Time of the Season – Scott Russek

“Those things will kill you ya know…”

Xander looked up as he lit his cigarette. The comment came from the young brunette bartender that stood before him. She was about 5’7” with the build of a runner or swimmer. Lean but powerful. She possessed a pair of hazel eyes that seemed to thoroughly analyze everything in their line of sight. She was running a cloth over the counter to the right of him, cleaning up a small spill left by the customers that had just made their way to the door.

“Yep, and so will half the other things found daily in this world, what’s one more going hurt?” Just that day he had seen a news report stating that an additive found in many prescription drugs had been shown to cause serious health issues. “At least I know what I’m doing when it comes to smoking. It’s not going to take me out by surprise.” Xander said.

“Touché”, replied Amy. The name she had introduced herself with when he had sat down around 8 P.M. “I can’t say much, it’s a habit I’ve enjoyed for years.”

“Well aren’t you just a little hypocrite then?” Xander said with a smirk. Playful sarcasm was his nature and it showed in spite of the mood he was in.

“I suppose I am.” She said with a smile as she walked away to help one of her inebriated customers.

“I wish I could say the addiction is worth it tonight”, Xander thought. But the buzz he typically enjoyed from a cigarette was nonexistent on this night, even though he had smoked a pack and a half.

Xander watched her walk away as he took another sip of his Coke. A drink she had mocked him for when he ordered. “Who goes to a bar to drink soda?” she scoffed. He was not against drinking, he enjoyed it himself every now and then, but tonight just wasn’t the night.

“I could get her number, and possibly more if I really wanted.” Xander mused at the idea of company tonight but dismissed it. It wasn’t his nature, never had been. Besides, a one night stand would only add to the meaninglessness he had been experiencing in his life lately.

He checked his phone for the time and found a new text message. From Jennifer. He chuckled to himself, deleted the message without so much as opening it, and put the phone back in his pocket, forgetting the reason he had retrieved it in the first place. He knew what the message would say, in general anyway. It would be a bullshit apology like the other 20 he had received from her that day. He stopped replying after the second one, realizing attention would only fuel the fire; similar to that of a child acting out to gain the attention of their all work and no play parents. Besides, she was the reason he was here, making her the last person he wanted to be in contact with.

“Avoiding someone, are we? A lover maybe?” questioned the bartender.

On a normal night, an inquisition as such from a complete stranger would have irritated Xander, but given his mood and the fact that she had been friendly all night, he dismissed it as friendly curiosity. He wasn’t sure if she was giving him special attention because she was interested, or because she didn’t have any other customers she cared to talk to. Either way, he enjoyed the company.

Former lover, actually. Ex-girlfriend attempting to talk to me and work things out… She’s the reason I’m here, go figure.”

“Yeah, can’t say I hear that one much. It’s usually some business man that’s never home, crying in his fifth shot of whiskey about how his wife went out to find someone new when she realized he was two-timing on his business trips and by the time he was home consistently, she wouldn’t want to live with him anymore. It’s a story told by many souls. No doubt due to the fact that all men are the same.” A bold generalization. Most likely due to a combination of the stories she had heard over the years as a bartender and personal heartbreak.

“Sounds like a country song to me. I imagine you hear stories like that nightly working in a place like this. Do you ever hear the opposite? Serve a guy that gets all liquored up and spills his guts about how some woman he felt he could trust went behind his back and in the end, screwed over his mind and emotions?”

“It’s not nearly as common, but it does happen. You say that like you have experience in that field of heartbreak, care to share your story of the ignored texter? Assuming she is the catalyst to the fractured mind.”

She was good; Xander could see it in her. Intuition like that isn’t just developed over time as a bartender, that’s something you just have. She saw right past the stare and small smirk that he wore on his face. The solemnity and cigarettes upped her suspicions and the secretive text message gave her the opening she was looking for. But tonight wasn’t a night he was about to let anyone in. Not after what he had gone through.

“You’re forgetting Amy, that I have been drinking Coke all night, not whiskey. It’s going to take a lot more than a carbonated beverage for me to tell that story. No offense, it’s just not something I care to recall right now.” Which was the truth; he had nothing against this Amy chick. She seemed to be a nice enough person, obviously one to listen to stories told by all types of characters, but he wasn’t in the mood to delve into the memory bank and recall searing memories of his time with the ‘ignored texter’. With Jennifer.

