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Multiple orgasms were among the many things she wasn't going to get to experience before turning thirty, Lilah Banks decided as she stared at her well-worn pink stationery. She hadn't seen her list since college graduation in 1999.
That day she'd crossed off fall in love and neatly tucked The List inside her grandmother's antique jewelry box. The jewelry box had been packed up along with her other college memories and had landed in the attic of the house she'd shared with her husband Chuck.
Until today, that box had remained sealed like Pandora's box. When Lilah had opened it, all of her unfulfilled hopes and dreams had tumbled out with her American University sweatshirt and a ton of old photos.
Lilah had been a good girl and followed the rules. She'd married her college sweetheart, lost her virginity on her wedding night and perfectly balanced her career in real estate with her duties as a domestic goddess. Yet here she was divorced after only six years of marriage.
She smoothed her hand over The List, studying the handwriting of a sixteen-year-old girl as it transformed into that of a young woman in her twenties.
At sixteen she'd wanted to date Reggie Martinnever happened. At eighteen, rebelling against her goody-two-shoes image, she added visit a nude beach to The Listthat did happen: spring break 1997. At twenty, the awakening of her social consciousness, she'd wanted to protest a worthy causebut never did. And at twenty-one, the awakening of her sexual consciousness, came the thing about multiple orgasms.
Lilah shook her head. A lot of really fun things were still unchecked, and her thirtieth birthday was only three weeks away.
"So muchfor that." She dropped The List to the floor and dug back into the box. She pulled out a framed photo of her kissing Chuck at the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity cookout senior year.
Saving the frame, she tossed the photo into the waste bin at her right. Her world had been so different then.
At this point in her life she'd expected to be preparing for motherhood instead of readjusting to single life. She should have been remodeling their fabulous three-story suburban home instead of unpacking her Georgetown condo after three months of living out of boxes.
The only part of her life that had stayed on track was her career. As a real estate agent she was at the top of her game, making more money than she knew how to spend. But, with her personal life so deep in the trash bin, it was hard to celebrate that success.
She plunged both hands into the box and pulled out the last picture frame. Lilah and her best friend Angie. They were lying on their dorm room floor, staring up into the camera she'd held above their heads. When the two of them were together, they were trouble. Their parents had nicknamed them Lucy and Ethel because of their madcap adventures.
Angie was still Lilah's best friend, but they'd grown apart since college, and Lilah's marriage had had a lot to do with that.
After college Angie had moved to New York City to pursue her career as the next big name in fashion. Lilah had been certain she'd be spending a lot of time in the Big Apple visiting Angie, and had added a couple of New York-related items to her list. But, over the years, Chuck had always found reasons for Lilah not to make the trip.
Lilah bit back her rising anger over all the times she'd given in to Chuck's emotional manipulations. He'd been needy and insecure, and she'd been spineless and desperate to please. What a pair they'd made.
Her gaze dropped back to the two girls in the picture. Feeling a surge of wistfulness, Lilah grabbed her phone and began to dial. It was ten-thirty on a Saturday night, so the odds were strongly against her friend answering, but it had already been too long since they'd last spoken.
"Angie, I'm so glad you're there."
"Lilah?" croaked a weaker version of Angie's vibrant timbre.
"Did I catch you at a bad time? You sound exhausted."
"It's never a bad time to talk to you, but I was running around the city all day looking for platinum buttons. Not gold. Not silver. Platinumfor some diva who doesn't let any lesser metals touch her skin."
While she was awaiting her big break, Angie was sewing costumes for an off-Broadway playhouse. "Aw, honey, I'm sorry to hear you had such a rough day."
"Don't worry, as it turns out, Miss Thing doesn't know the difference between silver and platinum after all."
Lilah laughed. "You're so bad."
"That's why you love me."
"Anyway, I was finally unpacking the last of my boxes today, and you'll never believe what I found."
"Um, two million dollars'worth of gold bullion that you're looking to split with your best friend?"
"I found The List."
"The List? Fifty things you wanted to do before thirty? Hey, your thirtieth birthday is next month. How far did you get?"
Lilah scanned the sheet, mentally crossing off a couple of things she'd accomplished in the last eight years. "I guess I'm almost halfway through it."
"November tenth is" She paused for calculation. "Twenty-one days away. Are you going to try to finish it off?"
Lilah huffed. "Some of these things aren't even possible anymore. Remember item number onedate Reggie Martin?"
Angie sighed. "Well, that one's not impossible. Just a bit of a challenge."
"Ha! Have you listened to your radio lately? Reggie Martin is even more unattainable now than when he was just your average high school stud."
