2nd Place, Round One, NYCMIDNIGHT Short Story Contest
“When Lacy ends up in a heart-to-heart talk with the hired Chippendale at her bachelorette party, she wonders if she's having more than cold feet.
A freaking Chippendale. My sister Becca hired one, and he’s shaking his baby-oiled buns of steel in my face. I put up a palm. “No thank you.”
Laughing, he says, “They don’t call me The Hurricane for nothing.” He flips around and puts his sparkly fuchsia thong in my face.
I gasp and go bug-eyed. All my girlfriends are squealing as the scene around me blurs. There’s a gigantic banana two inches from my face, veiled by a sparse piece of material. And this is how I’m supposed to celebrate my upcoming marriage?
My parents love Charles. I love him too. He’s like my favorite hoodie—comfortable, perfect for all types of weather. We’ve been together since college, and I can’t imagine my life without him. Sort of. Except for maybe one night with The Hurricane?
I didn’t just think that! Apparently, The Hurricane has my brain in a whirlwind. Speaking of, through his Lone Ranger-style mask, he’s staring me down with emerald green eyes. I can’t see his face, but he has to hot. With a perfect square jaw and silky black hair, he’s just got too much going on for him to be ugly without the mask. He drips sexy.
“Lacy, dance with him!” my sister screams at me. His shimmering muscles flex as he pulls me off the couch. He spins me around before gyrating along my back. I shuffle my feet in an attempt to dance. I don’t do it much anymore since Charles refuses. He doesn’t even want to do the traditional first dance at our reception.
“You’ve got this,” The Hurricane whispers.
I turn and flash him a nervous glance. His friendly smile disarms me, and I can’t believe I’m having a sincere moment with a man hired to get naked in front of me. I remind myself that it’s his job to make women feel special. He does this with everyone. He’s a professional, after all.
Jeez, I must be blitzed. I’m totally crushing on the hired stripper.
* * *
Two words. Hung. Over.
What happened last night? Images of the green-eyed hurricane flash through my mind, and my stomach drops. He’s a stripper and I’m engaged. I stumble out of bed and take a scalding shower. When I go back into my room to get dressed, I see a napkin on my nightstand. Something's written on it.
I know you probably think I leave my number with everyone, but for what it’s worth, I’ve never done this. I know you’re ripped up inside about marrying your fiancé, and I’m here if you need to talk. Best of luck, Grayson.
What had I told him? And The Hurricane is named Grayson? Vague and broken memories of me talking to him on the porch at the end of the night rush back.
I hear the front door open.
“Lacy?” Charles calls.
“Up here.” I stuff the napkin in my purse.
Charles comes in and plants a kiss on my forehead. “You have the gift for the rehearsal dinner tonight?” He tugs at his polo shirt. “For the Callahans?”
Crap. I completely forgot about that present. I’ve never met the Callahans, but they flew all the way in from New Zealand.
“I’m so sorry, Charles.” How did I forget? Maybe my subconscious is telling me something? “I’ll go get it now.”
“No worries.” He kisses my forehead. “Thanks, babe.”
“Sorry again.” I throw on my flats. “I’m out the door.”
As I drive, my head spins. I don’t want to buy this gift. Because I don’t want to get married tomorrow. I don’t want to marry Charles.
I pull into the mall parking lot and begin to sob. Through blurred vision, I dial the phone number on the napkin. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
“Hello,” a sexy deep voice answers.
“Grayson? It’s Lacy.” My words tremble. “From last night—”
“I know who you are.” His tone is gentle. “You need to talk?”
“I think so.” I choke back tears.
“Where are you?”
“I’ll meet you at the front fountain, okay?”
“Okay.” I disconnect in disbelief at myself. Then I make my way to the fountain where I take a seat and wait. The place is bustling with shoppers, and I’m terrified of being seen with a random guy, an off-duty stripper no less. I almost always run into someone I know at this place, but something is keeping me here.
It’s not ten minutes when I see him approaching. Or I think it's him. It has to be with that confident, relaxed gait. And, yup, he’s totally hot without the mask. In fact, even a bit hotter because now I can see the creases around his eyes that humanize him. I’m relieved my beer goggles hadn’t led me astray. Today he’s dressed in a green v-neck t-shirt and jeans, and he’s so beautiful my breath freezes in my chest.
“Hey, you.” He smiles. “So, what happened?” He touches my shoulder as he sits.
“I have to buy the Callahans a gift.” I shake my head. “But I can’t.”
He nods. “What do they like? I’ll see what I can do.”
“No clue.” I flash him a puzzled look. “Why are you helping me?”
“Honestly?” He purses his lips. “I have no idea. I shouldn’t be. But here I am.”
“I don’t even know who you are.” I pick a nail.
He puts out his hand. “I’m Grayson.” With a smile, he continues. “Law student by day. Chippendale by night.”
“Lacy.” I shake his hand. “But you knew that. So, why strip?”
“It pays for law school.” He shrugs. “And I love making women smile. I know that sounds weird.”
I shake my head. “It doesn’t, actually.”
“It’s just entertainment.” He squints in thought. “Well, until last night.”
I swallow hard.
“I’m sorry.” He closes his eyes. “That wasn’t an appropriate thing to say to an engaged woman.”
“No, it wasn’t.” I let out a nervous giggle. “My parents would kill you. Well, and me for that matter.”
“You seem like the type that always has it together.”
“I do, usually.” My voice goes shaky again. “But not today.”
“You’ve got a lot going on today.” He meets my eyes. “I became a lot happier when I stopped worrying about what others thought.”
“I want that, but I don’t know how.” I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.
Without a word, he slips off his sneakers and starts rolling up his jeans.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m giving you your first lesson.” He stands and steps into the fountain before extending his hand. “So, are you gonna let me?”
I laugh and stare at the ground. “I don’t know.”
“You can do it. Promise.”
I gnaw at my lip. Charles would be furious at me for making a complete fool of myself. A claustrophobic feeling creeps in, and I take a big breath. A silence passes between Grayson and me while I regain composure. I appreciate the fact that Grayson seems to understand that I need a moment. “Okay, I’m ready.” I take off my flats and roll up my pants. Grabbing his hand and stepping in, I shiver at the cold water hitting my skin. The crowd flashes us surprised looks.
Grayson says, “Dance with me.”
I hesitate, but then I swing an arm around his shoulders. He takes my other hand and holds it out as he starts to sway to the beat of nothing. Well, nothing but possibly the sound of my heart trying to escape my chest. A breeze whips my hair in my face, and he brushes it away. I laugh as he swings me into a dip.
“There you go.” He smiles ear to ear. “You only live once, Lacy Falkow.”
When a crowd-goer yells, “Get a room,” I’m tempted to stop, but I don’t. Instead I do a twirl, letting the water splash on my pants. The designer pants I wore for my Harvard interview. Pants I once considered a good luck charm, but are now suffocating me.
When Grayson and I step out of the fountain, I say, “I’ve gotta go.”
“But I thought we had a present to buy?”
I sigh. “I have to cancel a wedding.”
Saying those words out loud makes me realize I’m more sad about hurting my family and Charles than not being with Charles.
Grayson twists his lips. “You have to follow your heart.”
“Yeah. That’s new.”
“Good luck.” He touches my arm. “I hope at some point when you’re ready, it leads you back to me.”
“I have a feeling it just might. Hurricane season approaching and all.” I grin, a heavy weight lifting off my shoulders. Because I can’t go the rest of my life and never dance again.