I Hate to Stand Alone: A Small Town Enemies to Lovers Romance
I take a small sip of wine, letting its flavor burst on my tongue before swallowing. “You know how I hate to stand alone at parties?”
Penny rolls her eyes, a grin of reminiscence lighting up her face. “Do I remember it? Effing hell, Banana, it was one of the running themes throughout our childhoods. You couldn’t stand still, like ever. If you weren’t doing something, you were dying. That’s how it seemed to you. I remember one rare time when you convinced me to come to a party, I found you in the basement with a couple of the so-called dorks – June’s brother, right? – playing Dungeons & Dragons.”
“Oh, yeah,” I giggle, shaking my head at the memory. “I actually forgot about that.”
“I asked you what the heck you were doing, and you just looked me dead in the eye in that can’t-sit-still Hannah way and said, ‘Listen, Penny. I hate to stand alone. It’s as simple as that.’ All I did was go and use the effing toilet, girl. It wasn’t my fault Doug Helmsmore had a bad belly and I had to wait in line for the bathroom, was it?” She giggles. “But that was your little saying, whenever you threw yourself wholeheartedly into a new experience. If I ever called you brave, you’d toss your head and say, ‘It’s not brave, Lennie, I just hate to stand alone.’ But you were wrong, you know. It was brave, is brave, the way you throw yourself into stuff. I could never do it.”
“Thank you,” I say. “It’s really nice of you to say. But the point is, like, lately I’ve found myself standing alone at parties and having it feel sort of natural. Because even if I like my skating buddies, they’re not, I don’t know … they’re not home. Does that sound cheesy or what?”
Penny waves a hand. “Well, that’s great, then. If that’s really how you feel, it’s win-win. You’re happy and I get my bestie back. So what’s the problem?”
I pause, swallowing an awkward lump.
“Luke,” Penny says a moment later. “He’s the spanner in the works, right?”
I nod. “I guess so. To be honest, part of me was wondering if this would happen when I came back here for the long haul, like I sort of expected I might get involved in Little Fall stuff again. But what I definitely didn’t expect was for Luke Nelson to reopen Family Roller. I didn’t expect to find him completely, insanely irresistible. And I definitely didn’t expect to find out that our attraction went beyond just the physical.”
“Is that why you keep checking your phone?” she asks.
“What?” I flinch. “Do I?”
Penny rolls her eyes. “Hon, you’ve checked it at least once a minute.”
“That’s crazy,” I mutter. “I really didn’t even realize. But yeah, he texted me saying he wanted me to give him a day, which is sort of annoying, honestly, since I thought last night—well, I guess I thought it meant something.”
“Go to Family Roller, then,” Penny says firmly. “Go for a skate. If you feel like talking to him, march right up to him and say your piece. If not, just skate. That sounds like a win-win, too.”
“But there’s a lose in there, as well,” I mutter.
“And what’s that?”
“He breaks my heart, just like his little brother did.”