Big Girls Need Love Too
Molly Sampson mentally catalogued her flaws. She’d become more than aware of them after being her older sister’s maid of honor a few months ago.
Five foot four inches. Forty-eight. Forty. Fifty-two.
Her measurements also served as the numbers to the combination lock she used when she went to the gym. She looked at them as a motivational tool.
Despite having a gym membership, she didn’t know what number corresponded with her weight, since she only stepped on a scale when she had a doctor’s appointment. She’d done her best to erase the memory of that particular measurement from her mind.
So really, why was she sitting here in Clicks—a smoky pool hall a mile away from her apartment—knowing good and well her best friend Benjamin intended to hook her up with some unknown guy? Especially when the population of their hometown of Waco, Texas consisted of spoiled, rich Baylor brats, men who were already married or single dads who barely managed to pay their child support—if they paid it at all.
What were you thinking, asking Benjamin to set you up on a bunch of blind dates? Molly took a sip of her Pineapple and Parrot Bay. Oh, yeah, it was that whole trying new things, meeting new people, attempting to date resolution you made.
She rolled her eyes. Whatever had possessed her to make a New Year’s resolution like that—hell, to make one at all for the first time in her twenty-six years of life—was beyond her. But she’d only made the resolution a few days before, and she didn’t like to renege on a promise, even if it was a silly one made in the early hours of January first to no one but herself.
She sneezed. Ugh, she knew this had been a bad idea. Not only was the cigarette smoke aggravating her allergies, but she had to have been temporarily insane to agree to meet a guy in a bar of all places. Could she get any more cliché? How romantic could neon Lone Star beer signs and Corona advertisements be anyway? Although she did have to admit that the grass-skirt wearing Spanky the Monkey—the pool hall’s mascot who hung from the ceiling in the bar area—did add a certain amount of class to the establishment.
“Earth to Molly. Did you hear a word I just said?”
Her head snapped up at the sound of Benjamin’s voice. He stood across the table from her, holding one of the bar’s famous Big Ass Beers in his hand, with an impatient expression on his bearded face. Man, she must’ve really zoned out, because Benjamin rarely got impatient.
“Sorry, hon. I was thinking.”
“Stop doing that.”
“But thinking is good.”
“Not when you’re mentally cataloguing every single flaw you think you have.”
She tucked a strand of dark auburn hair behind her ear. “What makes you think I was doing that?”
He raised a brown eyebrow.
“Okay, you’re right. Get out of my head.”
The problem with being best friends with someone you’ve known since junior high was that they also knew all of the things you obsessed over.
“Moll, you know I love you, but sometimes you just think way too damned much.”
“I know. I know. It’s just…” she paused, trying to find the right words. “I haven’t been on a date in three years. I haven’t kissed someone in almost two. And it’s been so long since I last had sex that I’’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to do it. So right now I kind of feel like I’m jumping into the deep end of the pool and all I know how to do is doggie paddle.”
He took a swig of his beer before responding. “At least you know how to doggie paddle. And I know it’s a big step, Molly. But don’t you think it’’s time to get back out here in the world and try to meet someone? You’re great. Any guy would be lucky to have you.”
I don’t want just “any guy,” though. I want you.
And that was the one thing her best friend didn’t know about her—that her other New Year’s resolution had been to fall out of love.
Before she could get too lost in her thoughts, Benjamin’s deep voice interrupted her again. “Barrett should be here any minute now.”
Molly tucked a strand of hair behind her ear again before readjusting her sweater over her stomach. What had she been thinking, wearing something so clingy? Her fingers itched to grab the jacket draped across the back of her stool, but the bar was extremely warm and she kept fighting back the urge to push up her sleeves.
She took a deep breath in a desperate attempt to steady herself and looked at Benjamin. “Am I crazy for doing this? What if he doesn’t like me? What if he thinks I’m fat and ugly or too smart or talk too much or have too many freckles or…something?”
He leaned across the round, waist-high table and ducked his head so they were at eye level. She’d always loved how his hazel eyes would change color depending upon his mood. Right now they were green, which meant he was either horny or irritated. Some instinct told her to bet money on the latter. “Molly, listen to me. Stop thinking about your size for just a little while. Despite what you think, you’re not fat. And if Barrett doesn’t like you, it’s his loss.”
