I didn’t know if I wanted to strangle Charlotte or cry on her shoulder! I did tell her that I knew about her secretly trying to hook the two of us up… and the fact that Jackson denied me. She felt absolute terrible yet furious. According to her, I was a great catch and Jackson should’ve been head over heels for me! I kept trying to tell her that I wasn’t anything special or his type. That made her even more furious and it took me thirty minutes to talk her out of telling him how she felt! She wanted to try to hook me up with someone else but I politely declined.
That first night with Jackson had gotten my hopes up a little. I knew for sure that we would at least kiss! But, no; I was too short for him. Was that the only thing wrong? Regardless, it made me continually curse my height; how I wished that was something I could’ve changed as well! I thought so much about it that it affected my professional career.
The practice that day was unusually hard; when I got home, I slumped down on the couch. After a while, I decided to try to take a nap there. The one thing I thought about was hanging out with Jackson… something that I hadn’t done as much since our first night meeting one another. He had kept true to the “just friends” and “hanging out” bit but I declined a lot more than I wanted to. Couldn’t help it; I had no desire in seeing him with a woman… or women all over him while I sat there! I thought of any and every excuse not to hang out as much with him.
I groaned as someone knocked on the door. I debated letting them knock; if it was any of the girls, they would’ve just let themselves in. Another knock and I dragged myself towards the door; the quicker I answered it, the quicker they would leave! Imagine my surprise as I looked up at Jackson! Another delicious smile graced my presence and I damn near melted!
“Wow, can’t believe you’re home!”
“Why do you insist on using my whole name…?”
“… Sorry. I’m… I’m really exhausted; can you com-”
“This won’t take long.” he actually let himself in! I shook my head and sighed but went back to the couch. He didn’t bother to sit; he just looked at me.
“I just… I feel so stupid about this,” he sighed and looked at his feet. Huh; never would’ve thought that he had some sort of shy side to him. Jackson finally looked back at me. “Do you honestly like being just my friend?” he surprised me once more. I bit my lip as I looked past him. I should tell him the truth. No, I didn’t like being just his friend; I wanted to be more. But what good would that do? It would only push him away. And to be truthful: even though I was avoiding hanging out with him, I would rather be his friend than nothing at all.
“Of course. Why would you ask that?”
“I ran into Charlotte the other day. Well, she hunted me down! She was pretty pissed; said that you’ve been slacking and it’s my fault. Because I don’t want to be… more.” he explained. I… was going… to kill her! I told her not to go to him! I just gave him a wide-eyed stare before huffing and rolling onto my side away from him.
“Okay, Charlotte’s on drugs! She’s just mad that her little matchmaking skills failed! Don’t listen to her; if I didn’t want to be your friend, I would’ve said so.”
“Really? Because I get the feeling that you try to avoid me…”
“Okay now, you’re the one on drugs!” I yawned. I was caught off guard as Jackson pulled me so that I was looking at him.
“I can’t talk to you with your back towards me!”
“Fiiine!” I rolled my eyes. It made him chuckle and he finally sat down beside me. “I’ve just been busy, that’s all. I do play basketball, you know.”
“Not well ever since whatever came and got you distracted! Which, I don’t think it’s worth it.”
“Why are you so concerned about it…?”
“Um… I’m your friend? And I want to see you back to your normal self. And we’re going out this Friday; no excuses!”
“… We have a game…”
“Oh. Well… I’m going to keep bugging you until you run out of excuses!”
“Whatever.” I turned my body back around and was attacked by a series of tickles!
He was right, once I sat and thought about it. I had his friendship when in my actual present (could it be considered an alternative one, now…?), he had no idea that I existed. That made me more appreciative of the fact that we were friends. That and the fact that I could never say Jackson didn’t keep his word: he bothered the absolute shit out of me until I honestly ran out of excuses! I was glad that I did; hanging out with him proved to be some of my best times out and about! He instantly became a part of my small group of best friends. It was too bad that Facebook and Twitter weren’t invented yet; I would have a ton of pics of just us hanging out, with the “BFFs” hashtag and everything!
It wouldn’t be long after that I wouldn’t have time to think about being with Jackson romantically… because I would be pursued by someone else! The Bar Deluxe had become our favorite go to place, which was weird that the guys never got bombarded by fans! Charlotte and Martin took advantage of that; it was where they would meet in secret. I tried to warn her; she needed to slow down before she either ended up pregnant or his wife found out… or both! She gave me the usual dismissive wave of the hand and assured me that she knew what she was doing!
I tried to avoid them for the most part and stuck with Jackson. I started to get a bit tipsy and started thinking about him. He was simply gorgeous and sexy; best friend or not, I had to admit that! I’d never seen him dress sloppily, even if we just hung out at each other’s house! Always neatly trimmed, both his beard and his hair. And his cologne; a light fragrance that drew you closer to him. I had to get away from him to stop myself from suddenly kissing him!
“Getting a drink; want another one?”
“I got it.”
“What? No; your money’s no good here!” I smirked. He laughed as he put his wallet away.
