This story was greatly inspired by the song “Your Love” by The Outfield. Great 80’s song that I listened to one night and said, “Hey, why not.”
She was supposed to be somewhere else. Christina looked back down at her phone lying on the bar top. 68 missed calls and 80-something texts. She knew her friends had gone through so much trouble for her big night but she just couldn’t bring herself to be in a party mood. They’d planned an entire night bar hopping in a luxury stretch limo. Who the hell doesn’t go to their own bachelorette party, she scolded herself.
Christina thought about the last few years. She’d graduated college, established a career, and managed to get engaged to a good guy. Jackson was a good guy. He had a good job, a good family, a good face. But that’s all it was…good. Deep down Christina felt like she was settling. She knew she had done everything she was supposed to do to make her parents proud but she didn’t feel proud of herself. Christina knew that somehow she had let herself down.
“Those look like some pretty deep thoughts.” A deep voice boomed in interrupting her self-reflection.
She looked up next to her. A man was shrugging off his wet raincoat while signaling to the bartender. She hadn’t noticed the rain outside.
The man wasn’t looking at her but she was sure he had spoken to her.
“I’m sorry?” Christina responded.
The stranger turned his head towards her and Christina caught her breath. His eyes were intensely green.
He smirked at her.
“You just looked like you were making some big life decisions.”
“Oh um, sort of.” Christina stammered quietly still trying to collect herself.
He opened his mouth to say something when the bartender interrupted him.
“What can I get you, Stephen?” He asked.
“Whatever special you have on tap is fine, you know I’m not picky.”
“Comin up.” The bartender walked off.
“So,” the blue eyes turned back to Christina,”I’m Stephen as I’m sure you heard.”
“Christina.” She responded timidly.
“Nice.” Stephen started, “So Christina, tell me exactly why you are sitting in a bar on a Friday night all alone?”
She thought for a minute.
“Well, I was supposed to go to a party, my party. I just didn’t feel much like being around a bunch of drunk girls.”
“Your party?” Stephens interest piqued. “Birthday?”
“Oh no, my bachelorette party.”
“Oh, nice! Congratulations!” He exclaimed with a genuine smile.
Christina returned the smile in thanks but he could tell her heart wasn’t in it.
The bartender was back with his beer. She watched as he took a long slow gulp. Stephen had shaggy brown hair that made it just over his ears. He wore a crisp white business shirt that he had rolled up at the sleeves showing various tattoos coming down his well-toned arms. He wore well-tailored pants that clearly belonged to an expensive business suit.
He must work in one of these buildings she thought to herself.
They were in the business area of downtown Raleigh, NC and now was the time when all the businessmen would start pouring in for happy hour.
He placed the half emptied glass on the bar with a *CLUNK* and the sound shook her out of her thoughts.
“Alright let me see it.” He demanded as he reached his hand out and wiggled his fingers in a “gimme” manner.
Christina laughed at little. She had heard this request so often in the last year she no longer had to wonder what “it” was. She extended her left hand to him.
Stephen had to let out a long whistle. He didn’t have to say anything. The 4-carat flawless diamond in a solitaire platinum setting said enough. She was a lucky girl, or so she had been repeatedly told.
Stephen watched her face as she gazed at the ring on her finger. She didn’t hide sadness well. Or maybe he just recognized it because it mirrored his own. If he didn’t know any better he’d think she was having the same premarital doubts he was.
“Set a date yet?” He asked.
“Two weeks from tomorrow.”
“You got me beat by a month.”
She turned to him with a quizzical look on her face.
“Yep.” Stephen pursed his lips in a tight smile trying to wordlessly send his message of “feel my pain?”
At that moment Christina’s phone buzzed on the table. She didn’t bother to look at it. She just reached for the button and muted it.
“The groom?” Stephen asked.
“Oh no, probably not. My friends are probably wondering where I am.” She held up her phone to show the missed calls. She was at 82 now.
“Geez!” Stephen laughed. “You must be an important gal!”
Christina laughed too. “At least tonight I am.” All of a sudden Christina took the time to appreciate her current situation. She was a 26-year-old woman hiding from her problems like a spoiled child. If that didn’t say she wasn’t ready for marriage she didn’t know what did! The thought made her laugh harder.
Stephen watched Christina laugh. It was the first real reaction he’d seen from her. Sure she was probably drunk as hell but at least she seemed a little less stressed than when he first came in. Watching her laugh Stephen could see just how beautiful she was. She had dark hair that was short in the back and longer at the front, gorgeous grey eyes that were a little slanted at the edges, and her skin was the same color of milk chocolate. Even sitting the bar stool he could tell she was short. 5’2″ tops.
Stephen paused for a moment.
“Alright, Christina.” He started. “I’ve made a decision.”
She raised her eyebrows in question, “Oh?”
Stephen continued, “Neither one of us really want to be bothered by the people we know tonight. And I don’t know about you but my only goal tonight is to get stinking drunk and cause problems. Wanna be partner in crime?”
