My heart is banging into my ribs so hard that I think they might crack. I step out of the shower and towel off. Amber is screeching like a skewered cat as her headboard bangs into the wall. I so don’t want to hear this, but I had to be home to get ready to go out.
I locked myself in our bathroom and put on my make-up after showering. I tie a bathrobe around me when I finish. Mel has a dress that she’s lending me for tonight, since I didn’t have anything suitable.
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I think about seeing Sean, about what I’ll say. Part of me thinks that I shouldn’t say anything, that I should let him explain the whole thing. After all, we are both way more sketchy than we seemed.
Amber’s voice busts my eardrum and then she finally shuts up. I try to sneak out of the bathroom now, before the two of them have a chance to start again. I toss my make-up back into my bag and run for the door. The way the room is situated has both our beds in the same area with a little Jack and Jill bathroom off of one end that we share with the girls next door.
I race by the beds and fail to notice the guy—not Dennis—standing in our kitchen. He has my throw blanket tied around his naked hips.
The guy looks up at me and then glances at Amber. “Hey, babe. Is this going to be a threesome? I’m down with that.” He grins at me. The guy is a clone of Dennis. What the hell? I glance back a Amber, shooting her daggers, but she’s lying in bed and doesn’t bother to look at me.
“Don’t touch my things!” I snap at him
He grins at me like an idiot. Without thinking, I reach forward, snatch the blanket, and run out the door leaving the guy standing there with nothing on.
I run down the hall, holding the blanket between my fingers. When I step into the room, Mel seems annoyed, but her mood quickly changes to disgust when she sees the way I’m holding the blanket. She opens a drawer and pulls something out.
“Oh gross, not again.” She holds up a trash bag for me and I drop the blanket inside. It’ll need to be cleaned again and I don’t want his junk all mashed up in my other wash.
“I don’t even want to talk about it. I swear to God, she’s the worst roommate ever. The only thing she’s got going for her is that she doesn’t steal.”
Mel doesn’t look convinced. “No offense hun, but you ain’t got nothing worth stealing.”
“Story of my life. So help me shake of the heebie-jeebies and get ready.”
Mel snorts a laugh. Her hand quickly covers her mouth as she continues to laugh. “Where did you learn those words? You’d think you were raised in a nunnery. Damn, girl.” Mel shakes her head and walks over to her closet. A dark violet cocktail dress is hanging at the front. She pulls it out and hands it to me. “What do you think? With your dark hair and eyes, I thought that color would work well for you. Plus it’s easy to wear.”
I hold the soft fabric in my hands. My heart starts pumping harder. I’m going to do this. The dress is the final step on the tightrope of insanity. I’m kind of hoping I fall off and break my neck. I don’t
know if I can go through with it. I nod, not saying anything I’m thinking. “It’s beautiful.”
The dress has a bright purple silk lining that is covered by black chiffon. The necklines scoops low and the back dips even lower. It’s held up by a silver clip on one shoulder. It’s like a Greek Goddess dress. I blink at it for a moment. I can’t believe this is happening.
As if Mel can sense my thoughts, she says, “And how about the rest? Did Mandy hook you up witl a nice lacey garter set?”
The undergarments are inspected by Miss Black before I leave in a limo for my appointment with Sean. Nothing I had would have been acceptable, so I took what little money I had left and bough some stockings, thigh highs, panties and a bra. Everything was on clearance, but the whole thing is from a store on Miss Black’s approved list.
I nod, and slip off the housecoat so she can see. It feels a little funny, but I have to put on the dress anyway. I pull it off the hanger as Mel looks me over. “There wasn’t much in my price range.”
“Well, I’m just glad they had something. That should pacify Miss Black. She just wants to make sure we don’t skimp on anything.”
“I can’t believe how much this stuff costs. The stockings cost more than my entire outfit.”
Mel shakes her head and smiles at me. “But have you felt them?”
“Yeah, they’re buttery soft, but at that price I’ll cry if I snag them.” I’m trying to wriggle into the dress without messing up my make-up. It slips over me and I reach for the side to zip it, but Mel’s already there. She pulls up the zipper for me and I look in the mirror. The dress fits perfectly. The bodice is formfitting and the skirt is on the shorter side and flares slightly at the hem If I didn’t feel like I was going to puke, I’d twirl.
“You look perfect.”
“Thanks,” I say, pulse pounding harder. I take a deep breath and try to calm down.
“Have you thought about what you’re going to say to him?” Mel steps back and grabs a comb. She quickly pulls my long locks into a beautiful style. I don’t even know what to call it. It’s half up and half down. Loose strands hang by my shoulders as random curls are pinned and twisted onto the back of my head.
“No, not really. And Mel, if he says no, I’m walking away from this. If I can’t do it with him, I jus can’t do it.”
Mel stills her hands and presses her lips together. “You give up too easy.”
“Maybe, but I have to be able to live with myself. My body and emotions aren’t detached. I don’ know how to do this without falling for the guy.”
Mel folds her arms over her chest. She still has to get ready to go out later. “Listen, it’ll come to you. One of the things I don’t do is lingering kisses, you know the kind. They get all hot and heavy. Ii makes it feel like something it’s not. That preference sheet isn’t just what you like, it’s what you can tolerate.”
“What if I cry the whole time? What if I can’t tolerate any of it?”
“You’re stronger than that, Avery. Me and you, we’re on our own. We’re strong because we have to be. We don’t need anyone or anything. We got our sights set on something and we get it, no matter the cost.”
My stomach curls. She’s just like me, maybe a little more battered by life, but we’re the same. “The end justifies the means.”
“Surviving justifies anything.”