“I did not.”
“You didn’t tell any of us?”
“She told me,” Natalie said, coming into the room. “It’s been a long time, but I haven’t gotten any updates that would lead me to believe things had changed.”
That was true. Natalie was the only one she’d told, and that had been on a long-ago college night where they’d stayed up late studying, ended up getting into a cheap bottle of wine and spilled their secrets to each other. Natalie was the right person to tell. She wasn’t a hopeless romantic like Amelia or pushy like Bree. She took the knowledge at face value and didn’t press Gretchen about it.
Bree dropped the tablecloth and sat down in the chair. “Stop, everyone, stop. You all sit down right now and tell me what the heck is going on. How could you keep that from us? And why would you tell Natalie, of all people?”
“Hey!” Natalie complained.
Gretchen frowned at Bree and dropped into a nearby chair. “Bree, how could you not tell us that Ian was your ex before you went up into the mountains to take his engagement photos?”
Bree’s nose wrinkled, and she bit at her bottom lip. “It wasn’t relevant at the time.”
“And neither is my sexual inexperience.”
“It might not be relevant to running the business, but as your friend, it seems like something we should’ve known.”
“Known what? That I’m so incredibly awkward with men that I’ve driven them away since I was fourteen? That my self-esteem is so low that I can’t believe a guy could really be interested in me and I look suspiciously at their motives?”
“You’re a beautiful, talented woman, Gretchen,” Natalie said. “You may not have felt that way when you were a teenager or just in college, but you’re on the verge of being in your thirties. Don’t you feel differently about yourself after your successes in life?”
“I did. I thought I was doing better and I was even considering putting up an online dating profile, but I have to tell you there’s nothing quite like a movie star to bring out your insecurities.”
“May I ask how you’ve gotten this far in life without losing your virginity?” Amelia looked at her with concern in her eyes. It was the same look guys tended to give her when she told them the truth. Like she was damaged somehow.
Gretchen shrugged. “I didn’t date in high school. College was hit-or-miss, but nothing ever got serious enough. As I got older, it got harder. It felt more like a burden, which made it even harder to admit to it. With the few guys I’ve dated in the last couple of years, they push for sex until they find out I haven’t done it before, then they back off. They don’t want the responsibility for being my first, or they think I’m going to get clingy because of it... I don’t know. It just seems like the longer I wait, the harder it is.”
“We can fix this,” Bree said brightly. “With your new makeover and your new attitude, we can get you a hot guy, pronto.”
“I don’t want a—” Gretchen tried to argue, but was drowned out.
“We don’t just want to get her laid, Bree,” Amelia argued. “We want her to find real happiness in a healthy relationship that includes sexual intimacy.”
“I’m not sure I’m—”
“She’s waited this long, it should be special.”
“Just stop!” Gretchen shouted. The others were working hard at fixing all her problems, but that wasn’t what she wanted. “See, this is what I wanted to avoid. I don’t need to be fixed up or pimped out. It just is what it is.”
“Are you happy with the status quo?” Amelia pressed.
“Some days yes, some days no. But the point of this whole thing is that it makes it harder for me to pretend with Julian. I am awkward enough without being around someone that is completely unattainable in real life.”
“I don’t know,” Bree said thoughtfully. “I think you could have him. You’re looking mighty fine today.”
“You’ve lost your mind,” Gretchen muttered. If there was one thing she hated, it was being the center of attention. It made her extremely uncomfortable. She was desperate to shift this conversation in another direction. “Now you all know my deep dark secrets, so either help me put out tablecloths or return to your battle stations. There’s nothing more to see here.”
Bree finished laying out one more tablecloth, then she joined the other two as they slipped out to their offices and kitchen to return to work. Gretchen was relieved to be in the ballroom by herself again.