Molly opened her mouth to object—after all, her combination lock kind of disproved his notion that she wasn’t fat—but the door to the bar opened before she could get the words out, and her attention was redirected to the attractive guy who had just walked in. The attractive guy who headed straight towards Benjamin.
He was tall with sandy brown hair and a somewhat large build, the type of guy Molly would usually go for. Well, if she were the type to “go for” it to begin with.
In all honesty, she would be lying to herself if she said her interest wasn’t slightly piqued. He had a nice boy look about him, but his piercings added a little bit of an edge. She’d never really been into guys with piercings, but the hoop in his eyebrow and the labret in his lower lip were oddly appealing.
Benjamin must have noticed that Molly’s attention was riveted on something—or someone—and turned in the direction of her gaze.
“Hey man, what’s up?” he said to the newcomer.
Molly watched as they did what she referred to as the guy hug—a one-armed shoulder pump, back pat sort of thing that vaguely reminded her of a gorilla mating ritual where the two alpha males battled it out over the poor, unsuspecting female gorilla.
“Nothing much,” the guy said.
Benjamin grabbed his beer with one hand before saying, “Oh, hey, Barrett, I’d like you to meet my best friend Molly.” He turned back to her. “Molly, this is Barrett.”
She resisted the urge to rub her palms on her jeans before taking Barrett’s proffered right hand in her own. “Nice to meet you.” Okay, her voice sounded calm enough. Normal. Even.
He smiled. Molly let go of his hand and promptly gave in to the urge to rub her hands on the thighs of her faded blue jeans before sitting up straighter and adjusting her sweater over her stomach. Again.
“Nice to meet you, too.” He sat down on the empty stool to her right.
Their waitress appeared and took Barrett’s order, bringing him back a Bud Light after a few moments.
Molly’s stomach was a ball of nervous tension, and she gave up on listening to the idle chatter Barrett and Benjamin were making. She couldn’t stop looking at him and the piercings in his ear. She wasn’t sure what it was about them, but she found the different studs and hoops somewhat fascinating. Along with having his eyebrow and labret pierced, he also had both ears pierced. He laughed at something Benjamin said, and she saw a flash of silver on his tongue.
She shifted slightly in her seat. Crossed her legs. Uncrossed them. Fiddled with her own earring. Picked up her straw and started to chew on it. Can I like a guy who owns better earrings than I do? More importantly, would he let me borrow them? He laughed again at Benjamin, and that same flash of silver once again caught her attention.
“So, Molly’s a really good photographer.”
Molly jumped at the sound of Benjamin’s voice. She’d been thinking way too hard about that tongue ring.
“Really?” Barrett asked. “What do you take pictures of?”
She picked up her drink and sipped before answering, trying to pull herself back to the present. “Well, I prefer to shoot kids. Wait a second, that didn’t sound right.”
He laughed. “I know what you mean, though.”
“Good, because that made me sound like some weird mass murderer or something.” She smiled and licked her lips. “Anyway, I like to photograph kids, but I’ve mostly been photographing flowers and plants here lately.”
“Really? That’s interesting.”
“Yeah, she has this really cool photo of a flower in her bedroom—what is it, Molly?” Benjamin asked.
“It’s an orchid.” She could feel a faint blush warming her ears.
“That’s right, an orchid. Anyway,” he turned towards Barrett, “she did this really neat effect with it, turned the flower and background itself into black and white, but kept the color of the middle part, so it looks like this big, pink pu—” he cut a look to Molly, “—vagina in the middle of this black and white photo.”
“Reeeally?” Barrett asked.
Great. Now he probably thinks I’m a perv. And it’s vulva, not vagina.
Barrett’s question caused the warmth from her ears to creep into her cheeks. Well, at least now maybe my freckles aren’t standing out as much. “Yeah. I kind of saw it, but another photographer friend of mine helped me come up with the idea. And I wasn’t meaning to sexualize it—actually, the first thing that stood out to me is that there’s a part of the flower that looks like a yellow butterfly right in the middle of it, so I wanted to bring that out. It just happened that when I did that, the pink part stood out even more, and I realized that it did indeed look like well, a woman’s lady bits. And ever since then, I’ve never been able to look at flowers the same way.”
