I didn’t return to Happy Hour the next week. Or the following week. This was a delicate game and I wanted the boys to stew a bit. I waited an entire month, in fact, before I returned.
And when I did, the room was abuzz with the tensions between the two men. It seemed my leaving was when the fracture began. Charlie wanted to go after me, but David was fine with finding new prey. Charlie didn’t want to be bested by my ignorance, but David saw it as charming and was patient enough to wait for a week.
They ended up pouncing on another piece of fresh meat that night. The following week they waited for me, until around 11pm. Then they settled for coveting one of the older bears of the group, one who had secretly whispered to me that he expected to never be in their sights. I was glad to hear he had his storage closet moment. Two more hot new young things were the third and fourth weeks.
All the while, everyone wondered where I was. This had been the longest I’d been away, previously earning the status of “new regular”. And everyone wanted to see what would happen when I returned. Charlie seemed antsy and David more cold and distant; most believed it had to do with their missed opportunity in me.
When I arrived, early, there were only a few people chatting and eating. They immediately grabbed me, brought me over to the table, dished on all that had happened, and asked why I’d been away. I gave my planned excuse, work, and everyone bought the lie.
Everyone also wanted to know if I was going to accept the advances of the Charlie and David that evening. I was coy, dodging around the questions, buying time until they arrived. No one needed to know what I had planned. I wanted to be sneaky; it was oh so much fun that way.
The duo arrived later than before, each with a haggard and worn look. Though they had performed their weekly spectacle, I wondered, as I saw them enter the bar, whether they did it anymore for fun. Or was it just out of habit. Or some weird belief in their obligation to the group. I wondered why it had started at all, and if it would ever stop.
It didn’t take ten seconds for them to see me. It didn’t take ten seconds for the table to clear. It didn’t take ten seconds for them to surround me again, this time all at once, no hope of a swift exit. It didn’t take ten seconds for my plans to continue.
“You’re back,” said Charlie.
“Yeah. Work. Busy. You’re Charlie, right?”
“Yes. Chaplin, not Brown. And you’re Dan?”
“Right. David. How have you been?”
“Hungry.” David’s one word answer was said low, almost whispered, full of bass, and was not talking about his stomach. Charlie shot him an angry look. David either didn’t see it or ignored him. I pretended like I didn’t know exactly what David wanted.
“Um, I know a good sushi place. It’s close by, right around the block from my house. Field trip?”
“Great idea,” said Charlie.
“Great.” I hopped off the chair and swung on my jacket. David gripped his hand over mine as I pushed in my chair. He interlaced his fingers with mine, holding my hand.
“Not letting you go this time.” Charlie again shot him a look, but this stare was filled with jealousy.
“I’m not going anywhere.” I playfully pulled on David’s arm and led the two men out the door.
As we walked, David continued to hold my hand. Charlie followed behind. I could feel his eyes on us.
David’s grip was firm but soft. Lightly, he brushed his against the back of my hand. This was not as I had planned, but I liked holding David’s hand. I decided to go with this new development.
When we got to the sushi place, we were informed the wait would be thirty minutes, an inconvenience I had anticipated.
“My place is just around the corner. Do you want to raid my fridge instead?” The grin on Charlie’s face was a mile wide.
“That sounds like a great idea,” said Charlie.
“You don’t know us.” David looked interested, but also concerned.
“Everyone at Happy Hour likes you. They told me so when I came in tonight. You know Jane? She’s like my big sister. If she approves of you, I do too.”
“Let’s go raid a fridge then,” Charlie said, a new glee in his eye, even as he glanced down at David’s hand and my hand still interlocked.
(to be continued)
Categorised as: Gen Fiction
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