While the band tuned their instruments Bruce sat glumly staring into space at a nearby table. So lost in thought he didn’t notice the three pretty girls who joined him. “What are you drinking?” one of them asked slurring her words as if she had already drank enough for both of them.
Glancing at his glass he mumbled “water.”
“Are you the designated driver or something?” another of the girls asked.
“What?” he asked having slipped into his melancholy thoughts blocking everything else out.
The tipsy dark-haired girl with the crystal blue eyes reached over and patted his hand. “We could show you a good time.”
“Err” he looked around at the group really seeing them for the first time.
“I’m Jillian” the blond with colorful highlights introduced herself “these are my friends Elyse and Amber.”
“I’m Bruce,” he said taking a drink of his water.
“Oh I saw you earlier helping the band set up,” Elyse said “why aren’t you up there playing?”
“I’m not part of the group,” he mumbled “I…” he was cut off by Amber giggling loudly.
“So which one is he?” she asked her eyes bright with curiosity.
“Who is what?” he asked confused.
“You know, your boyfriend,” Amber asked moving closer to him.
“Amber that’s enough,” Jillian said giving Bruce an apologetic look.
“She’s really harmless” Elyse said “when she’s sober.”
When the band finished their first set they crowded around Bruce. “Where’d the ladies go?” Liono asked looking around for them.
“To powder their noses or something like that,” he shrugged “they’ll be back in a minute.”
“I thought you were only interested in guys” Liono said turning his attention back to the blond.
Rolling his eyes Bruce smirked “I don’t think you’ve ever asked, does it matter?”
Giving him an appraising glance Liono mumbled “I never thought of you as competition before.”
Milo sat down beside Bruce “don’t mind him, he gets territorial when he sees something he wants.”
“He has nothing to worry about” Bruce eyed the brooding bassist “there are three of them after all. He can have his pick.”
Smiling Milo nodded it worked for him and would appease Liono. He looked around the room to see Rory brooding over his phone and Trent was at a table deep in conversation with Gayle. “Now that’s settled what are you drinking?” He asked sniffing the clear liquid.
“Water” came a girl’s voice from behind him. Startled Milo dropped the glass spilling the contents over the table. He grabbed napkins attempting to mop up the mess he made. Once he had his heart rate and mess under control he looked up to meet the steady gaze of a pair of crystal blue eyes. Smiling he introduced himself “I’m Milo.”
“I’m Amber” she held out her hand like she was bestowing upon him a gift. He took the offered gift err hand and let her lead him off to another table where they could talk.
“I guess that leaves you with me,” Jillian sighed as her eyes followed Milo.
“Don’t sound so excited,” Bruce laughed feeling as if he ought to leave. Liono was standing nearby in a heated debate with Elyse and Milo was looking mildly startled as if he didn’t know what to do with Amber. Bruce was feeling more and more out-of-place as the evening went on.
“Hey I didn’t mean it like that,” Jillian was saying next to him ” it’s just … well … you know.”
“Would it make a difference if I said I was into girls too?”
Her eyes lit up “well maybe just for the night we can pretend. I have a feeling I’m the rebound guy, girl whatever.”
Laughing this time with amusement Bruce shook his head “does it matter? We’re both here to have a good time. Might as well make the best of it right?”
“Well…” she bit her lip looking around at her friends happily chatting and flirting with their guys “you’re absolutely right. I’m up for some fun.”
“Hell yeah” Bruce smiled the first genuine smile in days as he flagged down a waiter and ordered a round of drinks for everyone. Throwing caution to the wind he gave up drinking water and brooding over a certain red-head in favor of whatever the night might bring.
Rory let his phone ring until it went to voice mail just so he could hear Eddie’s voice. It was a mistake on his part to have come alone. He thought it would help sort out his feelings instead all he could think about was why Eddie was avoiding him. What had he been thinking? Sighing he felt drained as he sought out Trent hoping his presence would help calm his growing concerns. Sitting at the table he tried to ignore his sister’s presence.
She glanced over at him concern in her eyes “he’s still not answering?”
Shaking his head he tried to ignore the lump growing in his throat. It wasn’t like Eddie to ignore him like this. Worry twisted his guts as he wondered what Eddie was doing or if he was alone. Taking a deep breath he mumbled “I think I blew it this time.”
A light feathery touch on his shoulder had him lifting his head up. The look he bestowed upon Gayle wasn’t quite a glare but enough for her to say “I’m sorry” in her soft-spoken voice. With a look of determination in her eyes she continued “but you can’t give up.”
“Why not?” he asked crossing his arms his frustration coming out in the anger in his voice “Eddie has.”
