First Comes Love(10)

By: Emily Goodwin

We wait for a table in the busy restaurant, then get seated near the bar. Luke leaves me to talk to his bartender friend, and after ten minutes, I look around and see him talking it up with a pretty blonde behind the counter. So that’s his “buddy.” Interesting.

He comes back with two drinks in hand. I take a sip of mine and recoil. It’s so strong.

“So, Lauren,” he starts. “Tell me more about yourself. What do you do for fun?”

I dip a chip into salsa and look at Luke. Fun. My definition of fun probably isn’t his. “I like to read and watch TV. I’m a sucker for fantasy shows. And I foster dogs, so I spend a lot of time training them. I love anything Disney and have been getting into online computer games a bit lately. One of my friends raves about League of Legends.”

He keeps looking at me, and I realize he’s waiting for me to continue and tell him something he can agree is “fun.” But that’s what I like to do. I like to hang out at home with a good book or a good show. I like to cuddle with my dogs and pretend I’m going to go off on an adventure where I battle villains and meet Prince Charming.

“Do you work out or anything?”

I nod. “I jog with the dogs. I’m not really a fan of running. I mostly do it in case I find a wardrobe or something that takes me to a magical land. I want to be ready for an epic battle.”

Luke looks at me like I’m a circus freak. He’s never heard of Narnia? He’s the circus freak.

“What about you?” I say and eat the chip I’ve been holding.

“I hang with friends. Work out. Play video games on the weekend when I’m not playing football with the guys.”

I mentally sigh. He doesn’t need to go on to explain. He’s basic; one of those people who likes mainstream stuff just to be mainstream, and anyone who doesn’t blindly float down the river of social norms is labeled, and not in a good way. People like him still apply the middle school caste system, and he’s a jock and I’m a nerd.

Well, fuck you, Luke, and your high-paying job and good looks. I sit back and smile, covering up how crappy I’m feeling inside. If he doesn’t like me, his loss … blah, blah, blah, I know. But still … no one likes to be given that look.

We make awkward small talk until our food comes, and then he starts telling me about a case he’s working on. He knows his client is guilty of discriminating against pregnant women, and “can see why.” And now I just can’t with him.

“But that’s illegal,” I say. “And you’re supposed to uphold the law, right?”

He waves his hand in the air. “That’s what cops do.” He leans in. “And, honey, I make hell of a lot more than a damn cop.”

I almost choke on my taco. So he’s saying he doesn’t have to uphold the law as long as he gets paid, right? Wow. This guy is a winner. I have no idea why his long-term relationship ended. I roll my eyes, not even attempting to hide it.

“Hiring a pregnant lady cost my client’s company. Filling her position during leave takes away too. And when they have one, they tend to have more. Having a baby makes women all wack-a-do crazy with hormones and shit.”

I scoop up the last of my rice and beans, using my fork to push it onto my chip. I finish chewing, swallow, and take a big sip of my margarita. Then I grab my purse and coat.

“I need to use the bathroom,” I say. I get up and walk right out the door. I call Katie as I walk, and get her voicemail. She’s probably out with her friends and can’t hear her phone right now, and most likely isn’t in the position to drive anyway.

I step onto the covered patio, getting an instant chill. Misty rain is falling around me, and the air is thick with the threat of a storm. I put my coat on and call Jenny. She doesn’t answer either. She’s probably working and won’t be off until later. I try my brother next; still no answer. I sigh. I could call my mom, but I don’t want to make her drive all this way. Julie is another option, but it’s late and she has her kids.

I need to get away from Luke before I throw a drink in his face or stab him with my fork. He makes my skin crawl, and the thought of getting in the car alone with him is quite frightening. I look around the dimly lit street. There is a bar not far from here, definitely within walking distance.

It’s called The Roadhouse and ninety percent of the parking lot is filled with motorcycles, despite the chilly air and the threat of heavy rain. If anything, I can go in, order a drink, and wait for one of my family members to answer. Jenny owes me; after all, she set this disaster of a date up. It’s getting late, so she should be off soon, and I’m not that far from the hospital for her to come pick me up. I try Katie one more time then push off the side of the building, walking toward the glow of the neon sign.

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