Running Into Cal - Andi's POV
The cool fresh air felt fantastic as I stepped onto the sidewalk. I couldn’t help but review and analyze every word John had said. I walked in with her leaning over him in her bra and panties. His shirt was undone and open and she was kissing him. So, she was on top of him. I should be angry with her. I mean, I am. But shouldn’t I be angrier with her? No. Both of them. It doesn’t matter who was doing what. He shouldn’t have had his shirt undone or lipstick all over his face. Or his belt undone.
The more I thought about it the angrier I became. I walked down the sidewalk with no idea where I was going, but only knowing I needed a drink by myself so I could think things over. And figure out a way to get home. I wished I could call Sarina.
I needed a new bar. One my soon to be ex doesn’t frequent with my ex-best friend on his arm. Or maybe a bar that doesn’t have all the guys that I’m accused of sleeping with. Half of them having affairs with me. My reputation is tarnished and I didn't even have the pleasure of having the actual fun. This whole month has been pretty much the worst of my life and this past week just topped it off even more.
That was when the heavens opened up. It started light at first, a small drizzle and even though I wasn’t sure where I was going, I continued walking. Then the down pour started. The idea of running from it crossed my mind, but there was a small hope in the back of my mind that this would wash away all my problems. I stood still and looked up to the dark sky and let the rain pour over me.
Maybe I deserved it. To everyone’s life a little rain must fall, right? My world had been picture perfect. I mean, I had my own fair share of rocky times that accompany the normal teenage years. Being dumped by your first boyfriend. Being called a slut by the gossip crew at school. Having your period leak through your jeans. That was embarrassing at the homecoming game and I was very thankful for jackets that could be wrapped around my waist.
Other than those few things, what I would call normal things through your life, I never had anything traumatic happen. Until this past month. Walking in on my best friend with my husband. The guy who I thought was my loving partner in life. Maybe I was just blind and he was cheating on me the whole time. Maybe.
Then the accident. And I thought that was the icing on my cake. Well, it sort of was because of how handsome Cal was. Follow that up with Mick’s wife accusing me of having an affair with him. The HR lady doesn’t like me and also thinks I slept with Mick to get the job.
Yeah. This past couple of weeks was definitely a collision of anything bad that could happen, did.
And tonight, I just couldn’t go back to the same bar that was one of my favorites because I was sure to run into Mick. Or any one else from my married life.
I continued walking further down a couple more blocks. I still wasn’t sure where I was going, but no that I was soaking wet, I might as well have a drink.
I stopped in front of a nice looking bar. It wasn’t high class or anything. Peeking through the windows, I noticed the crowd seemed fairly relaxed. Grasping the long brass handle in my hand, I tugged hard on the large wooden door. Looking down at the old wood flooring, I stepped forward and realized the dress I was wearing was nothing like what the other patrons would wear. Slight panic ran through me as I glanced around at the other customers. Several glanced my way but then turned back to what they were doing. I wrapped my arms around my chest, hoping to conceal that part of me. There was no way to cover up the long slit on my dress. I should have considered my dress before leaving John. But then again, that wasn’t my most pressing concern.
I continued to walk past the main crowd and toward the back. Glancing around the bar quickly and hoping not to see if anyone was staring at my attire, I realized how relaxing this bar seemed. It had a nice Irish bar feel to it and I wanted to laugh at what the waitresses had to wear. Their slutty barmaid outfits were almost overly done, with their girls propped up as high as possible without showing their nipples. Although I was pretty sure if the one I was looking at bent over too far, there might be a slippage of her girls. Maybe that’s why no one was really fazed by my revealing dress.
I took a seat at the end of the bar. It was more to observe who was here so I could hide in the bathroom if anyone I knew came in. Knowing my record this past month, I wouldn’t doubt if the women from my old circles came walking in that door. They’d love to talk about me drinking by myself in a bar.
The bartender nodded to me signaling he’d be down in a minute. I responded with the same head movement. I used my waiting time to observe the bar. It was a little similar to my old bar, except the clientele was a little more blue collar. I never minded that, as much as my old circle of friends would have probably turned their nose up at that. I relaxed a little knowing I’d never see any of them in here.
“What’ll you have?”
“Umm, I’ll just have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, please.” He gave me a thumbs up and turned back to the bar. I watched him for maybe a second or two and then my eyes averted to the man who just walked in through the entrance. My shoulders slumped immediately. You’ve got to be kidding me.