“Understandable. If there comes a night that you feel like sharing that Coke with a friend of mine named Jack, feel free to stop by and maybe we can talk about this woman of yours. Who knows, maybe I’ll share a few stories of my own?” Amy gave him a quick smile as she made her way to the same customer as last time, who had now begun to show the effects of excessive alcohol and displayed a look of queasiness and discomfort on his face. The man stumbled to the door and slurred something that Xander made out to be ‘I’ll call for a taxi to take me home’. He made it out the door just in time to vomit on the sidewalk. He poked his head in to apologize to Amy for the mess and made his way to the curb.

“He going to be okay?” Xander watched the man clean himself up as best he could and flag down a cab.

“Yeah, David will be fine. He’s a regular here. Just doesn’t know when to quit you know? He just takes one drink after another, even when he starts to feel a little sick. He keeps doing the same thing over and over like he’s going to get a different result the next time. And every time it winds up being the same shit on a different day. Each time it gets worse; I don’t know how much more his body is going to take.” She adjusted the pony tail that sat on the back of her head and took the empty glass from his spot and brought it over to her sink to wash it up.

Xander takes a look around the bar. It’s not a large place by any means. A small stage for local bands and D.J.s to rock their tunes on weekends, a cluster of about 15 tables in front of the stage with a handful of booths lining the walls, and at the back of the room, where he was seated, was a bar with 16 empty stools standing erect, waiting for their next guest. The building looked to have been remodeled recently. The walls had redwood paneling half way up, all the way around, with the upper half of the wall radiating a maroon paint, much like the color you would expect a king to wear. The floors were wood, light colored, probably maple. The tables that rested upon this floor were a deep red, combined with the floor it reminded Xander of fresh droplets of blood resting on one’s arm. He spun around on his stool and came face to face with a wall of filled with alcohols of all kinds. Whiskey to vodka, rum to scotch, the wall had anything you could ask for; with all of it being contained within bottles of all hues and shapes.

His peruse of the room caused Xander to realize that he was the only customer in the building. He checked his cell for the time, once again ignoring a message from Jen. He would deal with her pleas for forgiveness later. The digital clock informed him that it was approaching 2 A.M. Closing time. He decided to try his hand at another cig before it was time for him to head out.

“Another one eh? Are they really helping you that much tonight?” Amy asked with a bit of surprise. Like she either didn’t believe that his day could have been bad enough to smoke that much, or she had never gone through nearly $20 of cigarettes in a span of only a few hours.

“To tell you the truth, they really aren’t. Not one of these has given me what I’m looking for tonight.” Xander chuckled, “I guess I’m like your friend over there. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. That my friend, is insanity.” Xander took a drink from his glass and another drag from his cigarette, already realizing that it was going to be no different than the rest he had incinerated over the course of the evening.

“Pick your poison I suppose. His is alcohol, yours is the cigarettes tonight, and mine is work. Everyone has their own home remedy for stress. And when one of them is a vice you find yourself in daily, it’s hard to do anything but what you already know. In the end, it’s not what you do to forget about your stress, it’s what you do to work it out and find a clean slate. So in the end the repeat issue is people trying to avoid their problems instead of dealing with them. And this repetition is insanity. We’re all insane when it comes down to it.” Amy’s words had a philosophical aura to them, like she had meditated on the scenario for hours on end.

“I never really thought of it that way, I suppose you have a point there.” He said. “I guess I’m going to be stuck as just another brick in the wall until I can figure out a way to change my situation.” Xander said this more to himself than to Amy. This occurred to him as a profound thought, one to be pondered. But it was late and he decided it was time to head out. He got his jacket off of the stool and checked his phone again. No new messages and it read 2:15 A.M.

“Thanks for the company tonight Amy, you’re definitely good at what you do. Don’t work too hard the rest of the weekend.” Xander said as he made his way towards the door.

“I’ll try not to”, replied Amy. “And thanks for sticking around while I cleaned everything up, it gets kind of lonely in here after all the patrons leave.” She lingered around looking at him, hoping for the question of what she planned to do that night or the rest of the weekend, but it never came. She hadn’t heard his story; she didn’t know that despite a longing for company, Xander was in no mood to invite someone back to his house. Not now anyway.

“You’re very welcome. I’ll probably be back again soon. When I do come back, I may just have to take you up on that drink offer. That is, if you’re willing to listen to another guy’s story?”

