August Book of the Month
“YOU’VE GOT TO BE kidding me!”
I glance up to the sky. Big, fat raindrops splash on my face. Dark clouds have rolled in from nowhere and opened up to let out water like it’s the sequel to the Great Flood.
“Jesus effin’ Christ,” I grumble to myself as I quickly dig through my bag, looking for my umbrella . . . which isn’t there. “Crap. Shit. Crap.”
This is just perfect. Frigging perfect.
I don’t even have a jacket on. I’m wearing my new white silk shirt, black skinny jeans, and black heels.
The weather was forecast warm, and when I got on the bus at Port Authority half an hour ago to travel to East Rutherford, the sun was shining.
Global warming for you. Sigh.
My first day at my new job—the job that my dad got for me—and I’m about to turn up, looking like a drowned rat.
I quickly start walking away from the bus stop, heading toward my new place of work. The New York Giants headquarters and training facility. My dad is Eddie Petrelli, the head coach of the Giants, and he’s hired me to be an assistant to the team. Basically, I’m a lackey. And my dad has totally made up the job, no matter how he denies it, and he did that because I’d lost mine at the gallery, due to me being a total screwup.
I was surprised that he wanted me working here. I’ve embarrassed him enough of late. But I guess he wants me where he can keep an eye on me.
I’m an alcoholic. A sober alcoholic, thanks to time spent in a detox and rehab facility and the ongoing support of Alcoholics Anonymous and my sponsor, Luke.
The push to rehab came because, a little over six months ago, I was arrested for driving under the influence after I caught my ex-boyfriend, Kyle, in a compromising position at a house party. Basically, his pants were around his ankles and someone I’d thought was a friend was on her knees in front of him. I’m guessing you get the picture.
I left the party, climbed into my ex’s car, and took off. I was drunk off my ass and upset, and I crashed his car into one of the neighbor’s garden walls.
I lost my license—hence why I ride the bus now—and was charged with criminal damage and received a hefty fine.
The gallery sacked me. And trying to get another job since I got out of rehab with a criminal record has been nearly impossible.
Not that I didn’t try because I really did. But no one wants to hire an ex-drunk.
So, when I started running out of money to pay my bills, I took the job my dad had offered. I also need to pay my dad. He hasn’t asked for the money he spent on putting me through rehab or paying my fine, and he rebuffs me when I tell him I’m going to pay him back. But I need to start taking responsibility for my actions.
Getting sober was the first step. Paying my dad back is the next, and now that I have this job, thanks to him, I can start doing so.
It takes me fifteen long, rain-soaked minutes to walk to the Giants headquarters.
When I finally get there, I’m drenched through to my underwear, and my hair is plastered to my head. The hour I spent this morning putting on makeup and styling my hair was a total waste of time.
I fish the ID badge that my dad gave me out of my bag as I approach the security booth.
The glass on the booth slides back, revealing a middle-aged guy with a kind face.
“You got caught in the downpour, huh?” He gives me a grin.
“Can you tell?”
He chuckles. “I’d offer you an umbrella, but I don’t think that’s going to help you now.”
“No.” I laugh. “But I might need to borrow it later, if it starts back up.”
“You got yourself a deal. So, how can I help you today?”
“I’m, uh, starting work here today. My name is Arianna Petrelli.” I hand over my ID badge.
“Coach Petrelli’s daughter.” His voice booms with a smile. “Of course. He told me you’d be coming in today.”
At his pleasant greeting, a knot I didn’t realize I had in my stomach eases a little.
I guess it has been on my mind a bit—how people here would treat me. Without a doubt, they all know about my DUI and rehab stint.
My dad wouldn’t have talked about it. Man of few words, my father.
But the daughter of the coach of the Giants charged with a DUI was a journalist’s dream.
Since it happened—aside from the people in rehab, who were pretty much all like me—normal folk are generally disgusted by my behavior, and some aren’t afraid to let me know. Don’t worry; I’m disgusted with myself. I could have killed someone that night.
That’s what I remind myself of when the urge to drink gets too strong.
It’s just hard to have people look at you like you’re a piece of shit, reminding you of what you already think of yourself. And I worried it would be the same here. So, it’s nice for the first person I encounter to look at me with nothing but a smile in their eyes.
I return his smile.
“I’m Patrick,” he tells me.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I reply.
He hands me back my ID badge. “If you need anything, like an umbrella”—he grins—“I’m your man.”
“Thank you,” I tell him and mean it. His kindness is appreciated. “Is my dad here yet?” I ask him.
“No,” Patrick replies. “He usually gets here around nine.”
I glance at the clock behind him on the wall. Eight thirty. I’ve got half an hour to clean up and dry off before my dad arrives.
I want to look presentable.
Not that getting caught in the rain was my fault. But Dad has been bugging me about moving back home. He only lives a ten-minute drive from here, so I would get a lift in every day with him. And me getting caught in the rain like this will only give strength to his argument that I move back home.
I know he wants me away from the temptation of alcohol and all the bars in the city.
But I like living in New York, being so close to the art galleries and culture, and I love my apartment. It’s tiny, but it’s mine.
And, if I’m going to stay sober, I have to get used to being around alcohol.
My sponsor, Luke, says hiding from alcohol can actually have a detrimental effect. I think he’s right. I need to get used to the fact that it’s around but that it’s something I don’t do anymore.
Not that I’m actively going into bars anymore or browsing the liquor aisle in the supermarket, but I make sure to remind myself that it’s there, and it’s a part of life. Just not a part of mine anymore.
“Well, I’d better get inside and dry off,” I tell him, stepping back.
The rain has eased a little. It would now that I’m here. Stupid weather.
“Have a good first day,” he tells me.
I thank him again and then speed-walk toward the building entrance.
Opening the door, I walk inside, dripping water all over the tiled floor.
