"So, do you think this will be weird for you?" I asked Cayden, glancing over at him in the passenger seat. It was Saturday night, and we were driving to Fort Worth to meet up with Brady and his girlfriend Lexi.
"No, why do you ask?" Cayden said, looking truly stumped. As if I didn't have a history with Brady. As if I hadn't been sleeping with him earlier that year. As if I hadn't almost had a threesome with him and his hot lesbian neighbor, which did in fact turn into a raunchy twosome with just Brady himself.
"Well, you know. Because Brady and I have a history," I said, half wondering if Cayden had completely spaced out the Brady chapter of my life, or if he maybe thought we were meeting up with a completely different Brady. Oh god, what if that was it? What if he was just now going to put it together that the Brady we were about to go have dinner with was the same Brady who left bite marks on me? I winced, waiting for his reaction.
"I know, Whitney," he said, reaching over to squeeze my thigh. "We all have a past. But you're going as my date tonight, and I couldn't be happier about that. Besides, Brady seems like a good guy. I'm looking forward to meeting him."
My jaw dropped and I had to pick it up quickly to keep Cayden from noticing. How could he be so freakin cool about this? No, it's not that I wanted him to be mad or jealous or uncomfortable or anything, but the thought of hanging out with Cayden and a girl he used to sleep with made my skin crawl. It made my stomach turn. Speaking of which, we'd both woken up feeling much better that morning. I was convinced we'd survived the 24-hour bug, but by mid-afternoon I'd lost most of my energy and something wasn't sitting right in my stomach. I tried to ignore it and make the most of the rest of Cayden's visit.
"So, are he and Lexi pretty serious, then? They've been together a while now, right?"
"You know, I think he asked her out two days before I came to London. So that means they've been officially together exactly one week longer than we have. And yes, they're pretty serious," I said. "She's gorgeous. He did well."
"So did I," Cayden said.
I drove the rest of the way to Fort Worth with a painfully huge smile on my face. I couldn't help but wonder how I got so lucky. He'd seen me at my absolute worst the day before, and it didn't scare him away. He'd seen me with no make up, bags under my eyes, hair sticking straight up, shaking, with jalapeno-vomit breath, and he still thought I was a prize. Go figure. Of course, the feeling was mutual.
Brady met us in the parking lot of Lexi's apartment complex, where he greeted me with a hug and Cayden with a handshake. I watched them as they chatted. Did I ever think these two worlds would come together? My long-distance obsession and my local friend with benefits? Some guy I kicked in a bar in NYC and some guy I used to dance with in ballroom dance class in college? It was trippy trying to take it all in. Then I thought about how I'd seen them both naked. I'd had sex with both of the tall, attractive men in front of me. And then I felt like a skank and wanted to high five myself at the same time.
I felt my cheeks grow hot and red, so I was thankful it was too dark outside for them to notice.
Brady led us inside, where Lexi greeted us with cold beers. As usual, she looked absolutely gorgeous. Her thick, straight brown hair fell to her shoulders, and her big brown eyes shone brightly when she smiled. She was cute, sexy, and beautiful all at the same time. Oh, and she was a sweetheart.
We left the boys in the living room to talk about sports/boobs/sex/beer/etc and Lexi gave me a tour of her apartment. Of course, the main attraction was her closet.
"You've got to see this," she said, swinging the door open.
The closet stretched the length of her entire apartment. I could do three cartwheels and a round off in there if I wanted to (and if I didn't think I'd pull a muscle or five).
"This is legit bigger than my entire Upper East Side apartment in New York," I said, scanning its contents: dresses, shoes, sweaters. If I were her, I'd throw a party in my closet just because I could.
"So, how are things going with Cayden?" she asked.
"Well, aside from the fact that we were both on our death beds last night, things have been perfect! He really likes it here. I can't wait to show him Fort Worth!"
Oh, let me rewind. Lexi didn't know Brady and I had a thing. We'd like to keep it that way to avoid any awkwardness, so I tried to avoid girl talks with Lexi because I was always afraid I'll let something slip. So I suddenly realized I was cornered in a closet with the last person I wanted to have girl talk with. What if she asked how things were going romantically with Cayden and I and then she made some kind of comment about something Brady did in bed and I said, "I know, right?"
I had to get out of there.
"Well, I'm starving," I said, backing out of the closet. "What's the plan?"
I took uncharacteristically long strides back to the living room.
"Ready?" I asked to no one in particular.
Cayden's and Brady's eyes were glued to a football game on TV. They both half turned to me, trying to acknowledge me and watch the game at the same time. I tried to chug my beer, but my stomach wasn't having it.
"Let's go," Brady said, standing up and stretching. It must have been between quarters in the game.
"Where to?" I asked.
"Brady and I went to this restaurant called Yucatan Taco Stand the other day, and they have amazing margaritas. How does that sound?" Lexi asked.
My stomach turned again at the thought of margaritas. Apparently my 24-hour bug was making a comeback and wanted to tag a few more hours on.
"Sounds good," I lied.
We piled into Lexi's car and Cayden and I held hands in the backseat. I felt like an 8th grader holding hands in the back of my mom's van.
We turned onto Magnolia street and I nearly pressed my face against the window to get a better look. The whole street was lined with cute storefronts and trees wrapped in Christmas lights. It was beautiful.
Once inside, we studied the menu on the wall. We were reading off the item and when we got to "nachos," we both dry heaved. I didn't think I'd ever be able to look at another nacho or jalapeno again. I ordered the carne de puerco burrito bowl and Cayden went for the garlic shredded beef burrito bowl, following Brady's suggestion. We split an order of Yuca fries, which my family calls Cuban French Fries. Margaritas on the rocks to drink.
Lexi was right. The margaritas were pretty amazing. Probably not Mi-Cocina-Mambo-Taxi amazing, but delicious nonetheless. But it burned my throat and stomach going down. I ate my burrito bowl cautiously, assessing my stomach ache after each bite. By the time I decided I was full, it looked like I hadn't made a dent in my bowl. I'd lost all of my energy and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and take a nap on Cayden's lap right there in the booth.
The stomach bug was coming back for round two. And so was the burrito bowl.