Author Extra....Very Loosely Based on Boy Under the Bridge

Joe raised his glass in a silent toast to the young couple on the dance floor, so wrapped up in each other that the rest of the world didn’t seem to exist. He downed the whisky, reveling in the burn that would dull, if not deaden, his own private pain.

A comradely slap on the back made him turn toward his friend, Danny, who was also watching the couple with interest. Joe’s voice was as bitter as the lime his friend bit into after downing a tequila shot. “If only I’d thought for a moment before engaging my mouth that might be me and Rick out there.” He pointed his empty glass at couple, who were now locked together, swaying to the tempo of a slow, sultry tune.

Danny made a face as he tasted the sour fruit, then patted Joe’s arm. “Don’t worry, someone will come along.”

“Hey, y’all!” They both looked up at a handsome man in cowboy boots and hat, coming around from behind the bar. The vision of western masculinity wrapped an arm around Danny.

“Hey, Barry. You’re off?” Danny asked his lover.

“You betcha, and I’m so ready to go home.” He paused, then nodded toward Joe. “You gonna be okay?”

“Yeah.” Far be it from him to spoil someone else’s plans with his sulking. “You kids go have fun.”

Both young men looked back as they walked away and, not for the first time, Joe regretted the fall that took him from being envied to being an object of pity. Looking around the crowded club, he saw many admiring glances turned his way, but no one dared approach. He had it on good faith that he pulsed “Fuck off” vibes like sonar.

A glass hit the bar behind him, and he turned to find another shot of whisky. “I didn’t order that,” he told the bartender who’d replaced Barry.

Mischief danced in the barman’s eyes. “The gentleman at the back table sent it over.”

Joe snorted. “Now you know good and well I don’t accept drinks from strangers.”

“This one you will.”

Joe’s eyes ran from the bartender to the drink and back again. “Just go,” the man urged, lips twitching like he might be fighting a grin.

Though puzzled, Joe picked up the drink and pushed his way through the crowd to the back of the club, fully expecting to set someone straight. Four steps from the back table his heart slammed against his ribs, at three steps it did a massive summersault, at two it fell to the floor at the feet of a handsome, dark haired man, sitting alone in the shadows.

Joe saw a tremulous smile, and a year’s worth of hurt and worry poised to either reignite or disappear. Did he dare to believe it meant what he hoped? Joe raised the glass with a trembling hand, while the man at the table did the same. “What do we toast to?” Joe asked. His entire future hung in the balance of the answer.

“To new beginnings.” They both downed their drinks, and before the burning stopped Joe found himself wrapped in arms he never thought to ever feel again.

“I’ve waited nearly a year to tell you I’m sorry,” he choked out, one lone tear trickling down his cheek. He held on for dear life, afraid this was just a whisky-induced hallucination that would vanish if he let go.

“And I’ve been waiting that long to calm down enough to realize I was a fool.”

When the music faded and the world narrowed down to just the two of them, Joe believed he knew how the dancers had felt. When their shared tears finally ebbed, Joe looked up at the one who’d gotten away and asked, “Can I have this dance, Rick?”

“And every one thereafter, if you want it.”

For the first time in a year, Joe’s smile was genuine. “Oh, I want it, all right.”
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Published on May 03, 2010 16:57
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