I f**ked up.
That’s the only thought I have when I digest my surroundings. A live DJ blasts music from wall-engulfed amps while people guzzle colored drinks. My youngest sister, Daisy, sips beer from a Solo cup, scouting her model friends. I fear that she’ll pull a guy over and try to hook us up—to take my mind off Loren Hale. Five hours ago, I believed a house party would be a safe choice.
So. Not true.
I should be chastely tucked beneath my comforter, sleeping through the New Year’s riffraff at my place with Rose. Only days ago, Lo—my best friend, my boyfriend, literally a guy who encompasses my entire life—left for rehab. Rose and I spent a full Monday packing my belongings. And I sorted through pictures, knickknacks and valuables, bursting into tears in random spurts. Besides clothes and toiletries, what’s mine was Lo’s. I felt like I was going through a divorce.
I still do.
Only an hour in, Rose called movers and paid them to finish packing my old apartment and unpacking at our new house. She bought a four-bedroom villa near Princeton with five acres of sprawling, lush land and a white wrap-around porch, black shutters and purple hydrangeas. It reminds me of the southern homes in Savannah or the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. When I told her this, she stood with her hands on her hips, appraising the building with those powerful, yellow eyes. Then she broke into a smile and said, “I suppose so.”
The isolation from male bodies doesn’t stop my flyaway mind from traveling to bad places. Mostly, I worry about Lo. I toss and turn at night only to have to swallow large doses of sleeping pills to rest. I miss him. And before he left—I never imagined a world without Lo here. My throat closed up at the idea, my heart dropped and my head spun. Now that the moment has arrived, I realize that he took a piece of me with him. When I told this to Rose, she patted my shoulder and said I was being irrational. That’s easy for her to say. She’s intelligent, confident and independent. Everything I’m not.
And I don’t think…I don’t think many people can really understand what it’s like to be so invested in someone—to share every single moment and then to have them ripped from you. We have an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship.
I know this.
And I’m trying to change, to grow beyond him, but why does that have to be a stipulation?
I want to grow with him.
I want to be with him.
I want to love Lo without people telling me that our love is too much.
One day, I hope we’ll get there. Hope, that’s all I have to go on right now. It’s my driving force. It’s literally what keeps me standing.
The first few days in withdrawals tortured me, but it helped that I hid in my room. I refused to see the real world until I could push past the most fervent urges. So far, I’ve contained my sexual needs by drowning in self-love. I’ve thrown out half of my p*rn to try to appease Rose and to convince myself that I’m on the path to recovery like Lo. But I’m not so sure that’s the case. Not when my stomach clenches at the thought of sex. But mostly, I want to have sex with him.
And I worry about that fifty-percent chance where I’ll drag another guy into a bathroom, where I’ll pretend he’s Lo for a single moment to satisfy my hunger. I shouldn’t be here. At a house party. Distance from wild things has helped so far. This—this isn’t even close to my wildest moments, but it’s enough to push me someplace bad.
When Daisy called and invited me to a “house party,” I imagined a few people mixing strong drinks and huddled around a television to watch music performances. Not this. Not an Upper East Side apartment crammed with models…male models. I can barely scoot an inch without a body part invading my personal space. I don’t even look to see what kind of ligament brushes my skin.
I should have told Daisy no. I have many fears since Lo has left, but my greatest one is failing him. I want to wait for Lo, and if I’m not strong enough to squash these compulsions before he returns from rehab, then our relationship will really be over. No more Lily and Lo. No more us. He’ll be healthy, and I’ll be stuck on a destructive turntable alone.
So I have to try. Even if something in my brain says go. I keep reminding myself of what waits for me if I don’t wait for him. Emptiness. Loneliness.
I will lose my best friend.
As per Rose’s knowledgeable instruction (she’s been reading up on sex addiction—and so has Connor, but that’s another story), I should be looking for a suitable therapist before I attend any social events that’ll tempt me. Daisy has no idea about my addiction—that it surrounds the allure of hot guys and the high of a lay. Rose is the only person in my family that’s aware of my problem, and it’ll stay that way if I can help it.
Still, I didn’t tell Daisy no. Even as I was trying to say it, she used the “I never see you” mantra to guilt me into submission. She topped it off by saying that I was oblivious to the fact that she broke up with Josh during Thanksgiving. (First mistake: asking “How’s Josh?” on the phone this morning. And I thought I was being so sly remembering his name and all.) That’s how “uninvolved” I am in her life. So not only was I processing her single-status, I was feeling a torrential downpour of sisterly remorse. I had to say yes to make it up to her. This is Lily 2.0—the girl who is actually trying to be a part of her family’s world.
That means spending quality time with Daisy. And worrying about her jumping back in the dating pool. Especially if these older models are flinging in their hooks to catch her.
So here I am. Obviously not prepared for this type of party. Although, I did ditch my sweats for black pants and a silky blue blouse.
