Andre grins and looks at me in a sidelong glance.
He reaches out his hand. “Well, you should join us, Izabel. There’s plenty of room at my table.”
My eyes begin to wander nervously. “I-I don’t know,” I say feigning reluctance. “I don’t know you.”
“Of course you don’t,” he says, taking my hand anyway. “But I’m cool. I promise. Come on. You’re in NOLA. Should have a good time while you’re here. No one will mess with you.”
He pulls me gently along beside him and I follow willingly to the table where I’m greeted by both guys and only one of the girls. The other one, with jet black hair and a scowl on her face, doesn’t seem so hospitable.
“Scootch the hell over, man,” Andre says to the blond guy at his right. “Let the lady sit down.”
The guy gets up and pulls out the chair for me. Andre motions toward it with a big smile plastered on his lightly-tanned boyish face, and I sit down. He sits after me.
“Get us drinks,” Andre orders the blond guy, but he looks at me quickly and asks, “What’ll you have? Another Dos Equis?”
The blond guy walks off, disappearing within the crowd.
“Yeah, thanks for asking me,” the black-haired girl scoffs.
Andre laughs it off. “Baby-girl, you haven’t even finished the one you got. Chill the f**k out. It’ll be all right.” He reaches over and pats her on the knee and even I find it condescending.
I smirk at her privately, letting her know that this one is mine. Instantly, I see the shift in her eyes from territorial to outright rage. She glares across the table at me, while her tipsy friend continues to fondle the tattoo inked around the other guy’s wrist sitting next to her. That one couldn’t care less that I’m here. The guy she’s interested in seems only attuned to her.
“Do you live here?” Andre asks me.
I smile and twirl the ends of my hair around my finger. “No, I’m from Texas. Just here on vacation.”
The black-haired girl laughs under her breath and says, “That explains the backwoods accent.”
I hadn’t even noticed I was speaking with an accent at all, but now that she’s pointed it out I don’t know whether to be proud of myself for falling so easily into the role, or scared of myself for how easily I’m pulling it off without realizing.
I smirk at her again. “And you must be from the Projects with an obnoxious attitude like that.”
“Now, come on, ladies,” Andre says, putting his hands out on either side of him as though he were physically breaking up an impending fight.
The blond guy comes back with four beers wedged between his fingers. He sets them down in front of us.
“Well, you’re in good hands tonight,” Andre says, swigging his beer and then setting it on the table. “And I’d be happy to show you around later if you want.”
A burst of air discharges from the black-haired girl’s lips. With narrowed eyes, she looks right at Andre. “Wait a minute, I thought we were—”
“Damn, calm down,” Andre says, shaking his head. “I meant all of us, Ashley, not just me and her.” He glances at me and says, “You don’t mind, do you?”
I’m not sure exactly what he’s asking but I couldn’t care less; the sooner I get rid of this girl, the better.
“No, I’m good. I’d love to come along.”
Ashley gets up quickly, pushing her chair against the wall behind her and grabs her purse from the table.
“We need to get home,” she says to her light-haired friend. “Let’s go.”
Well, that was too easy. A part of me wants to continue our internal war. I was having too much fun.
The light-haired girl’s upper-body sways a little as she stands from the table and takes Ashley’s arm.
“I’m not ready to go back yet,” she whines, holding onto the tattooed guy’s hand. “Let’s hang out for a while.”
“No, I’m outta here,” Ashley says while dragging her friend away.
“Oh, come on, babe!” Andre says, standing from the table with his hands out, palms-up. “Don’t be like that.”
“Screw you, Turtle!” She sneers and glances at me briefly. “I’m sick of your shit. You do this every time you come back here. Lose my f**king number.”
Andre’s mouth falls open, but he hardly looks hurt, trying his damnedest to suppress a smile. He reaches up and runs his hand through the back of his curly, dark hair. I notice a tattoo on the underside of his arm, close to his armpit.
Ashley and her friend argue all the way away from the table, leaving me alone with Andre and his other male associates. Suddenly, I feel exposed, being the only girl at the table.
“I hope that wasn’t my fault,” I say timidly.
Andre rolls his eyes and sits back down, resting his back against the chair with his legs splayed beneath the table.
“Nah,” he says. “She’s just that way. I’m just glad she’s not my girlfriend.” He raises a hand and moves his index finger around his head in a circular motion. “If ya’ know what I mean.”
I laugh and take another drink from my beer. “Yeah, she does seem a little out there.” Really, I think he’s a pig. Ashley may have been a bitch, but something tells me she has every right to be. They’ve obviously known each other for a while and it’s apparent he screws her over every time he sees her, in some way, shape or form. The only thing I see she’s truly guilty of is putting up with his shit.
