I stared across the table at the man who sat in front of me. He was stretched out with his arms draped over the chair next to him, talking incessantly about his latest real estate acquisition.
I nodded and smiled occasionally when his facial expressions told me it was appropriate, but I only found myself catching every fifth or sixth word.
I slowly ran my finger around the rim of the wine glass and stared at the wall behind him. He had selected the most expensive wine on the menu without asking my opinion.
It was a pretty good Merlot, but I'm more of a tequila girl, if I’m being honest, and I was only drinking the wine to pass the time and drown out his insipid and seemingly endless chatter.
“It’s hardly my fault that he couldn't pay his mortgage. Maybe if he understood what hard work was, he wouldn't have lost his job in the first place. I mean, I feel bad for the poor fool, but I've got a living to make, too, you know?”
“Hmm?” I stopped circling my finger around the rim of my glass and met his gaze.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Exactly. I mean it’s not your fault that the banks are full of crooks and cheats. You surely can’t be expected to go around not making a profit just because some poor fool got laid off, and his family is living in a crummy motel, while he picks up odd jobs in a desperate attempt to feed them.”
I rolled my eyes and commenced staring at the wall as he nodded furiously in agreement, completely oblivious to the fact that I thought he was pure scum.
I guess I can’t blame him for not knowing that I grew up in one of those families of "poor fools" who got evicted by the bank when my father was laid off.
But I certainly wasn’t going to give him any more of my attention than was necessary. I just wanted to end this date in time for me to get home and watch a late-night rerun of “Friends” while I binged on a pint of rum raisin ice cream.
He continued rambling on about how his latest acquisition was going to pay for a new car, and I made a mental note to slap my best friend Kris for making me go on this ridiculous date.
I was half sure that she had set me up with the worst guy that she could find as payback for the last blind date that I had bailed on.
I decided to just choke down whatever food he ordered for us and, then, make a hasty retreat after he paid the check.
That was before he ordered the raw oysters. The smell alone made me feel like vomiting. It baffles me the things that some people will eat in a misguided attempt at romance.
But I certainly wasn't going to slurp down what is essentially an aquatic booger just to pacify him and give him false hope.
I excused myself, claiming a need to “powder my nose,” and hid myself away in the bar. I sat on a stool against the wall and ordered a double Patron with a lime twist from the fantastically handsome bartender, muttering to myself.
The bartender, Nick, if his name tag was being truthful with me, slid me my drink with a wink and a grin, and I decided that Marty or Mark or whoever the oyster guy was could wait a bit longer.
I swear I’m not normally the kind of girl who sits at bars and orders tequila to ditch her blind date, but... I couldn’t bring myself to go back to that table, and Nick had a grin that could melt an iceberg.
“That bad, huh?” He asked me with a nod to the table I had just fled from. I sipped at the tequila to hide my smile of pleasure that Nick had noticed me.
“Like the worst ever,” I rolled my eyes and slumped my head down dramatically.
He chuckled. “Yeah. He seems a bit much.”
I laughed as I nibbled on the lime wedge as genteelly as I could without just stuffing the whole thing in my mouth.
“Yeah. He’s a house flipper.”
“Oh, man. I hate those guys.”
“Right? Thank you.” I chuckled, glad to find a sympathetic ear. To be honest, I felt terrible ditching the guy, but it had been a bad week already, and I didn’t have the patience to deal with him.
“Here. This one’s on me.” Nick slid another double my way, and I grinned. Then, he winked at me again, and it was decided. Marvin could wait.
I smiled and nodded my appreciation as I double-checked my appearance in the mirror that lined the bar behind him.
I had just gotten my hair trimmed and styled and bought a new black dress for the date. My eyeliner was on point, literally. And my lipstick was holding steady.
I watched Nick make a few drinks for the waitress, watching to see if he winked at her or the two women who were sitting at the other end of the bar. He did not.
I sipped at the complimentary tequila slowly, not wanting to lose my senses but also knowing that I wouldn’t be able to leave the bar without being seen by Mike.
Maybe it was Matt… I honestly couldn’t remember anymore. All I could think about was Nick and his ice-melting grin.
He ambled over to me with a hearty laugh, and I followed his gaze as he nodded to my former date’s table. I raised an eyebrow and cocked my head to the side, looking back just in time to catch Monty checking out the waitress's backside while winking at the girl at the next table.
"Unbelievable!" I said, feeling both justified and dejected at the same time.
“I think he'll survive, somehow,” Nick said, still chuckling.
I looked back at him and laughed, both annoyed and amused. It was settled. Mitch was on his own, and I no longer felt guilty for ditching the dweeb.
