Flat-Out Love, стр. 46

“I don’t think we should be talking about this.”

“Come on! Don’t be such a baby. It’s a perfectly normal question.”

There was a long pause. “Fine. Yes, I’ve had sex.”

“I knew it!” she yelled triumphantly. “Have you had a lot of sex?”

Matt laughed. “I suppose it depends how you define a lot.”

“That means you have! Man, at the rate I’m going, I’m never going to have sex.”

“Are you in a big rush?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? Everyone says sex is great. It is, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know that I qualify as an expert, but, yes, it can be great. If you’re with the right person.” He was silent for a moment. “So you and Seth never…?”

“Ha! I knew you’d want to talk about this stuff! No, we never did. I didn’t want to. Seth was cute and nice and perfect and all that, but I didn’t want to. He just wasn’t the guy, you know? I want the guy. The everything guy. Not the dumb Prince Charming, nauseatingly-perfect everything guy. That’s pathetic. I want the flaws-and-all everything guy.”

“You’ll find him. Not when you’re drunk and slurring, but you’ll find him.”

“Hey, they’re counting down to midnight. In stupid New York where all the stupid cool people are. Let’s count together.”

“Tell me when.”

Julie looked dizzily at the screen. “…seven, six…” Matt started to count with her. “…five, four, three, two, one!” She watched the hordes of people wave their arms and cheer as the famous ball dropped. The cameras panned to couple after couple caught up in kissing.

“Happy New Year, Julie.”

“Happy New Year, Matty.” She turned off the television and rolled onto her side. “Matty, I have another question for you.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Are you a skilled lover?”

“And that concludes our evening chat.”

“I bet I could be a skilled lover. I’m very energetic. And a quick learner.”

 “You definitely need to go to sleep.”

“Oh, fine.” She yanked the sheet up higher. “I can’t stay on the phone anymore. I have to get to sleep.”

“I think that’s a good plan. I’m glad you thought of it.”

“I like talking to you,” Julie mumbled.

“I like talking to you, too. Most of the time. I’ll see you when you get back.”

“G’night, Matty.”

Chapter 23

 

Julie looked at the clock. It was only seven-thirty in the morning, and she felt like hell. The expression “death warmed over” came to mind. She had slept horribly, tossing and turning, trying to control the nausea that had woken her up several times. Not to mention the excruciating headache.

Champagne sucks, she thought. And her father and stupid New York still suck.

She might as well get up, since there was no use lying around stewing about things. She dragged her hung-over self from the bed and plodded to the kitchen, gripping a hand to her head in a futile attempt to keep her brains from smashing against her skull. She grabbed a carton of orange juice and sat down on the couch in the living room to watch TV.

Reporters recapped last night’s celebrations and replayed footage of midnight displays and cheers from around the world. Watching this, these masses of happy people, made her feel small and unimportant. Probably the way her father saw her.

She could see it now.

It was quite clear to her that she barely registered on his radar. It was rather unbelievable. She was his daughter, his only child, and he had screwed her over time and again. And she had let him.

Asshole.

Her head was spinning. She flipped through the channels and landed on a local news reporter who had been stuck with the unfortunate job of filming on a windy beach in South Boston. Julie squinted at the television. Why on earth was a crowd forming at the freezing beach at this time of day? Oh my God, they were going swimming!

The reporter yanked her hat down as a gust of wind swirled. “Even with water temperatures predicted to be a painful forty-one degrees, dozens of men, women, and even children are preparing to take the annual Polar Plunge this morning at ten o’clock in Boston Harbor.”

Finn had told her about this event. These people are crazy, Julie thought.

“Many swimmers will experience an involuntary bout of hyperventilation that can last up to three minutes,” the reporter continued. “And these daredevils won’t be wearing any protective clothing to combat the icy water. No wetsuits here, folks. Just bathing suits and bravery!”

Julie made a pot of coffee and popped a few pain relievers. She stood by the window that looked out onto a deserted street. Hardly anyone was out this morning, as if the sullen gray sky had forbidden people from leaving their homes. Julie took a sip from her cup and gagged. Her stomach was a wreck. Every part of her hurt, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been in such a terrible mood.

She put the cup down and made a decision. She sent Finn a message, quoting an old The Why Store song, “Lack of Water.”

That should be cryptic enough. In case she backed out.

**********

Matthew Watkins thinks that occasional, in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home binge drinking is unfairly maligned in the media and romantic comedy chick flicks.

Finn is God Can you always do something sometimes?

 

Julie Seagle I had a dream about starting a dating service for fish called solemate.com. In unrelated news, I will never drink again.

 

Julie looked around and wondered why everyone was smiling. This was not fun. It was sleeting now, and the wind had picked up. She looked down at her bare legs and questioned what she’d been thinking coming down to the beach. And the only bathing suit that crazy Dana owned was nothing but a small handful of fabric posing as a bikini. Julie felt like an idiot. At least other people in the Polar Plunge crowd looked just as silly, she supposed; the three guys with Red Sox logos painted on their chests, an elderly man in a cowboy hat, the mother dressed as a lobster, and a trio of teen boys dressed as leprechauns all stood out more than she did. Hopefully.

Damn, it was cold, and she wasn’t even in the water yet. Julie looked out at the ocean, the waves dark and ominous. Powerful. She didn’t understand the crowd’s enthusiasm for what they were about to do. It was a chore. A test. A way to prove something. It was scary and awful. But Julie needed to do this. She tried to focus, determined that she would not stop when her foot hit the water. What if she stopped breathing? Stopped moving? What if she panicked and her knees went weak? The force of the waves would push her below the surface, holding her down on the frozen ocean floor. That was not going to happen, she told herself. It was mobbed here.  Someone would either see her fall or trip over her. She would just have to plow through the first cold shock. She’d run in and out of the water, and then it would be over. Just a few minutes out of her life.

That reporter had said something about involuntary hyperventilating. Yup. Julie was already involuntarily hyperventilating. And who the hell ever voluntarily hyperventilated?

Julie caught sight of a girl wearing a Princess Leia outfit and stared at her. Even in her foggy state, something was ringing a bell about this. In fact, screeching, horrible, major-panic kind of alarm bells started going off…

Suddenly the crowd rushed forward, and Julie found that she was running across the cold sand, her feet digging into rock. While she could vaguely hear the whoops and yells from other swimmers, mostly she heard the sound of her ragged, scared breathing. What had Finn said to her? As much as you’re terrified, you’re also starting to feel the rush, the thrill you get from being on the brink.

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