Guy Hater(5)

By: J. Sterling

Stepping through the office door and into the bar, I scanned the area. Ryan was grinning like an idiot at some girl who was grinning back at him just as big, and Nick was busy ringing up a tab.

Of the three of us, Ryan was the only unattached one. Nick had met his girlfriend, Jess, during his last year at State. Their relationship had weathered some nasty storms, but we were all thankful they’d made it through and stayed together. Nick and Jess were solid, and anytime she showed up at the bar, he would make some ridiculous announcement to the entire place before very publicly molesting her. It always caused half the girls in the bar to swoon out loud and the other half to groan.

“Look who made it out of the office,” Nick shouted, and a handful of our regulars yelled, “Hi, Frank!”

I nodded at them and glanced at Ryan, who gave me a shit-eating grin. I was starting to think it was the only grin he had anymore.

Maybe if we had been smarter, we would have pretended we were all single to keep up the sexy, available bartender illusion, but none of us wanted to lie. Besides, women continued to come back week after week, so it didn’t seem to hurt our business any.

Plus, Nick would have never gone for it. He would have told me to fuck off faster than I could have caught my next breath. The boy had come a long way from being controlled and manipulated by our father. It was like once he found his voice, he couldn’t stop using it.

Me, on the other hand, I was in a relationship I didn’t know how to get out of.

Shit. I hated saying that, hated even thinking it, but it didn’t make it less true. My girlfriend, Shelby, had been there for me when no one else was. She’d nursed me back to health after I got hurt in college, and she believed in my new dreams. No one was more excited than she had been when Ryan and I had first talked about possibly opening a bar.

She’d assumed, and rightfully so, that when I decided to move back home to give it a shot with Ryan, that she was a part of the plan. I hadn’t been happy for a really long time, but I could never find it in my heart to tell her that. I didn’t know how. I felt like I owed her. She didn’t deserve to be left behind when she’d never left my side.

Shelby had done nothing wrong. Hell, she was fucking perfect. But somewhere along the line, I’d stopped wanting her.

What kind of asshole did that make me?

“Hey, buddy, can I get a Guy Hater?” a guy with spiked blue hair and a lip piercing called out in my direction. “I really hate that name,” he added with a smirk.

I grinned back. “Me too, but don’t let Ryan hear you say that. He’s sensitive.” I nodded in my brother’s direction, and Blue Hair laughed.

“Girls like it, though,” he said. “The name. They think it’s funny.”

“Why do you think we keep it on the menu?” I said with a grin before I turned to grab the ingredients for the cocktail.

Honestly, I hated most of our drink names, but Nick and Ryan had been right—the sillier the name, the more conversation it inspired. Everyone ended up ordering one, if only to try it, even if they made fun of the name at first.

All I had wanted was for our drinks to be different (and better) than the ones you could get at any other restaurant or bar. It didn’t make sense to have a menu filled with alcoholic beverages that could be bought down the street at a TGI Friday’s or some shit. People needed to come here for a reason, and we wanted to give them more than one. We had built the business plan around the concept that people needed good atmosphere, good company, and great drinks.

I handed off the whiskey-based drink to Blue Hair and took his credit card to open his tab. When he shouted at my back, “This is really good,” I turned around to give him a thumbs-up before feeling stupid. Since when did I give anyone a thumbs-up?

“You okay?” Ryan asked as he stepped next to me, drying a glass.

“Fine, why? Are you okay?”

“I’m always okay. Just checking in. You have that look on your face.” He punched me in the arm before walking away.

Confused, I held my hands out wide. “What look?”

Nick answered for him. “That one.” He pointed at me before sharing a laugh with Ryan.