“I’m so glad we’re here together,” Daisy exclaims for the third time. “I never see you.” Her arm flings around my shoulder, pulling me into a tipsy hug. I almost eat her golden brown, nearly blonde, hair. The feathery, straight strands flow past her chest.
We separate and I pinch one of her locks off my glossy lips.
“Sorry,” she says, trying to pull back her hair, but her hands are full: beer in one and a cigarette idly burning between two fingers in the other. “My hair is too f**king long.” She sighs in frustration, still combatting with the strands. She ends up using her shoulder and neck to try to push her hair off her chest, looking like a spaz in the process.
I’ve noticed that Daisy curses more when she’s irritated. Which is fine. But I’m sure our mother would need to spend an extra three hours meditating to forget about Daisy’s foul mouth.
And that’s precisely why I don’t care if she swears a lot or not at all. Do what she wants to do, I say. Daisy needs to be Daisy for a change, and I’m actually excited to see her away from my mother’s neurotic, maternal claws.
She settles down and sets her elbow on my shoulder for support. I am short enough to be her arm-rest. “Lil,” Daisy says, “I know Lo isn’t here, but I promise that I’m going to take your mind off of him tonight. No rehab talk. No mention of comics or anything that’ll remind you of him. Nada, okay? It’s just me and you and a bunch of friends.”
“You mean a bunch of attractive people.” I use the correct terminology. I am surrounded by pretty people who could sprint along a beach, Baywatch-style, and cause a wave of boners. Or they could walk down a runway and you’d probably be staring at their face more than their clothes.
At least I would.
Does that make me the ugliest person here? I’m probably the only un-model-ish girl. I nod. Okay. I’m cool with that. Surrounded by 10s and I’m probably a 6. I’ll take it.
She blows out smoke from her lips and smiles. “They’re all not that good looking. Mark looks like a gerbil in bad lighting. His eyes are too close together.”
“And he gets booked for jobs?”
She nods with a goofy smile. “Some fashion lines like the quirky thing. You know, the bushy brows, gap-tooth sorta look.”
“Huh.” I try to find Mark and his gerbil-ness, but he’s nowhere to be found.
“I kinda wish I had a cooler signature trait.”
Signature traits? Sounds like getting a badass patronus in the Wizarding World. Though I’m sure mine would be lame too. Like a squirrel.
I try to deduce her signature trait, scanning her black leggings, long gray shirt and army-green, military-style jacket. She doesn’t wear a single stroke of makeup, her complexion smooth, fresh and peachy perfect. “You do have great skin,” I nod, thinking I’ve solved the riddle. I’m so good. I nearly pat myself on the back.
Her eyebrows rise and she playfully bumps my hip with hers. “All models have good skin.”
“Oh.” I realize I’m going to have to come out and ask. “What’s your signature trait?”
She puts her cigarette in her lips and then grabs a wad of her hair shaking it towards me. “This baby,” she mumbles. She drops the strands on her shoulder and tucks the cig back between her fingers. “Long, long, long Disney Princess hair. That’s what my agency calls it.” She shrugs. “It’s not even that special. With wigs and stuff, anyone can have my hair.”
I would tell her to chop it off, but that’ll just rub in the fact that she can’t do a damn thing about it. Not when the agency controls her look. Not when our mother would go into cardiac arrest. “You do have better hair than me,” I tell her. Mine is greasy half the time.
I should probably wash it more.
“Rose has the best hair,” Daisy says. “It’s the perfect length and super shiny.”
“Yeah, but I think she combs it a hundred times a day. Like the mean girl from The Little Princess.”
Daisy’s lips twitch with a smile. “Did you just compare our sister to a villain?”
“Hey, a villain with good hair,” I defend. “She would appreciate that.” At least, I hope so.
Daisy finishes off her cigarette and snubs it in a crystal ashtray on the fireplace mantel. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Well I am. You’re always so busy. I feel like we really haven’t talked much since you left for college.”
I feel even worse. Being so much younger than Poppy, Rose, and me must have been isolating and lonely. Me being an addict and shunning my entire family hasn’t helped. “I’m glad I’m here too,” I tell her with a large, honest smile. Even if this may be my biggest test since Lo’s absence, at least I know I did something right. Coming here, spending time with Daisy, it is progress. Just a different kind.
All of a sudden, her eyes light up. “I have an idea.” She grabs my hand before I can protest. We exit the apartment and head for the hallway. She sprints towards the stairwell, tugging me along in tow.
I’m just getting used to this new impulsive Daisy. Who, Rose informed me, has apparently been around for the past two years. When we moved into our new house, we invited Daisy to help decorate. On her tour through the four-bedroom villa, she spotted the pool in the backyard. No mind that it’s still winter. A mischievous smile warped her face, and she climbed out of Rose’s bedroom window, onto the roof and prepared to jump in the water from three stories high.