Apartment buildings in Manhattan are divided into two groups: buildings with doormen and those without. Will and Jude’s building has a doorman. It’s a swanky high rise with the lobby all done up in shiny marble, and I bet they’re paying a small fortune for their two-bedroom apartment with an incredible view of Central Park.
My apartment building, on the other hand, falls into the second group. It’s a grimy building downtown on a block where I could easily purchase drugs if I wanted. I’m always terrified of getting mugged on the way home, but it’s the price I pay to live in Manhattan, rather than having to commute in from Brooklyn (or god forbid, Jersey).
We’ve got one of those old elevators where you have to hold a heavy outer door open to get inside, which is a bitch and a half when you’re carrying groceries or something. I’ve nearly lost a hand in that elevator at least a dozen times. We live on the fourth floor, with a fabulous view of a red brick building.
By “we,” I am referring to me and my two roommates, Martha and Kun. I hardly know either of them and I found the apartment by answering an ad in the paper. Kun barely speaks English and the only time she communicates with me is to accuse me of using her dishes. Martha is a graduate student at NYU, who is always in her room studying. I only know she’s always in her room studying because any time I make any sort of sound within my own room or the common area, she is out like a flash, asking me if I could “please keep it down.” I think it’s safe to say that I hate both of them.
I would love to live with Mia, but she’s weird about having her space, and she makes more money than I do, so the kind of place she can afford is way better than what I could afford. So I’m stuck living with two weirdos. Actually, it’s not so bad. Mainly we keep to ourselves.
My bedroom is absolutely tiny. I’m glad Jude didn’t want to come over to my place, because two people can barely fit in here. (Plus I know from experience that any time I bring a man over, one or both of my roommates will be knocking on the door telling me to keep it down. Also, once Damien went into the common area in his tighty whitey underwear on his way to the bathroom and I think Kun went blind.) I’ve got barely enough room for my twin bed, a small dresser, and a tiny secondhand TV I bought off craigslist. The one good thing about my room is that I’ve got plenty of closet space, which I use liberally. About 80% of my income that I don’t spend on rent is spent on clothing… and that includes food. I would rather eat ramen noodles every day of the week than cut down on my clothing budget.
I descend on my wardrobe now, taking in the rows of dresses, blouses, shirts, slacks. And the shoes, of course, which line every spare centimeter of the closet floor. I systematically eye each dress and reject it as being too old, too matronly, too… well, maybe not too anything, but just not good enough for a man like Jude. For Jude, I need to knock his socks off. I’ve got to dress in something that will make his tongue hang on the floor. It’s got to be amazing and I don’t have anything like that in my closet right now.
I phone Mia, who is home, of course. Considering how absolutely stunning she is, she seems to have no social life to speak of. “Guess who has a date tonight!” I say, unable to keep the glee out of my voice.
“Oh lord,” Mia says. “You’re not going out with that douche from the bar last night, are you?”
“His name is Jude,” I say, slightly miffed that my best friend can’t share in my excitement. “And yes, we’re going out tonight.”
“Fantastic,” Mia says.
I grit my teeth. “You know, you could be a little bit supportive. I know I’ve dated some assholes in the past, but that doesn’t mean Jude is an asshole. For all you know, he’s the man I’m going to marry.”
There’s a long pause on the other line and for a moment, I’m worried Mia is going to burst out laughing or something. But instead her voice softens, “I’m sorry, Libby. I just don’t want you to get hurt again. But… maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m not being fair to Jude.”
I smile. “Fabulous. So you’ll help me going shopping for the perfect dress for tonight?”
“Oh lord,” Mia says again.
But of course, I know she’ll agree. And I need her if I’m going to look like a knockout tonight, because I don’t trust salesladies or those mirrors in department stores. Together, we’re going to pick out an outfit that’s going to take Jude’s breath away.
Five hours later, I’m clutching what I’ve decided is the absolute perfect dress for tonight. It falls just above my knees and is brown, which sounds like a boring color, but not when it’s shimmery and suits my skin tone perfectly. When I came out of the dressing room at Macy’s, Mia gasped and I knew this was the dress. I try not to think about the price tag or my poor credit being pushed to the limit as I wait in line to make the purchase.
“Why do you like him so much?” Mia asks me, as she eyes the price tag and shakes her head. “Please don’t tell me it’s just the way he looks.”
“It’s not!” I say. “I love his accent too. I’ve always adored British accents. You know that.”