Christina laughed at his offer and thought. Partner in crime? She didn’t know why but being Stephen’s partner in crime tonight was more appealing than being Jackson’s fiancé. Maybe because she knew how predictable Jackson had become and Stephen was a perfect stranger who was, in a way, asking her to trust him.
Stephen spoke up trying not to let her think too much about it, “Whatya say partner? You in?”
Christina looked into his eyes and saw some of the trouble she knew she might be in for and smiled. She pressed the power button on her phone and turned it off.
“All right then!” Stephen turned towards the other end of the bar. “Bartender! Patron!”
🎶Josie’s on a vacation far away🎶
🎶Come around and talk it over🎶
🎶So many things that I wanna say🎶
🎶You know I like my girls a little bit older🎶
Christina almost fell off her barstool laughing.
Stephen paused from belting out the tune, “I fucking love this song, come on, you have to sing it with me!”
Christina tried to make a move away from Stephens grasp but he was too quick. He slipped his arm around her waist and hauled her up on the bars karaoke stage.
Stephens picked up where the song continued.
🎶I Just wanna use your love tonight🎶
Christina gave in and sang along.
By the end of the song, the two collapsed onto a booth cracking up. Her head was swimming from a bad blend of tequila and cosmos.
Christina sat her head up suddenly and announced, “I’m starving!”
He laughed in response.
“Ok girly! You listened to my God-awful singing the least I can do is feed you. I think Groucho’s is still open.”
Christina smiled like a kid on Christmas. “Let’s do it!”
Stephen and Christina stepped out of the bar and into the cool November night air.
“Oh my god!” Christina started, “Jackson hates karaoke, I can never get him to do it!”
Stephen smiled at her as he watched her enjoy herself. He had a feeling she didn’t do things like this often.
“Catherine’s the same way,” Stephen told her.
That was the first time he’d said her name.
Hearing it made her curious. “Where is she tonight?”
Stephen looked at her and didn’t see anything suggestive about the question. He was a little relieved and simultaneously disappointed.
“She’s in South Carolina with her mother. Wedding plans.”
“Ah, gotcha,” Christina replied.
Stephen could tell she was going to question him further, and whether it would have been about Catherine or their wedding plans he didn’t want to talk about it. He had to divert the subject.
“Ever see a meteor shower?” Stephen asked abruptly before Christina could get her next question out.
Christina put a look on her face as if she was considering the question while trying not to appear too drunk.
“I don’t believe I have.”
Stephen smiled and checked his watch.
They had spent the last three hours with a combination of dancing, singing, and various shots.
“If you’re interested in seeing one I have a Celestron CPC 1100 that would blow your mind.”
Christina got an extremely confused look on her face, “Is that a sex thing?”
He burst out laughing, “It’s a telescope.”
She considered what he was asking her. Go home with a strange man to see his “telescope”. No matter how innocent the suggestion seemed she’d still be an idiot to do it.
But wasn’t that what tonight was about? What was supposed to be her bachelorette party? She was supposed to make her last bad decisions before walking down the aisle.
She looked up into Stephen’s waiting eyes and smiled.
“Ask me again once you’ve fed me.” He smiled in response.
The two of them sat on a bench eating their 1 AM dinner.
“Holy shit this is delicious,” Christina said more to the sandwich in her hands than to Stephen.
“Best sandwich in Raleigh.” He responded.
They finished their meals in a comfortable silence. Once she was done eating, Christina decided she should learn a little more about her “partner in crime”.
“What’s your favorite color?”
Stephen smiled at the random question.
“Navy and gold, your turn.”
Stephen thought for moment.
“Favorite food? Mines steak.”
“Sushi. Any seafood really.”
Stephen wasn’t sure of the point of this game but he liked learning things about her.
“Hmm…” Christina thought aloud, “dogs or cats?”
“Dogs! Always!” Stephen exclaimed.
Christina nodded excitedly in approval.
“Agreed!” She stated as she smiled, “I have a huge Great Dane at home, he’s my big baby.”
“I would love to get a dog but she won’t let me.” He said sadly,” She swears she’s allergic but I think she just doesn’t like animals of any sort.”
Christina noticed that he didn’t really like saying her name. It was understandable she supposed and to be honest she didn’t really want to hear it.
Stephen crumpled up the trash from his meal, tossed it in the nearby can, and then checked his watch. It was just about time.
Stephen spoke up, “We can start walking to my place if you’d like. The shower will start soon.”
Christina thought to herself, “Holy crap! I knew we made plans but this is getting real. I’d love to go back to his place. But where exactly is this leading?”
Christina smiled, unable to speak her answer, and nodded. They stood up from the bench, and looked at each other, wordlessly discussing what would happen tonight. They seemed to understand and agree.
Stephen took her hand and led her back towards the sidewalk in direction of his apartment. If things went his way tonight he’d show her more than stars.
This is something I wrote years ago the night Hurricane Irene paid NC a visit. I was incredibly proud of it at the time and even though I find new flaws in it all of the time I’m still pretty attached to it, I got to combine two of my favorite things in one; music and storms.
