Over the next several months, I become Jude’s girl. And it’s absolutely wonderful.
Jude is amazing. First of all, he’s amazing to look at. In any given room, he’s usually the handsomest guy there. Yes, I know that probably sounds kind of shallow. But even after three months, my heart starts pounding every time I see him, and I actually get a little wet. Just from looking at him! And his accent… my god. If he were any more attractive, I might go blind or something.
When I go out with Jude, I’m guaranteed to have fun. Partially because we always drink a lot, but also because he’s just hilariously funny and always the life of the party. He takes me to a lot of parties, all of which are very loud and fun. I feel like I’m in college again sometimes.
And the sex. Well, the sex is pretty amazing too. I mean, when you’re with a guy who’s so sexy, the sex has to be great. Basically, all Jude has to do is touch me with the tip of his finger and I have an orgasm. Which is probably a good thing since I’ve never seen a man so allergic to foreplay.
All right, Jude has a few bad qualities. For example, he’s a terrible flirt. And by “terrible flirt,” what I mean of course is that it’s terrible that he flirts but he’s great at it. When we’re at dinner, he only has eyes for me, but then we get to a party and I can never seem to keep track of him. It drives me crazy.
About a month ago, we went to a party on a Saturday night and after I disentangled myself from a conversation with a blue haired guy from some garage rock band, I located Jude with standing dangerously close to a pretty redhead in a miniskirt who looked all of twenty. His face was probably six inches away from hers.
“Uh, Jude,” I said, planting myself between him and the redhead. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Of course, Libby,” he said. He smiled at the redhead, “Just a second, love.”
I took Jude by the arm and dragged him all the way across the room. I faced him and tried to put my most cross expression on my face. I call it my “Libby Means Business” face. “What were you doing over there with that girl?”
Jude didn’t have a trace of guilt on his face. “We were talking. What’s wrong?”
“You looked like you were about to kiss her.”
Jude looked at me blankly. “Perhaps. Why?”
Why? Why?? What is it with men and monogamy? I couldn’t believe I was getting a repeat performance of Damien.
“Listen,” I said to him. “I want to be exclusive. If we can’t, then I don’t know if I can continue this relationship.”
Jude looked at me, thinking about it, really thinking about it. I thought for sure he was going to tell me to piss off, but then he put his arm around my shoulders and smiled. “Well, if that’s what you want,” he said, “then we’ll give it a go. I don’t really fancy that girl anyway.”
And just like that, I was his one and only girlfriend. I was over the moon, believe me.
I called Will to tell him about it the next day. He and I have become really good friends, to the point where we do something together at least once a week, often more. We went through all the museums in the city, then started mostly just seeing movies and having dinner together. We’ve pretty much got a standing date for dinner on Wednesday nights. And I mean “date” in the most platonic sense. Even though Will always pays.
Anyway, Will was gently warning me about Jude and his difficulty with commitment, so I was very excited to tell him that Jude had agreed to be exclusive. We don’t talk about Jude much, but I had to get his reaction on this. “He promised not to see other people,” I told Will.
“You’re joking,” Will said, sounding appropriately impressed. “That’s a first.” And I was pleased. Obviously, this wasn’t a commitment that Jude made lightly.
So it’s been one month and I’d say monogamy is going very well. Jude still seems pretty taken with me and I’m certainly crazy about him. We go out every Saturday night and spend the night together. I’m cautiously optimistic about our future together.
But tonight is Wednesday and I’m seeing a movie with Will. Due to our mutual love of superhero movies, we’re seeing Iron Man 2 together. We’re both ridiculously excited about it and have been sending emails back and forth all week.
We’re seeing the movie first at 6:15. I’m impressed that Will is never late for our Wednesday dinner/movie dates. Jude is always late for everything, thanks to work, but Will always seems to somehow make it out on time. Will explained that he does contract law and Jude is a trial attorney, so it’s kind of different.
