Hey guys! I’ve been dabbling back in short stories again and figured I could post one every couple of Fridays (thus Fiction Friday). Here’s a short story that I’ve spent some time this semester writing and thought I’d share it. It’s nothing too special but I like how it came out. Enjoy!
It felt good to be home, and it was even better to be in Benson’s, drinking beer and yelling at the college basketball game that was on the big screen behind the bar. This was Bridgette’s kind of a Friday night. She was happy to be home for winter break, and it was something she definitely needed. She was at a table against the wall, her hands resting around a bottle of Yuengling. Duke was beating Louisville, and she wasn’t too invested in the game but had an appreciation for Coach K. Basketball wasn’t her favorite; she had been to a fair share of her brother’s games in high school but thankfully he had been a three-sport athlete and chose to play baseball at college.
Bridgette took a sip of her beer and was startled when she felt a pair of hands grab her waist from behind. “Jeeeeez,” she said, placing the bottle on the table before turning to Mason. “Don’t make me want to kill you already.”
He chuckled and gave her that smirk she didn’t realize made her stomach flutter until that moment. She got down off the stool and gave him a hug, wrapping her arms around his neck. It had been at least three months since they had last seen each other in person, so Bridgette let the hug linger a few seconds more.
She motioned to the seat across from her, as to jokingly welcome him to sit with her. Mason rolled his eyes before complying. He was wearing his typical backwards hat, a little tuft of sandy blond hair peeking out the front. Bridgette always had a thing for guys in hats; maybe it was from her love of baseball and spending her last few summers working for the collegiate summer team her uncle owned.
The gray-blue color of his sweatshirt matched his eyes and… wow, that’s not what she should be noticing or even thinking about. She pushed the thought to the back of her head.
“Before we start, I’m going to go grab a drink,” Mason said, tilting his head towards the bar, which was more crowded than when she first came in. “You want another one?”
Bridgette almost scolded him for asking if he could buy her a beer, but she let down her guard and said yes, please. She downed the rest of the bottle, and he grabbed it before moving through the crowd to the bar.
She used to think that she had to buy her own drinks, to show that she was capable of doing so. It was more of a pride thing, and most just thought she was being too harsh. For the majority of her life, Bridgette was used to taking care of herself, so it made sense to her to buy her own drinks. But she had started to be more lenient lately, and hey, it saved her money on drinks.
Duke scored to tie the game with six seconds left and would eventually go to overtime, and some people cheered like they were in North Carolina and not Massachusetts. Bridgette’s eyes went from the TV to Mason, who snuck his way between two guys to order two beers. While he was waiting, he half leaned on the bar, looked up at the game, and then looked back at Bridgette. She had spaced out for a few seconds, but then their eyes met. That fluttering was back in her stomach, and he gave her that smirk.
No, nope, not happening. Maybe it was just because she hadn’t seen him in a while. Or that she hadn’t been out with a guy in months, even as friends at the bar. It wasn’t like she was desperate for a boyfriend, and a hook-up wasn’t even close to being a thought. She missed having that companionship, someone to do things with and go places, and drink one-too-many beers while watching a college basketball game on a Friday night.
Mason made his way back to their little table against the wall near the signed picture of Pedro Martinez holding both bottles in one hand.
“Did you do something with your hair?” he asked, placing her Yuengling in front of her before sitting down and taking a sip of his Bud.
Bridgette tried not to roll her eyes. “I cut it when I came home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t know I had to keep you abreast of my hair appointments.” After the summer, she decided she needed a drastic change, and why not chop off most of her hair? Since then she had been keeping it short, a little above her shoulders and softly curled it, well, the best she could without burning herself, which happened more than it should have.
Mason chuckled. “Oh, I’d love to join you at the hair salon with all of the old women under the dryers,” he said. “But it looks nice. I like you with short hair.”
It was a harmless comment, and Bridgette tried to brush it off. Short hair was definitely easier to manage than when she had hair down to around her shoulder blades. It made her look older, and that was a good thing since she could easily pass for sixteen.
Bridgette smiled in response, and the two held that smile for a moment. She wanted to change the subject off of herself, and luckily Duke had just won in overtime. She watched the team run onto the court and Coach K shake hands with Coach Pitino.
“I didn’t know you liked college basketball,” Mason said, turning her attention from the game back to him.
Bridgette shrugged and took a sip of her beer. “I dabble,” she replied. “Well, I watch enough Sportscenter to know who Coach K is, and I watch March Madness mostly to make fun of the mascots. My favorite is the drunk gator from Florida.”
