Chapter One

Fifteen long, nerve-wracking minutes had passed. It was as if I was finally living out my worst nightmare; my most terrifying fear was coming alive right before my eyes. I turned to my cell phone, sighing impatiently at the time. Sixteen minutes. For the umpteenth time, my desperate eyes searched the warm room, groping for some sort of clue to where my idiot date was. Smiling couples ran their fingers over each other's resting hands, making small conversation about running into the other's ex to the diaper aisle of Wal-Mart. There was a large table in the far corner of the dim-lit restaurant that was holding, my guess was, a committee meeting of some sort. Older, balding men hoarsely laughed into the cloth napkins and squirmed in their high-back, mahogany velvet chairs.

The gorgeous Spanish waiter returned to my table, empty seat lamely across from me, and offered me a pity drink from the bar. "May I offer you a cold beverage?" He said, his Latino accent drenched in sex appeal.

I sighed, smiling politely. "No thank you, my date should be here any moment." I assured him through loosely grit teeth. But how could I assure him when I could barely reassure myself?

"Mm," he blinked slowly and patted the white linen table spread. He could sense that I was in denial. Fine, if that's what they call it these days, but I remember at one point in history it was called optimism.

"No, you don't understand. He's really gonna be here. He just called me." I tapped my quiet phone that hadn't rang since two, when my brother reminded me of the dinner I was supposed to be preparing for his wife's plastic surgery recovery. As if inflated breasts were a need for a free dinner. Well, not from me at least. But of course my brother thought so.

I twirled a copper colored strand of hair around my index finger and leaned my elbow on the table. Note to self: Micael deserves a smack for leaving me here, looking pitiful in an expensive restaurant downtown, and for making the hot Spanish guy believe I'm an insecure, fretful, young girl who lets men walk all over constantly. And see; now he's causing me to overreact.

"Look, you're making me overreact!" I yelled as soon as the front door swung open and in stepped my long lost date within earshot. "

"What?" He asked, taking a seat and picking up the menu.

"Where have you been?" I whispered loudly, aware that people were now staring at me.

Again, he ogled at me, puzzled, like I was an idiot. Micael snapped the menu forward so it would stay straight, staring over the top with his deceiving gray eyes. "I was in traffic."

"Mmhm," my back leaned into the chair and I folded my arms over my chest.

"What? I wasn't too late." He said.

"Are you insane? You're a half hour late! I thought I was being stood up." I spun my straw around in my drink, listening to the sound of the ice quietly churning.

He laughed. "Stood up? How old are we now, nineteen and I'm twenty. Unless you're expecting a date after a one-night stand or going on a semi-blind date in high school, you shouldn't have to worry about that."

"I looked like an idiot."

"I'm sorry," he said, still scanning the insane words on the menu.

I pulled down the blood red leather cover with the tip of my finger. "No you're not."

He snapped the menu shut and sat back in his seat. "We need to talk."

The Spanish waiter approached our table before I had time to freak about what was just said. This waiter was getting a show tonight.

"What?" I hissed, knowing full well that the waiter was hovering above us with a notepad in hand.

"Uh, go ahead and give him your order, Laurelle." Micael nodded to the waiter.

"A filet mignon, with a shrimp cocktail, a red wine, and a side of crab legs." I slammed the menu shut, handed it to the waiter, and never took my eyes off my boyfriend.

"OK, I'll have the lobster special." Miceal said. The waiter scribbled down the order, obviously disappointed that he wasn't going to be witnessing a FOX NEWS worthy showdown.

"Laurelle," he sighed.

"No, listen to me." I stabbed my finger at him and stood up. "I'm sick of your clueless crap. You forget about me constantly, ditch me to hang out with 'the guys', who you spend every waking minute with anyway, and 'traffic' my butt." Micael was taken aback, his eyes darting crazily around the room. He patted his shiny forehead with a napkin, a few deep strands of his dark brown hair beginning to moisten. "You're paying for that dinner I ordered, take it home to your 'guys'. Lord knows they eat nothing but McDonald's day and night." I gallivanted to where he was fidgeting on the opposite side of the table, yelling, "and I know about your breast reduction last fall."

