Starting over

 
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I scan the bar. There’s one stool, way at the very end, right next to a couple who are all over each other. It’s perfect. I slide in next to them unnoticed. I don’t want to talk to anyone tonight.

My friends asked me to go out with them, but I wanted to be alone. They’re worried about me. They tell me I need to get over him, stop thinking about what happened. I don’t know why it's so hard.

My gaze catches Jack's. I wish I could find a guy like him. He flashes someone the 'one sec' finger and rushes my way opening a beer. He sets it in front of me.

“Hey, doll,” he says, winking at me.

I can’t help but smile.

Just as quickly he’s back to tending bar - leaning in to hear orders, popping tops, mixing drinks.

Jack looks hot. Not that he doesn’t look good in one of his old band t-shirts. He's wearing a dark blue, or is it a black button-down? It’s hard to tell in this light. His sleeves are rolled up exposing his muscular forearms. His nicely worn jeans fit in a way that makes my mouth water. I take a sip of my beer.

Too bad I can only look. Jack is hopelessly in love with his girlfriend, and that makes him even more attractive. You should see the way drunk girls throw themselves at him. But he never takes them up on their not-so-subtle offers. He's the kind of guy who can let a girl down and still have her walking away smiling.

I really should stop staring. Jack is my friend and the best guy I know. But maybe a little fantasy about a nice guy is what I need to get over my ex. I take a long drink and drag my gaze from his ass.

I try to look around the couple next to me to check out who’s sitting at the bar but they block my view. They’re all hands, hair, arms. It’s hard to tell where one stops and the other one starts. The woman let out a whimper. It’s way too erotic to come from just a little drunk kissing. I try to ignore them but I hear her gasp, and I can’t help but look her way again. Her dazed eyes flutter shut, and she drops her head to his shoulder, breathing roughly.

Did that happen? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the 'bedroom only' kind of girl. In fact, I think I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to sex, but I draw the line at orgasming in public.

The guy is nuzzling the woman’s neck and whispering something in her ear. She nods her head. He stands and helps her off her stool, smoothing down her skirt. Now they’re getting a room?

I’m glad they’re gone. I’m embarrassed that I’m slightly turned on by what just happened. I start peeling the label off my beer bottle. It’s a nervous habit. My ex hated it when I did it. Well, screw him.

I’m happy the couple is gone, but now I have a problem. There are two available stools. There’s no way they’ll stay open for long; the place is packed, as usual. Maybe I should move over, leaving one empty stool on either side of me, but after just witnessing what I saw, I’m not tempted. Plus, if I did, that would double my chances of a talker sitting next to me. I’ll hope that another couple sits down and ignores me.

There's a pile of shredded label and an empty beer bottle in front of me. I look up, and Jack is leaning in close with another beer in his hand. Could he be more perfect?

“How’s it going?” he shouts, flashing me that adorable crooked smile.

“Okay, I guess,” I said, shrugging my shoulder.

“You were too good for him, babe.”

Jack’s staring into my eyes, shaking his head. He wants me to acknowledge that I heard him. I give him a weak smile. Satisfied, he sweeps the trash into his hand and grabs my empty beer bottle before leaving.

Jack is right. I was too good for him. I only wish I could have figured that out a year and a half ago and saved myself the misery. I take a long swallow of the cold beer.

I feel someone sit down on the stool next to me. I don’t look. If I look, I’ll invite conversation. I stare at my beer instead.

“How’s it going?” the guy next to me asks.

I act like I don’t know he’s talking to me. I keep my gaze locked on the bottle in front of me.

Jack’s voice startles me. “I wondered when you’d get here.”

There's a moment of confusion until I realize Jack is talking to the guy next to me. I sneak a quick peek. A sharp angular jaw and dark stubble are the only things that register. Panic hits me. If I sit here, Jack is going to introduce us then I’ll have to talk.

I slip from my stool and head to the bathroom. I stay in there for a few minutes before walking casually back to the bar. I’m relieved to see that the guy’s back is turned and that he’s talking to some girl. I’m back in my little cocoon of isolation.

I try not to eavesdrop, but the girl’s high-pitched giggling is hard to ignore. You’d think he was a standup comedian or something. I do like a guy that can make me laugh, though. I should have known the asshole wasn’t the one for me. He hardly ever made me laugh.

I can't make out what he's saying but the deep rumble of his voice penetrates the air; I feel it vibrate in my chest. I swing my legs below me. Another nervous habit of mine. I kinda wish that girl would leave.

Just when I’m thinking that, another guy walks up, slaps him on the back and shakes his hand. Now I’m straining to hear what they’re saying. They’re inviting him to their table.

I bite my fingernail and stare at his back. Wow. I let my gaze linger on his nice broad shoulders, his confident posture. He shakes his head and stands. I take the opportunity to check him out. He's tall, perfectly muscled, and looks really good from where I'm sitting. He hugs the girl and shakes the guy’s hand before turning to sit back down.

I smile to myself. Jack sets another beer in front of me and grabs my empty bottle. I spend a little too much time watching him walk away. 

“So, you’re just gonna sit there and not talk to me?” the guy says, leaning my way.

He's close, so close his forearm is resting dangerously near mine. It sends a shiver up my spine.