“Fair enough, but only you would find entertainment in mascots.” Mason had one hand wrapped around his bottle and the other was playing with the coaster that should have been underneath his drink. Bridgette had missed hanging out with him, and it was harder to see him since she was away at school and he was playing a very small role in the “real world” in the accounting department at MassMutual.
Of course they’d talk about once a week, and she’d send him drunk Snapchats on the weekends. It was ironic because that’s how they met: drunk at a party on a Saturday night. Bridgette had a thing with a guy on the football team her sophomore year, and he’d get her into football parties at the seniors’ houses. They weren’t quite a couple but acted like one at times; he’d make dinner for her at his place since he lived off campus as a junior, and she’d pick up little things for him if she was out that made her think of him. It had been about a month, and Bridgette didn’t want to hook-up with him without knowing if he was actually someone she could see herself dating. But she knew it was inevitable.
The night that Bridgette met Mason was at the captain’s house, and she certainly got the answer to her question of what her and the star running back actually were: when she saw him kissing some girl in the basement. Part of her was relieved because although they got along well, she wasn’t sure if he was long-term relationship material. After the incident, the two of them didn’t mention it and just went their separate ways. He never ended up dating that other girl, anyways, or anyone for that sake.
Mason will claim he came to Bridgette’s rescue that night, but what really happened was that they bumped into each other on the basement stairs and he spilt his drink on her. He apologized and offered to buy her a new shirt, but she told him it was old and wasn’t something she was going to miss. For the rest of the night, the two spent time on the living room couch talking and drinking. Bridgette thought he was cute, and they had a lot in common – plus the same sense of humor. So at the end of the night she should have saw it coming: an awkward, sort of sloppy kiss on that couch. Bridgette went back with him to his apartment on campus, but nothing happened; it was just nice to sleep next to a warm body. The weird thing, though, was that they never ended up dating.
“So, how was the end of your semester?” Mason asked, drawing Bridgette back to him in front of her, not that night she thinks about a little too often.
She rolled her eyes. “Miserable. Horrible. Disastrous,” she replied, but she was being overdramatic. “I never thought I could write two 15-page papers at roughly the same time and get A’s on both of them.”
“You’re a great writer, you have to give yourself some credit,” he said. “You’re a Communications major for a reason. Now if I tried to write two 15-page papers, then that’d be miserable, horrible, and disastrous. What were they on?”
“The first was on self-disclosure on the Internet and the second was on Native American sport mascots,” she listed off, so glad those papers were over and done with. She used to carry around her thick stacks of research, highlighted and annotated, just waiting for the day she finally handed in the paper and could throw away everything.
“Well I’d love to read them sometime,” Mason said, and Bridgette couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. She must have given him a weird look, because then he said, “I’m serious. I like to read your writing. I used to all the time last year.”
It wasn’t like she needed him to proof-read them or anything; he genuinely enjoyed reading her work, and the feedback was always helpful. Mason was always doing little things like that for her.
“In that case, then you certainly learned a lot about Intercultural Communication, Small Group Communication, Communication Theories, Organizational Communication, my short stories for Fiction Workshop, and that one paper I had to write for Modern Israel,” Bridgette said.
Mason finally put his coaster under his drink. “Yes, all of those were so riveting, but I really liked reading your articles for Sportswriting.”
That was one of her favorite classes during her junior year. The professor was really easy (she’d had him freshman year for English Composition), but she had a knack for writing about sports, whether it was news about professional teams or personally interviewing some of the football team for a piece on their near-perfect season.
“I’ll be sure to remember you when I’m at ESPN,” Bridgette remarked, flipping her hair over her shoulder. Mason laughed, and she noticed how his eyes seemed to light up a little.
By that time, the two of them had finished their drinks. Bridgette had a light dinner, so she suggested ordering some nachos from the bar to go along with their next round. Of course she offered to pay for half, but Mason said no, that it was his treat.
Bridgette did feel bad that he was paying for everything, but she knew if she tried to argue him on it he wasn’t going to budge. Whenever they’d go places at school, the two would alternate paying. Did that rule go out the window when he graduated? She liked to think she wasn’t in need of being helped or saved or anything like that.
About ten minutes later the nachos arrived, and Bridgette dove right in. “Oh, wow, don’t wait for me or anything,” Mason remarked.
She laughed, trying not to drop any of the cheesy gooeyness on herself. “Sorry, I love nachos, and I’m starving,” she said.
“Only you would already be on her third beer and practically scarfing down nachos. You’re every guy’s dream girl,” Mason said, picking a chip out of the heap and dragged it through some sour cream. Wait, did he just say that?
“Well, I also enjoy a really good salad, so I’m not one hundred percent a dude,” Bridgette replied. “I’ll literally eat anything; you know that.”