His eyes flew open. A chorus of gasps and snickers crept into our one-sided conversation.

"Laurelle," Micael's voice was low and dominant. He leaned his head in; I could see his fingers clenching as they were intertwined.

"We are over! I'm sick of every guy treating me like crap. And I'm sick of expecting each guy to be different from the last, only to discover that he's just another useless one who sees me as nothing but 'a fling'." I spat.

"Laurelle," he said tightly.

"Goodbye!" I stormed out of the restaurant, knocking into a sweaty waitress on the way. Her silver platter shook, but she reached out and balanced it, tossing an aggravated, detestable look my way. Shoving it out of the way, I did the same with the people gathered near the front door. I watched head turns, not in a complimentary way, but in an impressed, what-did-I-just-watch-occur stare.

"Taxi!" I yelled as my heels clicked on the cement sidewalk. Pulling my black trench around me, I could feel my hair coming undone. "Taxi!" I stopped on the edge of the sidewalk, whistled, and began into the empty, wet road as the yellow car approached.

Hurriedly, I jumped in and told the driver where to go. "Have you ever been in love?" I asked as I tumbled into the warm seat.

The man's bushy eyebrows scrunched together. He obviously didn't speak much English besides the avenue and street names of New York.

"Never mind," I sighed. My eyes followed the slick road, staring at the ugly, brown slush along the sides of the streets. The streetlights reflected their glow upon the dirty snow which glistened like topaz. My forehead was icy as I leaned it against the freezing window, bored with the dull night. A few lonely artists roamed the streets, kicking at trash and searching for their inspiration within the midnight's dark mystery.

I opened my leather light blue clutch when I switched my gaze to the rolling, spinning meter on the dashboard. Ten bucks and thirteen cents. I better have money. I'm sure I do, since you never know what cheapskates you'll be going out with at night. Usually, Micael would pay for our dates, but occasionally I would offer, feeling so bad and all.

The Arabic man with a thick Indian accent pointed to the stalling meter. "Ten dollars sand thirteen cents."

I slapped twelve bucks in his hand, thanked him, and ungracefully stepped onto the wet, shining road. Water spewed from the tires as he pulled out, lightly spraying the backs of my bare legs. I twisted to investigate, not that I was going anywhere but to my warm dorm room tonight. Little gray freckles of wet filth were sprinkled over my legs.

The campus of NYU was scattered with couples, drunken groups of guys, and a few night owls taking a midnight stroll. I could hear some shouts from a group of about five guys stripping. I ignored them and hesitantly stepping into the wet grass. Ugh, I thought as the water crept on to my feet; my sandals weren't much protection from the rain. My hazel eyes stared down at my feet that had random blades of grass and soil sticking to them. I reached the sidewalk, stepping on a wet newspaper. My tired legs found the stairs and I climbed them, groaning the entire way. At the end of the flight, I held my breath so that no one around would know that I was out of breath and horribly out of shape.

A girl was shouting to another, laughing hysterically, on the opposite side of my hallway. I scooted between, tore off my shoes, and pounded on my door. I could hear MTV drifting hazily from my room. Feet pounded on the cheap, thin carpet and my eccentric roommate and best friend, Alondra Monchez, unlocked the door. Her wide smile welcomed my frizzing hair and smeared mascara.

"Hey!" The Rosario Dawson look-alike opened the door.

I aimed my clutch on the bed, but missed, and it slammed into the wall above the cheap headboard.

"Date not go well?" She asked, pulling a red Popsicle out of the mini fridge next to the TV.

"No! Gosh, why do I always go for the idiots? Why can I not just find a keeper?" I tore off my coat and tossed it on the bed, and then fell back on it.

"That's exactly it." Alondra proclaimed, snipping off the paper covering over her frozen treat.

"What?" I said, sitting up and running my damp fingers through my now-stringy hair.

"You're looking for love. Just let it find you, Laurelle." She stated.

I gawked. "I barely know that these guys are losers, Alondra."

"Exactly! You don't know them before you go out with them. You need to date someone that you actually know and trust."

