Thursday, July 31, 2014


Bowling is the worst.

Let me elaborate. I don't think professional bowling is stupid. I don't even think it's 'the worst' to be in a league, whether you're good or not. However, when my friends want to go bowling, it is the worst. Once in a while, they come up with the idea to go bowling. What they don't take into account, though, is that none of us actually like bowling. "We haven't gone bowling in so long," they always say. But there's a reason for that. We end up getting to the alley and enjoying the first few frames, because it's something 'different.' By the second half of the first game, everyone's just trying to bowl as quickly as possible so they can return to their seats with everyone else, where their beers and wings are waiting.

"It's like, why don't we just go to a bar and not have to put our feet into stinky shoes?" I rhetorically asked Justin as I curled my hair in his bathroom, concluding my rant.

"Wow, you are passionately against bowling, huh?" he jokingly asked from the other room as I heard the spritz of his cologne bottle. 

"It's just... pointless," I said as he walked into the bathroom. The bowling alley wasn't particularly nice, but Justin looked good in his maroon polo and dark jeans. I never curl my hair, but I wanted to look nice for Darlene's birthday, even if it was at a crappy bowling alley. I figured I could also get a new profile picture out of the deal. (Don't act like you've never thought that!)

"Well, I'm a really good bowler," Justin said, leaning against the doorway as I finished up the last few curls.

"Are you?" I asked, arching an eyebrow.


"Well, so is Billy. I guess you guys can be on opposite teams so everything evens out." Billy was one of my high school friends who would be there. Darlene reserved two lanes for us, since we had about ten people. I thanked my lucky stars that Moose was busy that night. I didn't mind seeing him, but I was so not ready for him and Justin to meet.

"I'm better than Billy," Justin confidently replied.

I laughed. "How can you possibly know that?"

"I just do," he said moving past me to brush his teeth. "Want to make a little wager on it?"

I turned off the curling iron and looked at him. "What kind of wager?"

He gave me mischievous eyes as he silently brushed his teeth.

"If Billy scores a higher average score than me, I'll take you to that wine bar you've been badgering me about."

My eyes widened. There was this cute little wine bar, that looked like it had amazing desserts, in a town out east. I wanted to go so bad, but Justin didn't have much of a sweet tooth and said he didn't want to drive that far without the promise of steak.

Before my mouth began involuntarily drooling, I realized there had to be a catch. "And if you win?" I asked, slightly scared to know the answer.

He put his arm on my waist and whispered in my ear. "When I win," he began. "I want to do it in the bathroom of the bowling alley."

As I felt myself getting turned on by the mere idea of something so risqué, I quickly realized this was a win-win situation.

As he pulled away from me, I put out my hand. "Deal," I said and we shook on it, because obviously this was official business.

Since I was super invested in the winner of the games, it actually made bowling a lot more fun. Darlene seemed to have a good time, which was really most important to me. I wanted Justin to win, even though I'd "lose" the bet, and to my delight, he did surprisingly well.

But Billy did better, scoring only a few points more. Justin and I sat next to each other as we did the math.

"I can't believe it," Justin exclaimed, putting his face in his hands. "I tried so hard." He looked legitimately disappointed. Him wanting me that much was extremely sexy.

I looked around at my friends, who were all occupied in conversations. I turned to Justin, leaned down, and whispered in his ear. "We can both win."

His eyes peeked out from behind his fingers and I saw a smile creep onto his face. "Really?" he asked, sounding like a little kid who was told he could have a candy bar.

I nodded and we made our way to the bathroom. I stood outside of the men's room while Justin went in to check that it was empty. Seconds later, he reached his hand out of the door and pulled me in.

Justin locked the handicapped stall before pushing me up against the door. As I wrapped my legs around his waist, I could feel how hard he already was. I fumbled to unzip my pants as he held me, kissing my neck and then pushing my blouse down to kiss my breasts.

He reached into my jeans and pushed my thong to the side. "Mmmm, you're so wet," he moaned into my ear. And I was. There was something so hot about hooking up in the bathroom, where we could easily get caught. It was so prohibited. I've never seen Justin so turned on either.

He continued to tease me until neither of us could take it anymore. He grabbed my ass with both hands and perfectly positioned himself inside of me. I softly moaned his name. He thrusted inside me, his erection hitting me at the ideal angle from our positioning, as I gripped his hair and bit my bottom lip to keep from screaming. He lowered his head and playfully bit my nipples. That instantly triggered my orgasm and he followed shortly after.

We returned to my friends minutes later. Nobody was the wiser.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spread the Love

I shoved my phone into my bag. I didn't want to respond to Justin right away for three reasons. One, I wanted to consider what he actually meant and decide how to respond. Was he mad or simply curious? I imagined him asking the question in person and it could've had a couple different tones. Second, I wanted to make it clear to him that we were taking this slow. I didn't want him thinking I was going to immediately answer him whenever he demanded an answer. Third, I had to figure out the Darlene debacle occurring at the present moment.

I walked over to Darlene and asked her if she'd be okay with taking the next train home, which meant we'd have to say our goodbyes and head out.

"Why so early?" She asked, with a genuinely puzzled look on her face. "Doug knows a great hookah bar that's not too far away! It's freaking Friday!"

