So remember that new book I’m working on? I’m finally jumping back in after a month-long hiatus. Adelaide Scott is a 25-year-old magazine columnist for a a Cosmopolitan-style women’s magazine. Her new boyfriend, Jordan, is a photographer for a sports magazine, and is quite well-known and respected in his field. Until one of his ex girlfriends publicly accuses him of rape. Jordan swears he’s innocent, and Addie wants to believe him. So Jordan gives her a list of all his recent exes for Addie to ‘interview’ to prove he’s telling the truth. Addie will find out the truth…but it’s nothing like she expects.
No release date yet, but stay tuned!
Jordan is already waiting at the bar when I get there. I try not to look too eager as I set my bag on the counter and take the chair next to him. Be cool. Be Stunning. “What are you drinking?” I ask.
“Coffee-flavored stout,” he answers. “Wanna try?”
He pushes the bottle toward me. I exhale before I try a sip, because it’s a stout, so I already know I’ll hate it. I don’t like beers that are thick enough to be a meal.
“It’s good,” I tell him, and signal the bartender. “I’ll have what he’s having, please.”
“So,” Jordan says, turning to face me. “There’s someone I want you to meet. She’ll be here shortly.”
My stomach instantly clenches at the word she. His next hookup partner? A secret girlfriend? I suppose either possibility was inevitable, since it’s not like he ever promised me anything serious. And I realize I’m acting a bit paranoid. Still, it would have been nice to get a heads up before sprinting this new woman on me, completely out of the blue.
In fact, I’m suddenly so furious, I open my mouth to rip him a new one, but I’m interrupted.
“Hi,” interrupts a female voice. We both look down, and I want to kick myself for being so paranoid. It belongs to the toddler from the photo in his wallet.
“Zoe!” Jordan immediately scoops her up, which she seems to love judging by her breakout smile. “Where’s your mom? You’re too little to be in here by yourself.”
“Potty,” Zoe answers.
“Ahh. Okay. Well I guess you can chill with us while we wait for her to come back. Addie?” Jordan settles her in his lap rests his chin on the girl’s head. “Meet my niece, Zoe. My favorite person in the whole world.”
“Hey there,” I say. I have to stop myself from extending my hand, as if toddlers know how to handshake. I’m not the best with kids, but it’s adorable how much Jordan clearly adores her. My uterus almost skips a beat.
Before long, the woman I presume to be Jordan’s sister shows up. “Do you mind watching her for a few minutes, Jordy? I’m so behind on this research paper, I just need maybe twenty minutes to look some things over. Your next drink will be on me, I promise.”
“You know you don’t need to bribe me to hang out with this girl,” Jordan responds, bouncing Zoe on his lap, which makes her laugh and laugh. I almost can’t handle this cuteness. “Hey, this is my girlfriend Addie, by the way.”
Girlfriend Addie?? What the hell? I’m as shocked as I am honored.
“Oh, wow, hey. Sorry, I’m so rude. Nice to meet you Addie, I’m Elise. I’d love to stay and chat, but I have so much homework. We’ll talk later?” She disappears to a table across the bar before I can respond “Nice to meet you” back.
What just happened here?
While Jordan orders a scone for Zoe, I nurse my drink and try to think of what to say. “So…girlfriend, huh?” is all I can come up with. Not too eager, not too emotional. I hope.
“Well, yeah,” remarks Jordan, as he breaks up the scone into smaller bites for his niece. “What did you think?”
“I don’t know,” I shrug. “You just made it seem like we were…”
“Well maybe that’s how it started.” He reaches for my hand with his free one, as the other gently holds his niece. “But I like you. I assumed you felt the same.”
Keep calm, Adelaide. I force myself to take another swig of beer. “Of course.” As much as I’d love to know when he realized I was a keeper, and not just a fling, I switch to another topic instead. “So Elise seems nice.”
“Yeah, she is. Just constantly tired and overworked. She finally decided to go back to school after she had Zoe, and she’s determined to graduate within a year. Not bad for a single mom.”
My next question–assuming I could have found a tactful way to put it–was going to be about Zoe’s dad, since I noticed Elise didn’t have any rings on her left hand. I’m grateful he covered that for me. “You must be very proud of her.”
“I am. I’m proud of both my sisters. Emma is a junior in high school and did better on the ACT than I did. And she kicks my ass in chess.” Suddenly mindful of the impressionable girl in his lap, whose face is covered in scone crumbs, Jordan coos, “I mean, butt. Don’t say ‘ass,’ Zo-Zo. Uncle Jordy has a potty mouth.”
“Potty mouf!” Zoe cries, releasing a spray of crumbs. Jordan shakes his head. “What can I do? I’m her favorite babysitter, but also her worst influence.”
It’s hard for me to reconcile these two sides of him: Jordan, the high-profile photographer with a girlfriend list as long as my arm, and goofy Uncle Jordy, fun-loving family man. Charmer of adult women and two-year-olds.
I’m about to say, “I highly doubt that’s true,” but my thoughts are interrupted by a frail, redheaded woman who just entered the bar, and is staring directly at us. I only noticed her because of the fiery brightness of that hair – the eyes that instantly locked into mine were an unexpected spook. I jerk my head back to Jordan, eyes cast down into my drink. “How long can you go before teaching her your dirtiest jokes?” I ask.
“Hmm…” Continuing to hold Zoe with one arm, he grabs his beer and takes a big gulp, pretending to ponder. “Those will have to wait until she’s much older. Like kindergarten.”
“Will Elise approve of that?”
“Elise will be grateful to have someone else to blame so people don’t think she’s the one who corrupted her.”
My laugh, though genuine, is louder than I anticipated, as the red-haired girl’s intense stare continues to freak me out. Now she’s locked her eyes on Jordan. It’s hard not to un-notice, but Jordan’s back is facing her, so he has no idea. “So you come from a family of potty mouths, I take it?”
“I wouldn’t say that, exactly. My parents…well, let’s just say, we try to hide that side of ourselves when we’re around them.”
“I see…” My voice trails off as the girl starts walking toward us. Her eyes continue steadily boring holes in Jordan’s back, but her steps are wobbly. Is she drunk? No, more like…nervous.
“Hey.” Squeezing Jordan’s knee, I jerk my head slightly in what’s-her-face’s direction. “You know that girl?”
By the time Jordan turns around, there she is directly in front of us, eyes wild and face flaming like her hair.
“Jordan Johnson?” she asks timidly. “Is that you?”
Jordan’s forehead creases every so slightly as he stares her down. Almost cautiously. There’s a flash of recognition in his eyes, mixed with surprise and dread. He knows her. And however he knows her, it looks like he wishes he didn’t. “Um, yeah. What are you doing here, Sam? I thought you moved out of the city?”
This Sam girl is so thin and short statured, with a baby-looking face to match, she could almost pass for a high school senior. Her eyes dart around wildly like a spooked horse as shakes her head. “You,” she exclaims, voice shaking and pointed finger trembling. “You…”
“Look, Sam, I’d love to catch up sometime, but I’m kind of with my new girlfriend here–”
I relish the fact that this is the second time in the same hour that I’ve been referred to as Jordan’s girlfriend. But the euphoria doesn’t last long, because the next words out of Sam’s mouth are piercing and unforgettable:
“You raped me.”