Dallas Van Zant…
Water polo god.
Beautiful disaster in the most literal sense of that label.
Trust me, it’s not hyperbole. He’s in big trouble with the law.
What does this have to do with me, you ask? Unfortunately, a lot. For some reason, which I still can’t quite wrap my brain around, I’ve been talked into driving him around as part of his plea deal.
Problem is, he makes me nervous. I’m not good with people, men in particular, popular athletes especially. I’ve worked really hard to get my disability under control and one minute in his company and all my hard work flies out the window.
To top it all off, I promised myself that I was going to make some serious changes this year. I’m tired of feeling awkward around boys. I’m tired of never having had a boyfriend. I’m tired of being lonely. And he’s wrecking my plans.
But I’m also not the type to turn away a person in need. So I’ll do what I must to help him out.
I’ll just pretend that I’m not enjoying his company. And I’ll ignore the fact that he’s sweet and funny. And I’ll tell myself every day that he’s out of my league.
Because I’m as inexperienced as they come. And Dallas Van Zant is nothing but wild.
This was a mistake.
Sweet muther goose, this was a big one.
Next time I get an idea as stupid as taking a thirty minute Uber ride from my Malibu University dorm to attend a UCLA sorority party in Westwood I should just run my head into a brick wall and save myself the trouble.
Bad Guy by Billie Eilish pumps loud enough to drown out everything else. The heavy bass vibrating under my black sneakers is making my toes go numb. It was fun for about five minutes. Now I keep having to shift from foot to foot like I’m in marching band to restore feeling.
Packed together, barely dressed bodies bathed in neon blue and pink strobe lights sway to the music, each one more perfect than the next. Had I not grown up in Southern California, this scene would’ve one-hundred-percent sent me screaming from the room. So yeah, here’s to the glass being half full, I guess.
As for me, I am neither perfect, nor am I partaking in the dancing. I’m hanging in a dark corner. That’s more my thing––watching from a safe distance. From a safe place.
Like libraries and study halls.
You can call those my domain. I kill it there. Or I used to. I promised myself I’d make more of an effort this year to put myself “out there.” Whatever the flip that means. Because if you ask me, it sounds like walking a gangplank towards an inevitable death. But whatever, I’m trying to keep it positive so I’m calling it the less observing, more doing plan.
So far…umm, yeah, not a winner.
For the millionth time, I scan the crowd and get nothing. No Sasha to be seen anywhere. My cousin is the only person I know at this party and she’s been MIA for an hour. Since she laid eyes on Acquaman.
Lesson learned. Never take Sasha literally when she says, “Be right back.”
…or when she says, “You should get the Cat Woman costume. Winnie the Pooh makes you look like a fat orange troll.”
…or when she insists that I need to come to the Theta Halloween party because “It’ll be epic.”
And definitely never again listen to her diet recs. She swore that if I ate only cheese for ten days, I would lose ten pounds. I still get queasy at the sight of camembert.
Basically never listen to Sasha again.
Hooking a finger into the tight neckline of my costume, I yank on it for some breathing room. Dang, this outfit is uncomfortable. And to make matters worse, it’s hotter than summer in Hades up in here.
Wearing a black vinyl jumpsuit to a sorority house party was another major mistake. Vinyl is never the answer. But on the flip side, I’ll finally sweat away enough lbs to make jockey weight. Or die of dehydration. Whichever comes first.
A guy walks by and leers at my outfit. In the meantime, I check out his. He’s wearing…black armor? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s trying to be armor. Then the powdered white hair registers. He’s dressed as Brienne of Tarth. So far I’ve counted four Deaneryses. Five Cerseis. Two Sansas, and one Brienne. Not a single Arya.
Brienne––the dude––pauses to see if I’m amenable to his advances but my blank, nervous stare makes him pause. I may have overestimated how far I was prepared to venture out of my comfort zone by a gazillion miles. He considers his chances for a minute, then spotting a better option across the crowded room, he walks away.
Bye, bye Brienne.
Under normal circumstances, I would’ve declined my cousin’s invitation without a second thought because a sorority party? Yeah, that’s master level social life and I have yet to get my feet wet at introductory level. But long story short, she caught me at a bad time. I’d just promised myself that I was no longer going to let my issues dictate my life when Sasha called.
Thus, here I am, lurking in a dark corner, and by the feel of it, developing a serious skin rash under my boobs.
A tiny Khal Drogo bumps into me. I only realize he’s Khal by the blown-up doll of Deanerys he’s wearing, and by wearing I mean her legs are tied around his waist.
We’re practically eye-to-eye, which puts him at five and a half feet. No judgement, however. At barely over five feet, I’m no height elitist. I’ll consider a small guy. Or a tall one. Skinny or chunky works for me too. Basically any decent guy has a chance. If you ask me, that “never settle” stuff is pure BS. I’m happy to settle for a nice guy as long as he’ll settle for me.
“Yo, sexy,” tiny Khal Drogo says with a jerk of his chin.
Not a smarmy one, though. Gotta draw the line somewhere.
