I rubbed a hand over my face. Liesl would find out soon enough. She’d find out the fake story, anyway. This was the perfect opportunity to tell her I was dating the man.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready to share him yet. I wanted to live with the genuine a little longer before I started playing the pretend. “Liesl, I promise I’ll tell you. Just not tonight.”
She breathed out an exaggerated puff of air. “Fine, whatever. But you better have juicy details when you’re ready to spill.”
“Deal,” I said. I took the bag and its contents to the bathroom to put them on.
After I did, I caught myself smiling in the mirror. Maybe I’d been wrong about Hudson. He obviously wasn’t the pompous ass**le I thought he was. In fact, he was turning out to be a pretty decent guy.
I woke up the next day with Hudson on the brain. Again. I’d never scheduled sex and knowing it was on the day’s agenda made my belly tight and my pu**y throb. But with the constant replay in my head of words he’d said, moves he’d made—my panic flag began to rise. I wondered as I had many times in my life if I was doomed to live either obsessing about my relationships or obsessing whether or not I was obsessing over them.
With three hours before I was set to meet Hudson at the loft, I had to address my anxiety. Otherwise I’d be too wound up by the time I saw him and I doubted even his magic charm could unwind me.
I decided to take a jog and quickly regretted it. Midday runs were brutal in the summer, especially when I’d become used to running in the cool of the morning. Halfway through my planned course, I gave up and slowed to a walk. None of it helped ease my mind—the heat, the exercise—I still couldn’t stop wondering about Hudson, what he was doing and what he would do to me when I saw him.
By coincidence or subconscious effort, I found myself wandering over to the Unity Church where my old Addicts Anonymous group met. I’d discovered it at the height of my obsessive disorder—a place where atypical addicts got together to discuss everything from video gaming addictions to obsessive shopping. I’d moved away from attending on a regular basis since I hadn’t had any attacks in several years, but maybe checking in now wouldn’t be a bad idea.
I went inside and down to the basement meeting rooms, finding a session led by my favorite facilitator ending. I hung in the back until they’d finished, then made my way toward Lauren.
“Well, there’s a sight I haven’t seen in a while,” Lauren said, throwing her arms around me in a friendly hug, her hair hitting me in dozens of long braids. “Should I be concerned to see you?”
“I don’t know yet. Do you have any time to talk?”
“A bit. Wanna grab a cup of coffee at the corner café?”
As we walked, I caught Lauren up on my graduation and the prospects of promotion at the club, as well as the blow Brian had dealt me with his retraction of financial support. Lauren had counseled me through many of my family issues and knew probably better than anyone about the intricacies of the relationship with my brother.
“Will you be okay without the help from Brian?” Lauren asked when we were seated outside, each with an iced coffee. Her subtext said she was talking about more than the money. Stressful situations led to relapses in mental health disorders, and she wanted to know if I was stable enough to hold up.
“Maybe,” I said with a sigh. “I think so. Brian hasn’t been much help with any of my crap except financially. And I’ve gotten the money worked out.”
“You have? That’s great. I’m sensing a ‘but,’ though.”
“But there’s a guy.”
“Mm hmm.” She sat back, her arms crossed over her chest. “Go on.”
I paused, not really sure how to explain my relationship with Hudson, wanting to give details and knowing I couldn’t. I tried to pinpoint exactly what concerned me and express it as simply as possible. “We work together. And I can’t stop thinking about him.”
“Is it David?”
Thinking about David now seemed odd. I’d mentioned David before in the group, when we’d started our occasional make-out sessions. Now he felt distant and in the past though he’d only put a hold on us two days before. “It’s someone else.”
Lauren cocked her head. “What sort of thoughts are you having about him?”
“Fantasies.” I lowered my face to hide my blush. “Sexual fantasies.”
Lauren shook her head. “You’re not going to get me to say you’re having problems because you’re thinking kinky about a hot guy.”
“But it’s all the time. I mean, I wake up thinking about him, I go to sleep thinking about him, I’m tending bar and I’m thinking about him.”
“But no stalking or calling him at work or emailing him incessantly?”
“Only sexual thoughts?”
“No, I replay things he’s said to me in my head. I wonder what he’s doing and thinking.”
“Have you considered you might just like him?”
I took a swallow of my coffee. Up until the night before I had spent a lot of time considering that I didn’t like Hudson. Except sexually. I always knew my female parts were drawn to him. But other than that, no, I hadn’t considered it. I couldn’t.
“Lauren, I can’t like him,” I groaned. “We…there’s no chance with him.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. We’ve discussed it.”
She looked at me curiously. I searched for something more I could give her. “He doesn’t do romance,” I conceded.
“Lots of women get the hots for men that are unattainable. It’s natural. It doesn’t mean you’re falling backwards. Stay realistic about the situation. If you feel he’s consuming your thoughts to the point that it’s affecting your daily routine, then you need to seek some help.”
“So would sleeping with him be a bad idea?” If she said yes, I didn’t know what I’d do. I didn’t think I could cancel on Hudson. I wanted him too badly.
Lauren looked at me sternly. “But you’re planning on it, right? Now, girl, sex with no intention of a relationship opens up a whole other host of problems that have nothing to do with addiction but certainly can add to it.”