Yup.

I’m twenty-three years old, currently reside in California—aka the “State of Fornication”—attend a run-of-the-mill college, live with a stripper…and still haven’t “done the do” yet.

If one were to inquire why that is, they’d most likely get varied answers that range anywhere from, A: I must be some sort of uptight prude or B: I’m archaically saving myself for marriage to C: I’m a closet lesbian and D: I’m just really, really awkward around members of the opposite aforementioned.

All depending on who you ask.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above, none apply.

Okay…maybe just a teensy bit of the last one.

It’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to, either. And I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a time when I’d been tempted to engage in the usual millennialized FWB “situationship”. Problem is, for better or worse, I just don’t think it’s for me. At all. Deep down, it was never really an option, to begin with.

And, while my upbringing probably has a lot to do with it, it’s not that I’m waiting for marriage, either, despite the fact that my father—who’s as Baptist as they come—has made it very clear on several occasions that he’ll disown me if I “let myself get compromised” before walking down the aisle at our church.

Yeah. Because the first thing a girl does after fucking a guy is pick up the phone and give daddy a ring to tell him all the nitty-gritty details and intricacies of getting nailed.

Gimme a break.

         

When it comes down to it, the simple truth of the matter is…I want to be in love when I finally make that choice.

Truly, genuinely, openly in love with a man who is one hundred percent available in every way—and loves me back.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t come to pass.  

Nonetheless, I’ve come to realize, over time, that it’s non-negotiable; it absolutely has to be with someone I trust—wholly—or it doesn’t happen at all.

I’m not the biggest romantic, but I believe in emotional bonds and intentional commitment based on those ties. Even without having been in one before, I like to think I have enough self-awareness to know that I’m a “relationship person” through and through. And, as physically unfulfilling not being in one can sometimes get, I don’t want to sell myself short by simply giving in to the typical college culture of casual fucking with any Tom, Dick—no pun intended—or Harry who’s willing to drop his pants. Naturally, like most women on campus—and life in general—will find, there’s no shortage of those.

Michaela disagrees with both the notions of having to be married to and in love with a man to sleep with him, but I really don’t think the latter is asking too much.

So, no. I haven’t had sex.

I’ve lived vicariously through steamy, dramatic love affairs of heroines in books and movies countless times, but nothing particularly sensual has ever entered into the equation during my actual, post-secondary existence, even though there were many when I’d have loved to have known the strong, passionate grip of a guy’s hand on my ass or his warm, velvety tongue against mine.

Mainly Adam’s.

I’d certainly fantasized about it enough times.

But whenever those thoughts surfaced, the unclear and somewhat questionable emotions they conjured always sent me further into my studies or volunteer work, and I’d end up tucking the dubious, lingering desires far into the recesses of my mind.

Until they’d reemerge.

Eventually, I’d break down after much resistance, forced to temper those unyielding, nameless feelings with the fictional sex of other women and their lovers all over again. Sometimes, a single story would be enough. Others, not even ten could get the job done. Which would, in turn, evoke a cumbersome, fragmented sense of guilt.

A girl raised in a proper, Christian home shouldn’t be visualizing sucked lips, pinched nips and pumping hips.

Let alone crave them…

And, just like that, this vicious, exhausting cycle would continue. Round and round. Again and again.

My eyes inadvertently dart back to the acceptance letter, shelving concealed aspects of the past for the unveiled present.

Dear Miss Constance Myers,

 

I am pleased to inform you on behalf of Earth Capital Co. that your application for internship for the post of Wildlife Conservationist has been accepted by the management of Earth Capital Co. and you have been selected for the annual internship program…

 

The Recruitment Unit has expressed a positive response and believes that you have one of the best results amongst all the applicants this year…

 

I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve read those paragraphs. And it’s highly likely I’ll read them a bunch more once I head back home. It may seem obsessive, perhaps even narcissistic. Who knows, maybe on some level, it is. But I can’t help myself. It’s like a compulsion. Like I have to make sure the words are still there. That this isn’t some fluke.

To indicate your acceptance of the company’s offer, please sign and date this letter…

 

Please note that this offer holds true for two (2) weeks from the date of this notification and if you fail to join us by then, this offer will be considered null and void…

This message means so much more than a chance to gain valuable experience with a renowned company for the next twelve weeks. It’s not just a first-class ticket to the opportunity of a lifetime.

For me, it’s a sign; a huge, gigantic, bleeping sign that, for once, against all the odds, my actual life is actually going according to plan. That things are finally turning out how I want.

This single sheet encompasses years of effort, discipline, tolerance and persistence—all which have clearly paid off. It symbolizes everything I’ve been wanting for a long time; physical proof that, in spite of the stumbling blocks and naysayers, I made the right choice.

And, now, am about to take a huge, pivotal step in the right direction.

