Closing Time – Episode 19

XIX

The first few trivia questions fly by. As soon as Jeopardy is done reading each one, John and I scribble our answers and tend our customers. I’m dying to know how many John’s got right, but I resist looking. I’m doing pretty well so far—of eight questions, I’ve only missed two. Under any other circumstances, I’d be at roughly fifty percent, and the rest of the questions would be obscure sports trivia from the 1960s. But tonight, I have this inexplicable feeling that John’s luck has run out.

Unless I just jinxed it.

Shaking my head, I hand Adam his drink.

“Can I get you anything else, hon?”

“Nah. Thanks, Luce.”

“The categories for the third round are…” Jeopardy’s voice booms over the sound system. “Music, Movies, TV, and History.”

“Yes,” I hiss, with just a little fist pump down by my hip. Music, movies, and TV are three of my favorite—and best—categories.

John saunters over. “You’re goin’ down, Luce.”

“Not a chance. Were your ears open? You know I’ve got this.”

He chuckles. “I heard history. We both know how good you are at that subject.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “I should have never told you about that. I almost failed because I didn’t turn in the homework, not because I didn’t know the material!”

Throwing the towel in my hand at his head in a last attempt to distract him, I stick my tongue out. Then we get serious and refocus on the question Jeopardy is repeating. I almost missed it because he walked over to tease. Oh, it. Is. On.

Luckily, he didn’t try his fragile luck to distract me again. The game ended and we tallied our scores.

“What’d you get?” he asked, a confident smile on his face.

“You first.”

He held out his paper for me to see. “Twenty-nine.”

For a second, my brain doesn’t work. Then a slow smile spreads across my face. His expression turns wary. “What’d you get?” When he repeats his question, he’s no longer smug. He’s nervous.

“Thirty.” I barely contain my desire to jump in place. After all, we have customers to serve. But my competitive spirit is vindicated. For tonight, anyway.

He snatches my paper to check my answers and when he realizes I’m not lying, he reaches into his back pocket.

“Nicely done.” With a bow, he hands over my twenty dollars, and the irrepressible—and contagious—smile is back on his face.

For the next hour, we are back to our normal camaraderie and even Adam joins in for a little while before he says good night and goes home. I’m glad I saw even a ghost of his former happiness tonight. He’s not in the best place and I worry about him.

Gina comes out of nowhere and takes the stool Adam vacated.

“So, how’d it go?”

No preliminaries, no pleasantries, like “hello” first. Heaven forbid she beat around the bush a little.

I shrug, hoping she gets the hint that I don’t want to talk about it.

“How’d what go?” John asks.

“Oh, Luce had a date today.”

That’s all he needs to hear to give her his undivided attention. “Really?” He turns to me. “You didn’t mention anything.”

“I can’t imagine why.” I paste an innocent look on my face and my voice drips with exaggerated sweetness.

“That’s okay,” he says. “I’ll just get the who and when and how from Gina.” Plopping his elbows on the bar, he settles in for a long chat.

Rather than listen to them gossip about me, I move to the other end of the bar and take care of his customers. If I protest, they’ll never let it go. If I act like I don’t care, maybe they’ll be gentle.

Ashley comes over, her eyes glued to John and Gina, whose heads are close together. They occasionally glance over at me, but I’m getting suspicious about how long it’s taking to discuss my life. Gina didn’t have that much information to begin with.

“Who’s that?” Ashley asks.

“My sister.”

“Oh.” Her face falls and she gathers her customers’ orders without another word.

A small voice in my head urges me to tell her they’re just friends, but another part of me thinks it might be better if Ashley lets go of her crush. I sigh, wondering when life got so complicated.

John strolls over close enough for me to hear him humming.

My First Kiss?

I can feel my eyes rounding and I snap my gaze to my sister. She winks at me and slides off the stool, leaving.

With dread, I ask John, “What did she tell you?”

“She saw you kiss him.”

My cheeks are on fire. I can even feel it in the tips of my ears.

“Casanova? Really?” he continues with a hint of sarcasm.

I can’t meet his eyes, which is enough answer for him.

“Well, if you need a night off, just let me know. But Luce—” He waits until I look at him. “—be careful.”

“I know what I’m doing.” And I hope to God that’s true.

“Just stretch first so you don’t pull something.” His dimples show as he gives me a cheeky grin.

It’s times like these that make me wonder why I love him so much. Yet I can’t keep my lips from twitching. Jerk.

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2 responses to “Closing Time – Episode 19

  1. I enjoyed that! Looking forward to next week 🙂

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