Mason chuckled. “Relax over there, Chris Traeger.” She enjoyed his Parks & Recreation reference about how she said the word “literally”. It was one of the many series they binge-watched on Netflix, sometimes almost curled up on the couch together.
“I miss those nights,” Bridgette mumbled more to herself than Mason, but he heard her in the crowded bar. She looked up at him, taking a sip of her beer, and he was looking right back at her.
“I do, too,” he replied. From the pause that happened in their conversation, it seemed like both of them were thinking about those nights where they’d stay up too late watching a complete season over a bag of popcorn (or two). Sometimes Bridgette thought that her and Mason had crossed the invisible line of friends vs. couple, but she didn’t want to bring it up to him.
Bridgette and Mason each took a few sips of their beers and picked at the nachos. She really missed hanging out with him, and after not seeing him in person for months, it felt like they were back to how they used to act. With the distance, they mostly communicated over text, but it wasn’t the same as sitting across from him three beers in, wondering how she truly felt about him.
How had they never ended up dating? The two of them didn’t talk about that night they kissed, but Bridgette thought about it when she found herself missing him. Missing him like a friend, missing him like she wanted something more. He made her happy, no matter what, and he was the first person she wanted to tell good news to. Did Mason feel the same way about her?
In an attempt to change the subject, Bridgette asked Mason about work and his “big boy job,” which caused him to laugh. She was proud that he found a full time job even before he graduated and that it was something he really enjoyed. Although she didn’t understand all of the accounting mumbo-jumbo, Bridgette admired his hard work, and she wished him nothing but success.
“I don’t know if I’ll regret asking this,” Mason began, “but do you want another beer?” She had finished her third and was feeling it, but with the nachos in her system, she felt pretty good. But Bridgette knew why he was asking her. He had seen her at her worst after drinking too much, and he always made her breakfast the morning after and supplied bottles of Gatorade.
Bridgette sighed. “Part of me wants to say yes, but part of me wants to say no.”
“You know I enjoy drunk-Bridgette more than anyone,” Mason joked, “but I don’t need you to throw up anytime soon.” She rolled her eyes and told him she felt fine. “Okay, the last time you said that, you barely made it into the bathroom of my house before I had to hold your hair back for at least the tenth time.”
“You make it seem like I made you hold back my hair,” Bridgette said. “And it wasn’t for the tenth time. It was like the fourth.”
Mason paused. “Well, I just wanted to take care of you.” He gave her a sympathetic smile that brought back the flutters in her stomach. Everything in that moment felt right.
By that time, it was after 11:00, and after just getting home that day from finals, Bridgette was really feeling her bed. Mason must have noticed her looking at the time on her phone because he asked if she wanted to head home.
“As much as I’ve enjoyed tonight, I think I want to enjoy my bed,” she said. “I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed for a month.” Mason got off his stool and walked over to her side to help her down. “Hey, I can get down by my—”
She slightly stumbled off the chair because her foot got hooked under the bar between the chair legs and fell into Mason. “Oh, okay there Ms. Drunky,” he joked. He held her up and grabbed her bag that was hooked on the side of the chair.
Mason’s hands were still around her waist, and the two of them had to move out of the way as a group of people walked by them. Standing there, Bridgette was a good six inches shorter than Mason, so she had to look up to look at him. And he was looking down at her with that smile. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it felt like much more.
His hand moved to Bridgette’s lower back to help guide her through the crowd to the door. They were hit with a blast of cold air; for the majority of the fall, the weather stayed around 50 degrees, but for the last few days, the weather was getting back to its New England self. Mason still had his arm around her as they stood outside the bar, and he pulled her closer when she shivered.
Bridgette looked up at him again, and although she didn’t feel too drunk, she definitely wasn’t sober enough to realize what was happening until Mason was kissing her. So she did what drunk-Bridgette did best: laughed. It was typical after her third drink that she’d get incredibly giggly, and apparently being kissed didn’t stop her.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, trying to stop laughing. Mason gave her a “You-have-to-be-kidding-me” look, which made it worse.
“You’re adorable,” Mason said. He rubbed his hands up and down her sides. “At least you didn’t laugh that first time I kissed you.”
“Yeah, that’s surprising since I was a lot drunker then.” Bridgette just wanted to kiss him again, so she did.
It had been about three years since that first kiss, but it didn’t feel like any time had passed. All of those flutters were back in her stomach, and she couldn’t help but smile. Was this what she had always wanted? In that moment, in his arms, his lips on hers, this was everything she wanted.
Mason swayed back and forth with Bridgette after the kiss. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he just settled for a smile and kissed her on the forehead.