The Hook Up
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“You little weasel.” I’m half-pissed, and more than a little impressed. She has Machiavellian depths that I never considered.
She shrugs and grabs another fry. “Pretend to be outraged if you want, but you obviously liked hooking up with the boy if you did it twice.”
“Do me a favor,” I say scowling, “and restrain yourself the next time you feel the need to help me out.”
“Fine. My work here is done anyway.” She pops a fry into her mouth and chews with exaggerated vigor.
I’m tempted to chuck a fry at her head, but they’re too good, and I’m hungry.
“Two times,” George says after a moment. “In less than a week? That’s like a relationship for you, Banana.”
I nearly choke on a fry. “It is not.”
“It is,” says Iris. “And you know it.”
All right, hook ups to alleviate occasional and unavoidable horniness is more my style lately. Since my break up with Hayden sophomore year, I have made it a point not to see any guy more than once. Hayden. Ugh. I don’t want to think about Mr. Haunted Poet and Quiet Angst. I thought we were kindred spirits. It turns out he thought Amber, vegan and professional protester, was his soul mate. They dropped out of school and went to join Occupy Wall Street. I never saw him again. Unfortunate, as my last vision of him was that of his pasty butt pumping between Amber’s hairy legs.
Hayden was supposed to be the safe choice, and he didn’t have anything close to the potency of Drew Baylor. I cannot fall for Baylor. I will not.
“So it was more than one time,” I mutter. “But it isn’t a relationship.”
“Would a relationship be so bad?” Iris asks gently.
Jesus. First Drew, now Iris. Whatever happened to the carefree and innocent college days of kinky sex experimentation?
“I don’t need or want a relationship. They’re emotionally exhausting. I’m lucky if I can muster the energy just to go to class these days. And what’s the point of risking getting close to someone when we’re going to graduate and move on in less than a year?”
“It might last longer,” Iris begins.
But I shake my head and take another pull on my straw. “It isn’t worth the risk. Nor do two random hook ups a relationship make.”
It’s going to happen again. You might as well admit it.
“It’s a start,” Iris says.
“It is not.” I shove my shake away. “I just… He’s… We’re…”
“You conjugating here?” George asks, his lips twitching.
“Ha.” I expel a breath. “I don’t know what’s going on. There’s something between us that’s like…” My hand lifts helplessly.
“A fat zit that needs to be popped?” George puts in helpfully. “You know, all hot and throbbing and dying to be touched. The pressure to give it a squeeze builds and builds until you give in and, bam!” George taps his fists together. “Eruption.”
“George!” Iris tosses a balled up napkin at him, and I chuck a fry. He’s too busy cracking up to defend himself. “You’re going to make me sick.”
“That’s totally gross,” I add with a laugh.
“Seriously,” Iris huffs, “did Mami drop you on your head when you were a baby or something?”
“Come on,” he’s still laughing, “you know it’s true.”
“I do not want to think of any guy I’m…”
“Fucking?” George offers.
“I’m whatever,” I grind out, “in terms of a zit.”
“Yeah, well,” George steals one of my fries, “it would definitely kill the buzz if you did.”
“I’m going to think of you as a pimple,” Iris snaps. “You know, those deep-seated ones that make your life hell and always show up right when they will embarrass you the most.”
“Ah, you love me, sis.” George blows her an air kiss.
Iris rolls her eyes before turning back to me. “I think you’re making a mistake.”
“Agreed,” I say succinctly, purposely misinterpreting her words. “It was a mistake that won’t happen again.”
GRAY AND DIAZ are in my kitchen when I get home for the day. My mood is so rotten, I almost regret giving Gray a key, but then I smell something drifting from the big pot on the stove that makes my mouth water and decide his occasional invasions are worth it. I might have asked him to be my roommate, but every time we go to an away game, I have to room with him—and sometimes two other guys—which is more than enough socializing for me. Besides, I like living alone.
When my parents died, I was handed a life insurance payout check for two million dollars and two death certificates. I promptly threw up the contents of my stomach and didn’t get out of bed for a week. I wouldn’t even touch the money. I wanted my parents, not some f**king check. Eventually, Coach convinced me that my parents took out those life insurance policies because they wanted to provide for me. Not the best comfort, but I bucked up and called a financial advisor who put the money in various accounts.
Last year, when I learned the true value of privacy the hard way, I bought a small bungalow style house. I don’t plan to live here permanently, but I bought for cash and, over the summer, I had the master bath and kitchen redone. When I’m ready, I’ll sell it at a profit and put the savings away. For now, however, it’s my haven.
Tossing my keys on the hall table, I make my way through the open concept living-dining room. I kept a few things when my parents died: the dining and living room furniture, my mother’s beloved wedding china, and some childhood mementoes and pictures. Giving the rest away was a nightmare that still haunts me from time to time.
Maybe some people might think I’m not letting go by keeping the furniture, but there’s something soothing about seeing my mom’s carefully selected leather couch and chair set from Pottery Barn, or the coffee table they bought on a weekend getaway, or the dining table that came from my dad’s parents’ home.
Gray and Diaz give me nod as I walk past them and into my room. After a quick shower, I join them.
“What’s cooking, honey?” I ask Gray, who tosses a dishtowel at my head in annoyance.
Unlike me, Gray can actually cook. His mother was Norwegian, and apparently Norwegian women believe in equality for all domestic tasks. He’s been cooking since he was in the seventh grade.
“Stew, sweet cheeks,” Gray answers with sarcasm. “Now fetch me a beer, will you?”
Diaz simply grunts with amusement. He’s one of the best fullbacks I’ve played with, but he doesn’t say much. Ever. He does, however, know how to find a good, free meal, which explains his presence here.
