Katie snickered. “You said, as enthused as a kid opening up a package of socks Christmas morning. Why’s that? You don’t like Calla?”
“No. I mean, I like Calla, but, I don’t know her, but . . .”
“But what?” Katie prodded.
Pushing the fluffy yellow stuff around my plate, I didn’t know how to respond, because I wasn’t sure how much Calla had known and told Roxy. I picked up a slice of bacon and crunched away. By the time I finished, I decided to be truthful, because why not?
Wasn’t like I was ashamed of anything Calla could’ve told Roxy.
“I’m not sure if she likes me,” I said, picking up another slice of salty, greasy bacon.
“What?” Roxy’s lips parted as she pushed her glasses back up her nose. “Why would you think that?”
“Well, maybe because I’ve had relations with Cam . . . and Jase at one point.” I went for a drink of cool soda. “Not when they were with Avery or Teresa or anything like that, but . . . yeah, some girls don’t care if that was in the past, before them. And Calla is really close to Teresa.”
“Oh.” Roxy blinked once and then twice. “Calla never mentioned anything like that.”
Pressing my lips together, I resisted the urge to smack myself in the face. Well, perhaps this was an even worse conversation idea. Go Steph! “Well . . .” I raised my hands with a shrug. “Anyway, I’m not really close to any of those girls for that reason.”
“But all of them seemed super excited to see you,” Roxy insisted, frowning. “None of them were catty or gave you the side eye. And I notice all cattiness from a mile away. It’s like a special radar I have.”
Hmm. Maybe they were cool with me? But I wasn’t even sure Teresa knew about Jase and my one and only hookup. I knew Avery had found out about Cam, but Avery was always hard to read. Maybe I should’ve just kept my mouth shut about all of this. I barely knew these girls and I just told them I’d hooked up with two random guys they knew.
I went back to pushing my omelet on my plate. “You probably think that sounds slutty—”
“No. I don’t,” Roxy stated firmly. “Not to me.”
My lips curved up in a smile. “Contrary to what some might believe, the list of guys I’ve been with isn’t as long as my arm.”
“Mine is as long as my leg,” Katie replied and then tipped her head back. Her brows furrowed together. “Well, wait. Probably as long as both legs and an arm.”
“Wow,” murmured Roxy, appearing impressed.
“Sounds like you have me beat.” My smile raised a notch as I peeked at her. “But it’s weird being close to them—Avery and Teresa. Which is strange, because one of my other friends—Yasmine—she’d messed around with Cam, too, and it’s not weird for us.”
“Was Yasmine in love with Cam and Cam in love with her?” Roxy asked. “Because if not, then that probably explains it.” She popped a piece of cantaloupe into her mouth. “And you weren’t in love with him either, right?”
“Nope. Good point.”
“I bet some chicks think you’re a real tramp.” Katie laughed.
My smile slipped off my face. “Well, yeah, I’m sure some do. Actually, I know some do.” Suddenly, I thought of Nikki Glenn, a girl who was in my English 102 class my second semester at Shepherd. “This one girl, a couple of years ago, wrote ‘vengeful tramp’ in shaving cream on the hood of my car.”
Roxy’s eyes widened behind the glasses. “Oh, wow.”
“In September, during a heat spell.” Pursing my lips, I nodded. “Yep. I ended up having to get a paint job. That doesn’t come off. And just imagine the looks I got when I drove the car into the body shop.”
“Did you sleep with her man or kick her dog into traffic?” Katie asked.
It was my turn to laugh. “No. I’ve never slept with a guy—at least knowingly—that was involved with someone else. Nor have I kicked any animal. This girl was mad because I was friends with her boyfriend. I’d known him for years, long before she came into the picture. We went to high school together and had gone to homecoming as each other’s dates one year. That was it. According to her, based on my reputation, I’d slept with every guy I’ve ever talked to.” I paused, thinking back. “Ironically, they are no longer together and I still chat with the guy whenever we see each other.”
I shrugged a shoulder. “The funny thing is, Donnie—that was the girl’s boyfriend—he was such a player before he met Nikki. Now he is probably someone who has two legs and two arms worth of girls he’d been with, and she didn’t have a problem with him sleeping with an entire zip code worth of chicks, but boy did she have one with me, and I hadn’t even so much as kissed the dude on the cheek.”
“They never do,” was Katie’s sagelike reply.
“I don’t get it.” Roxy slathered a continent-sized amount of cream cheese on her bagel. “Like why would anyone care who someone was with if it was in the past and everyone was safe about it? Consensual sex or whatever between two people isn’t shocking. I don’t walk around thinking Reece has never been with anyone but me, and he knows I’ve been with other guys before. And I know damn well Avery and Teresa don’t think their guys haven’t been with anyone else. That whole mentality is stupid.”
“Yeah, it is,” I murmured, staring at my plate as an old burning sensation picked up in my gut. What people thought of me, especially virtual strangers who had absolutely no impact on my life, didn’t bother me most of the time. But I genuinely liked Cam and Jase, so that meant I liked their girlfriends by extension, and . . . yes, I wanted to be liked by them, too. I didn’t want them to think I was lurking in the shadows somewhere, about to pounce on their guys. Truthfully, though, there were times when the opinions of virtual strangers like that of Nikki Glenn did get to me. Moments when whispered words and harsh looks had cut deeper than they should—moments when words like “slut” and “whore” were laced with enough venom to take me down.
I’ll never really understand it, I realized as I sat there, staring at the red and green flecks of the leftover peppers, why others’ sexual habits bothered people—especially other women—so much. Of all people, you’d think women would be more tolerant of other women’s choices, but sadly, a lot aren’t. In a lot of ways they could be worse than the guys. It wasn’t like I was sitting in judgment over those who waited for marriage or believed sex automatically equaled love. I could care less if someone had two partners or fifty. So why did they have to?
“You know what? Fuck ’em,” Katie replied, moving onto the waffle that was as wide as her plate. “That’s my motto. Because here’s the deal. They hate on you because you had mutual, consensual humping with some guys who weren’t even involved with anyone, while they worship the dirty-ass ground the guy walks on, like they slipped and fell into your vagina, for doing the same thing? That’s what we like to call dumb double standards, and what we in the business like to also call ‘Mind your own business.’ No matter how many times it’s explained to those kind of people, they aren’t going to understand. Never. Dude, that’s their problem. Not yours.”