Me vs. Me Excerpt
Me vs. Me
Excerpt: Chapter 1
“Close your eyes, Gabby,” Cam said.
“Now? I’m watching.” Closing your eyes during a meteor shower was like wearing a bikini when taking a bath. You were definitely going to miss the important parts.
We were lying in the back of his Ford pickup, admiring the desert sky exploding above, drunk on Merlot sipped straight from the bottle (with cork remnants to spice it up—I could never open a bottle properly), while the light rained down on us from every direction.
“Come on, just close them,” he said.
As usual, I did as I was told. “Happy?"
I heard the metal creak. He squeezed my left hand and then slipped something cold and hard around my fourth finger. Was that . . . did he . . . My eyes shot open. Holy shit.
Cam was no longer lying next to me, but crouched in an awkward wanna-be-knight kneel.
“Will you marry me?” he asked. A massive Cheshire cat smile stretched across his normally serious face, making him look off-kilter.
Sparkle, twinkle, glitter. Ohhh. I had my very own meteor shower on my finger. At closer glance I could see it was a pear-shaped diamond (one carat or two?) set on a thin, platinum band. The man I loved had just proposed marriage.
The blood rushed to my head and my face felt hot. I wanted to say yes. Yes.
Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees! This was the moment I’d been waiting for my entire life. The moment I’d been romanticizing about since I first saw Cinderella when I was six and imagined my own glass carriage ready to roll me toward my happily-ever-after castle. A castle I later decided would be filled with thousand-thread-count bed linen and Italian marble Jacuzzis. All I had to do was respond. To give some sort of affirmative response. Like yes. Or okay, let’s. And I was going to say yes. The word was at my lips, begging to be released. Yes! An orgasmic, hallelujah, couldn’t-be-happier, yes. Yes!
All I had to do was open my mouth. Unfortunately, my lips were swollen and sticky, like I’d spent the day licking envelopes. They wouldn’t let me say yes. They knew I couldn’t say yes, because I was moving to New York on Sunday. In thirty-six hours. At least, that had been the plan until the will-you-marry-me curveball. Two weeks ago, when I had told Cam of the offer and my decision to take the job at TRSN in New York (the twenty-four hour news network owned by the TRS network) he had agreed to try long distance. I had to take the job—it was the chance of a lifetime. It was national. It was cable. It paid a six figure salary. I’d be producing legendary Ron Grighton’s show, which in any lifetime could not compare to my small-fry executive producer’s job in Phoenix. I’d invited Cam to come, to make the move with me across the country, but I knew he wouldn’t. I loved him, but this was my career. I had to go for it. And it wasn’t like the move was a surprise; I’d always told him what my dream was—apartment in Manhattan, jogging in the park (not that I jog but I’ve always wanted to), snowflakes on my nose. Hadn’t I?
“Perfect, huh? This way you don’t have to go to New York,” he said, nodding. “We both know long-distance relationships never work out.”
We did? I wanted to ask since when, but my mouth was still annoyingly uncooperative. I smiled, no easy feat with frozen lips.
“And I don’t want to lose you,” he continued, oblivious to my condition. “I want to marry you.”
So he’d said. I smiled (sort of) again. I never would have pegged Cam as one of those lame-ass romantic-comedy run-to-the-airport-gate-with-flowers-to-catch-the-girl-before-she-flies-out-of-his-life guys, but what did I know? I yanked my eyes away from the sparkling diamond, up to Cam’s soft lips, to the slither of a space between his two front teeth that had made me realize way back when that he wasn’t perfect, made me realize he was a man—not just a guy with adorable curly blond hair, not just a guy who had the answer for everything, but someone with flaws (like me), someone I could fall in love with.
Except I had to tell him no. I was going to New York.
Nothing came out. Apparently, my lips were too swollen for that word, too.
Yes. No. Yes, no, yes, no. Yes no yes no. Yesnoyesno.
Cam was now blinking his eyes furiously. I was going to miss those swirling patches of greens and blues. They’d always reminded me of little globes.
Could I really say good-bye to his globe eyes? Should I? I hated making decisions.
The real problem was that Cam would never in a million years leave Arizona. Career-wise it would be a huge pain in the ass since he’s a lawyer, and he’d have to take the bar in a new state. Although the corporate bankruptcy firm he worked for Banford & Kimmel did have a branch in New York. Truthfully, the real issue was his close relationship with his parents (particularly his mother), his sister and her two and a half kids (she’s pregnant). California, maybe, but clear across the country? A different time zone? He didn’t see the point.
I wanted to tell him I was the point.
Now suddenly he’d decided that long distance wouldn’t work. Not that I blamed him. It was like after that break-up when you said you’d be friends, but of course you wouldn’t be. When you ran into him a year later at a shabby bar downtown, all you talked about was the weather.
Which was always the same here. Hot.
So that was my choice: marry Cam or move to New York. I wanted to take a deep breath, but I was afraid to move, since I still had no idea what to say, not that any words would actually make it out of my mouth. Time felt stuck, frozen in a frame, paused by TiVo.