One side of his mouth hikes up in an oily grin while his deep-set brown eyes rake over me. After a full sweep, they double back and stop at my breasts which I patiently endure as I have since the summer after ninth grade when my B cup inexplicably became a full D.
I don’t reply. And not because I’m not willing to give tiny Khal a chance. It’s because I suck at conversation with strangers. A throat-paralyzing anxiety comes over me every time I attempt it. Subsequently, I either stand around, looking like someone bashed me over the head and left me brain dead, or I stutter and neither option has ever landed me a date––let alone a boyfriend. It’s a curse I’ve been struggling with since I learned how to speak.
Sensing my conversational skills hover somewhere between terrible and non-existent, Khal says, “Your loss,” and walks on. Not before the Deanerys blow-up doll smacks me in the boobs as he turns to leave, however.
This may be for the best because the itch has graduated from mildly uncomfortable to flat-out aggressive and spreading everywhere. Taking this suit off isn’t even an option, not even to pee. I’m stuffed into this thing like sausage in casing. It would require either heavy machinery or an act of God to get it back on.
Less than a minute later, the itch gets unbearable enough to urge me out of my safe corner in search of some privacy before I’m compelled to claw at my nipples in public. And even though no one at this party knows I exist, I don’t need them to notice me for the wrong reason.
After repeated attempts at asking many, many individuals inebriated beyond remembering their own names where I can find a bathroom, I give up and start opening doors. The third one is the charm.
I hit the switch and a dim, fluorescent pink light comes on. As my eyes adjust slowly, I note that three of the four bulbs in the overhead fixture are out. Then I find the source of the pink light––a light-up dildo sitting on the tank of the toilet.
That’s right, a dildo lamp.
And because this needs to be preserved and shared, I take my phone out of my fanny pack and snap a picture of it. I’ll post it later on my new and improved Instagram account. The dildo lamp is undoubtedly a step up from the inspirational quotes and animal memes that populate my feed now.
In the process, I inadvertently catch sight of my reflection in the mirror and it briefly startles me. What the hell was I thinking when I bought this getup?
The mask or whatchamacallit covers the top half of my face, leaving my cheeks and lips exposed. Paired with the matte fire-engine red lipstick I’m wearing, the one I would never ever have the ovaries to wear IRL, I look…I look like someone other than me. So maybe not such a bad decision after all.
In the meantime, the black gloves come off and I start scratching everything I can reach. That’s when I hear something––and the sound most definitely did not come from me.
In the reflection of the mirror, the My Little Pony shower curtain comes into focus. The snort slash snuffle could only have come from behind that. My pulse instantly quickens, going from zero to sixty, as I turn and slowly peel back the plastic curtain to reveal…
A mostly naked guy asleep in the tub.
Huh. I guess I’m not entirely surprised. I’m pretty sure I walked in on an orgy a few minutes ago.
Anyway, the naked guy––he’s passed out big time, his big body curled into a comma facing away from me with a tangle of wild hair hiding his face.
Standing over him, a familiar mix of fear and self-doubt begins to surface.
What to do? Do I go? What if he’s incapacitated? Ill? What if he needs help? I’m a pro at CPR thanks to my dad. Can I save his life if I need to? Should I attempt to save his life or should I can 911?
These are only a fraction of the questions running in circles in my head.
While that goes on, my eyes strain to make out the details of this naked stranger. No surprise, he’s another perfect specimen. My gaze moves down, down, down over a side view of a big, defined muscles, a muscular chest. Broad shoulders. Biceps––very impressive. And then I reach…a diaper.
A diaper? Yep, he’s wearing an adult diaper.
Adult diaper notwithstanding, as I stare at the curve of his lower lip––the only part of his face not covered by hair––a prickle of familiarity runs up my back. I lean in, closer to his face, and the cringey creepy feeling gets stronger. Naked guy stirs, shifts onto his back, and my worst fear is realized. The room starts to spin and takes my heart and the air in my lungs along for the ride.
I know those lips...I know that face.
I know it because I spend an unseemly amount of time staring at it in English Lit. Dallas Van Zant is my guilty pleasure. Some girls have shoes. Some reality TV. Mine happens to be daydreaming about Dallas…and doughnuts. I mean, if I’m being completely honest.
He’s the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. There’s art dedicated to ones as beautiful as this one. Songs written. Statues carved. He’s so pretty it makes my stomach hurt just looking at him. And so out of my league that the closest I’ll ever get to him is if I throw my body in front of his speeding Porsche. That’s pretty much the closest I’ll ever get to actually touching him without an arrest warrant being issued.
Which I’m totally down for…I mean him staying in my dreams, not the roadkill part. Boys like Dallas––the “unattainables”––the ones so far out of reach they may as well hang in the heavens…they belong in the realm of fantasy. Not in real life.
Because Dallas Van Zant is the opposite of boyfriend material. He’s the anti-boyfriend, more likely to give a girl a nervous breakdown than his heart. To be honest, I actually feel bad for whoever finally does succeed in getting that slippery organ because I have a hunch it’ll be hard to hang on to.
His full lips purse as he blows out a deep breath. For a moment, I catch myself wondering what they feel like. Are they as soft as they look? Warm? I’m tempted to touch them, to run the tip of my finger along the seam.