“Anytime. Besides, I have this feeling your story won’t be like the ones I hear on a daily basis. Yours will be a nice change from the monotony I go through day after day. Have a good night.” She gave him a smile and started heading towards the back to turn off the lights.

“You too”, Xander said as he made his way out the door. Part of him wanted to turn and ask her to join him, but he thought better of it. He needed to get home and figure things out alone. Company would only delay the necessary.

***

It was only a fifteen minute drive home for Xander. The streets were desolate. No surprise for a small town of 3000 at 2:30 in the morning. It was dull, and dreary. The streets were empty; the only light was that from the overhead street lamps that gave off little more than a dim wisp of yellow. The clouds still remained from a light rain storm that had left everything covered in a fine mist. He passed the old library. The formerly blue paint was badly faded and peeling from the rotting siding. Two of the windows were broken out, most likely by rocks from kids who had nothing better to do with their time.

“That building has out lived its prime by a long shot. That place needs to be taken down. It’s nothing but an eyesore bringing down the overall look of downtown. But I suppose most people don’t want to get rid of it because of its ‘rich history’. More people that don’t let go of the past…I suppose I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know how that goes.” Xander thought to himself. “A new start would be fine for that building I suppose. Some new windows, a fresh coat of paint and a little elbow grease would put it back in good shape in no time.” If he was more of a proactive community guy, he would try to get a group of volunteers together, but he had his own issues to deal with for the time being.

Xander walked through his door at 2:45. He went upstairs to clean up and get some sleep. Tomorrow was Saturday, and he had nothing planned. He would probably waste away the afternoon doing nothing then head back down to see Amy tomorrow evening. He checked his phone saw “1 New Message” and decided he would actually humor himself with this one.

“Wyh won’r u anser me? I realy raely want to talk to u. u kno I’m srry about all the stuff that happened. I made a mistake, cnt you forgive me?” The message was dated at 2:37, so shortly after he left. He wondered what the chances were that she would not be passed out if he replied to the message. The answer was unlikely if the text had any indication of how hard she had partied that night. And she wouldn’t remember that text, or probably most of the other two dozen she had sent over the course of the evening, same old song and dance between the two of them. That was how things had gone when they had been together and it only got worse once they broke up. She’d go out and party, most of the time far too hard for her or anyone else’s good, and he would go out and keep it pretty casual, all the while wondering what was going on with her. Wondering if it would happen again that night. Wondering if he would have to make another decision, if he would have to put pain aside and convince himself to trust again…But those were memories he had entertained far too much that day already. He closed the memory bank, put on some music and promptly fell asleep before he could come up with a suitable response for the text he had received.

He didn’t sleep much that night. He tossed and turned, waking up at random times during the early morning hours. Each time awakening to a formerly hidden memory. It wasn’t that he had forgotten so much as he had hidden the memories behind a curtain, hoping that the lights would stay dimmed and no one would open the curtain of his past. But after everything with Jennifer that night, and the last couple days had shuffled the memories to the forefront of his mind. The apologies were the same as those he received more than a couple times while they were together. Except those had come from her making mistakes while with other people. Mistakes that always made him think of the old Hank Williams tune “Your cheating heart”. He had that song pop into his head on a three different occasions. Why he let it get to that many, he still didn’t know.

“I suppose I’m living proof that damned cliché ‘love is blind’ is true.” Xander said out loud to himself. It had to be. For how many of his friends (and her friends for that matter) had told him to get out, that it wasn’t worth it and all that while they had been together, and still he didn’t see what he had gotten himself into, lack of sight is the only explanation for such a phenomenon. He had been such a fool at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20 but he still felt ridiculous for not looking at things for what they were. Sure they had great times together, but he could have had just as good of times or better with someone he wouldn’t have to worry about on weekends, someone that would always act like they cared about him as much as he did them, someone who flat out would appreciate him. But he was a trusting person by nature. Every time that trust was damaged by her, there would be a convenient excuse and a long, tearful apology to accompany it, and Xander was a sucker for it. Every time thinking that maybe, just maybe it would be different. That some how this time she had learned a lesson and discovered something that had remained hidden during the other occurrences.

He laid in his bed as he pondered all of this. He glanced at his alarm clock, 11:11 A.M. “Make a wish”, Xander told himself. “There is no such thing as wishes coming true. If you are always wishing and hoping that things will change, that things will go your way, you’ll never get anywhere.”