If I left, I’d miss the way he always bought me two cards every Valentine’s Day, one sexy and one mushy, in each envelope a chocolate heart. The way he’d throw me over his shoulder and spin me around. The way he’d wrap me in a towel when I got out of the shower and then kiss me on the forehead. The way he reminded me to use the bathroom before long car drives.
If I stayed, I’d miss out on a major job opportunity.
If I went, I’d have to sleep alone. I hated sleeping alone.
If I stayed, the Arizona heat, like a vacuum cleaner pressed to my head, would slowly suck the dreams out of my brain. I’d never go on another date. I’d be engaged. I’d never have another first kiss. I’d never get to wear cute pink earmuffs.
I needed to breathe. I inhaled sharply, but felt like my air was turned off. What was wrong with me?
I’d never get to date an Aries, my true love match (I am a Gemini, and Cam is a Libra, which is nowhere near an Aries). Not that I followed such things, but that tidbit had stuck in my mind ever since I read it in Seventeen when I was twelve. If we got married I’d never know for sure if I could have found eternal bliss with an Aries.
If I said no, would I ever again meet anyone as patient as Cam? Someone who had spent hours of his free time editing my final college papers, then later my resumes and cover letters, and more recently my story scripts? Someone who would calm me when a virus attacked my hard drive and ate my important files, and then reinstall all my software? Someone who would take off work to be with me when I got my wisdom teeth pulled, and then tell me he loved me even though I looked like a deformed chipmunk? Someone who would build me a bookshelf, not from Ikea, but from planks of wood he bought at the hardware store because he liked making furniture (hence the need for a pickup truck)?
If I said yes, I’d get to marry this wonderful man. Plus, I’d get to wear a diamond ring. A big, pear shaped diamond ring. If I said no, I’d have years of girls’ nights out. Apple martinis till dawn. Sexy first-date outfits. If I said no, I’d break Cam’s heart. If I said no, Cam would marry someone else.
If I said yes, I’d be part of a real family. An annoying family, yes, but still. If I said yes, I’d spend the rest of my life with a man I loved. But was he the man?
His globe eyes were looking at me with expectancy, and I wanted—oh, I so wanted!—to say yes, and I tried, honestly I did. But my mouth still felt gummy and anesthetized, and nothing came out.
Did I still have a mouth? I wasn’t sure. I tried to shake it into working. Which Cam must have mistaken for an implicit yes, because the next thing I knew he was kissing my neck, my chin, my lips.
Interesting. Apparently, I was getting married. Getting married? Getting married! It sounded so mature. Married. A married woman. But Monsieur, I’m a married woman!
I ogled the ring while embracing him. It fit perfectly. How did he know my ring size? I didn’t even know my ring size. Though, why would I? I’d never been one of those wife-wannabes who went to jewelry stores and tried on engagement rings just in case.
Cam’s soft hands began to roam under my sweatshirt.
I gently pushed him off. “What are you doing?” I asked, relieved that my mouth was back in working order. Well, not totally, because I think I meant to say, “What am I doing?” As in, was I really going to give in? Get married? Give up the dream of New York? “We can’t do this.”
“Because —” because I wanted to move! “— someone might see.”
He tugged at the green wool blanket and held it to his shoulders like a cape. “We have a cover.” Cam the Man. Cam the Superman. Cam the Husband. Why didn’t men wear engagement rings? Maybe he should tattoo his finger to mark him as mine. Then I’d feel safe moving to New York.
I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “But still.” Actually, I didn’t know what to feel. My two longings were head butting against each other and I hadn’t yet decided whose side to cheer for.
“I want to celebrate. We’re engaged.” Engaged. To engage. To interlock or mesh. He started undoing my jeans, and I let him. “I want to make love to my fiancée,” he said, suddenly serious. The first time he’d used the expression “make love,” I’d thought he was kidding, until I’d seen the earnestness on his face, and realized he wasn’t.
He wrapped his long body onto mine, the blanket covering us both. My roommate Lila had once walked in on us when we were “making love” and claimed she couldn’t get the image of his naked, ashen butt out of her head for months. I gave the ass a squeeze. Cam took that as a sign.
Afterward, as Cam’s forehead nuzzled into my neck, the stars above scribbled across the November sky like ink from a silver marker, I raised my suddenly sparkling hand into the air. Then I followed one of the stars, the brightest star, with my index finger as it shot diagonally across the blackness.
When I was a kid in California, I used to pretend that airplanes were falling stars, and I’d close my eyes and wish that I would marry a prince, that I would win the lottery, or that my mom and dad would stop screaming at each other.
With Cam still on top of me, I continued tracing the star’s path. And then I made a wish. I wished that I didn’t have to choose. That I could live both lives. Stay with Cam and move to New York. Have it all. The starlight burned out and I closed my eyes. And then I drifted off to sleep.
Blowing out the candles, pennies down a well. People made wishes all the time.
How was I to know that mine would come true?