“Fine but I don’t want anything right now. Maybe you should drink some water…” he suggested. I raised an eyebrow and then slowly leaned towards him, close enough to kiss him if I wanted to. His demeanor didn’t change so I just gave him a smirk.
“Maybe you should kiss… my ass!”
“Bend over. I dare you…” his response sent me in stitches. I shook my head and made my way to the bar. I watched as the lone bartender worked to get everyone’s orders; it had gotten extremely busy but that was common for the weekend!
“Two Budweisers.” I overheard someone who had just as deep of a southern accent than I had. Not common for Utah but I didn’t want to seem nosy so I didn’t look their way.
“Can’t have two drinks…”
“I know. The other one’s for her, in the red shirt.” I perked up and quickly scanned the area; who was the lady who got this guy’s attention? It was kinda sweet; I had never seen that happen except in movies! It didn’t dawn on me that the lucky lady… was me, until I found a Budweiser placed in front of me. I was indeed wearing a red shirt!
I would’ve gotten enough nerve to look at the guy but he made his way towards me. And I could’ve died right then and there! Standing in front of me was none other than Darren Ellerbee. Yes, NASCAR’s Darren Ellerbee, III! It was weird to see him so young, knowing that I was supposed to be nearly forty and he was five years older than me. But, he was another one of my celebrity crushes! Not as deep as Jackson but he was a damn good looking man! The epitome of the “All-American boy next door”, Darren was a blue-eyed, blond-haired fox! Tall and muscular, he looked more of one those Texan eat, sleep and shit football quarterbacks rather than a Kentuckian NASCAR driver!
I could do nothing but smile at him; not as tall as Jackson so I only had to look up at him slightly.
“My pleasure. I’m Darren, by the way.”
It was like we were on a date! Darren didn’t leave my side! While my heart skipped beats when I first laid eyes on Jackson, this was a totally different feeling. I could feel the attraction from Darren. It was definitely mutual! When Jackson and I were alone that first night, he didn’t come near me. Darren tried to go out of his way to touch me as we talked and drank; whether it was a slight caress on my arm or a quick wrap around my shoulder! It didn’t offend me in the least; I warmed up to his every touch.
I blushed as he kissed my hand when he got up to go to the restroom. It didn’t go unnoticed that Jackson and Charlotte were eyeing the two of us the entire night; I rolled my eyes slightly as they made their way to the table me and Darren shared.
“So… who’s the white boy?” Jackson asked. I didn’t know whether to be upset or embarrassed; a mixture of both set in as I blushed hard. “What?!” he noticed.
“Why does it have to be like that?” Charlotte asked for me. Jackson shrugged.
“Is he Mexican? Noo!”
“I wouldn’t mind him; think he’s jealous!” I eyed Jackson. He didn’t give me his usual laugh; only sucked at his teeth and took a swig of his beer.
“He’s a bit… touchy-feely, huh?” Charlotte asked with a gleam in her eyes.
“Well… I ain’t complaining! I like it. He’s just… affectionious…”
“… That’s not even a word. You’re drunk; we should go. I really don’t like the way he’s clinging to you…” Jackson confessed. I feigned shock and dramatically placed my hand over my neck.
“‘We’? Oh, I’m sorry; I was unaware that ‘we’ were on a date, now…”
“Fine! It’s obvious that you’re too drunk to realize that we care about you!” his eyes widened as he playfully snapped. Charlotte and I roared with laughter as he finished his beer. I threw my arms around his shoulder and smiled widely.
“If you’re jealous, just say you’re jealous!”
“I’m not jealous!”
“Whatever you say! Either way, me and Darren are staying here.” I nodded.
“So, what does Mr. Darren do?” Charlotte asked. I was seconds away from asking how they didn’t know who he was! Then I remembered that he had barely made his mark in NASCAR; die-hard fans knew who he was and it was only because of his dad. I had no idea if those two even knew what NASCAR was (although, in a few years, Jackson would become an analyst for ESPN and finally get to meet Darren because they both root for the same NFL team).
“He’s a NASCAR driver.” I told them as though I was proud of it. In a way, I was; Darren would become the most popular driver in a couple of years and it wouldn’t be because of his dad.
Their laughs clarified that they at least knew what NASCAR was! It was the usual response from non-fans; either that or the joke about left turns!
“And… she said it like she’s so proud of it!!” Charlotte roared.
“Can’t wait for the family dinner!” Jackson joined in and the two were nearly in tears from laughter. It was another stigma that NASCAR was filled with nothing but racist, redneck bigots (later proven that it was the corporate offices who were like that, not the drivers, themselves). It didn’t matter; the two didn’t even have the damn decency to stop as Darren came back. He eyed them funny but I pushed Charlotte out the way so I could get to him. I grabbed his hand suddenly and I blushed as he immediately wrapped his fingers around mine.
“Let’s sit somewhere else; obviously this table’s been taken!”
“Jazzy, don’t be like that! Come on! We’re sorry!!” was the last I heard from Jackson but he was still busy laughing.