All Grown Up

All Grown Up

Vi Keeland


Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.



-Mark Twain





Chapter 1




* * *





Valentina



Buy a thong.

I rubbed my eyes and leaned in to re-read the Post-it Note stuck on the lampshade beside the couch where I’d fallen asleep. I had to be reading that wrong.

Nope. It read buy a thong, alright. Only it wasn’t in my handwriting. Smiling, I pulled the yellow square from the girly looking tasseled lampshade, which tilted as I unstuck the note. I automatically reached to right it, then pulled back. A tilted shade or crooked painting made Ryan nuts. Leaving it gave me a renewed sense of joy about my divorce.

Come to think of it, my ex-husband had hated this lamp set when I’d brought it home. Like the dutiful wife I was, I’d hidden them away in the guest bedroom. The day after Ryan moved out, I’d dusted them off and carried them out to the living room. I’d since bought some coordinating fringed throw pillows he’d hate, too.

I stood, and my dull headache began to throb. Ugh. Wine hangover. I padded to the kitchen for some much-needed coffee and two Tylenol. On my way, I found another sticky note—this one on the front door.

Join Match.com

I pulled the yellow square off and crumpled it up, along with the thong note. Last night had been movie night with my best friend, Eve. Once a month, we shared a bottle of wine (or two) and watched movies. We’d been doing it since senior year in high school—more years than I wanted to compute so early in the morning.

It was no secret to anyone who knew me that I had a slight obsession with sticky notes. On most days, you could find to-do squares stuck to my front door, bathroom mirror, the dashboard of my car…just about anywhere. Wadding up the individual papers as I finished each task made me feel like I was getting things accomplished. These days, the squares were all over the place—quadruple the amount I normally had—because I’d been using them to study for the Italian language teaching certification test. Post-its with translated phrases were all over the house.

Apparently, my best friend had gotten in on the action before she left me passed out on the couch last night.

Get laid was stuck to the refrigerator. At least I was reading her to-do list in order—I needed the thong and Match.com to get my celibate self some action.

It wasn’t until hours later that I came across the last of Eve’s sticky notes. The one stuck to the bathroom mirror read: Brunch with my amazing best friend. Noon Sunday, Capital Grille on 72nd.

***

“You should go out with Liam.”

Every other Sunday, Eve and I went to a different restaurant to check out the competition. She owned a French bistro on the Upper East Side and liked to sample the menus and check out the pricing of new places—though today she seemed to be checking out more things than usual.

“Liam? As in our waiter?”

“Yup.”

“How old is he, like twenty?”

Eve lifted a martini glass filled with pink liquid to her lips. “I have vibrators older than him.” She sipped. “But he’s over the age of consent. And I’m guessing I could throw those things out if I took him home. I bet he can get an erection on command.” Eve snapped her fingers, demonstrating how it might work. “Hard, Liam.”

I chuckled. “You’d probably need to throw Tom out if you brought that young man home.”

“Don’t tempt me. He fell asleep in the chair at eight o’clock last night. What kind of a friend lets her best friend marry an old man?”

“Like any of us could’ve stopped you, even if we’d thought marrying Tom was a mistake. Which it wasn’t. Besides, who the hell else would put up with you? We all were just grateful you weren’t going to die an old maid.”

“Speaking of old maids…”

“Don’t even go there.”

“Have you gone out with Mark yet?”

“Mark and I are just friends.”

“And he wants to jump your bones.”

“The ink on my divorce papers is barely dry.”

“It’s been eighteen months.”

Really? January, February, March, April… Oh my. It has been. Where does the time go these days?

“Eighteen months isn’t a long time.”

“You were separated for two years before that. How long has it been since you’ve had good sex?”

“How did we get from talking about you to my sex life? Or lack thereof? Again.”

Eve had started lobbying for me to date while Ryan was still packing his shit into the moving truck. She meant well. But lately she’d amped up her normal nudge to a full-blown push.

She ignored my attempt to change the subject. “How long? Two-and-a-half years, Val?”

“Actually.” I pushed the pasta on my plate around with my fork. “If we’re talking good sex, sadly, it’s more like ten years. Ryan wasn’t exactly passionate toward the end.”

The very handsome (and very young) waiter came back to our table. “Can I get you ladies anything else?”

When he spoke, he looked directly at me. I might not be up on the dating scene, but I could swear that was flirting.

“Some dessert? Something sweet, maybe?”

He really is adorable. “Umm…I’m pretty full, actually. But thank you.”

“It’s on me. Can’t I tempt you even a little? Let me surprise you. You never know, sometimes a little taste is all you need to get your appetite going again.”

I looked at his forearms—corded and tattooed. You can say that again. “Umm…sure. Maybe I’ll take one home for Ryan.”

The waiter’s smile disappeared right before he did.

“What the hell did you do that for?” Eve scolded.

“What?”

“Mention a man’s name to a guy who was hitting on you.”

“I meant Ryan, my son—he might be coming home from college this weekend—not my asshole ex-husband. ”

“I knew that. But hot-ass waiter didn’t.”

“So? You don’t seriously think I’m going to hook up with a twenty-year-old, do you?”

“Why not? You don’t have to marry him. You just need to get back out there, Val.”

“I am out there. I just haven’t met anyone.”

Eve’s face screamed bullshit. And she was right. Since my divorce, I hadn’t even attempted to meet anyone. Honestly, the thought terrified me. The last date I had was in eighth grade when Jimmy Marcum took me to the middle school graduation dance. My ex-husband Ryan and I had been together since high school.

“I’m nervous about dating. I never really did it.” I grabbed the napkin from my lap, feeling a sneeze coming on. “Achoo!”

“God bless you.” She leaned forward and covered my hand with hers. “I know, sweetheart. But the longer you wait to get back out there, the harder it gets. You’re overthinking it.”

We paid the bill and walked to our cars with our arms linked. When we arrived at my Volkswagen Routan, Eve shook her head.

“You need to get a different car.”

“What? Why?” My silver SUV was in great shape. “Volkswagens are cool.”

“Yes. The one Lara Meyer’s older brother drove to high school was cool. A hippie bus or a little bug convertible, maybe. That thing…is a minivan. It looks like you’re driving around a car full of kids to soccer practice before going home to make your husband dinner.”

“That’s exactly what I used it for.”

“Used it for. You’ve had that thing for ten years. Your kid started driving his own car almost three years ago, for God’s sake. I don’t think you need the minivan to take him to practice anymore.”

“Whatever. It’s just a car.”

“Want to catch a movie tomorrow?”

“I can’t, actually. I have study group. The test is coming up soon.”

“See you next Saturday, then?”

I squinted.

“You’re coming to our Memorial Day barbeque.”

“Wow, is it the end of May already? I think my calendar is filled through June.”

Eve kissed my cheek. “Wiseass.”

She walked to her car parked a few spots away and yelled over her shoulder as she unlocked her BMW.

“By the way, I wrote your telephone number on the back of the check for the hot waiter. Goodnight, Valentina. Enjoy.”

Based on the grin she gave me as she rolled past me and waved, I had no idea if she was kidding or serious.

Jesus, I hope she was kidding.

***

The next morning when I powered my phone on, I had two missed calls from an unknown number and a text from Mark.

Mark: Chinese or Italian tonight?

It was Mark’s turn to host our Saturday evening study group, and the host supplied dinner. He lived in Edgewater like me. Desiree and Allison, the other two in our foursome, lived on the other side of the river in Manhattan.

Valentina: You do know my maiden name is Di Giovanni, right? I’m never picking moo shu over meatballs. ?

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