by Randi Perrin
Sick of the moping, her best friend drags her along to the grand opening of a new wine bar. Char's attempts at blending into the woodwork fail when the lone cowboy in the room zeroes in on her—and won't take no for an answer.
Char learns that looks can be deceiving, because Darryl is way more than what he seems, and she can't get enough of him.
Can he save her from herself or is she destined to live in the shadow of her failures for good?
Release Date: July 11, 2017
White Satin Romance
The music from the speakers in Char’s car was loud, but not loud enough to drown out the anger that brewed inside her. She had been sitting in the car, backed into a spot under a street light in the McDonald’s parking lot, waiting on her boyfriend for what felt like forever. In the time she had been sitting there, she’d seen a couple alley cats weave through the cars in the drive-thru to the dumpster on the search for food; at least five families of four go in, order, eat, and leave; and one mother literally drag her son into the restaurant screaming about how he didn’t have to go to the bathroom. The last one actually made her laugh to herself.
At least I’ll never have to worry about that.
Char had just turned thirty-three, and her crazy immature boyfriend showed no signs of settling down, so kids were pretty much out. Hell, at that point, marriage likely would be, too.
She looked at the clock on her console. 7:37
She checked her phone to see if she had missed a text. Nope, the last text she got from him was sent at 6:15 and said I’ll be there at seven. His level of punctuality never ceased to amaze her.
However, she was even more frustrated by the fact that she had to sneak around to see him at all, which was why she was in the parking lot that smelled of French fries and made her stomach growl. If he would just man up and move out of his mother’s house, that would be fantastic. No, he was Char’s age and back to living with his mother—his mother who did not approve of her and made no qualms about letting her know it every time they interacted. That bitchy woman even told Lee he couldn’t move in if he continued to date “that girl in Ridgeland.” In what was probably the most romantic moment of their relationship, he concocted the lie that they had broken up so he could have the best of both worlds. As such, they had to sneak around in order to spend time together. It had been going on like that for three of the four years they’d been dating.
Every time they got together, she had to drive to Hilton Head, because, at least according to him, his car couldn’t be seen in Ridgeland for fear of it getting back to his mother. At first, she found it sweet, because if it got back to his mom, there’d be hell to pay for his still being with her. As time wore on, it just became annoying.
Through it all, though, she loved him. So much so that she risked bedbugs to meet him at sleazy no-tell motels on the beach for a couple hours of good sex, before he disappeared again, returning to his mother’s just in time to keep her from going crazy with worry. Sometimes Char wondered why she let him get away with using her and his mother the way he did, but she didn’t want to rock the boat. They had been together for so long, and it wasn’t like her options in Ridgeland were that great, so she just did what she had to do to make it work.
Her thoughts wandered to the last time they had sex. She put her head back and closed her eyes, a smile on her face. The hotel was on the beach and they left the balcony door open so they could hear the surf. His fingers always knew right where to go, which buttons to push, and that night he managed to bring her to orgasm in record time. She sighed. If she wasn’t sitting in a very public parking lot, she might have even touched herself while she thought about it. It had been far too long since that last interlude—months—and she was starting to get antsy.
Her eyes flew open when she heard a knock on the driver’s side window and her heart sped up as it leapt into her throat.
No, Mr. McDonald’s manager, I was not feeling myself in the middle of your parking lot where children could see.
Lee smiled at her from outside. Her heart returned to its normal cadence and location as she returned the smile. He walked around to the other side of the car and she unlocked the doors. He slid inside and placed a tiny peck on her cheek.
“Sorry I’m late, my car broke down the other day, so I had to walk.”
She had been driving around that part of the island a lot over the past four years, she knew his house wasn’t that far. She let the obvious lie fall to the floorboards, refusing to address it. It wasn’t important.
“Happy birthday, baby,” she said.
“Uh, thanks. But my birthday isn’t for another week.”
“I know this, but I’ve got to work on special editions the next couple weekends, and this was the only time I could escape to bring your present.” She produced a blue gift bag from the back of the car.
He rolled his eyes. “You didn’t have to get me anything. I never get you anything for your birthday.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said, her smile tight. She didn’t want to have the argument with him—again. Heaven forbid the man spend a couple dollars to let her know he was thinking about her instead of buying an amped up stereo system for his broken-down piece of shit car. “But I like shopping for you, so just let me do it, okay?”
He reached into the bag and pulled out a small box. He lifted the lid and he expelled a deep breath. “Is something wrong?” She looked at the Zippo lighter she’d had engraved with a quote from his favorite book and tensed.