She had a point. If we all had work the next day, I'd definitely try to convince her that we had to go. But it was, as Rebecca Black sang, Friday. I turned to Anna who shrugged with indifference.

We ended up getting to the hookah bar after about twenty minutes of walking. The five of us sat down at a table and ordered a strawberry flavored hookah. I'm not a huge fan of the flavored tobacco, so I just ordered a cappuccino and decided I would enjoy the atmosphere. I took out my phone after ordering and was pleased to see Justin had not texted me again. It was nice to see that he could exercise patience.

"I'm out with Darlene and Anna! It was a nice night so I thought I'd dress up a little. You like? ;)"

He answered within five minutes. "Yeah. I guess I've just never seen you wear a dress around me. Spread the love :-p"

I let out a sigh of relief. If Justin had been mad in the original text, he hid it well and I was happy that he, at the very least, changed his attitude. Maybe he had overreacted, but he seemed okay with it now.

"Boy problems?" Rachel asked, leaning in close to me.

"Not really," I answered with a smile. I liked Rachel, but I saw how gossipy she could be and preferred her not discussing my relationship with Darlene at work, even though I was obviously going to share this incident with Darlene and Anna.

We spent about an hour at the hookah bar before Anna and I convinced Darlene to go home. While her and Doug had continued flirting the whole time, they both seemed ready to conclude the night without going any further.

Once on the train, I was too tired to address what Darlene did or didn't know about Doug, in addition to questioning her intentions. It's not like she tried to go home with Doug or anything. I figured she knew what she was doing and was sure Rachel would clue her in if Darlene didn't already know the situation. The three of us remained silent for most of the ride and I took advantage of the time to text Justin with my full attention. He said he was having a great time in Connecticut but couldn't wait to get home. Since Darlene had decided while we were waiting in Penn Station that she wanted to go bowling the following weekend for her birthday, I extended an invite to Justin.

Justin and I decided to get together on Wednesday though, as a way to break up the long week. After getting out of work, I put on a sundress and arrived at his apartment with a pizza. He wanted to see me in a dress, so I would deliver! (Pun completely intended).

Justin answered the door, rocking his usual look: basketball shorts and no shirt. When he saw me, he looked confused for a moment.

"Are we going out?" He took the pizza box from my hand and moved aside so I could walk into his apartment.

"Nope, just 'spreading the love.'" I turned to him so I could see his expression when the light bulb went off in his head. The look was priceless.

"Well," he began after putting the pizza box down. "You look hot." He walked closer to me and ran his hands down the side of my body while bitting his lower lip. "Can I change my mind and request you wear nothing?"

I felt a tingle run through my body as I stretched up to kiss him. "Maybe after pizza," I said once I pulled away. "I'm starving." I walked over to the box and lifted the lid. I had picked up a sicilian pie with everything on it from this place right by Justin's apartment. The pizza was still hot and smelled so fresh. I told myself I'd only have one slice (and then maybe treat myself to another as a post coitus snack).

As we sat at the small table, Justin told me about his family in Connecticut. He had several cousins who were about his age and they spent most of the time playing basketball and swimming. "It's a good time," he said grabbing a second slice from the box. "But I definitely missed something about home."

"Oh yeah?" I knowingly teased. "I think something here kind of missed you, too."

He told me a little bit more about his family and we talked about work before I began wrapping the pizza up and putting the leftovers in the fridge. Things with Justin were going so well. It made me wonder how we could have such a connection when we were together but he could be kind of controlling when we weren't. I decided not to overthink it, especially when he crept up behind me, put his arms around my waist, and began reaching under my dress.

I didn't overthink anything for the rest of the night. Wink, wink.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Ring On It

I tried to be subtle as I jabbed Anna in the ribs.

"Ow!" She screeched at me. "What gives?"

I put my finger to my lips to shush her when I noticed Rachel look at me, then at Doug and Darlene, and then back at me with a knowing look.

She leaned close to me and whispered, "it's not what it looks like." Then she loudly said she had to use the restroom and asked if I needed to go as well. I didn't, but of course I agreed to go. I needed the low down.

Once in the restroom, Rachel pulled out red lipstick and began to reapply. Of course she wore lipstick. She was such a pretty, put together, adult lady. I made a mental note to purchase lipstick before starting my Assistantship.

"So," she began after a few seconds of silence as she pressed her lips together. "I'm guessing from your horrified look you saw Doug's wedding ring?" I nodded. Why was she so casual about this? Did he regularly flirt (and grope) coworkers at work functions? Did they have an open marriage or some other new age arrangement, that I didn't understand?

Rachel turned to me and for the first time that evening, her eyes looked sad. "He's a widower," she finally said.


"Wow," was all I could manage to mutter out. "But he's so..."

"Young?" Rachel asked, cutting me off. I nodded. "Yeah, it's kind of a sad story," she began, turning to the mirror again to fix the placement of her eyelashes. "He married his high school sweetheart. They were together for six years when they got married the summer after college graduation. He started working for a big liquor company in their marketing department. She was a paralegal, I think, planning to go to law school after they saved some money. They wanted to buy a house in New Jersey and start a family." Rachel turned to me. I could tell she had told this story multiple times and expected particular reactions at certain milestones in the tale.

"How did she, um, pass?" I asked, knowing she wanted me to probe before she'd continue.

