“No,” Mark responds.
“Please?” I plead.
The doorknob turns and Mark is standing in the doorway with his shoulder resting against the doorframe.
“What?” he growls.
He crosses his arms against his chest, purses his lips and raises an eyebrow at me.
“Apology accepted.” He says giving me a wink. “I’m heading out. We’ll talk later, okay?”
I nod. He turns and walks out of the bedroom toward his room. My cell phone rings, and I grab it then lay on my bed.
“Hello.” I greet, placing the call on speakerphone.
“Hey, Bree, are you meeting us for brunch?” Addie asks.
“Oh, hey, Addie, yes. Where are we meeting?”
“Victoria said we’re meeting at The Blueridge Grill.”
“Got it. What time?”
“I only have an hour to get ready.”
“Tiffany insists that you dress to impress. There are always some cuties hanging out there.”
I huff and shake my head. Addie is talking about married men with wives and their children. Addie, real name Addison, is my dazzling redheaded bestie, with sky blue eyes that light up the night sky. She’s never dated a guy in our high school and only lusts after married men. She’s an old soul and loves eighties music. She refuses to let me give myself to just any guy at West End Prep. Yes. I’m a virgin. Our conversations over the phone at night are about setting up a website to sell my virginity to the highest bidder. She’s definitely not altogether, but she’s a really smart business person. She has men lined up for me. I’m not thrilled about her moral convictions, but she wouldn’t hurt a fly.
“It’s brunch, Addie, and, um, that’s your territory. Addie?”
“Can we talk for a minute, you know, like on a serious note?”
“Sure. What’s wrong?”
“You know I’m here for you if you ever need me, right? I mean, I get really nervous when you talk about all these men you’ve been with. I’m scared for you. I worry.”
“You don’t have to worry. If my mother doesn’t worry, why should you?”
“That’s just it, Addie, your mother’s not doing her job. I want to be there for you, but I just don’t know-how. I’m really afraid someone’s wife is going to hurt you.”
“I’ve had to fight off my mother’s boyfriends for years. Don’t worry so much, okay?”
“No, it’s not okay. I don’t want you to get hurt. Promise me you’ll stop dating older men and at least try to date some guys your own age.”
“Where is this coming from? Are you jealous?”
“Addie, don’t,” I clip. “Don’t do that. We’re friends and I love you.”
“Well, then I’m lucky someone loves me. Just look cute, okay? Try it. You might like it,” she insists.
Her voice cracks and my heart breaks. I change the subject to avoid hurting her feelings any more than I probably already have.
“Me? I always look impeccably cute, but you, I’m worried about you, you know that, right?”
Addie chuckles nervously.
“Yes, I know, but I’m smart, Bree. No strings attached, gifts and money and I don’t have to give my heart to anyone. Can’t beat that.”
“You have your own money. You don’t need anything from those married men.”
“I need peace of mind. I don’t get it at home, Bree. I’m ignored by my mother and chased by her boyfriends.” There is silence on the other end of the phone. I can hear her exhale and that’s my cue to stop talking. “Are you coming or not?”
“I’ll be there.” I end the call and throw my cell phone on the bed.
Now…to find something to wear is another story. I rummage through my closet, placing my fingers along each velvet hanger trying to find something to wear. I place my finger on a short, red maxi dress. Grabbing it, I place it on the hook on the back of my bedroom door. I smile for a moment and remember the red bathing suit I wore at the beach in Paris.
My toes were nestled in the warm sand as tiny pebbles slid in between them. Pres was in the water with the guys horsing around, making a fool out of himself. He jumped on Lawrence’s back, then lifted his hand in the air and waved at me. I give him a half-smile and he jumped off Lawrence’s back and ran toward me.
“Hey, are you okay?” he asks.
“Yeah. Are you having fun?”
His lips curved into a warm smile, then he scanned my body with his eyes.
“What are you doing?” I asked incredulously.
“I like red. It’s my favorite color, especially when it’s wrapped around your body.”
“Oh really?” I said flirtatiously. He leaned in, then grabbed me by the waist, lifted me up into his arms, and ran toward the water. “Pres, no!” I screamed wrapping my legs around his waist. “Please…” I begged. He stopped right at the edge of the water.
“If I let you go, will you get in the water with me?”
My eyes grew wide. He placed me down and glanced up at me. He knew I was about to run like hell. My instincts kicked in and I turned and ran away. He chased after me and I laughed until he grabbed me by the waist again, lifted me, and tossed me into the water with him. We laughed like we did when we used to play hide and seek in Central Park West.
My pulse races just thinking about him. I sit on the edge of my bed for a moment remembering our time together. Now, it’s back to basics, just friends, part of the crew, even though, it’s not what I want. He has an agenda this year and I’m not part of it. He didn’t even message me once when we got back from Paris. I was just Bree to him again and I guess that’s all I’ll ever be.
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