All of those were thoughts that had been pondered three months ago, right after Jennifer had ended the relationship for ‘personal reasons’. It had been too long for her, she had never been one for commitment and the three year relationship had finally come to be too much for her. In the time since she said it was over, he had gotten over everything that happened. The first couple weeks were rough, spent indoors watching movies and just spending time alone. He didn’t feel good enough to be out and around people. He focused on work and activities around his house to occupy his time. He couldn’t go out and just find someone new, even if it didn’t mean anything. That wasn’t his nature. He wasn’t like the typical guy, covering a broken heart with random acts where a heart wasn’t needed. An emotional connection was what he desired, what he needed. But since he stopped reminiscing about the relationship and bucked up and moved on, he realized that he no longer cared. That the trust he once had shown many people, some multiple times, was gone. The fragile mind he had possessed had taken blow after blow until it finally received a strike hard enough to shatter it. And that was the end.

Now her apologies had returned. Significantly later than previous occasions. Those apologies brought back everything he had put aside, and took away what he had come upon as the truth.

“This is definitely a case where ‘better late than never’ is not applicable,” Xander laughed to himself. But Xander had had enough of the thinking and remembering for the time being. He would be recalling all the memories later anyway when he went to visit Amy again. He decided that it was time to get up and prepare for the day. He showered and spent the afternoon and early evening around the house cleaning up and doing a little spring cleaning.

Xander checked the clock; it read 8:44 pm. It was about time to head out and pay a visit to his new friend down at the bar. He got in his blue BMW Z3, the car he bought for class and style, and was on his way down to the bar. There had been a consistent drizzle all day, giving the air a very heavy, damp feeling, making the low 50s temp feel even cooler. The sky was overcast with only a few spots letting the April sun through. Probably for the best though, an increase in temp would run a major risk of severe weather. Oh well, news had said it should clear out during the night and it would be sunny and 70’s tomorrow.

As he was driving, he passed the old library again, except this time there were a bunch of kids inside painting. “Wow”, Xander thought “looks like someone took the initiative to fix things up around here, that’s good to see. It’ll be a nice building once it’s fixed.”

He pulled into the parking lot and walked in at just past 9. He looked around and saw that the place was significantly less busy than it had been the night before. There were two pairs of people over by the stage and a handful sitting at the bar. Xander was pleased to see that the spot he had occupied the night before, which he had found quite comfortable, was empty. Then he saw Amy mixing a drink and talking to one of the other patrons. She looked up and smiled as she noticed him. He smiled back and approached his spot, noticing on the way that David wasn’t sitting at what he had been told was the regulars typical spot.

“David have a rougher night than usual?” questioned Xander pointing to the empty stool across the bar from him.

“Must have. This is the first night I haven’t seen him in here in ages. I hope he’s all right. More than likely he’ll show up as the night wears on. Hopefully…” Amy gave this reply with a smile but Xander could tell she was concerned for the well being of her most consistent customer.

“I’m sure he’s fine, just sleeping later than usual. He looked like he was in pretty rough shape last night, it happens to the best of us. He’ll wake up again with a headache and empty memory bank, but I’m sure he’ll be back tomorrow night, if not later tonight.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right…Anyway, I’m glad you showed up. To tell you the truth I wasn’t expecting you. Most times I have a conversation like the one I had with you, the guys never come back and if they do, they sit at the furthest table from me. I guess they feel embarrassed and like less of a man because they actually shared their true feelings with someone. Yeah, avoiding someone after talking to them, real manly.” The last part was said more to herself than to Xander, but he got the picture. It would be tough to have people being totally open with you one night, just pour their hearts out to you, then have them come in the next night and act like you didn’t exist. Given some of that may be due to memory loss, but that’s still the error on the customers part.

His thoughts were interrupted by Amy’s voice, “Eh, whatever, I’m used to it. That’s what I get for being a bartender I suppose…So, you going to stick with coke again tonight or do you have your big boy pants on tonight?” she said to him with a small smirk.

“Ha ha, yes, after how the last couple days have been, I’ll definitely be drinking something with a little more kick to it than a coke. Pour me whatever you’d like. Who knows, if it has enough kick you might just get to hear about why I’m stepping up from carbonated to distilled.” Xander lit a cigarette as he answered. Amy immediately began putting together a drink for him.

