“It’s great to finally meet you,” Cody said, smiling.
“We’ve heard such good things about you from Daniela. You’re much hotter than I expected,” Justin said, as he put his arm around my shoulder and rubbed gently.
“Thanks . . .” I said, unsure how to react to his sudden contact. I’d barely gotten to know him and he was already acting like we were dating. It made me uncomfortable. “You look good yourself.”
Justin had mid-length, brown hair in a layered purposely messy look that was popular with teenagers these days. He had a boyish grin and large dark brown eyes that matched the polo he was wearing. The collar was also popped but his arms were scrawny unlike Cody’s. Daniela had said that he looked like a musician. Now I knew what she had meant. Looking at Justin made one word come to mind: Bieber.
“Yeah, I remember seeing you on TV during that whole trial thing going on. Man, that’s crazy. I can’t imagine having my mom being killed by my stepdad. That must really suck.”
I looked at Daniela and she looked back at me with wide, concerned eyes. I coughed. “Um . . . yeah. It does suck,” I said, suddenly making a one-eighty on my decision that I was glad to come out on this double-date. I took his hand off my shoulder and set it in his lap.
“What’s the matter?” Justin asked.
“It’s a bit warm in here. Your hand is making my shoulder sweat,” I said sarcastically.
Justin grinned. He apparently didn’t take the cue. “There’s a lot of heat between us I know. But it’s only going to get hotter, I assure you.”
“Well.” Daniela clapped her hands together. “Let’s order some drinks shall we?
I was considering calling Ryan and having him take me back to the dorms, but I didn’t want to leave after just arriving. I hoped to god that Justin only made bad first impressions and that the rest of the night would be better.
We ordered drinks. Daniela got a margarita, Cody got a mug of Miller Lite, Justin got a Coors Light, and I had a mojito.
“This is a cool place,” Cody said taking a sip of amber liquid from his mug. “I’ve been here once before but it was never this packed. I think they opened like a year or so ago.”
“Yeah,” Daniela said. “I heard this place is pretty hype. A lot more exciting than the bars around campus.”
“No doubt. This place is ill,” said Justin. “Check out this moose head.” He pointed to the large pink tongue hanging out. “Doesn’t he look like he’s thirsty?” Justin poured a little bit of his beer on the tongue and it sat there while he and Cody laughed. Daniela and I laughed as well but we weren’t laughing with them. We were laughing at them.
“So are you guys seniors?” I asked, hoping to divert their attention so that they wouldn’t get our asses kicked out of the bar for messing up the decor. I’m all for having fun, but Cody and Justin were just being dumb.
“I’m a senior econ major,” Cody said. “Justin’s a junior. Anthropology major.” He snickered at Justin.
Justin snickered back and brushed his bangs away from his eyes before turning toward me. “I study people. That makes me specially attuned to people’s needs and desires. You might say I’m a sensitive guy.” He grinned mischievously. “You want to hear my insights on you?”
I really didn’t want to hear anything more from Justin’s mouth after what he’d already said about me but decided against being rude. It would make things more awkward than they already were and it would ruin Daniela’s date with Cody as well. Considering Daniela invited me out, it would be a pretty bitchy move for me to do that to her. “Uh . . . okay,” I said then took a big gulp of my drink to prepare myself for his response.
“You’re a smart girl, but lack direction in life.” He took my hand in his. “You’re kind of down a lot, especially after what you’ve been through. You need a strong man to care for you, to take care of you.” He wiggled his brows then pointed his thumb to his chest.
Wow, just when I thought he couldn’t get any worse. This guy was a real catch all right . . . a real catch right out of Lake Peepee. I wasn’t sure if that was the most insulted I ever felt in my life, but it was definitely up there. I clutched my drink in my hand and lifted it off the table. A vision of throwing the contents into Justin’s grinning face flashed through my mind. Just as I was about to make that vision a reality, someone nearby slapped a nearby lounge seat in exclamation.
I turned to see a group of guys and girls standing near us talking excitedly.
“No way. It’s starting? Now?” one guy said.
“Yeah, let’s go. I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to miss seeing him,” a girl replied.
They filed out the back door. Soon, another group hurried after them, followed by another group. People were streaming out the back door like squirrels rushing after a pile of acorns. Some stayed, but nearly half the bar cleared out.
“What do you think they’re all excited about?” Cody asked.
Sensing this was the perfect getaway excuse, I said, “I’m going to go check it out. I’ll join back up with you guys in a bit.”
I glanced at Daniela and she flashed me an apologetic expression for Justin’s behavior. “Okay, I’ll keep these guys entertained while we finish our drinks,” Daniela said. “Let us know what you see.”
I snatched up my jacket then grabbed my clutch that had been strategically placed between Justin and me to act as a barrier. I stood and hurried out the back door, eager to escape from my “date”.
I didn’t know what I expected to see, but this certainly wasn’t it. There was a large tent set up outside that looked like it came straight from a carnival. People were huddled around an elevated octagon stage surrounded by metal fencing. The whole area was lit by bright spotlights. What was all of this?
Attracted by curiosity as well as the energy of the crowd, I found myself wiggling through a sea of bodies to get a closer look at the stage. Inside the octagon was a mat that had a large logo of a squirrel wearing fighter gloves that said “The Bearded Brawl”. After noticing faint blood stains on the mat, it became clear to me that this was some kind of fighting arena.
A suave man in a white suit entered the cage with a microphone. “Ladies and gentleman,” he announced with dramatic flare. “We just had an exciting opening match but we’ve got something even more exciting in store for you. The match you’ve all been waiting for. Our main event.”