When Rasul passed out that night I immediately called Taj. I gave him the lowdown on what happened to us, with the promise not to tell Ras I told him, and asked him to come over to help me with his big brother. I was strong, but not strong enough to lift 250 pounds of dead weight.
Once Taj and I got him to his room I took the time to clean up the vodka and beer bottles littering the house, along with airing it out. I’d done it for him before, and I’d do it again. Oddly, it helped me not think about Sookie. I was doing the shit I was doing because of her, but that didn’t matter. I knew when Ras woke up from his drunken stupor he’d appreciate it.
A couple days had passed since then and I was starting to feel better about it. Ras and I had a long talk about the situation. I assured him again that I had no clue Sookie and Suzi were the same person. I was a dog, but I wasn’t going fuck with my best friend like that. We’d gone through way too much to let a cunt like Sookie get between us.
It was Wednesday night, and I was standing at the pool table with Holly. She’d come into the bar the next night and I filled her in and what happened with Sookie. She was a cool chick and super easy to talk to. She had a great sense of humor. She could also kick my ass in pool. That didn’t stop me from trying.
I was bent over the pool table getting ready to shoot when I caught a blonde head off to the side. Holly was blonde, but not the same blonde as Sookie, who’s blonde was what I saw. I set the pool cue on the table and straightened up. What the fuck was she doing in my bar? Holly could tell instantly something was wrong.
“What are you doing here?” I growled. I never wanted to see her again.
“I know you’re still angry with me and I’m not here to talk you out of it. I just went to see Rasul. I apologized to him, and now it’s your turn. I’m very sorry about what happened. I wish I would have handled things different because you’re both good guys and you don’t deserve what I did. So I’m sorry for all the damage I’ve done,” she said. Her eyes were a little red and swollen, suggesting she’d been crying before she came in.
“Did Ras turn you down so you’re here to see me and fuck with my emotions too?” I wasn’t sure I was buying her apology. If she was a decent human being she wouldn’t have fucked with us the way she did. “Was anything you told me truthful?” She probably faked being hurt by the paddle so Ras wouldn’t see her red ass. Cunt.
“Not everything was a lie, Eric. I really do go to car shows with my dad and I did help him restore the Chevelle. I just never told you about Rasul. When I figured out that you were friends, I didn’t know what to do. I like you both–”
“That doesn’t make it okay to fuck with people.” I didn’t want to have this argument in the middle of the bar. I had a reputation to uphold, and I had a bar full of people. I grabbed Sookie’s wrist to lead her back to the office. I shut the door behind her a little harder than I should have. My arms folded over my chest as I looked down at her. “How long did you plan on trying to get away with this shit?” I had so many questions. I wasn’t sure I was going to get answers.
“I don’t know, Eric. It doesn’t even matter now because you know the truth. I’m not here to ask for your forgiveness or another chance. I’m not making excuses for what I did. If you don’t want to accept my apology, I can’t make you.”
“I don’t forgive you. I’ve done a lot of shit in my day, but what you did was… I can’t even fathom what you were thinking.”
“I don’t know how to explain it, and no matter what I say you’re not going to feel any better about it. I’m not going to bother you again after this. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry,” she said sincerely.
I believed she was sorry she got caught before she could break it off with one of us. I believed she was sorry she went from all the dick she could get to none, but I wasn’t so sure she was sorry she hurt us the way she did.
“I don’t ever want to see you again,” I told her.
“Goodbye, Sookie.” I stood there, waiting for her to leave. I couldn’t be in the bar just then.
“Goodbye, Eric.” She turned and walked out of the office.
I watched the security camera as she walked out of the bar. Good riddance. If I ever saw her again I wasn’t sure what I would do. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and shot Rasul a text.
Me: You should have warned me.
I tossed my phone on my desk and plopped down in my chair. What a fucking mood killer. I had my head back and my eyes closed when the office door opened and gently closed. I could tell by her scent it was Holly. I didn’t hate her. She wasn’t a lying cunt, so I was fine with her being in the office.
“Did you accept her apology?”
“No,” I answered, I opened my eyes to look at Holly. “She doesn’t deserve my forgiveness. I did tell her I never want to see her again.”
“I can see why you were so attracted to her. From what you told me, there was no way for this to end well, but hiding the truth only made it worse,” Holly said.
“I could have forgiven her if she would have said something as soon as she figured out Ras and I are so close.” I patted my leg, inviting Holly to come sit down. I wasn’t making a move, but I needed to be close to someone.
“I think I’ll stay put,” she smiled. “You’re in a weird place.”
“I’m not trying to make a move,” I told her. “I… being close to someone is better than going out and getting high on my drug of choice.” Women. I still hadn’t been with anyone since Sookie. That was different for me. Maybe I was growing.
“Eric, there are ways to be close to someone without touching,” she pointed out.
“I’m not used to that. I’m a toucher,” I shrugged.
