I don’t even know what this Kate is talking about now. “All I know is that I fell in love against my will.”
“Right, and you fought against it and it still happened and you still got hurt. So fuck all that. It’s not smart to avoid the inevitable. Just open your arms and let it in. Believe me, it’s much better when you’re not fighting it. It makes the highs that much sweeter.”
“I’m not in love with Kessler,” I tell her.
“I never said you are. But you were, and it’s not a big deal and nothing to be ashamed about. Just accept it happened and move on.”
“It’s kind of hard to move on when I work with him.”
“Right, but moving on doesn’t mean you’re closed off to him. Moving on just means you’re both moving on from the people you were. It doesn’t mean you’re moving on from him.”
She’s making sense. I don’t need to move on from Kessler necessarily, but I do need to move on from the people we once were and the relationship we once had with each other. That needs to be put to bed, or it’s going to haunt me and mess up any good thing that might come from this.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. He kissed me and it’s like the stitches unraveled and my heart cracked back open. Just an inch but an inch is enough. I’m vulnerable again in more ways than one. I need to move on from the people we were but that doesn’t mean I need to move on with him in the picture.
Dear lord, how am I going to survive these three months?
Drinking. I’ll do it by drinking.
“I need another coconut,” I tell Kate.
She purses her lips together as she observes me. Then she nods in approval and orders us another round. “This means I’m not driving you home anymore.”
“I’ll get an Uber.”
“Kessler could pick you up.”
“I’ll get an Uber,” I repeat.
“Fine, but if you get an Uber driver named Harold with a 4.8 rating and a white Prius, you should totally unload on him. He gives great advice.”
I’m momentarily offended that Kate unloads her problems on an Uber driver instead of me, but it only makes me realize that maybe Kessler isn’t the only person I’m not open enough with.
Things need to change.
But as the evening goes on and the drinks keep coming and the sun goes down, Kate and I decide to bar hop. We walk down Waikiki, flirting with surfer boys and chugging back piña coladas and mai tais, but the only thing that changes is that I get increasingly drunker—to the point where my memories all start to blur even as I’m living them.
“Where are we now?” I ask Kate. It’s dark. I’m sitting on the beach, sand up my ass, leaning back against a coconut palm.
“We’re getting you a ride home,” she says from above me.
I glance up but only see her silhouette beneath the palm tree, so I go back to closing my eyes. “Do you think it’s dangerous to sit underneath a coconut tree? Do you think maybe our hotels should give guests helmets to wear?”
“What are you talking about?” she says. “Nova, these better be drunk ideas and not actual ideas.”
“Coconut helmets,” I go on. She doesn’t get it. I am a genius ahead of my time. “Because it’s dangerous. They could crack your head open. I could die, just sitting here.” I mimic a coconut coming off the tree and hitting me on the head. “Just like that. Splat. We need to take care of our guests, Kate. We could make the helmet in the shape of a pineapple.”
“Actually I think a coconut would be more appropriate.”
“Oh my god, you’re right,” I slur.
“Okay,” she says cheerfully, and I hear her clap her hands. “Your ride is here.”
“My ride? We were talking about coconut helmets. Oh, oh, how about coconut bike helmets so you can ride a bike and also protect your noggin from coconuts. They’re not only a problem for pedestrians.”
I freeze. Kessler’s familiar sexy voice has infiltrated my thoughts.
I open one eye to see him standing beside Kate and peering down at me. “How are ya?” he asks.
I frown. “Why are you here? You’re going to steal my coconut idea like you did with the cucumber water!”
“You got her pretty drunk, Kate,” Kessler says to her.
“I did no such thing,” scoffs Kate.
“Where is my Uber?” I cry out. “Why did you call Kessler? He’s a jerk. A Big Dick Energy jerk.”
“What about my big dick?”
“She wants to take a ride, me thinks,” Kate says.
“Kate you whore, you’re a liar!” I yell up at her.
“Hey, I meant a ride in his car. By the way, I just saved your ass by getting your boss man here to pick you up. I wouldn’t send you in any Uber in this state, other than Harold, whom I do think you need to talk to.”
“Who is Harold?” Kessler asks, and is it my imagination or is there an edge to his voice?