I reach into the fridge and then toss Gray a beer. A raised eyebrow to Diaz, and he gives another grunt then finally speaks. “Got Gatorade?”
The 32-ounce bottle of berry flavor goes to him. I know he’ll drink the whole thing.
As for me, I forego alcohol for the season, so I’m having the bottled water. I’m beginning to get sick of water. I’m sick of a lot of things, actually.
We’re silent as we settle in the living room to eat while watching TV. Something I’m grateful for. I don’t really want to talk. The stew is good. Better than anything I’ve had all week. Damn, I’m going to have to ask Gray to teach me how to cook one day, because this beats carryout and frozen meals by yards.
My mouth is full of stew when Gray attacks.
“So, what’s the deal with you and the redhead?” He looks me over. “Did you tap that?”
Though I don’t say a word, Gray knows me too well, so when the corner of my mouth tightens in annoyance, he grins. “Booyah for you, man. It’s about f**king time. Rubbing the chub just isn’t the same as f**king.” He shakes his head as I roll my eyes.
Gray has despaired of me foregoing casual sex for the past year. I’ve despaired of me too—having become way too acquainted with my right hand, as Gray so thoughtfully pointed out—but the risks haven’t been worth it until now.
I don’t want a relationship. Especially not with you. Yep. That still hurts.
Gray gives my arm a smack. “I’m thinking she’s more than a handful, eh? Man, she has an ass on her.”
“She has a name. It’s Anna. Use it.” I stare at Gray. Hard. “And if I catch you talking about her body again, I’ll rip a piece of yours off.”
Mistake number one: giving a name to your tormentor. Mistake number two: becoming visibly protective.
Gray’s grin stretches. “You like her.”
He has no idea.
I take another bite of stew so I don’t have to talk.
“So you’re into her, yet you’re moping around like a sad sack. What’s the deal?”
“There is no ‘deal.’” I gesture to the TV with my fork. “I’d like to watch Pardon the Interruption, if you don’t mind.”
“And I’d like a blowjob every night before I go to bed. Disappointment’s a bitch.”
“Man...” Diaz shakes his head before attacking his food again.
Sighing, I put down my now empty bowl. What’s the deal? Where to start? I think I’ve become f**k buddies with the girl I’m falling for. And while the sex is phenomenal, the fact that she views me as little else is killing me. Yeah, that wouldn’t crush my pride to say out loud.
“She’s…” I frown at the TV. “I don’t know… hesitant.”
“So she’ll let you bang her but doesn’t want anything to do with you otherwise?” Gray snorts a laugh, covering his mouth to keep in his stew. “Oh the irony.”
Gray is too smart for his own good.
“Asshole,” I mutter then give him a glare. “And we’re adding an addendum to the rules. You don’t get to discuss Anna in terms of sex, in any shape or form.”
He wipes his mouth and takes a swig of beer. “Look, man, I’m not trying to be a dick—”
“—I’m just kind of… shit… shocked. I thought she was into you.”
He gets up to refill his bowl, and I slouch further into the couch. “I wish.”
A movement at my side has me tensing. I forgot Diaz was there he’s so quiet. Warily, I look over, and he regards me for a moment before giving a small shrug. “She don’t belong, that’s all.”
“Want to run that by me again, D?” I sit up, my fists clenching. I don’t need my teammates trying to make Anna an outsider.
He shrugs again. “Don’t mean anything bad by it, but she knows she doesn’t fit with our crew. I saw her at the party. She wasn’t comfortable there.”
I squeeze the back of my stiff neck. This is the most Diaz has said to me in weeks, so the words take a while to sink in past the shock.
“This is true,” Gray says as he plops back into his seat. “She looked antsy as all hell.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose. A headache is coming on. “Yeah.” They’re right. I know this. I’ve just ignored it in favor of feeling sorry for myself.
“If you want her,” says Diaz, “you better take it slow.” His teeth are white against the dark bronze of his skin. “Slow, as in wooing her, cuz you’re clearly her bitch if that glazed look and drunken-ass walk you got goin’ on mean anything.”
“I can kick your ass too, D.”
“So,” Gray asks Diaz, “how do you woo a chick, D?”
“Poetry?” Gray sputters. “Are you f**king kidding me?”
“No, you philistine. It’s cool and women love it.”
Gray presses a hand to his chest as if he’s pained. “I…have no words.”
“Because you’re a punk player,” Diaz says, stabbing into his stew with his spoon.
“That hurts, D. Deep inside my soft gooey center.”
“I bet you read ‘em haikus. Can’t imagine you saying more than seventeen syllables at once.”
“You best be imagining my foot up your ass, cuz it’s about to be there.”
They continue to talk shit, but my mind drifts elsewhere. I think about my father and the time we worked on changing the carburetor of my old car. The rusty piece wouldn’t budge.
“Never force something, Drew. A bolt, a pass, a game, whatever.” His dark brown eyes hold mine. “Force it and you’ll lose. Patience and persistence is how you win in life. Take your time, look for the solution, and if it doesn’t come to you, fall back, reassess, and try again.”
I know the true Anna. I’ve seen glimpses of her. When she’s not thinking up reasons for us not to be together, that girl looks at me as if I’m worth something to her. She’s the Anna that makes my heart beat faster, enjoy each second I’m with her. If she thinks she can hide behind sex, then I’ll let her hide until she realizes I’m safe, that actually being together could be something transcendent. And damn if I won’t have a good time doing it. Because while I might be patient, I’m no saint.
IT’S A PERFECT Sunday. The weather is cool and the sun is shining. There are things I could do, assignments to finish, books to read. I could go shopping or into town to watch a movie. But no, I’m sitting on the balcony watching the scant street traffic. My stomach aches and my skin feels too tight. I know what’s wrong. I’m infected with want of Baylor.