Maria and the College Boy (Pt. 2)

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“Shit,” Maria said, hissing air through her teeth. “Really? Again?” She spun the steering wheel sharply to the left, took a glance in her side mirror, and finished parking before letting out an exasperated sigh. Her 1999 Ford F-150 had lasted a long while, but this was the third time in as many months that the check engine light had turned on, and Maria was starting to lose her patience. This time, the truck had barely made it two miles down the road before letting her know something was wrong, and Maria knew she couldn’t afford another trip to the shop this month. She slammed her fist into the dashboard, hoping maybe that some aggression might help whip the old beater into shape, but the yellow light shone on. Taking the keys from the ignition, Maria took a moment to collect herself before swinging down from the seat and heading towards the bar. In the short walk across the parking lot, Maria realized that she was underdressed for the bitter Midwestern evening, yet another annoyance in a day that seemed full of them. It’s so hard to tell this time of year whether night would be as warm as the day, but she now regretted not grabbing a sweater to protect her against the crisp early autumn air. Her thin white v-neck was not cutting it, and she quickened her pace to the bar’s entrance to avoid the biting wind. Luckys, the bar in question, couldn’t have been more of a dive if it tried to be, but that didn’t seem to affect its popularity much at all. In fact, it seemed only to work in the bar’s favor, and for thirty years now the place had been a watering hole for all the locals in town. Whether you were a drunk, an employee, or a student from a nearby university, Lucky’s had a spot for you. In fact, Maria had regularly drank here during her own college days, nearly two decades ago now. The decor had hardly changed since then, but Maria didn’t really mind — it certainly helped give the little dive bar its charm. The bartender, a younger woman named Beth, nodded at Maria as she walked in rubbing her arms for warmth. “Hey there hon, good to see ya again,” she said. “Sit anywhere ya like.” Maria nodded and scanned the room. For a Wednesday night, the place was actually pretty bahis şirketleri packed. Some businessmen, ties loosened around their necks, stood playing darts in the back, pushing and shouting at one another like drunk men tend to do. A group of college students sat huddled around two tables in the corner, deep in conversation with one another. Some younger girls that Maria was shocked were of drinking age sat at the bar with two margaritas each, and a dozen or so other patrons were scattered about the room. No sign of Katie though. Maria sighed yet again. On another night, this wouldn’t have bothered her that much — Katie had never been on time to anything in the fifteen years she’d known her. But today, after so many things had not gone her way, Maria was not in the mood to sit around and wait for her friend. Besides, it was Katie’s idea to get a drink in the first place. Maria ordered a beer, tossed the bartender some crumpled bills from her purse, and made her way to a booth opposite the students. The smells of a dive bar filled her nose as she pushed further into the room — spilt beer, sweat, peanuts, desperation. She took it all in and smiled, deep in a sensory memory of years gone by, before sliding her way into the seat. “Hey,” she typed out to Katie in a text. “At Luckys. You close?” The three dots that indicated a reply was on its way appeared almost instantly. “Oh shit Maria, I’m sorry. I completely forgot.” Maria cursed under her breath. “Seriously Kate?” she typed. “I didn’t even want to come out tonight.” More typing on Katie’s end. God, she could be so annoying. Maria took another glance around the bar as she waited for her friend’s excuse, wondering if anyone else here was having as shitty of a day as her. “I really am sorry, things got crazy at work this week and I didn’t even know what day it was. I’m actually still at the office.” Maria felt a little less angry at her friend after reading that. It was nearly 7:00 PM now, and she knew that Katie got into work before 6:00 every morning. She’d probably forget things too if she was working  13 hour days. “Damn,” Maria typed. “I’m sorry. Don’t worry about it, we’ll catch up next week.”Katie’s bahis firmaları reply came immediately. “Thanks so much, babe — and again, I’m really sorry!” “It’s okay!” Maria typed, and put down her phone. And it was okay, she meant that. Still, though, Maria felt defeated. After working all day, getting dressed to go out, driving her broken-down truck, and freezing her ass off, the last thing she needed tonight was to get stood up by her best friend. Katie had a job and a husband and two kids to worry about — Maria would never blame her for putting them first— but it didn’t stop her from being pissed. She grabbed her beer, drank the remaining half in a single gulp, and moved to slide out of the booth. Hopefully, her truck could at least get her home. However, at that very moment, the bartender came over to Maria’s table with another beer in hand. “Oh no dear, sorry,” Maria said, “don’t think I can scrounge up the change for another tonight.” Beth grinned. “Well, good thing you won’t have to. Someone bought ya this one.” Maria didn’t quite know what to say. Not only had she not been bought a drink in almost a decade, but Luckys was not the kind of place where you bought a stranger’s beer. “Well?” the bartender said. “You want it?” Leaning in closer she added, “and do you wanna know who paid for it?” Maria grabbed the bottle by the neck, put it to her lips, and nodded. She was intrigued. “One of the college boys over there,” Beth said with a smirk, nodding her head to the table on the other side of the room. “Now, normally I’d tell them to fuck off and leave ya well enough alone but, well, I don’t know, he felt like ya needed it.” She paused for a moment.  “And I agreed.” “Well, you’re right,” Maria said, swallowing half the bottle’s contents in one go. “Both of you. Thanks.” She paused for a moment before asking, “So which one was it?” The bartender’s grin grew wider still. “Brown hair, glasses, crewneck sweatshirt. He’s cute, if I do say so myself. Bit…softer spoken than most of the college crowd. Comes in here a couple times a week with his friends.” Maria risked taking a glance at the table, and she was met with direct eye contact from the boy in question. He kaçak bahis siteleri was indeed cute, even from afar and even in this dingy old bar. He wore a simple gray sweater with the logo of the local college on the front and had thick, long brown hair that seemed to just touch his shoulders. He was clean-shaven or at least appeared to be from this distance, and his eyes were framed by a cute pair of glasses. The corners of his mouth turned upward when Maria met his gaze and, seemingly unnoticed by his peers, the boy raised his own glass in a toast towards Maria. She quickly averted her eyes. “Enjoy honey,” the bartender said as she walked away. “You deserve it.” Maria didn’t know what to feel, but deserving wasn’t necessarily at the top of the list. She was embarrassed, firstly, that she looked like the kind of woman who needed a drink. Years ago, with her own college friends, she remembered cutting her eyes at the folks who drank alone at Lucky’s on a weekday, and here she was, fifteen years later, doing the very same thing. And wearing what? A five-year-old shirt and a pair of unwashed jeans? Twenty-two-year-old Maria would’ve felt sorry for the old maid across the room too. That aside though, Maria was flattered. Her mood, along with her heart rate, immediately turned upward, and she felt her cheeks turning red. The stressors of her day were not gone from her mind, but they have certainly pushed a little further back by this college kid and his four-dollar gesture. And he really was cute. And if he was… no, forget it. In the back of Maria’s mind, a devilish and carnal plot began to form, but she pushed it aside as quickly as it came. Then, taking another sip of her new drink, she risked another glance at the table and … … he was still staring right at her. She guessed he hadn’t taken her eyes off her at all, and the boy’s friends still seemed oblivious. Maria saw something in his eyes now though. Something she recognized. Want. Need. She liked it, and the lecherous thoughts returned. Maria smiled, raised her own bottle, and mirrored the younger man’s toast. He grinned but broke eye contact immediately, re-joining his friends’ conversation without missing a beat. For a moment, Maria’s mind raced in a million different directions. What if you’re wrong? What if he’s making fun of you? What if he thinks you’re someone else? What if he’s a serial killer who preys on single thirty-somethings? 

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