“You must be one of those smart guys,” I say, then giggle at myself. The beer is doing its job.

“You didn’t even give me a chance.”

“Last time I met a guy at a bar he ruined my life. From now on, I only go out with guys my friends introduce me to and never, ever, anyone I meet in a bar.” That should run him off.

“Wow, okay.”

From the corner of my eye, I see him take a drink of his beer. I'm dying to get one good look at him before he walks away. I turn and am met with the greenest eyes I have ever seen on a drop-dead handsome face that looks vaguely familiar. We lock eyes. I’m pretty sure I stop breathing.

The corner of his mouth pulls up, and the hint of a dimple creases his stubbled cheek.

"Hi," he says, cocking his head to the side.

My heart is pounding in my chest. I need to say something quick or risk sitting there drooling over him.

“There are plenty of sparkly girls here tonight looking for a man. Why don’t you go bother one of them?”

“Sparkly, huh?” He turns around on his stool and scans the crowd, then turns back toward me. He shakes his head, “I think I’m doing alright."

I feel my face heat. I grab my beer and take a sip. Then I take another. Then I keep sipping because he’s got my heart racing. I drain my beer as he watches. He looks concerned. 

The increase in alcohol level is making me brave.

“Let me help you out,” I say.

I swivel on my stool and scan the crowd. He turns with me. “You’re looking for a girl with a name ending in a ‘y’ or ‘ie’ - Brittney, Kelsey...Mackenzie. They're easy to spot.”

I reach over and touch his forearm. Not only does the alcohol make me sassy, it also makes me flirty.

“Tight dress, four-inch heels, lots of makeup,” I explain.

His gaze drops to my hand. I pull it away instinctively. A hint of a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth.

“What’s your name?”

“None of your damned business.”

“I had an Aunt named none of your damned business.”

His delivery is so smooth I can’t stop the laugh that bursts from my chest. He smirks as he takes a swallow of his beer.

Okay, I’ll give him that one.

I just finished my third beer and I’m feeling pretty good. I call Jack over with a wave. He furrows his brow but strides over with another beer.

The guy grabs it from Jack's hand. “Get her a glass of water.”

“Give me my beer,” I demand.

I’m aware I’m slurring words. I probably should’ve eaten something other than a bag of chips for lunch, but that beer is mine.

The guy tips it back and takes a sip. I reach feebly for it, but he holds it out of my reach.

“I think you’ve had enough.”

“You’re not my father,” I say, petulantly.

“Lucky for me,” he says, smirking.

I can’t keep up with him.

“Drink your water.”

I look down. A glass of ice water has appeared in front of me. When did that get here? It does look kinda good. I take a drink.

He leans across the bar and hollers at Jack. “I’m taking her home.” He drops a couple of bills on the bar.

“You wish," I say, pushing to my feet.

I sway. He grabs my elbow to steady me. I pull free from his grasp and stumble back a step before he catches me again.

Jack is rounding the bar. Thank goodness he’s coming to save me. 

“Babe, let him take you home.”

“What? No.”

“It’s okay,” Jack assures me.

I look up at the guy hovering protectively over me. “I’m not going home with you. I don’t care what Jack says.”

“He’s just gonna to drive you home,” Jack coaxes as if speaking to a child. “If he tries anything, he’ll have to answer to me.”

I don’t understand why Jack is trying to help this guy out. I push past them and storm out into the night air. I know without looking that they're following me.

It’s cool outside, and the sudden change in temperature clears my head.

I don’t know why I’m pissed. Maybe because despite my attempts, he didn’t leave me alone. And maybe, as much as I hate to admit it, I wasn’t all that sorry. But, no matter how much it sucks right now, I can't keep repeating the same mistakes. Falling for a hot guy I met in a bar has never worked out for me.

I turn to face them and plant my hands on my hips. My gaze darts back and forth between them.

“You and Jack friends?” the guy asks me.

I glare at him. “We used to be.”

Jack drapes his arm affectionately around my neck and kisses me on the temple. I smile up at him.

“We’re not in a bar,” the guy says.

I shrug my shoulders. I know I’m a little buzzed, but I do realize I’m outside.

“So?” I say.

“So, we’re not in a bar," he says holding up his index finger. "And Jack is your friend?”

I nod my head, not sure what he's getting at.

“Jack, can you introduce us?”

Jack frowns and looks from him to me and back again. “Jessie, this is my brother, Marc.”

“Jessie? Like with an 'ie'?" Marc asks, cocking his eyebrow.

I feel my face flush. “Jack’s the only one I let call me Jessie. You can call me Jessica.”

Marc takes a step closer to me and looks down into my eyes. I feel him reach for my hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jessica.” He draws out the three syllables of my name as he stares into my eyes. I bite my lip trying to hold in my big stupid grin.

Jack looks confused. “You okay now, Jessie? You gonna let him drive you home?”

“Yeah,” I tell him.

Jack heads back into the bar looking relieved.

Marc slips his jacket around my shoulders and steers me toward his truck.

“You’re good,” I say.

“I am,” he agrees. “But you’ll have to go out with me a few times before you know how right you are.”

 

Author's Note - If you'd like me to write more about Jessie and Marc, let me know by commenting, liking and sharing.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash