People, today I bring you something truly special. Meghan Schuler – writer of horror and mystery – has created a ROM COM for your reading pleasure. A ROMANTIC COMEDY. AND THERE’S MUSIC. This, Meghan informs me, is the second song Emmy dances to.
(She hated me for this, by the way. You’re welcome.)
by Meghan Schuler
“You did what?” Livy asked, her mouth hanging open. I blushed and turned away, my face hot. I hated blushing. I always looked like a lobster and every time I thought I was over the blush, I’d just blush more.
She pushed my shoulder when I didn’t answer and I buried my face in my coffee.
“I don’t believe it. That’s so unlike you!”
“I wanted to surprise him,” I muttered, the coffee scorching my tongue. Great, so I’d look like a lobster and not be able to taste food for a week.
“Oh, he’ll be surprised all right,” Livy said, sitting back in her chair. She shook her head at me, grinning in disbelief. “Is this after your big dinner?”
“It’s not a big dinner,” I said, probably for the millionth time. Just because Connor and I have been dating for a year doesn’t make it a big dinner.”
“Um, Emmy? Yeah, it does. This is your first serious relationship. You two were made for each other!”
I pulled my cup away from my face, looking at Livy with uncertainty. “Are you sure?”
She rolled her eyes, tossing her stick-straight brown hair over her shoulder.
“Seriously? You met at a bookstore. You both like reading. And the History Channel. And… whatever else you bookworms do. Look, he’s got a good job, he’s a nice guy, he’s got that nerd-cute thing working for him. You’re set, sweetie pie.”
I dropped my elbow onto the table and my chin into my hand. “What if he hates it?”
“Laugh it off! Have you two even—“
“Livy!” I hissed, the blush returning.
I pushed back from the table and slumped. “I mean… yeah. I guess.”
“You guess? You have or you haven’t.”
“Yes. But then we agreed to not get each other gifts, and now I feel awkward,” I said, blowing a lank strand of hair out of my face.
“I doubt he’ll be getting you the same thing this year,” Livy said, smirking.
“I hate Christmas.”
“Oh, you do not. Come with me. We’ll getcha something nice picked out for your dinner.”
I let Livy pull me out of my chair, scooping up my coffee cup with my free hand. I hadn’t bothered unbuttoning my coat and I was warm as the cold wind greeted us at the door. I might not hate Christmas, but I did hate snow. As we crunched our way into the shops, thoughts of last Christmas flooded back to me, the awful music and the first time I’d met Connor.
I had just jabbed the speaker in the ceiling with a broom to turn the slow, irritating “classic” of ‘Frosty the Personified Snowman” off. I missed and punched a hole in the tile. A throat cleared behind me and I jerked the broom down, sending a shower of white dust down on the man below. I scrambled down the ladder.
“I am so sorry,” I said, hands twitching uselessly. I wanted to brush the dust off, but thought it’d be too invasive. The guy took care of it.
“I’m looking for the classic literature section. I think I keep getting turned around,” he said, pushing his glasses back on his nose.
He was only a few inches taller than I was, with short sandy-blonde hair, thick squared glasses, and a lop-sided grin. I thought I was going to melt into a puddle at his feet.
I managed to nod, cursing myself as I turned away from him. Get it together, Emmy.
“Um, it’s right over here. We’re rearranging for the holiday season and it just got a bit out of hand,” I stammered. “Was there a particular book you were looking for?”
“Sense and Sensibility.”
“Oh, really?” I asked, unable to keep the surprise out of my voice. He just blinked.
“Yes, for my Austen class. It’s not that I don’t have it, it’s just that my copy is basically a mess of sticky notes and annotations. It’s a bit difficult to read like that.”
“Here’s the classic. And your Austen,” I said, pulling the book off the shelf.
“Actually, I’m Connor,” he said, laughing. He held out his hand.
I handed him the book and immediately looked away. I really was about to melt.
