“There’s a Rolls Royce parked outside your apartment,” Gloria tells me, foregoing conventional greetings. “You got some rich boyfriend that I don’t know of, babe? A hot hookup, maybe? We didn’t leave with anyone else last night and let’s be honest, you’re still paying student loans.”
“What color is it?” I shouted from the kitchen, stirring in the creamer of my first cup of coffee for the day.
Picking it up by the blue handle, I tuck the day’s paper under my arm and move towards the living room where she was already lounged on the couch in a bright camisole, stroking the fur of my tabby cat, Minnie.
Gloria has been my best friend for as long as I can remember—which is saying a lot because most of my time in college was spent losing as many brain cells as possible. She’s the type of person that if she decided she wanted to be your friend, no amount of shit from you will ever make her leave. Her parents were from Sudan, and her Egyptian beauty has helped me get some of the boys, too; long, black hair. Big, sultry brown eyes and smooth caramel skin. Her pouty lips are almost always covered with a swipe of her favorite satin red lipstick. Place me next to her and she’ll win any beauty pageant hands down.
The most astounding part of her is that she has never—not even once—let her beauty, the compliments, and her usual line of suitors, affect her vivacious character. She’s blunt to the point of cruelty with a will and passion stronger than a Red Bull. I love her; most days I don’t even know how to live without her.
“It’s silver,” she answers. “Obviously not your color.”
I ’mmm’ed in agreement. All the cars I have ever owned were white.
“Anyway,” she tossed her hair behind her back and rests her long legs clad in white Hollister jeans on top of mine. “There’s this new bar...”
At that, I groaned. “My liver is still beat from last night. Isn’t yours? I don’t know how you wake up looking like nothing happened. I can’t even stand on my feet long enough to make myself lunch!”
She sighed, patting me pitifully on the head, saying, “You’ve lost your buzz, Daph. I tell you, it’s because of that soul-sucking job of yours.”
Here we go again, I thought. “The Dewey Decimal System and I have a perfect understanding of each other,” I say defensively. “Honestly, I’d rather be surrounded by books than people.”
“See!” Gloria exclaimed. “That’s your problem, Daphne. The books are killing the little extrovert in you and you know it. When have you gotten a proper boyfriend after Rob?”
That stung a little. Rob was my first steady boyfriend after high school and Gloria coincidentally met him while we were nursing hangovers at McDonald’s. We were together for a year until college kicked in and he got back together with his fake tittied ex. I didn’t think much about it then. College is supposed to be the time of spreading your wings and, apparently, your legs to safe sex and unsafe drinking. Partnered with Gloria, every time was a good time. Even during class. It’s a miracle how I even finished my World Literature degree.
After college, Love still wasn’t ready for me but a girl sometimes can’t help but wish it. And yes, I know my job is as unflattering as the underwear I have now taken a liking to.
“Why does my love life have anything to do with this?” I complained. “I’m happy!”
Gloria panned me a look that told me she didn’t buy it. “You’re not happy—you’re settling.” She whines, “Come on, Daphne. Share your beauty to the sea of men waiting for you! Stop hiding in that accursed library.”
I stare at her for a long minute through narrowed slits. “What makes this club so special for you to attack my job like this?” was my question.
A sheepish grin fights its way into her mouth and I knew she had an ulterior motive.
“I have a friend who knows an agent who knows another agent that knows a—”
“Yep, I think I got that.”
“―personal assistant to Jerome Davis,” she continued without having care for a word I said, “that he, Phillip Marx, Ashton Gold, and Hugh-freaking-Huffington are in town, has a place here, and are using their time off work to chill.”
“Let me guess where they’ll be chilling,” I sighed with dread. “The new club that just opened.”
Gloria shrieked uncharacteristically, almost spilling my coffee. Her eyes were so bright with excitement that I knew there was no way I was getting out of this. “Not only that!” She grinned so wide even my own jaw hurt. “It’s a club they own! So I need you to finish that coffee because we definitely need to go shopping and your hair needs work undoubtedly.”
I pouted. “What’s wrong with my hair?” I lift a lock and look at the ends. My auburn hair has always been the gorgeous part of my whole body. It never got too frizzy when it’s hot out and the manageability was heaven-sent.
“Nothing’s wrong with it; just the sticking it will do when you’re hot and sweaty on the dance floor tonight. And you know I can’t braid for shit.”
Rolling my eyes, I got up and left to get ready. A call rang for Gloria and she excused herself, going to stand inside the kitchen where the reception was better. Figuring she’ll be preoccupied with that for at least some time, I discard my coffee and mug on the sink then jumped in the shower.
After, I put on a white sundress with a corset-like design in a halter and a skirt stopping just above the knees. I liked that this year’s August still permitted me to wear short and bare-armed dresses. I burned too quickly in summer so I mostly stayed indoors and don’t get an opportunity to wear anything remotely revealing. Applying a little makeup, I looked at myself in the mirror and nodded. I was ready to go.
