This is just your simple love story. Girl loves guy. Guy loves another girl. Girl pursues guy, unaware that another guy is interested in her...

     Liz Cadiz discovered the small, gift-wrapped package, tucked in a corner of the top drawer of their dresser, in the luxurious hotel suite she currently shared with her best friend, Shad Badger.  The box was partially hidden beneath an untidy avalanche of Shad's shirts, shorts, underwear, and socks.  Liz stared at the box for a long time, speechless, in awe and wonder, like a child who has stumbled upon an unexpected present a week before Christmas, before she reached her hand inside and pulled it out of the drawer.

     The box was wrapped in festive green, red and golden paper.  There was even a tiny red bow affixed to the rounded top.  And it was the same size as one of those boxes they gave a person when they bought a ring at a jewelry store.

     Liz lifted the package to her ear and gently shook it.  A light rattling sound emanated from inside the box.  The object inside the box was small, thin, and about as solid and heavy as as a nickel or a quarter.

     It was definitely a ring!

     She paused for a moment, cradling the box in the palm of her hand, waiting for her heart to stop pounding and that hot, feverish feeling to leave her body.  She smiled and shook her head and giggled nervously.  Liz found it almost too difficult to believe that this was happening to her.  It was almost like a sign from God.

     Only twenty minutes ago, she and Shad had been enjoying lunch together in the hotel's lavish restaurant, after her early morning phot session at a nearby park.  She had known Shad for almost ten years, now---ever since he'd summoned up the courage to walk up to her and say, "Hello," during their first day in high school.  They'd been best friends ever since.  Shad was her constant companion and confidant.  He made her laugh when she felt sad or depressed, and he always offered her a shoulder to cry on when her various boyfriends or lovers deserted her, as they always seemed to do.  He had told her more than once that he'd like to be a lot more than just her best friend, but Liz had long ago rejected the idea of their ever being anything but "friends."  Shad was a freelance journalist and he often accompanied her on many of her exciting, little junkets around the country and the world.  He'd even penned a pair of profiles on her, which had appeared in Vogue and Vanity Fair.

     Halfway through their meal, Liz found herself staring at this man as if she was seeing him for the very first time.  She experienced an immediate and undeniable attraction toward Shad that she had never felt before.  Just being "friends" with him suddenly seemed ridiculous and absurd, not to mention a tragic and terrible mistake.

     "Listen," she said.  She knew she sounded excited and anxious and hardly able to control herself, but she didn't care.  "Now that my work day's officially over, why don't we go spend some down time at the beach?  Just let me run upstairs and grab our stuff, and I'll meet you in the lobby."

     Before Shad could even begin to object, she jumped to her feet and dashed toward the bank of elevators, outside the restaurant, in the bustling corridor.

     Liz rode the elevator up to their room on the seventh floor.

     Her heart hammered and her hands shook as she stuffed a pair of towels, a colorful beach blanket, her wrap-around sunglasses, and a bottle of tanning lotion into her large, canvas tote bag.

     Liz's dark eyes gleamed and she grinned from ear to ear as she scurried into the bathroom to change into her plain, black, one-piece bathing suit with the plunging V-neckline.  The few times they'd gone to the beach, Shad always demanded to know why she insisted on wearing that "ugly, old rag...Especially when they give you all those good-looking outfits all the time."

     She knew he was referring to the colorful bikinis her sponsors  gave her from time to time.  What could she say?  She had purchased this suit long before she'd become a world-class model and she felt comfortable in it.

     Liz paused for a moment to scrutinize her tawny reflection in the brightly lit mirror over the sink.  What she saw there made her wrinkle her snub nose and frown with distaste.  Other than the major corporations that paid her exorbitant amounts of money  to appear in their ads for cosmetics, perfumes, evening gowns, and even lingerie, Shad was about the only man who'd ever told her she was beautiful and meant it.  Other men had told her she was beautiful, but she knew that that was just a lie, a ruse, so they could later brag that they'd bagged a world-class model.  That was why she had adopted a carefully constructed demeanor which made her appear cool and aloof from everyone and everything.  There were many people in the busines, she knew, who claimed that she was a lesbian, and she did nothing to disabuse them of that notion.

     She was tall and willowy; many other less generous people would have said that she was skinny as a broom stick and right now, much to her shock and chagrin, she had to admit that those people were correct.  Her large head with its wide, oval face and tiny round ears looked like a Halloween pumpkin stuck on top of her long, swan-like neck.  Her eyes were much too small and too far apart and her luscious, red-lipped mouth was too wide and too large for her face.  She had a short snub nose which seemed to wrinkle whenever she flared her diminutive nostrils and a blunt little nub of a chin.  She wore her raven-black hair pulled taut into a severe bun at the back of her neck.

     And if all that wasn't enough to make her gnash her teeth and weep in bitter despair, her breasts were about as big as a pair of mosquito bites.  They made almost no discernible impression beneath the tattered fabric of her bathing suit.  Liz's hips were narrow and flat as the hips of a little boy.  She had stork-like legs, knobby knees, and long, flat feet.

     She yanked the barrette from her bun, letting her hair unscroll down her back, and shook her head back and forth several times, letting her hair swirl around her face.  Usually, when she wore her hair flat and straight like this, which wasn't often, she thought it made her look like a hideous hag.  But this time, she thought it actually made her face look thinner.

     Liz turned off the light and left the bathroom.

     That was when she decided to wear one of Shad's shirts over her bathing suit.  She opened the top drawer of their dresser...

     She was still smiling, ten minutes later, when she stepped out of the elevator and saw Shad waiting for her in the lobby.

     "Well, let's go," she said, taking his hand.  "I'm finally ready."

The End

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