It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. – Agnes Repplier
She didn’t mind getting a little wet outside if it meant she could inhale a quick cigarette. She wasn’t a smoker per say, she just enjoyed one when she was out drinking. She leaned against the brick building. It was cold against her bare shoulder blades. She could have grabbed her coat from the coat check on the way out, but the line had deterred her and she was hot from dancing anyway. She could feel the music thumping through the wall into the club. The cold misty rain against her face awoke her senses and cleared her head.
She smashed her cigarette onto the brick wall and let it fall to the ground. She showed her wrist stamp to the bouncer and walked through the tinted doors. It was her first time to this dance club and it felt nice to not know anybody. She enjoyed going out without her friends so she could have room to just be. She could act however she wanted. It was something she had just started doing in the last few months. If she was being completely truthful it was because all of her friends had boyfriends. Her best friend was even engaged. She was happy for them, but at the same time she was happy that she wasn’t them. At thirty-one, Rosalie, had never been in love and so couldn’t understand why they were all holed in their apartments on a Saturday night.
She stopped in the bathroom to check her hair and face. There was one other girl in the bathroom stall. She had the mirrors to herself. She examined her outfit and her face. She leaned over the sink getting as close to the mirror as possible. There were tiny lines that had just recently emerged around her eyes, crows feet. All in all, she looked good. She looked even better than she did in her twenties. It probably had something to do with her daily trips to the gym. She had always exercised, but after turning thirty she took it to a whole new level.
Every morning she swam laps for thirty minutes. During lunch she met her best friend, Betsy, for crossfit training close to her work downtown. In addition, she had given up her very favorite vice, ice cream. Before turning thirty she would allow herself one scoop of chocolate chip mint after dinner, but that was no longer. She’d shed fifteen pounds and looked and felt better than ever. She walked back onto the dance floor and moved her body to the music.
She liked what the DJ played. He kept the beat at just the right speed. She spent the night dancing with strangers and mingling with the bartenders. One of the bartender’s was gorgeous. She had left the bar went dancing with the intention of going back and asking him for his number. When she returned he had left for the night and there were now only two tending the bar instead of three. She shrugged her shoulders. She grabbed her coat and stepped out to hail a cab.
She got home at just past three in the morning and crashed on her bed without changing her clothes or meticulously removing her make-up.
Six weeks later
“You smell like smoke,” said Betsy as she glared at Rosalie. Rosalie had gone through three packs of Camel lights in the last six weeks. “Are you going through another “phase” again?” she asked sarcastically. Back in college Rosalie had been a “smoker” for the entire summer between junior and senior year. “No!” said Rosalie. ‘I barely smoke. Anyway, let’s get some coffee.’ They were standing out front their favorite coffee house. They had spent many a nights studying at this coffee house when attending the art institute of Chicago.
They walked in and stood in line. She couldn’t figure out if she also wanted to get something to eat. She’d had a bowl of cereal before her morning workout, but could feel her stomach grumbling. She picked out a pannini from the pastry case by the time she made it to the front of the line. She dug into her purse for her debit card while ordering. The voice from behind the counter said, “that will be eight twenty six”. She looked up and saw him. It was the bartender from the night club. She felt immediately disoriented. She couldn’t tell if he remembered her or not. Probably not.
She became self conscious and realized what she must’ve looked like. She was in her workout clothes, no make-up, hair toppled in some kind of bun pony-tail combo on her head. She swore to herself internally and could feel her face flush. She handed over her debit card. His fingers grazed her hand ever so slightly as he grabbed the card. Her stomach flipped and rendered her speechless. She wanted so much to say something funny or witty or clever or even sarcastic. Nothing good came to mind. She signed her name on the receipt and stepped aside to wait for her latte.
Rosalie waited until her and Betsy sat down before launching into the story about the man behind the pastry case. It wasn’t much of a story. She’d talked to him briefly at the dance club and then he was gone. “You were going to ask for his number?” asked Betsy. ‘Yes’. “Woah, that is crazy. You have never, ever asked a guy for his number,” she said. ‘I know.’ ‘There was just something about him.’ “Well, you should go talk to him,” she said. Rosalie hadn’t touched her sandwhich. She had lost her appetite. What she really wanted to do was to step outside for a cigarette, but she knew that Betsy would scold her. Besides she was ashamed of herself for having smoked so much lately. She would just throw the pack away. That was the best idea.