“Emmy,” I said. Of all things, I bobbed a curtsey. It was all I could do to keep a straight face.
Connor just laughed again, taking the book. “Thank you.”
“Was there anything else?”
“No, this is it. Is the register at the front?”
“Yeah, follow me,” I said, still not looking at him as I walked back to my counter.
He stayed behind me, picking his way around stacks of books, the soft soles of his shoes whispering along the carpet.
“It’s quiet in here. Are you the only one working tonight?”
“I’m the only one ever working. It’s my book shop,” I answered, stepping up to the till.
Connor’s brows were raised. He was impressed. I couldn’t hide the little grin that hung on my lips.
“What do I owe you?”
“Nothing. Take it.”
“I can’t just take it,” he said.
“Yes, you can. I won’t take your money.”
“How about coffee then? Let me buy you a drink.”
And that was that. We’d spent just about every day of the last year together, in person or on the phone. I smiled just thinking about it, ignoring Livy’s tug at my arm was she pulled me into a store.
Livy shoved something at me, spun me around and pushed me into a curtain before I realized it wasn’t a curtain, but the fitting room.
“Hey, wait, what?” I stammered, tripping into the small chair in the room.
“Put it on. Where’s Connor taking you anyway?”
“Nowhere you’d ever go,” I answered.
“Ugh, upscale or lowbrow?”
“Middle of the road? It’s a cafe.”
Livy huffed. “Can we agree on a nice dress?”
“Are you kidding? It’s freezing!”
“Tights, Emmy. That’s what tights are for. And cute coat,” she said.
I looked at the dress. It was orange.
“I hate orange, Livy.” I thrust the dress out at her and she took it, shoving another hanger into my hands.
“Get some color, Em. You’re not an octogenarian.”
“I like black, okay!”
“Take the dress, Em.”
I did, the fabric rustling past the curtain. It was a short wine-colored cocktail dress, small beads and crystals running along the neckline and down the skirt.
“Holy hell, Livy, I can’t afford this!”
“My treat. I don’t know about you, but I want Connor’s eyes to pop out of his head when he sees you.”
“He’ll see me, all right,” I muttered, slipping the dress on. The burgundy fabric tumbled over me and swished at my feet. It fit like a dream.
As if on cue, Livy batted the curtain away. I spun in surprise, the dress flowing out as I turned.
“Damn, Emmy, that dress was made for you!” she exclaimed, motioning for me to spin for her.
I did, trying to avoid my own eyes in the mirror.
“This is too much,” I began, but Livy cocked a hip and silenced my argument.
“It’s perfect. We’re buying it. You’ll wear it if I have to come over and dress you myself. Actually, I am coming over to dress you myself,” she declared, snapping the curtain back into place.
I let the gown slide off my shoulders into a ridiculously expensive puddle, pulling on my clothes and my wool pea coat. I handed Livy the dress, avoiding her eyes.
“What? Don’t you like it?” she asked, draping the dress over one arm and hooking mine with the other.
“I do like it. It’s just… not me,” I said.
“I saw your face light up, Emmy. Besides, you wanna talk about things that ‘aren’t you?’” She smirked at me and the flush returned. Livy paid for the dress, gave me the bag, then shoved me back out into the snow. As she said, we had work to do.
Connor beamed at me when I opened the door. I smiled back, sheepish. Livy was hiding in my bathroom. She’d spent three hours curling, twisting, pinning and painting me, and the end result wasn’t as terrible as I’d feared. There was no way my hair would stay this perfect once I walked out the door, but my pale pink lipstick and jet black eyeliner had me feeling more confident that I’d had in years.
“You look amazing,” Connor said, giving me a soft kiss on the cheek.
“You look dashing as well,” I answered. I straightened his tie. What were couples supposed to do when presenting themselves all dressed up?
He offered me his arm and I took it, grabbing my bag off the couch. As soon as the door to my apartment closed, I heard Livy leave her hiding place. Call me crazy, but I’m positive the crashing and thumbing meant she was doing her happy dance.
