The words of a co-worker bitch started the whole thing.
She hadn't done a very good job of tracking my whereabouts that morning, and obviously didn't know I was in one of the
restroom stalls, with my pants on the ground.
"I wonder if that little redneck, Twila will be able to find a half-decent man to bring to the picnic?" Snickers from the
other bitches. "She's gotta be a lesbian, or something. I've never seen her even look at a man, and besides, what man is going
to want to be seen with fat white trash like her?"
Those pants were pulled up and zippered quicker than a gunslinger can draw his revolver, but not quick enough. If she had
still been there when I burst out of my stall, I would have kicked her ass to kingdom come, but she had left, and the opportunity
The only thing I could do now to save face was go to the picnic, which I had previously not intended to do, and bring a
man twice as hot as any of the pasty faced city boys they would drag along. I just happened to know the perfect one.
It would break the promise I had made to myself never to have anything to do with any man ever again, on account of what
Jimmie-Ray did. But what harm could it do, I asked myself. I couldn't let them get the better of me. After the picnic, it would be Sayonara to Harland O'Connor.
Despite all that, I still couldn't believe this was me at a corporate picnic. Surreal wasn't the word for it! It was...well...super
surreal. If you knew me, you would know that the last place in the world I would ever be was at a corporate anything. Especially
not in Yankee territory.
And that wasn't all. Not only was I lying on a checkered blanket--probably a designer brand blanket if there is such a
thing--at a corporate picnic, but despite all my best intentions, I was lying beside a man, probably the man of most women's
dreams, and at that moment he was all mine.
Harland--who names their kid Harland?--was tall, probably around six three or four, and ripped. I mean, There wasn't an
ounce of fat on his body. It was all lean muscle, and he had the tightest little buns. His shoulders were broad, and his arms,
one of which was rubbing against my shoulder, were tanned and hard. His hair was brown, with sun-bleached yellowish highlights
all the way through, and the way he wore it all messed up like a surfer dude who had just been out riding the waves was smoking.
His eyes were mesmerizing. I had to avoid looking into them because once they locked with mine I couldn't tear my gaze
away. They were deep, deep brown, with long brown lashes, and so warm,--the most bedroomy eyes I had ever had the good--or
bad--fortune to stare into. It was like looking at a bed with a down comforter on a cold night. I was in dangerous territory,
and I was amazed at how the close proximity of a hot male body had changed my attitude.
He had high cheekbones and a strong, square chin, but it was his lips that held my attention the most. They were not too
thin and not too thick, and there was always the hint of a smirk on them, like he was mocking me somehow. I had not yet had
the pleasure of feeling them on mine, but I knew I was close.
It was hard to believe that it was over a year ago since I met Harland. I had only just arrived in Boston at the time,
and started my new job, and was still hurting a lot, and was generally pissed off with life, thanks to Jimmie-Ray.
My BFF Jane Scruggs lived in a more up-market apartment than mine. Now that I think about it, I'm guessing that my new
boss, Andrew, probably paid for it, or at least he contributed to the rent. Her apartment was on the fifth floor.
It was the July fourth weekend, and about thirty people were crammed into her living room and spilling out onto her balcony.
Harland had arrived late and I found it impossible not to notice him. Me and all the other women in the room. They--the other
women--spent a lot of time trying to attract his attention, but a couple of times when my eyes strayed his way, he looked
over their heads at me and we locked gazes. There was no way I had any intention of getting involved with any man ever again,
so both times it happened I tore my gaze away from him and turned my back.
I was standing at the table dipping tortilla chips into the Mexican dip when he moved in beside me. There was something
about him that made me feel him there before I saw him. He used the corniest pick up line in the world. "We haven't met,"
I looked him up and down, said, "Yeah and we probably won't," and walked out onto the balcony. To my annoyance, he followed.
"Hey, what's your problem? I was just trying to be civil. You could at least tell me your name."
"Why don't you just piss off and leave me alone. If I wanted to tell you my name I would have done so long ago. There are
plenty of women here who will give you their phone numbers, so why don't you go bother them?"
"Do I detect a Southern accent?" He didn't wait for a response, but sighed deeply. "So much for the myth that people from
the South are hospitable."
I didn't say a thing. I just turned away and made like I was watching the sun setting over the city. Intermittent bangs
rising from the streets below hinted at what was to come. It would be another couple of hours before the fireworks started,
and we'd have a great view of them from here. There was a distant hum of traffic, and the unmistakable aroma of gunpowder
hung in the air. A man and a woman from the party stood side by side, their arms draped over the balcony railing, watching
the smoke from their cigarettes spiraling upward.
After a couple of minutes I felt him leave, and I just stood there enjoying the sunset. The strange thing was that when
I went back into the living room to get another beer I couldn't stop myself from searching him out with my eyes. I was really
pissed with myself when his eyes met mine again, and he gave an annoying little knowing smirk. I scowled and chugged the entire
beer, and grabbed another. Someone had put a Norah Jones CD on and a few couples clung to one another and were swaying to
the music, apparently oblivious to the limited space available. The room smelled of food, the perfume from the dozens of candles
whose flames flickered softly in the dark corners, and clean but sweaty bodies.
"Twila. I know your name now," he said from close behind me. "You are the only woman in this room who interests me. You
gonna tell me why you're so unfriendly?"
"It's none of your business," I said through clenched teeth. "Why don't you just leave me alone?"
"I will. But I'm gonna get your phone number from Jane and I will call you. You will find out that when I want something,
I never give up. You're the only real woman here, and I want you. You want me too, but you just won't admit it."
Later, when we all went out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks, he stood close behind me. So close that I could feel
his breath on the back of my neck. I don't know how many people were out there, but it was a tight squeeze, and it seemed
that every time someone moved, his body made contact with mine. Despite my distrust of men, it made me feel hot all over.
The most annoying thing about him was that afterwards, when Jane and I discussed him, she told me that it was a proven
fact that people whose eyes meet despite their best efforts to avoid it, always ended up having sex.