Page 21 of Tripping on a Halo

“Ouch.” I heard the thunderous sounds of Mr. Oinks barreling down the hall. I rolled onto my back.

Paige climbed atop me and patted my cheeks, concern filling her eyes. “Is that him?” she whispered.

“Jeez, I hope not.” I turned my head, Ansley gone, and attempted to roll onto one side and to my feet. The hem of the potato dress pinned my knees together and kept me on my side, my floppy movement causing Paige to kick off my heels and dash out of the bedroom.

“Aunt Auttie is PARALYZED!”

“Oh my God,” I wheezed, rolling over further, until I was face down on the carpet. I should have gone with the steam cleaning special. I’d gotten the postcard last week, weighed the decision for less time than I spend at a fast food counter, then chucked it into the trash. Now, my cheek was digging into tan nape that smelled suspiciously like Mr. Oinks’ farts. I tried to work my knees up, my elbows digging into the carpet. “I’m not paralyzed!” I called out.

I got my knees underneath me and pushed up on my forearms around the time that my bedroom door swung fully open, Ansley and Adam sharing the doorway. Between them, Paige squeezed through. Her face lit up, my sister started laughing, and Adam glanced away to save me the embarrassment of being a doggie style potato.

“Adam’s early,” my sister said unnecessarily. “And it looks like you aren’t paralyzed. Medical crisis averted.” She patted Adam on the arm. “Maybe… give us a few minutes?”

“Absolutely.” He paused, catching my eye. “Hey Autumn.”

“Hi.” I waved.

“You look really pretty.”

Behind him, Ansley swooned and Paige made the gagging motion, both of which caused my awkward smile to widen into a real one. “Thanks.”

He disappeared down the hall and I let out a sigh. Ansley straightened out of her swoon and laughed.

I held out my hand and gestured for her to help me up. “Why did you let him back here?”

“Umm… because Paige told me you were paralyzed? He’s a doctor. I thought he could help.”

“He’s a vet. And that’s such bullshit.”

“Okay, so I didn’t want to stand there and make small talk while you changed outfits nine times.” She hoisted me to my feet and brushed off the front of my outfit. “Now he’s seen your outfit, you’re stuck with it. Plus, he thinks you’re pretty.” She leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. “Grab some shoes and go.”

I groaned, catching sight of myself in the mirror. The dress hadn’t gotten any cuter during my faceplant. I pulled a pair of flats out of the bottom of the closet and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Oh…no.” She shook her head. “Heels. Something tall and sexy enough to distract him from thoughts of mashed potatoes and gravy.”

I mumbled something snarky and tossed the flats away, reemerging from the closet with a pair of nude stilettos high enough to make my soles cry. “There. Happy?”

“I’ll be happy when you give Paige and Caleb cousins.”

“Ha!” I hopped on one foot as I pulled the first pump on. She extended an arm and I held on to it, managing the second heel without falling over. Avoiding the mirror, I breezed out the bedroom door without allowing myself another moan over the outfit.

Confidence, according to our mother, was all a woman needed. I rounded the corner and Adam looked up from his spot on the couch, one of my magazines open on his lap.

“Ready?” He smiled, and I suddenly didn’t feel like I was wearing a potato.

I felt beautiful.

15

Even though pigs have four toes on each foot, they only walk on their front two. That was a fun fact I learned while having a romantic date with Adam. It was interesting, and also explained why Mr. Oinks always looked as if he was tiptoeing places.

Here was another interesting fact: Adam wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend. He started talking about her when the valet took his car (she worked one summer as a valet), and revisited her during the appetizer (funny story about shrimp…) and again in the wait for the entrée. When I gently questioned if he still had feelings for her, he apologized all over the creamed corn and then promptly confessed his undying love for her. We spent dessert discussing ways for him to win her back. I flipped over my napkin, pulled out a pen, and we had the workings of a game plan by the time he signed the check. The first step was for him to run, lickety-split, to her house and confess his love. Right away, without wasting valuable time taking Autumn back home. I stayed strong, all big smiles and encouraging hand motions, until the moment he got into his car and drove away.

Then, the pity party began. The restaurant’s bar was dead, so I wandered a few doors down, to the sports bar on the corner, and found an empty stool at the bar. With a martini in hand, I bemoaned my steadfast dedication to singledom. I should have had some sort of serious relationship by now. I was twenty-eight. In the olden days, I’d have grandchildren by now. Instead, I’d wasted all of my youthful vigor on relationships that were shorter than my ovulation cycle. Lots of kissing. A few dry hump sessions. Some struggling attempts at oral pleasure and three really forgetful intercourses.

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