As soon as my hotel door closes behind the bellhop, I throw my purse on the bed, walk to the window, and push the sheer curtain to the side. Manhattan’s office buildings rise to meet the sunset sky in manmade majesty. I glance down at the sidewalk, seeing people hustling along the concrete in all directions. Add a million cabs flying by, and the entire scene has a crazed energy that makes it feel alive, like it has a pulse.
And to think, I almost didn’t make it here.
I have one goal during my week here in the city: find a position that will provide enough money for me to live here permanently. It’s likely a pipedream, since I just graduated from college and have limited work experience.
My best friend, Magnolia, a name that shouts born-in-the-south, which happens to be the case for us both, plans on joining me if I do indeed secure employment this week, so failure isn’t an option. We’ve planned for years to take this city by storm, even if it means cutting each other’s hair and living on ramen noodles to afford an apartment.
Leaning against the glass, I utter a quiet prayer that somewhere in this gritty, concrete jungle, my newbie résumé lands in the right hands.
I reach for my bag and pull out my cell phone along with a strip of foil packs—aka condoms. What the hell?
“Maggie,” I mutter under my breath.
I drop the foil packs into a small trashcan by the dresser, bring up Maggie’s number on my phone, and press call. We need to talk.
“Finally, Tessa! Are you there?” Maggie says in her usual high-octane speed.
“I found the condoms,” I huff, though I’m not surprised. “What if my bag was searched at the airport and a TSA guy saw them?”
“He probably would’ve asked for your number. Loosen up, okay? What are your plans tonight?” she asks, skipping over the part where she needs to say she’s sorry.
“I don’t know.” I wasn’t crazy about venturing out for the first time alone as night settles over the city. There’s a room service folder on the desk beside me, and I flip the cover over. “Maybe I’ll order in.” A quick glance at the prices makes me cringe and reconsider this choice.
“You’ve got to be kidding. Tessa, it’s your first time by yourself in New York City! You need to do three things tonight.”
“Give them to me.” I sigh, knowing where she’s heading. Nothing changes in her demands.
Maggie’s been trying to get my cherry popped since high school. And for once, I have to agree with her. But I’m a realistic girl, and have watched every episode of Sex and the City, so I know finding a real love match in this place of non-committal relationships isn’t going to be easy. I have to be open to the options, even ones I haven’t considered before. However, one-night stands as a virgin are complicated. It’s hard to hide those pesky hymens.
“Here’s the plan,” Maggie pipes in. “One: I want you to go downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner. No hiding upstairs with room service. Two: actually make conversation with a man, preferably the hot kind. Three: bring him upstairs and have awesome hotel sex.”
I hear the glee in Maggie’s voice. She must be picturing me calling her tomorrow morning to tell her I’d been plucked by some guy at the bar. So not happening. Ever.
“One, yes. Two … maybe. Three, you’re hilarious and crazy.” I end with a laugh while shaking my head. “I’ve never had a random kiss, so why would you think I’d bring some random guy up to my room?”
“Live a little. No harm. No foul,” Maggie singsongs her life’s motto into my ear.
She’s right. I should live, but does that mean grabbing the first willing and able guy by the Gucci tie and dragging him upstairs?
“Believe me. I’ve been more than ready for a long time. But I have yet to meet a guy who measures up to being my V-card conqueror.”
“You still have PTSD from those jerks at Montevallo,” she says, mentioning the college we graduated from in Alabama a week ago. “Forget them. You’re starting over in a new place. No one knows about your sex handicap or that your family’s filled with policemen all over six feet tall.”
“New city. New me,” I say with all the enthusiasm I can muster, which isn’t much considering the trauma I dealt with during college.
Once word circulated that I was still a virgin during my sophomore year, an invisible bull’s-eye was placed between my legs. For three long years, I went out on a lot of first dates full of sweet talk and eager hands. No one wanted me for just me. They wanted bragging rights that they’d been my first. I shudder at the memories and pray they’re buried back at the university. At times, I feel like the Eighth Wonder of the World. Someone has their work cut out with me … I hope.
“Change out of your jeans, put on some lipstick, and go downstairs. Do not stay in your room. Okay?”
“All right.” After all, I didn’t blow a hefty portion of my savings just to sit here on this bed and watch reruns of Friends. I came to New York City to try to find myself, and I need to walk out of this room to make it happen.
Ending the call with Maggie, I decide my Taylor Swift T-shirt and skinny jeans make me look like a fourteen-year-old fangirl, not a twenty-three-year-old woman. Determined to make myself presentable, I open my suitcase and find a pink dress with off-the-shoulder ruffle sleeves.
After quickly changing, I slip on a pair of nude pumps, coat my lips in a sheer pink lip gloss, and grab my bag. It’s time to face my dreams head-on, even if they scare me more than I care to admit.