I turn around and walk up to my car. Even though I walk the same way I always do, inside some frustration settles in my chest, squeezing it like an invisible hand. Susan’s words resonate with me—especially because this morning I got the invitation for the coveted annual party.
Usually, employees take their spouses. I can’t take Susan, nor would I want to. But if I show up with Britney, the female employees will hate me. And the spouses too. Some of the men may be jealous of me, but they won’t show it. And poor Britney will have to deal with these people, having to feel sorry for being young and pretty. Those are her flaws—everything else is on me.
I’m the Big Bad Wolf who chose to fuck Red Riding Hood until she can no longer walk. Honestly, I have never felt this obsessed with someone.
I drive to her apartment to pick her up. I know she’s done with college and didn’t work today at the coffee shop. A part of me just wants to have her available for me, at all hours, and pay her bills so she can focus on her studies and not have to work. But I know I’m also being selfish.
I knock on her door, and she opens it, excited. She greets me with a hot kiss that teases all my manly parts.
“Are your roommates home?” I whisper.
We’re loud, and I don’t like to have sex in her place if her roomies are there.
She pulls me away, chuckling. “Actually, I was hoping we’d go for a happy hour before heading to your place. A few people from my class always invite me, and I never get to go.”
“Oh,” I say, disappointed.
“Is that okay?” She tilts her head to the side. “It’s a bar, not too far from here, and they also have a kitchen. I figure, we can eat, then go?”
“Sure,” I agree, when a part of me wants to know more. Do her college friends know about me? Aren’t they going to think it’s weird she’s dating someone twice her age? Insecurities populate in my mind, and I try my hardest not to show it.
Within moments, she puts on some gloss and eye makeup, and we’re off. I take my car, and when we’re finally entering the place, I inhale what smells like cigarettes, weed and cheap beer.
There’s a crowd in the bar area watching a game, then smaller groups gather around one of the many pool tables. I’m also grateful for the poor lighting, because if we’ll be eating here, I probably don’t want to see what the food looks like.
She squeezes my hand, and smiles. “This is okay, right?” she mouths to me, and I realize maybe she read the reaction on my face.
I kiss the back of her hand. “I’m good,” I say.
She flashes me a glance as if she knows I’m lying. Even in a couple of months, we developed this relationship in which she knows me a little bit more than I’d want her to. The idea makes my heart pound in my chest, with a blend of excitement and despair.
“Hey! There you are,” says a girl about her age with red hair. “You finally made it.”
Britney chuckles and says something, but I can’t hear her. The sound of a new group that has arrived behind us muffles the background noise. Maybe I’m an old man after all—all I want is to get out of here. The place stinks, it’s too loud and I didn’t work hard to make the money I make to buy third rate appetizers.
“Cat, this is Hunter. Hunter, meet Cat,” Britney says.
I shake her hand, and Cat’s gaze travels between me and Britney for a moment as if she’s mentally counting our age difference. Then, she smiles and tries to make up for it by shaking my hand for a lengthier amount of time.
Then, a group of four other college kids—two guys and two girls— surge behind her. One of them I recognize as Dan, the new kid at the office who brings coffee for everyone. Oh, great. My night just got better.
I chewon my lower lip. We’ve been playing pool for an hour, and so far, Hunter has kicked ass. I also love to see him leaning over the table, and how his butt looks delicious in his pants. I sigh.
Problem is, my friends haven’t quite warmed up to him yet. My group of friends can be immature, and I wonder if him being a successful man intimidates them. Or perhaps they’re worried he won’t get most of their pop culture references. What about being happy for me, though? Does everything have to be so black and white?
“So your hot old man is winning again,” Cat whispers.
“Hey, enough with old man jokes,” I say. Old man or not, he looks better than any guys any of us has ever dated. Cat can be competitive, and she’s probably jealous I snatched him first.
She lifts up her hands in surrender. “So-rry.”
I watch him play against Dan. Dan wants to be a lawyer when he finishes school, but for now he’s a receptionist at a law firm, and as fate would have it, he works at Hunter’s. So he’s been doing some major ass kissing and I wonder if he’s letting Hunter win. His explicit brown nosing is almost more awkward than my other friends’ reaction to Hunter.
“Well done,” Dan says. “Haven’t had an adversary this good in a while.”