“What brings you to LA?” Kylie asks.
“I lost my job,” I say. Telling them about the marriage promise seems too private. I like them, but I’ve only just met them. I take a sip of my cocktail, hoping it will give me the strength to tell this story again. There’s no good spin for getting fired. Even if it wasn’t my fault, it’s still humiliating. “I found myself with no money and nowhere to go. So I guess you could say I came here for a fresh start.”
Kylie’s brow furrows. Oh dear, I can tell I’ve said something she doesn’t like. Fear rushes through me.
She shakes her head. “So, what? You saw your old buddy, Collins, on the list of the wealthiest Americans, and decide to come here and live off him?”
Nervous laughter makes vodka lemonade nearly shoot out my nose. Shit, that burns. My eyes tear from the sting. “Oh my god, no. It’s all a bit more embarrassing, and...” I shrink and blush, “...maybe a bit crazier than that.” I take another fortifying sip of my drink.
Sophie and Kylie share a questioning look, then lean in and wait for me to explain.
I’m mortified at the thought of telling these two why I am really here. Seriously, I’m such a romantic dork. Why am I here? Oh, because my best friend and I made a promise to each other that if we were both single when we turned thirty, we'd marry each other… Yeah, that sounds too crazy. Why the heck had I come? Because when I hit rock bottom, I wanted to be with the one person who made me feel like I was worth something.
By the way they look at me, I can tell they’ll never trust or accept me if I don’t tell them the sad truth.
I take a deep breath and tell them my story. The one about a ten-year-old girl who was head over heels in love with her best friend, Collins. I tell them about the moment in my room when he jabbed me in the arm with his finger and said he wanted to marry me. I stare at my hands the whole time and feel my palms sweat as I tell the story I haven’t told anyone in such a long time.
When I finish, I look up and their eyes are softer and their smiles lighter. I can see right away that telling them was the right thing. And it’s relieving to tell them. I’m desperate to hear their reactions.
“Awe,” Sophie sighs. “That’s right, you’ve known the guys forever. What were they like?”
Kylie folds her arms in front of her and leans in more. “Yeah, what were the boys like growing up?”
I think back. For me it was always all about Collins, but I know they’re asking about Colton and Pace. “They’ve always been obnoxious together. Three brothers growing up in one house, there’s bound to be a lot of rowdiness. Some days I’d come over to play with Collins and, the house would be shaking from the roughhousing. It was definitely something to experience.” I smile thinking back to one time in particular. “Once Colton and Pace were wrestling, and they almost tumbled right into me. Collins saw it as it happened, and rushed over and threw himself between me and the rough and tumble mass of his younger brothers. My hero.” I blush as I realize I’ve said the last part out loud. But their smiles haven’t faded and their curious looks beg me to tell more.
“Sometimes, when they weren’t roughhousing,” I continue, “they did this thing they called a laugh-off, trying to tell the best jokes, make the best funny faces. Whatever they could do to make each other laugh so hard they couldn’t breathe.”
Sophie holds out her hand. “Wait, you mean Colton and Pace right? Collins would never goof off like that.”
“What do you mean?” I give Sophie a sideways glance. “He was usually the instigator. When Pace and Colton were small, Collins loved to chase them around making silly faces with threats of tickling. He was out of control.” As I say this, I think of the Collins I knew when I was younger. He loved to pretend like he was serious, but when his silly side came out, that was when he truly shined. Sometimes he would make me laugh so hard I’d almost pee.
I try to imagine Collins doing that now. It’s harder to see, although when we were playing on the boat yesterday, that sparkle had been there in his eyes. For a while he’d laughed out loud, fully enjoying himself like I recall from all my best memories.
Sophie smiles and looks around, like she’s got a secret. “Mia, I don’t know that I was supposed to share this with you, but Colton says Collins is in love with you.”
My face must show the shock I feel from her words because she adds, “He says it like a joke, but I can tell there’s some truth to what he’s saying.” She winks.
Kylie waves her hand and chimes in, “You are so much better for him than Tatianna. I mean, she’s nice, but you actually care about him.” She crosses her arms and leans back. “I can see it in your eyes when you talk about him.”
I try super hard not to internalize what they’ve just said, but it’s nearly impossible. That he could possibly feel the same way I feel about him, and has all these years, would be so wonderful. But I know this is just the romantic in me grasping at whatever thread I can, to hold onto my happily ever after—my fairytale ending.
As the sun begins its descent towards the ocean, Kylie announces that it’s time for them to drop me off. She’s got to get home.
And it hits me. I don’t have a home. As she drives me back to Collins’ house, I begin to wonder what the heck I’m still doing here. Collins made his decision. He’s staying with Tatianna. I shouldn’t stay. I could move back home and live on Leila’s couch while I look for a job.