I never thought escaping my friends by going to my dad’s was ever going to be a thing, but here I was with a smile on my face. It was nice to be home. I got this warm fuzzy feeling seeing my dad, uncle, and brother along with my grandparents. I definitely needed a break from the crazy of my life.
“Hey, everyone,” I said, waving.
“Hi, lady bug!” Dad said, smiling wide. “I hope you’re ready for escargot and lobster thermidore tonight.”
“August, how can you think a Pongan man like me would eat snails? We like shellfish from the sea, not from the concrete.”
I smiled. I adored my grandfather. “I’m with you, Grandpa. Those slimy things should be fish bait, not for human consumption.”
I kissed my dad then sat next to him.
“Lexi,” Uncle Beau said, “don’t knock until you try. I bet after tonight, you’ll be a slimy snail fan.”
“And speaking of fan…” Dad chimed in. “I hear you’re dating one of the Heartthrobs. Is this true?”
“James Sanderson, wasn’t it?” my grandmother added.
Blood seemed to rush out of my body. What the crap? How did they find out my lie?
Of course. Silas Moon. That creep. Couldn’t keep his trap shut for two days. “Uh…” I tried to stall.
“Why don’t you bring him by? We’d love to meet him.”
“H-He…uh…you know…can’t really get out much. Rabid fans and all.” Lexie! What are you saying??? You’re not dating JAMES!
“Well, just don’t be shy about having him meet us. This is the first boyfriend you’ve had in years.”
I winced. “Uh, yeah, well…we’re not exactly…”
“Is everything alright?” Grandma asked. “It’s hard having a famous boyfriend. I know I suffered a lot with my father. Thankfully, the paparazzi doesn’t know about it. It’s a good thing to keep your relationship private.”
Grandma turned to Dad and said, “August, don’t pressure her into having him meet us.”
Thank you, Grandma!
“Oh, but it’d be so cool to meet THE James Sanderson. I love the Heartthrobs!” Uncle Beau shimmied and sang, “Baby, baby, oh, baby, baby, baby, baby, oh oh OHHHHH!”
“Are you sure you can’t talk him into it?” Uncle Beau pleaded. “We have that barbecue happening on the 4th. Surely, he could come to that!”
I waved my hands around. “Oh, I think he definitely wouldn’t want to come to a barbecue. H-He’s a…um…v-vegan.” Geeze…this was getting worse and worse. What was I doing?
“I make a mean Pongan BBQ tofu bowl,” Grandpa said, grinning. “I think he’d love it, Lexie. Why don’t you ask him? Now I’m intrigued by the kid. He’s got to pass the Grandpa Seth test before I’ll give him my stamp of approval. I don’t care how famous he is.”
“Eheheheh…” I breathed, heart flapping wildly in my chest, “Grandpa…um…I think you’d scare the poor guy away. He’s like…t-tiny…you’d tower over him. Do you think I want to put him through that?”
“Oh nonsense, Lexie,” Dad said, “we’ll be nice to him. Come on…we’ve got to meet the guy you’ve been dating. It’s not right to shut your family out.”
“It’s settled then,” Uncle Beau said, picking up little Brayden. “He’s coming on the 4th. And if he’s not on tour, he has no excuse.”
Damn. I was sunk. It was too late to tell them they got the wrong Heartthrob.
“Did you hear that, Bray-bray?” Uncle Beau cooed at my brother. “We’re going to meet James Sanderson!”
“Yippee!” Brayden yelled even though he didn’t know what the hell he was celebrating.
“Why do you look so sour, lady bug? He’s going to like us. I promise.”
I lifted the side of my mouth. “Hum…y-yeah…sure…”
By the time I got home, my mind rolled over how it seemed as if everyone was basically shouting at me to date James. Even my family! But what was I missing? Maybe it was fate? Maybe it was coincidence? But no matter what, it was evident. I needed to give James one chance. Dom could be right. What if James was the love of my life and I was just passing him by for no good reason except my judgement against him. It wasn’t fair to him. Or to me. If that was the case.
Readying myself to tell Jenny the good news, I stopped short in the middle of my room.
“What the hell happened in here?” I whispered. The whole place looked like it did before except it got a revamp like a genie decorator came through and freshened it up with her magic wand. “Wow.”
Just then, Jenny popped out of the bathroom. “Oh you’re back. So glad I caught you before I left.”
My stomach lurched. “Before you…left?”
“Yes, dollface. My penthouse is ready, so I’ve got to move. I hope you like the changes. I knew your favorite color was red, so…I don’t know. I just couldn’t see putting your old things back. Well, except for your Charlie posters. Take a look. They’re all up as before.”
This hit me like a slap in the face. I didn’t really think through what it was going to be like without Jenny around. Yeah, I was mad about the Flamer crap, but I’d calmed down about it. Did she think I wanted her gone because of that?
“You know I’m not mad anymore about today. Jenny, I…I don’t want you to move out.” I put my hand on her shoulder and she took it in her warm fingers.
“Oh, sweetheart…I…” she stopped and shook her head. “Th-there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. And then I know you’ll want me out of here. It’s just…” She sighed then swallowed.
I looked into her eyes through watery tears and she stopped what she was about to say.
“Lexie, are you crying?” she asked.
I couldn’t help it.
What was I going to do without her? I’d miss our long talks on my bed, getting to know one another, watching movies together, or giggling endlessly about silly things. She always took care of me whenever I needed something and I, in turn, helped her with picking up laundry or fetching her coffee or bringing her asian takeout after work. We did everything together–from the time she moved in, we connected in a way that I never had with anyone–not even my only boyfriend, Cory.
How could I not see her every morning and every night? My mind reeled in panic.
“Don’t go, Jenny. Please? Didn’t you like staying here with me?”
And then I broke down. It was like I was losing a part of me.
She took me into her arms and rocked me gently. I didn’t want to let her go.
When Lexie started crying, I clung to her, wishing this situation was different. I didn’t want to leave. Instead, if I could, I’d order my driver to whisk her away from this carnival and drop her off at my penthouse. But…
She had to know the truth.
Taking a deep breath, I vowed to spit out my confession and deal with the aftermath. “Listen, babydoll, I need to tell you something. I’ve been holding off for too long.” I closed my eyes then said, “I…”
“Hey, Jenny? I know what you’re going to say.” She looked down, fiddling with her fingers.
My stomach dropped. “You do?”
Her eyes darted around and she said, “I feel awful for what I’ve put you through about your brother. I don’t blame you for gettin fed up with me and leaving.”
“Huh?” I dropped my arms to my side.
“I’ve been such a little bitch about going out with him. The Sisterhood is right. What’s the harm in one date?”
I blinked. I wasn’t sure what she was getting at.
Raising her head, she said, “So, I want to go out with James. Do you think you could ask him for me?”
That was the last thing I thought would come out of her mouth.