There’s no one at the reception desk. Damn it. I have no clue where anything is. This is the first time I’ve ever been here. My dad might work here, but I’ve never had a reason to come here before today.
I was hoping there would be someone—preferably female—who might be able to point me in the direction of, at the very least, a hand dryer.
I glance around for a sign of a restroom, but nothing. So, I start walking, going straight ahead through the lobby.
My heels click on the tiled floor, echoing loudly. I have the urge to take off my wet shoes, but I really don’t want to walk around barefoot.
I walk past the staircase and down the hallway. I see a sign that shows the restrooms are on the left.
Although I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do because there’s no way a hand dryer is going to dry my clothes, but it’s better than nothing.
I locate the restroom, which is empty, and—shit! Effing crap! No hand dryer. Only paper towels.
As I turn, I catch sight of myself in the mirror.
I look a mess. My makeup has practically washed off. Thank God for waterproof mascara because it’s the only thing on my face that’s stayed intact.
My brown hair is a wet, stringy mess.
My white shirt is clinging to my body, and you can totally see my lace bra through it.
My cheeks flame with embarrassment, knowing that Patrick could see my bra through my shirt.
I can’t start my first day, meeting the guys on the team, looking like this.
I need clothes. Even if it’s just a different shirt. I can live in damp jeans and panties if I have to but not a wet shirt, showing off my chest.
They must have team shirts here. Anything is better than my soaking wet top that I’m currently wearing. I look like I’m entering in the world’s first solo wet shirt competition, and I really don’t want to embarrass myself—or my dad—any more than I have already.
And, wearing a team shirt, at least I’ll look committed to the team.
I almost laugh out loud at that thought.
I don’t like football. At all.
As a coach’s daughter, people assume I love the sport. But it’s because of football that I had to move around a lot while growing up. That my dad wasn’t around much. That my mom—
I cut off that thought.
It wasn’t my dad’s fault. My mom was sick. And the choices she’d made were hers and hers alone.
But it was his fault that he wasn’t there for you when you needed him most, the voice in the back of my mind whispers.
No, I’m not going there today.
Today is going to be a good day despite the fact that it’s started off crappily.
I’m going to fix up my hair, and then I’m going to find a shirt to wear.
Dumping my damp bag on the counter, I pull out my hairbrush and a hair tie.
I brush it through as best I can and then tie it up into a makeshift bun. I drop my hairbrush back in my bag, and clutching it to my chest, covering my peekaboo bra, I head out of the restroom and go in search of a storeroom or somewhere they might keep spare shirts. But I need to be quick before people start arriving.
I wander for a few minutes and stumble across the locker room.
There’s got to be a shirt in here somewhere.
I open the door, letting myself in, and—holy shit, this room is huge. It’s bigger than my apartment. Well, most places are bigger than my apartment. But, still, it’s massive.
I wander in letting the door close behind me.
There are team shirts hanging on hangers at each player’s station. Multiple shirts.
I could borrow one from one of the players, then find where they keep the spares, and replace it; no one would be any the wiser.
I walk into the locker room, scanning the names on the placards above each station as I pass them.
Kelly . . . Maxwell . . . Thompson . . . Kincaid.
Ah, Ares Kincaid. The star quarterback. The one they call the Missile because he throws the football with the effect of a heatseeking missile. He never misses his target.
I might not know much about football, but I do know who he is.
The golden boy. Mr. Perfect.
The guy who paid for his younger siblings’ college education. I know this because my dad told me once.
“He’s responsible, that one. Got his head screwed on.” This was all said with a pointed look at me.
I wasn’t responsible. I didn’t have my head screwed on. I could barely look after myself, let alone be responsible for anyone else.
I still can’t.
My dad thinks the sun shines out of Kincaid’s butt.
I know my dad loves all his players like they’re family—probably loves them more than his own family . . . well, me because I’m all he has left—but I’m pretty sure my dad thinks of Ares Kincaid as the son he never had but always wanted.
And who could blame him? Kincaid would never get in a car drunk and drive it into a wall.
Nope, that’s all me. The screwup.
I reach out, fingering one of Kincaid’s shirts.
I have this sudden urge to know what it feels like to be like him. To not be a screwup. To be someone people admire. Look up to.
Maybe, if I put on one of his shirts, some of his goodness might rub off on me.
Okay, that just sounded really dirty.
But it can’t hurt to try, right? Wearing his shirt to try to soak up some of his good sense . . . and that just sounded gross.
I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. Or not.
I kick off my damp heels, drop my bag to the floor, and begin unbuttoning my wet shirt. I peel it off my skin, letting it fall to the floor with a wet thud, and it feels like heaven. The air is cool, drying my damp skin.
I really, really want to take my bra off as well, but I can’t have the girls coming out to play. My chest isn’t huge, so jiggling boobs wouldn’t be an issue, but my nipples do have a tendency to play peekaboo at the most inopportune moments. Not that my bra is exactly concealing much in its dampened state.
God, what a day, and it’s still early.
I really need to not screw up today.
Please let today go well.
Needing to find my calm, I place my hands on my hips and lean my body forward, slowly letting my hands slide down the sides of my legs until they’re resting on the floor, and my chest is pressed to my thighs.
I hold the pose and breathe in. Then, I exhale.
I’ve been practicing yoga since I got sober. My therapist suggested it, and it really helps me.
I know it might seem strange to pull a yoga move here in the locker room, but I need a moment to relax and find my focus, and this is how I do it nowadays. The old me would have just done a shot.
“Ahem.” The sound of a deep, timbral voice clearing behind me has me shooting upright and spinning around.
And, oh dear God, no.
He’s standing right there, across the room from me. And I have no shirt on.
Samantha Towle’s second Gods book, RUSH, is our August book of the month!