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A Reluctant Hero

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I was staring at the empty glass in my hand, wondering how the hell I’d managed to drink an entire drink without tasting it. The sound of the techno garbage music invaded my hearing, reminding me of why I’d come to the bar. Why I felt the urge to sit smack dab in the middle of the young, heated bodies with the horrible music pulsing through the space, wishing for oblivion.

Roger. Roger Allen. My creep of an ex who I’d walked in on completely naked and screwing one of his undergrad students on MY dining room table. If that didn’t call for copious amounts of alcohol, after warning his sorry ass to disappear along with any and all reminders of him by the time I returned, then I truly didn’t know what would.

And so, here I sat, on drink number- OK, I lost count after ten. Looking at my watch I realized that, squinting to try to make sense of the numbers, was hours ago. Shit. Taking my car home would be beyond me, even with the self driving capabilities. What the fuck did my car look like anyway? Pulling out my phone, I scrolled through my contacts, ignoring Roger the dirty turd, and found Kelsey Richter’s number.

At first glance, I knew most people would assume that Kelsey and I were an unlikely duo, but the reality was that she had taken a class I got talked into teaching and there was something very lost about the younger woman. When she confided in me that she was pregnant, after our friendship had blossomed, I’d invited her to stay in my guest house. She was quiet, and surprisingly neat. After confiding in me that her relationship with her dad was strained at best, and she didn’t always see eye to eye with her mother.

She was actually visiting her mom, but I was hoping that she’d come pick my sorry, very drunk ass up and take me- Well, I’d figure out where I’d go once I knew I had a ride.

“Hey,” I could hear her yawn out the greeting, shit, what time was it again? “What’s up?”

I tried, through a few stumbling starts, to get the point across. Drunk, stranded by my own stupidity, please rescue me. She wanted to know what happened, and slurring through the story, I heard her sigh and figured that she got the jist.

“Give me a few, Ani, and you’ll have a ride.” I shrugged, knowing that she couldn’t see me somewhere inside my head, but couldn’t make all my functions combine for it to work. “Wait inside, OK?”

“K,” I offered, hanging up and thinking I had time for at least one more drink.

 

“Ani?” A deep voice called my attention away from my phone where I was trying to decide whether deleting all evidence of Roger’s existence or drawing weird shit on all his photos was the route I’d be taking. I looked up, and up, since this man was at least a foot taller than me and even seated on a high stool I felt like my neck wasn’t strong enough to stare up at him for long. “Hey, you ready to go?” His eyes flashed on the two drinks I had sitting on the table in front of me, forcing my eyes to follow his eyes and I smiled when I saw that I had more to drink, since I’d forgotten I’d order more for my wait.

“Go?” I asked, taking a long drink from the glass nearest my right hand. “I think that’s pretty presumptuous, sir, cause I’m very drunk and you’re very much strange.” I blinked, wondering if I used the right word. “Stranger.” I smiled and took another drink, draining my glass. “And if I’m going somewhere with someone that looks like you, I wanna be sober enough to enjoy the ride.”

He gave a quiet chuckle, but he was close enough that I could feel it, or maybe that was the pounding music. “I’m Kelsey’s dad, JD.” I squinted at him, Kelsey? Oh, KELSEY. Right, to take me home. Did I want to go home? Thinking was hard. “So, Ani, are you ready to go?”

I picked up the second and final drink in front of me. “I don’t waste, so give me-” I held up one finger and downed the entire glass at once. “There,” I nodded with satisfaction. “Now I’m ready to go.” I slid from my stool and my legs were like jelly, causing me to giggle as I nearly slid clear down to the floor. “Oops,” I giggled as Kelsey’s dad, DJ, stopped my downward momentum with a strong hand on my elbow. “Who moved the floor?”

“You had a LOT of fun tonight didn’t you?” He was smiling down at me, dimples peeking out from his scruff. “Let’s see if we can get you to my Jeep, OK?” I nodded, sliding my phone into my pocket after making sure I paid.

 

The cool night air felt refreshing on my face, but it did NOTHING to sober me up. I heard, rather than saw, him unlock his vehicle. It was big. Or I was small. But I felt a swoop in my stomach like when I rode a roller coaster and then I was inside the SUV. Hands were buckling my seatbelt, and then the door closed. I felt the rumble of the engine catch, realizing my eyes had gone closed on me, and when I opened them he was pulling into the road at a speed that might have alarmed me if I could wrap my head around it.

“Where to?” He asked, and I considered the question. Where should I go? Home was out, for now, and my dad’s- Dear god, I wasn’t ready for the “I told you so” conversation right now.

“Nearest hotel?” I wasn’t sure, but it seemed best. “I have to hire a cleaning crew to deep clean my entire fucking house and then I have to find time to buy a chainsaw-”

“That sounds ominous,” he offered, his voice so deep and low it was acting as a balm for my mind.

“Mmhmm,” I offered, and then everything went completely dark.