Aubrey calls on my way home. I answer hoping she wants to go grab a drink, and thankfully she does. She forces me to recount my date with Peter as we both drive towards our favorite bar.
“He took you to the St. Regis?” She’s squealing with delight. Miss Delilah taught her to enjoy the finer things in life. Especially when they’re paid for by handsome gentlemen.
“Yes, and don’t get so excited. It was perfectly awful.”
“Reed,” she said in a disapproving tone that sounded eerily like Miss Delilah, “Did you even give the poor boy a chance?”
Thankfully I could roll my eyes in the privacy of my own car without notice. “Yes, Aubrey, I gave him a chance Know what he did with it? Proceeded to tell me how well off he is and all the money he’d spend on me.”
“Oh yeah, that just sounds terrible,” she said in mock disgust. Giggling, she said, “What’s wrong with being treated like a princess now and then?”
“Because it’s one thing to treat a woman well and surprise her with little presents now and then like Nate does with you, but it’s another thing to lead with ‘Hey, guess how much money I have?’ on a first date.”
“That is a little tacky,” she concedes.
“Have you been to the St. Regis? I swear I felt like I was in a bad black and white movie. The servers wear old school flight attendant outfits!”
Aubrey’s easy giggle fills my otherwise silent car as I speed down Peachtree. “Really? It sounds kinda fun.”
“Trust me, there was nothing fun about it.” I signal to turn onto the side street that runs beside the little bar we’ve frequented since college. “Enough about my pathetic dating life. What does it feel like to be someone’s fiance?”
More giggles. I can picture her holding her hand out to admire the ring again. “It’s wonderful! Nate says I can have the wedding anywhere I want, that he’d marry me in burlap sacks in Cambodia if I wanted. He’s so silly. I think I’m leaning towards the Botanical Gardens. What do you think?”
“I think you’ll look beautiful anywhere you get married,” I say, meaning it. Aubrey has classic good looks. Her hair is always done, her makeup lightly applied and flawless. She has porcelain skin she keeps shielded from the sun with ridiculously big hats when we go to the beach. Nate is right; she’d be a knockout in burlap.
I whip into the last parking spot in sight and hope Aubrey can find one. There’s an overflow lot down the street, but we try not to park that far from the building. It’s not a bad part of town, but you can never be too careful. I think that pearl of wisdom may have come from my own mother. Miss Delilah would need beta blockers if she saw the hole in the wall bar her precious Aubrey has frequented with me for years.
I flash my id at the bouncer and step into the music-filled haze of a place simply called The Pub. The walls are bare with the exception of a large mirror placed here and there, and the brown leather of the barstools and booths blends into the dark wood interior. Big screen televisions extend down from the ceiling in every corner and provide the only evidence that any money was ever spent on this place.
I pick spot at the bar that faces the Braves game, glad I made it in time for the last few innings, and order a Corona.
“Anybody ever tell you that you shouldn’t order Mexican beer in an Irish pub?” comes a voice from my right.
I turn to see a preppy looking guy on the stool next to mine. The blue in his polo shirt highlights the same color in his eyes. There’s a mischievous look as he smiles at me.
“Guess I missed that memo. You’re drinking Guinness I presume?”
“You bet,” he says, winking before taking a long swig of the chocolate-colored liquid.
An eruption of applause down the bar turns my attention back to the game. Brian McCann has just tied up the game with a grand slam.
When Troy Glaus grounds out to the pitcher, an audible groan espapes my lips.
“You like baseball?” the sandy-haired Guinness drinker asks me.
“Like it? Nope,” I say, smiling. “I love it!”
He laughs before tilting back his glass.
We both turn our attention back to the game as Johnny Venters comes on in relief.
“You know they’ve started calling him Everyday Johnny?” he asks, pointing at the screen.
“I know. You’ve gotta love him. He totally deserves to be considered for Rookie of the Year. Too bad a reliever never wins.”
Sandy-hair is cocking an eyebrow my way, clearly impressed with my baseball knowledge. “You really do like baseball, huh?”
“I told you,” I say, unable to hide my satisfaction.
“I’m Chris, by the way,” he says, extending a hand.
“Reed,” I say, shaking back.
“Here you are,” Aubrey says as she pushes her way up to the bar. She hugs me, and I glance over her shoulder to get a better look at Chris, who has turned back to the game.
Aubrey grabs the barstool to my left and orders a glass of Chardonnay from the bartender with the too-tight t-shirt. “You just had to sit where you could see the game, didn’t you?” she asks me.
“You know me well, my friend,” I say, finishing off my bottle. I signal for another one as Venters gets his third and final strikeout of the inning.
“Oh good, a commercial. So tell me about the other guys you’ve been talking to. Who are you going out with next?” Aubrey asks, literally teetering on the edge of her seat.
I moan. “No one. No more internet dates.” I shake my head sternly when a small pout appears on her lips.
“Oh, come on. One bad date. The next one is bound to be better.”
“No,” I say, pointing the tip of my bottle in her direction, “it’s been two bad dates. I’m done.”
“Third time’s a charm?” she says, smiling hopefully. “At least think about it while I run to the ladies room.”
Before I can protest she’s eased off the stool and is headed to the other end of the bar. As she disappears around a corner, I hear the voice next to me again.
