ONE OF THE BOYS
So, I don’t wanna be one of the boys, one of your guys, just give me a chance to prove to you tonight, I just wanna be one of the girls, pretty in pearls, not one of the boys…
“This is awesome.” Lara drew deep on her soda straw and smiled at Chris.
“I’m glad,” Chris said, grinning back. He sighed. “Even if you might get us kicked out.”
“Shut up.” Lara had prepared for the Dodgers/Phillies game in full red and white, and Chris kept pretending to be embarrassed. “Chris, there are PLENTY of other Philly fans in the crowd.”
“Show me three,” Chris teased.
“Idiot.” She leaned back in her seat, dropping her head to his shoulder. “Thanks again.”
“Will you stop thanking me?” Chris snapped, moving so her hat didn’t keep smacking him in the cheek. “I plan on doing lots of nice things while you’re here, and I know you’re grateful. Move on.”
“Wow…you’re capable of nice things?” Lara laughed.
The time with Chris had been like a whirlwind, even though they hadn’t done much yet. They hung out at his house, they went out and ran errands, and they had done one or two of the smaller “sightseeing” things. They went to a sports and games arcade and hit the batting cages. They stayed up until midnight one night just playing cards and singing along to an 80s station on Chris’ satellite radio. Lara immediately felt comfortable with the boy she had known inside the man with her, but there was a bitter wall on the outside that she didn’t quite recognize. She knew Chris had lived a life that required him to guard his heart, but it had been so long since the group had disbanded. She figured he would have moved on a bit. But he seemed so aimless.
“Ready for tomorrow?” Chris stole some of her fries and she smacked his hand away.
“No,” she said with a sigh. “I mean, it’s only the first one…I have three interviews. But the first one’s always the hardest.”
“You’ll do great,” Chris said immediately. “And don’t forget, we’re going out for a fancy dinner that night.”
“That’s not necessary,” Lara said.
“Of course it is,” Chris said, rolling his eyes. “I want you to experience LA at night. Maybe we can even go to a club after.”
“That would be something,” Lara agreed.
“Do you have something to wear?” Chris asked. “For dinner and stuff.”
“I have a few dresses,” Lara asked. “I didn’t really pack for something like that.”
“I’m sure whatever you bought is fine,” Chris said with a wave of his hand. “It’s all good.” He knew she didn’t really like dressing up, and had always grumbled at having to do it.
“Well, um, could I shop? Like after the interview?” She asked, biting at a fingernail.
“You’d have time,” Chris said. “Want me to come with you?”
“No,” Lara said in annoyance. “God, Chris, I’d HATE to see what you might pick out.”
“Hey!” Chris said, hurt. “I just meant because you don’t know your way around and…”
“…and you know where all the good shops are for women?” Lara asked.
“I’ve had girlfriends,” Chris said defensively.
“About that…” Lara put her empty food container on the ground by her feet. “Why don’t you now?”
“Playing the field,” Chris said immediately. She raised an eyebrow. “Just…haven’t found someone.”
“You’ve gotten lazy,” she said, and he glared at her. “You want someone, but you’re so used to being alone that you don’t feel like putting forth the effort to actually impress someone. You could go out and get sex anywhere, because that doesn’t require effort.”
“Yeah, right,” Chris muttered. “Women have it easy…any man anywhere wants sex. Men have to WORK to get it.” Lara laughed so loud people turned to stare. “But…yeah…you’re right, basically.”
“I totally get it,” Lara said. “I’m the same way. After my engagement didn’t work out, I did the screw anyone in sight thing for a while, and then…”
“Tramp,” Chris interrupted.
“Fuck off,” Lara said under her breath. “It was fun, then it got old. Then I turned into a hermit, and now it just takes too much energy to get all gussied up and decent to go out with someone.”
“You deserve someone,” Chris said suddenly, then blushed. She blushed as well.
“Thanks, Chris. You, too.” She rubbed his leg and he jumped. She pulled her hand back, startled.
“How about this…we’re both about ten or so years from fifty. We don’t have anyone then, we hook up,” Chris suggested to ease the tension that was twisting in his stomach. Her touch on his leg had sent an odd shot from his skin to his eyeballs.
“Deal. By the time you’re fifty, you won’t be able to get it up anyway, so I’ll have nothing to worry about,” Lara said, and he poked her in the side.
“So, about tomorrow,” Chris said. “What time should I get up?”
“Uh, whenever you want?” Lara asked.
“I’m driving you.”
“No, you’re not,” Lara retorted. “I have to be in the offices at like nine. I know what the traffic will probably be like. “I’ll get a cab.”
“No, Chris, I’m a big girl. I have to do this alone.” She impulsively kissed his cheek. “Thanks, though.”
