DaneBy: Leddy Harper
Someone bumped into my shoulder, causing my nearly full beer to tip and douse the table in front of me. The crowd gathering around the bar grew brassier and more obnoxious by the minute. I didn’t usually mind it…if they kept to themselves.
“Hey, man,” I warned as I moved to get off my stool. I immediately recognized he wasn’t a threat, just heavily intoxicated and unable to keep his balance.
“Sorry, dude.” He swayed side to side as he spoke in slurred words.
I wasn’t here to converse or get to know anyone. I didn’t care about the numerous sports teams vying for a win on the TVs. The scores didn’t influence me in the slightest. I’d only come to have a few beers and pass some time before heading home.
My eyes followed the man as he made his way toward the bar, and that’s when I saw her. My gaze met hers and I found myself unable to turn away. I offered her a lazy smile before glancing away, only to find myself staring into my half-filled glass of beer. I tipped it back to take a swig, and again, my line of sight went straight to her.
Like me, she sat alone, although she didn’t appear to be bored out of her mind. Her hair was dark red at the roots and faded into a brighter shade of the same color about halfway down to the ends. I’d seen that type of style on women before, but I assumed they’d missed a few appointments at the salon or were trying too hard to be cool. For some reason, it looked different on her. It seemed to fit her.
Taking her in further, I noticed brightly colored ink on her left arm. I’d always found tattoos on women sexy as hell. Admiring hers, I found myself entranced by the swirls of color, neat lines, and intricate detail. For reasons unknown, I longed to study it closer.
Just before I turned away, realizing I’d begun to gawk, a guy sat down at her table. He wasn’t what caught my attention; it was her reaction that kept me from turning away. Irritation marred her beautiful face. Her red-painted lips curled up in disgust—a good sign she wasn’t interested in him being there.
I was never one to involve myself in other people’s business—unless they were on the verge of hurting themselves or others. I had enough problems of my own. But the way she recoiled as he talked to her made me keep a close eye on them. Then he touched her hand, and she flinched. Instantly, I was out of my seat, my patience gone. In a few strides, I stood next to him, although I didn’t glance his way. I kept my eyes on hers as she gaped at me in surprise.
“Can I help you, bro?” he asked, irritation evident in his gruff tone.
Finally, I turned to him and stared into his beady eyes. He had to have been twice her age and half my size. “Actually, bro, you can help me by leaving my girl alone.” I winced inwardly. Here I was, inserting myself into another situation, when all I came here to do was sit by myself with a cold beer.
He turned away from me to face the woman across the table, but I didn’t stop glaring at him. I wanted him to feel the burning holes in the side of his face from the intensity of my stare. I wasn’t able to see her reaction, but after a moment, he turned back to me. This time, he seemed extremely apologetic, though he didn’t say anything. He simply put both hands up in front of him as he slid off the stool and walked away. He didn’t even offer a glimpse over his shoulder.
I didn’t wait until he was two feet from the table before I sat down on the stool he’d vacated. With my elbows on the wooden table top, I leaned in slightly and smiled at her. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but it didn’t appear as if you cared for his company,” I said with my lips still turned up into a grin. It was unexplainable, but smiling at her came naturally. Moreover, I yearned to see her beam one at me in return.
“No. You’re fine. I thought he might’ve been my date and it grossed me out. Thank you.” Her voice was soft and smooth like satin sheets on bare skin.
My grin faltered as I tilted my head. “You don’t know what your date looks like?”
Her gaze danced around the room, focusing on anything but me, and her cheeks darkened slightly. However, the corners of her mouth lifted somewhat, expressing what I took to be bashfulness. “Not really. I mean, there are profile pictures, but you never really know if they are who they say they are.”