Bar Crawl
Author:Andrea Randall

She echoed my stance, challenging me as she encroached on my space. “I mean,” she whispered, “it seems that all you’re interested in getting to know about women is how their breasts feel in your hands.”

 

I bit the inside of my cheek as she seemed to have read my most intimate thoughts word for word. “Well, look at you, making assumptions.” I swallowed hard, wondering how many times she’d watched me at different bars before I’d noticed her. Once or twice and I might be okay. More than four and I’d be screwed.

 

Frankie tilted her head, the light catching some red highlights streaked through her brown hair. “So…you don’t comb the bar after your sets looking for your next date?” She put air quotes around the word “date.”

 

Before I could answer, the pimple-faced teenager behind the meat case called our order. We both rose, neither offering to get the other’s food. Once we were seated again, I studied the food in front of her: An enormous salad filled with beans, a crumbled cheese, and nearly every vegetable imaginable.

 

“Problem?” she asked, gesturing to her plate.

 

“Don’t you want salad dressing?” I was used to watching girls methodically dip their forks into the little dishes of dressing before plunging it into the leaves.

 

Frankie stuck a fork full of garden in my face. “It’s on it already. See?”

 

She hadn’t asked for the dressing on the side. It seems so insignificant, and I’m aware of that, but that one choice said more about her than anything else I’d seen anyone do on a date. It told me she really didn’t seem to give a shit what I thought. I liked that, and it scared me.

 

I cleared my throat. “I’m just used to everyone ordering the dressing on the side when I’m on dates. What the hell is that all about, anyway?”

 

She shrugged and chewed slowly, her glossed hips curving around her food. “Calories, I guess,” she admitted once she swallowed. “And, this isn’t a date.” She winked and resumed her meal

 

“We’re eating food together, aren’t we?” I challenged.

 

She didn’t look up as she picked through her salad. “Sure, but I eat with my coworkers every day, and I don’t consider those dates.”

 

I sighed. “Sure, but I don’t typically eat meals with women.”

 

Frankie looked up, a horrified and amused look on her face. “Well, lucky me, then. You should brush up on what a date is, though. Don’t stalk the person at work, for one. And, it’s typically nice to offer to pay for the meal.”

 

I chuckled. “Would you have let me pay for your meal?”

 

“Nope.” She smiled and put a forkful of salad in her mouth.

 

Her quick wit excited me, and proved I needed to be on my toes if I was going to make it through even one date—or non-date—with her.

 

“You didn’t answer my question, about your bar activities,” Frankie said after a few more minutes of silence.

 

I took the final bite of the first half of my BLT and sat back, raking my hand through my hair, grumbling loudly. “Look, I’m not going to pretend I’m someone I’m not. I like women, okay? I love them. And I mainly work in bars, so where else would you suggest I look for them?”

 

“It’s not that you can’t look for women in the bar. But why are you always with a different girl? Have you ever had a girlfriend?”

 

“Sure, I’ve had—”

 

“I mean one at one time,” she interrupted.

 

I growled louder, looking to the ceiling. “What do you want from me?”

 

“What do you want from me?” She set her fork down and leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms as she waited for my answer.

 

Shit.

 

“I…I don’t know,” I answered honestly.

 

Frankie dropped her arms from across her waist and resumed eating. “Look, CJ, there’s a chance that you’re a decent guy. I’m not basing that on much, but I’d like to assume there’s a chance. The problem, though, is I’m not going to be a character in your personal rom-com where you try to get the girl that turned you down just to validate your masculinity or whatever.”

 

Heat rose through my neck and into my cheeks. I couldn’t tell if I was insulted or embarrassed. She was wrong, but I’d need to craft my next words carefully.

 

“I think…” I paused and took a deep breath. “I think you know a lot less about me than you think you do.”

 

“So tell me something about you that no one else knows,” she challenged. It was a test, and one I’d better pass if I wanted this lunch to lead to another one. The problem was, most of the things people didn’t know about me they didn’t know for a reason.

 

I smacked my lips as my eyes widened. “My best friend is a girl. And,” I added in before she could cut me off, “we’ve never slept together. And never will. We’ve been friends since high school and she’s engaged to my cousin.”

 

“Does she have a name? This freak of nature?” Frankie teased.

 

“Georgia.” I missed G and Regan like crazy, and was looking forward to their wedding on the beach in Provincetown in a couple of weeks.

 

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