The Friend Zone - Abby Jimenez
I glanced down at the text while the light was red.
Celeste: I’m not giving you a dime, Josh. Go screw yourself.
“Goddamn it,” I muttered, tossing the phone on the passenger seat. I knew she was gonna do this. Leave me with my finger in the dam. Shit.
I’d left her the contents of the whole house, and all I asked was for her to pay half of the Lowe’s bill. Half of three thousand dollars’ worth of appliances I’d generously given her instead of selling them, despite the card and payments being in my name. And of course, I was somehow the asshole in all this for leaving the state for a new job three months after we’d broken up.
I had it on the highest authority she was now hooking up with some guy named Brad.
I hoped Brad enjoyed my Samsung stainless gas range with the double oven.
Asphalt-scented heat drifted in through my open windows as I sat in Burbank’s slow-moving morning gridlock. Even on a Sunday, there was traffic. I needed to get my AC fixed if I was going to survive in California—another expense I couldn’t afford. I should have walked to the grocery store. Probably would have gotten there faster at this rate, and I wouldn’t have wasted gas—another thing that cost twice as much as it did in South Dakota.
Maybe this move was a bad idea.
This place would bankrupt me. I had to host my best friend’s bachelor party, there were moving expenses, the higher cost of living…and now this bullshit.
The light turned green and I pulled forward. Then the truck in front of me slammed on the brakes and I hit its bumper with a lurch.
Fuck. You’ve gotta be kidding me.
My day had been officially ruined twice in less than thirty seconds. It wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet.
The other driver turned into a Vons parking lot, waving out the window for me to follow. A woman—bracelet on her wrist. The wave somehow managed to be sarcastic. Nice truck though. A Ford F-150. It still had dealer plates. Kind of a shame I’d hit it.
She parked and I pulled up behind her, turned off the engine, and rummaged in my glove box for my insurance information as the woman jumped from her vehicle and ran to look at her bumper.
“Hey,” I said, getting out. “Sorry about that.”
She turned from her inspection and glared up at me. “Yeah, you know you have one job, right? Not to hit the car in front of you?” She cocked her head.
She was small. Maybe five foot two. Petite. A dark wet spot cascaded down the front of her shirt. Shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes. Cute. Impressive scowl.
I scratched my cheek. Irritated women were a particular specialty of mine. Six sisters—I was well trained.
“Let’s just have a look,” I said passively, putting on my calm-in-a-crisis voice. “See what we’re dealing with.”
I crouched between the back of her truck and the front of mine and surveyed the damage as she stood over me, her arms crossed. I looked up at her. “I tapped your trailer hitch. Your truck is fine.” Mine had a small dent, but it wasn’t anything major. “I don’t think we need to get our insurance companies involved.”
I couldn’t afford to have an accident on my driving record. It wasn’t good for my job. I pushed up on my knees and turned to her.
She leaned over and tugged on the hitch. It didn’t wiggle. “Fine,” she said, obviously satisfied with my assessment. “So, are we done here?”
“I think we can be done.”
She whirled, darting around to the passenger side of her truck as I started for the grocery store. She dove into the cab, her legs dangling from the seat as she leaned in on her stomach. Her flip-flop fell off into the parking lot with a plop.
She had a nice ass.
“Hey,” she said, twisting to look at me as I walked past. “How about instead of staring at my ass, you make yourself useful and get me some napkins.”
I put a thumb over my shoulder. “Uh, I don’t have any napkins in my truck.”
“Think outside of the box,” she said impatiently.
Feeling a little guilty for openly admiring her assets—or rather for getting caught doing it—I decided to be helpful. I went back to my truck, opened my gym bag, and grabbed a tee. When I handed her the shirt, she snatched it and dove back into the cab.
I stood there, mostly because she had my favorite shirt, but also