“We’ll start you off small, just in case you’re not ready for the hard stuff yet.” Her sarcasm was continuous tonight, not like it was yesterday. It wasn’t cruel, just more frequented, and it was lacking the smile that had formerly accompanied her facetious comments. There was something on her mind, something she was distracting herself from and he knew it, just like she had seen through his mask the night before. If things went right tonight, maybe he’d get to hear a story along with sharing his own. Xander laughed to himself, most guys would consider getting lucky at a bar taking a girl home for the night while he was hoping to hear part of someone’s life story. He would wait until the other customers within the bar had called it a night before he would ask about the source of the distraction that possessed her that day.

“Gee, thanks. You’re so thoughtful” Xander matching sarcasm for sarcasm. “That’s okay though, I don’t need much. Slurred speech will only complicate an already atypical story.” He said as he put out his cigarette.

“Well then let’s not waste any time; do tell this story of the mystery texter.” She was anxious to hear about his dilemma. But not in a pushy, nosey kind of way, but with caring curiosity. She was looking for a way she could help. Xander looked down as he felt his cell vibrating in his pocket.

“Speak of the devil.” He said as he checked his phone, it was another text from Jen.

“Wwwhy don’t u evr respond wen i txt u anymor? All I want to do is talk. I’m so sory ffor everything, u kno that. I think we really need to hang out so we can talk and stuff. Pleeeease talk to me again Xander.” He read out loud. “Wow, she spelled my name right tonight, that’s impressive…although that seems to be just about the only thing she spelled right.”

“Drunk already? It’s only 9:30. Damn, that’s impressive. Most people don’t usually reach that stage until at least 10:30, even David. You really picked a winner there, Xander. No offense.” She brought up David again. No doubt that’s what was bothering her that night. He decided not to ask. No reason to get her more worked up, he’d probably come strolling in shortly anyway.

“None taken” he replied as he put his cell back in his pocket silently denying the plea for a response. “That’s just the kind of girl she is, and despite the problems it caused and all the shit we went through, I still loved her. There was just something about her that made it all worth while. I don’t know how to explain it. I always found a way to overcome the pain and still feel the love I possessed for her. Even after she ended the relationship, it was still there. It was there up until a couple weeks ago….” His voice trailed off. She looked at him longingly, thirsting for more of the story he had started. By that time he had finished the drink she had poured him. It had been pretty weak so it went down easy.

“Pour me another drink and I’ll continue.” Was his response to the question he had read in her eyes. “Same thing is fine. I just need something to keep my throat from getting dry.” He felt like a minister taking sips from a water glass during a Sunday sermon.

“Sure, just give me a minute” Amy went around with a tray to retrieve empty glasses from around the bar and ask customers if there was anything else she could get them. Despite the early hour, the number of customers had dwindled to just a handful scattered throughout the bar.

He watched her walk around, customer to customer across the floor. Greeting all of them with a smile and ‘How is your weekend?’ or ‘Can I get you anything else?’ or ‘How is that new job going?’ She knew most of them. And the ones she didn’t, she made quick friends with. Xander could tell that not all the names of the ones she knew were stored in that memory of hers, but something about each and every one of them was. As she walked away from one of the tables, the man sitting there commented to his friend that he had only been in the bar once before and that the previous visit was over six months ago, and yet she still remembered the story he told about being laid off and starting a new job for a reality company. Xander could definitely see how she kept regular customers and created new ones every time someone unfamiliar stepped foot inside of the building. She just had that friendly, someone to confide in aura to her. Xander watched her stroll into the back dish room with a tray full of empty glasses and a few dollars worth of tips in her pocket. She moved with a gentle strength that matched her personality. She was petite but strong, intelligent, but humble. The more he was around her; the more anxious he became to hear her story. To find out how someone as sharp as her could be working in a bar instead of on the chairman’s board of some international corporation. He hoped he would be lucky enough to get answers to his questions.

She walked back behind the bar, stopping to fill a shot for the only other customer now sitting at the bar. He was a lanky fellow, probably about 6’2” tall and 180 pounds. His slightly graying hair gave him the look of someone in their late thirties. He had on jeans and a t-shirt, each having a majority of fabric covered in grease. “A mechanic probably,” thought Xander. The man drank the alcohol immediately, thanked Amy, handed her a twenty to cover his drinks and a tip, and headed for the door. As he reached the exit, he turned and told Amy that he would let her know if he heard any news on the whereabouts of David. She thanked him waved goodbye. He waved in return and headed out the door. His departure left the bar empty except for Amy and Xander. Amy cleaned the area formerly occupied by the mechanic and walked back over in front of Xander, peering over once again at the seat typically occupied by David.

