Troy shifted on the vinyl bar stool to get a better view of the entrance. The Friday afternoon crowds started to come in. The walls were covered with pink hearts and arrows for Valentine’s Day.
She’s not here.
He reached behind to his cider, keeping his eyes on the entrance. He took a quick sip, then another and then another.
Where is she?
Today was the day. It was the ideal time. Valentine’s Day was fast approaching, and for the first time in forever, Vanessa wasn’t with anyone. Now was the time to make his move out of the friend zone.
Everything needs to be perfect.
Troy adjusted the new shirt he had bought earlier today. Green, her favourite colour. He hadn’t had time to try it on, so he had to suck in his gut.
Hopefully, she won’t realise.
Troy attempted to grab the bottle behind him but missed. It almost fell to the floor before he could catch it. At least the bottle was empty.
Get it together.
The bar had filled up quickly as happy hour started. It was standing room only. Business people and hipsters alike lined five deep in this trendy Southport bar. Troy had tried to save the seat next to him but was unable to stop the tall man in the plaid shirt who pushed in before he could order his second drink. He hated when people pushed out of turn.
“Excuse me,” he called out to the barperson. No one looked his way. He tried again. His voice was lost in the cacophony of animated conversations and laughter.
He hated being ignored. He hated that good guys always finished last.
“Excuse me, Miss, but I think this gentleman’s been waiting for a while.”
Troy looked over. The tall man had disappeared back into the crowd and had been replaced by a cute young woman. He knew her from somewhere, but couldn’t remember where.
What’s her name?
The bartender came to Troy, apologised and asked for his order. Before he could object, the woman ordered two ciders.
“I’m sorry did you want something else?” she said looking at his quizzical face.
“Uh…” he paused. “No, that’s good.”
“It’s Troy, isn’t it?” She offered her hand. “One of the techies from work?”
Troy was startled that she knew his name. No one outside of the IT department took the time to chat with him unless there was something wrong with his computer.
“Yeah,” he answered. He could feel the sweat on his forehead.
The bartender returned with the drinks. Troy went to take out his card to pay for it, as any gentlemen would but she had already pay waived it.
Why would she do that? I don’t even know her name.
“God, it’s great to get out of there. They’ve just been piling on us, since the merger, haven’t they?” she asked.
“I..I wouldn’t know, sorry,” he mumbled.
He looked at her with a polite smile as she continued to talk. He didn’t register anything she said. On occasions, he answered simple questions as not to appear rude. He kept trying to figure out who she was.
“You play Battlegrounds?” Troy was startled by the question. She raised from her seat, her countenance full of anticipation.
“What sorry,” he began. He was off-put by the question. “Um, yes I do actually. You?”
“Oh, yes you can’t get me off once I’m on,” she chuckled.
“That’s what she said.”
He clamped his mouth, not believing what he said. Horror filled his body.
What the fuck, Troy?!
The last thing he wanted was to offend someone and have them announce to the whole bar like he was some sort of pervert.
“Well, to be honest, it doesn’t take much to get me off,” she whispered.
Troy’s eyes widened.
“Oh god. That’s a little TMI,” she giggled. She took a sip of cider, her head looking down, her cheeks red.
“So, how long have you been playing PUBG?” He said, changing the direction of the awkward conversation.”
“Ever since it was in alpha. I have wasted entire weekends on the game. You?”
This sparked an in-depth conversation involving strategies, ideal starting areas, best weapons, mode preferences and other details about the game. Troy stopped searching as well as holding in his stomach, the buttons straining. He ordered two more drinks, this time paying for them while continuing the animated conversation.
“Well you should bring your computer over to my place sometime soon, so we can 2v2. Order some pizza, make a weekend of it,” she suggested. “You could come over tomorrow maybe? You can friend me and I’ll DM you my address?”
Did she just ask me over to her place?
He coughed. Besides from Veronica, no woman had asked her back to their place. It was doubtful this woman needed a shoulder to cry on. She gave a sly smile.
OMG! She is.
Troy tried not to look directly at her cleavage which was difficult because it was well on display. She was keen, and he knew it. It was a little intimidating.
“So…” the woman began.
Veronica patted him on the back “You right Troyboy?”
He almost spat out his drink.
“You’re late,” the woman she shouted with a grin.
They know each other.
“I’m sorry Sandy, Jamie called, and you know,” she grimaced.
Sandy! Of course. From accounting.
“Yeah, he was such a dick,” Sandy replied.
As he recovered from his coughing fit, Troy observed both women as they conversed. They were opposites of each other in most ways. Veronica was short and athletic; Sandy was tall and chubby. Veronica had long flowing blonde hair; Sandy’s was short and mousey. Veronica had the airs of a professional businesswoman, while Sandy in comparison looked like a frazzled student who just finished her exams.
“Well, I see I don’t need to make any introductions then,” Veronica chimed.
Sandy smiled at Troy. “Well when I thought you were a no-show, I went up to the cutest guy at the bar. He’s better looking than the pic you sent me.”
He saw Veronica nudge her playfully. “Be careful of her Troyboy; she moves in quickly.”
“Well, we’ve already set up a battlegrounds session. Gonna order some pizza and snipe up a few kills. It will be fun, won’t it.” Sandy said as she nudged him.