Rachel let out a heavy sigh. It was a little over dramatic and I could tell that, as sad as it was, she enjoyed telling this story.

"She went out one night and drank too much. He was out of town that night for business. Someone might've slipped her something, too. I don't know. He doesn't really like to talk about it much, but over the years he's given me bits and pieces of the story. Plus, you know how gossipy people can be." She supported her body against the sink and held a dead gaze on the floor.

"Wow," I mumbled. I felt like such a brat for thinking Doug was a sleaze, not that I could have ever in a million years guessed his story. "Makes you think."

"Oh, yeah," Rachel responded, her eyes getting big again. "He immediately quit his job, not that the company expected him to stay. I mean, the product he was advertising for killed his wife. It took him about a year to look for work again, but when he did, he came to our company. I guess he felt like he would be doing some good." Darlene's company, which I won't mention by name, definitely promotes a healthier lifestyle. "He talks about getting into non profit one day, but I don't know. He likes it here a lot."

"So," I began, still curious about one thing. "How long has he been wearing the ring?"

Rachel picked up her bag. "Let's see," she said, clearly giving it some thought. "That happened when he was 23 and he turned 29 in March. So six years? I remember when he got drunk once, he admitted to me that he was going to take it off when he turned 30. That's when he'd be ready to get serious with a girl again. Anyway, they're going to think we're weirdos if we don't get back out there."

As I followed Rachel out of the bathroom, my head began to spin. I couldn't even imagine losing my boyfriend, let alone husband, especially at such a young age. I'm 23! The things Doug had to face at my age were no joke. I don't know if I would ever recover if something like that happened to me now. It really put my petty problems into perspective.

Once I got to the bar, I found Anna giggling with the bartender. Doug and Darlene were nowhere to be found.

"Where is everyone?" I asked Anna.

"Oh," Anna began. "I think they went outside for some air."

I rolled my eyes. Doug and Darlene could clearly do whatever they wanted, especially now that I knew the situation, but how much did Darlene know? While she had a tough exterior, she didn't always handle messy, romantic situations that well. If she hooked up with a guy, she kind of went, well, crazy. And I hate when guys call girls crazy, but Darlene expected way too much from guys even if they were completely upfront about their intentions. All I knew was that I had to find her and see where her head was at.

I walked outside the bar, with Rachel and Anna by my side. Darlene had her back against a brick wall, giggling, with Doug leaning in close and whispering in her ear. It looked intimate, but salvageable. I had an opportunity to talk to Darlene about the situation before she did anything she may or may not regret.

Just then, I heard my phone ding. It was a text from Justin. He was in Connecticut visiting family for the weekend and told me he'd be in and out of swimming pools all afternoon, so he wouldn't be checking his phone much.

"Where are you in a dress like that?" I guess he saw the picture on Darlene's Instagram.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Hour

Darlene, Anna, and I were soon on the same page about the Jessica crisis. Give her some space and be supportive when she felt comfortable enough to start hanging out with us again. Of course, it was also my job to separately keep up with her and make sure she never felt like I disapproved of her decisions. If something bad did happen between her and Josh, I needed her to know that I was there to help her.

As I looked at my calendar last week, I realized summer was half way over. I had so many plans for the summer and somehow, the days just flew by too fast. Isn't that how it always goes, though?

Friday afternoon, Darlene asked Anna and I to meet her in the city for happy hour. She worked full time at a big corporation and was going out with a bunch of her coworkers for drinks. I don't know if Darlene was looking to capitalize on the outing as a way to make Jessica jealous via Instagram, but I agreed. I hadn't gone out with my friends much since I met Justin and since he was away that weekend, I decided to utilize it.

Anna and I took a 4:15 train into New York City so we would get to Darlene's building right around the time she was getting out of work. I tried to find the right sundress that would maybe give people the wrong impression that I actually had a fancy job in Manhattan. Since most places in the city, Darlene's company included, observed Casual Fridays, I figured I could get away with it. I landed on a pale orange, strapless one. I threw a light gray sweater over it in case the bar was blasting the air condition.

Walking through Penn Station at 5 o'clock on a Friday afternoon is heaven. As we made our way to the staircase to walk up onto the street, I became flustered at all the attractive men in suits passing us.

"Would it be weird if I stationed myself here to find a husband?" I jokingly asked Anna.

She laughed. "I was just thinking the same thing," she responded as we maneuvered around all the people. "But you're not single, so I don't think that'd be a good idea."

"I was kidding," I said to her with a playful push that almost knocked her into a woman on a cell phone. "You know I'm into Justin."

We walked a couple of avenues and several blocks to Darlene's building. She was waiting outside when we got there.

"Hey, guys," she said greeting us each with a hug. "Wow, Caroline, you really got dressed up for this. You know you already have a boyfriend, right?"

I let out an offended laugh. "What is with you two?" I asked putting my left hand on my hip. "I'm allowed to look nice even though I have a boyfriend!"

Darlene waved her hand at me. "I know, I know. I'm sorry, I didn't know it was a sore subject." She glanced at Anna and smiled. "Anyway, the bar is only two subway stops away. Let's go!"

Anna and I followed Darlene around the corner to a subway entrance. I have lived on Long Island my whole life, so you'd think I know the mass transit system of the biggest city near me, but I sadly don't. Darlene, having worked in the city for almost a year now, knew it backwards and forwards though. I tried to act like I knew where I was going as I followed Darlene's every move.