“Sorry it took so long. I wasn’t expecting to have conversations with all of those guys. I feel bad when I don’t though. For most of them, this place is their only social connection for the week.”

“It’s totally fine. They are all customers too, and most of them regulars no less. It’s really something how you have such a memory for every person that sits in here. You knew a name and or a story for nearly every person in here, and for the ones you didn’t, you asked for their name and got a five minute conversation out of them. It’s no wonder you have so many regulars here. You really are something.”

Amy was blushing. “Oh stop, I’m just doing my job. Like I said, for some of these guys, this place is the only chance they have to talk with anyone during the week. They have no wives at home. Their only obligation is the job that keeps them working 60+ hour weeks. It’s nice to know I give them a little vacation from that on the weekends. Like Mark, the guy that just left. He works down at the local automotive shop six days a week, most days for more than twelve hours. He’s been doing it for twenty years. He worked with David up until he was let go about a year ago…After David’s wife died of cancer, he just kind of gave up. So this is what he does, sit here and talk with me about the trials of life, teaching me some things, confusing me about others, but all the while being a loyal customer. I hope he’s okay. But anyway, here is that drink of yours, care to continue with your story now?

Xander took a sip of the fresh drink. It was nice and cool in his dry throat. But something was a little off…

“Straight coke? I told you, I have my big boy pants on tonight.” He said to her in a questioning tone. He didn’t mind the change; he was just thirsty at that point. And talking to her did more to settle his mind than alcohol could. Xander just didn’t quite get why she made the switch on him.

“Yeah, I know. But I decided that I want the whole, unaltered, non-slurred story from you, and alcohol could jeopardize that. If you’ll tell me the story without having to suppress your mind, why waste the alcohol and the money? Besides, you’re driving home tonight, and nobody likes a drunk driver.” She looked at him with a gentle smile. She really was looking out for him. And Xander could tell that she saw the ability to confide in him just as he was seeing it in her. He wasn’t sure what it was about her exactly, just a combination of things that gave her an approachable look. The same look seen by her regular customers no doubt.

Xander realized he was staring at her, “Hey, your bar, your rules. I’m not going to argue with the headmaster.” He gave her a little smile and she returned it. “I guess I’ll just start from the beginning and go from there.”

Xander talked about the beginning of his now long defunct relationship. It had started over forty months earlier. He and Jennifer dated for over three years when she ended the relationship three months ago. In that time, there had been more ups and downs than Xander could count, more than he ever cared to experience again. At the beginning they had both promised to work together on the relationship since both had troubles with previous people. Xander pledged to be more open, more ‘emotionally available’ as it was called, and Jennifer promised to behave, to be faithful. A feat she had yet to achieve in a relationship. All his friends had told him he was crazy, that people like her never changed, plain and simple. With it all the only thing that he would get out of all of it would be a broken heart and nothing to pick up the pieces with. But Xander had never been one to follow the crowd; he always went with his heart.

“So what was it about her that made you take such a risk? I mean, that’s quite a track record of unfaithfulness for you to just write off as what, coincidence? There must have really been something with this girl for you to trust her that much. Was there really something to her, or was she just a smooth talker?” Amy induced a pause in the background information Xander was supplying to delve a little deeper into his mind.

“It was both. There was just something about her when everything in the relationship was right that made all the pain worth while. We just connected so well, it was everything I could have asked for in a relationship during those times. Looking back on it though, the smooth talking was part of what kept us together. She always had her new promises, her apologies, and her explanations. They came after a hard night partying with friends when she had told me we’d hang out, they came after she would go off on me for no reason in a drunken rage, and they especially came after she wound up with someone other than me at the end of the night. That happened three times…” Xander trailed off at that point. No doubt reliving the events that had occurred when she had broken the news to him the next day.

“Oh Xander I’m sorry. That’s horrible! Especially if you cared about her as much as it sounds like you did. I can’t imagine what that was like for you, especially three times. Why did you stay with her? I mean, you knew she had a history of it and ignored that in the name of change, I understand that. But after it happens to you, especially on more than one occasion, why didn’t you end it after the first time? The second time? The third?” Xander was almost taken aback by the earnestness and concern with which Amy spoke.”There can only be so much said to change your mind about a person. And when the promises are not followed up by change, you’ve got to see the light some time. I mean, during the time that you were, for lack of a better word, wasting with her, you could have been with someone that cared about you as much as you did for them, and wasn’t a threat to break your heart…repeatedly. I don’t know. But from where I stand, I would never stay with someone after the first time, let alone after the third, but maybe I’m just not as trusting of a person as you are.”