Rosalie found herself lost in thought. Just the touch of his hand on hers had thrown her body into an absolute frenzy. She wondered what the rest of him could do to her. Rosalie was playing out scenarios in her mind of what she could say to him while Betsy rambled on about the details of her upcoming wedding and Rosalie’s responsibilities as her maid of honor. Rosalie wasn’t the least bit interested in her friend’s wedding details, but nodded periodically to feign interest and loyalty. She loved her friend, or course, but she had other things on her mind. Okay so she had one other thing on her mind. She finally figured out what she would do. She’d waited until the line died down and just walk up to him and say, hey, I met you a few weeks back when you were bartending at Cacho’s.
“Okay, I am going to go talk to him now,” she announced the Betsy. “Too late,” said Betsy. “I think he just left because there is a girl up at the register now,” she said. ‘Damn!’ ‘If I wasn’t such a baby about it.’ “Yup, pretty much,” said Betsy with a smirk on her face. She then started listing of the things that needed to be done for her upcoming engagement party.
Two Months Later – Betsey’s Engagement Party
It was the day of Betsey’s engagement party and Rosalie was feeling restless and she didn’t know why. The dress she picked out fit perfectly, but she couldn’t get her long hair to commit to a good style. She decided to straighten it, but then wasn’t sure about how it fell over her dress straps so opted for a sleek pony tail that showed off her high cheekbones. She had stuck to her word, well the commitment she made to herself, and stopped smoking, again. It helped that she had gotten a terrible cold, which made her realize that what she was doing to her body was just not okay. She’d chewed Nicorette gum in the beginning just to calm her nerves. She kind of missed them, but it wasn’t too bad.
She drove to the bakery and picked up the “Congratulations on Your Engagement” cake. It was the only errand that Betsy’s mom had asked her to do. She was an hour early to the party so that she could help with last minute details. When she pulled up there were already quite a few cars in the driveway. She was sure that she was early, but she felt a little panic rise at the thought that she misunderstood something. She walked in with the cake. She could tell instantly that she was just fine. There were just a lot of family members already there hanging out and drinking on the back patio. Betsey’s parents had lived in that house for Rosalie’s whole life. Rosalie had many fond memories as a child playing hide and seek and spending the night. She hadn’t been over in years though because she hadn’t any reason. It was nice to be there again. Her own parents had moved to Palm Springs after she’d graduated college. She saw them a couple times a year.
Rosalie put the cake in the extra fridge in the garage. She walked back into the kitchen and saw Betsy and Roger making mimosa’s in the kitchen. Rosalie liked Roger. He was by far the best guy that Betsy had ever dated. Rosalie hadn’t felt much for Betsey when she announced her engagement. However now, looking at the two of them in the kitchen, the occasion of it filled her heart. Roger looked up and saw that she was standing there watching them. He walked over and gave her a big brotherly hug. “Rosa!” Rosa is what Betsy had always called her because when they were younger Betsy had a hard time saying her full name. She would pronounce it Rosawee, so someone, not sure who by this point, had taught her, Rosa.
“I have someone for you to meet!” said Roger with a big goofy grin on his face. Rosalie looked behind him and noticed that Betsy shared the same goofy grin. Rosalie immediately felt a little anxious. She knew this look. It was the “we found the perfect guy for you” look. They were endlessly trying to fix her up with someone most likely to make their own lives easier. She loved her friends, but wish they could just give it a rest. Rosalie rolled her eyes and shook her head playfully. ‘Not interested. This is your day. Let’s not ruin it.’ “No, really, Rosa.” He said. “He is my cousin. Well my cousin through marriage. My aunt remarried and it is her new husband’s son,” he said. ‘Your what? Never mind! You guys, you know I hate it when you do this. Now this whole evening will be totally uncomfortable.” “Rosa, listen,” said Betsy. She gave Rosalie the look. It was the look she always gave her to try to make something seem very serious.
“Just come with me,” said Roger. He grabbed her arm and gently guided her out onto the deck with Betsy trailing behind. They walked past the people sitting on the deck down to the lower level where there was a pool and more tables set beside it. “When did you parents get a pool?” asked Rosalie. “Last summer,” said Betsy without further explanation. There were a few people sitting at the table, all friends of Roger’s. Then she saw him. He was sitting with his side to her, but she knew it was him from his profile. His dark hair was a little bit longer than last time and a bit disheveled. It looked even better. He looked up and met her eyes. Her stomach jolted and her senses doubled, maybe tripled. The spring air, which before smelled good, now smelled ripe with flowers and warmth. Even the dirt freshened from the morning rain smelled sweet and delicious. The sky around her changed color and her heart leaped beating rapidly in her chest. This is what it felt like to know instantly. She’d read about it and watched movies about it, but had never before experienced what it meant.
– Happy Valentine Day, A Girl Who Writes