Excerpt #2 "What is this, 1980?"
"Keila, when I went home for the summer, it all hit me. Smack in the face like a frozen washcloth, I had an ice cold wake up call. I spent seven weeks answering calls at an insurance company and I wanted to swallow a bottle of pills just for the excitement of an ambulance ride to the next town over. There was no way I was going back for longer than a week and certainly not forever. But, that was all I knew. I had zero plans beyond finishing school. I already had the RA position lined up, so that was taking a few thousand off my bill, but it wasn't enough."
As she sipped from her bottle of water, Bri looked over and saw that her audience of one was still captivated and continued.
"So, I'm trying to finish this online sign up for a dance class that I can't afford, and this banner pops up for this dating website. It's called Purposeful Mate. Sounds all sci-fi, right? Like, build a mate. I swear, when I clicked it, I wasn't even looking to date. Honestly, I was looking for a distraction. People basically sign up and get matched up based on their needs and desires, but mostly need. I was shocked. I had never heard of anything like this back home. I started doing research, and there are a bunch of sites like it out there. As a college student, I could agree to keep company with someone and flat out ask for an allowance to do it."
"You're a hooker!" Keila yelled, then immediately clamped her hand over her mouth.
The girls stared at each other. The word bounced around the room, at the volume and intensity it was delivered, and assaulted them both. Keila didn't mean to be harsh, but it was her honest gut reaction. Her friend was flat out dating for profit. Wasn't that the definition of being a hooker? Just thinking about it made her blush. Jewish or not, her mom would pull her out of school and drop her off at the nearest convent. That so wasn't the point, though. She was supposed to be being a friend and not a Judgmental Judy. Brianna looked like she might cry and stop the conversation. Keila couldn't really blame her.
Keila slid closer and put an arm around her. "I'm sorry. Name-calling is never okay. You did catch me off guard, though. My fault. I thought I already knew what you were going to say, and obviously, I wasn't as committed to listening as I thought. Forgive me? I'm stupid and I have a big mouth. I'm zipping it and I'm going back to listening. For real, this time."
"Name calling is never okay, and yeah, it was kind of stupid and a little mean." Bri elbowed her in the ribs. Keila couldn't even complain. She had it coming, but more importantly, Bri didn't move out of the hug. That made her happy.
"I'm not a whore. I swear."
"I'm, I didn't—"
"It's okay. I know how it sounds, but I just need you to know that. Keila, you would be amazed at some of the non-sexual, seriously boring stuff someone will pay for. I went to the opera with one man. That was it. He was married and his wife was disabled. She didn't like going out to fancy places anymore and he didn't want to give up their box seats. He paid me five hundred dollars to go to fabulous restaurants and wonderful shows. Plus, he sent me to get completely made over for the night—hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, the works. He got a date and I got the experience and some great gifts. He really taught me a lot in those few months."
"That doesn't sound so bad. Why did you stop seeing him?"
"He was only offering a short-term arrangement. Basically, a few fancy dates a month. I was looking for a real long-term arrangement. I loved that taste of the fancy side of life. I was hooked and a few dates a month weren't enough. I was really lucky he was my first one, though. We understood we couldn't give one another what we wanted and we ended on great terms. I was scared to ask for all I wanted and needed. He taught me that it was okay to do that. Hell, it was the reason the site existed. So, with his encouragement, I updated my profile and poured my heart into it."
"Wow. So, that's how you met Michael."
"I wish. I went through plenty of duds first, but those are stories for another time. There are a lot of liars out there and few freaks."
The vibration between them startled both girls into separating. It took a second for the realization to dawn. Bri began patting the bed to feel for the phone that must have slipped from the pocket of her baggy sweatpants. She kept an alarm set so that she could call and say goodnight to Michael. It began on show nights as a way for him to know she was home safe from any late performances. Once their relationship developed, he liked the idea of being the last voice she heard before going to sleep and knowing that she was safe in bed for the night. It also became one of their first official rules. He loved the idea of those. The goodnight ritual was both reasonable and practical, so Brianna didn't offer much pushback, but she was still nineteen. She got forgetful and sometimes obstinate. Michael had zero compunction doling out consistent hand to butt reminders.
"Birth control alarm?" Keila laughed and wiggled her eyebrows.
"No! What is this, 1980? I take the shot every three months. It's my alarm to call Michael and say goodnight."
"Oh, go ahead. We can chat another time."
Bri pulled her back as she began to scoot off the bed. "No. I'm not tired. I'm not going to bed and I want to finish our conversation. I'll text him."