Parking is rough in Manhattan, so we meet up at his work and take the bus to the theater. I honestly never took the bus before meeting Will, because the subway always seemed more convenient, but he can’t do the subway, so we’re stuck with the bus. And I confess, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass. First, the bus itself is slow as hell. Second, it’s not like Will can just hop on the bus. The driver has to stop, lower the ramp, kick about three people out of their seats, then help Will to board. I can usually see everyone on the bus getting pissed off, especially during rush hour. Everyone in the city is always in a rush, so a person in a wheelchair getting on the bus is one of those things that makes the blood pressure shoot up.
I have to admire Will though, because he knows how to speak up for himself. I remember once we were getting on the bus and this fat, middle aged man who was clearly in a rush made some loud comment to his friend about how “crippled people shouldn’t ride the bus during rush hour.” Will made eye contact with the guy, gave him the finger, and said, “Fuck you, asshole.” The man shut up pretty fast after that.
But anyway, if we can help it, we try to go somewhere close or where we can drive.
The movie? It’s awesome. Will and I are both at the edge of our seats. Near the end, I’m grabbing Will’s arm and probably making permanent marks with my nails in his skin. As much as I love Jude, I would never have this kind of fun seeing this movie with him. Will and I have much more in common than I have with Jude, but obviously there’s more to a relationship than just having things in common.
After the movie, we go out for Italian food as we rehash every moment of the plot. Yes, I know. We’re both huge losers.
“You know,” I say to Will as our food arrives at the table. “You really look like Robert Downey Jr.”
Will raises an eyebrow. “Is that an insult?”
“Not at all,” I say. “I mean, it’s not like I told you that you look like… I don’t know, Danny DeVito. Robert Downey Jr. is attractive. Has anyone ever said that before?”
“Sadly, yes,” he admits.
I laugh. “Come on, that’s a good thing. Women like him, I think. He’s not a heartthrob or anything, but, you know. I bet a lot of women go for that look.”
I take a bite of my ziti. I like that I don’t have to worry about ordering messy foods in front of Will. When I’m with Jude, I’m always worried about sauce getting on my face or blouse, or basil getting caught in my teeth. “How are things going in that department, by the way? Women, I mean.”
Will shrugs. “Pretty quiet.”
I smile. “Well, is there anyone you’re interested in?”
Will is silent and I realize that the answer is yes.
“Oh my god,” I say, so excited that I drop my fork on my ziti and sauce flies everywhere. I hastily dab at my hair with a napkin. “Who is she? You have to tell me!”
“Uh, you don’t know her.”
I realize I’ve gotten tomato sauce on my glasses, so I pull them off to clean them. Damn, I can really be a slob sometimes. “Is she… someone from work?”
Will hesitates. “Yes.”
“Okay,” I say thoughtfully. “Well, tell me everything about her.”
Will scratches his head. “Why?”
“So I can help you, of course! To win her over.”
“I really don’t think that’s going to happen.”
God, Will really needs some self-confidence. “Well, tell me what she looks like at least.”
“She’s beautiful,” he says. “Really stunning. Especially when she’s not trying so hard to look good. She’s way out of my league, to be honest.”
“So it’s all about looks then?” I tease him.
“Not at all,” he protests. “I mean, yes, she beautiful. But I’ve gotten to know her lately and I really feel like we have a connection. I love being with her and she’s a wonderful human being, deep down. Really fun, really earnest, really sweet.” His eyes get this kind of glassy look. “I never thought I’d feel this way about another person. When I look at this girl, I feel like she’s the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
I’m quiet because I feel my own eyes tearing up a bit. Why can’t Jude feel this way about me? Why can’t anyone feel this way about me? “Oh my god, Will…”
“I know,” he says, a little shakily.
“You should tell her that,” I say.
His shoulders sag. “I can’t.”
“It’s complicated,” Will mumbles.
“That’s a bullshit excuse.”
“She’s seeing someone else,” he says. “So there’s that. And even if she weren’t, I honestly don’t think she’d give me a second look.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Really, Libby,” he says. “You remember the way Martha reacted to me, right? That’s fairly typical.”
