The Perfect Match & The Roller Coaster Ride of Love

The Most Heinous Vase Ever Created Maven “It smells like rich assholes in here.” I wrinkled my nose to hammer that point home, and my best friend let out a soft laugh before sipping from the glass of champagne she held daintily between her fingertips.

The diamonds on her warm brown wrist glittered under the chandelier, but as impressive as her jewelry was, it didn’t hold a candle to the long, black, starlight-like dress hugging her curves and draping down to the floor in romantic sweeps of shimmering fabric. “And you know that because you’ve had your nose buried in a rich asshole a time or two in your life?”

“Don’t even have to get that far to sniff one out. Just being in the same room suffices.” The room we were currently in was of the ballroom variety, with elegant chandeliers, pristine marble floors, and a majestic, vaulted ceiling painted like an Italian chapel. It was one of the most historic buildings in Ybor; an old social club transformed into an upscale party for tonight’s event. When we walked up the grand staircase earlier, I was entranced by the lush gold and blood red tones.

The way they mixed with the expensive wooden trim transported me back in time, as if we were attending an 18th century royal affair. Tampa’s rich and famous filled the lavish space, dressed to the nines in tuxedos and gowns that cost more than everything I currently owned put together. The only reason I was able to dress to fit in was because of Livia, who had a flair for designer clothes even before she was the highest-paid dentist in the state.

Mostly because her dentistry didn’t just consist of filling cavities and routine cleanings — although, she’d argue she did plenty of that, too — but rather handling the absolutely brutal mouth trauma suffered by professional hockey players. She’d been ecstatic for the chance to get me out of what she referred to as my “hippie clothes.”

I much preferred the flowy fabric of my Free People dresses to the form-fitting mermaid number Livia had strapped me into tonight. Although, the gorgeous yellow tone of it was my favorite. It complemented my rich, creamy brown complexion beautifully, and I’d styled my hair back in a sleek ponytail so all attention stayed on the dress.

Livia folded one arm over her middle, balancing the elbow of the other on her wrist and tilting the champagne flute to her lips again. “What exactly is the scent?” “Dirty money, designer leather, and Bond No. 9,” I said easily. “With a hint of that particular fragrance that you only find in the lobbies of million-dollar condos.” “Does my condo lobby smell?”

“It’s the most pungent one in Tampa.” Her coral-painted lips curved into a saccharine smile, one that told me she took that as a compliment. “Well, good thing you’re only here to report on the event and how much these rich assholes raise for charity tonight,” she said. “Wouldn’t want you to catch the stench.”

She elbowed me with the joke, and I smiled, pulling my phone from my clutch and switching it to cinema video mode before I took some close-up shots of the elaborate centerpiece glittering on the cocktail table we were standing at. When I had that clip, I tucked my phone away and wrapped my hands around the camera hanging from my neck.

I adjusted a few settings before taking a photograph of the table, then of Livia as she winked and tipped back the last of her champagne. Outside of this event, when people saw us together, we didn’t fit. Livia was born and raised in Long Island, New York — and her parents had the vacation house in the Hamptons to prove it.

I was from the opposite side of the tracks, a humble upbringing in a suburb inland from Tampa Bay. She was also four years older than me, graduating with her doctoral degree when I had just barely clinched my bachelor’s. Still, from the moment we met, there had been an understanding between us. It was the kind you only found in someone who saw you for who you are and didn’t expect you to be anyone or anything else.

It was rare, and special, and something I never took for granted — especially since finding any kind of connection like that with the opposite sex seemed futile at this point. Livia Young was the best thing to come out of the most traumatic relationship of my life. As if she could sense where my head was going, Livia gently touched my shoulder. “You good?”

I ignored the twinge in my stomach when I responded. “Good. You want a picture with any of these prissy athletes?” I teased, holding up my camera. Livia smiled at me like she knew something I didn’t, shaking her head with a small smile on her lips. I didn’t mean to be so judgmental when it came to these types of events, but my upbringing made it hard to do so. Add in the events of my adult dating life, and you could say I had yet to be proven wrong.

My parents were nonconformists, through and through. They’d met while serving in AmeriCorps and proceeded to dedicate their lives to working in the communities they lived in. I was brought up on little, with a constant reminder to be grateful for all that we had. And I was — truly. Gratitude ran through me like a rushing river at having parents who cared for me, who were so selfless and kind, who filled our home with love.

It wasn’t until I fell in love with a silver-spoon-fed athlete in college that I grew to resent those who were more well off than we were.

I blinked, deciding not to dwell on him, or anything else in the past, tonight. This evening signified the beginning of a new chapter for me, one I would make the most of. This was my first event as the newest addition to the Tampa Bae Babes. Despite the rather cheesy name, the TBBs were well known throughout the city for their social channels, and for the most listened-to podcast in the Bay.

They covered everything from where to shop, dine, and stay, to interviewing the most influential players in the city — whether their game be politics, medicine, science, history, real estate, or pop culture. After working tirelessly building my own online brand in the city, I was now the newest member of the team, with my specialty centering around Tampa Bay sports — which was hilarious, considering I’d rather read the dictionary front to back ten times than watch a single baseball game.

It wasn’t my end goal. For me, that would always be covering what really mattered in Tampa Bay and our communities — the people giving back, every day, quietly and selflessly and without recognition. But for now, this was my way in, and I was happy to take it. “I need a refill,” Livia said, waving her empty flute in illustration.

“And I should also probably make an appearance at the VIP tables. Our general manager loves to show me off like a prized pig.” “You do make a very pretty pig,” I cooed, running my fingers through a strand of her silky straight hair with a doting expression. She swatted my hand away with a roll of her eyes. “Be right back.” “I’m going to get some shots of the silent auction items,”

I said. “Meet you there?” Livia nodded, and then she was splitting the crowd of people like Moses split the sea, every head turning to watch her as she passed. I took my time ambling over to the tables of items up for bid, mentally planning out the video and photo content I’d put together of the night. I made sure to take multiple video angles and transition options, knowing I wouldn’t be able to come back and re-do any of them later.

My parents often laughed at my job — not because they were mean, but because they genuinely didn’t understand it. Not many did. You tell someone your job is in social media, and the first reaction is almost always a staunch laugh. But as confused as I was about where my life would go next, I loved what I did.

I especially loved that I’d built an audience online who cared about the same things I did, who wanted to meet the game changers in their community who were the unsung heroes. I’d built a loyal following on that mission — one I wanted to take to greater heights with the Tampa Bae Babes. But first, I had to do my time as the sports girl. When I made it to the tables, I held my phone steady and walked slowly down the line of items up for bid.

The Gibson Gala was hosted by the athletic teams in the Bay, a rare coming together of our hockey, baseball, and football teams as they raised money to benefit the many charities they supported. As such, most of the items were sports-related, everything from signed balls, pucks, and jerseys to suite tickets and player experiences. I wished I found it impressive, that I could look at the outrageous bids already scribbled on th

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