Barrett laughed. “I’ll have to see this photo sometime.”
“Maybe, yeah.” That would require having Barrett in her bedroom, and she wasn’t sure she wanted him there just yet, even if he did have a pierced tongue.
Benjamin stood up and stretched. “I’m going to go to the bathroom real quick.”
“Okay,” Molly said.
Silence fell over the table as Benjamin walked away, broken only by the sound of Aerosmith blaring from the loud speakers. Several long moments went by before either of them said anything.
“So, are you from here?”
Molly looked at Barrett. “Yup. Born and raised. You?”
“A little bit of everywhere, but mostly Lampasas.”
“Fun. Y’know, we went there once in high school for an academic competition, and we kept talking about how everyone in the town looked inbred.”
The blush crept further down her face and inched towards her neck. “I so did not mean that the way it sounded. It was just, everybody looked alike, and you know how high school kids are…” Oh, God, this was getting worse by the second. Why couldn’t a hole open up underneath her barstool and suck her in?
She glanced towards the other side of the bar, looking for Benjamin. Damn. He was talking to someone. Guess I’m on my own to clean this one up. “I am so sorry, Barrett. Everything is coming out wrong tonight.”
He chuckled before taking a swig of his beer. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Most of the people there are douche bags anyway.”
“Well, okay then. No offense taken?”
His knee bumped hers under the table. She waited for him to move it, to realize he’d accidentally invaded her personal space, but he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t realize his knee had bumped against her leg, maybe he thought it was the table. She swallowed and almost held her breath waiting for him to move, but still she felt nothing but the warmth of his leg pressing against hers. She frowned. Considering her thus far erotic thoughts, the lack of a physical response to his touch surprised her. Chalk it up to sexual repression, Moll. Besides, it wasn’t as though the tongue ring fantasy had come out of nowhere—she’d wondered about that ever since someone had explained the jewelry’s use her freshman year of college. Which, subsequently, had been long before she’d even experienced the joy that was oral sex. Or, hell, sex period.
God, you’re such a good girl.
Realizing they’d been silent for a while, she spoke over the click of balls on the pool tables behind them. “So, what do you do?”
“I’m a cook at Texas Roadhouse.”
“Really?” Great, he had a part time job as a cook at a steakhouse. What was Benjamin thinking? She moved her knee away from Barrett’s.
“Yeah, it’s something to pay the bills while I’m finishing up at MCC.”
Okay, that was a little better. Granted, going to the local community college part time wasn’t quite the same as going to a university, but it was better than not pursuing higher education at all. “What’re you majoring in?”
His knee bumped hers again. “Well, I was majoring in radiology, but it’s way too competitive, so right now I’m getting some basics out of the way before I decide on something else.”
“My sister was a radiology major for a while at MCC. I’ve heard horror stories about how competitive some of the students can get.” She leaned back and once again moved her leg.
“It can get rough. Plus, I’d lost the passion for it, and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore.” He shifted in his seat, leaning forward just a little bit as he did so.
Their eyes met. Blue green. Huh. She’d always been a sucker for blue green eyes. Too bad she wasn’t attracted to him. “I know what you mean about losing the passion for something. I started out in college as a journalism major, but realized I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Granted, I’m still a news junkie and would love to have a syndicated column, or write for RollingStone, but I’m just not as passionate about it as I was in high school.”
“Yeah. That’s actually where I picked up the interest in photography. I got lucky enough to take pictures from the sidelines at football games, and figured out I had a knack for it. Plus, being so close to all those cute boys in tight pants always gave me a little thrill.” She grinned.
“I’m guessing that would be a plus if you’re a chick. Did you ever get hit with a ball?”
“I almost did a couple of times, along with almost getting tackled at least a dozen times. Luckily, though, I somehow managed to avoid any injuries, which is odd considering how much of a klutz I am.”
He laughed. “Oh, I’m a klutz, too. I swear I trip over my own feet sometimes.” His knee bumped hers again. Okay, maybe he really was just clumsy.
“Me, too! I’ll wake up with bruises wondering how I got them.”
“Well, I know they’re not from doing anything fun, but I have to be getting them from somewhere.” Like from your knee if you keep hitting me with it. She shifted the position of her legs yet again.
“No, I don’t think so. Although it wouldn’t surprise me, since I talk in my sleep constantly.”
He raised his pierced eyebrow in question.
“Yeah. I’ve actually woken myself up talking in my sleep. And my mema—that’s my grandma—used to comment all the time on how I’d just been yackin’ away at someone in my dreams. I was always afraid she was going to hear something she really did not need to hear.”
Barrett threw his head back and laughed. “Yeah, that might not have been a good thing.”
“No. Especially not with some of the dreams I have.”
“And what kind of dreams might those be?”
The waitress walked up before Molly could answer. “Y’all doing okay?”
“Could I get another beer?” Barrett asked.
“Sure.” The waitress smiled and turned her attention to Molly. “And you?”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you, though.” So far Barrett hadn’t tried to play the knee version of footsies under the table again. Thank God.
“No problem. I’ll be right back with your beer,” the waitress said to Barrett before she turned and walked away, gathering empties from several tables as she made her way to the bar.
“So, about those dreams…” Barrett said.
“What about dreams?” Benjamin asked as he plopped down on the chair he’d previously vacated.
“I was just asking Molly about dreams she was afraid of her grandmother knowing about.” Barrett shifted his body slightly away from Molly and towards Benjamin.
“You have sexual dreams?” Benjamin asked Molly, fake shock in his voice.
“Yes, I have sexual dreams. Who doesn’t?” She rolled her eyes.
“The Pope, maybe?” Barrett suggested.
“Good point,” Benjamin conceded.
The waitress returned with Barrett’s beer and he pulled a five-dollar bill from his wallet. He handed it to the waitress, who made change and gave him back a dollar and fifty cents. He tipped her a quarter and turned back to the table. Looking at Benjamin, he said, “Susan called me again last night.”
“Really? What the hell did she want?”
“Me to come over again.” He took a swig of his beer.
“Again?” Benjamin paused. “Wait. Did you fuck her?”
If Molly had been drinking something at that moment, she probably would have spit it out.
“Yeah, once. A couple months ago.”
“I can’t believe you hit that.”
I can’t believe y’all are actually talking about this in front of me.
Barrett shrugged. “Katrina and I had just broken up, and I was drunk. She took advantage of me.”
“Katrina?” Molly asked.
“Yes, Molly, that Katrina,” Benjamin said.
“Katrina the Skank?” That was what Benjamin and a couple other guys had dubbed Katrina a couple of months ago after it got out she’d cheated on her ex-boyfriend and then supposedly given him an STD.
“One and the same.”
“Oh, you know her?” This from Barrett.
“Yeah. You dated her?” Molly asked. Benjamin tried to set me up with someone who’d dated Katrina? Gross. What the hell was he thinking?
“For a while. Until she cheated on me with some loser from Austin.”
“Color me surprised.” Locals often referred to Waco as “the biggest small town ever,” and Katrina had managed to make quite a reputation for herself—and that was before the STD incident.
The sarcasm must have been lost upon Barrett. “I was surprised. I didn’t see it coming at all. I mean, things hadn’t been great for a while, but I didn’t realize they were that bad, either.”
“That still isn’t an excuse for sleeping with Susan,” Benjamin said.
“Wait,” Molly said. “Do I know Susan?”
“Yeah. Susan. Blonde. Big girl. Got her ass kicked at Shot Daddy’s by some biker bitch about a year ago,” Benjamin said.
“Ohhh. That Susan.” She started to put two and two together. “She’s kind of got a reputation, too, doesn’t she?”
“Slightly, yeah,” Benjamin said.
She turned to Barrett. “So you slept with both Katrina and Susan?” If she’d been remotely attracted to him, her feelings would have completely dissipated at this point. “You might want to go get checked out, because there’s not much telling how many diseases you’ve gotten from the two of them combined.” She made a mental note to wash her jeans as soon as she got home. Sure, gonorrhea couldn’t be passed by clothing to clothing contact, but she felt the need for a heavy dose of penicillin at just the thought of Barrett touching her after sleeping with both of them.
Barrett had just taken a drink of his beer and seemed to have trouble swallowing. After several moments, he finally managed to speak. “You might have a point.”