For a moment, my heart goes out to Will. Obviously he has it bad for this mystery girl. I wish there was something I could do to help him, but I can’t do much if I don’t even know who she is. And maybe he’s right. Maybe he really doesn’t have any chance with her. But I’d like to believe a great guy like him has a chance of ending up with a great girl.
“What’s her name?” I ask.
“Her name?” he repeats.
“Come on, you can tell me…”
“I promise I won’t tell a soul,” I say, holding up my crossed index and middle fingers.
Will grins at me. “You realize that crossing your fingers means you’re lying, right?”
I didn’t know that. “Of course I know that! So what’s her name, Will?”
“Okay,” he relents. “Her name is… Michelle.”
Michelle. I immediately want to ask Jude about any girls at the firm named Michelle, but of course, I’ve just sworn not to tell a soul.
I have to confess though, there’s a small part of me that’s a bit jealous. Not that I have any romantic feelings whatsoever for Will or anything, but I feel like there’s something special about our relationship. I feel kind of bad that there’s this other woman, Michelle, who he clearly cares about very deeply, much more than he could ever care about me. He’s thinking about her as a potential life partner, for god’s sake. What if something happens between him and Michelle? Would she still allow him to go out on Wednesday nights with some other girl? Especially if she found out he was paying for me. I wouldn’t mind paying for myself and actually, I only let him because money is so tight and he’s so absolutely insistent, but I figure it would look bad to some other girl. She might get worried something was going on.
Even though we haven’t known each other that long, I can’t bear the thought of losing Will as a friend.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of KFC’s Double Down?
This is a new sandwich from KFC where the bun is actually fried chicken, and inside is melted cheese and bacon. I know it sounds unhealthy, but every time I see the commercial, I feel an intense desire to try it. My longing for this fried chicken sandwich has become almost overwhelming.
“Do you want to go to KFC for dinner tonight?” I asked Jude last night as we were having a pre-dinner glass of wine in his dining area. Will was around too, although he was pretty absorbed in a Nintendo Wii game. Trauma Center. It’s this awesome game that we played together a few times where you’re a surgeon operating on trauma victims, who have, like, glass wedged in their heart or something. The game is fun, but it was even more fun giggling with Will over how silly it was.
Jude looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “Why on earth would you want to go to KFC?”
“I want to try the Double Down,” I said.
When Jude looked at me blankly, Will said, “Is that the sandwich where the bun is fried chicken?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Awesome,” Will said.
“Libby,” Jude sighed. “Please don’t ask me to go with you to KFC and eat that rubbish. It’s sickening. Honestly.”
“Please?” I pouted.
As Jude shook his head, Will spoke up, “I’ll go with you tomorrow. I want to see one of those things up close.”
So yes, that’s how I ended up in a local KFC with Will, waiting on line to get my Double Down. Will is staring at the prominently displayed photo of the sandwich in amazement. “There’s no fucking way you’re eating that,” he says.
“I most certainly am!” I insist.
“There’s no way.” Will shakes his head. “I’ll bet you… I don’t know, what do you want to bet?”
“I don’t know, what are you prepared to lose?”
“If you finish that sandwich, I’ll get up and swing dance for you,” Will says. “How about that?”
Clearly, he doesn’t think I’m going to eat that sandwich. But he’s wrong. He doesn’t know how long I’ve been craving it. And I checked online and it only has like 500 calories. That’s not that bad. And it’s low carb. It’s practically healthy.
Will orders a 2-piece meal and I get my Double Down, and he pays. Like I said, he always pays for me, but usually it’s stuff that’s kind of pricy. I can afford a $5 sandwich. It makes me feel a little uneasy that he just automatically feels like he’s supposed to pay for me. But I’m not going to overanalyze it.
We find a table and Will pushes aside the seat to park his wheelchair. I got the sandwich in a bag and I can smell the KFC special spices wafting into my nostrils. My stomach growls and I want to claw open the bag like an animal. But before I do, my cell phone rings. It’s Harvey, my boss. I consider not answering, but I know I’ll just get reamed at work tomorrow. “Libby,” he says. “I need your help.”
