Can a plain Jane find love when her best friend is a curvy, blond man-magnet?

“The Hot Girl’s Friend”

By Lisa Scott

A night out with Miranda always ended in one of two ways: either she found this week’s love of her life right off the bat and I caught an early cab home for a night of popcorn and bad cable reality shows; or I spent the entire evening fending off the smitten males whose pheromones went on high alert the moment her big toe entered the room.

This night was going in the direction of option number two. I didn’t see any hot prospects at first glance. McGinty’s Bar was the place to be in Springfield, Massachusetts on a Saturday night. The place was packed with the crowd spilling onto the back patio to enjoy the warm summer night, and the music was thumping at a gotta-shout level. All eyes turned to the door when she walked in. A path cleared as six-foot-tall Miranda, platinum-blond hair hanging past her curvy hips, wiggled her way onto the dance floor.

I followed, because she couldn’t get her groove on without me. I’m a better dancer than she is and she steals all her moves from me. It’s true. I’ve got that going for me, at least—not that anyone notices her five-foot-four, dark-haired friend with the thick ankles. Her shadow certainly swallows me whole, but hey, not everyone wants to be in the spotlight. Suits me just fine.

We boogied to the hip song of the moment and soon enough, a few gutsy gals left the security of the scattered tables and joined us. Then the drunker of the men crowded the floor, probably wondering if they should shoot for the top and approach Miranda or pick one of us “lesser” girls—like they could flatter us into bed by flirting with us first. For the most part, men at bars are idiots. Newsflash, I know.

“You with the hot chick?” a short, curly-haired guy asked, bumping his hip into mine in some pretense of a dance move.

I bumped back hard enough that he had to catch his balance. “If you mean the tall blonde, yes, I am.”

Out came another bad dance move, with him jiggling his hands like he was shaking a Martini. “She available?”

I shook my head and gave him the bad news. “Not exactly. She starts her prison sentence tomorrow. This is kind of a last hurrah.”

His bushy eyebrows scrunched as he recalculated his plan of attack, not quite ready to give up the chase. Perhaps prison stripes are a turn-on for some guys.

I shrugged. “I suppose she could use a pen pal. Although her ex might be writing to her, too. He seems to have gotten over the whole stabbing thing. You really only need one testicle, right?” I boogied away from him and started getting my excuses ready for the string of men who would soon be lining up to meet the second most appealing woman in the bar—the hot chick’s best friend. Always a good girl to know when trying to make your move. At least, that’s what the men seemed to think.

A group of college guys had separated me from Miranda, but she seemed to be enjoying herself between two of them, so I made my way over to the bar and collapsed on a stool.

The bartender came over and I asked for a Coke. Bras dangled in a rainbow of hues and sizes from a crisscross of beams above him. We’d been there before and I was surprised Miranda hadn’t added to the collection. Not me, though. Bras are expensive, and with a good-sized chest myself, I didn’t usually go walking around without one. I’m classy like that.

“Not drinking tonight?” the bartender asked.

“I need to keep my wits about me.” I grinned at him. He was cute, with wavy brown hair tucked behind his ears and bright blue eyes. Then he smiled, revealing dimples I could take a bath in. That earned him an immediate upgrade to hot. I wished I were wearing something nicer than a black mini-skirt and a tank top.

He nodded in Miranda’s direction. “You with the blonde? Does she want a drink?”

I sighed. She’s man-nip even on the other side of the room. “Alcohol doesn’t mix well with her medication, and considering how contagious she is, we don’t want to mess with the meds.”

He snapped his bar towel at me. “I’m not interested in your friend. I just thought I’d hook you both up with a drink since you’re sitting here and there’s no line.”

I took my purse off my shoulder and set it on the bar. “That’s a new one. Not interested in Miranda. Never heard that one before.”

Shaking his head, he left to get my soda. It didn’t take long for the first poor chap to find me. He was skinny and tall with shaggy blond hair covering his eyes. “Hey, that girl you’re with?” He shoved his hands in his pockets as I admired his highlights.

I cocked my head as if confused. “Which girl?”

He pointed to Miranda’s golden head sticking up above the crowd. “That one. The blonde. What’s her deal? She single?”

I crossed my legs and looped my hands around my knee. “I guess you could say she’s single. But her court-ordered therapist has forbidden her from dating men for a while, otherwise, it’s back to county lockup.” I shrugged. “But you never know, she might bend the rules. Just don’t give her your real name. It’s really hard to change your identity if things don’t work out.”

“Uh, thanks.” He scratched his head and walked to the opposite end of the bar, stealing a glance over his shoulder at Miranda.

“I’m disappointed.”

I jumped; surprised to find the bartender leaning towards me with my drink. I was so busted, but I could play innocent just as well as I could lie. I widened my eyes. “Disappointed? In the weather? Your stock portfolio?”

He slid my glass to me. “His excuse was much more clever than mine.”

My eyes narrowed. “Maybe if I knew you’d be eavesdropping tonight, I would have come up with something better for you.” I snagged a few cherries from the fruit tray in front of him and dropped them in my Coke.

He gestured to the tray. “Do help yourself to the salad bar.”

“That’s the plan. I like to be fancy.” I bounced my foot to the beat of the music.

He bent down, reappeared with a pink drink umbrella, and stuck it in between the ice cubes. “There you go. You’re the fanciest girl in the bar. I just hope they provide your poor friend with her medication when she’s in county lockup.” He rubbed his chin in mock concern.

“Oh, they do. Medical care in prison is much better than the plan I’ve got.” I twirled the umbrella between my fingers. “I think they even give her double doses.”

He propped his elbows on the shiny, black bar top. “How do you know she wouldn’t have wanted to meet that nice young man? He might have lovely eyes under that hair.”

I stabbed the umbrella back in between the ice cubes. “Don’t worry. Miranda finds the ones she’s interested in. I keep the rest out of her way.”

“How kind of you. And she wouldn’t object to these inspired excuses you’re using?” He ignored the two men standing next to me, waiting for a drink.

I reached in my purse, fished out my favorite Mac lip gloss, and applied a coat. “She thinks it’s hilarious. I tell her all about them at the end of the night and she picks her favorite. We’ve been friends for a long time. If I didn’t love her so much, I’d hate her.” I rubbed my lips together, enjoying the cinnamon zing.

“You two grow up together?”

He was ruining my fun. “Not exactly.”

He looked at me, waiting for an explanation.

“That’s a long story for another night.”

He held up his hands. “I’m here every weekend.”

“I’ll jot that down in my planner.” Really, I will. “But let’s just say we both have very good reasons for my being her social director.”

He frowned at the growing drink line, held up one finger in a just-a-second gesture, and got the guys their drinks. Then he came back to me. “What’s your name, guardian of the beautiful Miranda?”

I laughed. “Jane Jameson.”

He held out his hand. “Brady Flynn. Pleased to meet you.”

I shook his hand and a shiver shot down to my toes. Damn, this guy was cute, and those strong hands were certainly capable of more interesting things than serving beer to clowns at a bar.

Unfortunately, contestant number two approached before we could finish talking. I sighed dramatically. I should just hold up a sign that says, “She’s not available.”