“We haven’t unpacked our clothes or makeup or anything!” I try to reason with her as I think about what I’m going to wear. This is New York. Aren’t I supposed to meet, like, a sheikh or something? All I really have are jeans and tops. And a few business clothes I’d picked up for my new internship.
“We can do a little of both. Get some stuff unpacked while we get ready.”
“I’m not sure I have anything that will work for whatever it is you have in mind,” I tell her, following her to our rooms, dodging random boxes in the hallway.
“Simple and sexy. Wear your tight black pants, and you can wear my black boots. Then all you have to do is find a cute top.”
“That’ll work for where we’re going?” Before this I’d been to New York twice and was completely lost both times. It’s a little overwhelming for me, a step out of my comfort zone. Even after being at Yale for four years, I still sometimes feel out of place, like I don’t quite fit in.
“Mal, I’m not taking you anywhere crazy. Just getting a steak down the street and stopping in somewhere we can have a few drinks. Girls’ night.”
I know she added the last two words to sucker me in.
“Can I do your hair?” I ask, wanting to play with her long auburn locks.
“Will you eat whatever I order?” she fires back. Paige has this thing where she likes to pick up the bill, but she also likes to eat at the most expensive places. No one can rip through a steak like her. I had to stop fighting her on picking up the bill, but I try not to order anything crazy-expensive. She’s not having it tonight, it seems.
“No hair spray,” she adds quickly.
“Fine, hair spray,” she grumbles before heading into her room, making me burst into laughter. Maybe I can talk her into a little mascara.
“No makeup!” I hear her yell from her bedroom, making me laugh even harder.
* * *
“Jameson. Neat,” I shout over the music in the club.
After Paige and I finished dinner, we took a cab to the Upper East Side, closer to where our condo is. She said we’d have a couple of drinks before we headed home, and I thought she had something a little tamer in mind. I didn’t want this to be a long night. I need to be up early and at it again. I only had days before I started my new job. I should have known better when we pulled up outside a bar and there was a line out the door. Paige wiggled her eyebrows at me as she hopped out of the cab and went straight to the bouncer up front.
I jumped out of the cab behind her and barely heard what she said to the doorman as he unfastened the velvet ropes and waved the two of us in. I didn’t get to ask her how she did that before we walked through the double doors and were hit by loud music.
Seven Eight Nine is more of a club than a bar. The place is swanky, but there’s a dance floor in the middle of the place and a DJ throwing down like it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s dark around the edges of the dance floor, with big velvet couches huddled up in corners. I rest against the bar, waiting on my drink as I watch Paige talk to a guy on the other side of it.
As if she senses my stare, she looks across at me and winks.
The music is good, and I’ve already had one drink, so I’m beginning to really like this place. I ended up wearing my black skinny jeans, teamed with Paige’s stiletto boots and a black silky tank top. It’s June in New York, and the humidity is killer. Cool air blows around the bar, and I close my eyes, enjoying the breeze.
My short brown hair exposes my shoulders, and the slight breeze is nice. But suddenly the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and it’s as if someone is watching me.
I open my eyes, and at that moment, the bartender passes me my drink. I lay some cash down, but a hand comes out holding a black American Express card, and the bartender takes it without a second glance.
Turning slightly, I see a man with dark hair and a short dark beard. He’s dressed in a suit and tie and is somewhat hidden in the shadows, but he smiles at me, and I can see his full lips spread, showing straight white teeth. His smile is easy and welcoming, and I smile back.
“You didn’t ask,” I say to him as the bartender brings his card over and hands it to him.