Once we walked into the restaurant, Darlene saw her coworkers right away. We sat at the end of the bar, ordered that bar speciality drink of the day (tequila sunrises), and began making small talk with some of the other twenty-something-year-old employees, mainly  two named Doug and Rachel.

"So, what're you doing for your birthday, Darlene?" Rachel asked with an overly enthusiastic smile. Rachel was super sweet, even though she looked like a stuck up sorority girl.

"Probably just a bar or something. Nothing crazy," Darlene insisted. Darlene's birthday was on the 23rd, but she hadn't really told any of us her plans. We'd probably end up at Nostalgic, which was ay okay with me. I hadn't been there in so long.

"Go crazy," Doug chimed in, taking a large swig of his beer. "It's your 25th, right?"

Darlene playfully nudged him in the ribs. "Try 23rd!"

Doug laughed. "Hey, sorry. I always forget you started so much younger than most of us." I pegged Doug to be about 27 or 28 and he sounded like he had been at the company for a few years already.

Before ordering our next round of drinks, Darlene asked Rachel to take a picture of the three of us.

"We need to get this on Instagram before I start looking sloppy," Darlene insisted as she fixed the part in her hair. Yup, Darlene definitely wanted Jessica to see this picture. So juvenile. 

Poor Rachel had to take the picture four times before Darlene and Anna were both happy with it. Darlene began filtering it while I tried to flag down the bartender. Doug got his attention first, though.

"Five tequila shots, please." Everyone else was looking at their phones, but I raised my eyebrows at him. "What?" He asked with a laugh. "You have somewhere to be in the morning?"

"Nope," I said shaking my head. "I'm good."

We all took our shots and I immediately wished that I hadn't. Were tequila shots really necessary for happy hour?

As the evening continued, everybody reached 
various levels of intoxication. While I enjoyed my nice buzz, I noticed Darlene and Doug competing for the drunkest. I didn't worry about their mild flirtation. Darlene deserved to have some fun. It didn't even phase me when I noticed him placing his hand on her upper thigh. That is, until I saw his wedding ring.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rain, rain, go away...

"Things have to clear up soon," I thought to myself as I walked to my car the morning after I met with Jessica. It was still raining on and off, which would have been fine if it was helping with the humidity at all, which it was not.

Once at work, I made myself a cup of coffee and grabbed a cookie dough protein bar from my secret hiding spot in the manager's office. (If I don't hide them, Todd eats them all). I didn't have that much to do that day, so I sat in the office for a few hours trying to keep boredom away. I luckily had some reading to do to prepare for my assistantship, which occupied a solid couple of hours. By four o'clock, I was happy to be done.

However, when I went home, I realized that the boredom of the day had followed me. Since I had the time to kill, I decided I would go to the grocery store and finally make one of those recipes I have saved on my Pinterest board. 
I bought cauliflower, along with a few other key ingredients, so I could make buffalo roasted cauliflower to throw over a salad. It seemed easy enough. I really don't have a lot of cooking experience, so it felt good to at least try to broaden my horizons.

As I walked through the isles with my basket, I thought about the situation with my friends. It really seemed like Jessica was going to be split from the group for a while. This genuinely concerned me. I definitely didn't want to lose touch with her, especially if Josh went cray cray again, but I didn't know what to do. Jessica doesn't always listen to reason. Even though she once dismissed a guy Anna was talking to because he mentioned his ex-girlfriend on the first date, Jessica always seemed to make excuses for Josh. Jessica had a good head on her shoulders and she dated some nice guys. I just didn't get it.

I arrived home and plopped the two grocery bags on my kitchen counter. I stalled for a moment there, looking out my kitchen window and biting my lip. It was time.

I took out my phone to send a text to Darlene and Anna. I needed to tell them what Jessica had told me and see how they felt about it. I personally thought it was best to give her some space, but I wanted their input in case I was being bias. After reading over the lengthy text message a few times, I sent it.

Darlene sent the first text back. "WHAT?" I began to elaborate with more details from the conversation I had with Jessica, while obviously leaving out anything I didn't think she would want me to share. After a few exchanges, Anna chimed in. While she felt really terrible, Darlene was simply angry.

I looked out at the rain. It had to clear up soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I was shuffling through some invoices at work when I received a text from Jessica.

"Hey... What're you up to this afternoon?"

I wrote back that I didn't have any plans, so she asked if I'd be interested in grabbing coffee with her. Even though I was on my second cup of regular (leave me alone, I'm trying to cut back), I agreed. We hadn't really talked since our beach trip and I didn't want things to become tense. I realized that I hadn't really talked to Darlene or Anna much either. Maybe I was too busy texting Justin emojis all day, but it hadn't even dawned on me that our group text was eerily quiet. Was this 'beach argument' really a thing?

I picked Jessica up when I got out of work and began driving to the closest Starbucks. It had been muggy out all day, but the rain had held off. That is, until we arrived at Starbucks.

"Maybe it'll stop in a few minutes," I said as I turned my car off. "Want to wait it out for a little?"

"Sure," Jessica said, staring out the window at the busy road. I thought she was going to say something else, but she held her glare on the road for a little too long.