“I thought you said you liked Australian accents.”
“Well, same difference.”
Mia shakes her head again. I admit, most of my boyfriends have been what you might call pretty boys. I don’t consider myself a particularly shallow person, but I’ve always been like this when it comes to men. I only date guys with perfect features and a beautifully sculpted body. Mia thinks it’s because I have low self-esteem and dating a really good looking man makes me feel better about myself. I don’t know if I buy that psycho-babble, but I do know that men who look like Jude make my heart race and my fingers tingle. Why should I deprive myself of what I like?
True, these men tend to be heartbreakers. My last boyfriend, Damien, was a classic heartbreaker. He was an investment banker, although he had worked briefly as a model and still took occasional gigs. We dated for about six months and even thought I always felt like I liked him much more than he liked me, I still had high hopes for the two of us and practically had our wedding date penciled onto my calendar. One Friday night, I was at some dinner party my boss was throwing and I saw Damien sitting at a table at the far end of the restaurant with another woman. The woman was like a better version of me in every way: taller, blonder, thinner, prettier. I ended up telling my boss I was sick and running home.
When I confronted Damien about it, he was utterly unapologetic. He just shrugged and told me that he thought it was time we started seeing other people. When I said I didn’t want to see other people, he told me that was my decision, but he was going to continue to see other people. Screaming ensued and we broke up that night. I lay in bed eating ice cream for a week.
So I get that Mia is scared about me getting hurt, but she honestly shouldn’t be. I can tell that Jude is way classier than Damien and even if we don’t end up getting married, I know he won’t hurt me the way Damien did.
I’m pretty sure.
I arrive at Jude’s apartment building at 8:10, because I want to be fashionably late. I look pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. The dress was worth every penny and I spent over an hour after my shower trying to get my hair perfect. When the doorman sees me, I can tell he’s impressed, and he looks incredibly apologetic when he tells me no one is home.
I almost burst into tears on the spot. How could no one be home? Is it possible that Jude somehow… forgot? Or changed his mind? Or…
I look up and see Will wheeling toward me. He’s wearing a nice white shirt and navy blue tie, and I can’t help but notice that, damn, he’s not bad looking at all. He’s not movie star handsome like Jude and doesn’t have that same air of charisma, but he’s pretty darn cute. Or he would be, minus the wheelchair. “Oh, hi,” I say.
He stares at me a second, clearly impressed by my mega-expensive dress. He recovers quickly though. “What’s wrong?” he asks. “Jude’s not back yet?”
I shake my head, not trusting myself to speak without sobbing.
Will glances at his watch. “I’m sure he’ll be home any minute. Why don’t you come on upstairs?”
I nod and follow him to the elevator. I notice that when we’re inside the elevator, he has to hang on to one wheel of his chair and reach a bit to hit the button for his floor. When he settles back down, his legs shift and I’m getting the idea that he can’t move them on his own.
Once we’re in the apartment, Will loosens his tie and unbuttons the top button on his collar. “You want something to eat? Drink?”
I’m much too nervous to eat. “Do you have any white wine?”
Will checks one of the lower cupboards. “Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio?”
I stare at him blankly. “I, uh, didn’t realize you were such a wine connoisseur. What’s the difference?”
“Well,” Will says thoughtfully. “The pinot is from grapes that are….” He hesitates, the bottle in his head. “Okay, honestly? I don’t know. Jude’s the wine expert. I prefer beer, to tell you the truth.”
“Actually, I’d love a beer,” I say gratefully.
Will hands me a Corona from the fridge and takes one for himself as well. He slumps a bit in his chair and sighs, clearly very tired.
“Were you seriously working till 8 o’clock on Saturday?” I ask.
Will nods. “With great promotion comes great responsibility.”
I giggle. “Are you paraphrasing the Spider-man movie?”
“Yeah,” he says, and colors slightly. “I can’t believe you got that.”
“What? I love that movie!” I take an enthusiastic swig of my beer, careful not to spill on my dress. “I love any superhero movie, actually.”
“No way,” Will says. “Girls hate superhero movies.”
“Not this girl.” I grin. “I was always a big comic book fan when I was a kid, so all these movies are like my dream come true. Not that I read comic books anymore or anything. Although I’ve been dying to read the graphic novel that The Watchmen is based on.”
Will’s face lights up and he reaches into his bookcase to pull out a thick book with yellow and black lettering. “You mean this?”
