A Bartender, Drinks, and a Date Pt. 02byTony155©
Bright sunlight blasted through the small Venetian blinds to the right of Nick's head. The songbirds had long ceased their incessant chirping as the early morning dew gave way to the mid-morning sun. Nick flipped onto his back as he began to wake. The bed Shannon had given him was very comfortable and he had no trouble sleeping at all, falling sound asleep minutes after she left him and went to her own room.
Shannon spent a restless night of tossing and turning in her own bed with thoughts of Nick swirling through her head like a whirling dervish. When she finally did manage to fall asleep, dreams filled her unconscious mind. She couldn't remember what they were about, but she sensed they were erotic in nature for her panties were quite damp with her special juices when she woke.
It was after nine when she decided to check on Nick, from whom she had heard nothing since she left his room. Perhaps she should have slept with him, she thought to herself. Then, maybe, she could have gotten some sleep. Her mind wandered to when she napped against his chest the previous evening, remembering how wonderful it felt and wishing it would last forever. Shannon pulled on a white bathrobe over her nightshirt and shuffled over to her other bedroom.
The door was wide open and she saw him lying on his back with his eyes closed. His pants and shirt were neatly folded on a chair and his shoes and socks were by the closet. Quietly, Shannon walked over to the left side of the bed and bent over to wake him, her hand reaching for his shoulder.
Nick could smell her as she neared. His senses were always more alert in the morning when he first woke. The perfume she had worn the previous evening was still light and fresh as if she had just put it on again, when in fact she hadn't. It tickled his nose invitingly and dared him to bury his nose in her neck once more. She touched his shoulder and shook him lightly.
"You smell wonderful," he said softly.
"Oh!" she squeaked, startled as she drew back.
Nick opened his eyes and looked at Shannon, who had taken a step backward in her surprise. She looked just as pretty as she did when they said good night to each other earlier that morning. There was nary a hint of mussed hair or displaced makeup, although she had worn little the night before. The fact was, she hadn't even taken the first glance at a mirror before she came into his room. The thought never occurred to her. She had never been vain about her looks and truthfully didn't think she was much to look at. She never looked bad in the morning, no matter how much she tossed and turned.
"Morning gorgeous," he smiled.
"Morning yourself, brat," she smiled back. "You scared me."
"Sorry." He sat up in the bed, the covers falling to his waist. His black hair was in disarray, but his eyes sparkled at seeing her.
Shannon sat on the bed near his hip and kissed him softly. "How did you sleep?" she asked.
"Like a baby," he replied. "You?"
"Not too bad. I had a lot of dreams." She pressed her thighs together and could still feel the wetness.
"Good ones, I hope."
"They were, what I can remember of them." She bit her bottom lip lightly while glancing at the alarm clock on the night table. "It's getting kind of late. I can make you some breakfast if you like."
"Why don't I take you out for breakfast?"
Shannon thought for a moment. "I don't know. I'd rather stay here and spend some time with you. I can whip up something in a jiffy. I don't mind."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," she smiled. "Why don't you get cleaned up and I'll start." Shannon stood up. "The bathroom is on the left and there's plenty of towels and wash cloths."
"Do I look that bad?" he laughed.
Shannon turned a bit red. "No," she said, "I just thought you might want to, that's all. I didn't mean to imply anything. I'm sorry."
Nick wondered what that was all about. He noticed she apologized quite a bit whenever she thought she said or did something wrong.
"I was joking, Shannon. You didn't imply anything. I was going to ask you about a shower anyway." Maybe we could take one together sometime, he thought wickedly. He was about to get up and hug her, but he remembered he only had his underwear on. "Anyway, don't worry about it." He noticed a hint of sadness in her eyes, but it passed quickly as she looked away for a second.
"Well, go ahead and take a shower and I'll have it ready for you when you're done," she said softly. She turned to leave.
"Hey Shannon?" he called to her.
"Yes," she said, turning back to him.
"You're welcome," she replied, flashing a broad smile. It had been a long time since she had received so many compliments. She thought back to some of her previous boyfriends, one in particular, in disgust. As a whole, they had nothing on this one. "I'll see you in a few." She turned and disappeared from the room.