"So what's up?" I asked. Even if things were still weird from the beach, Jessica and I had no reason for tension. We were on the same team, after all. If anything, she was the only one on my team. I bit my lip as I began to wonder if Darlene and Anna were stirring over everything that happened the other day.

I almost fell down the rabbit hole of complete overly anxious thoughts about what my friends were thinking when Jessica luckily broke the awkward silence.

"Nothing, just exhausted," she responded with a sigh. After all that silence, that's the best she can do? Weak sauce.

"Has work been rough?" I innocently asked.

"No, not really."

The awkward silence continued for a few more seconds. She continued to stare out the window at the rain.

"Well, it's not going to get any better than this," Jessica finally said, referring to the rain. She was right. It wasn't raining as hard as it had been when we first parked, but it was still pretty bad.

"Okay, let's go," I said as I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up.

We ran into Starbucks and even though it was only a ten second sprint, the bottoms of our legs were drenched upon walking in. The place was pretty much empty, which was not surprising considering the weather, so we were able to order right away. Jessica asked for some green tea frappuccino concoction, which looked ridiculously disgusting, but I decided it was best not to make fun of it. I figured this afternoon was troubled enough. I decided I needed a mocha latte for the occasion. Once we had our drinks, we sat with a view of the thunderstorm.

"Caroline, I've been thinking a lot about what everyone said about Josh," Jessica quickly began. She was no longer embracing the silence. "Darlene and Anna made it pretty clear that they are not going to support my decision unless I choose to stop seeing him. It makes me feel kind of backed into a corner. I know you didn't side with them, but they really made me feel like crap."

"I get that," I interjected. "That wasn't fair at all."

"It's made me think," she continued without even acknowledging my comment. It was as if she had a speech rehearsed and would not stray from it. "I'm pretty certain about my choice," she stated before taking a long sip of her frappuccino.

"And?" I asked as I held my breathe. Was she going to stop seeing Josh? Were Darlene and Anna driving her into his arms? What was she certain about?

She looked down and began playing with her straw. "Josh deserves another chance."

"Well," I began, slightly disappointed, "I'm happy if you're happy. You know that." As I took a sip of my latte, I furrowed my eyebrows. "So what did Darlene and Anna make you think about?" I asked.

Jessica looked out at the rain. "I can't be around Darlene or Anna right now," she began, completely avoiding eye contact with me. "I think I need my space for a while. You know, so I can give things with Josh a fair shot. I can't have their negativity around me right now. I don't want to think about how they hate my boyfriend every time we hang out."

I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat. "Really?" I asked.

Jessica nodded. "I just wanted to tell you in person. We can still hang out. I'll probably lose my sanity if we don't." Jessica turned to me and cracked a smile for the first time. I smiled back at her, even though my mind was racing. How long would this go on? Was she going to simply avoid them? Did she want me to pass the message along? Would Jessica come out for Darlene's birthday at the end of the month?

I finally managed to mutter out a response. "I want things to work out with you and Josh. I mean that."

"I know," she said as she nudged my right shoulder with her left one. "And I'm sure you and Justin will work out. Maybe we can double date soon!"

I agreed, but wasn't sure if that would ever work itself out. We made some small talk about work for the rest of the afternoon before walking back to my car. It luckily wasn't raining anymore, but it was still super gross out.

"Keep in touch," I desperately said once I reached Jessica's house. "And let me know if you need anything at all."

"Of course I will, Caroline," Jessica said back with a weak smile. "Thanks a lot. I mean it."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beach Day

My favorite thing about Long Island might just be the beach. Anywhere you live on the island, you are about twenty minutes away from a beach. Don't like a particular beach? No problem! Just drive in the opposite direction to the next one! It makes me never want to move away.

The girls and I made the short drive to the beach on Sunday morning. Two nights before, when I went with Justin to watch fireworks on the beach, the cool breeze from the water felt nice. As much as I enjoyed that night, nothing really beats being under the warm sun, feeling the hot sand between your toes, and drinking mimosas out of water bottles.

We set up our chairs around 10 AM and the beach was still relatively empty. I knew it would not last but I enjoyed the view while I could. It would only take an hour or two for the crowds of people to show up with their big umbrellas to infiltrate the place.

I pulled out a my buttered everything bagel from my beach bag and began indulging in my weekly carbohydrate loaded treat. I lied earlier in this post. My favorite thing about Long Island is not the beach. It is bagels. I will really never be able to move.

"So, how's Justin?" Darlene turned to me and asked. It suddenly dawned on me that none of them knew about our new arrangement.

"He's good," I began as a smile crept along my face. "He's going out of town next weekend with his family, but we're really, very good actually." I started playing with my hair and looking away from Darlene. Why couldn't I say the words?

"You're 'really, very good actually?'" Anna asked me as she shielded her eyes from the sun and stuck her tongue out at me. I was glad she did because it gave me an opening to tell them what I actually had to tell them.

"Well, we had 'the talk' the other night," I began as I circled my feet in the sand. "We, um, you know, decided to be exclusive."

"Caroline, that's great!" Jessica exclaimed with such enthusiasm that she almost jumped out of her beach chair.

"Thanks," I responded with a smile. Jessica seemed genuinely excited for me, which was awesome to see. I mean, I knew my friends liked Justin, but you never know how people are going to respond when relationship steps are actually taken.

My happiness was premature. Darlene and Anna provided polite smiles and weak, one worded positive responses.