“Oh my god! You read it?”
“It’s the best thing I’ve read all year.”
I shake my head. “Don’t spoil it for me. I’m trying to get someone to buy it for me for Christmas.”
He holds it out to me. “Borrow my copy.”
“Seriously?” I eye the book. I like the idea of borrowing a book from Will, not just because I badly want to read the book, but it gives me an excuse to come by here again. Not that I think Jude won’t invite me, but you never know.
“Take it,” Will says. “I’m sure you and Jude will come back here after dinner, so I’ll leave it on the shelf for you.”
We chat a bit more about comics, and I’m a little relieved that Will’s knowledge is significantly less than encyclopedic. I wouldn’t want to think he was some kind of pathetic geek who spent all his time holed up in his bedroom reading superhero comic books. Although I have to admit, I find it kind of intriguing that a guy who can’t walk would be so into superheroes. There’s something a little ironic about it.
I’m so deep in conversation with Will that I don’t even notice that an hour has gone by until I hear the lock in the door turning. And suddenly, the butterflies are back like they’ve never left. I stop talking mid-sentence, toss my beer on the coffee table, and wipe my suddenly sweaty palms on my new dress. I glance over at Will, who looks mildly amused.
And there he is, just as handsome as I remember him from last night. Jude, also wearing his clothes from work, but still managing to look fresh and practically glowing. I don’t think I’ve met a man quite as attractive as Jude in my entire life. And to think: he likes me! Or at least, I think he does.
“I’m so sorry I’m late, love,” Jude gushes as he rushes over to me.
“I forgive you,” I say, rising to my feet. I forgive you, Jude! A thousand times over, I forgive you!
Jude crosses the room to give me a long, luxurious kiss on the lips. Damn, he is in an incredible kisser. Or maybe it’s not so much that he’s a good kisser that I want him to kiss me so badly, so when he does, I practically melt. When we part, Jude places his hand securely on my ass.
“Thanks for entertaining her, mate,” Jude says to Will, who nods vaguely. Jude takes a step back and absorbs my dress. His eyes widen. “My god, you look smashing. I want to just eat you up!”
That’s a compliment I never heard before. But it sounds positive! I smile. “This old thing?” I’m not so good at being gracious.
“You are going to turn the heads of every man in the room,” Jude assures me. “Don’t you think she looks lovely, Will?”
Again, Will nods vaguely. He’s flipping through one of his books, having completely lost interest in me. Well, at least it doesn’t seem like he hates me anymore.
Jude gives my ass a squeeze. “Have you any thoughts where you’d like to eat, Lily?”
I freeze. Did he just call me “Lily”?
I glance at Will, who seems to have noticed too. He’s looking up at Jude and frowning.
But he couldn’t have. We spent all of last night together. He knows my name. He’s just tired from work and… well, I probably just am having trouble understanding his accent. That’s all.
“I’m, um, up for anything,” I mumble.
“Now that’s what I like to hear,” Jude says with a grin. He pulls off his tie in one smooth motion and gives me another smack on the lips.
A minute later, Jude is on the phone making reservations at a Belgian restaurant in Chelsea. I have no idea what Belgian food is, but Jude says it’s kind of like French food. So I pretend to know what French food is and nod amicably. After all, I said I was up for anything.
“Shall we go, Lily?” Jude asks me, holding out his hand.
Okay, this time it’s undeniable. He’s definitely calling me “Lily.” The guy I had sex with last night officially doesn’t know my name. And worse, I don’t know how to correct him without it being horribly embarrassing for both of us. Will is staring at us, looking completely dumbfounded. I know I have to say something. What if we get into a long relationship… eventually Jude’s going to figure out my name isn’t Lily and when he does, it’s going to be really bad.
But how on earth can I tell him?
Maybe I can concoct an excuse to show him my driver’s license. I can say something about the picture being bad or something, and then he’ll see my name on the license and know I’m not Lily. That will help both of us save face. Actually, it’s a pretty damn good plan. Of course, there’s always the chance that he won’t look at the name on the license, so maybe then—
“Her name is Libby.”
I jerk my head up and Will is looking right at us. I feel my cheeks already starting to turn red.
“Pardon?” Jude says.
“The girl you’re about to take out,” Will says. “Her name is Libby. Not Lily. Libby.”
