I stand, ready to head to her place, when someone taps on the microphone and the familiar opening notes of an Elvis tune float through the joint.
I shower first.
I can’t waltz in and find my man in my cat-chasing clothes.
Plus, I need a new outfit. When I get out of the shower, dry off, and track down a fabulous pink lace bra-and-undie set, there’s a knock on my door. I pull on the silky items, wrap the towel around me, and head to the door. Peering through the peephole, I find three wiseasses making goofy faces at me.
I yank open the door, letting Julia, Erin, and Hayden inside.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
Julia points her thumb at Hayden. “This girl called and told us what went down.”
Erin nods crisply. “We’re here to babysit.”
“I need a babysitter now?”
“Oh, hell yeah,” Erin says, spinning me around and gently shoving me by the shoulders back to my bedroom.
“We are not letting you burrow your way out of this,” Julia declares.
“I’m doing it, I’m doing it.”
“I’ll believe that when I put your butt in a Lyft and take you to Gomez Hawk’s myself,” Erin says.
I huff, but I’m smiling, loving that they’re here, looking out for me.
A few minutes later, I slide into an A-line champagne-colored minidress that’s shorter than sin and makes a statement—I’m a woman who goes after what she wants.
I add a pair of black ankle boots and my rose-gold bracelet. Then I dry my hair, put on makeup, and grab a clutch. When I reach the front door, nerves grapple me and my momentum falters.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Julia says.
I breathe in, reminding myself it’s worth it.
The chance is worth it.
I’m worth it.
Julia and Erin order a car, and we say goodbye to Hayden. They slide into the ride with me as we head across the city.
“You’re like my probation officers.”
Julia nods. “Yup. We are.”
When we reach the karaoke bar in Japantown and head inside, Julia kisses one cheek, Erin kisses the other, and they wish me luck.
But it’s not luck I need.
It’s strength and courage.
To love again after heartbreak.
To try again after hurt.
I might have had a little meltdown—okay, a big, fat, hairy one—but I’m here, ready to try again.
In the entryway of the karaoke bar, I ask the hostess for a favor and tell her what I need. She smiles and says she’ll gladly help.
As a guy finishes up a Foreigner tune, the hostess tells me there will be one more song, then it’s my turn.
She guides me backstage and hands me a mic. I peek around the velvet curtain. My heart skips when I see Chris.
It wants to throw itself at him.
Except he looks sad.
And it hits me—I did that to him. I made him feel like that. Like I didn’t want him the same way he wants me.
I need this song to end. I need to get out there and tell him in a song that I do want him in every way. I hate the sadness in his eyes, the slump in his shoulders. And I’m going to make it right. Because he’s over his trust issues, and I’m choosing to be over my fear.
The song ends, and as soon as the opening notes of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” begin, I stride onstage.
Awash in nerves and hope at the same damn time.
Like Hayden said, love is both of those all at once. And you have to be strong enough to choose it.
I take one final breath, then I meet Chris’s gaze and bring the mic to my mouth. I do my best imitation of the King as he sings about fools rushing in. The lyrics swoop into me, and even though I don’t sound like Elvis, the look on Chris’s face as he watches me kindles a fire in my soul.
Yes, Elvis, some things are meant to be. Like falling in love against your wishes. Against your better judgment. Against all your plans to do the opposite.
This time I’m not going to hide. I’m going to rush in, fool or not.
And when I reach the chorus, I’m not alone.
Chris walks to the stage, his eyes on me, his pace confident, his intentions clear. He steps up, joins me at the mic, and we sing the rest of the song together.
When it ends, I hear someone shout, “Kiss the girl!”
I laugh, butterflies fluttering in every cell of my body as I lower the mic and turn to face Chris. “By the way, I’m in love with you.”
Grinning, he slides a hand around my waist. “I kind of figured that out. And I’m in love with you.”
He kisses me in front of the crowd, in front of his friends, and it feels like a declaration. Like he’s saying I’m his, and he’s mine, and that’s how it’s going to be.