“You’re welcome,” Chris said, fighting the urge to reach up and touch his own face.
Lara jumped up as the taxi swung around in front of Chris’ house. She had been up since five-thirty, the butterflies in her stomach refusing to allow her to sleep any longer. “I can do this,” she said, swinging her laptop bag up onto her shoulder. She wore a well-tailored grey suit and heels. Her long hair was twisted into a knot and she looked nothing like the person who had sat at a baseball game and eaten greasy fried food for hours just the day before. “I can do it,” she repeated. She quickly pawed through her bag one last time. Resume, laptop, flat shoes for shopping afterwards. She took one last deep breath and headed towards the front door. A piece of paper taped to the doorknob stopped her.
Knock ‘em dead, sister. Just don’t beat anyone up if they give you attitude. You have a history of that. You’ll do great.
She smiled and placed the note into the bag before going out the door.
“Thank you so much,” Lara said two hours later, shaking hands around the table. “Thank you for your time.”
“We’ll be in touch,” the man promised. She nodded.
One of the clerical staff escorted her to the elevator. As they waited, Lara got brave. “Um, I’m not from around here, and I need to do some shopping for dinner tonight. Can you recommend anything within walking distance?”
The woman smiled at her. “Anything is within walking distance of here, pretty much. You’re lucky.” As they stepped onto the elevator, the woman gave a few ideas for clothing and accessories. “There’s a bus station about three blocks down. They have lockers…you could drop your bag there.”
“Thanks,” Lara said. The bag WAS getting heavy. She shook the woman’s hand as they exited the elevator.
Before stepping out onto the street, Lara exchanged her high heels for the more comfortable flat shoes. She quickly trotted the few blocks down to the bus station, grabbing her purse and cell phone before locking up her bag.
She sighed as she stepped into the late morning sunshine. It was pretty surreal to think she was walking around Los Angeles looking to shop, that she might actually MOVE here, LIVE here. As she window shopped, she had to smile. This was VERY “Pretty Woman,” minus the hot business man waiting for her in a hotel room.
“And I only need to worry about the tent, and the barbecue,” Lance was saying as they walked. “Otherwise, it was really easy.”
“Of course it was, Lance,” JC said absently, looking at a set of dishes in a store window. “God, those are ugly.”
“JC,” Lance said. “Are you listening?”
“Yes,” JC said immediately. “You said you’re easy.”
“I did NOT,” Lance snapped.
“Lance, no matter what, your parties are fabulous. Get over it.” JC sighed and looked over Lance’s shoulder. “I’m hungry, and…” He blinked. “Hey, isn’t that…Lara?”
“Where?” Lance turned around. “Wow, yeah it is. She looks fantastic.”
“I guess her interviews were today?” JC suggested as Lara leaned forward to look in a window.
“Should we invite her to lunch?” Lance asked.
“Duh,” JC said.
“Allow me.” Lance crossed the busy street, hoping Lara didn’t move on too quickly.
Lara looked in the window, then frowned. She couldn’t even get the nerve to go into one of these shops. She knew she’d probably knock something over and they’d arrest her or something. “Excuse me, miss…you’re pretty enough to turn a gay man straight,” a deep voice said in her ear.
She whirled around. “Lance! God, you scared me.” She put a hand over her heart, then smiled at him. “REALLY? Is that a threat or a promise?”
“I promise that if I EVER decide to experiment again, you’re the first person I’ll call,” he said, and laughed. “You do look really nice.”
“Thanks,” she said, blushing a bit. “I had my first set of interviews this morning.”
“That’s what we thought.” Lance nodded at the crosswalk, where JC was hurrying across the street. “JC saw you. Almost didn’t recognize you.”
“Well, I don’t think it would have gone over well if I had shown up in shorts and a tee,” she said. “Hi, JC.”
“Hey, you look fantastic,” JC said. “Really.” She blushed deeper. “Hey, we were gonna go grab lunch. Joey’s in town. Come along.”
“Really? Wow, well…I need to shop,” she said with a sigh.
“You make it sound like you need to get a root canal,” JC said, laughing.
“Chris is taking me out for dinner and dancing or something tonight, and he doesn’t think I have anything appropriate. I probably don’t,” she said, naming the restaurant. JC and Lance’s eyebrows both rose.
“That’s a nice place,” JC said. “You just need like a little black dress or something. Classy yet dressy.”
“We’ll get lunch, and then I’ll take you shopping,” Lance said, and Lara’s mouth fell open. “Hello, gay boy. How many shopping trips do you think I’ve been drug on.” He tugged at her arm. “C’mon. Lunch, then shopping.”