* * * * *
When he emerged from the steamy bathroom, the aroma of bacon, eggs, and perking coffee attacked his nostrils. Shannon was busy at the sink when he came behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Nick buried his nose in her neck and hair, inhaling its freshness. "Hmm," he murmured as he kissed the slope of her neck. "You smell better than the food!"
"You're silly," Shannon laughed as she moved her head to the side, exposing her neck even more to him. She was enjoying the attention and the feel of his lips against her skin.
Nick was tempted to let his hands travel northward, but he thought better of it. The thought of putting his hands over her breasts excited him, but they didn't know each other well enough for him to try that. Besides, he really liked kissing her.
This continued for a few more seconds before Shannon wriggled free from his grasp. "Okay, okay, I have to get back to the food. It's almost done." She desperately didn't want any of the food to burn. Reluctantly, Nick let her go, but not before giving her a friendly kiss on her cheek. "The newspaper should be on the porch. Could you bring it in for me?" she asked.
"Sure." He broke away from her and got the paper. He placed it on the sofa and came back to the dining room where Shannon was serving up the bacon and eggs from two scalding skillets. "Need any help?" he asked.
"No, everything's done." Shannon put the skillets in the sink before pouring the coffee. "I hope you don't mind turkey bacon. It's the only kind I have." She sat down and waited for his answer, hoping it wouldn't upset him.
"I don't mind at all." He had tasted it before at his mother's and he liked it, but he did prefer the regular kind.
They ate quietly as Shannon picked at her food, toying with it as she watched Nick. He seemed oblivious to her attention as he focused on his plate. After a few minutes, he remarked, "This is really good. Thanks."
"You're welcome. I'm glad you like it." She sighed softly, content to have a man in her house. Not just any man, but a friend as well. She considered Nick to be a good friend, considering how reticent he had been to her suggestion about staying overnight. She sighed inwardly at the thought of him thinking she wanted him to stay because she wanted to go to bed with him. She hadn't heard of that before. Connie had told her he could be difficult and not easy to talk to at times, but she had seen none of that. Shannon found him to be kind and considerate, someone whom she inherently trusted. She wondered if he would refuse her should she ever ask him to go to bed with her. She hoped he wouldn't. That was not in her immediate plans, but she was being drawn closer to him by the minute. She never thought she would ever want to get close to another man after Jeremy, but she liked Nick a lot. She didn't fall in love easily, at least not anymore, but if he let her, she thought it quite possible for it to happen.
Nick did notice her studying him and it was a bit unnerving. It wasn't so much that she was observing him. Many of his former girlfriends had done that. It was the intenseness of her stare that rattled him. It was as if she were trying to bore into his very soul and find some key, some important link to his inner being. As he gave it some thought, he didn't mind being explored in that fashion, at least not by her. He thought about some of his previous girlfriends, ones who wanted to take their relationship a step further, but were rebuffed by him. He wondered what would have happened if he allowed himself to explore the possibilities of a deeper relationship with them. With some, he knew it never would have gone very far. The two whom he let into his life on a more serious note were ones whom he never should have let get past the first few dates. They were entirely wrong for him and he regretted his decision almost from the start.
There were a few, however, who would have been worth the effort, he felt. But, he was in his "asshole" stage of his dating life, not wanting to get close to anyone for fear of being possessed and held hostage from the freedoms of singleness he enjoyed. For some unknown reason, he had grown up some in the past few months and being where he was at this moment was proof of that. That was not to say he didn't have a little trepidation about Shannon or where they were going with this. It wasn't easy for him to admit he wanted and needed someone steady in his life. Thinking back to the previous evening when he was ready to spout his rules and regulations concerning dating, he laughed at himself and couldn't believe the turn around of his thought process. Shannon did stir something within him from the very start, but he couldn't quite pinpoint what that something was.
Nick came out of his thoughts to find her still staring at him. "Your food's getting cold," he said quietly.
"Oh," she said absently. "I guess I'm not really hungry." She pushed her half-filled plate to the side and rested her elbows on the table. "So, do you have any plans for today?"