“No, not at all, this is amazing. I just... don’t know what I did to deserve you.”
“The sex does have something to do with it.”
He gave her a mischievous look. “You’re just using me for my body? I can live with that.” His blond hair was shaggy and hung into his eyes, which was a look she’d always appreciated. His face was soft and gentle, and he looked more like early twenties than mid-thirties.
She laughed and caressed his knee. “No, that’s not it, I happen to think you’re pretty smart—I have the most intelligent conversations with you.” Most of the time, anyway.
He closed the box with the Zippo. Then he reached inside and pulled out a cardboard tube, which he used to bop her on the head before he pulled out the contents.
He unrolled the paper inside. “Is that the map from the original Zelda?”
A small grin crossed her lips. “Yep. I know it’s your favorite. The guy who did this had every other video game map known to man, except this one. I had to beg him to do it. I think it turned out pretty awesome.”
“You’re pretty awesome,” he said, and he leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss.
Wow, if someone had just given me such awesome gifts, I’d kiss them a bit better than that.
She bit her lip and swallowed the disappointment, allowing it to land with a soft thud at the base of her stomach.
He put the gifts back in the bag and climbed out of the car. Confused, Char stepped out of the car and met him at the trunk.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to get home, and I’ve got a two-mile walk.”
“I can drop you off.”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t want to run the risk of mom seeing your car. Plus, I need the time to figure out a lie to tell mom about why I said I was going to the store for milk and instead I came home with birthday presents.”
“Oh, fuck your mom. You know, lots of people have silver Camrys. There’s no way she’d know it was mine.”
“I appreciate the offer—of driving me, not of fucking my mom—but I don’t want to take the chance.” He glanced down at the gift bag in his hand and smiled. “Thank you, though, for ushering in my birthday in such an awesome way. You’re the best.” He pecked her on the cheek and turned on his heels and walked away. She kept her eyes on him until he turned the corner and was out of sight.
“I love you,” she said to the ghost of empty air in front of her.
~ * ~
With two special issues of the magazine in the home stretch of completion, Char had been working long nights. She often fell asleep with her laptop across her legs, the layout files still open in front of her. More than once she woke up because her laptop overheated and burned her thighs.
Thanks to her workload, she was oblivious to the silence of her phone. Lee hadn’t texted since he walked away from her in Ronald McDonald’s backyard.
Friday night, when she finally collapsed into the couch, a king-sized Snickers in her hand, the silence became all too obvious, and it bothered the hell out of her. She sent him a quick text.
Char: Hi baby, I know it’s LAN party night, but I just want to say that I’m not too sure what I did since I saw you last that pissed you off, but I’m sorry for whatever it was to warrant the silent treatment. I never want to upset you.
She looked at her Snickers. “I guess it’s just you and me, and might I say, you are a well-deserved treat.”
Char had been yo-yo dieting for years, but never had much success. Lee never told her she looked bad, but in hindsight, he never told her when she looked good either. However, the fact her favorite jeans were so tight they left indentations in her waist that lasted way too long after she took them off, she knew it was time to watch what she was eating. Again.
All week long she’d eaten salads and grilled chicken. It was such a boring existence, and it was even harder when her assistant editor—and her best friend’s brother—Jerry, suggested they go to their favorite burger place for lunch the day before. She went, but got a grilled chicken sandwich and smiled at him—while inside she nearly drowned in the puddle of her tears.
Her reward for eating well all week was the Snickers. She almost felt like she was smuggling drugs when she walked into the convenience store to buy it. She made sure to stop at one that was not on her usual route to and from work, and she donned large sunglasses, the collar of her coat turned up, in her best attempt to remain incognito. She shoved the extra-large candy bar across the counter and made sure to pay in cash, just in case the food police were tracking her credit card usage.
She pulled the brown plastic wrapper back and bit into the candy and pulled it back; strings of caramel weaved their way across the space between her lips and the chocolate bar. She pulled it farther away, and rotated her wrist to wrap the tendrils of caramel around the remaining chocolate.
“Mmm, thaff’s good stuff.”
The text notification on her phone went off. Her left hand refused to let go of its grasp on the sugary rush it held, so she struggled with her right to pick her phone up off the coffee table, unlock it, and open her text messages, all the while cursing her small hands. Of course, at five-foot-two, not much on her was large, save for her chest and ever-increasing waistline.
More text messages flooded in while she fought with her phone. Ding! Ding! Ding!