She muttered a few things back on her phone before stashing it in her purse. “Me-ow!” She grinned as she gave me a once-over. “But I bet I can make you look hotter than that. Come on, I’m paying.”
Our shopping trip didn’t take too long, mostly because we kept to the boutiques along the strip by the beach and they had Gloria’s Night Out ensemble categories―short, tight and barely-there―readily available to Cosmo’s most famous column writer. After much protest on my part, she finally succeeded in buying me a backless, black number that was a few inches shy below mid-thigh with the knowledge I had strappy six-inches in the back of my closet that would accentuate my legs. Hers was a red thing with so many straps I began to question its purpose when I saw it.
Gloria insisted on taking care of everything, from the clothes to the walk-in salon that charged ridiculously high. I tried to argue with her but her insistence that my money was more important than hers, and since she was the one practically dragging me to the bar with her, she was also responsible for making me catch a few men tonight, too. The gesture was sweet, but her motive wasn’t exactly ideal.
I did pay for the restaurant we ate at, however. Sure, I had to practically shove my money down the waiter’s gullet before Gloria had even opened her purse, and that she practically whined about it until we got back to my apartment, but all was good.
“I was thinking,” Gloria said as we put makeup on in my obscenely-large-for-a-small-flat bathroom, “that I should probably save all my money from mortgage and move in with you here.”
“Why didn’t you when I first got this place?”
I was very curious. A few months back, I had been asking her to share the place with me and ditch the house her dirty rich ex bought her for her twenty-first birthday. She’s always had something to moan about the townhouse, either about the maintenance of it or having to actually manage the bills, but was adamant about staying when she had another, less stressing option.
To my surprise, her answer was a lot more thoughtful for the woman pimping me out. “Daphne, sweetie, I know how much you dreamed of being this independent woman you are now. Look at this space; it is not for somebody who’s wanting to scrape by. I didn’t want to impose on that goal of yours because, when Latrell gave me the keys to the townhouse, I felt I could do anything. It’s a powerful feeling to have.”
I gave Gloria a side hug. “I still haven’t forgiven you yet for dating a guy with a White Chicks character name,” I teased her.
She elbowed me in the side before looking at me expectantly. “Well? What do you say to be roomies all over again?”
“If we ever survive the night, then I’m all in.”
Gloria and I high-fived. “Okay, it’s eight o’ clock and it’s gonna take one hell of a persuasion to get in that club so we better go.” When I kept meticulously swiping lip gloss on my lips she grabbed my arm and purse. “I mean it!”
”O Maria, Gloria!” a shout came from a few doors down. It was Javier, my next door neighbor who became a good friend of mine, just returning from walking his dog. “You should come with a health warning tonight, babe. You ladies look killin’!”
I eye Gloria sideways, knowing she’d be awfully flattered of receiving a compliment as large as she was given by her long-time fantasy. Javier was, in her terms, very hot, but that was easy; anyone with two perfectly working eyes can tell he’s more than a little above average. Gloria liked her men strong and ripped, and if they sported a trimmed beard, then they are definitely on her list. The two of them would look really great together, if only not for the fact that Javier... well, liked her.
Typically, you won’t see any problem with that. Hell, it’s supposed to make things way easier for everyone involved. It’s just that Gloria has a thing for not pursuing men who are already interested in her. She loves chasing men and treats it as a challenge. When she’s conquered her current conquest, she moves on to another one. And another one. You can call her a slut. She won’t get offended.
“Hey, Javier,” I greeted, ignoring the heated looks between the two. “Hey, Salvador!” The large Labrador wagged his tail. “Kind of missed you while you were in the vet.”
Javier finally looked away and coughed before smiling. “I think he missed his favorite sitter, too. Where’re you girls going?”
Gloria tossed back the tail of her high pony, going for the flirt. I rolled my eyes. “Deck on Twenty-Five,” she purred.
“The new one down the highway? I planned on going, too. I can probably get you in faster than the line that wraps around it. Wanna wait for me to go change a sec?”
If that didn’t win Gloria’s heart over, I don’t know what will. Her eyes had turned glazed and wide, her jaw on the ground among other things.
“Are you joking?” she gasped. “Get in your house and change already, man!”
Javier and I laughed. “Oh, you better do what she says,” I tell him. “She’s going to make your life hell if you’re not back in ten minutes.”
“Doesn’t she already? Alright! Alright!” he cried when Gloria began hitting him with her purse. ”Mierda, your arm is so strong.” Shaking his head, he retreats to the brick apartment beside mine.
He makes good time, returning after exactly ten minutes, sans dog, already showered and in a crisp, white button-down with the sleeves pushed up to show his strong arms. He twirled the keys to his Suburban Chevrolet.
“You girls ready?”
“Born ready!” Gloria growled, stalking to the front passenger side door. I sighed. Back seat it is.
I only noticed one thing that night before we rolled out of the driveway: the Rolls Royce was gone.