At first, Jude looks like he’s about to start arguing with his roommate, but then he glances at me and notices that I’m nodding. “Well, of course her name is Libby,” Jude says quickly. This one could win the academy award. “That’s what I’ve been saying all along. I thought you understood my accent by now, William.”
Will is silent, thank god.
“Christ, you think I don’t know the name of the girl I’m shagging?” Jude says. And good thing for Austin Powers, because otherwise I’d never know that Jude just told his roommate that he was fucking me. Not that it wasn’t completely obvious.
“My mistake,” Will mumbles.
I can see Jude is pissed off at his roommate though. He’s grumbling about it all the way downstairs. I remember Jude said they were best friends, but I’m having trouble seeing it right now. It seems like Will doesn’t even like Jude very much.
Jude’s so flustered that he doesn’t bother to even open the cab door for me. I open it myself and he climbs in after me. “It’s not that Will is a bad bloke or anything,” Jude says, “it’s just that he doesn’t know when it’s proper to mind his own business.”
I nod, wishing he’d talk more about me (and us) and less about Will.
“Will would be much more pleasant,” Jude goes on, “if he would find a girl for himself. I think he badly needs to… how do you Americans say it? Get laid. That’s what he needs.”
“Um,” I say.
“We’ve been roommates since law school,” Jude says, “so I know he hasn’t had a proper girlfriend since then. He hasn’t even had a girl stay the night.”
“Oh,” I say.
“Perhaps you know someone for Will?” Jude suggests. “A girl? I’m sure you have loads of girlfriends.”
“Um, I don’t really—”
“Yes, and we can all go out next Friday night,” he says, grinning broadly now.
I want to be excited about this plan, I really do. After all, we haven’t even gotten through the evening and Jude is already promising me a date next week. But the whole thing is contingent on finding a date for Will and I just don’t see how I’m going to do that. I suppose I could beg Mia, but she already hates Jude so much, I doubt she’d go along with it. Most of my other female friends are married or in serious relationships. Who the hell am I going to ask? And who would go out with Will?
“Sounds wonderful,” I say.
Eh, I’m sure I’ll think of someone.
I think the thing I love most about walking into a room with Jude is the way other women stare at us. As we walk into the Belgian restaurant, I can feel the eyes of every woman in the room on Jude and on us, all completely jealous of me, all wondering how a girl like me netted a man like Jude. Not that I’m ugly or anything, but Jude is just gorgeous. Standing next to him makes me feel gorgeous too, and I can’t wipe the huge grin off my face.
Even the hostess is ogling Jude, which is how we get the best table in the restaurant. Jude is back to being a gentleman, so he holds out my chair for me, before I sidle into it as sexily as possible. Jude’s chair is across the table from mine, but he moves it so we’re sitting right next to each other and he slides his arm around my bare shoulders.
“Do you have any idea how sexy you are?” Jude murmurs in my ear.
Well, I have SOME idea. But I love the way Jude is making me feel, like I’m the most beautiful woman in the room, like he can’t keep his hands off me.
Very few men I’ve been out with have immediately wanted a date with me the night after hooking up, especially on a Saturday night, so I’m feeling very good about this. I know Mia thinks my marriage fantasy is dumb, but I really am starting to feel like this could be it. Jude really might be my future husband. Imagine waking up next to this man for the next forty something years. I wonder if our children would have British accents.
On my last birthday, several months ago now, I turned 29 years old. That’s a very scary age for a woman because even though I’m still in my twenties, I no longer have any buffer between my age and 30. Any day now, I could turn 30. And then, I will be in my thirties. Which means my chances of marriage will decrease significantly.
I feel like being in my thirties means that I’ll need to lower my standards. Maybe start dating men who are overweight or bald. There won’t be any men like Jude in my life anymore. They’ll be able to sense that I’m 30 and smell the desperation.
But I try not to think about that now. I’m here with Jude now and he doesn’t smell anything aside from my Chanel perfume, which he seems to be quite fond of. “You smell yummy,” he says, to demonstrate this fact.
“So do you,” I say. And he does. I don’t know if it’s cologne or aftershave, but he smells amazing.
A waitress comes to the table to collect our orders and immediately my heart sinks. She’s really beautiful, wearing a sexy short black skirt and a tight white T-shirt, and Jude is staring. “Have you decided on your orders yet?” she asks.
“What do you recommend, love?” Jude asks. And my heart sinks further, because he calls ME “love” and how dare he call some waitress he just met by my nickname. Even though I guess he technically just met me yesterday.