“Whatever, as long as you’re not late for the game on Sunday. I’m not playing wing attack again.” Veronica went to order her drink.
Troy sat there still recovering from shock. He sucked his stomach back in and fixed the button that had popped out. Veronica was here, and he needed to recover from this distraction and get back to the task at hand.
The First Mistake
“So, could I get your Facebook or Twitter name?” Sandy asked.
“So how was work?” he asked Veronica.
“Work was fine. A little bit busy for Valentine’s next week, but manageable.”
Troy nodded. “Cool, cool.”
He noticed both were looking at him.
“How about I find us a table to sit around, to have a proper chat. You two stay here. You could talk about that dog game of yours.”
She walked off into the crowd.
“She’s a very nice person, isn’t she?” Sandy asked. She avoided looking at him.
“Yes, she is.” He said without hesitation.
“All the guys swoon to her. I sometimes wonder why she likes to hang with a girl like me,” she mumbled.
“Oh, don’t be like that.” Troy was not one for picking up signals but noticed Sandy’s sullen demeanour. He wanted to keep the atmosphere positive. “You’re pretty cute. I’m sure there are many guys here that would want to be with a girl like you.”
“A girl like me?” she inquired.
His eyes widen like a deer to the headlights. All thoughts disappeared. “That’s not what I meant,” he stumbled. “I meant that I’m sure many guys would like to go out with you?”
“But not you, huh?”
Troy could feel the pressure of the room as some of the crowd began to watch the drama unfold.
“I…I… just don’t know you that well,” he responded.
“Well, how about you get to know me before you make judgements like that.”
The Second Mistake
“But…y…y… just.” Troy began to stammer. He held onto the wooden stool behind him for balance as his knees became jelly. “You’re just not my type.”
“And Veronica is?”
“Why? Because she’s prettier?”
“I mean….” He couldn’t get the words out.
That’s not what I meant!
Sandy looked at him. Troy didn’t know if the tears in eyes were because she was angry or upset.
“You know she doesn’t like you like that.”
His doe eyes turned to fire.
Who the hell does she think ….
“Hey, what did you say to her?” Veronica yelled.
He looked around him and saw that Sandy had blended back into the crowd.
“Well,” he gulped. “She asked me over to her place, and I said I couldn’t.”
“And why not?” she interrogated.
“I said I had plans for the weekend,” he replied. “You and I were going to hang out.”
There was strong disbelief in her eyes. He knew that she knew he was lying.
“You gave up a sure thing with a great woman to hang out with me? I don’t believe you.”
She glared at him.
“I prefer hanging out with you, cause I like you,” he managed to stammer.
“I like hanging out with you to Troy, but I was trying to set you up with her.”
And the world came tumbling down with a thundering crash as one of the bartenders accidentally dropped a tray of glasses.
“I thought it might be nice for once that you had someone to be with on Valentine’s Day instead of being in your room on your computer, like always.”
His stomach ached, his throat became dry, his breathing shallow. It was now or never to make a move. Maybe if he confessed to her, she’d forgive him.
“I was hoping you, and I could spend Valentines together since you didn’t have anyone to be with this year.”
“That’s very sweet of you, but I, not a little girl that needs to be comforted any more. I can handle myself.”
Just say it.
“I want to be your Valentine, Veronica. I think you and I are meant to be.”
Troy observed her face, to see her reaction. Time stood still. This was make or break time. He put his heart on the line, though not the way he had planned. It seemed to be the only opportunity he had left. After a moment Veronica brushed her hair back, her countenance awkward.
“Look, you’re a great friend.”
His heart sank. All his efforts for the past month shredded.
“You’ve been there for me at my lowest and helped me when I’ve needed it.”
This is so unfair. I’ve done everything for her.
Anxiety was now being replaced with frustration and anger.
“But I simply don’t feel that way about you, I’m sorry.”
She appeared to look sympathetic, but Troy had his doubts.
“Why?” he demanded.
Veronica gave him a shocked look.
“I think you’ve had a little too much to drink, Troy.”
“You said that I’ve always been there for you. I helped you move. I’ve supported you in everything you’ve done. I’ve helped you with every asshole you’ve dated who has hurt you.”
There was no stopping now. Pandora’s box was now open. He listed all the things he had done for her. Veronica stood there in disbelief
“So, you’re telling me that everything you’ve done for me was so you could be with me?”
“Yes, I wanted to show you that I’m a great guy and would never hurt you. You know I will never hurt you.”
“When did I ever give you the impression that I wanted to be with you, Troy?”
“Don’t give me that. I thought you were my friend. I trusted you, but all you wanted was to get with me.”
“But I’ve done everything for you,” he wailed.
“So, when did I ask you to do that? I thought you helped me because you were my friend.”
“But nothing. You have no right to me. I don’t know what I did to make you think there was something between us, but I assure you there’s nothing romantic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find my friend and apologise for trying to set her up with an asshole.”
With that, she put her purse back into her bag and left.
Troy felt the eyes of the entire bar on him, the conversation heard by everyone. He was going to be sick. The bartender, seeing this escorted him outside to a nearby bush.
“You fucked up there, mate. I think you need to go home and have a real hard think about it.”
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