The first friend I met was Dan. He was definitely the most attractive, but I got the odd feeling that he was much more of a stud in college. He seemed to be about fifteen to twenty pounds overweight, which I'm sure he wasn't during his glory days on the lacrosse team.
Dan, along with Pete's other friends, Pat, Joe, and Bobby, were all very welcoming to me as Pete introduced me. "You don't seriously let this guy boss you around, do you?" Joe asked.
Bobby laughed next to him before joining in. "I'll show you some pictures from college that you can use as blackmail."
I smiled and nodded, praying my expression didn't look as fake as it felt. "He's a good boss," I replied, like the loyal employee I am. Was that all I was now, though? It was starting to feel like we were more like, dare I say, friends.
Pete, who had been quietly allowing his friends to talk shit about him, finally stepped in. "You won't get her to turn on me, guys. Nice try." Then, he leaned down and whispered, "I'm sorry about them. I hope you have a good time tonight."
Maybe my unconscious mind took Pete's advice a little too far, because for some reason, I let his friends convince me at one point to take a shot. And then another. And a couple more just to be safe. Maybe it's because I was so boring in the comfort of a relationship, but I just wasn't able to drink like I used to.
I remember going to the bathroom and realizing exactly how drunk I was as the stall spun around me. The night was growing fuzzy. It was best to stop drinking. I reminded myself that I was here with my boss.
I went to a different side of the bar and leaned over when a female bartender asked me what I wanted.
"Can I just get water?" I asked. "And if I ask you for vodka later, I just want water.”
She winked at me and displayed an 'okay' hand gesture. I'm sure she got that request a lot.
As I waited for my drink, I felt a hand around my waist and I immediately pulled back.
"Woah, woah!" Dan responded as he pulled his hands back, all innocent.
"Hey," I said as I rolled my eyes.
"You shouldn't be walking around by yourself. Some slimy guy is going to try and kidnap you. I mean, I can try and protect you, but I'm no Liam Hemsworth."
I scrunched up my face, confused for a moment, before I started laughing. "You mean Liam Neeson?"
Dan shrugged. "The Taken guy," he replied. "Anyway, you want to dance?"
I looked around. I didn't see Pete anywhere, so I said sure. I was drunk enough and the DJ was playing good music.
We found a spot among the crowd and started innocently dancing. There were so many people around that I kept getting pushed closer to him. He definitely didn't mind as he took advantage of every bump to try and place his hands on a different part of me. While I would never admit this, it felt good to feel desired. Plus, Dan was kind of cute; you know, in a douchey way.
"We should totally hang out after this," Dan screamed in my ear, but I could still barely hear him over the music.
"Maybe," I said with a smile.
He cocked his head back and pretended to laugh. Then, he pulled me closer before continuing to dance.
I pushed off him, trying to play it off as playful. Why did I feel compelled to play off his disgusting behavior, anyway? Ugh, feminism fail.
I was about to continue dancing, so I could literally shake the whole thing off, when I felt the crowd get even smaller. This time, however, the presence felt familiar.
“What’s going on here?” Pete’s yelled toward us. Again, the yelling was only necessary because of how loud the music was.
“Nothing, dude,” Dan replied. His voice was relaxed, but his body language said something else. He seemed very threatened by Pete’s sudden appearance. “You want another beer?” He asked, holding up his own empty one.
Pete shook his head before Dan wiggled his way through the crowd. I was still bopping up and down. Besides the minor physical invasion, I really was having a good time. “Thanks again for inviting me out,” I screamed up at Pete. He did not seem to be enjoying the music.
Pete nodded and smiled, but he seemed somewhat deflated. “Can we go outside for a second?”
I shrugged before nodding. It would be nice to get out of the crowded, smothering bar.
When I stepped outside, it was nice to suddenly be able to hear and breathe again. I took a deep breathe in, but my exhale wasn’t even complete before Pete began talking.
“Look,” he started. “Dan’s not a nice guy. He’s my friend and everything, but I need to know you’re not going to disappear with him anywhere.”
I obviously had an idea of what Pete was talking about, but I acted shocked. “I was with him for like, five minutes. Nothing was happening.”
“I know,” Pete replied, visibly agitated. “I’m just trying to look out for you.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Caroline,” Pete sternly responded. “I’m trying to be a friend here.
Friend. That actually made me genuinely smile. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I know you are. Thanks.”
I exaggerated a heavy sigh before filling the silence with words. “I actually think I’m going to head out. Thank you again for inviting me.”
“Of course,” Pete responded before pulling me in for a hug. It was one of those hugs that lingered on for just a moment longer than a ‘friend’ hug should last. As much as I hate to admit it, it sent chills down my spine. Definitely good chills.