Jesus, who am I? This is so out of character for me that I’m a little high off the thrill of it.
Other than breathing, he barely stirs. Basically, he’s unconscious and Dallas is never still. He has a tornado-like energy that sucks up everything and everyone around him. Including this girl.
When am I ever going to get another opportunity to openly stare without consequences attached?
Like...never. So I do.
Living dangerously, I sit on the edge of the tub and take my time drinking him in. There are silver tears painted on his cheeks. This is curious but I don’t linger too long when there’s so much more to explore.
Asleep, he looks almost angelic. Which is completely false advertising because awake he’s wild. A hell raiser. And most notably a shameless player. Girls are constantly fighting for the right to sit next to him in class. The bookends, I call them.
I can’t judge the girls, though. Not when I’ve been admiring him from afar since the day my parents dropped me off for freshman orientation and he crossed my path on his way to the pool. One smile is all it took to enslave me. Our eyes met, he smiled at me, and bam! Glammed 4life. Three years later I’m still under this wretched spell.
He snorts again. Or snuffles or whatever. And I bite my lips to stop from laughing. If he wakes up now, it will truly be the end of me.
I’m about to pull back and bug out without him being any wiser when his eyes suddenly crack open. Beneath his hooded lids, the striking bright blue eyes that I know becomes a warmer shade of turquoise in sunlight are trained on me. At the most, my face is a measly foot away from his. There’s no plausible explanation for this.
I barely breathe while my mind scrambles for an excuse. Then I recall that the headgear hides most of my face and the tightness around my lungs eases a fraction. Even if he had any clue I existed––which I’m sure he doesn’t––he would never recognize me in this outfit. The Cat Woman costume is a far cry from the button-down shirts and khakis I typically wear to class.
“Kitten?” he says in a scratchy voice, expression sleepy with a side of seductive. Let’s be real though, he could make a fart look sexy.
The guttural purr slides over my skin and a shiver runs up my back. And that isn’t even the half of it. What’s really frustrating is that the rest of my body reacts in a way it seldom does––like he just hit the EASY button.
I go from feeling crippling nervousness to turned-on in the time it takes for the last consonant to fall from his perfectly symmetrical lips. And the worst part––for some incomprehensible reason it only happens with this guy, one that I have less than zero chance of ever getting romantically involved with. I wish I was imagining it but I’ve run a split test.
What in God’s green Earth possessed me to speak I will never know, but now that I have I wait for him to either call me out or laugh, and neither would surprise me.
“Am I dreaming?” he says instead, his expression one of genuine befuddlement.
Good grief, he even makes confusion look good.
“Yes,” slides out before I even realize I’m moving my lips. No hesitation or stutter.
Dallas’s gaze moves over my face. First, my lips. Then my cheeks. His eyes briefly lock with mine before descending once more to my mouth. Then pain flashes across his face. It’s acute and profound and for a minute I get the feeling he’s on the brink of tears. The real kind, not like the ones painted on his cheeks. But as fast as the pain appeared, it’s gone. His head tips back an inch, his chin comes up, and he pushes it all down and out of sight.
“Why d’you do it?”
My budding excitement takes a sudden downturn. Or is it upturn? Point is, he’s mistaken me for someone else. Not a stranger in a slutty cat costume but an actual other person! And going by the emotion on his face that someone means something to him. Whoever this girl is, she definitely left her mark. The longing in his voice is unmistakable. Also, it occurs to me that he’s high and hallucinating, and here I am feeding the delusion.
I’m going to hell for this.
I can’t answer. A silent, tension-filled moment grows between us and I let it. Silence is the one thing I’m great at. Meanwhile, he continues to stare at my lips like he’s one drug-addled, bad decision away from devouring them.
“Kiss me,” he murmurs quietly while his gaze lifts to mine, silently begging me to do it.
I could blame the costume.
I could blame a spell of temporary insanity. I legit could.
I could even blame pure and simple sexual frustration. God knows I feel plenty of that.
But the truth is I have no idea where I get the audacity, where the courage I never knew I possessed comes from. All I know is that I’m at a crossroads in my life. This is my one chance to ever touch him, my one chance to ever feel what it’s like to kiss him, and if I let this one chance slip away, I know I will regret it for the rest of my life. All I can hope for is that he’s a terrible kisser and the spell will be broken, releasing me from this inconvenient crush. Fingers crossed.
Closing my eyes, I tip my head forward and place my mouth on his. And as soon as we touch, Dallas sighs. He actually sighs against my mouth as we gently kiss. And for a moment, while my heart attempts to ram its way out of my chest, I am positive that this kiss is going to kill me.
But it doesn’t.
In fact, I’m the opposite of dead. I’ve never felt more alive, fearless, desirable. More so when he leans into it, takes my face in his hands, and nudges my lips apart with his.
It’s even better than my daydreams. I expected it to be lewd, I guess. For Dallas to take over, to wage an all-out assault on my mouth. Instead, I get sweet seduction. I get tenderness. A kiss I’ll be daydreaming about for a lifetime. Because by tomorrow, he won’t remember a thing…and I will never forget.