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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: August 14, 2020      Views: 84

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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Brad and Leslie's first spat.
"Between Friends (Part-3 of 6)" by Ric Myworld



Previous chapter: After Aaron and Brad go in separate directions, Brad stops off at the Grapevine bar and ends up hanging-out all evening with Leslie, a girl he meets at the bar. An instant attraction.

 
Brad waits to call Leslie from Sunday until Wednesday evening. Searching for the fine-line, sweet-spot between seeming too anxious and lack-of-interest insult by waiting too long. Leslie’s been in his thoughts since they met—but for now—that’s more than she needs to know.

The phone rings four times before a squeaky-voiced woman answers politely. She sounds pleasant enough but stays tight-lipped on information. Leslie isn’t home, she explains, and has no idea when she might be. But, she offers to take a message.

Brad decides against it. Since he’s calling Leslie’s personal cell phone, he’s a little suspicious why anyone else would answer it. She could be trying to avoid him, having her mother screen her calls. He figures if she’s anywhere near as excited to talk to him as he is her, why wouldn’t she have her phone. Maybe, he’s overthinking it? But what are the chances Leslie is standing there right now watching her mother take the call?

Disappointed, and about halfway leery Leslie is trying to blow him off, he pitches her number in the trash. Determined not to be played.

Then, three hours later, he rummages through the smelly trash can for over an hour trying to find it: through eggshells, coffee grounds, soggy paper, and two-day-old food scraps. His scavenger hunt persists until it’s too late to call again.

He’s wound up. In one of those moods where he walks the floors. Nothing on television and sleep the last thing on his mind. He decides to check out the nightlife, chill, listen to some music and be around people. Seldom a clubber and never a party boy—except for the couple nights a week he stops in the Grapevine—mostly, for an hour-or-so to eat.

There’s little happening throughout the meet-and-greet dead zone, middle of the week. He checks out a piano bar, blues and jazz club, and makes a quick-pass through a couple sleazy dance clubs, none his forte or choice of entertainment. Almost ready to call it a night, he creeps past old faithful, The Grapevine.

The front-door swings open and he hears the familiar voice of John Michael Montgomery singing, “I Swear.” Which explains the waiting line outside on an otherwise slow night.
 
John Michael, his brother Eddie Montgomery, and Troy Gentry (Lloyd, the bar-owner’s son), who make up the country duo “Montgomery Gentry” have stopped in as they sometimes do when they aren’t traveling on the road. 
   
Brad walks up to the bar and orders a double-shot of Four Roses single-barrel on the rocks. Totally an out-of-character choice. Especially, during the workweek.

He sucks down his first two in a hurry and sips his third double by the time Leslie walks in with a big group of what-looks-like college friends. Giggling and flirting around with some typical frat boys that make up about two-thirds of the bunch. Leslie is all hugs and kissy-face cozy with the curl baby. Mega-handsome, blown-up arms, out-of-proportion with the rest of his body, and bowed, toothpick legs that barely hold him up.
   
Of course, standing next to Brad, anyone smaller than the Hulk looks like a pipsqueak.

Brad sits down so he’s hidden behind the crowd and peeks between standers for an occasional glance of Leslie and her midget Mighty Mouse.

Normally not a big drinker, Brad’s already caught a major buzz before ordering another double to keep something in his hand, his fourth. Probably, three too many.

Out of the corner of his eye, he catches a glimpse of Leslie getting a little frisky with baby Bam Bam. The cute couple make their way to the dance floor—an area barely big enough for ten to twelve-sets of dancers at a time in the corner.

As on cue, when the song ends, the band strikes up on an old-time country tearjerker. More the rhythm and blues, mellow grove type, Brad obviously isn’t moved by the whiny twang.

Leslie appears to pull away at first, but all it takes is the slightest tug and they fall right into up-close-and-personal. Rubbing their belly buttons together and dancing cheek-to-cheek.

Brad, having seen enough, pays his tab and bumps his way toward the door, intending to get out before Leslie detects him. With every step he waits for an open hole he can fit into. Always polite, he keeps his back toward Leslie as he eases toward the exit.
  
Directly across from the dance floor, ten-feet from the front door, he can’t help but take one last glance in her direction. And as you would expect, she catches sight of him just as he slides out the door and turns right.

Almost to his car, Leslie comes running, yelling, “Brad . . . hey, Brad!” She must have left Buff the boy-wonder standing, deserted like a bamboozled groom at the altar of shame.

“Hey, girl, what’s up?”

“Hey, girl, what’s up? Is that the way you really talk? So, you aren’t the polite, well-mannered gentleman I met the other night?” She stares with a look of disgust for a few seconds. Then, turns away, and says, “Excuse me . . . I’m sorry if I bothered you.”

“Oh, so now I see how you are,” Brad says. “You wanted to run out here and try to make me feel guilty for leaving. I’ve been watching for a while . . . and it seems to me that your attention, better yet, your affections were too busy to be bothered with me or anybody else.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. I don’t have a boyfriend, and my affections are strictly brotherly toward Tim”

“So, he’s your brother?”

“Well, not my real brother, but he’s a big brother to my sorority. I’m his little sis. Or do you not know about those kinds of things?”

“Huh . . . so, now you’re going to insinuate that I’m stupid. I’m very aware of big brothers and sisters from fraternities and sororities. Party buddies. The perfect substitute for an occasional hookup.”

“You jerk! I must’ve been wrong about you. How rude!” She tears up, the levee teetering on collapse.
 
“All that rubbing, touching, and kissing out in public between two supposed-to-be friends. I must have misjudged a few things too.”

“Brad, stop it! We were just playing around like we always do. We have never kissed . . . and I can assure you that neither of us wants to. I wouldn’t even be out tonight but, I was at the library studying and they talked me into coming by on my way home. I thought you might be here.”

“Oh, sure you did. That’s a good one. You wanted to run into me? So, you had your mother screen your calls and tell me she didn’t know where you were?”

“I can assure you my mother didn’t screen my calls. I ran off and forgot my phone because I was late and had a friend waiting on me at the library.

There wasn’t any doubt he had pushed the wrong button with her and needed some magic words to block the avalanche about to rain down on his head. “Well . . . it’s none of my business anyway,” he says. “It’s late. We’ll just talk about it another time.”

“Wow, you were out having a good time until I came in . . . and now, you just want to go home?” Leslie shakes her head and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see her fury. “I just can’t believe you.”

“You can’t believe me? Leslie, I watch you for half-an-hour hanging all over some muscle head, and you want to try and make me feel guilty for leaving. I don’t have any right to be upset or say anything. But I don’t have to hang-out and torture myself.”

“You’re right, you don’t. I’m going back in . . . and if you care to meet my friends and spend a few minutes with me, I’ll be waiting inside. Otherwise, I guess it’s goodnight, Bradley.” She keeps standing there . . . obviously, hoping he says something. But, no matter how hard he searches for the right words, they just don’t come.

He sits in the car for a few minutes and watches her walk back inside. And, although he doesn’t want to leave with things all out of sorts, there is no way he can go back in under the circumstances. Reluctant, he puts his keys in the ignition, starts the car, and drives away.  
   
 

Recognized

Author Notes
Characters:
Brad - Aaron's lifetime friend.
Aaron - Brad's lifetime friend.
Olivia - girl Brad picks up in a bar.
Leslie - girl Brad meets in a bar.
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