My best friend, the fun loving, outgoing one.
When she’s gone, taken away entirely way too soon,
I have to learn how to live.
And not just for me, but for her too.
I have to live for the both of us.
That means doing things I’d never do, stepping out of the shadows
to join the rest of the world- taking chances, falling in love,
and getting into a little trouble along the way.
Losing my best friend broke me.
And when a person breaks,
They f*cking shatter.
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I make myself comfortable, hanging my purse on the hook under the bar, as he orders us a drink.
He takes the seat next to me and I look over at him, trying to figure him out and what he wants with me.
“What are you staring at?” he asks, seeing me out of the corner of his bright blue eyes.
“I’m trying to figure out what your deal is.”
He turns his body to face me. “Why do I have to have a ‘deal’?”
I shrug as the bartender places our drinks in front of us. I pick up the glass and take a sip as he slides over some cash. “I don’t know. We met under these really weird circumstances, and then we had a random hook up. I never expected to see you again.”
He sets his drink down and trains his eyes on me. “Let me ask you this, why did you kiss me yesterday?”
I turn to look at myself in the mirror hanging behind the bar. I don’t want him to see me, see that I’m lying. “As a thank you for the drink.” The lie leaves my lips smoothly. I almost buy it myself.
“Bullshit. What’s the real reason?”
I turn to him suddenly with my mouth hanging open from him calling me out. “It’s none of your business.”
He laughs. “It’s none of my business why you felt the need to sexually assault me?” He leans back, amusement written all over his perfectly sculpted face. His eyes shine bright, even under the dim lights of the bar.
Now it’s my turn to laugh. “Sexual assault? I don’t think that’s what it was.” I pick up my drink and take another swig, enjoying the burn it brings and the numbness that accompanies it.
“Did I give you the impression that I wanted you to kiss me?”
I squint my eyes at him. What is he getting at? “No.”
“Then why did you do it?” His eyes hold a gleam of wicked amusement. He likes challenging me.
I let out a deep breath. “A friend of mine made me this summer bucket list,” I admit a little breathless.
He nods like he understands. “And this list said ‘kiss River’?” His voice is dead serious, but the expression on his face is nothing short of sarcastic.
“No. It said ‘kiss a stranger’,” I say, annoyance consuming me as I push my dark hair behind my ear.
He holds his arms up at his sides. “So why me? What made you decided that I was the stranger you should kiss?”
God he annoys me so much! “I don’t know. You were there, the list popped into my head. I figured, why not? I had never seen you before in my life and I figured I never would again.”
“Ahh, so you took this bucket list challenge, but you decided to play it the safe way.”
“What do you mean the safe way?” I want to get up and leave because he pushes these buttons inside of me that make me want to pull my hair out. It’s like he’s a child that just lives to annoy me. But something inside of me won’t let me walk away that easy. It’s like I’m a glutton for punishment, and just have to see what he will say next.
He pulls his barstool a bit closer, causing his legs to be on either side of mine. Our legs are almost touching and it causes a tingle to take over. “Okay, this list, I’m assuming, was meant to get you out of your element, to make you do things you’d never do, and to learn to live with what comes out of it instead of always playing it safe, right?” His jaw flexes as he waits for the answer.
I nod. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, you’re not playing right.”
A puff of air leaves me in a rush. “There are no rules!”
He holds up his finger. “That’s where you’re wrong. Why bother with the list if you’re not going to do it right? You thought you could cross things off without having to deal with the consequences. Meaning, you kissed me because you thought you wouldn’t have to mess with the awkwardness of having to run into me.”
I bite the inside of my cheek while I think it over. But I can’t come up with an argument because he’s right. I’m not doing this right. I need to put myself out there and learn what it’s like to be truly vulnerable.
I pick up my glass and finish it off.
River, apparently happy with the inner turmoil he’s caused in me, leans back, smiling like a Cheshire cat. I want to reach over and smack that smug look right off his face.
After a good, long minute of silence, I turn to him. “So what should I do then? Just go up to a random stranger in here and kiss them?”
He looks around, surveying the small pub. “Yeah, go kiss that one.” He nods towards the back corner.