Make it a double, p.6
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       Make It a Double, p.6

         Part #2 of Last Call series by Sawyer Bennett
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Page 6

  In an effort to make a connection with her, I turn slightly on my seat so I can face her head on. Giving her a smile, I say, “It’s pretty freakin’ awesome. I mean… you know I love Mom and Dad, but there’s something to be said about having my own space. ”

  Casey nods in commiseration. “I know. I’m going to start looking for my own place, too. I’m too old to be living at home. ”

  “Your job is going good?” I ask, truly interested in Casey for the first time in a long time. She’s just started working as a realtor and but I don’t have a f**king clue about much more.

  “Yeah… I love it. It’s totally stressful relying on commission for my pay, but I’m doing okay so far. It’s peak time for the real estate market, but I think I can really make a go of this. ”

  “Good for you,” I commend, rewarding her with another smile, because she f**king deserves it.

  “It’s nice to see a smile on your face, Brody,” she says sincerely. I feel my cheeks heat up slightly at the compliment, which is also a backhanded complaint that I don’t smile enough.

  Before I can respond, Casey’s phone rings and she pulls it out of her pocket. She listens for a few seconds, and then hangs up. Turning away from the bar, toward all of the party guests milling around, she puts her fingers in her mouth and gives a shrill whistle that pierces my eardrums. “Okay, everyone… they’re here. It’s showtime. ”

  ***

  Gabby throws her arms around my neck and pulls me down for a tight hug, for about the third time this evening. She’s on her way to being truly drunk and while I’m pretty anti-alcohol in general, it’s nice to see her cut loose. Gabby is so serious and dedicated all the time, that she should be able to get wild every once in a while.

  Besides, it’s nothing I need to worry about. Hunter has been nursing a single beer all night while he watches her with the eyes of a hawk. Nothing bad is going to happen to Gabby on his watch.

  “Did I thank you for coming to my birthday party?” Gabby asks, her words having a slight slur to them.

  Pulling away from her death grip, I awkwardly pat her on the shoulder. “Yup. This will be the third time in the past hour. ”

  “Well, I figure I better get my hugs in on you while I can. It’s just convenient for me to use the excuse that I’m drunk. Otherwise, I’d never have the guts to wrap you up in a hug. ”

  She gives me an ear-splitting grin, and her eyes sparkle mischievously. Yeah, she’s on her way to being trashed, but she still has her wits about her. She’s definitely using her inebriation to take advantage and work her way in past my standoffishness. That’s pretty f**king devious.

  “Yeah, well, just make sure when you sober up tomorrow, we go back to the three-foot-space rule,” I tell her, half joking and half serious.

  Gabby throws her head back and lets out a roar of a laugh, clutching at her belly. “Oh my God. Best birthday present ever. I got to hug on Brody, and he made a joke at his own expense. ”

  “What’s so funny?” Hunter asks as he walks up behind Gabby and wraps his arms around her waist, laying his chin on her shoulder. His eyes look up at me in question.

  “Your girl is taking liberties with me, and I don’t like it,” I tell him, my gaze as inflexible as granite.

  Hunter’s shoulders stiffen at my allegation, ready to step in and defend Gabby in all her drunken glory. My gaze flicks down to Gabby and she stares at me blankly for a moment, and then she snorts so loud I can hear it over the blaring music. She slaps at my chest, laughing hard, and says, “Shut up, you dork. ”

  As Hunter comes to the realization I was just joking, his eyes thaw past lukewarm and go all the way to glowing hot that I actually pushed past my sullenness for a change. He then gives me a smile, full of wonder and joy over the fact he got a small glimpse of someone other than the ass**le Brody Markham that came out of Central Prison.

  I make some more small talk with Gabby and Hunter for a while, finishing off my second bottled water for the evening. The party is in full swing and shows no signs of slowing. The people I care most about—Hunter, Casey, and Gabby—are all having a grand time and I’m assured they’ll make it home safely since Hunter is designated driver. Glancing at my watch, I see it’s only nine PM, but it’s way past time I get out of here. I’ve fulfilled my duty and while the evening hasn’t been totally painful, I’ve reached my fill of hanging out.

  After saying my goodbyes, I reach in my pocket to pull out my car keys and start heading toward the door. Just as I step away from the bar and hit the short hall toward the front, I practically run over Alyssa as she comes out of the women’s bathroom. Her purse is over her shoulder, and she has her car keys in her hand as well.

  Not gonna lie… I did my fair share of watching her tonight. She never approached me to talk, nor I her. But I did catch her glance at me a time or two. And I only know this because I was glancing at her a time or two, trying to figure her out.

  It was not a hardship looking at her tonight. She showed up wearing a pair of dark jeans, designer by the looks of them. Certainly not the faded Levi’s that she had been wearing earlier today with a threadbare t-shirt. She had on a black halter-top, showing smooth skin, and a pair of black sandals, showing delicate feet with painted toenails. Very simple, yet she made it look elegant.

  I notice for the first time that she doesn’t wear any other adornments. With her having hair so short, it sort of stands out that she doesn’t wear anything. No earrings, no necklaces, no bracelets. Hell, it doesn’t even look like she wears any makeup… maybe just some lip-gloss because her lips always look shiny, and yeah… kissable.