The guy who hit my car strolled into the bar, waving to several others as if he owned the place. God, that would be my luck. He probably owns it.
“Here you go, ma’am,” the bartenders’ voice brought me back to him. Ma’am. Add that to my list.
I pressed my lips together and tried my best not to huff out my anguish. I reached into my purse and grabbed my debit card. As he took it from my hands he turned to see Cal.
“Cal!” He reached over and shook his hand, smiling. “How ya been, man?”
“Good, Liam. I’ve been real good.” I lowered my head, hoping my hair framed my face to hide me. “How’s Sandy doing? I hear she might be moving down?”
The bartender chuckled. “Actually, I’m debating moving up there. We’ll see. Who knows when it comes to love, right?” Cal nodded and smiled.
“Yeah. Love will do funny things to you.” I felt his stare on me and I tried my best not to look up.
“You want your usual?” Liam asked as I continued to pretend to reach for something in my purse. My hair still covering my face, at least I hoped it did.
“Yeah, that’d be great, thanks, Liam.”
It felt quiet. Well, quiet around me. The bar was still noisy, but you know how you feel like the world stops moving and there’s silence for a moment? That’s…yeah.
“Umm, ma’am?” I heard a nervous Liam ask. Ma’am, again! “I, umm.” I looked up to see his face scrunched up. “You’re, uh, your card declined.” My stomach lurched into my throat. I guess I didn’t need that drink after all. My face heated as if I had a sunburn from a day at the beach. I’d never had my card decline. Ever.
“I…can you…run it again?” I swallowed as panic over a three dollar glass of wine made my card decline. Three whole dollars.
I watched him turn, giving Cal a sorry for me expression as he tried to run my card again. I began fumbling in my purse searching for another card or some cash. Cash that I knew I wouldn’t have in there. I quickly bit my lip, hoping to keep back the damn tears that were welling up.
“I got it, Liam,” Cal whispered as he leaned over the bar. I glanced quickly to see them give a quick exchange of looks. Great. Now I’m a charity case. I really didn’t think this month could get worse.
Liam returned and handed my card to me. “You’re all set,” he said as if my card went through. I knew different. My eyes met Cal’s.
“Thank you,” I told him.
He nodded quick, but I could see the pity in his eyes. I lowered my eyes feeling like not even bothering with the drink and leaving. I couldn’t though. The guy had bought it for me, I should at least drink it. I took a sip. It probably tasted just like it should, but after all my feelings of the situation, it seemed bitter. I stared at the glass and played with the stem, twirling it around.
“Is Alex coming around tonight?” Liam asked Cal.
“Nah, not unless Sarah’s working tonight.” I didn’t hear a response but assumed he shook his head.
“Man, he’s got it bad for her, doesn’t he?” I heard Cal chuckle but again didn’t hear a response. I continued to twirl the stem in my fingers. I was hoping after a minute or two, I could slink off my bar stool and leave quietly. But no—my shitty week continued on.
Cal appeared beside me. I felt him beside me before I noticed his forearm on the bar.
I interrupted him before he could even finish. “Don’t. Please? Just…” I slumped back. I hadn’t intended on looking at him, but I did. The second our eyes met, he looked away and nodded. “This…” I shook my head making sure the tears were held back. Poor guy sitting next to a pathetic woman drinking by herself. Wait. I couldn’t even pay for the drink myself. “I’ve had a really…” I nodded. “A really horrible month. Year. Really. The whole year has just…sucked.” I told him for lack of a better word to express everything that’s happened to me.
I managed to steal a peek at him. He wasn’t looking at me, but staring blankly ahead and nodding. I realized how pitiful I was. I figured I’d go for broke. “Have you.” I swallowed knowing it was just stupid and completely making myself even more vulnerable. What the hell, right? I couldn’t come back to this bar now that my card was declined on a three dollar wine and Cal seemed to be a frequent here. “Have you ever been cheated on?” I blurted the rest of my question out.
I bit my lower lip and managed to gather the last bit of self-esteem I had. It wasn’t much by then.
He nodded, still not looking at me. “Yeah. A long time ago, but I still remember the pain.” After he stated that, his eyes met mine. Understanding. Complete understanding of what I might be feeling. It felt nice. Just to have someone near me who’s been through what I had.
I couldn’t say anything. I nodded just to let him know I actually heard him.