“Harold is my favorite Uber driver,” Kate explains. “I told Nova she could unload all her problems on him.”
“What problems?” Kessler asks, and I can tell he’s asking me.
I clamp my lips together. No problems. Not anymore, now that I have my brilliant coconut helmet idea.
“I think she’s all torn up and twisted because of you,” Kate says.
“Kate shut your face!” I yell, attempting to get to my feet. The sand is a liar, it’s not a stable surface at all and I start pitching to the left.
Kessler reaches out with his Big Dick Energy arms and catches me. “I have you all torn up and twisted, Supernova?” he asks, and I can tell from the tone of his voice that he is just loving this. God, his ego is insatiable.
“Let me go,” I sneer at him.
“As much as I would love to see you faceplant in the sand, I’d hate to make your problems any worse than I already have.”
“You can handle her?” Kate asks.
“Oh,” he says, pulling me close to him and all I smell is his sweat and his pine-scented deodorant and my eyes are closing. The last thing I hear before I pass out is, “I can handle her.”
Kill me now.
There is sunlight streaming through my window, making my face hot. I’m dripping in a big bowl of sweat. I can hear roosters crowing incessantly in the distance. My stomach contents are fighting their way up my throat. My head is pulsing so fast and hard it’s like road construction inside my skull.
I am hungover as fuck.
And right now, it’s all that I am, all that matters, all that exists.
There is no escape, there is only pain, there is…
Wait a minute.
I am in my bed, right?
I slowly, painfully, pry open one eye and glance around.
It’s my room all right, but something is different.
For one, the AC isn’t running and I normally turn it on at night, but then again I can’t remember much of last night other than Kessler picking me up from Waikiki Beach and then I was stumbling through the house, stepping on Hunter’s toys, and then I was on my knees in the bathroom, hurling my guts out while Kessler held back my hair and Loan made some kind of ancient tea she said was good for detoxing.
Then that was it.
Now I’m here, in bed.
But Kessler never turned on the AC.
Which also explains why the window is open.
Which also explains why I can hear the neighborhood feral chickens.
Which…doesn’t explain why the sun is on my face.
It’s a Thursday.
I get up at seven a.m. to get ready for work.
The sun doesn’t get over those mountains and into my window at that time.
I quickly sit up, my head backhanded with a headache, and wince as I pick up my phone.
It’s eleven a.m.!
Oh my god, I slept in.
I slept way in.
Why the fuck didn’t Kessler wake me up?
“Aaaaaurgh,” I cry out and then notice that there’s a giant bottle of water on my bedside table, plus Advil, plus a note that says:
Didn’t want to wake you. Take two of these and call me in the morning,
Your sweat monster, Kess.
For a second I’m touched by the gesture and butterflies start to fly in my stomach over the fact that he took care of me and called himself my sweat monster. But then those butterflies wither and die when I realize he’s at work right now, at the meeting with George and Andy, and I’m not.
That asshole did this on purpose!
He wanted me to sleep in so I could miss work so he could go in and tell them that Nova was too hungover to make it but don’t worry, he’s the boss and he can handle it and gee she’s not all that dependable anyway. This is sabotage! This isn’t him pretending to be caring and kind, this is personal.
I immediately dial his number. I don’t have time to angry text him, I’ll probably fill it all up with dumb typos and I can’t have him own me in grammar either.
But there’s no answer. Of course there’s no answer, he’s probably in that meeting right now.
I get up. I am a ball of rage. I am a ball of rage who barely makes it across her room without doubling over because oh my god, I’m going to be sick. This is why I need to stay away from Waikiki Beach. I’m not twenty-one and on vacation. I’m thirty, and for every step forward I seem to take toward my career, it feels like I’m taking two steps back.
And all of those steps have me always crashing into Kessler.
I manage to make my way to the washroom without throwing up and, after I’ve washed my face a million times, my skin ashen, my dark circles looking like I’ve smeared coal under my eyes, I make my way downstairs. Thank god I’m in a baggy t-shirt and shorts. I have a feeling Kessler must have helped me undress last night and at least he didn’t stick me in my tiny camisole and a thong.
“There you are,” Loan says from the kitchen where she’s slicing up a sandwich. She nods to a pot on the stove. “I was going to bring you soup.”