“Ugh!” I rolled my eyes again and polished off the rest of the tequila. Nick offered me another round, and I declined.
“Nah, man. Thanks, but I think four is my limit tonight. Otherwise, I might actually go back to that table and give that little twerp a piece of my mind.”
“Seems to me like he might deserve that,” he said with another grin as he walked over to the couple who had just sat down a few stools from me.
I chuckled to myself and watched as he took their order. I wondered if he was just a particularly good bartender who knew how to earn his tips or if he was hitting on me... or, if I was just reading the situation wrong. That was always a possibility.
I decided it was time to call a cab before I allowed Nick’s charm and the tequila to affect my judgment. I reached for my purse and withdrew my wallet as Nick appeared in front of me.
“How much do I owe you, man?” I asked him, standing up.
“Oh… nothing. I put it on his tab already,” he gave me one more wink and chuckled deviously.
I gaped at him with a wide smile. “Thank you for that!” I laughed as I lifted my purse onto my shoulder.
He furrowed his brow and stuck his lip out slightly. “You leaving already, huh?”
My stomach fluttered softly as I looked at him, wondering again if he was actually flirting with me or if he was just really good at his job.
“Well, you know? It’s been a long day, and I thought I would try to slip out before whatshisface over there notices me, and I get busted."
He smiled deviously and motioned behind me. I turned and looked back at the table. He wasn’t there anymore. I suddenly felt a little sick to my stomach.
I wasn't sure if it was panic that he would find me, or guilt that I had ditched him, or anger that he had left so quickly. Probably all of the above. Or the tequila. It was anybody’s guess at that point.
“He split? What a twerp! What if I was sick in the bathroom? From the wine or the raw oysters?”
Nick laughed loudly at my sudden dejection. “I think even he has enough of a brain to know you weren't into him. Probably figured it out when you scooted your chair farther away from the table." He laughed. "Like you couldn't get far enough away from him."
I gaped at him, trying not to laugh. “Oh? I thought I had hidden it so well.”
“Nah. Staring at the wall behind him and tracing your finger on your glass for thirty minutes is a dead giveaway. Even for a poor sap like that.”
I smiled at him, raising my eyebrows. He had been watching me since we walked in. It was a pleasant and surprising revelation, and a shiver ran down my back.
I was by no means the prettiest woman in the restaurant, nor was my skirt nearly as short as most of theirs. My stomach fluttered, and I found myself nibbling on my lower lip. I couldn't have cared less about Max at that point.
I sat on the edge of the stool, unsure of how to proceed. Nick held my gaze and leaned across the counter, grinning at me. I wondered if he was reading my thoughts, and I narrowed my eyes as his grin widened.
“So… What’s it going to be?” He asked me.
I hesitated. What he mean by that?
“Sorry?” Was all I could manage.
“Are you going to head out and risk running into him in the parking lot? Or are you going to stay here for the next hour and let me walk you out when my shift’s over?”
I froze with my mouth half open and parted in a wide smile. “Uh…”
He laughed at me, and I bit my lower lip as he slid me a fresh bowl of cherries.
I shook my head slowly, awed by his shamelessness, and furrowed my brow, pretending to think it over. “Well, I really don’t want to run into him. So… I guess I could nurse a tonic water for a bit. Just to be on the safe side.”
He grinned and nodded enthusiastically. “You got it. Uh…?” He raised his eyebrow and tilted his head quizzically.
“Evie,” I smiled as I selected a cherry from the bowl.
“Evie? Well, Evie. Double tonic comin’ right up.” He grinned and winked at me once more. I looked down at my lap as I nibbled the cherry, counting the number of winks he'd thrown my way. He was going to be trouble.
Nick sat down with me after his shift, and we talked for a couple of hours. He didn’t try to buy me more alcohol or get me to leave with him. He genuinely seemed like he wanted to get to know me.
He walked me out, as promised, and pre-paid the cab driver with a generous tip. As he held the cab door open for me, he flashed me a mischievous but hopeful smile.
“So… Evie. How would you like to go on a date with a guy who promises to only have eyes for you the whole night?”
I chuckled softly as I nibbled on my lower lip.
“You know, Nick. That actually sounds pretty good. But where would a girl find a guy like that?”
He grinned. “I’ll be here tomorrow night at seven, sitting in our spot… off the clock.”
He threw me one last wink and closed the door. I watched him with butterflies in my stomach as the cab pulled away. Yep. He was going to be trouble. The fun kind of trouble, though.
© Lena Folkert
About the Creator
Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose
Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker
Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker
Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer
Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content