“It’ll pass. That hatred feeling. After the initial shock wears off.” I held his gaze for a while now that I knew he really did understand. I nodded after a moment and reached for my wine glass. The tears were starting to well up and I needed to swallow. I might as well have a real reason to do that without looking like I was crying even more.
“So…” I laughed after I realized my question to follow would sound odd. “Umm, is this a place you come to a lot?” At least I tried to rephrase it so it didn’t sound cliché. I rolled my eyes the second the corner of his mouth turned up.
He chuckled. “No. I get what you’re asking. It just always sounds funny when someone asks that, doesn’t it?” It was my turn to give him a half-smile. “Yes. To answer your question. I usually meet my brother here. Alex. He’s really into a waitress that works here.”
“Oh.” I raised my brows and smiled a little more. “So you’re his wingman, then?”
Another chuckle and it occurred to me it was just nice to talk to someone who didn’t have some hidden agenda. At least he didn’t seem like he would try to sleep with me or make me feel pitiful. “Nah. He just likes someone to hang out with while he watches her all night.”
“So, he’s shy?”
Cal actually scoffed on that one. “Oh no. No. My brother, Alex, is definitely not shy. If anything he’s the one out of the three of us that has the most game.”
“Well, yeah. He can…he gets a lot of women. He doesn’t really have to try that hard.”
“Oh.” I paused a moment as we both sat there thinking about this brother of his. “So, is it just the two of you? All boys?”
“Actually, I have an older brother. I’m the middle son. You?”
“Just me. Only child.”
“That must have been nice.”
“Well, I had to beat my brothers just to have a say or get any attention from my parents.”
“Yes.” I agreed on that one. “I did have all my parents attention. I always wished I had a sister. Someone to chat with late at night. All I had were my books.”
I swallowed the last of my wine and decided that I should go. I didn’t really want to, but I didn’t want to seem like I had to have another drink and I didn’t want to sit there seeming like he needed to buy me one. My thoughts of leaving were interrupted by a rowdy crowd at the other end of the bar. One guy yelled out “A round of tequila for everyone!”
We both laughed at his outburst.
“Have you had tequila before?” he asked.
“Uh yeah. Of course, I have. Isn’t that part of the rite of passage in college?”
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Laughing, he agreed as two shot glasses were placed in front of us. Both were full to the brim with the yellowish liquid. A plate with a salt shaker and two limes were set down after. Flashbacks from college filled my mind and I laughed out loud. I guess they weren’t real flashbacks since I usually didn’t remember anything that happened after a couple of these.
He licked his lips, his eyes full of mirth and he waved his hand at our newly laid out beverage. Suddenly, I felt like I had to prove myself to him. I shook my head, laughing and feeling like it was my first time doing a shot. I licked the skin between my index and thumb then picked up the salt shaker. I giggled as I turned the glass upside down and shook some salt onto my skin.
I had no idea why, but my heart was strumming fast and I laughed at the absurdity of it all. I inhaled deeply, licked the salt and tossed back my shot of tequila. The liquid burned and I made my sour face as I quickly grabbed and sucked on the lime. I looked over to see Cal laughing at me.
I shook off the last of the taste, feeling the alcohol already making me feel warm and tingly. “Stop laughing,” I teased. “Your turn.” I pointed to the filled shot glass sitting all by itself.
He clapped his hands together and rubbed briefly, prepping himself for the sting of the alcohol. I had to laugh just as he did at me. The whole sequence looked pretty funny, especially seeing his face at the end.
“Whoo!” He shouted and shook his head again as he pursed his lips. “Wow. I forgot how those things taste.” We were both laughing now. He looked over to Liam and called out, “Another round over here!”
Liam’s brow whipped up as he glanced back and forth between the two of us. I think my eyes were popping out at that point, unsure if I needed another. Two more shot glasses were placed in front of us and the laughter continued.
“Same time,” Cal ordered me, pointing to the other shot glass as he held one in his hand. I picked mine up and he said, “To accidental meetings!” I laughed as I raised my shot glass.
And that’s how our evening continued. Easy going. Enjoyable. He made me feel comfortable and there wasn’t a need to force what we talked about.
The next round was dedicated to “Not having a cheater in my life anymore”. After that, I had no idea what else we toasted about. Nor do I remember much after the third toast. But I do remember how amazing Cal made me feel. Even without the shots, I think he and I would have hit it off no matter what.