Nick pressed a napkin to his lips. "No, not really. I just wanted to pick up my car from O'Reilly's, but that's no big deal. I have some laundry to do and the grass needs cutting, but that can wait. Heck, the grass may be too wet to cut, anyway. Who knows? I know you have to work today, so I'll get out of your hair so you can get ready."
"I don't have to be there until noon, so don't think you have to leave quickly." She glanced at the clock and it was nine forty-five. "Can you stay a while longer?"
"As long as you want," he replied seriously.
They chatted easily for the next few minutes as Nick finished his meal. It was really quite good and Nick enjoyed a home cooked meal for a change. His own culinary skills weren't all that great, so he ate out often.
"Let me help you with the dishes," he said after he finished.
"No, no, no," she replied, shaking her head vigorously, "that's what the machine is for. You go sit in the living room. It'll only take me a minute."
Nick did what he was told and began to peruse the morning paper. It was but minutes later when Shannon sat down next to him as he heard the soft whirring sound of the dish washer.
"There, that's all done," she announced. Nick put the paper aside and threw his arm around her shoulder, drawing her closer. He hugged her and kissed her forehead. She smiled at him and nestled against his shoulder, sighing contented.
"You're not going to fall asleep on me again, are you?" he asked jokingly.
Memories flashed back to her. Memories she thought she had hidden away forever. Even though he said it light hearted, Shannon heard Jeremy's menacing voice.
"You stupid bitch! Can't you do anything right?"
"I didn't mean to," she protested in a hurt voice as a frown appeared across her face. "I told you I was sorry."
Nick blinked and looked at her. "I was kidding, Shannon. I already told you I loved holding you. Why are you so sensitive?"
Shannon sniffed as she tried to keep the tears from coming. Why did she think of him again? She wanted to forget about that time in her life. She wanted to forget about him. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, her head down.
Sorry, sorry, sorry. That's all he had heard from her. Why was she always apologizing for things she said or did when none was warranted? Nick was suddenly annoyed with her and spoke before he thought about it. "Shannon!" he said sharply, maybe a bit too harsh. "Let's get one thing straight. You don't have to apologize for everything. You've done nothing wrong and I was only joking with you. Can't I joke with you? I joke around and I tease the persons I like. If you don't like to be teased and joked with, let me know now, because I don't know if I can handle all of these apologies."
Shannon winced from the serious tone of his voice and she cowered like she had done so many times before. Nick started to pull his arm from her shoulder and Shannon's survival instinct took over. She raised her hand to her face in reflex from the many times before when Jeremy would strike her whenever the moment possessed him. And it possessed him a lot.
He brought his hand up toward her face...
She imagined Nick's hand coming towards her face and she waited for the blow, fear gripping her. "Don't hit me!" she cried as she tried to turn her face away. "Please...."
* * * * *
Nick sat alone in his house that evening. Images of her terror flooded his mind and he was still shaken by it. He still couldn't believe she thought he was going to hit her. Crying in his arms, she told him of her relationship with Jeremy McAndrews, an engaging man with an enigmatic smile that always kept her guessing. She had loved him from the start and gave her heart, soul, and virginity to him willingly. His flashes of temper were disconcerting to her, but she got used to them. She merely avoided subjects and things she knew would irritate him. As their relationship progressed and him being the jealous type, he asked her to quit her job at O'Reilly's. He didn't like the idea of men flirting with his girlfriend. She was a waitress at that time. When she said 'no', they got into a heated argument before he stormed out of her house.
He didn't speak to her for days, but started to hang out at O'Reilly's to keep an eye on her. She asked him repeatedly not to come there, but he refused. Things between them went from bad to worse. The violence was subtle at first; a pinch here or a twisting of the arm there. Shannon still loved him, but he was scaring her more and more. He wept and apologized profusely the first time he slapped her. He didn't the second time. Or the third.
Finally, she had enough after he blackened her eye and loosened a tooth after he didn't like the way she cooked a meal. She called the police that time and pressed charges. A restraining order was placed on him and he begged her not to pursue the charges. Standing up against him for the first time in six months, she went ahead with the case. He received probation and was ordered to go to anger management classes. He smiled wickedly at her as she looked on in disbelief, her eye still blackened.