The restaurant was warm and rich with the scent of spices and sweets. Icicle lights hung from every window and jazzy swing versions of carols played softly beneath the whisper of voices. Connor pulled my chair out for me and I pressed the backs of my knees against it, a flutter of worry coming over me as I practiced for what I was going to do in a few short hours.
I hadn’t realized Connor had been talking to me and I snapped my attention to him, a stupid grin on my face.
“You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?” he asked.
“No, sorry. I’m just a little nervous.”
He wrinkled his brow, hiding a smile. “Why?”
“I’ve never done this couple thing before and Livy talked up the fact that it’s our anniversary, and there’s all this Christmas stuff going on and—“
“Emmy, you have nothing to worry about,” he said, reaching across the table to take my hand.
I let out my breath in a huff, trying to relax. “I’m not used to this.”
“We’ll learn together. Now, do you want to hear my news?”
“I’m graduating early. I’m officially a professor,” he said, beaming.
My smile mirrored his. “Really? Connor, that’s wonderful!”
“No more thesis papers, no more courses, and lots more time with you,” he said. The nervous flutter returned, joined by a warmth that took the edge off a bit.
“I know we said we wouldn’t exchange gifts this year, but I did get you something,” he said, a blush creeping up his neck. He reached into his coat and pulled out a thin box, wrapped in red paper. He pushed it across to me and nodded.
I tore open the paper, the velvet box inside as black as my dress. A silver bracelet rested on the white cushion, “My heart is and always will be yours” engraved in script.
“Sense and Sensibility,” I said.
“I thought it fitting. You remind me a lot of Elinor.”
I blushed. Elinor, the practical, logical one. After tonight, I might be slated for Maryanne.
Dinner didn’t last long because soon the meal was over, the time flown by with talk of school, and life, and our future—together—and I swear I turned green, the flutter now a fully-fledged dragon tearing at my resolve. It didn’t help that when we’d stepped back into my apartment, a metal folding chair was set up in my living room.
I muttered an excuse and flew into my bedroom, only to find my outfit laid out for me with a cheeky note from Livy. I took off my dress, staring at the red robe and stockings on my bed, then at the pajamas on my chair.
That damn red robe fit like a glove. I leaned over my vanity, staring at myself in the mirror. I could do this. Connor and I had agreed not to exchange gifts, but it didn’t count if I was the present. He’d get to unwrap me. When you’re the only naked woman in the room, you’re the only naked woman in the room. It’s not like we hadn’t seen each other naked before. I’d closed the bedroom door before I’d even realized I’d left.
Connor was sitting on the couch, his attention transferring to me as I drew the red feathered boa off the table and wrapped it around my arms. I arched a brow at him and turned the music on, Go to Sleep Little Baby drifting over the room.
I marched forward, toe to heel, swaying my hips with my steps. So far, so good. I wasn’t on my ass on the floor. I could do this. The heels clicked on the tile, the sound of my stomp loud in the kitchen. I let the boa fall, looking over my shoulder as I turned. I turned back, bringing the boa over my head, then running it across my body, my hips swinging in time to the music. I traced a line from my ankle up, trying to keep my eyes locked on Connor.
I couldn’t tell if he wanted to laugh, and I turned my head, flinging on end of the feather boa over my head to catch it in my other hand. My heels clicked as I shimmied, the odd sensation of various body parts jiggling renewing my self-consciousness.
It’s all about confidence, I reminded myself, wrapping my leg over the boa, the feathers ghosting across my skin and I dragged it up and around my neck, giving it a sassy flick as the verse ended.
The feathers stuck to my lipgloss as it wrapped it from my neck, setting it on the floor. I stuck my butt out and came up, squishing the boobs together for extra cleavage, my hands untying the robe. I rolled my shoulders and let it slide off, kicking it away. The over bust corset was striped like a candy cane, my bloomers red and frilly and the garter holding up my white stockings. The first part was easy. The next part would test my resolve.
