Second Chances – Chapter 7

another relatively short chapter.  someday maybe I’ll manage to balance out my chapter lengths better … more “growing” as an author, I suppose.

7 ~ Charlie’s ~

I stood at the mirror and wondered about the man I was seeing.  Six-foot one, dark hair starting to show grey, brown eyes, and build not too shabby, considering my age and lack of discipline in diet and exercise.  A tan western shirt over blue jeans and black boots, I shuddered for a moment, hearing Annie’s voice, quoting a country favorite as memories flooded in.

“Why’d you come in here lookin’ like that?”

I turned and smiled.  “Too much?”

“Not for here, but I’m not sure I want to take you out in public.”

“Do I look that bad?”  I turned and posed for her, smiling.

“You look that good, love.  If we didn’t have to meet Kathy and Sean I’d take you here and now.”

“Mmmm.  Sounds like a good reason to stay home.”  I reached for her but she stepped back.

“Rein it in, cowboy.  Just save that energy for later.”

“Is that a promise?”

“Take it to the bank, mister.  You won’t be sleeping for hours, and then you’ll be comatose.”

“It’s a deal.”

I shook my head, clearing my thoughts as I refocused on the present.  Seven forty-five, Jared would be rolling up soon.  Or so I thought until my phone chirped.  I walked to the dresser and swiped it on to read the new message.  As I thought, from Jer.

Running late, bet there at nine.

I walked into the living room and switched on a country station.  I sat in my easy chair and closed my mind, letting the rest of the earlier memory play out.  Before I was ready, it was five after nine and the kitchen doorbell rang.  I sighed and stood, turned off the radio, and walked across to let Jared in.

“You’re looking good.”  He told me.  “Ready to go?”

“As ready as I’m going to be, I guess.”

“Then let’s,” he said as he turned and headed out.  I followed him through the doorway, locked up the house, then joined him in his car.

“You certain about this?” I asked.

“Dead certain.  Please don’t back out now.”

“I’m not backing out.  I’ve decided to have a good time with my best friend.  Regardless of the venue.”

“Works for me,” he said as he started the car and backed out of the drive.

– – – – –

I wasn’t far off track; Charlie’s was crowded with the ‘twenty-something’ crowd, noise and music nonstop, but certainly not a “dive”; more an ‘up-and-coming’ club, it showed great promise.  Jared and I got a couple of drinks and headed out to a large patio area where we could enjoy a smoke and talk while he perused the merchandise.  Alright, in all honesty I was enjoying the view as well.  A lot of young, well defined men all strutting to be the main attraction.  Although I think Jared was a little put out by the fact that most seemed to be completely uninterested in the two old guys along the fence.

The tall ten to twelve foot fence cordoned off the patio, a large cement area with plants along the side and several tables.  Those nearer the center of the area were your standard height, while those towards the outer rim were raised with long-legged stools.  Many of the stools also had backs, which made them a bit more comfortable than the standard variety.  Jer and I had found one near the back, away from the immediate blast of sound from the large doors into the club.  There were many tall lamps, almost like subdued street lamps around the area.  One was almost overhead.  When I had mentioned the brightness to Jared, his response was he needed to be seen.  Gave me a chuckle.

Maybe an hour later we were back inside to refresh our drinks when he suddenly turned to me and grinned.  “Dance with me.”

“What?”

“Come on, it’s good music.  I know you can two-step.  Dance with me.”

I’d blame it on the alcohol, but after only one drink, I’m fairly certain that wasn’t the cause.  But whatever brought it on, I agreed.

“Fine.  But I lead.”

“Deal,” he said with a laugh.

It took a minute but we moved into it fairly well.  Jared surprised me with his ability to follow.  Somehow dancing had never been one of our pastimes.  We both noticed the looks we were getting; it was a more than a little exhilarating.  When the song ended I backed up but he grabbed my arm when the DJ spun up “Against The Grain” by Garth Brooks.

“Oh this is great!”

“This isn’t a two-step.”

“Better, a ten-step.”

I shook my head.  “Not that familiar with…”

“It’s ok.  Just follow the person in front.  And I’ll be right beside you if you fall over.”

I laughed, we switched roles and we proceeded to move around the floor – rather gracefully, all things concerned.  One giant ring of half-sober and three-quarter-drunk cowboys all having a great time.  Half way through he spun around and started lining it backwards, but that ended when he almost knocked the guy in front of him down.  Or … behind him, I suppose …  At any rate, we laughed almost the entire song, and it ended far too early, though I was definitely winded.  When a slower set started up, I released a sigh of relief and we turned for the bar when an arm wrapped around my waist from behind.

“My turn.”

I spun and look the youth in the eye.  “Tommy, I don’t think so.”

“I’m not at work – it’s Thomas, and yes, I think so.  It’s the least you can do to let me apologize for my bad attitude lately.”

Jared slapped me on the back.  “Go for it.  I’ll be at the bar.”

I shot him a dirty look before turning to smile.  “Alright, Tommy … sorry, Thomas.  One dance.”

He latched into me like a spring-loaded back gate and began to grind his way through the song.  I stopped, put my hands on his hips, and pressed him back enough so we weren’t sharing body heat.  He tried to pull in again and I stopped him.

“We can do this as friends or not at all.”

He frowned.  “This is how I dance with my friends.  Besides, it just helps get us in the mood.”

“I think you’re already in enough of a mood.  And you’re young enough to be my son.”

“I’m twenty.”

“Good Lord, your younger than my son.”

He tried to nuzzle my ear.  “That’s ok, I’m not looking for a ‘daddy’, but we can role play if you want”.

I stepped away completely.  “I think that’s enough, Tommy.  Have a good night.”  I turned and walked to the bar.  When I got to Jared he was almost bent over, laughing so hard.

“That was a riot,” he wailed.

“Shut up, Jared,” I said then turned to the bartender.  “Whisky, neat.  Better make it a double.”

“Right away, sir,” he replied and I turned to Jared.  He looked past me and winked.

“Don’t look now, but storm Tommy is about to blow in.”

I turned around just in time to catch the boy’s wrist before his hand connected.

“Nobody walks away from me like that.”

“Tommy … Thomas, I think you maybe have had a bit too much to drink.  Maybe you should step outside and …”

“You wanna go outside?  Let’s go!”

About then the bartender showed up and played rescue.  “Is there a problem sir?”

“No,” I answered.  “A little misunderstanding, but everything’s fine now, right Thomas?”

“I hate you,” he spat as he turned and walked away.

I handed a bill to the bartender and winked.  “See, all taken care of.”  He laughed and walked off to make change.  Before he returned I downed my drink and tapped Jared’s shoulder.   “Let’s go.”

He paused only a moment then stood, nodding.  “Sure.  Thanks for coming with me tonight, Paul.”  He sighed and looked around.  “Just thought … I dunno.  Guess I was hoping…”

I grinned, the imp spinning in my head.  “Here … let’s give the boys something to talk about.”  I grabbed around Jared’s waist and pulled him close, smashing his lips against mine.  I waltzed my tongue briefly against his then released him.  I leaned in and whispered in his ear.  “Now you’ve been seen.”

I waived off the bartender, he smiled as he looked down at the size of the tip I was leaving.  I grabbed Jared’s shoulder and pulled.  “Let’s go, cowboy.”  He laughed and turned to walk beside me.  We disappeared out the door together, grinning like the schoolboys we were feeling inside; children at heart, even now.  It felt good to be alive.

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