Reggie Martin was the sole reason Lilah had made The List in the first place. Her father had been giving her some sort of pep talk about how anything was possible if she identified her goals and worked toward them. Sure, he'd been referring to things like college and career, but at the time, Lilah had been obsessed with Reggie Martin.
It had taken a great deal of self-restraint not to write marry Reggie Martin at the top of The List, but she'd decided to stay within the realm of possibility. He was the lean-muscled, baby-faced, track-running, future superstar that she'd tutored in math.
"I don't know," Angie argued. "I think we got you pretty close in high school. I had to bake Bobby Carnivelli cookies for two months so he'd let you take over as Reggie's math tutor. It's not my fault you were too shy to make the first move."
For her entire junior and senior year, she and Angie had devised many a plot to get Reggie's attention, all of which stopped just short of her confessing her undying love. A girl had to have her pride.
"I'm old-fashioned. I prefer the gentleman to do the asking."
"Old-fashioned, my gluteus maximus. You were just a big, fat chicken."
"Oh ho. Was I chicken in the sixth grade when I talked LaTonya Richards out of beating you up?"
"And what about the time I convinced a Maryland State Trooper not to give you yet another ticket. The ticket that would have ultimately caused you to lose your license. And"
"I meant with boys, okay? You're a big, fat chicken when it comes to boys."
"Fine. I'll concede on that point. Which brings us back to the issue at hand. Number one on my list, date Reggie Martin, has gone from unlikely to impossible. He's a superstar now."
Reggie had always been a singer. He had a lovely melodic voice and could be found singing on almost any occasion. But no one could have predicted that he'd manage to parlay that into a career. Right now, his first single, "Love Triangle," was getting heavy rotation on all the air waves.
"He's not a superstar yetmore like a rising star. It's not the same as trying to get a date with somebody like Usher." Angie was eternally optimistic, which was one of the qualities Lilah missed most about her.
"Yeah, whatever, girl. Keep hitting that crack pipe."
"Okay, put number one aside for now. What else is left on your list?"
"Eat escargot, ride a mechanical bull, get a tattoo, crash a party"
"Slow down there, girlfriend. Those are all things you can still do."
"Angie, I don't even want a tattoo."
"That point is moot. Listen . I have a plan" In the past those four words between them would have given her a charge, but Lilah's mature, twenty-nine-year-old self had learned to avoid trouble at all costs. "No, I have a plan. How about we forget I ever mentioned the stupid list and talk about something else."
"Not a chance. Here's what I thinkyou should come to New York a week before your birthday, and we'll knock The List out."
"Remember number one"
"I said I have a plan."
"You have a plan to get me a date with the hottest new R&B singer?"
"No, I have a plan to get you a date with an old, high school friend who happens to be a hot new R&B singer."
"Okay, let's hear it. This ought to be good."
"As I see it, we have two viable avenues by which to reach Reggie. One, I read that his older brother Tyler is his business manager, and he lives here in the city. We can try to contact him and enlist his help hooking up with Reggie."
Lilah remembered Reggie's older brother well. And she'd always been a tiny bit scared of him. If Reggie were sunshine, Tyler was a thunder clouda dark, brooding killjoy. During her tutoring sessions, Reggie had complained rather frequently about how hard his brother rode him. She'd always suspected Tyler was jealous of Reggie's talent and popularity.
"And the second avenue?"
"Well, you can't live in New York and work in the fashion industry without being hot-wired into the celebrity grapevine. With his brother managing his business affairs here in the city, odds are he either lives here or frequents the area. I know my contacts can dig up the dirt on his whereabouts. Then it's just a matter of matching the two of you up in time and space."
Sure, it sounded straightforward, even plausible, but Lilah knew from experience that their schemes never went according to plan. "Well, I have to hand it to you, Ang, that's not bad. You certainly haven't lost your touch."
"So we're on?"
"Not. A. Chance."
"What? Why not?"
"I have to work."
"I know for a fact you haven't taken any time off since the divorce. That was a year and a half ago. You must have vacation accrued up to your eyeballs."
"I just moved. There's still so much to be done around here."
"Nothing that can't wait."
"It's just not a good time ."
Angie was silent for a minute. "Wow, I guess your marriage really did crush all the life out of you. You've lost your sense of adventure."
Lilah gasped. That was a low blow. And it hit its mark. She'd been a good girl. She'd played by the rules. It hadn't made her happy.
She couldn't remember the last time she'd been utterly content. Her wedding day? College? She'd gotten so used to the status quo that she didn't even challenge herself anymore.
Her gaze fell back on The List. Maybe she needed to practice a random act of kindness. Maybe she needed to drink champagne straight from the bottle. She definitely needed to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty and ice skate in Rockefeller Center. She'd promised her best friend that they'd do those things together.
"Okay, I'm in."