Home > Come As You Are(3)

Come As You Are(3)
Author: Lauren Blakely

“That was a good photo,” I say drily, thinking of the shot from two years ago when I was twenty-seven. “So that’s understandable.”

The security guard yanks the woman’s hands behind her back. “Time to go, miss. No pizza where you’re going.” He turns to me. “I’m so sorry about this, Mr. Parker.”

“Hey, no worries. It’s all in a day.”

As he drags her away, she twists around to face me and shouts, “Pepperoni. You can eat pepperoni off my stomach.”

“Tempting, but I’ve never cared for pepperoni.” I give the latest gold digger a “good riddance” wave. Props to her—she used a different angle before throwing herself at me.

Once I exit the hotel on Sixth Avenue, I pop in some earbuds. Time to use the shield of the modern New Yorker, since it’s clearly another day, another marriage proposal.

Maybe I sound calloused. Maybe I am.

I have nothing against marriage, nothing against women, and nothing against love. In fact, I wouldn’t mind settling down one day. But I don’t know how I’ll ever find the right one. As soon as someone knows who I am, all I am is a bank account.

Yeah, yeah, woe is me. Grab the violin and sing a lament. I deserve zero sympathy for my mega first-world problem. Poor little rich boy can’t find love.

I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m one of the luckiest bastards around, but being ridiculously successful sure does make dating hard. I honestly can’t remember the last time a woman was interested in me—just me, and not my wallet.

Today’s impromptu proposal might be the epitome of my biggest dating challenge because I wasn’t just hit on. I wasn’t merely pitched. I was dug.

Gold dug.

And I’m tired of it.

2

Sabrina

Today I will get rid of the albatross.

I will extradite it from my life and make some moolah to boot.

I gaze up at the sign on the glass door for the consignment shop in the West Village. This shop has the highest ratings on Yelp for its offers on never-been-used items. The sign Once More is etched in calligraphy on the glass.

I square my shoulders, run a hand over my braid, and turn to my best friend, Courtney. I give her a crisp nod. “Today’s the day.”

She pumps a fist and utters a quiet but victorious yes.

“Try not to get too excited,” I tease.

“I can’t help myself. I’ve been waiting for this moment for, oh, the last eight months and three days.”

“Some things take time,” I acknowledge, as a soft summer breeze blows by. I run a hand over my leopard-print skirt, which hits several inches above the knee. Like a leopard, I’m tough, and I’m fierce. That’s what I tell myself, at least. Surely leopards give themselves pep talks too. “But when you’re ready you’re ready.”

She squeezes my arm. “And you’re ready. You’re so ready.”

I fashion my hand into a fist. “We’ll seal it with a vow.” I cringe at my last word, then I shake it off. A vow between friends is different. “No matter what, today is the last day we see that dress.”

Courtney squeaks, knocking her fist with mine. “Nothing you say could make me happier. Well, you dating again could.”

I scoff. “One step at a time.”

“I know, but the prospect of it makes me want to jump up and down and set you up with all the hot, sexy single men I know.”

I arch a brow. “The men you know are hot?”

Laughing, she waggles her hand like a seesaw. “That’s debatable. Maybe only a few are hot.”

“Let’s deal with the dress first.”

I reach for the door handle and pretend I’m heading into an interview, dealing with a CEO who’s been trying to stonewall me or with a biz-dev guy who doesn’t want to give up the goods for an article.

When I open the door, bells chime.

They sound like wedding bells.

Damn it.

With a hand on my back, Courtney gently but ever-so-firmly pushes me over the threshold. Not exactly the threshold I thought I’d be crossing eight months ago.

A cute teenager with ringlet curls and combat boots rushes over to us. “Hi, there! Can I help you?”

I look her square in the eye, saying words out loud that were once far too painful. “I’m Sabrina. I have a wedding dress I never wore. I dropped off the unused dress this morning and was told that Sasha would appraise and have a price for me this afternoon.”

The teen offers a sympathetic smile. “It’s all for the best,” she says, and I wonder how often she says that and if she means it. I wonder what questions she asks the other once-upon-a-time brides who never were.

I wonder if they’re anything like the questions this dress has asked me every day for the last eight months and three days.

Would you like to turn me into drapes?

Would you prefer to slash me with a knife?

Would you like to sell me to the highest bidder on eBay?

“It’s completely for the best,” Courtney cuts in. “And I’m sure Sasha can find it a good home.”

“Sasha knows everything about dresses.” The teenager flashes a big smile. “Let me go find her. Feel free to look around. I should be back in a couple minutes. Also, love your boots,” she says to me, and I look down and realize we’re wearing the same style.

Boots, short patterned skirts I made myself, and solid tops. My uniform when I’m not working.

I wear my uniform most of the time these days.

We wander to a shelf full of vintage pots and pans in army green and lemon yellow. They’re fifties kitschy and not my style on account of the fact that I have a hate-hate relationship with the kitchen. The oven detests me as much as I despise cooking. I swear, sometimes I think the stove plots my death since it overreacts every time I try to cook rice. What other explanation is there for the way the pot bubbles over?

I run my finger over the handle of a pot. “Unused,” I say, and the word tastes vile. “That’s the worst kind of adjective to assign to a wedding dress. Especially one like mine. No wonder I couldn’t sell it at the other two shops we tried.”

Courtney gives me a skeptical stare. “You tried shops that don’t carry wedding dresses.”

“Be that as it may, I don’t know if anyone wants a wedding dress that was never worn.”

“Of course someone does, and that’s why we’re here. This store specializes in reselling dresses, among other things. And just think, your dress will soon go to some other bride who’ll give it a good home,” Courtney says, ever the optimist.

The dress is the last vestige of my almost nuptials.

I’d returned all the plates and mixers, as well as the Keurigs (Ray registered for three coffee makers? Was he going to set up an underground Keurig ring?) and the two pasta makers (show me anyone besides a cook on the Food Network who even knows how to operate one of those contraptions). I sold the ring recently, and thank God my ex-fiancé had a mildly decent salary, because that little stone will help pay some bills for the next few months.

Which is a good thing, since I lost my job last week.

Yeah, that only sucked a little bit.

But it wasn’t my fault.

I take some solace in the fact that the newspaper where I’d worked for the last six years cut half its reporting staff, so it wasn’t personal.

Courtney wanders past the pots to a collection of vintage glasses, the kind with old-fashioned sayings sold at roadside hotels out on Route 66.

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