didn’t know how to describe the shock wave that swept over me as though he were touching my breast again.
I swallowed past the sudden knot in my throat as I watched Derek slowly lift a strand of his lover’s hair and carry it to his nose. As he sniffed the strand, he looked right across the yard, and my gaze collided with his.
I forgot to breathe, caught up helplessly in the sheer fire of his gaze; even from the distance that separated us I could feel the raw heat of it.
Suddenly I sprung back to life. I jerked my gaze from his and raced for the front door of my house as though the hounds of hell were nipping at my heels. I didn’t stop until the front door crashed behind me, and I leaned back against it, panting and trying to regain my breath.
“Jenny? Is that you honey?” Mum called from the kitchen.
I didn’t answer. I let my eyes drift closed on a sigh of relief. Derek had a reputation that was bad enough to make anyone’s hair curl in alarm and I wasn’t certain I wanted to get involved
You’re already involved, my subconscious whispered to me again.
I sighed as I half-walked, half-dragged myself to my room. I flung my knapsack onto my bed and flopped down right beside it.
That kiss was the bane of my existence. Every time I remembered it, I felt like screaming. He had kissed me and stolen what little was left of my senses. I thought of him every waking moment and I was almost ashamed of the intensity of my feelings.
Alright, I wasn’t almost ashamed, I was ashamed! Lydia was my best friend and we shared everything but I hadn’t told her about the kiss or the crush or the rest of it!
If I told her she would be shocked to her toes because I never shut up complaining about the bad boy next door.
“Jenny!” Mum screamed again.
I sighed as I clambered off the bed. The woman never gave up! “Coming!”
Dinner was annoying. Every time Dad travelled Mum seemed to think the only way she could comfort herself for his absence was to serve his favorite dish: lasagna. And seeing he was away a lot, it meant we ate lasagna in penance almost every time. It had quickly become my least-liked dish.
“Jenny your father isn’t going to be back for three days,” Mum chattered, oblivious to my inner thoughts. “I’m going to join the Porters for that Bridge party they’re having tonight and tomorrow. I’ll be back on Sunday.”
“Just in time to welcome Dad,” I muttered not holding back on the sarcasm dripping in my voice.
Silence. She regarded me with wounded eyes.
“It’s true I miss him and yes it’s true I like to fix a lot of activities for when he isn’t in. But you don’t have to be here all by yourself. You could come with me,” she reminded me.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah right.” Talk about a fun weekend; I would be all by myself stuck in the midst of a bunch of aging ladies.
“I’m serious,” Mum said earnestly.
“Forget it Mum. Go be with your friends. When Dad is here you two make me feel like a third wheel anyway! And when he isn’t, I get to feel like an orphan. I’m over eighteen! I should be moving out! I’ll get a job soon and I’ll be out of your hair!” I spat.
I stormed from the room and slammed every door I passed until I got to my room. Sometimes my parents made me feel like I was interrupting their lovey-dovey world. I wanted them to be happy; I wasn’t a monster after all. But sometimes it just made me feel…
Jealous? That inner voice whispered in my ear.
I collapsed onto my bed in surprise as I realized that was what I was feeling. Jealous.
I heard mum’s steps as she moved around then just before she left, she knocked timidly on my door and said, “Jenny? Do you want to come with me?”
I didn’t respond and I heard her sigh softly.
“Stay safe honey. Call me if you need anything.”
The house was eerily silent as she left and I grabbed my assignment and began to work on it after I mailed Lydia the PDFs. My hand quivered as I sent her the mail. Could I talk to her about Derek? Would she understand?
I didn’t talk about Derek in my mail; just teased her about her boyfriend Mark. And that was when it hit me: everyone was all loved up. Everyone but me.
I wanted more. I wanted something different.
“Maybe I should consider getting a boyfriend,” I thought aloud.
Easier said than done, my mind informed me.
I sighed. That was the truth.
Every time I shut my eyes, I saw Derek. No boyfriend would appreciate coming second place to that man in his girl’s life.
I shut my laptop with an audible snap. There was no use pretending to read. I was bored. Perhaps I needed to get some sleep?
I stood and walked down the hall towards the living room. Loud music reverberated through the house; practically shaking the walls.
I frowned in the direction of Derek’s house. I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out a party was in full swing. His parents were rarely home and obviously he had decided to bring his wildness home tonight.
Angrily I recalled how he had wrapped his paws around that girl on his balcony uncaring that I could see them. And now this! It was the last straw.
I was going to go over there and give him a piece of my mind. And if he didn’t turn down the freaking radio, I would be calling the cops in a nanosecond; I decided.
I stormed over to the Sommers’ my feet flying over the grass in my rage. I gave the door a loud bang; it flew open almost at once.
“You need help?” a russet-haired guy asked, peering blearily at me through the haze of smoke and alcohol.
“Get out of my way!” I barked as I shoved past him and stumbled inside.
I froze. I barely recognized the Sommers’ formerly quaint and homey living room. Every inch of the house seemed to be covered in bodies; bodies gyrating to music, bodies undulating in sensual pleasure and bodies passed out cold from drink or drugs or both.
