The Hating Game Page 68

“Boredom.”

“I’m not bored. Can’t we stay here, and I’ll find something in the minibar to smear all over you?”

“Whoo, are those some horny eyes or what.” He waggles the iron at me. “Get finished in there.”

“For a guy who looks like you, you’re awfully bashful.”

He doesn’t say anything for a bit, stroking the iron over the collar. I can see how much effort it is taking him to stand shirtless in front of me.

“Why are you self-conscious?”

“I’ve dated some girls in the past . . .” He trails off.

My arms are crossed. My ears are about to start whistling with steam. “What sort of girls?”

“They’ve all . . . at some point made it pretty clear my personality is not . . .”

“It’s not what?”

“I’m just not great to be around.”

Even the iron is steaming in indignation. “Someone wanted you only for your body? And they told you that?”

“Yeah.” He redoes one cuff. “It should feel flattering, right? At first I guess it did, but then it kept happening. It really doesn’t feel good to keep being told that I’m not relationship material.” He bends over his shirt and analyzes it for creases.

I finally understand the Matchbox car code. Please see me. The real me.

“You know what I honestly think? You’d still be amazing, even if you looked like Mr. Bexley.”

“You’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid, Shortcake.”

He’s smiling a little as he keeps ironing. I’m almost shaking with the need to make him understand something that I don’t fully know myself yet. All I know is, it hurts me to think he feels bad about such a fundamental aspect of himself. I resolve to objectify him less, and turn away until he puts on his shirt. It’s robin’s-egg blue.

“I love that color shirt. It matches what I’m going to wear, um, obviously.” I cringe at my dress again. I go to my handbag and dig in it, finding my lipstick.

“Can I see something?” He’s got his tie flapping loose as he takes the tube from me and reads the bottom.

“Flamethrower. How appropriate.”

“Do you want me to tone it down?” I rattle my handbag, searching.

“I fucking love your red.” He kisses my mouth before I start to apply. He watches me applying the lipstick, blotting, reapplying, and by the time I’m done he looks like he’s endured something.

“I can barely take it when you do that,” he manages to say.

“Hair up or down?”

He looks pained. He gathers it up, and says “Up.”

He lets it fall and scoops it in his hands like snow. “Down.”

“Half up, half down it is. Quit fidgeting, you’re making me nervous. Why don’t you go and have a drink at the bar downstairs? Liquid courage. I can drive us to the church.”

“Be down in, like, fifteen minutes okay?”

Once he’s gone and the silence fills the hotel room like a swelling balloon I sit on the end of the bed and look at myself. My hair falls around my shoulders, and my mouth is a little red heart. I look like I’m losing my mind. I strip down, put on my support underwear to smooth out any lumps, hook my stockings up and look at my dress.

I was going to buy something in a muted navy, something I could wear again, but when I saw the robin’s-egg-blue dress I knew I had to have it. I couldn’t have color matched it better to his bedroom walls if I tried.

The sales assistant had assured me it suited me perfectly, but the way Josh rubbed his hand over his face was like he’d realized he’s dealing with a total psycho. It’s undeniably true. I’m practically painting myself in his bedroom blue. I manage to zip myself up with some contortionist movements.

I decide to take the huge sweeping spiral staircase down instead of the elevator. How many opportunities will I ever have? Life has started to feel like one big chance to make each new little memory. I walk in downward circles toward the gorgeous man in the suit and pale blue shirt at the bar.

He raises his eyes, and the look in his eyes makes me so shy I can barely put one foot in front of the other. Psycho, psycho, I whisper to myself as I plant myself in front of him and rest my elbow on the bar.

“How You Doing?” I manage, but he only stares at me.

“I know, what a psycho, dressed in the same color as your bedroom walls.” I self-consciously smooth down the dress. It’s a retro prom-dress style, the neckline dipping and the waist pulled tight. I catch a whiff of lunch being served in the hotel restaurant and my stomach makes a pitiful little whimper.

He shakes his head like I’m an idiot. “You’re beautiful. You’re always beautiful.”

As the pleasure of those three words light up inside my chest, I remember my manners.

“Thank you for the roses. I never did say thank you, did I? I loved them. I’ve never had flowers sent to me before.”

“Lipstick red. Flamethrower red. I have never felt like such a piece of shit as I did then.”

“I forgave you, remember?” I step in between his knees and pick up his glass. I sniff.

“Wow, that’s one strong Kool-Aid.”

“I need it.” He swallows it without a blink. “I’ve never gotten flowers either.”

“All these stupid women who don’t know how to treat a man right.”

I’m still agitated about his earlier revelation. Sure, he’s an argumentative, calculating, territorial asshole 40 percent of the time, but the other 60 percent is so filled with humor and sweetness and vulnerability.

It seems I’ve drunk all the Kool-Aid.

“Ready?”

“Let’s go.” We wait for the valet to bring the car. I look up at the sky.

“Well, they say rain on your wedding day is good luck.”

I press my hand on his jiggling knee after we drive a few minutes.

“Please relax. I don’t get why this is a big deal.” He won’t reply.

The little church is about ten minutes from the hotel. The parking lot is filled with cold-looking women in pastels, hugging themselves and trying to wrangle male companions and children.

I’m about to start hugging myself against the cold as well when he gathers me to his side and swoops inside, saying, Hello, talk to you later to several relatives who greet him in tones of surprise before flicking their eyes to me.

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