“But touching is temporary,” she said. “You can get lost in it for a while and forget what was bothering you, but when it’s over and you’re alone again all the bad things come back. If you get close in other ways you have someone to share the load with you. That’s the way you want to touch a woman.”
I looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “What do you mean close in other ways?” I’d been in relationships, so I knew how the girlfriend thing was supposed to go. I had a tendency to keep all my cards close and not let them in so it never lasted and then I was on to the next one.
“Think about it, Eric. You’re not dumb.”
“That’s what you think,” I chuckled. “I–” I looked at Holly for a minute before I asked, “Would you like to go out to dinner with me sometime?” It hit me just then that the few times we’d seen each other, I really liked talking to her. She was cute, and I definitely wanted to fuck her after getting to know her better, but that wasn’t all I wanted. That was weird.
“Uh… if the answer is no, then no?” It sounded like a question because I wasn’t expecting to ask her out to dinner.
“Friends dinner or date dinner?”
“Depends on what you’d agree to…”
“Is this a rebound?”
“I would have had to have more feelings for Sookie for it to be a rebound. I liked sex with her. It was amazing sex, but ultimately that’s all it was. Yes, I’m angry at her, but I’m more angry that she hurt my friend. That man and I have gone through things together that most people can’t even fathom. No, it’s not a rebound for me.”
Holly considered things for a moment. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
“Okay. But no sex.”
“On the first date, or ever?” If it was never, it wasn’t really a date.
“On the first date. Probably the first five dates.”
“That’s pretty serious.” I’d never stuck around for that many dates without sex. “What about kissing?” Are you negotiating date rules?
Holly laughed and said, “We’ll see. You might not be very good at it.”
“Only one way to find out…”
“Well you can just hold your horses,” she snickered. “We won’t be getting it on on the trunk of your car before the end of the date.”
“Five dates minimum,” I agreed. “That shouldn’t include kisses.” I liked kissing. I liked everything that had to do with women. It said a whole hell of a lot about Holly that I was more concerned with getting her to kiss me than I was about the Sookie visit.
She leaned forward with her hand extended. “Deal.”
“Not going to seal it with a kiss?” I asked with a flirty smile.
“Nope. You need to get used to using your hand,” she smirked.
“It’s a kiss. On the lips, not a handjob or a blowjob,” I laughed
“I’m aware of what a kiss is.”
“My next night off it Sunday, how about dinner then?”
“I’m free Sunday.”
“I’ll pick you up at six. For now, I think we should get back out there so I can finish kicking your ass at pool.” I stood up from the chair I was sitting in.
“Ha! Game on, Garth,” she said as she got up.
Before I opened the door for her I grabbed her around the shoulders and pulled her into a tight hug.
“Thank you for being you,” I said quietly. She felt so small in my arms.
“Couldn’t be anyone else if I tried.” Holly hugged me back and surprised me when she kissed my cheek.
“You’re lucky I’m off my game,” I chuckled, reaching up to run my fingers through her hair. “I would have turned my head so you kissed my lips just now.”
“And I would have kneed you in the junk.”
“For some reason I believe you.” I kissed her forehead before I let her go. Holly was different than most of the girls I met. I could usually just give them a smile and they were putty in my arms. Holly, not so much. I was glad she was willing to give me a shot, even after knowing about Sookie and that whole fiasco.
As promised I showed up at Holly’s house a few minutes before six on Sunday. I had plenty of time to make a plan, but of course I didn’t. I did have a bouquet of flowers for her. That was Ras’s suggestion. I got out of my car and walked up to her door, knocking when I didn’t see a doorbell.
She came to the door in a tight black dress that accentuated curves I didn’t know she had.
“You’re early,” she smiled and stepped back to let me in.
“I like to be punctual.” I stepped inside and leaned over to kiss her cheek. “You look beautiful.” I handed her the flowers. It was a bouquet of wildflowers.
“Thank you. These are beautiful,” she said. “Let me just get these in water and we’ll go.” Holly was wearing five-inch pumps and walked like a pro in them.
So, my eyes went straight to her ass.
Old habits die hard.
“I don’t know where we’re going for dinner,” I admitted. “Are you hungry for anything specific?”
“Nope. I like food, so…”
“You’re a meat eater, right?”
“Of course. I’m originally from Texas, so brisket and carne asada are staples of my diet,” she said as she grabbed a vase off a shelf in the living room.
“There’s a BBQ joint on Broadway. Do you want to check it out?” Yep, her ass looked great. I wanted to touch it.
“Sure,” she agreed. “I haven’t been there yet but it’s on my list. I’ve heard the burnt ends are to die for.”
“Uh, yeah,” I nodded. “I love food too. There isn’t much I won’t do for a good burrito.” I was serious.
“I feel the same way about apple pie.”
“Don’t even get me started on dessert,” I chuckled. “You know, if this works out I have the potential to get really overweight with you.”
“But you also have the potential to work off those calories with really hot sex.”
“Mmm, I love really hot sex,” I smiled. When Holly turned around I didn’t hide the fact that I was checking her out. She had good cleavage.