"Thanks, guys," I said with sarcasm. "Tell me what you really think," I insisted with some forced laughter. Come on, gals, I can take it!

"No, it's really awesome, Caroline," Darlene began without looking up at me. "But isn't this the guy you were just complaining to us about, like, a month ago?" She looked up at me and continued. "He totally freaked out on you for no reason and what, some good behavior for a couple weeks makes you forget it all?" She paused for a second and looked down at her feet again. "Not to be harsh or anything."

"No, I appreciate it," I responded, not knowing what else to say. I contemplated what to say next for a couple seconds before Jessica saved me.

"Hey, when you know you know, right? We all really liked him at Josh's house." Wow, who would've thought Jessica remembered anything from that night?

Darlene let out a soft laugh and muttered something under her breath. Anna leaned over and whispered to her. "Be nice," she said as she nudged her on the arm.

"What was that?" I asked, waiting for some sort of explanation. Did they not like Justin? If they were pretending this whole time, I would recommend they both move to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers right away. They could win Oscars.

Darlene let out a heavy sigh. "It's just, of course you're all for this, Jess." Oh, so this wasn't about me. "You want to defend any guy so that it seems like all guys suck and Josh isn't so bad." Okay, now Darlene was being harsh.

"You have got to be kidding me," Jessica said, rolling her eyes and lifting herself up from her beach chair. "You know, I haven't made up my mind about Josh yet, but if I choose to date him again, I'd hope, as my best friends, you guys would support me." She grabbed her wallet out of her beach bag. "I'm going to get a pretzel." She shook her head as she walked toward the boardwalk.

"Do you really think that was the best way to handle that?" Anna asked Darlene once Jessica was out of earshot.

"It had to be said," Darlene insisted as she rolled her neck multiple times. "Are we really going to allow her to date him?"

"She said she hasn't decided yet," I quietly responded. I couldn't help but feel a little down that Darlene and Anna weren't more supportive of my relationship. I understood that they were trying to make a point with Jessica, but Justin was not Josh. Couldn't they have some optimism.

"Yeah, but she has decided," Darlene began. "It's the same story every time. Josh screws up and Jessica swears him off for several months, but once he demonstrates one shred of human decency, Jessica goes running back to him!"

Jessica returned a few minutes later, still huffing and puffing like the big, bad wolf. The rest of our beach trip was a bit tense, but nobody brought up the incident for the rest of the time we sat on the beach.

"I'm going to jump in the water for a few minutes," I said as I got up and stretched my limbs. The water was cold, but felt good. As I treaded ocean water, I began to think. I really hoped that these men, Justin and Josh, could prove these nay sayers wrong.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4th of July

Justin and I were both off for the Fourth of July. (Nothing makes me feel more like an adult than not having to work on a holiday while still getting paid). New York was expecting stormy weather on the Fourth so I didn't really know what we were going to end up doing, but I was glad to be out of my house.

I headed over to Justin's apartment around noon. He opened the door shirtless and in basketball shorts. He looked good. Did I mention we were taking things slow now?

He greeted me with a kiss, placing his hand on my neck, behind my right ear. The lingering kiss felt intoxicating and I don't know if it was because we had already slept together or if I was just feeling so much more comfortable with Justin, but that was all it took. We spent the next hour or so under his covers.

After a sufficient amount of cuddling and pillow talk, Justin asked if I was hungry.

"Starving," I responded.

"Want to order in? There's a Chinese place I know is open today."

I agreed. He put on his boxers and walked over to his kitchen area to find the menu. I took the opportunity to get out of bed and get dressed without being self conscious that he would watch my every unflattering bend.

"So what do you want to do tonight?" I asked Justin as I began collecting my clothing off the floor.

"I don't know. I think they're going to set off fireworks at the beach if the weather holds out at least a little."

"Sounds awesome," I responded with a smile. The beach wasn't a far drive and I figured it would be romantic to sit on the beach, with Justin's arm around me, and watch fireworks.

The food arrived and we sat at Justin's tiny table near his fridge. I don't know if you can consider it a dining room table, but it was cute.

"I could get used to this," Justin said as he set down the plates.

"Me too," I responded. It was true.

"But we're taking this slow, right?" he asked with a wink. I was really happy that Justin had taken me seriously when I told him I wanted to slow down, but also glad that he didn't turn into a super jerk about it. Some guys would act like such douche bags about it. His seemingly perfect behavior made me actually start to feel bad. I hadn't been fair to Justin. I liked him a lot, so why was I holding back?

"I'm happy with our pace," I began as I scooped some lo mein out of a container with chop sticks onto my plate. "Maybe we could even go a little faster, if you're interested." I realized I was kind of nervous as I involuntarily bit my lower lip. This was a confusing spot for me. Was I asking a guy out? I mean, I knew he liked me and a few weeks ago, he seemed completely game for a relationship, but what if he changed his mind? It did feel kind of risky.

Justin's eyebrows went up. "Really?" he asked. He seemed surprised. My stomach started doing somersaults as he took a sip of water and let the silence linger. Come on, dude. Say something.

"A little faster works for me," he finally said after what felt like years. "So, am I your boyfriend?" he asked.

I pressed my lips together and felt my cheeks flush. "If you want me to be your girlfriend, you could be my boyfriend."