"Oh my gosh, are you insisting I date Jake?" I shut my eyes.

The tip of Alondra's red Popsicle fell and tumbled down her 7-Up t-shirt, spotting it, as well as the corner of her zip-up white sweatshirt, with pink blots.

"You're such a mess." I laughed.

Alondra picked it off the floor and tossed it in the small trash bin. "No, I'm not insisting that you date Jake." She referred to one of my best guy friends who she believed was gorgeous and a perfect match. Puh-leeze, I've known him since third grade. The memories of his snot wiped on my arm and his perverted "doctor" play with my Barbie dolls weren't exactly a turn on. They kind of killed the mood.

"This is funny, advice from you? Mrs. No-Commitment?" Teasing her, I began to undress from my teal, bohemian tube dress.

"I'm sure that you'll be happy to know that I am now going on a third date with this one guy." She bragged. Her long, dark brown hair cascaded down her back as she tilted her head to the right and held up three fingers.

"Wow, is it that Gregory guy?" I said from the miniscule bathroom.

"No!" She practically shouted with a disgusted edge in her voice. "He was the pothead who came to our first date completely stoned." Even I shivered at the memory of Alondra's retelling of her date from hell. It was almost as bad as my dates.

"Oh yeah, I'm sorry," I shut the bathroom door and shouted. "Who is it?"

"Calvin," she replied with a proud tone.

I turned on the shower and ran my foot under the steaming water. As I scoured my skin, I constantly thought of my date. My long string of horrible dates, actually. This was my routine after ever idiot break up I encounter.

First, I stand in the shower, a lump in my throat, pondering my taste in guys. Second, I slip on my fuzzy pink socks and my flannel pajamas and watch an endless marathon of movies starring my boy toys while downing a cup or two of hot chocolate. Thirdly, I demolish a pack of white chocolate macadamia cookies. All the while, laughing at the metaphors Alondra makes of my stupid dates.

I wrap a chick yellow towel around my naked body, grab my bra and underwear, open the door, and shiver with the cool change in temperature. It was abnormally cold. I felt a natural breeze massage my clean skin, knowing that a fresh chill like that could only come from a winter night like this one.

I turned to my left and saw the butt of Alondra's sand-blasted jean Bermuda shorts leaning out of the window. Her brunette hair fell through the window and relaxed on the sill. A semi-dark abyss was framed through the open window; I could feel it.

"Alondra, what are you doing?" I called, clutching the towel to my chest and walking stupidly toward her.

She was laughing, then, I heard a gentle voice carrying through the night. As I lingered over her right shoulder, I looked down and saw Calvin Stars clutching a mike in his hand and horribly singing "Once Upon A Dream" from Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

"Do you guys have some emotional attachment to this song?" I asked, knowing from watching the movie with my little cousin that a girl sings half of it. But there was Calvin, howling out the entire melody in his jeans and white undershirt.

"No," Alondra laughed. I laughed with her, jealous to boot. I wanted to be serenaded at midnight, having tons of people mock the both of us, but knowing that deep inside they were longing for someone who would do that for them.

Alondra and I cracked up as Calvin strained to hit a high soprano note. I smiled down and then realized that I had forgotten I was still in my towel. Oh well, there's a serenade going on, like anyone would notice I'm half-dressed.

"Calvin! That was amazing!" Alondra swooned, holding her heart. I feared that she might jump out of the window and expect her boyfriend to catch her.

"Thanks, baby! Hey, Laurelle!" He waved to me with his free hand.

"That was some performance!" I yelled, feeling a few drops of water fall from hair and trickled down my back.

"I know it, look at this crowd." Calvin nodded to the people surrounding our dorm window, though it was three stories high. The people below and beside us were either trying to ignore the noise, or they were shouting and throwing old, beaten up pumps and loafers out their windows.

Alondra turned to me and threw her hands over her wide mouth. "Can you believe it? I've always wanted to be serenaded!"

"I know, girl! Me too! Go down there and give your boy a kiss." I nudged her toward the door.

With a gigantic smile on her face, she floated from the room, red stained t-shirt and all.