She recommends something that I can’t even understand because she says it in French, and she and Jude flirt a bit more, then he orders that dish and I order mussels, even though I’m not terribly hungry anymore.
“Do you think she’s pretty?” I blurt out after the waitress leaves the table. I don’t want to sound like a jealous cow, but I can’t help myself.
“The waitress?” Jude raises his eyebrows. “What are you talking about, Libby? She’s hideous. A real cow.”
I know he’s not serious, but I can’t help smiling. Jude takes my hand and looks into my eyes, and I don’t care anymore if he’s going to break my heart. I want him.
Jude and I are practically undressing each other in the elevator up to his apartment. I’m not drunk, so I can appreciate every bit of his rock solid chest and squeezed against mine and his cock pressed against my leg. Jude slides his hand up my dress, which lifts clear off my ass, flashing the overhead video camera, but I don’t care. I’d fuck Jude in this elevator right now if I had to.
I’m practically jumping out of my skin as I wait for Jude to unlock the door to his apartment. I’ve got one hand up under his shirt, creeping up his rock hard abs. Then Jude drops the key and I nearly cry. He picks it up and successfully opens the door on the second try.
We probably wouldn’t have even made it to the bedroom, but Will is sitting out in the living room. He’s actually sitting on the couch and his wheelchair is tossed to the side. He’s playing some sort of game on the television. It’s eleven o’clock on a Saturday night and Will is playing Nintendo. Maybe Jude was right that he badly needs to get laid.
“Oh, hi,” Will says, looking mildly embarrassed.
“Hey, mate,” Jude says, a little breathlessly. He grins at me. “I bought Will the Nintendo Wii for his birthday, and I think they’ve officially fallen in love.”
“Fuck you,” Will says, but he’s smiling.
“The wedding will be at the Plaza in June,” Jude goes on, “they’re registered at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.”
Will hurls a pillow in Jude’s direction, and he ducks and laughs.
“By the way,” Jude says, even though I’m hopping between my feet, waiting to get to the bedroom. “Libby and I would like you to come out with us next Friday night. She’s going to get you an incredible date.”
Will puts down the Wii controller and shakes his head. “No, that’s okay. You don’t have to do that.”
“Nonsense,” Jude says. “Libby loves to set people up.” No, I don’t. “You have to tell her your type.”
Will scratches his head. “I don’t really have a type.
“Oh, I know your type,” Jude says gleefully. “You fancy that hideous bird from the Spider-man movies, right? What’s her name? Kirsten Dunst, right? Your taste in women is such rubbish.”
I want to die. Of all the celebrities in the world, the one that I most resemble, according to family, friends, and strangers on the street, is Kirsten Dunst. I actually had a pair of tourists come up to me in the city because they wanted to get a photo of the girl from the Spider-man movies. And Jude just said the Kirsten Dunst is hideous. I cannot believe this.
Will knows it too. He knows I look like Kirsten Dunst and that Jude just insulted the hell out of me. He lowers his eyes and doesn’t say anything.
“Well,” Jude says, “I’m sure Libby will find you someone suitable. Won’t you, love?”
And that’s Jude’s last word on the subject before he heads to his bedroom, obviously expecting me to follow. Five minutes ago, I was all over him, but now I’m suddenly feeling very unattractive.
“Don’t take it personally, Libby,” Will says, noticing my hesitation. “He’s never even seen the movie. He probably thinks Kirsten Dunst is the guy with the octopus tentacles.”
I laugh and Will grins. It’s weird. When he’s sitting on the couch like that, without his wheelchair, he looks completely normal. I mean, not completely, I guess. His legs are kind of leaning to one side which looks a little odd if I were really thinking about it. But other than that, he just looks like a normal, cute guy.
“Listen,” he says. “You don’t need to get me a date. Really.”
“No, it’s no problem,” I say. Then I curse myself because he just gave me a way out and I didn’t take it. Honestly, I have no idea how I’m going to find a date for Will. I hardly know any women, and I’m not sure how I’d convince any of them to go out with him. As I said, he looks like a normal guy sitting on the couch, but he obviously isn’t. Otherwise, he wouldn’t need someone like me to find a date for him.
“Well, it’s okay if you don’t,” he says. And then he adds, “But if you do, just try to… just make sure she doesn’t walk out on me, okay?”
I had no idea what Will was talking about, but at that moment, Jude called out my name and I came running.
To be continued....
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