“Looks like they’re pinch hitting Conrad. I feel pretty good lately when he comes to the plate,” he says, nodding towards the game.
“I know. Did you see that homerun that he thought was caught? He’d already turned and headed towards the dugout when he realized everyone was celebrating his walk-off. Poor kid will never live it down.”
As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I hear the gasps around us. I look up just in time to see the ball sailing out of the park off Conrad’s bat.
I turn towards Chris, exchanging big smiles and high fives. “Hey, he must have heard us. Can’t beat that. Another big walk-off win from Conrad” he says.
“The Braves are making that an art form this year. They’ve got the most last at-bat wins in the Majors.” My dad says I shouldn’t talk about baseball so much with guys, but I can’t help myself. I can’t just pretend not to know this stuff.
He’s cocking an eyebrow at me again before taking the last swallow of his beer. “Impressive. How’d you learn so much about baseball?”
I shrug my shoulders like it’s no big deal, because it isn’t. I’m just a girl who likes baseball. Perhaps more rare than a two dollar bill, but not like discovering radium or anything. “My dad’s a big baseball fan, so I’m one too.”
We both return our eyes to the screen as the players celebrate.
“So they won?” Aubrey asks, sliding back onto the stool to my left.
“Yep, walk-off homerun by Brooks Conrad.”
I half expect her to ask me what a walk-off homerun is, but she’s already lost interest in the game. “Hi, I’m Aubrey,” she says, leaning across me to offer her hand to Chris, who has apparently been watching our conversation.
“Chris,” he says taking her tiny, perfectly manicured hand in his. “I was just enjoying the game with your friend her until you got back.”
I see the flash in her eyes, but I’m powerless to stop her.
“Did she tell you she loves baseball? She knows everything about it,” she gushes. It’s the Baseball Annie debacle all over again. Her efforts to brag on me always backfire.
Chris smiles at me before turning back to her, “Yeah, I was kinda gathering that. How do you two girls know one another?”
“We’ve known each other since kindergarten,” I say.
“Long time, huh? You girls must be close. Are you roommates?”
“No,” Aubrey says, “I live with my fiance.” She flashes her ring at him for a lingering second before continuing, “Reed lives here in Brookhaven, just down the road.”
“Well, well. Me too,” he says, motioning for the bartender to bring him his bill.
I’m horrified to find myself a little disappointed that he’s leaving.
“If he brings my tab, tell him I’ll be right back,” Chris says, excusing himself and heading towards the bathroom.
Aubrey is squeezing my arm, “He’s so cute!” she squeals in my ear.
“He’s okay I guess,” I say, trying to cover the blushing I feel traveling up my cheeks.
“Oh stop, you know you like him! Give him your number.”
“Now what would Miss Delilah say about that?” I ask, giving her the best stern look I can muster. “Ladies do not chase gentlemen.”
“Oh, please. When do you listen to my mother,” she says, shaking her head, causing long strands of her white blonde hair to escape from her swept-back bun.
“On this one she’s right. Did you just offer up your number to Nate?”
Aubrey frowns in defeat. “No,” she says, sheepishly, “he chased me down in the parking lot to ask for my number.”
“Exactly. That’s how it’s supposed to be. They’re supposed to chase us if they really like us.” I nudge Aubrey and nod my head towards the bathroom, where Chris has emerged and is headed back our way.
In order to avert any awkward attempts at goodbye, I pretend to be totally engrossed in a conversation with Aubrey about wedding colors. I pretend not to notice his return.
“What about pinks and browns?” I offer, having no idea how you go about choosing wedding colors.
“If I get married in the garden, the pink might clash with all the red roses, don’t you think?”
I have no idea. Can you really clash with nature? “Yeah, maybe you’re right. What about pale yellow?”
Aubrey isn’t answering, she’s shifting her eyes over my shoulder, and then I feel a hand on my arm.
“It was nice to meet you both,” Chris says, nodding towards Aubrey before his eyes are back on me. “Maybe I could call you sometime? I get Braves tickets from work all the time and am always looking for a game buddy.”
Yes, I want to scream! A date to a Braves game, now that’s my idea of a good time. “Sure,” I say, willing myself to stay composed. I wait for him to remove his BlackBerry from his pocket and then slowly recite the number.
“Great. I’ll give you a call sometime.” He slides his phone back in the pocket of his jeans. “Good night ladies,” he says with a dramatic bow.
Aubrey is giggling at his exit, her manicured claws digging into my leg as she squeezes it under the bar. “See! He totally likes you!” she says as soon as the door shuts behind him.
As excited as I am to give out my number to a guy I actually want to hear from, I’m cautious about getting my hopes up. Guys from bars never call. Or they only call for a booty call. Either way, the odds of seeing Chris again are slim.
“Yeah, we’ll see,” I offer her before steering the conversation back to her impending nuptials. “So what about yellow? Does it have wedding color potential?”
She’s babbling on about how her cousin Jennifer has already refused to wear yellow in the wedding when I hear my phone beep. I look down to see a new text.
It’s Chris. It was nice to meet you tonight. You girls have fun.
Audrey doesn’t even notice me staring at my phone as she debates the merits of sage green. I can’t wipe the grin off my face as I put my phone away and turn my attention back to wedding palettes. Maybe I managed to turn this night around after all.