Bar Crawl
Author:Andrea Randall

With sticks in his hand, the pumped-up percussionist drew his sweaty body against the bar and ordered a pitcher of beer. I doubted his intent to share it with anyone.

 

No sooner had he poured a full glass and put it to his lips, he spotted me—or someone—out of the corner of his eye. His eyes narrowed intently as his ears lifted with a smile. In my attempt to ignore him, I turned to Bradley, only to find that he had turned to speak with someone much hotter—and much gayer—than myself.

 

Sigh.

 

Shifting on the barstool, I attempted to lengthen my skirt to just below my knees. My thighs were not summer-ready. Not that they ever were, but I wasn’t about to do squats in the middle of the bar. My cover-up didn’t work at anything except drawing the attention of those clear blue eyes. Eventually, he brought his eyes to mine and smiled once more.

 

“From around here?” He dove right in as though we’d already greeted each other and talked about the weather. His rock of an elbow pressed into the mahogany bar.

 

I blinked what felt like three hundred times, trying to gauge if this was part of his act.

 

He ran his tongue slowly along his bottom lip—a move I’d seen from him before—which exposed a silver barbell in his tongue. “Are you always this quiet in a bar?” he continued.

 

I tilted my head to the side and sipped my drink. “You’ve hit on me before, CJ.” I grinned, thinking I’d caught him at his own trick.

 

Nothing.

 

There was neither a flash of horror nor one of recognition in his eyes. A poker face I’m certain he was born with, and one he’d perfected once he took notice of skirts and low-cut tops somewhere in his early teen years.

 

No more than two seconds passed before he gently swiped his index finger across my cheek. “You think I’d forget these freckles…Frankie?”

 

I couldn’t tell if he was questioning me about his memory of my skin pigmentation or my name. He wasn’t giving anything away as he pulled his hand away and set it on the back of my stool.

 

“Lucky guess.” I played along, doing my best not to blush. His hands were still warm from gripping his sticks during the set, and I felt the heat his finger had left on my cheek.

 

He ignored my sarcasm. “I haven’t seen you in a while. Where’ve you been?”

 

I shrugged. “I don’t live in Barnstable. Been busy.”

 

CJ shifted so he was leaning against the bar, staring at me as his dark denim-clad leg rested against my bared knee. Oh, the heat.

 

“I remember. Hyannis, right?”

 

Shocked, I quickly replied, “Yes.”

 

I squinted, studying his face. His eyes darted around the room every few seconds. Maybe a bit of his obvious ADHD shining through, but that would be the logical reason. In my mind, he was sizing me up to every other girl in the bar, calculating if this little conversation was worth his time.

 

I went to the gym, and I ate right—respecting my body was a daily meditation. Still, I wasn’t meant to be tiny with big boobs. More the reverse—I was 5’8”, wore a size 12, and sported a yawn-worthy B-cup in between my broad shoulders. Well, they weren’t as broad as I saw them in my head, Bradley always said, but I reckoned I’d need to be at least a C to make the proportions right.

 

Still, any time I’d seen CJ in the bars around the Cape, he always left—no matter how briefly—with exactly the kind of girl the magazines tell us get the guys like that. I have no idea—nor do I care—if they were nice people. They bleached their hair, wore spray-on tans, and paraded around in skirts short enough to highlight everything they hadn’t eaten. Just to get a guy like that. A bizarre chicken-and-egg cycle, if you ask me. That’s why I turned him down when he’d hit on me two months ago. I wasn’t his type. And, rather than make me feel good that he’d poured his attention on me that evening, it made me hellaciously insecure, wondering, perhaps, if he’d already slept with everyone else in the bar.

 

“Did you see the whole set?” he asked when his visual grazing ended and his attention was back to me.

 

“I did. You guys are great.” I set my drink down and crossed my arms across my waist as I leaned back. “Last Call, though…is that a new name?”

 

CJ shrugged, his shoulders so big I wasn’t sure how he lifted them at all. “A friend came up with it.”

 

“I mean, I haven’t seen you perform with these guys as a band before.” I’d seen CJ play off and on across the Cape for at least a year. I don’t remember a time, actually, when I had seen a band play who had a drummer that wasn’t CJ. It seemed he got around in more ways than one.

 

It was hard to read CJ’s face in the dim lighting of the bar. “There are some festivals and competitions coming up this summer. I want to play in them, but I need a band. So,” he gestured to the stage, “Last Call.”

 

I nodded approvingly.

 

“Anyway,” he continued, “I don’t want to talk about music.”

 

I chuckled. “I figured.”