Xander looked at her, seeing the compassion and sympathy in her eyes. “I really can’t tell you exactly why I stayed with her. I mean, I rebuilt my trust every time we talked about things that happened, and each time I knew deep inside that it was all going to happen again. You’re right, it was kind of wasting time staying with her, but at the time it didn’t seem like that. Whatever it was in my mind kept telling me that maybe it would be different. That it would be worth it to stay with her and we’d live happily ever after. Doing the same thing over and over again…insanity. I need someone I know will always be there for me, not just when they have nothing better to do, or when they aren’t in the mood for something…or someone, else.”

Xander was interrupted by the phone ringing. Amy answered it.

“Hello? Oh, hi Mark, what are you doing calling so late? It’s coming up on midnight…What?! Oh my God, when?… How is he doing?… Oh thank God…Yes of course I’ll go down with you to visit him tomorrow. Thanks for letting me know and be sure to call if anything changes. Alright, thanks again Mark, I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.” Amy looked up at him. Her face possessed a look of both concern and relief.

“That was Mark. He said that David is in the hospital. Alcohol poisoning. Apparently he started bright and early this morning after his night last night and his body finally had enough. His sister found him unconscious at his house and rushed him to the hospital. Luckily, they got him taken care of right away. Maybe this will be his wake up call to change his way of life. He can’t keep on living that way or it’ll kill him. If he hasn’t realized that on his own, I’ll be sure to hammer the point home tomorrow when I go to see him…Thank God it wasn’t worse.”

“Yeah, that could have been much worse. Luckily his body knows when to say enough is enough and his sister was around to get help right away. Like you said, hopefully that will be his moment of seeing the light and he will change his ways. Maybe get some help from a group like AA or just his own family to get his life back on track.”

Amy said “He’s definitely going to need help, but I know his sister and I know that if he is serious about changing his life and wanting help doing it, she’ll be more than happy to help him out. She’s been trying to help him for months.” She stopped, seeing a small, awkward smile creeping across Xander’s face. He gave and small chuckle and asked, “What is so funny?”

“The situation your friend is in has finally made me think it’s time for something different. It’s time to find someone new.” This was the realization he had been looking for the night before when he first walked into the bar. The thought that had been hidden since the first time things went sour with Jennifer.

“All this time and the solution was so simple. After everything I’ve gone through, it took a new found friend and a stranger’s misfortune for me to realize what I need to do to get my mind back on track. I need to get over the past and focus on what I have in front of me, and that’s a clean slate, a fresh start.”

Amy had a big smile on her face, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it took you long enough! That’s what you need to do! Go out there, try new things, and meet new people. Just enjoy yourself and the people you’re with instead of worrying about the person you’re with. You’ll be a lot happier and have a lot more fun. And who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and find that special someone in the process?”

She was right. He was right. Now it was just following through with this and figuring out where to go from here. And maybe getting some help from someone to keep his life on track, but he thought he might have already found that person.

“You want to get out of here and maybe find some dinner or something?” Xander asked.

Amy replied with a smile. He could tell that was a question she had been hoping for since the night before. “Yeah, that would be great! Although I’m not sure where we’re going to find anything open at this hour.”

“Oh I’m sure we’ll find something.” Xander said as he checked his phone. Another missed text message. “I wonder who it could be from”, he thought. He opened the message, from Jennifer of course.

“Fine, if yuo realy doont want to talk to me anymore, fien! I no when I’m not wanted. Just donnt come crwaling back to me wen u can’t find anyone else. Have a nice life!”

Xander laughed as he put his phone away. This night was working out very well for him. He knew she probably wouldn’t remember that text in the morning, but he would. Not that it mattered; it was time for him to move on. He checked the time as he and Amy walked out of the bar. 12:01 AM. What a perfect time for a new start.


Scott is originally from Delano and now lives in Buffalo with his wife and three children. He is a graduate student studying criminal justice and works a restaurant manager. During his undergrad education he was a few credits shy from a Creative Writing minor and continues to hold an interest in writing. 

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