“Down boy,” she chuckled.
“You said it,” I pointed out. I wanted to run my hands all over her body.
Holly arranged the flowers in the vase and set it on the island in her kitchen. She grabbed her purse off the counter and turned to face me.
“Okay, I’m ready to go.”
I held out my hand to her. It was really hard not to pull her in and kiss her silly. I was still a work in progress there. Hopefully she’d come around soon.
Holly and I walked out to MJ. I opened the passenger side door for her. I closed the door behind her and walked around to the driver’s side.
Holly ran her hand over the dashboard. “Do you actually know about cars or is this just a pussywagon?”
“I built my Mary Jane from the frame up,” I informed her. I started my girl up after I put on my seat belt. The car rumbled to life, making Holly smile.
“She purrs like a kitten.”
You’ll be purring like a kitten when I’m done with you too.
“She’s my first love. I got her when I was fifteen. I was able to drive her at seventeen, just before I left for boot camp.” I put the car in gear and started to drive away from the curb. I wasn’t thinking when I reached over to settle my hand on Holly’s leg.
“Boot camp, huh?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered. “Army. I did twelve years. Eight active duty and four in the reserves just in case I was needed again.”
“Wow. So you went over to the Middle East?”
“I did. Two tours, actually. It’s taken a lot to adjust to being home, but I think I’m doing alright.”
“It actually explains a lot. I’d say you’re doing pretty well.”
“I like to think I’m doing alright. Thanks.”
“Everyone has bumps in the road. I think I understand yours a little better now,” she said. Holly picked up my hand and I thought she was going to move it off her thigh. Instead she laced her fingers with mine.
My hand dwarfed hers. It wasn’t bad, though. I moved my fingertips over her thigh as I drove. She was a lot more comfortable to be around than a lot of the women I met. Sookie didn’t count. I was comfortable with her in a different way.
“If you want I can dig out some pictures some time,” I offered. “I’ve been told I look good in uniform.”
“I have no doubt you do.”
“So what do you like to do in your free time other than come to the Monkey Bar and ogle my ass?”
“Lately I’ve gotten into photography. I’m not trained in it, but I like taking pictures. The woods around the lake give me a lot to work with.”
“I’d love to see some of your shots someday,” I smiled. “Maybe if you agree to a second date we can go hiking so you can get some new photos.”
“Hiking would be good. Once it cools off some I’m definitely going camping.”
“I haven’t been camping in a while. Living in a tent in the desert for so long tends to turn one off from such activities,” I chuckled.
“Fair enough,” she smiled. “I won’t be offended if you don’t want to come.”
“We’ll see how I feel then. It’s a much different atmosphere,” I shrugged. “You know, I can’t remember the last time I did serious get to know you questions with someone?”
“Well I think we both know sex is easy, but it isn’t necessarily intimate,” she said.
“I know that all too well. I hope you know I’m not just taking you on a date so I can eventually get sex from you,” I replied.
“I know. I’m pretty good at reading people and if I thought you were just in it for a hookup, I’d walk out on you mid-meal.”
“Why did you agree to come on a date with me?” She hadn’t given any real indication she was interested. I was interested, which was why I asked her. I honestly didn’t expect her to say yes.
“You have a nice ass, duh.” Smarty.
“You don’t get to touch it until the fifth date,” I smirked.
“Shoot. I should have negotiated that into our terms.”
“You live and learn,” I chuckled. “If the goodnight kiss is everything I expect it to be I might let you slide and give it a little squeeze.”
“Lucky me,” she winked.
“Oh, you are lucky,” I teased. “Seriously, though, was it really because of my ass?”
“No, it wasn’t about your ass,” she chuckled. “You have potential to be a great guy. I mean, not that you aren’t already, but there’s more to you than you let on. I’m curious about what else is lurking in there.”
“Ask me,” I shrugged. “Most women I meet don’t give two shits about me. It’s probably because I try to fuck them the first night I meet them,” I chuckled. “It could be me not wanting to get too close to people.”
“It’s scary letting someone else in,” she said. “You want to trust that they won’t screw you over or take advantage of your weaknesses or vulnerabilities, but the only way to find out is to give them the chance. It’s risky.”
“That sounds about right. You know what happened with the last girl I started to get to know. That’s reason enough to steer clear of getting too close to people.”
“So is that your plan, to steer clear of people?”
“Obviously I’m out on a date with you,” I replied. “I’m not completely jaded. I keep my cards close. Something about you is… I don’t know how to explain it. I feel safe with you, if that makes sense.”
“It does,” Holly nodded.
Holly and I continued to talk on the way to the restaurant. I really liked what I was getting to know about her. She was smart, pretty, and knew how to take a joke, and a compliment. Those were all really good qualities. After the things Sookie did to me and to Ras, I wasn’t sure I would start dating so soon. Evidently, I was wrong. I wanted to be open to more than sex with Holly. If I didn’t change the way I treated women, nothing else was going to change. I had to start somewhere.