"Nothing would make me happier right now," Justin said back as he reached his hand across the table to touch mine.

"But, like, still slow," I blurted out. I let out a nervous laugh as I tried to back track. "I just, you know, don't want to move our new relationship too fast. I want to be your girlfriend because I don't want to hook up with anybody else, but I don't know if I'm ready for like, the whole song and dance. Does that make sense?" I must have sounded like such a spaz at that very moment. What is wrong with me?

Justin understandably looked confused. "Um, yeah. So I guess you don't want to meet my parents tomorrow?" Justin asked. Oh my goodness, was this kid serious? Had he already somehow arranged this?

"I kind of have a standing brunch with them," Justin began. "You know, they remain on call so that whenever I get a girlfriend, they can meet her as soon as possible." He finally cracked a smile.

I crumpled up a napkin and threw it at him. "You totally had me!" I screeched. He caught the napkin and tossed it back at me.

"I get it, Caroline," he said, getting serious again. "Listen, I've been hurt in the past. I'm fine with taking things slow, but your commitment is really what is most important to me. I don't need anything beyond that."

Besides the obvious red flag about his past, which I didn't care to dive into, Justin was being pretty sweet and considerate. We decided not to make it "Facebook official," and really only tell our close friends. The idea of publicly announcing a new relationship to random acquaintances always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't need the girl who sat behind me in tenth grade English to start cyber stalking the new guy in my life. When Mike and I started dating, I didn't even make our relationship "Facebook official" for two months and that was only after he practically begged me to. Silly men.

Anyway, I promised Justin that he was the only guy in my life. It felt nice to have a boy worry about me straying. As if. I can hardly handle one guy.

That was it. Justin and I were boyfriend and girlfriend. I have a boyfriend. Am I ready for this?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Falling in Fall

Anna and I sat down at a high top table in an overly crowded restaurant. The US was still in the World Cup at this point and playing that night so people were pretty excited. Soccer's not really my thang, but I appreciated the energy.

"So, how's Justin?" Anna asked as she looked around at everyone eagerly watching the televisions.

"He's good!" I exclaimed, with a little too much enthusiasm. Things had been amazing since the pool party. We texted every day and never seemed to run out of things to say to each other. It was starting to scare me how much I liked this guy.

"Yeah, we all approve," she responded with two thumbs up. The waiter came over and we each ordered water and salads. Everyone around us was binging on buffalo wings and mini pizzas, but the nights of eating out was starting to catch up to me. I definitely needed to slow my roll.

"I'm glad you guys liked him," I said with a smile. "Now, if only we could all approve of Josh like that."

Anna laughed. "The day that Darlene approves of Josh is the day that I kiss a frog and he turns into a prince," she said. Then she stuck out her bottom lip and added, "As if I'm ever going to find a prince charming on this stupid island."

I rolled my eyes at her. "Anna, you will. Come on!" It was true that she hadn't had tons of luck with men, but she met a lot of guys and I really admired that about her. It was hard for me to put myself out there, so when I met a guy I got along with, I really clung on to him. It sometimes made me feel like I wasn't seeing enough of what was out there. Anna would approach any guy at a bar and she even tried online dating. Plus, she moved around with jobs a lot, so she met guys at work way more than I did. She coaches during the school year, but over the summer she's worked at various camps. Fun fact, hots guys love to work at summer camps.

"I'm just tired of pointless dating. I want to be somebody's girlfriend again." Anna hadn't had a serious boyfriend since college, when she dated her high school sweetheart for five years. "Especially with my birthday coming up."

When the waiter brought our waters over, Anna immediately asked him for a gin and tonic. So much for a healthy, cleansing night.

"Maybe if things work out with Justin, I could set you up with one of his friends," I assured her. What good was dating a guy if you couldn't set his friends up with your friends?

"Thanks," Anna said rolling her eyes. "I'll take whatever charity I can get," she laughed. I knew Anna was okay with being single, but I understood how she felt. Even though I didn't want to lock things down with Justin yet, I truly valued having a guy in my life to chat with. As much as I hate to admit it, as a self-proclaimed semi-feminist, I find myself needing a guy to focus my attentions on. Before Justin, I always just obsessed about my ex-boyfriend, Mike. I didn't want to get back together. We had our closure and I was okay with us ending, but I still found myself thinking about him a lot. Over the years, I have realized that I just really like to think about someone.

"Anyway," Anna began as the waiter dropped off her gin and tonic along with our salads. "This camp is kicking my butt. I doubt I'd even have time for a relationship right now. Maybe in the Fall."

"Maybe you'll fall for someone in the Fall," I said as I stuck my tongue out at her. She playfully flung a small piece of lettuce across the table at me.

Even though the US was eliminated from the World Cup that night, Anna and I didn't care. Anna had two gin and tonics, which made it comical to watch her walk through the parking lot to my car. She wasn't drunk, but she had the kind of buzz that makes you really appreciate alcohol consumption in a friend. As I drove her home, she took out her phone.

"Let's call someone," she said with widening eyes. I tried to focus on the road as I saw her scrolling through her contacts list.

"No, let's not and say we did," I said with a deep breathe. I was not in the mood to reconnect with any random high school acquaintance from Anna's phone.

"It'll be so funny, Caroline!" Anna insisted as she stomped her feet in my car. "What about Moose?" she asked.

