No pepper spray in the bar (Alex)

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No pepper spray in the bar (Alex)

“I don’t know, Kelly. I’m not sure I’m up for it.”

Kelly rolled her eyes at me while she was shimmying herself into a sheer halter which would take a can-opener to remove, then said, “Alex: it’s the first Friday back in school. We are going out. What’s gotten into you?”

“What’s gotten into me is I need to study. I need to focus.”

Kelly stopped what she was doing and walked straight at me. She put her hands on either side of my face, looked me in the eye, and said, “I call bullshit.”

“What?”

“You heard me, Alex. You’ve been crazy all week. It’s not your need to be super geek-girl, you’ll be just fine with a night off from that. This is about Dylan.”

Oh, go to hell.

I stopped myself. The surge of anger was a surprise. Maybe she was right. I mean… I was over him. I thought. Okay, that’s not true. But … I didn’t think my behavior was different.

“Helloooo?” she said, shaking her head as she dragged out the word.

“Um… I haven’t really been crazy all week, have I?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Alex, get dressed! We are going out, right now! And just wait and see… some amazingly hot guy is going to come around and swoop you up, and it will be way to late for soldier boy. He’ll never know what hit him.”

She turned around and went back to her mirror, then started applying her mascara.

I started looking for something to wear. I wanted attractive, but … not too attractive. I hadn’t forgotten last spring. There. Jeans, with a medallion belt. Tight long sleeved tee with a vest. Maybe not exactly bar-hopping attire, Kelly was showing enough skin for both of us.  And much as she talked about it, I didn’t really want some guy to swoop down on me. To be honest, the thought made my skin crawl, and that worried me too. I dug through my bureau and got out my knee-high black suede boots, with their two-inch heels.

An hour later we were standing at the 1020 Bar, trying to spot a place to sit in the packed bar. The bouncer took a second glance at my ID when we walked in, but let me and Kelly through anyway. Maybe he was hoping her tank would burst.

Okay, yeah. I was being bitchy.

A crowd surrounded the bar on our left, three or four rows deep. All of the booths were taken, of course, but we slowly worked our way to the bar. Kelly was in rare form, chatting up every guy we passed. I was feeling a bit more reserved, and frankly hated the crowd gathering in on me like that. This had never been my favorite place to hang out, mainly because of the crowds on the weekends. But somehow Kelly and I ended up here at least once a week.

We finally squeezed ourselves onto stools side by side at the at end of the bar closest to the pool tables. A group of twenty or so guys were crowded up against the bar to our left, chanting as they were throwing back shots. The band was setting up at the tiny stage near the pool tables, and the general volume of the place had grown louder and louder in the thirty minutes we’d been there.

That’s when I saw Randy Brewer, and felt a sudden twist in my stomach. I literally felt my heart lurch into gear, the pulse making the arteries in my neck throb. I grabbed Kelly’s wrist, gripping it hard.

“What’s wrong?” she shouted in my ear. “Is it Dylan?”

I shook my head, unable to speak, even to tell her that Dylan didn’t drink.

Randy saw me, and leaned against the bar, leering at me. Slowly a grin broke out on his face, and he winked at me.

“That fucker,” Kelly said.

I turned my back on him, toward her, and blurted out, “Let’s go somewhere else.”

The guy she’d been talking to leaned in, and said, “What’s wrong baby, I’m not boring you am I?”

Kelly smiled sweetly, and I don’t think he saw the daggers headed his way.  “Yeah, you are,” she said. “You should go find something more exciting to talk about, then come back okay?”

“Bitch,” he said, then let out a loud belch and wandered off.

Kelly met my eyes, her smile genuine, and we both burst out into laughter.

“You really know how to pick ‘em, Kels.”

“Oh, my God,” she said, still laughing. “Am I boring you, baby? Wow.”  She giggled.

“Hey, did you hear from Joel?”

Her tone was still light, but she said, “Jesus, Alex, way to kill the mood.”

“Oops, sorry.”

“Yeah, I heard from him this morning. He wanted to go out tonight. What the hell? I’m breaking up with you, because being in love is too much, so lets just date casual while I screw other people? What the hell is wrong with him? What the hell is wrong with all guys?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I hope its not contagious.”

She grinned, then said, “Only sexually.”

I groaned, laughing, then jerked when I felt a hand close around my upper arm, then a voice thick with lust in my ear. “Hey, Alex. I’ve been looking for you, how ‘ya been?”

Randy. I jerked away, but he didn’t let go.

“Let go of me, Randy. Get away from me.”

“What the hell? I just wanted to say hi.” He looked offended, but didn’t let go. He started rubbing my arm with his thumb. “Come on, Alex, I made a mistake last spring. But it wasn’t that bad.”