You know what the best part of my night was? Surprisingly it had nothing to do with getting to go home after a full day of classes, doctor’s appointments, or work. It had nothing to do with soaking in a hot bubble bath and it definitely had nothing to do with getting to slip into my bed and lay my head against a goose feather pillow. It was actually the transitional moment, the moment in between when I literally stepped out of the building of my job into the intense winds of hurricane Irene.
I should have been scared, I mean it was a mile long walk to my car, in the dark, and no one was walking with me. There I was pulling out my iPod prepared to look up a little Eminem for the trip, when it began to rain. No, it didn’t begin to rain; it began to pour, like an ocean was falling from the sky. For a split second I was frustrated; I had left my umbrella in the car, but it was right at that moment I remembered a quote I had read somewhere,
“Sometimes God calms the storm; Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.”
I realized then, I wasn’t really upset. I didn’t feel as if I was in any danger. It was only wind and rain. I felt as calm as that storm felt out of control. I found a spot under some trees and dropped my purse. I knelt down and rolled my khakis up to my knees. I unbuttoned my shirt, draped it over my head, and adjusted the tank top I was wearing underneath. I took the iPod out of my purse and set it to shuffle on my indie playlist but paused it before the music started. I situated my purse on my arm, pressed play, slipped my iPod in my back pocket, and began to walk. The first song to come through my headphones was “Just Impolite” by Plushgun, a lighthearted upbeat tune with just a hint of romantic frustration. The kind of song that didn’t drown out your own thoughts, just help set a mood for them. “Are you frightened, by perfection?/Is this who you are, not who you want to be/I walk the line like Johnny Cash/I made the bus in seconds flat/I called your line too many times/I’m not obsessed, just impolite.”
I listened until it faded into silence; I was only a quarter of the way to my car and had just crossed a street to stand in front of a building. I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings until I noticed something strange. As I looked around all I saw were trees around me blowing as if they were in the eye of a twister, that itself wasn’t strange since this was hurricane. The strange part was that with all the wind blowing, I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t feel a single gust of wind against my face. All I could think of was that scene from that terrible Ben Affleck movie; he’s kissing his bride and all this stuff just starts swirling around them in the middle of this storm and nothing hits them because it’s like they are in their own little force field. I suppose my moment would have been a little better kissing someone, but it felt just as perfect with just me there. The rain began to lighten so I pressed pause and stopped on the sidewalk. I took the shirt off my head seeing as it had become useless now that it was soaked with rain. I wrung it out and held onto it as I started the next song and continued walking.
The next song that came on was “Bizness” by the tUnE-yArDs, a sort of African-techno fusion with just a touch of Bobby McFerrin. The atmosphere instantly became a little more humorous. Here I was in the middle of a hurricane, and when anyone else would have been dodging for shelter, I was walking like God was playing “Heart and Soul” on universal speakers just for me. I grinned to myself at my current situation and how OK I was with it. I was happy and I couldn’t tell why. My step picked up a little as trumpets blared into my ears and I could feel the vibrations from it in my chest. “If you just press your fingers down under my skin/Lift up, dig up, lift up, dig up and bleed for me/I say, I’ll bleed if you ask me/I’ll bleed if you ask me/That’s when, that’s when, he said no/What’s the business, yeah/Don’t take my life away/Don’t take my life away.” Once again the music faded away.
I was more than halfway there and I was so ready for the next song, ready to see how perfectly my night would continue. As if it read my mind my iPod sent me a song that sort of showed the end of my expedition, I listened as Feist plucked her guitar strings and began to sing a much slower and calmer melody than the previous two tunes. “Travelling north, traveling north to find you/Train wheels beating, the wind in my eyes/Don’t even know what I’ll find when I get to you/Call out your name love, don’t be surprised.” I turned a corner into a lot and saw my car, I noticed a glow inside and realized I had left my overhead lights on. I stopped the song in the middle to set my stuff inside. I looked in the back and saw I had dry clothes in my car from when I had changed after class. There was no one else in the lot and it was pretty much dark except for the light of the streetlamps. I took my tank top off first and slipped on a long sleeve cotton shirt, next I unbuttoned my pants. I looked up to make sure there was no one there. I was alone so I slipped off my khakis and tossed them in the back seat. I grabbed my dry sweats and slipped ‘em on. Changed my soaked sneakers out for the flip-flops beneath my seat and got in my car. First thing I did was grab my iPod and plugged it into my car, it picked up where the song left off. “It’s so many miles and so long since I’ve met you/Don’t even know what I’ll find when I get to you/But suddenly now, I know where I belong/It’s many hundred miles and it won’t be long/It won’t be long/It won’t be long/It won’t be long.” The song faded into quiet as I blended into night traffic. The presence of others didn’t quite disturb my happy little world, but sort of brought them into it. I drove home listening to more music that seemed to be DJ’d by fate. I had to laugh at the utter ridiculousness of my night, how ridiculously wonderful it had been to have my own night with a soundtrack that was just for me.
Just Impolite by Plushgun
Bizness by tUnE-yArDs
Train Song by Feist