From the Author
I checked my phone for what felt like the hundredth time to see if I had missed a text from Burke. There were no new notifications. I audibly cursed his name and took another look around the bar that was steadily filling with the regular Friday happy hour crowd.
I couldn't imagine why, out of the hundreds of bars in Manhattan, Burke had picked this one. The dark wood-paneled walls, soft lighting, and leather seating of TheLibrary had all been selected to be reflective of the bar's name. The steady stream of suits filing through the door matched the stuffy atmosphere. This wasn't our kind of scene. In my t-shirt and jeans, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I would have been more at home at a sports bar or even, possibly, a biker bar than I was in this joint. I cursed a second time at my own stupidity for agreeing to meet him here.
After taking a long pull on the beer in front of me, I looked across the bar. And that's when I saw her. It had been almost 10 years. My heart fell a little at the thought that 10 years had actually passed. I'd always known that she was here,but I'd never sought her out. It was practically mandatory that I keep my distance.
She'd lost the bubbly cheerleader look that had worked for her all through high school.She was stunning now. Her blonde hair was shorter and sleeker, and just barely brushed her shoulders. She was thinner than I remembered, but not gaunt. Her high cheekbones accented the deep blue eyes that had lost their childish sparkle.
Despite these less than subtle changes, I recognized her immediately. Hers was a face I would know anywhere and a face I would never forget.
I must have been holding my breath while I checked her out. I swallowed the drink that now tasted warm and bitter. As I released my breath, my heart raced, and I forced myself to take a series of measured breaths. I looked down at my phone again for a much needed distraction and steadied my heart rate. I told myself that I didn't have any reason to worry. She wouldn't recognize me. It would be an interesting theory to test.
I motioned the bartender over. The beer in front of me had suddenly lost its appeal.Tonight called for something a little stronger.
Without being obvious, I watched her for at least 30 more minutes while I finished my first and then my second whiskey, straight.
She was with two friends: a girl and a guy. They were smiling and laughing at something she had said. I couldn't quite make it out, even though I was doing a pretty good job tuning out all the douchebags around me. She seemed to be retelling a story from work. From her friends' reactions, I surmised that her day had been more interesting than mine.
The two friends were obviously together. They hung all over each other. At the realization that she was the third wheel, I couldn't stop a sly smile from spreading across my face. She had a sexual energy about her, and her periodic scan of the room told me that she was looking for something or someone. As if,maybe, she wasn't planning on going home alone tonight.
Finally, my phone buzzed in my hand as the text I had been anticipating came through.
BURKE: Hung up at work. Catch you tomorrow.
I shook my head. Normally, I would have been irritated at him for leaving me stranded in a place like this, but this evening was shaping up to be something entirely different from what I had expected. I was glad he wasn't coming. I wasn't going to be alone for long.
She was about to get my worst. And, she deserved every bit of it.