Flying in first class was a perk of my job that I loved, even though this was the only time I had actually travelled first class. I sat back in the wide leather seat and looked out the window, trying to lose my thoughts in the clouds. I felt worried as I tried to relax and thought about what was going to happen this weekend. I had only been working for Marathon Corp for about a month. It was the first job that made me feel like a real professional, and I felt like I was going to be fired already. I was in charge of the whole New England area, and I knew that most, if not all, of the lower managers below me felt that I wasn’t qualified for the job. I myself had been amazed when I had been hired as an executive manager. I knew I had the degrees for the job: marketing BA from Columbia and a business management master’s degree from NYU. But I didn’t have that much experience – only the summer internships I’d done while getting my master’s. But I had brains and verve and a lot of initiative. And I knew that I was good at my job. However, I knew that there was no way in hell Brandon would allow me to stay if he realized who I was. I mean, there was a chance he wouldn’t recognize me. It had been seven years, and we had only dated for five months. It had been the best five months of my life, but for him, I bet it was nothing. I also knew that I looked more mature now and definitely dressed like a woman who knew the world. My usually wavy brown hair was flat ironed straight and I had on mascara and eye shadow. I looked nothing like the girl I was when I started college. Then I had been bright eyed, with minimal makeup and no hair products taming my normally wild hair. Thinking back, it should have been obvious to Brandon that I had been lying, but I knew that it was hardly his fault that I had deceived him. I hadn’t meant to, it had just been one white lie. I hadn’t expected him to ask me out. I hadn’t expected to fall in love with him.
I sighed as I remembered the first time I had seen Brandon Hastings outside the bar. That night had been one of the best in my life. Meg and some other girls had convinced me to join them at a bar in the Lower East Side that they knew didn’t card minors if they wore short enough skirts and red enough lipstick. I remembered the day clearly, it was a beautiful warm August day, not too hot, and we were all excited to be starting college. None of us had lived in New York before, and we were all pretty naïve and green. I don’t think that any of us had really had a boyfriend in high school because we’d all been too busy studying, trying to earn our way into an Ivy League school. And it had paid off for all us – we were incoming freshmen at Columbia University, and I think the giddiness that had taken over our lives came to fruition that night.
It had been a Friday, the weekend before orientation classes were going to start, so one of the girls had the bright idea of christening our first week before classes started. I had never had any alcohol before, and was as eager as the rest to go out and party. We were in New York, why shouldn’t we party it up? We’d all dressed up in the shortest skirts we owned and the tightest tops. I’d borrowed high heels from Meg and a bunch of makeup, and we took the 1 train to 42nd Street and then caught a cab to Doug’s.
Doug’s was everything I had imagined it was going to be: dark and musty, with bright lights and lots of cool-looking people. I was amazed that we had been able to walk right in without even a second glance from the bouncer. Our plan had worked. None of us had been carded, and we walked quickly to the bar to get some drinks. Felicity, who was the one who had told us about the bar, ordered us our first round of drinks. Scotch on the rocks. It had tasted awful, and I thought my stomach was on fire as it burned slightly. “That’s just to get us buzzed faster,” she’d grinned before ordering a round of Sex on the Beach. “These will taste better, girls.” And she had been right. I guzzled two cups down within half an hour, not thinking anything of it, as they hadn’t tasted alcoholic at all. We were all just standing around when the DJ started playing some old Madonna songs, and Meg grabbed my hand and we ran to the dance floor, giggling. The other girls followed quickly and we had danced around as if we thought we were on Dancing With The Stars.
We danced all night and even though different guys came up to us, we turned them down. That wasn’t a night for us to look for guys, but a night for us to bond with each other. It was the first of many memories we were going to make together. We stumbled out of the bar at about 1 a.m. I remember that Meg and Felicity went to go and look for a cab while the other girls went to the bathroom. I stood there waiting outside the club and leaned against the wall, feeling dizzy and sick. The evening air had been cool, and I shivered in my lack of clothing.