Updated: May 25, 2019
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 and close my eyes. “No thank you.”
Laughing, he says, “They don’t call me The Hurricane for nothing.” He flips around and rips off his banana hammock.
I gasp and go bug-eyed. All my girlfriends are squealing like Beatles’ fans as the scene around me blurs. There’s a gigantic pink banana two inches from my face, and this is how I’m supposed to celebrate my upcoming marriage?
A marriage that I’m not sure I even want to go through with. I haven’t told Becca and my friends that. Heck, I’ve barely admitted it to myself. But the fact that I want to grab this large man pop in front of me makes me wonder if I’m having more than cold feet.
My parents love Charles. I love him too, but I’m not sure I’m in love with him anymore. He and I have been together forever, and I can’t imagine my life without him. Sort of. Except for the fact that I want to imagine my life without him. A life without that constant, unspoken tension. A life free to spend a night with The Hurricane.
Speaking of, through his Lone Ranger mask, he’s staring me down with emerald green eyes that sharply contrast his fuchsia appendage. Meeting his gaze, I break into a cold sweat. I’m not sure what the heck it is I’m feeling. He’s just so hot.
Well, I think he’s hot. It’s hard to tell for sure with the mask and all, but yeah, he has to be. With a perfect square jaw and silky black hair, he’s got too much going on for him to ugly sans mask. Plus, it’s hard to explain, but he drips sexy.
“Come on, Lacy, dance with him!” my sister screams at me. I look to see his hand extended, and when I take it, 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.
“You’ve got this,” he 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.
Sincere? Yeah, right. It’s his job to make women feel special. He does this with everyone. He’s a professional for heaven’s sake. An expert who conceals his face while flinging his penis around.
Ironic? I think so.
Izzie fumbles up, that fifth vodka finally doing her in. “Lacy mace. Let me join in.” She stumbles over and starts to do some wild butt dance. Leave it to Izzie to take this to the next level. She eyes his body then howls, “You can give me a golden fountain if you want.” She turns to the crowd and winks.
“Izzie, you’re wasted,” I say. “It’s called a golden shower.”
“There you go again, Ms. Uptight,” she stammers. “Correcting my grammar.”
I roll my eyes so hard I think I cause a strain. Turning to The Hurricane, I mouth, “Sorry.”
He chuckles. “Not a problem.” Then he picks Izzie up and twirls her around with his crazy strong arms. She’s squealing, and for some reason I’m impressed at his ability to bring so much joy into the room.
Jeez, I must be blitzed. I’m totally crushing on the hired stripper.
* * *
Two words. Hung. Over.
What in the world happened last night? Waking up, I’m pretty sure I’m still drunk. That was insane, and I’m going to kill Becca and Izzie.
Images of the green-eyed hurricane flash through my mind, and my stomach drops. I can’t believe he’s in my thoughts. A stripper. 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 is 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 before. I know you’re ripped up inside about marrying your fiancé, and I understand why you can’t tell anyone. I’m here if you just need to talk. Best of luck, Grayson.
“For the love of Pete,” I mumble. What had I told him? 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. This is why it’s dangerous for me to drink.
I have to detox. I put on my running clothes so I can go for a jog and sweat this all away. Tomorrow, I’m marrying Charles and that’s that. He’s perfect for me. Well, on paper.
Except for that grudge he still carries about that time I forgot his birthday…and the couple of times our sexiversary slipped my mind. Plus, all the other numerous events I blanked on because I’m horrible with calendars.
Admittedly, it’s bad…really bad. I put dates in the wrong places. I read numbers backward because of my dyscalculia. I’m not super detail-oriented. When you put it all together, I’m a scheduling disaster.
It’s not personal, but Charles takes it that way. And then he never seems to let it go. I could try harder, though. I need to try harder.
When I get back to my apartment, I take another shower. There’s no maximum number of showers on a day like today. Getting dressed, I hear the front door open.
“Lacy, where are you?” Charles calls out.
“Up here,” I reply, feeling guilty about last night. I don’t know why.
He comes upstairs and I stuff the napkin in my purse.
Planting a kiss on my forehead, he says, “You have the gift ready for the rehearsal dinner tonight?” He tugs at his Ralph Lauren polo. “For the Callahans?”