“You….you don’t know that,” she stammered unsure how much she should say in the face of his anger.
A low growl built inside Rory as he remained silent observing how Trent reached across the table taking her hand she had resting on the table. From the corner of his eye he watched Trent give her an approving nod. It was all too much. He jumped to his feet, the sudden movement knocking his chair over onto the floor as he said “I’m done. It’s his turn to call me.” He walked towards the stage signalling for the others to follow him.
Trent got up to follow when Gayle tugged on his hand. Looking down he asked “what?”
“I wish there was something we could do to help” she looked over her shoulder where Rory was busy tuning his guitar for the second set.
“So do I but you know how stubborn he can be,” he shrugged “give it time.”
She released his hand nodding. She was tired of that phrase. Give it time was something he had been telling her since they met and she expressed her frustration over Rory. Was it too much to ask for a brother who liked her?
Once the guys were playing again Jillian turned to Bruce “let’s dance.” Nodding he got up and took her hand allowing her to pull him to the dance floor.
“Wait for us,” Elyse said pulling Amber with her.
They crowded around him as they moved in sync with the music. He was feeling loose and carefree thanks to the multiple drinks he had imbibed in. He wished this feeling would last forever. It didn’t matter that the girls were dancing a little too close or that he was working a little too hard to forget his pain. All that mattered was this moment. He was free from everything that was wrong in his life.
“You’re a pretty good dancer” Amber purred in his ear moving in front of him rubbing her body against him.
“Hey” Jillian protested “hands off” she attempted to push Amber off of him.
Ignoring her Amber reached up to run her fingers through his blond hair smiling seductively up at him. “Milo is cake but you’re icing on the cake and I just love icing.” She leaned in close bringing her lips close to his.
Yanking her back Elyse said loudly in her ear “if you want to eat your cake you better lay off the frosting.” She nodded meaningfully towards the stage where Milo was watching as he beat out a rhythm on the drums.
Shaking her friends restraining hands off Amber pouted “why does everyone want to spoil my fun?”
Without comment Elyse dragged Amber away before she could drape herself all over Bruce. “I’m sorry” she apologized “she’s normally not like this. At least when she’s sober.” She took a few steps towards the door her friend in tow “will you tell Liono I really enjoyed meeting him?”
“Um sure,” Bruce nodded unsure what else to say or do. He was beginning to feel the effects of having drank too much.
Jillian pressed a folded piece of paper into his hand. “I know I’m not your type but if you need someone to talk to or a friend to hang out with give me a call.” She glanced wistfully up at the stage sighing before she followed her friends.
Bruce reached out and touched her arm as she passed him “why don’t you say something? It’s obvious you like him.”
Shaking her head “it wouldn’t do any good. Once Amber gets her hooks into someone she doesn’t let go.” She turned and walked away leaving Bruce trying to figure out what she meant and whether he should mention it.
Eddie glanced back at the trailer that had been his home for the past few months. It felt good to be closing that chapter in his life as he handed the keys to the realtor. It had sold quickly and he wondered if his dad had maneuvered the sale somehow. Mentally shrugging it off Eddie didn’t care how or why it sold he was just happy it did. He couldn’t live two doors down from Rory. It hurt too much.
Sighing he got into his car and retraced the route the moving van went averting his eyes from looking at where Rory lived. He knew many people would accuse him of running but what he really needed was a chance to stand on his own two feet. Figure things out and hope he didn’t run into any good-looking guys living next door.
His mind strayed to the night he ran into Ramsey on the beach. He gripped the steering wheel as he fought the memories. He didn’t want to think about the possibilities. It hurt too much. The whole thing between him and Rory or him and Ramsey happened too fast. He needed time to think. To see things from a different perspective.
Arriving at his new place he parked the car. As soon as he got out his phone began to vibrate. Not for the first time he wondered if he should change his number as Rory’s smiling face flashed up on his phone. Why couldn’t he just get the hint and leave him alone? What more could they possibly have to say to each other? Rory wasn’t interested in a committed relationship. He got that message loud and clear the moment Rory walked out the door and didn’t come back.
Walking towards the movers Eddie tried to ignore the voice inside his head telling him that Ramsey still wanted him. That he had been there that night on the beach. He couldn’t deny that he felt an attraction to the red-head and that if felt good to know that someone wanted him. And that was the problem in a nut shell….he always needed someone.
Someone to lean on, his dad, Rory, Ramsey. When would he learn to lean on himself? Well starting today he was going to find out. No more crutches. No more whining about the past. He was either going to stand on his own two feet or fall flat on his face.