I snort. “He’ll probably think twice before trying that again, at least.”
“He ran off, leaving the wallet behind,” Kyle says, shrugging. “The police haven’t been at my doorstep, asking me about it, so he didn’t cry assault.”
“You got lucky,” I remind him. “The last thing you need is to tangle with the police. They’ll take one look at your record and throw you away.”
“That was years ago,” Kyle protests.
In his teenage years, Kyle had been a problem child following his father’s death, from what I gathered, committing robberies and assaults with a larger group. His current employer, the mechanic, pulled him off the streets and gave him an opportunity to turn his life around after he caught Kyle stealing. All this happened nearly ten years ago, but…
I frown. “I don’t think it matters. A record is a record, and you’ll never get away from it.”
Kyle eyes me with that considering look that he tends to ge
t when he hears me talking about the police. I know he wants to ask; I’ve never spoken much about my life before the Roughshod Rollers, and Kyle isn’t the only one curious. But he doesn’t say anything, just nods in agreement and takes a sip of the beer I slide over to him.
“Anyway, we got distracted,” he says. “Why do you look like you could crawl straight back into bed?”
“Because I could, given half a chance,” I groan. “I didn’t sleep well last night. I’ve been running on caffeine most of the day but I think I’ll be sick if I smell any more coffee. I just have to get through the next few hours, then I can sleep.”
“Rough,” Kyle says sympathetically. “Why couldn’t you sleep?”
“Dreams,” I say shortly, making it clear that it isn’t something I want to talk about.
Kyle nods and doesn’t press further. It’s what I like most about my friendship with Kyle; the man is good at knowing when he needs to back off.
Though, from my attitude alone, he’s probably guessed what’s going on. I only ever get harsh like that when I’m speaking about Jessica Russell. And Jessica is the one thing I don’t speak about…with anyone.
Sometimes, I wish I could just forget her, I think as someone catches my attention, looking for a drink. There are moments when I think I have forgotten her, when all I concentrate on is my job, the Roughshod Rollers and, more recently, the renovations we have thrown ourselves into doing. Then I open my wallet, and her damn picture is still in there because I haven’t worked up the courage to toss the thing in the trash, where it belongs.
I constantly tell myself that I’m being ridiculous. It’s been three years. It’s a long time to still be hung up over an ex. I should have stored away all the memories I have of Jessica by now, and forgotten that part of my life ever existed. I should have moved on, fallen in love with someone else and made some new, happier memories.
Three years later, though, I still can’t even look at another woman without comparing her to Jessica. I’m stuck in a constant loop of memories, trapped by my own longings and confusion about what exactly happened to us. I’ve never understood how we fell apart so quickly, leading to the final argument that ended our relationship for good. Jessica took her stuff and ran, disappearing so quickly that my head spun. Before I knew it, everything she owned was gone and I was left only to wonder what had happened.
I still haven’t figured it out. Sometimes, when I think about it, I remember that she got cagey in the weeks leading up to our breakup, as though she was hiding something. She had been snappy and anxious. But she had also been unwell, so I put her attitude down to that and tried my best to help her, despite her suddenly not wanting me there.
Then we argued. It was over the stupidest thing. She didn’t want take-out for dinner, but I was working late, and, with her sick, we had no choice. Somehow, that argument blew out of proportion until we were yelling at each other, throwing out insults and hurtful statements that were only half true.
Then she was gone.
There’s the sound of shattering glass in the corner and I start, returning abruptly to the present. I was filling a glass, my body moving on autopilot while my mind was far away. I shake myself; now isn’t the time to do this. As tired as I am, I still have a job to do.
“Hey!” I call, rounding the bar. The guy who dropped the glass looks up, guilt plastered over his face. He hasn’t been here for very long, but the way he’s swaying tells me that he has already had a few drinks. No doubt he started drinking long before he got here. “What happened?”
“Heee did it!” the man slurs, pointing to his friend.
The other man looks outraged; he’s far more sober than his friend, and he’s leaning back with his own drink. I sigh, already seeing where this is going.
“Fuck you!” the friend says, shooting to his feet.
“Watch it,” I warn, mindful of the glass on the floor; the last thing I need is to have to send someone to the hospital to get stitches.
The two men ignore me and I pinch the bridge of my nose. Then I turn and catch Kyle’s eye. He grins and stands, making his way toward me.
He doesn’t say anything. He just comes up behind me and looms over everyone, dropping his expression into a dark look. As soon as the two men notice, they snap their mouths closed and drop back into their seats.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve used Kyle’s enormous height and muscled bulk to my advantage. More than once, I’ve joked that I need to employ him officially as a bouncer. He’s always joked back that he wouldn’t take the job, because then he wouldn’t get to drink.
“Right,” I say pleasantly. “Now, can someone tell me what happened?”