Olivia

I’ve just reached into the little mini fridge that we keep at the salon when Bridget comes in, a whirlwind of bright purple hair and jasmine perfume.

She throws me a sympathetic glance as she collapses onto the old black leather couch we use to relax between appointments.

“Hard day?” she asks when she sees me pull out a bottle of white wine.

I shoot her a glare that has very little heat behind it. “Chris Muller came in today.”

“Ooooooh,” Bridget exhales. “That kind of day.”

I twist off the lid – for the salon we keep a nice, twist-top sauvignon blanc that holds well after being opened – and pour a few inches into a glass. “He is so hot,” I whine as I settle next to her on the couch. “The hottest Olympic swimmer I know.”

Bridget absently reaches over and pats my arm in sympathy. “Honey, he’s the only Olympic swimmer you know, but you’re right, I’ve never seen someone so attractive and yet so completely unaware.”

I take a long sip of wine. It’s crisp and dry, with a hint of citrus and pear on the back of my tongue. It’s a good wine. Perfectly serviceable for our clients and for me when I have a meltdown over Chris Muller, newly qualified to swim at the Olympics.

“Practically criminal,” I agree because it’s not even the thought of Olympic hardware that

I take another sip, and lean back on the couch. All I can see are his broad shoulders and those dark eyes and that gorgeous head of hair that I can admit I want to pull.

“He talked to me today,” I say because apparently I’m still mentally sixteen, running to my friends at lunch, exclaiming about the hot guy who spoke to me today.

It’s just that Chris is shy and withdrawn and doesn’t really talk to anyone, including me, even though I’ve been cutting his hair for three years. And in those three years, my crush has only grown to gargantuan proportions.

It would be embarrassing if he wasn’t so insanely good looking with that soulful gaze and that whole Olympic-swimmer thing going on. Half the town has a crush on him.

Not quite like mine, probably, but I don’t let myself contemplate how far gone I really am.

Bridget glances up from her phone. “Weird,” she says.

I know she’s bored with hearing all my Chris Muller-related exclamations, but the wine is loosening my tongue and honestly, I usually don’t even need the excuse. “Like he asked me at least four questions, and then he talked for like five minutes about Rio.”

I know I’ve gotten Bridget’s attention when she sets her phone down with a decisive click. “Four questions and five minutes? Are you serious?” Most people might think this is sarcasm, but for Chris, four questions and five minutes of normal conversation is the equivalent of a long, chatty lunch.

I raise my hands, the wine sloshing over the edge of the glass onto my hand. I lick it off. “Swear to god.”

“You need to just bite the bullet and ask him out,” Bridget says, like she says every single damn time he comes in for a haircut. “At some point, someone else will, and you’ll wish you had gotten there first.”

“I’m really, really bad at that sort of thing,” I whine.

Bridget pins me with a don’t fuck with me look. She’s all the aggressiveness in our friendship. “If you lose him to some Brazilian beauty, you’ll regret it.”

That much I already knew.

“Did you know they’re estimating forty-two condoms per athlete?” Bridget continues. “Imagine Chris going through even a portion of them with one of those bendy gymnasts.”

I groan. Of course Bridget would fantasize about him with someone else; I’m the creepy one who can’t help but fantasize about Chris with me.

I might be a lot less bendy – okay maybe just less bendy, I’ve been doing yoga the last few years – but it’s the only thing my mind or my body is interested in. For the last three years.

Pathetic.

“He lives like a monk, Brig,” I complain. “I think using even one condom would be out of character.”

Bridget’s brother David is Chris’ boss at the hardware store. I regularly pump her for information on his life. I try to tell myself this is a patriotic duty, but deep down, I know better. Deep down, I know I’m in even deeper.

“People do crazy things in foreign countries,” Bridget says, not making me feel one bit better. “Including discovering condoms for the very first time, apparently.”

I finish the rest of my wine in one big gulp, and set down the glass, burying my head in my hands. “I really can’t ask him out,” I mumble through my fingers because I know why she knows the condom statistic. It’s been her singular goal for the last two-ish years to hook us up. “I really, really can’t. I don’t even know if he’s interested.”

“You don’t know he’s not,” Bridget counters extremely logically. “You know he’s super shy. He’s not dating anyone. I think we can safely say that he might be interested in you if you made the first move.”

I don’t want to admit she’s right, because this already feels like a losing battle. I’m just not sure how I would handle his rejection; while liking him from a distance is hard, I know how it feels. I can deal with it. Exposing myself feels like a lot of risk with an uncertain reward.