This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright: Brittany Butler
All rights reserved. Not part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
To the one who inspired the story.
I wish things would’ve been different.
I don’t belong here. That much is obvious. The steady thump in my ears accelerated as I took in the last slap in the face to my upbringing.
The adjacent porch advertised beer. A rusted truck harnessed with an improvised tow, bounced from the lot with a car. The entire scene playing before my face is the very one I spent my Sunday mornings hearing of. They crammed hatred into my ears like a scolding, hot branding iron.
Don’t fall into that lifestyle. It’s the devil’s trap.
Now I sit in my car, crumpled newspaper ads in my hand, staring at the bar, and anticipating my ticket to hell upon arrival. My father’s voice rings through my head. I can almost feel his hard glare and the stern shake of his head as I glance at the newspaper, then back at the building.
“Am I sure?” I ask aloud, almost hoping someone would answer as they always did.
But I know the answer to that; I’m more than sure. This job will allow me the freedom I so desperately crave. One short weekend stands in the way of my first semester in college.
I kill my car, and my thighs peel from the leather seat as I climbed out. East Texas is baking again. The thermometer in my red, hand-me-down, Volkswagen reads over one hundred degrees.
The grim bar sits in front of me with promises of money and freedom. Tugging on the hem of my shorts, I stood on the porch, inspecting the new angle. I fussed with my auburn hair, raking my fingers through the chipped ends before I opened the heavy wooden door.
The inside is bright and not what I expected. Signs decorate the dark walls. The black marble bar top is shiny and clean and chairs are stacked neatly on the tables. It’s so…quiet. I’ve never seen the inside of a bar in the day, so I take my time looking it over.
Well, if I’m being honest, I’ve never seen the inside of a bar, period. Unless you count movies, but that’s just how it is where I’m from. My hometown hosts less than a thousand people, allowing each of them access to personal information. Being the daughter of a preacher, I’m under a watchful eye.
Members of the community spilled into my dad’s church every Sunday morning, they were either living by the bible or making sure you were. But all of that is about to change. I moved an hour away to Nacogdoches into a dorm on campus, and this job is the missing piece. Aside from holidays, I now have absolutely no reason to go back to that place—my own personal hell.
I turn to see a dumpy gentleman holding a clipboard. The lighting casts a glare on his bald head, his cheeks sag into a deep scowl. His handkerchief wipes down his face, removing the beads of sweat from his shiny forehead.
“Let’s do the interview in my office,” he says, turning from me.
“Randy! Miller tap needs to be refilled!” A deep voice booms from the kitchen.
I follow him into the cramped, unruly office located behind the kitchen. He takes a seat in a chair, motioning for me to take the other. He lifts a cup from the desk and pulls my application out from underneath. With a brush of the paper, he pulls glasses on and skims over the details.
Clicking his tongue, he says, “I read over your application. Basically all I need is to confirm your availability.”
He tosses the paper on the cluttered desk and leans back; folding his arms on his stomach, using the plump article as an armrest. His head leans down and peers at me above his glasses.
“Afternoons during the week and free all weekend,” I say, sounding more like a robot than a peppy college student. He murmurs something inaudible as he presses his pen to the paper.
“Can you start tomorrow?” He asks, writing the information on my application.
His face is neutral, not showing any sign of happiness, so I contain mine. He probably has dozens of students come and go, moving from job to job. But none of them are like me. Their parents are thrilled to hear the news of their employment, whereas my dad would disown me.
He rises and sticks out his hand. “Driver’s license and social,” he says.
With the authority in his bored voice, I yank the cards from my wallet and place them in his hand with a grin. He walks to the dated copying machine and it roars to life, when his thumb mashes the light green button; each copy is a stark protest.
“What’s the best number to reach you?”
He clicks the pen to his chest and scribbles the numbers down as I call them out to him. He sits and rolls over to the dusty filing cabinet. After rummaging around, he tosses me a black shirt. I hold it at arm’s length to inspect it.
“Here’s the shirt you will need to wear every night. See you tomorrow,” he dismisses me. I thank him again and leave with a grin on my face.
I walk through the kitchen, with a new purpose. I follow the path that I was led, when I reach the bar, it’s no longer empty. My legs seize movement as I watch the stranger as he hustles around the bar. I take a step to introduce myself to my new colleague, but then I stop and watch him. He shoves a box on the floor and stands with his back to me, polishing glasses. As if he senses me, he stops and turns. My eyes linger up his hard chest to find an amused face. I know my face heats but I don’t look away. I rack my brain thinking of something to say, anything at all. I look like a freaking creeper as I stand here, watching him.
His dark brown hair is spiked, but not the cringe-worthy, gelled spike the boys at my school did. This is what I assume is straight out of the bed, sex hair. His intense eyes capture mine; I stood still, like an animal trapped in headlights. His high cheeks elevate at the end of his confident smile. He wore a white shirt, tattoos bellowing from his right sleeve. The light stubble lining his jaw was the perfect touch.
“You got the job?” He asks.
His face lights with a quick smile, his dimples peek at me. I immediately recognize that voice from before.
“I did,” I say, afraid to elaborate anymore. The last thing I want to do is say the wrong thing and embarrass myself. Well, even more than I already have.
“Awesome. I’m Hayze, the bartender. Are you going to ETU?”
