Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just then, the handsome one looked right my way, as if he noticed my gaze.

(Excerpt from Claimed)

20th August 1999

We pulled up outside of a bar, in some kind of ‘one man and his dog’ town, a couple of miles off the main highway. As soon as the motor switched off, Brian, Abi and Steve were jumping out of the rented Jeep. I looked about this tiny town, in the middle of the Alaska Range, and therefore in the middle of nowhere; and I wasn’t as eager.

“C’mon, Jess.” Steve threw me a tired look. “It’s just a rest stop, it’s still a four hour drive to Anchorage.”

“You said we’d be staying in a hotel tonight, in Anchorage.” I whined, as I reluctantly climbed out.

“Gees Steve, you weren’t kidding when you said Jess was a city-dweller.” Brian laughed, as he took Abi’s hand, to lead her into the Bar.

Steve was embarrassed about having me as a girlfriend, I could tell. He didn’t take hold of my hand, nor did he hold the door open for me. Inwardly, I fumed as I went inside. I toyed with the idea of an immediate break-up, once I was safely back in Seattle.

He was the outdoorsy type, who typically played more than one sport; but I never pretended to be. I met him at a party and when we were introduced, I told him straight up how I’m a manager at a PR company, and I have a pretty impressive resume of events. I own my own apartment and a cat and a fridge, stocked full of frozen TV dinners.

So what if I can’t cook over an open fire? So what if I don’t know how to pitch a tent? So call me civilized, for having difficulty using the behind of a tree, as a bathroom!

We walked into the bar, to find a typical scene for an establishment in the middle of nowhere. Wooden floors which looked like they had never seen a can of polish; and a couple of chairs and tables as well as booths on one side of the room, with a long counter on the other. In the middle, sat burly types who could have been truckers or lumberjacks, for all I knew.

However, there was a pool table at the far end of the bar, which was being used by four Native Alaskan guys. They caught my eye, as I tried not to obviously stare at their long, black hair, broad shoulders, or their bodies which nicely filled out their jeans and flannel shirts. All four of them, had a pool stick in their hands, which implied that they were all playing. Three of them had long hair whereas the fourth, had cut his dark hair short.

One of them was taller than the others, as well as stronger looking. His hair was also the longest, all the way down to his lower back. Maybe I had never grown out of my rock band phase, but I thought he was the handsomest, although he did look older than me. I was 29 years old and this guy looked like he was 39 years old. I bet he was probably married at his age, oh well.

Just then, the handsome one looked right my way, as if he noticed my gaze. I tried to keep from blushing, as I joined my group in a booth along the wall. When we sat down, Steve immediately picked up a menu so he wouldn’t have to look at me.

“Hey, you wanna chip-in for a jug of beer?” Brian asked Steve.

“Sure,” he said congenially, to my horror.

“A JUG?!” I exclaimed. “You can’t just have one glass of beer each? Why does it have to be a jug? We’re driving!”

The men looked on in annoyance, and even Brian’s girlfriend Abi, looked unimpressed. So I tried to put my complaints in another light.

“I’m sorry, but the last time you two shared a jug of beer; it turned into two jugs and then three and even four. We ended up staying in a seedy, local motel for the night. Now you guys said we’d be sleeping in a nice hotel in Anchorage this evening. Our flights back to Seattle are 10 AM tomorrow morning! If I miss that flight, my work will kill me. I have an important meeting with some clients the day after next!”

“I don’t think this town has a motel.” Brian mused, whilst looking around the mediocre bar.

“We’ll just put up the tent,” Steve shrugged.

“Good idea. Why pay, when we have our own accommodations?” He laughed back then the two gave each other a ‘high five’.

“You’re kidding, right?” I laughed nervously.

They must be… you know, this is just a stunt to scare the ‘city gal’.

Just then a middle-aged woman who must have been the waitress, came over with a notepad and pen, to take our orders.

“Yeah, can we have a jug of Bud?” Steve ordered, before he looked at Abi.

“Yeah, I’ll go for the jug idea.” She shrugged.

“Any meals with those drinks?” Our waitress asked.

Just as I opened my mouth to order a cola and burger, Steve jumped in.

“Not yet, we’ll have the beer first and then see what we feel like later.”

The waitress shrugged and walked away to procure our order.

“Don’t I get to order, just like I don’t get a say on the trip?” I muttered quietly, but I knew Steve overheard.

He proceeded to ignore me, as he perused the menu again.

My legs jiggled nervously, as I tried to come up with a contingency plan.

The three of them, the two guys as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb, with Abi as the ‘Little Miss I’ll-go-along-with-whatever-my-boyfriend-decides’; all started laughing over funny stories of the camping trip, we were coming back from. My eyes scanned the bar, especially the burly men I hoped were truckers and not lumberjacks. Maybe I could get a ride back to Anchorage with one of them?

I’d pay him cash of course, so he wouldn’t expect payment of some other kind. Then I’d make Abi write down the number plate of the truck I climbed into, for safety. If I didn’t make it to Anchorage and my body went missing somewhere in the Alaska Range, at least the police would have a starting point to find my murderer aka driver.

The waitress returned with a tray carrying four huge glasses, and the jug of beer. She put down the glasses first then the jug second, and quickly walked off before I could stop her. Damn it! I don’t want to drink beer, I want a cola! And I need to eat something…

My legs jiggled harder, as I noticed even my hands were trembling! I don’t think it was just from nerves, either. Drat it! I really need to eat something, plus I have to go into the bathroom to check my sugar level. I started counting backwards in my head, from the last time I ate, in conjunction with my insulin shot this morning.

“C’mon Jess,” my boyfriend poured some beer into my glass. “Have a drink! You’re a lot more fun, when you’ve got a couple under your belt.”

“Under her belt, or under something else?” Brian guffawed, with Steve laughing loudly along.

To stop myself going into a diabetes-induced rant at the losers, quickly I stood up and crossed the bar. My eyes scanned for the Ladies, as I struggled to keep my composure. I tried not to make eye-contact with the flannel-clad truckers or lumberjacks, who watched me leave my friends behind.

“Over there.”

What? I looked around for the person who just spoke. It was the tall, long-haired, strong-looking, Native Alaskan man. He was leaning on his pool stick, whilst watching me.

“Excuse me?” I blinked.

“Over there,” he pointed.

I turned to see where he was indicating, towards a door in the corner with a ‘Ladies’ symbol on it.

“Thanks,” I said in surprise at his perceptiveness.

Then I veered off in that direction, as my shaking got a hell of a lot worse.

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