“We absolutely have to celebrate you getting the Earth Cap internship,” Pey grins emphatically, stealing my attention from the words in front of me. “This is a big deal! We could check out that new club in the Dusk to Dawn District. Or one of those trendy, remodeled dive bars in the Power and Light Ward.”

She throws out more suggestions of the same general ilk, her tone persuading, only because she knows nightclubs and bars are totally not my scene.

“How about a trip to a conservation park or botanical garden?” I rebut. “Ooh, ooh! Or a state-of-the-art recycling factory?” I add, getting more excited as I seriously consider the prospect. “We could even hike there!”

Peyton offers a dry, non-hesitant, resounding, “No.”

“Bike there, then?”

Absolutely not!”

I erupt into a fit of laughter at the fact that my best friend, for all her fitness and athletic disposition, still possesses an unmitigated fear of bicycles after falling off her very first and landing chin-first on sunbaked asphalt the afternoon of her seventh birthday. Three broken teeth and a busted lip that required half a dozen stitches were the outcome. And while not a trace of either is visible over a decade and a half later, the emotional trauma clearly took its toll and is apparent as ever.

“What?” Peyton suddenly asks, her brows drawn close together, and I realize I’ve been staring at her. 

I shrug, offering a small, somewhat despondent smile. “I don’t know, I…I’m happy about the internship, don’t get me wrong. I really am. I just…can’t help but wonder how much further along I’d be now if I’d done what I wanted from the get-go. Like you.”

The conversation switches suddenly, and I don’t mean to bring up Peyton’s current status as a final-year, environmental law student and her trajectory to graduating at the top of her class by the end of the semester. It’s just hard to ignore.

And, while I couldn’t be happier for her, it hurts to think about, not only because it evokes a major sense of regret, forcing me to contend with the fact that I could’ve been where she is now if only I’d listened to my heart and not been afraid to follow it sooner, but also because, in all likeliness, I won’t be seeing much of my best friend once she moves to LA to practice alongside the big-league attorneys after graduation.

I exhale, hating this feeling.

“It’s like I’m playing catch-up all the time but I’m always two years too late.”

The words leave me in an involuntary whisper, my countenance falling even though I should be the happiest person in the room.

“Don’t you dare do that to yourself,” Peyton counters, her usually chipper visage growing stern. “You hear me? You’ve worked your ass off and more than made up for whatever time you lost. That paper in your hands is proof of that. Don’t let any disappointments you have about your past rain on your parade or dampen your excitement for the future. Regret doesn’t get you anywhere, Connie. Believe me, I know. So you might as well not even waste your time wallowing in it.”

I can’t help but smile. “Best. Pep talk. Ever.”

She chuckles, shaking her head at my silly yet sincere come back.

Typical Peyton Baxter.

She always knows just what to say; both an attentive, listening ear and a compassionate, honest voice. A genuinely amazing person all around.

I don’t know why she insists on staying single.

For as long as I’ve known the self-proclaimed “Single-erra”, she’s never been in a relationship or had a single—no pun intended—guy come around, even briefly. Which is a shame because she’s such a catch.

Come to think of it, her “fabstinence” is probably why I haven’t felt as odd about being an SOV: “slightly older virgin”. In fact, all three of the closest women in my life, for better or worse, don’t have the kind of love-slash-sex lives I aspire to, so I’ve never really felt as pressured to date or jump into a relationship as I might have, otherwise.

Peyton is pretty much married to her studies, going full speed on a straight and narrow path to the kind of mega success deserving of her prodigy. She’s never had trouble attracting men, though; the girl’s both beautiful and brilliant, insanely intelligent yet friendly and charming, somehow able to bridge that elusive gap between distinguished scholastic excellence and remarkable social prowess. A bookworm of the highest order and a bright, social butterfly all wrapped up in a simultaneously inspirational and envy-inducing package. But, for all her smarts and charisma, she remains single, deliberately so, turning down potential suitors left and right, promptly friend-zoning any guy who shows the tiniest flicker of interest in being even a smidgen more.

Then there’s Michaela; the closest thing I have to a biological sibling as an only child—an attribute we share. She’s pretty much the polar opposite of Peyton, trading one man for another practically every other day of the week. The ultimate free spirit and personification of commitment phobia.

And, finally, my mother; the willing, ever-eager participant in a passionless, mechanical affiliation paraded as marriage that she’ll fight tooth and nail to uphold so she can continue to bask in pedantic humble-brags about the modest band on her finger and the thirty-five year statistic of her union with her husband, silently gloating every time an unsuspecting listener oohs and aahs at the revelation, voicing their envy, wishing that they, too could find their soul mate to spend “happily ever after” with.

If only they knew.

Peyton raises her mug, visibly spirited.

“To an exciting future,” she toasts.

I nod, clinking my glass against it in solidarity.

“To an exciting future.”

***

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