“Holy cow!” I breathed.
“Yeah, tell me about it,” a familiar voice said beside me. I turned around to glare into a pair of familiar cobalt blue eyes.
“You!” I spat.
He peered at me in the exact same way Russet Hair had. “Yes me, Jenny. Who did you expect? The Easter Bunny?”
“Before you remind me that this is your house, let me remind you that I live right next door! I want to read and get some shut eye after that but none of that’s gonna be possible if you’re going to play your music loud enough to wake the dead! Tone it down a notch, dammit!” I shouted.
I hadn’t realized I had drawn attention nor had I noticed I was shouting but for some reason, everyone around us had quieted and even the music had stopped abruptly. I flushed to the roots of my hair when I saw that the entire room was watching the pair of us. And worse, I had been cussing him out and yelling my head off like some fish-wife. What must they think of me, I wondered.
“Now look what you’ve done! Everyone’s staring,” I whispered furiously.
“Me? What did I do? You’re the one who managed to create a scene in less than two seconds,” he whispered back.
He grabbed my arm and yanked me in the direction of the door, “She’s leaving.”
I jerked my arm free. “No I’m not. I’m calling the cops.”
The room erupted in laughter.
I gaped. Who were these people? Normal human beings got in line when one threated to call the cops; these ones just laughed in my face.
I looked at Derek in confusion. He was staring at me with a strange half-smile on his face. “That threat doesn’t work around here, Jenny. The cops are in on this and they’ve been paid to stay away for three whole hours. So here’s the deal, you can either scurry back to your hole Goody-Two-Shoes, or you can get with the program!”
With that he turned on his heel and strode away.
I glared after him, feeling hot, angry humiliated tears burn the back of my eyes.
“You heard the man Sweetling. Come blow off some steam,” someone called with a laugh.
“Yeah right, Mark! She’s a delicate flower and Mummy’s little girl. Just look at her hair,” someone else laughed throatily.
Shame and humiliation roared through me until the sound was drowning out almost everything else including the resumed sound of the music. Derek had reached a corner of the room and one red head had her hands around him while she kept a malicious gaze trained on me.
I stumbled in my haste to reach the door and as I fumbled for the knob, a hand miraculously appeared and opened it for me. I mumbled a ‘thank you’ and jerkily stumbled into the yard.
A hand at my elbow stopped me and I turned reluctantly. I just wanted to be far away from this place and back home.
The girl was chubby with her hair in wispy strings around her face; her eyelids were covered in black eye shadow that lent a Gothic air to her appearance and her face was somber as she gave me a strangely pitying look.
“I’m Triana. Aren’t you about leaving High School?”
I stared at her confused. “Huh?”
“These are mostly college kids. They’ve marked you as a Goody-Two-Shoes and you’re going to be a Freshman in about a month or two. They aren’t gonna forget what happened here tonight and you’re going to have a very hard time of it.”
I licked my lips in confusion; they were dry.
“Listen. I’m not going to pretend I want you here okay? I heard Derek call you Jenny and I knew at once that you were the Jenny.”
“The Jenny? What the hell does that mean?” I demanded.
“Derek’s real popular in school but he’s also one of my closest friends. I can tell you for free that so many girls think he’s all that and they’re not afraid to show it. Problem is, Derek only has eyes for the one girl.”
I threw back my head and laughed at that one. The guy was a rapacious womanizer! Every time I turned around he had a new girl in his arms!
I didn’t realize I had spoken aloud until the girl responded, “It might seem that way, but trust me. From the day he clapped eyes on you, Derek was a goner. Why do you think he jogs all the time wearing those briefs? He hates jogging Jenny. He’s been angling for your attention.”
I gawked at her stupidly.
“He has. And when you came over here tonight, he was so filled with hope. But you only came to scold him in front of everyone. Being Derek, he naturally pretended it didn’t matter and cut you down to size. But if you leave, that’s it.”
The finality of that sent a knot of fear straight into my heart. “What do you mean that’s it?”
“Derek’s also stubborn. He’d convince himself his attraction to you was all his imagination and then he would turn his back on you. Worse, you would already be a social pariah before you even got into college.”
“Who says I want to go to college in this State?”
Triana shrugged, “Doesn’t matter where you go. Word travels.”
She obviously decided I wasn’t going to be convinced because she turned on her heel and headed back to the house.
My phone beeped just then and I turned the screen to look at the new message. It was Lydia. “What am I going to do with you Jenny? Everyone’s calling you Goody-Two-Shoes on Wemstar.”
Wemstar was a social media platform exclusively for kids in our school. How did they get to hear it? My heart raced. Triana was right. Word did indeed travel.
I was facing social suicide!
“Wait!” I called.
She froze with one foot on the step. She threw a look over her shoulder, “Yes?”
“Tell me what to do. Please.”
She withdrew the foot from the step and beamed a smile of approval on me. “You have to seduce Derek. In front of everyone.”