“Um, okay,” Lara said, smiling with delight.
“Joey, this is Lara, one of Chris’ oldest friends,” JC said as Joey arrived at their table.
“Then why isn’t HE here?” Joey asked, smiling as he shook her hand. Lara couldn’t help but smile back. Joey Fatone’s smile was just as contagious in person as it was in print.
“I had some work interviews early this morning,” she said. “He wanted to bring me in and I refused. No need for him to deal with all this.”
“See, she’s nice. Nice, but doesn’t put up with Chris’ bullshit,” JC said. “Isn’t that good?”
“Just what he needs,” Joey said. “I’m starving.” They read over their menus and quickly ordered. “Oh, JC, I have new pictures.” He pulled out his phone.
“Here we go,” JC groaned, but he took the phone. Lara leaned over his shoulder.
“Oh my God, they’re gorgeous,” she gushed. Joey smiled broadly.
“Thank you. Bri is ten, and Kloey is a little over a year.”
“I love kids,” she said with a sigh. “I have nine nieces and nephews, but haven’t had any of my own yet. I’d love like five kids.”
Lance choked on his water. “Five?”
“Yes, but I’d settle for just one.” She laughed, remembering. “Chris told me yesterday at the game that if we’re both fifty and single, we’ll hook up…but I think I’ll be a little too old for babies.”
“You never know,” JC said.
“So what kind of interviews did you have?” Joey asked politely.
“I write…had some interviews at magazines, one internet site,” she said, shrugging.
“I’ve read some of your stuff,” JC said, and she stared at him. “Chris had it. He showed me, when he told me you were coming. You’re really good.”
“Your comedic stuff is best. You really have a knack for dialogue,” JC continued. “You should do a screenplay or something.”
“Me? Nah, I’m a non-fiction kind of girl,” Lara said, playing with her fork.
“I DARE you,” JC said, and she looked up. “I dare you to write something fun and crazy…a screenplay.”
“Me?” Lara laughed. “No, I…a dare, huh?” She raised an eyebrow. “You’re on, Chasez. About anything I want?”
“Yes.” JC held out a hand. “And you have to have it finished by Lance’s party.”
“Deal,” she said, laughing as she shook.
“Down here,” Lance said, leading them down a smaller street. Joey had left them after lunch, promising to see them again at Lance’s party. “This place is really nice, really reasonable.”
“God, if anything’s too expensive, just tell Chris to pay for it,” JC said, and Lara elbowed him. She felt so comfortable with them, as if she had known them forever. He held the door for her.
“We’ll be over here,” Lance said, plopping down on a chair and pulling out his iPhone. JC sat next to him, tapping his foot in time with the music playing from the speakers.
Lara wasn’t a marathon shopper in any way. She usually went into a store knowing exactly what she wanted. In this situation, she knew what she THOUGHT she wanted, and the salesgirl was very helpful and not at all snobby. Lara finally chose three dresses and took them into the changing room. The first one did not fit right at all, and she didn’t even zip it up. The second, a silky number in green, seemed just too dressy, and she knew she wouldn’t feel comfortable in it. She slid herself into the third one, a short midnight blue dress that fell a few inches above her knee. The neckline was low without being obscene, and as she ran her hands down her hips, she knew this was it.
“So, are you ever coming out?” Lance yelled. She took a deep breath and walked out.
“Um, well?” Lara asked, walking over to the three-way mirror and looking at herself. She slowly turned to face them.
Lance smiled. “Perfect.” She blushed. She blushed deeper when she saw JC’s jaw drop.
“Chris is gonna have a heart attack.”
“Who cares what HE thinks?” Lara muttered, spinning in front of the mirror again. “It’s not a date.”
“You sure?” Lance asked, and Lara froze.
“Of course,” she said lightly. “Chris isn’t interested in me that way.” She bit at a fingernail as she looked at her reflection. This was like nothing she’d ever owned, but she loved that dress.
“You look amazing,” JC said, walking over to stand behind her. She smiled at his reflection. “And he’ll be interested in you after he sees you in THIS.”
“JC, stop,” she said lightly. “I’m his little sister.”
“Then you’ll go with me to Lance’s party?” The question surprised them both. JC had not meant to really ask it, but it just slipped out. She turned around and stared at him. “Well?” He asked softly. “I mean, you don’t have to, I just thought…it’s more fun to go somewhere with a date.”
“Um, sure, JC,” Lara whispered. “I will. But…are you sure…you wanna go with…me?”
“And what’s wrong with you?” JC asked.
“You…you’re…you could have…”
“I want to go with you,” he said. “You’re just what I want in a date.”
“Um, okay.” She looked down at her feet. “Okay, yes, JC. I’ll go with you.”