He wipes his hands on his jeans. His amber eyes hold mine, out of habit I shift uncomfortably. I notice a scar above his left eye and the tattoos on his wrist as he offers his hand.
“I’m Taylor. Starting my first semester.”
He walks from the bar and comes to my side. Bending down, he hands me a shirt and I look at him, confused.
“You dropped this,” he says.
“Oh, right, I was about to grab it…On my way out,” I say. I grab the shirt from his hand and back away from him with a wave.
“See ya around, Taylor.”
He smiles, showing off a row of perfect teeth. I walk off, exhaling when I reach the door. I always thought my high school boyfriend was the most handsome guy I would ever see, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. Hayze seemed…nice, but I know I should stay away from him. He’s exactly what the rebellious side of me thrives to go after, and that scares the shit out of me.
I walk from the bar, shielding the blinding sun from my eyes. My red Jetta lights with excitement as I press the clicker. I slide in and point my c
I find a parking space, and pull in while checking my time. Nine minutes, and that’s with all of the traffic lights that plague this college town.
I grab my shirt and hug it to my chest while climbing from my car. The crowd is thick in the lobby; I shove through a group equipped with suitcases, and weeping parents as I walk to my dorm. Lea, my roommate, is lying on the bed when I enter. She snaps her head up and props on her elbows. Her baggy sleeves slide down her arm, revealing bright art work displayed on her forearms.
I literally ran into her after freshman orientation. With my map shoved in my face, I slapped into her and spilled my coke down her shirt. Fast forward a week and I can still feel anxiety bubbling in my stomach as if I saw her for the first time. She wore a white tank, exposing her right arm that’s covered in a sleeve tattoo. Her jagged blonde bob has streaks of faded blue highlights. The sunlight caught her nose ring as she turned and smiled, I could almost hear my dad yelling for me to run, screaming in the opposing direction. Instead, I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. I was drawn like a light to her no nonsense, fuck off attitude.
I learned over coffee that her roommate filed for a transfer. We hit it off and bunked together. She’s a returning sophomore, and so far, it’s working in my favor. I would be lost without her showing me around.
Our small room is divided in the middle. My side holds a lavender comforter neatly tucked on my bed and a shag rug to the side. The few decorations I have are strategically placed without clutter. Lea’s side is utter chaos. Her bed is never made, blankets are tossed across it along with clothes, dirty and clean. Posters hang above her bed and her desk is where clothes come to die.
“Any luck with the job search?” She smiles, her deep set dimples appear.
“Yes! I got a job at my first interview!”
“Awesome, which bar?” She asks, flipping her straight out the box, blonde bob to the side.
“Mystic Tavern, have you been to that one?”
I pull the strap of my purse from my shoulder and lay it on my desk. She snorts and I turn to see her watching me, amused.
“Oh yeah, many times. I have a… friend that works there. We went to high school together.”
“Who is it?” I pull my brows together and sit on my bed.
“Hayze, he’s the bartender.”
She stands and walks to her desk. With a flick of her arm, clothes scatter on the floor. Once she’s satisfied, she dumps the contents of her makeup bag on the dusty surface.
My eyes widen. “Oh.”
I considered telling her about my encounter with him, but after that I decide against it. I pull my bottom lip in my teeth, anxiously chewing. I hope he didn’t notice how weird I was being, and even more than that, I hope Lea doesn’t find out. The last thing I want is to have high school happen all over again.
She laughs once. “Yup, that’s the friend. Good luck.”
I ignore her, but the sinking feeling in my gut tells me she means more than the job.
“Oh, your brother dropped that off!”
She points to a box on my side of the cramped dorm. I grab the heavy box and throw it on my bed. It’s labeled as mine but I can’t place it.
I frown, “Which brother?”
“There’s more than one?” She asks, wagging her eyebrows.
“Scott,” she muses when she sees I’m serious.
“I have two brothers. Scott and Sean, they’re twins.”
I shuffle through the cluttered box he dropped off. It consists of pictures and decorations I left home. When I spot a homecoming picture, I close it and shove it under the twin sized bed.
“Are they sportin’ the bible belt, too?” She laughs as she dramatically lines her eyes with makeup.
“Sean is, he’s my dad made over. Scott’s your best bet. But don’t come crying to me when he cheats.” I shove my finger in her direction.
Her face twists in deep thought as she peers at me through the mirror hanging on the wall.
“Hey, do you have a fake ID?” She asks and places her right hand on her hip, the other hand points at me through the mirror.
“Uhh… What do you think?”
“You’re getting’ one. Here, check this out.” She tosses me an ID. I catch it and hold it up to inspect it.
“Looks so real,” I say, impressed. The picture is Lea, but the information, name included, is someone else.
“So will yours. So, school starts Monday, what are we doing this weekend?” She asks. I hand the ID back to her and she tucks it safely in her wallet.
“I start work tomorrow,” I say and her face falls into a frown.
“I’ll fill you in on everything you missed.”
With a stroke of gloss, she pops her lips and throws the container in her bag.
“Gee thanks,” I say and roll my eyes.
She laughs then disappears into the hallway. Voices flood the hallway as students pass my door, while I’m left bored and fending for myself on my first Friday night in the dorm. I didn’t leave my childhood home for this, next weekend I’m going out.
Hazed by Brittany Butler / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on16 votes