Excerpt from "Monica"

Monica Divine doesn't know what she wants out of life. She knows what she doesn't want, the life she's got. Her mother is a basket case who drove Monica's father away when she was a child. The only stable element in her life is her friend Billy. He's always been there to pick up the pieces. She considers him her best friend and it's never occurred to her that he ever be anything more. That is, not until she's nearly mugged and robbed trying to make a bank deposit for Billy's business. His concern is more than just friendly. Since Monica (or as Billy calls her, Red) is too wound up in her own woes to notice, he decides to make his position completely clear.

"What do you want me to say?"

"It's not what I want you to say. What do you want to say? What do you feel? Am I talking to myself?"

"I don't know what you want."

"What I want is to be the guy everyone thinks I am. I want to be your boyfriend. No, scratch that. I want to be your lover, Red. In fact, I want to be your husband. I love you and I want to marry you. I have for so long I can't even remember a time I didn't. You know why I didn't go to my senior prom?"

She shook her head.

"Because you couldn't go with me. You went with that jerk, what's his name?"

"Matt."

"Yeah. The guy who dumped you at the prom cause you wouldn't fuck him."

"I remember. I was there, you weren't."

"But who came and got you? Who held you and let you cry? Who wiped the tears and made a little of the hurt go away?"

"You did."

"Right the first time. Who's always there? Who always helps you put it back together and move on?"

"You do, Bill."

"I'm just asking for a shot, Red. I just want a chance for you to look at me and see who I am. I want to kiss you and have your knees go to jelly. I want to be the first man to make love to you and show you that there's one man in his world who can love you like you need. I am that man, Monica."

Monica blinked hard against the non-stop tears. Her eyes were itching and her head ached, but she had to give him an answer. Deep in her heart, she knew he was right. He always was where she was concerned. What could it hurt to give him what he asked? He always gave her whatever she asked of him and never demanded anything in return.

"Okay," she said, finding a smile under all the tears. "Okay, Bill."

"Okay, what?"

"You have your shot. You have your chance to prove to me that you're my man."

He laughed suddenly, a huge grin wreathing his features. "You're kidding, right? You really mean it?"

"Yeah," she smiled, wiping his tears. "I really mean it. You know me, I'm a flake. But if you can put up with me, you must see something that no one else does."

"Thank you. I won't let you down, Red."

"You never have before, Bill."

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