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Bossy Grump
Author: Nicole Snow

1

 

 

Dark Knight (Paige)

 

 

I’m hoping my fake smile doesn’t break my face when my phone vibrates against the table.

I glance down to find a text from Brina. Pssst! How’s the big date going?

Ugh, it’s not.

It’s also entirely her fault I’m here with this loser. I should’ve known better than to take romance advice from a bestie who’s now giddily married to one of the hottest and richest men in Chicago.

Why does everyone have an awesome life but me?

I shove my phone under the table and quickly type back, Typically Tinder-rific. You should have come celebrate with me tonight.

Stud or dud? she replies.

Holding in a sigh, I stare across the table for a second, trying my damnedest to give this guy one last chance. Michael—Micah?—Mike?—God, what’s his name?—has a firm jawline, a decent chest, and marathon runner legs, but his pros end there.

Nameless throws back another shot of whiskey and sets his glass on the counter with a deafening clink. He winks at me like I should be impressed that he needs to announce his presence to the whole flipping bar.

“Yo, can I get another?” he yells at the poor bartender.

I roll my eyes, wrinkling my nose as I tap at my screen, mourning this bomb of a date.

*Shrugs* He’s not unattractive...if you’re into self-centered pigs, I send.

Yikes, what is his name, anyway? He deserves that much, doesn’t he? A label for his footnote in my bad run of dating app disasters.

Whatever.

Maybe I’ll just get creative and not address him by name for the rest of the night. I can enjoy pretending I’m in a Seinfeld episode while I try not to gag at his presence.

Slowly, I pick up the glass in front of me and sip my wine.

It’s almost gone.

The bartender sets another whiskey down beside him with a sympathetic smile for me. Nameless downs that too without hesitation.

I take the last sip of wine for courage before contemplating how much suckier this night can get.

“Ready to head to the art museum yet?” I ask, plastering on another mannequin-like smile that hurts my cheeks.

“Ah, babe. Let me get one more shot first.”

Babe.

It’s the third time he’s said it tonight, and my stomach flips over a little worse every time.

I stare at my empty glass. I could order another drink, sure, but I couldn’t keep up with Nameless to save my life. And I definitely don’t want him to have any reason to stay here longer.

“The bar wasn’t even part of the plan, you know,” I say.

“Yeah, well, you said you like spontaneous...right? Museums are just so boring.” He rolls his shoulders, batting his eyes like he’s ready to fall asleep. “I can’t handle that shit without a little fun first.”

Wow.

Congratulations, Paige. Nothing like celebrating your shiny new rock star job in the arts by going out with a dude who needs to be hammered to enjoy an art museum.

I try to smile, but I’m not sure my lips are curling in the right direction.

“Umm—” I laugh. “Why didn’t you just tell me? We could have done something else.” And I could’ve swiped the other way, but he talked a good game.

I expected a cultured, witty professional to show up and sweep me off my feet from the texts we shared. Not this whiskey fish of a man.

What gives?

He holds up a finger, grazing it over his lips like it should be sexy or something.

He’s ordering another shot the second our bartender is back in range.

She walks away, and his eyes stick to her ass. When she’s no longer in our line of sight, he turns back to face me. “I never disappoint, babe.”

Babe.

Again.

Blargh.

But maybe he’s already forgotten my name too? It wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Pushing my glass away, I click my fingers off the high bartop and glare at him. I’m about to end this sideshow and head for the museum myself when he lays a floppy hand across mine.

“Okay, babe. Okay. I get the hint. Last one, I promise, then it’s Beethoven city.”

I don’t bother telling him Beethoven wasn’t an artist—at least not the visual kind.

The bartender comes and hands him the shot glass.

“Can you close out the tab?” Nameless asks.

“The wine’s on a separate ticket,” I say quickly.

No point in letting him pay for my drink. There won’t be a second date.

“No biggie.” He shakes his head. “I’ve got it.”

“It’s cool.” I dig my debit card out of my purse.

He puts his hand over mine and pushes it away. “It’s a first date. I’ve got it. You’re hanging with a gentleman.”

I’m hanging with a drunk, but...saving a few bucks on a drink seems like the least I deserve for this torture.

So I drop the card back in my purse and mutter a “thanks.” This seems to be my fastest route to the art gallery, and maybe he won’t be such a dud there.

Art can work miracles.

Creative beauty brings out the best in everyone, even the folks with the cultural sensitivity of a coconut crab.

It’s the whole reason I studied art and promised it my life.

With the bill paid, he places his hand on the table and balances himself as he stands. He rocks back, but catches himself with a messy laugh.

Odd.

I pop up and follow. “Are you okay, guy?”

He waves a hand. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Lit and loving it. Now let’s go see some finger painting.”

We walk to the art gallery with my tongue caught in my teeth. A trip I usually make in less than fifteen minutes from here takes more than half an hour.

He stumbles along with an awkward gait, falling behind me, and other times staggering on several steps ahead.

This is when I should acknowledge the big, ugly red flag flapping in the wind in front of me.

This is where I should arm myself with excuses and beat it, and about when I should pull my head out of the clouds where everything seems happy and bright and boundless.

Nothing can ruin my new career at Brandt Ideas next week, though, a prestigious and well-paid gig I fought for tooth and nail. Not even this dope.

I’m being too generous, high on my future success.

Besides, what if he has some disability he’s embarrassed for anyone to know about?

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