“Let’s go,” I say to Allison. “Before I change my mind.”
“Too late for that!” she says cheerfully, pushing me out the door as Owen and Hazel wave.
The drive to the Anchor Bar is filled with Allison’s chatter, excitedly telling me about the people that I might meet. I tune her out when she starts speaking about Kyle, however; whenever she speaks about her boyfriend, she’s always full of gushing praise for him and the fact that he gave her a second chance after all the crap she put him through.
It’s nice. Kyle is definitely a better person than I was. Sometimes, I wonder if I would have also given out a second chance if I had known where my life would end up after everything…
I shake my head. No sense thinking about it. The past is done and gone.
The Anchor Bar isn’t as seedy as I’ve been imagining. I can see several people going in and out the door, and, as I get out of the car, I can hear the beat of heavy music. The building looks cared for and no one appears overly drunk. Yet. It is only nine-thirty.
Allison strides forward confidently, and I follow in her shadow, suddenly anxious. It’s been a long time since I went out anywhere. The last time was with… I push the thought away. Now isn’t the time.
It isn’t hugely crowded, but there’s a decent amount of people in here. Several of them are congregated by the bar; there’s a large, hulking man on a stool that has to be Kyle; she hasn’t been exaggerating his height, it seems. The bartender is turning away from Kyle as I peer around, tending to others at the bar, and I follow Allison as she makes her way to her boyfriend, weaving expertly through the people around us.
“Hey,” Allison says.
“You guys took a while,” Kyle laughs. He grins at me and holds out a massive hand. “I’m Kyle.”
“Jessica,” I reply. “It’s good to finally meet you.”
“And you,” Kyle says.
Allison smiles, pleased, and leans up to kiss Kyle. I cough politely and look away, feeling a little like a third wheel. I try to find somewhere, anywhere else to look.
Then I notice the bartender standing nearby, looking our way.
No, looking at me.
Our eyes meet, blue on hazel. His expression is frozen, and a glass slips from his fingers, shattering on the ground. Kyle and Allison jump apart, startled.
“Grant!” Kyle exclaims. “You alright, man?”
Grant Johnson blinks and then nods, looking pointedly away from me. My breath catches. His broad shoulders fill in the stiff shirt he’s wearing, and he still has that rough beard that I used to love rubbing my cheek against, giggling against the feel of the short hairs tickling my skin. I look up into his eyes. His brown eyes were once so expressive. Now they’re closed off, the wariness slowly transforming into shocked anger. I suddenly realize just how tall he is; he’s always been tall, but now, standing over me as I sit at the bar, his height is even more obvious.
My stomach drops. I knew this was a bad idea.
“Yeah,” he says, then turns away to get a cloth. “It’s nothing.”
Nothing… I almost want to laugh. “Nothing” is right. After all…Grant and I broke up three years ago, and this is the first time I’ve seen him since I left him.
There’s definitely “nothing” there anymore.
Of all the places I could fucking go to, Grant just had to be there. I slump over the table, a drink in my hand. I can’t remember how much I’ve drunk, but the hours have crawled past at a snail’s pace. I’m feeling a little tipsy and the world sways when I get to my feet, but I otherwise feel okay.
Other than, of course, the great gaping pit in my stomach every time Grant very pointedly ignores me.
Kyle and Allison haven’t noticed. They’re talking and laughing together - and with Grant, who is apparently one of their friends (and why didn’t I notice, Allison told me that Kyle was part of a bike group, and who is the biggest club around, idiot, idiot), drawing me in when they notice me drifting too far away.
The moment I saw him, I should have walked out. I know I should have. I have no place here. But I didn’t want to cause a scene, and I definitely didn’t want Kyle and Allison to know anything about the history Grant and I share.
So I stayed. And now… now it’s hard to even think about leaving.
Grant is here, right in front of me. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have predicted this. I’ve thought about it once or twice, about what would happen if I ever came across Grant again.
Somehow, though, none of those dreams ever included stumbling across him in a bar while we awkwardly pretended the other didn’t exist.