A Decade Ago

“Maybe you’ve had enough wine tonight?” said Craig, careful not to sound judgmental, but serious nonetheless.

“I haven’t,” she said, giggling as the bartender brought her another glass of chardonnay.

He tried to grab her glass. “I think you have.”

“Good thing I don’t really give a fuck what you think,” she replied, dodging him and taking a long gulp of the wine.

“Nic!”

“Craig!” she mocked.

“You’re awful when you’re drunk, you know.”

“Yeah. I know.”

He stared at her as she finished her glass, drinking it like it was water. She’d been going slower an hour earlier, but then he’d mentioned taking her home and she’d reacted badly. It was nearly midnight now, and he was going to have to broach the subject again.

“Stop staring at me,” she said suddenly. She wasn’t even looking at him.

“I’m…I’m not,” he replied, though he was, and he flushed with embarrassment.

“You are. You always are.”

“Sorry.”

“Are you staring at me and trying to figure out how to get me out out of here?” she asked, turning to look at him. “Are you wondering if you’re going to have to carry me to your truck?”

He laughed, because that was exactly what he’d been picturing. She laughed, too, then stopped suddenly and said, “I’m not ready to go yet.”

Craig sighed. “Nicole…he’s going to be home in the morning. Don’t you want to be feeling well?”

“I’ll feel fine.”

“You’re going to have a massive hangover. Even if you quit now. But if you stay ’til close you’ll be in bed all day.”

“Remind me why you give a shit how I feel when he gets home tomorrow?”

“God, Nicole, I just don’t want you to be sick.”

“You just don’t want me to have to tell him where I’ve been.”

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. It made him uneasy when she acted like this.

“There’s an element of truth to that,” he replied.

“I hope you brought a change of clothes, by the way,” she said, and he felt like she was trying to distract him.

“Why?”

“It’s going to be hard to explain the smoke smell.”

“She knows I’m at a bar, she just doesn’t know I’m with you. This is how bars smell.”

“You really should be more careful, though.”

“You worry too much.”

She laughed again. “One of us has to.”

“I worry about you,” he said. “I’m worried you’re going to puke all day tomorrow.”

“I told you, I’m fine,” she said,  and she began swirling around on her barstool. “Could I spin like this if I wasn’t fine?” They both laughed, but as she made her second rotation her elbow caught the wine glass, and it fell to the floor.

“Shit!” she said, hopping down to clean it up, nearly losing her balance in the process. He knelt down, too, picking up glass shards with her.

“Glad you’re just fine,” he mumbled. He reached under her chair for a piece, and when he pulled his hand back he saw that it was covered in blood. Nicole saw it at the same time.

“It’s all over you,” she said. “It’s on your shirt.” She was turning pale.

“It’s okay,” said Craig. “It’s okay.”

“She’s going to see it,” said Nicole, starting to breathe quickly. “Oh, Craig, she’s going to know.”

“I got in a bar fight. That’s all. Or I broke my own glass. She’ll never know.”

“We have to go.”

“I know. Go to the truck. I’ll pay and meet you there.”

Nicole stood up and walked unevenly out of the bar. Craig wrapped his hand in a napkin, apologized to the bartender and tipped him well for the inconvenience, then joined her in the night air. She was staring up at the sky, and he could see under the streetlight that she was crying.

“What are we doing?” she asked him, moving her gaze to meet his.

“I don’t know,” he said.

She was quiet for a moment. “I think we have to end this.”

He’d known it was coming. He knew she was right. And still, it hit him in the chest with a force he could hardly withstand.

“Yeah…” he replied. “Yeah.”

He took a step forward and pulled her into his arms. She rested her head on his chest, and they stood there until they began to shiver.

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