I let out a sigh as I continued driving. "Just wait until you get home and you can call whoever you want." I honestly knew Anna wasn't drunk enough to make any drunken mistakes, but if she did call Moose I didn't want to be present for it. We weren't exactly on comfortable terms.

"That's no fun," Anna responded as she turned her attention back to her phone. "Let's prank him."

Luckily I was almost at Anna's house. All I had to do was stall her for a little while longer.

Anna remained quiet, so I didn't have to do any talking in order to stall. She looked down at her phone, as if she was studying it, for the next minute until I pulled up to her house.

"Thanks for the ride!" she exclaimed as she looked away from her phone to give me a hug goodbye.

"No problem," I said with confusion. She suddenly didn't want to make any phone calls? Not that I was disappointed, but it seemed weird.

Anna got out of my car and skipped into her house. She looked like a kindergardener on her first day of elementary school. Ah, alcohol, you are wonderful.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pool Party: Part Two

I was enjoying the beautiful night swim when I decided to ask the question I really wanted to ask. "Did you know Andrew was going to be here?” I wasn't mad, but why wouldn't Jessica simply give me a heads up? Especially since she knew I was bringing Justin.

"No idea," Jessica muttered in one breath. "So, do you think I should stay here tonight?" Jessica clearly only had her own issues on her mind. Or she was just too drunk to comprehend a conversation. Oh boy, what was Justin about to walk into?

I insisted that Jessica and I get out of the pool so I could be near my phone. I knew Justin would be arriving any minute. I sat and tried to avoid any eye contact with Andrew. Jessica was sitting on Josh's lap, twirling her hair. Darlene began to roll her eyes and I had to nudge her to stop.

Justin texted me that he had arrived. "Justin's here. I should probably go meet him at the gate since he's never been here." I was definitely explaining  too much, but I wanted to make it clear that Justin was my kind of, sort of, not really even close to, boyfriend.

I opened the gate and watched Justin walk down the driveway towards me. He had on a dark green bathing suit and a white t-shirt. His look was simple, which is part of what attracted me to him in the first place.

I greeted him with a kiss and felt all the stress of the guests inside leave my body. My friends were going to love Justin and I would avoid looking at Andrew the whole night.

We walked through the gate and I introduced Justin to all my friends, including Josh and Andrew. Then I nudged Justin and told him the water felt amazing. Even though it was, I really just wanted to get away from that table. I suddenly remembered the last time I was in an awkward situation with Justin. I totally lied to him and we ended up having sex for the first time. I don't know how I ended up in a similar situation a few weeks later, but I decided I would handle it very different. I still didn't think it was appropriate for me to reveal my whole past to Justin this early on, but I wouldn't alter the plans of the night for the sake of an old, kind of fling.

Darlene and Anna joined us in the pool. I was glad that it could be just the four of us for a little while so that they could really get to know Justin. They seemed to love him and I did a mental victory dance. Jessica was too drunk, and at this point, she was basically sleeping on Josh's lap while he talked to Andrew. I figured winning over two thirds of my friends was enough for now.

For the rest of the night, Justin, Darlene, Anna, and I all took turns doing fun jumps off of the diving board. I can’t imagine Justin winning over my friends anymore than he did and it made me feel great. Maybe this thing with him could be something real?

I got out of the pool to go to the bathroom with Darlene. As we were walking into the house, Andrew was walking out.

"Oh, hey guys," Andrew said, but he was only looking at me. "I'm actually heading out, so I'll see you around soon." We were still wet from the pool, so he just gave a general wave goodbye. As we walked into the house, I felt great.

"I'm so glad tonight went well," I said to Darlene as she came out of the bathroom.

"Yeah, it could've been disastrous," she replied as I went to take my turn. "What do you think? Has Josh really changed?" she asked through the door.

I contemplated the question for a moment. "Maybe," I said back through the door. I really didn't want to have this conversation through the door, in case Josh walked into the house.

Once I walked out of the bathroom, Darlene gave me her opinion. "I think it's only a matter of time before he shows his true colors again. Tigers don't lose their stripes, am I wrong?" She was a little drunk, but I didn't realize until now. Jessica was really outshining everyone with her antics.

I thought it would be better at this point to get everybody home. After all, we all had work the next morning. Everyone seemed ready to go. Everyone except Jessica, that is. She insisted on staying at Josh's and since I didn't feel like being a mom, I gave her a hug and simply thanked her for having us over. I did the same with Josh.

Justin and I waved goodbye to Darlene and Anna as they walked to Anna’s car. "You were a hit," I said to Justin as we began walking towards our cars. "My friends totally love you!"

Justin mimed the action of brushing dirt off his shoulders. "It's what I do. It's what I do. So, what're you doing now?" he asked.

"I really should be getting home," I slowly responded. I had an amazing time with Justin, but I still wanted to wait before jumping back into bed with him. I realized that even though I initially gave him the wrong idea, we seemed to be in a really good place right now. I didn't want to mess that up.

He leaned down and kissed me goodbye before walking away. I couldn't have asked for a better night and even though I thought the Andrew thing was going to be crazy awkward, maybe I built things up in my mind too much. However, I did feel like I made Andrew a tiny bit jealous and as much as I hate to admit it, it was a little, microscopic win. A girl can't help herself sometimes!