Molly’s attention was drawn to the entrance of the bar again as Emery, a Cindy Lou Who look-alike, walked in. Well, if Dr. Seuss had drawn Cindy Lou Who in an over-sized sweatshirt, well-worn blue jeans and a pair of beat up Nike’s.
She walked up to their table and aimed a beaming smile in Benjamin’s direction. He wrapped his arm around her, scooping her towards him so he could lean in and place a kiss on her lips. Molly felt a small pang of jealousy at his open display of affection, and took a quick sip of her drink in an effort to squash her reaction.
Benjamin had been dating Emery for going on three months now, and Molly had avoided her for the first two of those. However, she’d soon run out of excuses (a girl could only wash her hair so many times before people started thinking she was either lying or had a severe dandruff problem) and had broken down and met Emery. To Molly’s dismay, she’d found herself liking the other woman, and understanding what Benjamin saw in her.
Emery had recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from Baylor and was currently studying for the GRE to get into grad school. She’d also just taken a high-paying job at a hotel in Dallas as a manager. The only black mark against her seemed to be that Emery didn’t watch football, and Benjamin was probably the biggest football nut she’d ever met.
The love birds finally tore their lips away from each other, allowing Emery to turn to Molly and smile. “Hi, Molly. It’s great to see you out.”
She smiled faintly. “Well, I could only stay in my rabbit hole for so long before I ran out of carrots.”
Did I really just say that?
“Carrots? Are you a vegetarian?” Barrett asked.
Was he blind? Vegetarians did not wear a size twenty, or if they did Molly sure hadn’t ever seen one. “Hardly.”
“Oh. Well, it’s just you said you’d run out of carrots.”
Molly glanced at Benjamin. She apparently needed to set some ground rules here, the first of which being any guy he set her up with had to at least have the IQ of a gorilla. Or a dolphin. Dolphins were smart.
Benjamin whispered something in Emery’s ear.
“Barrett, I’m gonna go play some songs, wanna help me pick some?” Emery asked.
He finished his beer and slid off his barstool. “Sure.”
The two of them walked off. Benjamin watched Emery the entire way. Did he ever look at me that way?
He finally tore his gaze from Emery and turned towards Molly.
No, he’s definitely never looked at me that way.
“Okay, so maybe Barrett isn’t the best choice for you, but this was the best I could do on short notice.”
She shook her head and pushed away her morose thoughts. “I think saying he’s not the best choice for me might be an understatement. I mean, he seems nice enough, just a little slow on the uptake. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s made some questionable decisions considering he’s slept with both Susan and Katrina. It’s a bit of a turn-off, hon.”
“Why are you doing this anyway? All of a sudden deciding to go out on a bunch of dates is completely unlike you.”
Molly shrugged and looked towards the jukebox across the bar. Barrett and Emery were engrossed in their musical choices, so Molly turned her attention back to Benjamin. “I just decided it was time for me to meet someone. Maybe have some fun.”
“Except you don’t seem to be having much fun.”
She squirmed in her seat and reached up to play with the dragonfly hanging from the thin silver chain around her neck. “I’m just not used to this. It’s going to take some time. Plus, I’m not sure this even counts as a date. Does it?”
She felt clueless when it came to this whole dating thing. Then again, the only thing she did know was that dating and attraction as an adult weren’t anywhere near as simple as when you were a child. When you were a kid and you liked someone, all you had to do to show your affection was pull their hair, kick them in the knee and send them a note asking, “Do you have cooties? Check yes or no.” Simple. Straightforward. Not a lot of room for guessing games.
If the Friends reruns she loved were any indication, though, dating as an adult was nothing but a series of guessing games.
Benjamin’s voice drew her out of her thoughts. “No, I don’t think this really counts as a date. This is more you sticking your toes in the water before jumping in headfirst.”
A slight pang of jealousy and regret ricocheted inside of her. Benjamin always seemed to know just what to say and do for her. Does Emery know how lucky she is?
Emery and Barrett returned to the table. Emery smiled at Benjamin, who smiled back at her, and they greeted each other with a long, slow kiss as though they’d been separated for months rather than just a few minutes. The jealousy threatened to take over, so Molly averted her gaze.
She desperately needed her Getting Over Benjamin plan to work. Otherwise, she was screwed. And not in a good way.