“So you’re here on vacation,” Andre says, leaning over with his elbows on the table now. “Who did you come with?”
I smile timidly and fold both hands around my purse on my lap.
“Seriously,” he urges me, leaning in closer. “I’m still trying to figure out why you’re out partying by yourself.”
I pretend to try hiding the blush in my face. “Well, I came with my friend, Dahlia. But she was feelin’ like shit and didn’t wanna’ go out. She stayed back at the hotel.”
“Ah.” He nods. “Where are you staying?”
“The Sheraton. Over on Canal,” I answer.
He has to think I’m naïve and giving up such personal information so freely, I’m confident it’ll help with his assessment of me.
“That’s a bit of a walk,” he says. “All the way from Canal.”
“Nah, it’s not too far,” I say. “But I admit, I cheated. I walked some of the way and then hitched a ride on one of those bike chariot thingies.”
Andre tosses his head back lightly and laughs.
“Bike chariot thingie. That’s cute.” He points at me and looks at the guy with the tattoo on his wrist. “She’s cute.”
The guy acknowledges me with a short nod and peers back down into his phone, moving his fingers along the text screen.
“That’s David,” Andre says about the tattooed guy. “He has an unhealthy relationship with technology. I think his phone gets more sex than he does.”
I stifle a small laugh.
“Shut up, Turtle,” David says calmly and without looking up.
Andre smiles at me.
He points at the blond guy who brought the beers.
“That’s Joseph,” he says. “I don’t know him well enough yet to embarrass him. But give me a day or two and I’ll think of something.”
“What kind of name is Turtle?” I laugh.
Andre’s face falls just slightly. “It’s just a nickname. Dear ol’ Dad gave it to me when I was six.”
He smiles. “Don’t worry about it. He’s still alive and kickin’. Just an a**hole.”
David, the one with the tattoo, looks up from his cell phone briefly. I get the strangest feeling from it, like he doesn’t approve of Andre calling his own father an a**hole.
Andre ignores him.
Don’t spend too much time chatting him up, I think to myself, knowing that Victor is waiting for me outside not far away. He can hear everything being said—hopefully over the music and chorus of voices—but I can’t hear him grumbling about how much time I’m wasting. I’m just pretty sure that’s what he’s doing.
“Hey, uh, do you want to get out of here for a while and go for a walk?” I ask. It’s a risk to show him that I’ve already put enough trust in him to walk outside alone with him, in such a short time. But I have to move this along and there’s no telling how long we’ll be in here, hanging out and drinking, before Andre feels confident enough that I’ll leave with him, and makes the first move.
He looks slightly surprised, but easily accepts my sudden change of personality. He stands from the table, straightening his black wife-beater tank down over the waist of his jeans.
“Hell yeah,” he says, taking up his beer in one hand and holding out the other to me. “Let’s go.”
He puts the bottle to his lips and drinks down the rest of it in one long gulp, afterwards setting the empty bottle down on the table. As Andre waves the other two guys goodbye, I suddenly feel his free hand rest against my lower back. And before we even make it out the side door and onto the patio, I realize how quickly his personality has changed, too. Like night and day, from fairly respectable gentleman to touchy-feely prick who has it in his head that he’s getting laid tonight and I’m the girl who’s going to be spreading her legs for him.
“Damn you are smokin’ hot,” he says and I inwardly cringe. “Are you sure you’re not here with a boyfriend. I don’t feel like getting my head beat in tonight.”
I look over at him on my side, walking so close to me that his hip is pressed against mine, and I turn on the seduction, letting a suggestive smile tug the corners of my lips.
“No boyfriend. I promise.”
I feel his fingers grasp my waist as he slides his hand away from my back and pulls me closer.
“Hey,” I say as I gently push his hand away, “slow down some. I’m not that kind of girl.”
He doesn’t take my refusal seriously and just pulls me closer, but I wasn’t exactly being serious, either.
“All right, all right,” he says with an air of surrender and his big smile still in-tact. “I’ll be good.”
We start to head in the opposite direction of where Victor is parked at the school and I stop on the sidewalk, looking both ways, pretending to be in some kind of contemplation about which way I would rather go.
“Come on, I’ll show you around,” Andre says, trying to pull me along with him.
“Let’s go this way,” I say, pointing in the direction of the school. “I haven’t been down that street yet.”
“We’ll make a loop around.” He secures his hand on my lower back again. I hate that he’s touching me like that. Or at all. “More stuff going on down this way.”
I swallow hard and then give in to him, worried that if I continue to push him about going in the direction that I want to go, he might become suspicious of me.