When she finally got to the text app, she read the series of text messages—and dropped her Snickers onto the floor at her feet.
Lee: I’m not pissed, I’ve just been thinking.
Lee: And I don’t think this is working any more. I don’t love you anymore. In fact, I don’t know if I ever did.
Lee: It’s not you, it’s me. I swear. You’re a great girl—but you’re getting a little soft around the edges, you might want to look into a diet.
“I’m already dieting you fucking jerk,” she screamed. In the back of her head, the willpower train that had been gaining momentum all week came to a screeching halt. Without a boyfriend, what the hell did it matter, anyway?
She took a screen capture of the messages and sent it to her best friend, Jenny. Immediately, a text came back.
Jenny: What. The. Fuck. Come out with me, let’s get drunk.
Char tapped her fingers on the side of her phone and contemplated the offer. She’d never been a huge drinker, but a cowardly breakup seemed like a good enough excuse, didn’t it?
Char: Nah, I’m not in a drinking mood. I’m thinking ice cream.
The frown on her face switched directions. Ice cream was the perfect solution.
Jenny: A date with George it is. You write a column about this, I know you want to, and I’ll pick you up in half an hour.
Jenny knew her so well. George’s Ice Cream Parlor and a vitriol-laced column were exactly what she had in mind.
Jenny: Oh, and delete his number from your phone so you’re not tempted to call him and leave him a tear-filled voicemail later.
Char grimaced even though Jenny had a point. She picked up the discarded Snickers. Carpet fuzz stuck to the bits of caramel snaking around the edges, so she cut the end off and then she polished off the chocolate bar.
She pulled her laptop out from under her couch and wrote a piece for her column, The Little Things I’ve Learned, in the local weekly scene magazine, Out and About. She technically worked layout and design, but the column came along as a happy accident. They were on a production deadline and the final story didn’t come in. Stuck with the option of either pulling three other pages or adding content to one page—Char wrote about the crazy bad date she’d been on when she met Lee. People loved it, and it quickly became one of the more popular parts of the magazine. It had even spilled into a regular feature on the website for the days between issues as well. Maybe it made them feel better about themselves, she wasn’t sure, but sometimes it made her feel good to know she had faceless people who supported her—even when her own (ex)boyfriend of four years clearly didn’t.
Little Things: My Unlucky Number—Four
Today my boyfriend of four years decided to fire me. He fired me. I was the one doing all the work in this relationship: I planned getting together with him, I drove to see him. Every. Single. Time. I bought him birthday and Christmas presents, despite the fact he always gave me none. Hell, I was even the first one to drop the l-bomb. But yet...he fired me.
What hurts the most isn’t even that he broke it off (okay, that one hurt) but it’s more about the complete 180 he’s done in the time we were together. The night we met, he was my knight in shining armor—rescuing me from a complete jerk, and salvaging what was left of a date that could have pushed me to the brink of insanity. I understand getting complacent and not trying anymore after four years, but when he broke up with me—over text, I might add—he flat out called me fat.
Never in the past four years has he ever brought up my weight.
He also told me he didn’t love me, and that he never did. Sure, that one hurt too, but in hindsight, maybe I’ve been even questioning that whole love thing. How can you love someone who doesn’t put any effort into loving you back?
All that said, I probably should have seen it coming. I mean, nothing good ever happens to me when I put in four years of work.
My mom was sick for four years, we tried every option there was, but in the end, her body just gave out. My dad, my brother, and I were left holding the pieces, unsure of what to do next.
For four years, I was a miserable, unpopular curve-breaker in high school. Did I get valedictorian? Nope. I didn’t even get salutatorian. I graduated sixth. A lot of good that hard work did me.
I spent four years in college, hopping from major to major, trying to find my true calling. I did get a degree, and along the way I learned advanced algebra and statistics, things I’ve never used in real life.
Oh, then there were the four years I spent at a job busting my tail (and excelling, I might add), just to have the boss pull me aside for a review. I thought I was going to get a raise, or a promotion—but no, I was fired for no discernible reason other than the fact I could do my job better than anyone else, including my boss.
Then there’s the car I drove for four years. It nickel-and-dimed me to death in that time until it fell apart on me—quite literally, as it stuttered and dropped engine parts for the better part of a block until it gave an evil hiss and surrendered itself unto the unholy automotive gods.
It seems four years is the kiss of death for anything I do. I guess my best friend better watch out, because the four-year anniversary of when we met is coming up soon.
I want my four years with my jerk of an ex back.
Anyone out there have a Time-Turner they can lend me?