“One margarita is not a rebellion!”
I stared at my best friend while twisting my hair into a tight spiral against my shoulder. It was hot in Ft. Lauderdale, and my long Chinese hair was acting up. “I never should have told you that,” I groused. One month ago, I’d mentioned that I wish I’d gone through an adolescent rebellion. I was a good Chinese girl who always colored in the lines, studied until my eyes failed me, and never, ever did anything fun. Since we’d been celebrating my twenty-first birthday with endless margaritas at the time, Samantha had taken advantage of my inebriation to bully me into joining her for spring break in Florida. It was, according to her, the perfect place to go wild.
She was right. With all the alcohol everywhere, people were losing their inhibitions left and right. And what was I doing? Wearing a one-piece swimsuit meant for doing laps and a shit-ton of sunscreen because skin cancer was real.
“But you did tell me,” Samantha pressed. She was in a bikini that maximized her ample chest and tight ass. Her underwear covered more of her body than what she was wearing now, and yet she gleefully strutted her stuff in a way I’d never dare to do. There was just so much body there on display, while I felt naked in a short sundress. “And it’s my job as your best friend to make sure your birthday wish comes true.”
“It wasn’t a birthday wish. It was a wistful side comment.”
“Potato, potahto.” She grinned as she shoved a brown bag into my hand. “Happy birthday!”
“You already got me a present.” She’d helped to pay my airfare down here. But I was human enough to open the bag. Inside, I saw a white T-shirt and a flash of bright red. “What—?”
Fifteen feet away, the announcer at the beach bar spoke up, his voice thrumming loudly through the speakers. “Free margaritas for all the contestants in our wet T-shirt contest! Come on, ladies, what would you give for the best tequila on the beach?”
Understanding blossomed along with a full-body blush. “I am not—”
“You like margaritas, right?”
She knew I did.
“And you wanted some rebellion. What would upset your parents more than a wet tee contest?”
“Failing my LSATs?”
Samantha rolled her hazel eyes. “We’re not trying to tank your future. Just cut loose and strut those boobs.”
“I haven’t got any to strut!” It was true. Chinese genetics didn’t lend themselves to full cleavage, but that didn’t stop Sam. She was busy shoving me into a bathroom of less than pleasant odors. I wrinkled my nose at more than the scent. It was the tiny scrap of red lace bikini bottom that I held out with shock. “I can’t wear this! Not in public.”
“Free margaritas,” she repeated. “Come on, this is a tame contest. Everyone has to wear the full tee.” Then she was all business as she physically stripped me out of my swimsuit. You wouldn’t think a curvy, short girl could be so efficient, but Sam worked summers at a nursing home. She could strip an obese octogenarian in less than a minute. My five-foot-four body was nothing compared to that.
“Are you doing it with me?” I asked, my voice muffled as she pulled the T-shirt down over my head.
“I paid for the tee. And that’s my third-favorite bikini bottom, so be grateful.”
“Step in,” she ordered, as she held out the red lace.
I obeyed immediately. It was her tone of voice. I’d been conditioned since birth to follow unquestioningly when a female used that tone. Thankfully, Sam was the only woman outside of my mother and grandmother who’d figured that out. But I had my own weapon to use against Sam.
“You’re going with me or I’m not helping with your term papers.”
She sighed. “You know that’s not how that expression is used, right?”
I folded my arms across my not-so-ample chest and looked as stern as I could in a thin white tee and a scrap of red lace.
“You’ll do it?” she pressed.
“If you do.”
“Great!” Then she grabbed another tee out of her backpack. A moment later, she’d popped off her bikini top and pulled on the thin fabric. Then she proceeded to bunch and knot the tee in a kind of fabric magic that not only managed to support her full breasts, but also allowed them to bounce in a really attractive way.
“You were planning on doing this all along.” It wasn’t a question.
She rolled her eyes at me as she started yanking and knotting my top. “How many times do I have to say it? Free margaritas!”
“It’s just a sales promise until we’re drinking them.” Was I really considering this? Could I stand on a stage in front of hundreds of leering guys and let my nipples pop like beacons? But what could it hurt? I mean, of all the possible teen rebellions, this was pretty tame. And yet it felt like I was throwing off the shackles of my strict Asian upbringing and stepping out into the true American-girl experience. Pert boobies and all.
“I need to drink at least one beforehand,” I said to Sam.
She grinned and gave me a high five. “Then let’s go get it.”
I drank two and tried not to think of the calories. And then I was supposed to get up on the stage. It had been hard enough to walk out of the bathroom in this outfit with bodies pressed all around me. But to climb onto the stage? That took real courage, even if Samantha had blocked me in from behind. No way was she letting me escape.
At least the tequila had set up a warm glow throughout my body. And the music was nice with a good solid beat. We were supposed to pop out through a curtain in the back, get drenched in ice water, and then strut for a bit. Easy-peasy, right?
My nerves had my heartbeat thrumming in my ears. Was I really this brazen? The announcer called my name. “Heidi Va-va-va-voom!”
I shot my roommate an incredulous glare. My last name was Wong. Not a single va-va in it. Sam just gave me a thumbs-up and then pushed me through the curtain.
A roar surrounded me and a couple of wolf whistles. Oh my God, the sound was deafening. And just when I was getting my bearings against that tidal wave of sound, the water hit me. On both sides. Icy wet and straight to the chest.
I gasped as the frigid cold hit me, instinctively hunching against the impact. But then the noise of the crowd started to change. I made out some words, all of them crude. Part of me wanted to turn around and run. How dare they say those things to me? But then I’d asked for it, hadn’t I? What the hell was I doing?
I don’t know what got me past the panic. It could have been the tequila. Or maybe I was just pissed off. Either way, I started to shut out the noise and focus on the music. I’d been a dancer once, back when I was eight and hated the scratchy tutu. Now, I was a mature twenty-one and I’d been moving to the music in my bedroom for years. If I closed my eyes, I could almost be right back there, bebopping for my stuffed-animal audience.
So that’s exactly what I did. I closed my eyes and began to dance. It was a low bump and thump, not really dancing at all, but I still did what I could. It was impossible to forget that this was in front of a zillion people—though mostly guys—all leering at my chest. But after a few moments, I began to enjoy myself.
These guys were looking at me. They were admiring my body in a purely physical way. And they liked it. Better than I liked myself. So maybe I ought to give us all a little shimmy, a little bounce, and a slow, sensuous smile.
What was the worst that could happen?