Connor’s eyes grew wide and his mouth opened as if to speak, but I turned away. Unpinning my hair, I let the curls Livy had worked so hard to craft fall to my shoulders. The next song, the song the chair was for, was much much dirtier. The guitar strums of “Swoon” propelled me to my chair, and I pressed my knees against it, sliding down to sit. Rising Appalachia crooned lyrics about chocolate sauce and marmalade, and I leaned back, my arm brushing through my hair before I bent to run it up my leg. I shifted in the chair, drawing my leg up before stepping over, planting my knee on the chair.
I circled my hip, movements slow, melting from step to step. I moved around the chair, my hips going wide in what my teacher had called a ‘big-ass hip circle.’ I gripped the chair behind my back and sank down, rising and stepping past it.
Connor was leaning back into the couch now, the same uncertain smile on his face. I hid my swallow of nerves as I turned, once again tracing a line from my ankle to my inner thigh. This next part started the train of things Emmy was definitely not comfortable with.
I moved my hips in a figure-eight, my hands moving up along my body to tangle in my hair before I dropped, facing Connor at an angle. I parted my legs just enough to give a good, solid hint of just how this whole thing might end. I planted my foot on the chair, drawing it in.
My hand ran up my ankle toward my inner thigh before I straddled it. My nerves flared, but I did the chest circles on beat, preparing to twist my legs to the side and straddle the chair backward. The chair rocked, my butt sliding off the edge. I hooked my legs over the back, the chair tipping as I tried to rebalance. I was glad Connor was behind. I’m sure my expression was hilarious, my eyes wide as I feared I’d topple over. I gripped the sides of the chair and leaned back, my legs in the air. My curls caught under my back and I shook my head to free them.
I scissored my legs. Almost done. I could do this. I parted my legs, spread-eagle and scooted up, using the back of the chair as leverage. I turned back and planted my hand on the tile, cartwheeling my legs over.
Sit up gracefully, Emmy.
I pushed off, and the chair shot out from under me, depositing me awkwardly on the floor. Mortification came over me and I tried to school my features, but it was too late. Connor sat forward, and I had to diffuse the situation before it all went to hell.
I popped the stays on my corset. Gratuitous boobs solved everything. I hoped to whatever burlesque goddesses there were that my peppermint pasties had stayed on. I leaned back on my arm, the other resting on the curve of my hip as the last cords faded out. Sure enough, a pop and one of the pasties flopped to the floor.
Connor stared at me a moment, brows knit in concern. Then a smile inched across his face and he burst into laughter. I curled up, shielding my chest with one arm and turned away, trying to hide my face. He got off the couch, crouching down beside me. He wrapped his arms around me, still laughing.
“Stop it,” I muttered.
“Why? It was amazing,” he said.
“It was not. It was supposed to be sexy and cute and I wanted to surprise you, and I messed it all up.”
“Emmy, it was great. You were great. And I am surprised,” he added, picking up my fallen pasty.
“You’re just saying that,” I said. “You’re laughing at me.”
“I’m not laughing at you, Em. What’s the use of being in a relationship if we can’t laugh together? I loved it, and I love you,” he said. He turned me around me kissed me, his hands tangling in my hair.
Connor had never said he loved me before, and I dropped my arms and wrapped them around his back, wanting to say it back my tongue was too preoccupied with other things. He was still grinning when he pulled away.
“Maybe you can start a weekend class at your bookshop. Bookworm Burlesque,” he suggested.
I shook my head, my embarrassment turning to into humor at last. “I think I’ll keep the strip tease isolated to the apartment.”
“In that case,” he said, fingers slipping beneath the other peppermint. He tossed it to the floor, the sparkly disk hitting the couch. “In that case, I think I can finish unwrapping this gift on my own.”