Dang it! I completely forgot about that present. I’ve never met the Callahans, but Charles wanted me to show them my appreciation because they flew all the way in from New Zealand. I blink, trying to figure out what to say.
“Lacy,” he scolds. “You forgot. Again.”
“I’m sorry, Charles.” I hate calling him that, but the one time I asked him about nicknames, he went berserk. I should feel lucky I don’t have to call him by his full first name, Charles the Third. “I’ll go get the gift now.”
“Do you even know what you’re getting them?” He rubs his forehead. “I told you how important this was to me. How is this going to make you look?”
“I know,” I say, but honestly, I’m exhausted of constantly keeping up appearances. I throw on my heels and say, “I’m going now,” before heading out.
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 read the phone number on the napkin and dial it. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
“Hello,” a sexy deep voice answers.
“Grayson?” I ask.
“It’s Lacy.” My words tremble. “From last night—”
“I know who you are, Lacy.” His tone is gentle. “You need to talk?”
“I think so.” I choke back tears.
“Where are you?” Concern fills his voice.
“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. I’m looking around, terrified of being seen with a random guy. But something is keeping me here.
It’s not ten minutes when I see emerald eyes approaching me. It’s definitely him. And I was right: he’s totally hot without the mask. In fact, he’s possibly even hotter now because I can see the light creases around his eyes that humanize him. I’m relieved my beer goggles hadn’t led me astray, but then I’m ashamed for being relieved.
That feeling doesn’t last long because now Grayson is 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.”
“Right.” 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.” He looks into the distance, and then returns his gaze. “But I can’t seem to stop myself.”
“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 to pay for the aforementioned schooling.”
“Lacy.” I shake his hand. “But you knew that. So, why strip?”
“It pays really well, and I need a lot of money.” He shrugs. “And in some way, I love making women smile. I know that sounds weird.”
I shake my head. “It doesn’t, actually.”
“It’s just entertainment, never sexual.” He squints in thought. “Well, it never was before. Until last night.”
I swallow hard. I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
“I’m sorry.” He closes his eyes. “That wasn’t an appropriate thing to say to an engaged woman.”
“No, it wasn’t,” I reply, but for some reason I don’t mind. 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 don’t, not at all.” My voice goes shaky again. “And especially not today.”
“You’ve got a lot going on. And you especially have 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.
He slips off his shoes and stars rolling up his jeans.
“What are you doing?” My mouth is open again.
“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 for a beat. “I don’t know.”
“You can do it. Promise.”
I gnaw at my lip as I look around. Charles would be furious at me for making a complete fool of myself. That claustrophobic feeling creeps back in, and I take a big breath. A silence passes between Grayson and me while I close my eyes to regain composure. I appreciate the fact that he seems to understand that I need a moment.
Opening my eyes, I say, “Okay, I’m ready.” I take off my heels and roll up my pants. Grabbing his hand and stepping in, I shiver at the cold water hitting my skin. Peering around the crowd, I see disapproving looks.
Grayson doesn’t blink when he says, “Dance with me, Lacy.”
“Oh my goodness.” I put a hand over my mouth. 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 kicks up and whips my hair in my face, and he brushes it away. I start laughing as he swings me into a dip.
“There you go,” he says with an ear to ear smile. “You only live once, Lacy Falkow.”
I nod. 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 that landed me a spot in their b-school program. Pants I once considered a good luck charm but are now suffocating me.
Charles and I never dance. In fact, he doesn’t even want to do the traditional first dance at our reception. And I love dancing.
When Grayson and I finish and step out of the fountain, I look and him and say, “I’ve gotta go.”
“But I thought we had a present to buy?”
I look down. “I have to cancel a wedding. And call a whole bunch of people.” I’m sad, but I realize it’s more about me hurting my family and Charles than it is about not being with Charles.
“I’m sorry.” Grayson twists his lips. “I really am. But 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.” I grin, a heavy weight lifting off my shoulders. The air is crisper. The colors of the trees are brighter.
“Meet me at the fountain again.” He points. “When you’re ready.”
“It’s a date, Grayson.” A date, I have a feeling, that I won’t forget.
Walking away, I’m prepared to start all over. Because I can’t go the rest of my life and never dance again.