I look at my watch. It’s 8 o’clock at night. This better be good. “What is it?”
“I need you to hire a limo to take my wife to the airport,” he says. “She’s leaving in an hour.”
“What?” I blink at the phone in disbelief. “A limo to the airport in an hour??”
I shake my head. “Mr. Peterson, I’m not even home… I can’t…”
“Then get home and do it,” he orders me. “This is your job, Libby. There are plenty of other girls who would be grateful for this opportunity.”
I look up at Will, who’s busy doing something on his iPhone. Fuck. I guess I can pack up my sandwich and eat it later or something. I’m sure as hell not gobbling down a Double Down—I’d probably end up in the hospital. My stomach growls again as I eye my KFC bag longingly.
“Fine,” I say. “I’ll have the limo at your apartment in an hour.”
I hang up my phone and want to hurl it at the wall. Harvey pulls this shit all the time. I don’t know why I put up with it. Well, I guess I sort of do. As he pointed out, it’s not like I have loads of other great opportunities.
“Will,” I say, although he’s still messing with his iPhone. “I think I have to—”
“What’s your boss’s address?”
“Where does he live?” Will asks, a little impatiently.
I tell him the address and watch him press a few more buttons on his phone. I’m perplexed.
“Okay,” he says. “It’s done. I booked the limo for an hour from now.”
“Oh.” I smile and my shoulders relax. “Thanks.” Damn, I need an iPhone. Well, first I need some money. Money, then iPhone.
“Libby.” He frowns at me. “I could hear the way he was speaking to you on the phone. Why are you allowing yourself to work for such an asshole?”
I shrug. “I don’t exactly have tons of other jobs lined up.”
“Oh, come on. It’s a huge city. I bet you could find something good.”
“Not if I haven’t finished college,” I say.
Will looks surprised. I don’t know what possessed me to tell him that. It’s sort of a huge secret for me. I haven’t even told Mia, my best friend, that I never finished college. Somehow it just popped out. I feel my cheeks turn a little pink.
“So,” he says, “maybe you should go back.”
I feel a flash of anger. He says it like it’s nothing. Going back to school is not nothing. School is hard and it’s expensive. “That’s easy for you to say.”
“Easy for me to say?” Will laughs. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well,” I say, “you don’t understand what it’s like to… to struggle…”
Will looks really amused. “So I guess you were born in the ghettos of Syracuse, feeding off scraps in the street, huh?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Not really,” he says. “Do I really strike you as someone who’s had it easy my whole life?” He gestures at his wheelchair. “Aside from the obvious, it’s not like I had money growing up. I have it now, but I had to work the whole time I was in law school. Believe it or not, being disabled doesn’t buy you a free ride.”
“Oh,” I say, looking down at the table. “You just… always act like money isn’t important.”
“I know it’s important when you don’t have it.”
I shrug. “Look, it’s not just about money. I’m just not smart enough to get through college.”
Will’s silent. That’s something I’ve thought for years, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had the nerve to say it out loud before. The words hang in the air and suddenly I feel awful, like I’m going to cry. I need Will to say something. Now.
“I don’t believe for a second that’s true,” he says. “I don’t even know how you could say that.” And honestly, he sounds like he means it. It’s not just some empty, patronizing compliment. Even though he’s entirely wrong.
“Right, well.” I swallow hard and actually manage a smile. “I’m going to eat my sandwich.”
Will nods encouragingly. “Go for it.”
I unwrap the Double Down and stare at it for a minute. Somehow it doesn’t look quite as good in person as it did in the photo. The cheese is kind of congealed and the bacon is practically pure fat. And it’s so much fried chicken…
“Um,” I say.
“Take a bite,” Will says, grinning.
I lean forward and nibble cautiously on the sandwich. I get some bacon and a big chunk of half-melted cheese in my mouth. I chew for a long time. “Yum?” I say.
Will starts laughing and I think it’s safe to say that he’s not going to be getting up and swing dancing any time soon.
To be continued....