I looked him in the eyes, and said in a furious tone, “Get your hand off of me, now.”

“Babe, I just want to talk to you, okay?”

“I don’t want to talk to you!”

Some of the people around us were starting to shift positions, sensing the tension and anger. Some guy tentatively said, “I think she wants you to leave her alone.”

“Alex, listen to me. Look… I admit I screwed up. I had too much to drink, and I shouldn’t have pushed so hard …”

I saw a flash of movement to my left, as Kelly stood up, reached in her purse and brought out a bottle of something and lifted it up to his eye level. His words transformed into a scream, and he backed away suddenly, hands at his eyes.

“Fucking bitch!” he screamed.

“Stay away from her, asshole!” Kelly screamed back.

Seconds later a bouncer waded through the crowd. “What the fuck is going on here?” he shouted.

I was frozen in place.

“I pepper sprayed his ass. He sexually assaulted my friend last year, and he wouldn’t let go of her just now.”

Someone else in the crowd said something to the bouncer and pointed at me.  The bouncer’s eyes landed on me. He was huge, at least six five, maybe two hundred fifty pounds of muscle. He walked over to me and said, “That true? The guy wouldn’t let go of you? And you told him to?”

I nodded.

“All right.  Next time you fucking call for me. I’m Wade. You don’t pepper spray people in the bar, got it?”

I nodded, quickly.

“All right.” He turned away, then grabbed Randy by the arm. “Come on, asshole. You’re done for the night.” He lifted, and half dragged Randy through the crowd and away from us.

I turned back to Kelly, my eyes wide. “Oh. My. God. You didn’t just do that.”

She grinned.

I grabbed her by the shoulders and hugged her. “Kelly, you are the best friend ever! I love you!”

But my eyes darted back toward the door, where Wade the bouncer was dragging Randy. For the thousandth time I found myself wishing I’d reported him when it happened.

I don’t really know why I didn’t.

I’d briefly dated Randy last spring, after Dylan and I had our last fight. It was a stupid fight. I was drunk, and had been agonizing over the danger he’d been in. I said some things, things I regret. That I was afraid it wasn’t working any more, that the distance and danger was ruining us. I mean, it had been a long time since we’d seen each other. A long time. And so much had happened.

Dylan’s eyes went cold without any warning. I can’t even describe what his look did to me without breaking into tears. It was a look of incredible sadness, and worse, of contempt and disgust. He disconnected the Skype connection without a word. No warning, no word, no nothing.

I tried to call him back, but there was no answer.

The next day, I tried again. His Skype account was gone. So was his Facebook account. He didn’t just de-friend me… he deleted the account entirely. He didn’t answer my emails or letters, and until this week it was like he had just … disappeared off the face of the earth.

After a month of pure devastation, Kelly started urging me to date again. And I tried. I really did. I went out a couple times with Randy. Then one night, Randy and I were having drinks, and then we had a couple too many. And somehow I found myself back in his room, and he tried to make out with me. I wasn’t ready. Not by a long shot. But the next thing I knew, Randy had shoved me down on the bed and was trying to rip off my shirt.  I tried to fight him off, but I could barely move.

I screamed, and it was pure luck that his roommates were coming back in right at that moment. They pulled him off me, and I stumbled out, crying.

It would never have happened if Dylan hadn’t cut me off so suddenly.

It would never have happened if I hadn’t drunk too much.

“You okay?” Kelly asked.

I looked over at her and nodded. “I was just thinking about Dylan, and … and everything.”

“Oh, shit,” Kelly said. “You’re still head-over-heels for him, aren’t you?”

“No,” I said, at the same time I nodded.

Kelly grinned.  “Try that again.”

“Oh, shit, Kelly. I still love him.”

“You know he was a complete asshole to cut you off like that.”

“I know.”

“He didn’t give you a chance to explain. It was just stupid. He let his stupid male pride kill the best thing he ever had.”

I nodded. This wasn’t helping. Not. One. Bit.

“You’re going to try to get him back, aren’t you?”

“No,” I said.

“I don’t believe you. You’re lying to me, Alex.”

“No. Not a chance. He blew it, Kelly. He broke my heart. I can’t go back there. Never. Not a chance.”

“Sure, Alex, sure. Whatever.”

She went back to her drink, and I looked in the mirror over the bar. Was a lying to her? To myself?

I didn’t know the answer to that.

This is first draft material from a story I’m working on during a two week hiatus before I start editing Insurgent. It’s a departure for me, because it falls under the “new adult” genre.You can find the beginning of the story, discussion of what NA books are, and contents of the story, here.


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