That had been a year and a half ago and Nick was the unfortunate soul who would be her first date since that horrible time. Connie and other friends had tried to fix her up, but she refused everyone. Why she consented to date Nick, she didn't know. Connie told her everything about him, the good and the bad, and she was hesitant, but she decided to go through with it anyway.
Tears were streaming down her face after she finished. "I don't want to lose you," she cried. Nick remembered keeping silent, but holding her to him. He didn't know what to think.
And he still didn't know what to think as he sat in his dimly lit living room. His mind screamed at him to cut his ties and go on. They had known each other for only a day and she was already coming apart at the seams on him. He didn't need this. He really didn't need this.
* * * * *
Somehow, he knew he would end up there. He could have driven to O'Reilly's, but he needed a walk to clear his head and fifteen minutes later, there he was, his feet knowing just where to go. He stood outside the bar and stared at the sign, not knowing whether he should go in or not. There didn't seem to be too much activity for a Saturday night, but it was early. Against his better judgement, he stepped through the doorway.
The familiar bouncer greeted him, but didn't ask for ID or a cover charge. "Is Shannon working tonight?" Nick asked loudly over the blaring jukebox.
The bouncer nodded and pointed to the bar, but Nick didn't see her. "She stepped out for a minute," he said before stepping aside. Nick walked past him, but felt a tug on his sleeve. "Hey buddy," the bouncer said when Nick turned back.
"Yeah," Nick answered.
"We're kind of fond of Shannon. Don't mess with her, understand?"
Nick looked at him, not really knowing what to say. What was wrong with everyone? He wasn't the asshole who made her his personal punching bag. He had only known her for a day, for God's sake. "I'm not going to mess with her," he said defensively. He didn't know what he was going to do with her.
"Good," he replied, letting go of his sleeve.
Nick adjusted his sleeve as he walked away. He checked his watch while doing so and saw it was almost nine o'clock. Nick suspected she would be leaving soon, but he didn't know what her hours would be that evening. He saw her as she appeared from the restrooms and their eyes locked momentarily.
They were sad eyes, the same eyes he saw when he left her house. The same eyes that didn't expect to ever see him again. The same eyes that sought forgiveness for thinking he would intentionally harm her. And the same eyes that wished for him to be in her bed that night.
They met at the left side of the bar near where they sat the previous night.
"I didn't expect to see you tonight," she said after she hugged him lightly. Truthfully, she didn't expect to see him again at all.
Nick looked at her sheepishly. "I decided to take a walk and I ended up here." He shrugged.
"I have to get back to work," she said. "You can sit at the bar with me if you like."
"Okay Renee," he smiled.
Renee? Shannon looked confused for a second and then it dawned on her. A wave of panic swept through her until she looked at Nick, who was still smiling. Slowly, she relaxed and understood he was joking with her. It's okay, she said to herself. He wouldn't be kidding with you if he was angry. He is not Jeremy. He is not Jeremy.
She smiled back at him as best she could and went back behind the bar. She would be working until ten o'clock that evening because of a scheduling snafu, but she would be off until Tuesday evening. The next hour went by slowly as it started to become more and more crowded in the smoky bar. Finally, her shift ended and they exited into a sparkling clear night.
They walked slowly as the crickets and locusts made their presence known. A gentle breeze whispered through the trees, causing the limbs to sway easily through the lights of the lampposts. He reached for her hand and held it as they made their way through her neighborhood once again. He looked at her and wanted to speak, but remained quiet. Nick squeezed her hand from time to time, trying to let her know he still cared about her, no matter how messed up she was.
"I'm really glad you stopped by tonight," she said softly out of the blue.
"Yeah. I wouldn't have blamed you if you didn't want to see me again." She stopped walking and turned to him. "I must have really thrown you for a loop this morning."
Nick nodded. "I didn't expect to see you tonight. Have you ever seen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"?"
"A few times, yes."
"Remember when the French were throwing their livestock over the wall at King Arthur?"
"Well, King Arthur kept yelling to his troops to "Run Away! Run Away!" That's kind of how I felt."