  Shaking my head from such thoughts, I step back out of the way and give her room to walk before me, making a small, sweeping gesture with my hand and a nod of my head. She takes the lead, giving me a slight smile, and hitching her purse up higher over her shoulder as she precedes me.

  I follow her to the front door, not quite able to help a glance or two down at her ass and the way it is perfectly encased in those jeans, not quite able to disregard the sway of her h*ps or the slope of her back with all of that skin showing. Fucking five years in prison, I’m going to notice these things, no matter how I feel about her otherwise.

  When Alyssa reaches the front door, I follow right behind, my arm coming out and pushing the door open for her just as she reaches for it. She looks over her shoulder at me, giving off another small smile, which I don’t return.

  But I do follow her out.

  As the door shuts behind us, she turns and says, “Heading home already?”

  “Yup. I’m partied out,” I say drily.

  “Yeah… I could tell by the bottled waters you were downing all night. ”

  “Small bladder,” I confirm, blaming my need to leave on nonexistent bodily limitations rather than my fragile psyche and distaste of crowds.

  Alyssa snorts, knowing bullshit when she hears it. But the laugh that trickles out of those full and shiny lips is genuinely delighted by my jest, and it makes me want to actually laugh in return. But I don’t, because it would still feel more unnatural than natural to actually do such a thing.

  Instead, I observe, “You’re headed out kind of early yourself. ”

  “I need to make a stop by The Haven,” she says, her eyes sad and worried.

  “Jethro?” I guess.

  “Yeah. I stopped by on the way here, and he still hadn’t eaten. Won’t get up off his bed. I’m going to make him some chicken and rice to see if I can get him to eat something. ”

  “Right now?” I ask, surprised she’d go cook for a stray dog that was dying of old age.

  “He may not be around tomorrow,” she quips with an ironic smirk.

  Point taken, so I just nod my head at her. She stares at me thoughtfully, for just a small moment, and then she says, “Well, have a good night, Brody. ”

  “You too,” I tell her just as I turn toward my car. It’s only then th
at I realize I just had a complete conversation with her and for the first time, I didn’t doubt her sincerity, her morals, or her honesty. For the first time, I wasn’t looking at her with such a jaundiced eye. In fact, I’m starting to think I was seeing her a bit more clearly.

  I think to myself on the drive home about all the ways that my life has changed, most of them for the worse. Of course, the one good thing that has happened to me recently is getting out of prison. Kind of hard to beat that sort of feel good stuff.

  But Alyssa keeps tripping through my mind. Now that I’ve seemingly pushed pass the barrier of prejudice that I had unilaterally erected, she fascinates me more than I care to admit. Her simple beauty, her drive and determination… hell, just her joy and zest for life, all appeal to me on a basic level. I’m not sure why, but yes… it all appeals to me.

  Is that hope for something different in my life?

  Is she some freakin’ ray of sunshine or something that I should soak up and learn from?

  I have no clue, and the mere thought of extending myself out there to find out causes my stomach to rumble. Yet, I feel compelled to entertain the possibility that maybe she can teach me something.

  When I get to my tiny apartment, I kick off my shoes and head into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. It’s a simple pleasure that I appreciate far more than most people. Once I have my cup properly brewed and steaming in my hand, I pick up the telephone that came along with the furniture, compliments of Miss Mabel. It’s an old rotary phone, but it’s still serviceable. I’m using it because I still haven’t broken down to buy myself a cell phone. There is no one I really want to call that much, and no one I really want to hear from, but I suppose I need one for convenience. I make a mental note to try and pick one up tomorrow.

  I dial a number and after three rings, Jimbo answers. “Peaks. ”

  “Hey… it’s Brody. ”

  “What’s up, dude? You get my message earlier about doing your service over at the Food Bank? They can start you tomorrow. ”

  “Yeah, man. I got it, but something’s come up. ”

  Jimbo sighs heavily on the line. “Brody… you have to do this service. It’s ordered by the parole board. There’s no getting out of it. ”

  “I don’t want out of it,” I assure him hastily. “I just found something else I want to do. ”

  “Oh, yeah?”

  “Yeah… a non-profit called The Haven. It’s a no-kill animal shelter, and they’re in need of some help. I’d like to do that for my service. ”

  “You’re killing me, man. I had to pull some strings to get you on over at the Food Bank. ”

  “If you’ll hook me up, I’d be very grateful,” I tell him quietly. “This is something I really want to do. ”

  Jimbo is silent for a moment, but then I actually hear his smile come through the receiver. “Sure thing, Brody. I’ll handle the Food Bank. You need me to contact The Haven?”

  “No,” I assure him. “I’ve got it worked out. ”

  Clearly, I really don’t have it worked out yet, but I have no doubt Alyssa will accept my help. She’s working far too hard and had offered me the job before. While I know she’s been pissed at me for what I called her, she’s not the type to cut off her nose to spite her face.

  At least, I don’t think so.

  Besides, we just had a nice, albeit short, conversation tonight. It went well. There was no derision or condescension on either part. I’m sure this will work out fine.

  I’ll get to do some important community service, particularly doing something I love. I’ll also have the ability to try and figure out Alyssa a bit more, to observe this strangely unique and captivating woman.

  For the first time in a long time… I feel a minutia of interest spark through me, and I’m actually looking forward to doing something tomorrow other than just staring at the walls of my apartment or slinging drinks over at Last Call.

 
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