Side Effects
© 2014 Lisa Suzanne

I counted the people quickly. There were seven. Seven fucking people jammed into a tiny box to bring me up three floors.
I would’ve taken the stairs, but the large red sign that read “Emergency Exit Only! Alarm Will Sound!” stopped me from opening the door to the stairwell.
I took a deep breath and debated waiting for the next free elevator, but I was already running late. It was just a goddamn dentist appointment. I was glad that it wasn’t a doctor’s appointment, because they’d probably rush me to the emergency room with the way my heart raced in my chest. My blood pressure had to be skyrocketing.
“Excuse me,” I muttered, my mouth feeling like I’d been chewing on crackers for the last hour as I tried to make my way to the back. If I had to get on an elevator, at the very least I needed the bar to hold. I needed a corner to lean into, to relax in, to force myself to breathe in a safe cocoon.
My vision started blurring as the onslaught of panic attacked every fiber of my being. I couldn’t get to the corner, so I was forced to stand steady on my own in the middle of the confined car moving me to my destination. My face flushed and sweat beaded on my upper lip. I gulped in a deep breath, trying to stave off the fear that was clenching my heart, but the air wouldn’t come. I couldn’t take a deep enough breath as tiny fingers wrapped around my throat and caused me to choke.
The elevator skidded to a smooth stop at the next floor. One person exited. I inhaled as much air as my lungs could take when the doors opened, still unable to get to my coveted corner of the elevator. The doors closed, and immediately I was unable to breathe again. I tried to take in a deep breath, but my lungs just wouldn’t fill with the air I needed. I clutched my purse to my chest as I glanced around at the others who were just taking an elevator to their intended destination, those around me who had no idea what was going through my mind while I worried that I was going to die from lack of air. I tried focusing on anything other than the consuming panic that overwhelmed me as blackness tinted with tiny sparkles of white played havoc with my psyche. I stared up at the digital number detailing which floor the elevator was on.   
After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator rolled to a stop at the third floor. The doors slid open, and I practically ran out of the tiny car, cursing my dentist for moving to a new building where I had to take an elevator to get to him. I tried to push the all-encompassing panic out of my mind. I waited for the others who got off on my floor with me to pass by, and I took a moment to myself. I leaned up against the wall outside my dentist’s office, sucking in the refreshing air that I couldn’t seem to grasp as I stood on the elevator.
One of the fears that millions of people deal with on a daily basis, but one of those things that I feared was going to consume me for the rest of my life.

Have you ever walked in on the man you love fucking another woman? I don’t highly recommend it. But that’s one of the side effects of dating assholes.
“Quinn, it’s not what you think.”
Right. Erica writhing naked on top of Jared in my bed wasn’t what I thought.
We have all been damaged. It’s one of the rare things that all humans hold in common.
I needed to get past the baggage I carried, but part of me just needed to find myself first. I’d seen my best friend go through a divorce and in the process find the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. During that difficult process, she managed to find herself. If she could do it under those dire circumstances, certainly I could find my forever too, right?
What the fuck does it even mean to “find” myself? I’m not lost, am I? I know who the hell I am, and I like who I am.
But a little part of me felt the green eyed monster of jealousy when I watched my best friend tear up as she walked down the aisle toward the man she loved, toward the man who loved her with everything inside of him. And a part of me felt an even bigger stab of envy when I looked over at him and saw the love he had for her shining in his own eyes.
I wanted someone to love me so much that he cried when he saw me walking down the aisle in my white dress toward our forever.
I’d never experienced that sort of love. I thought I had it with Jared until I saw him fucking Erica in my bed. My bed.
Jared had everything I looked for on the outside: sexy tattoos all up and down his arms and across his chest and his back; that stubble that tickled the inside of my leg when his face was buried in my pussy; dark eyes that held mystery and hedonism in them. He was rough and sexy and perfect until he wasn’t anymore, and that bite stung so badly that even four years later, I still wasn’t ready to open myself up to something serious. So I played.
When I met Caleb, he was hurting, I was hurting, and together we found something that worked for us. Neither of us wanted anything more than friends with benefits, until one day one of us did.
And it wasn’t me.
Contrary to popular belief, women aren’t always the needy ones who hold on and fall in love even when we promise not to. This time it was Caleb, and while he had been the best bang of my life up to that point, he wasn’t my forever.
I had to stop fooling around with Caleb when he started to get that look in his eye. I just wasn’t ready for something serious, but he was. In fact, he married the very next girl he started seeing after I ended our arrangement.
The worst part of that was that I’d never get the chance to sleep with him again.
So I had a good time, I met a lot of hot guys, and I enjoyed every second of it. It wasn’t until I saw my best friend get everything that she ever wanted – and deserved – that I started thinking that maybe it was time to move on and start looking for my own forever. I was a pseudo aunt to the most adorable baby girl, and when I held little Allison in my arms, I wanted one of my own.
I just wasn’t ready to start looking for my forever. 

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