They had a plan, like most bands did in smaller, more intimate places. There were songs that were meant to be song to girls, and that's how they performed them. When that song would come up, they would each find a girl in the audience and sing it to her, but only a few lines could be directed to a single girl before both would move on to another.
Neither ever stayed with the same girl during the entire duration of a song, and once their eyes left one girl, they would never find her again. That was the rule. Jasen never broke it. Hank was a little less observant of it. The reason for it was simple, the "love" songs were slower and a bit less interesting for the audience.
Eye contact, however, got the girls going and that giddy excitement spread to everyone around them. The never-continuously-look-at-a-girl rule helped to save them from the over zealous female admirers, though that couldn't be completely avoided.
The male performers who were interested in more than just getting the crowd going would shift back to the same girl, one who looked willing, a few times. It made her feel as special as she needed. Hank liked to make a girl feel special from time to time. They started on their third song, the first with any edge of romance in it as a waitress weaved her way through bumps of people with a loaded drink tray in hand. Glancing up, shortly the room too crowded to take her eyes off of where she was going-- she saw that Hank found his first girl within the first couple lines of the song, singing to her over the piano.
She had watched enough performers to recognize the trick and how easily girls fell for it. Jasen, however, seemed to be taking longer, scanning over the crowd of tables and people. This was always the case with them. Hank had no problem with the flirtatious looks, but it often made Jasen uncomfortable. There were plenty of girls looking at him, staring and giddy, hoping she would be the one he would choose.
The song had just reached the chorus when the waitress reached the table near the center. As expected, it was filled with the same group of college guys that it always was on Friday nights.
She gave them her usual smile as she began setting their drinks down, mostly beer with a couple mixed drinks. "Here you go, boys." she called over the music, already hating that there wasn't enough room for her to walk around the circular table, meaning she had to lean across to give the guys on the other end their drinks.
"Having a good time tonight?" She asked, casually, setting down the last drink to the guy furthest away. There was a hand on her leg, fingers slightly wrapped around her thigh. "You know we always have a good time." The one closest to her, Tyler she thought his name was, looked up at her with a buzzed grin.
"You should hang out with us, then you could join in the fun." His fingers tightened, squeezing her leg to emphasize his meaning, before sliding upward. "Sorry, boys, but if I hang out with you, who will get those drinks you all love so much?" Though her voice was joking, her heart had started racing, and she was superbly uncomfortable.
It was getting worse. "Wave me down if you need anything. You know the drill." She gave them another smile, this one a bit weaker than before, and, pulling herself from his grip, began to make her way through the crowd. He watched as it happened, still playing and singing, but noticing the drop in her face the second the guy's hand touched her leg.
As she moved away, his eyes followed, tracing her path through the throng of people. She came to a table cluttered with empty plates and glasses, and stopped to pile them onto her tray. With a deep breath, she paused, closing her eyes and listening to the music. When they opened again, they traveled to the stage.
She couldn't be sure that he was looking at her, but she knew that he was looking in her direction, a slightly crooked smile on his face as he sang. The way his mouth moved while he sang was mesmerizing.
His ease was slightly calming, and she couldn't help but smile because of it. It was more than the friendly smile she gave to customers as she took and delivered their orders, and it was not fake in any way.
There was real, relaxed joy behind it, coming from the gentle tune of the piano and the harmony from the boys' voices, as well as Jasen's crooked smile. For a second, his voice caught a bit, raising the smallest fraction in pitch as his lips raised into a slightly wider grin.
Just like that, he caught himself, and the pitch fell back into place as he forced his mouth to settle. Regardless, he heart started beating faster. Hank moved on to the next girl, but even as this one's eyes fell away, Jasen stayed with his first pick. With as busy as the bar was that night, she couldn't waste more than a second standing there to watch. She tried to clear the thought from my mind that he was looking at her, though she couldn't help but noticing that his gaze did not falter.
There was no time, though, to admire someone who was more than likely looking at some other girl in the vicinity. She turned and moved to the next table, back to her friendly smile and polite, though slightly forced, conversation. Jasen found that, even as the song ended and another began, he was still watching the same girl move about the room, seeing her deliver drinks and chat with different people, always smiling with constantly shining eyes.
Every so often, she would look back to the stage, a flickering glance,admiring the music and thinking about one of the singers looking at her, though feeling she knew he hadn't been. Yet, the more she looked up, the more she noticed that his eyes always seemed to be in her direction. Jasen couldn't take his eyes off of her. It was something he hadn't experienced before, but he even found himself almost flubbing lyrics whenever she would glance up toward the stage with that smile on her face.
Still, she continued to reason that he couldn't be looking at her; she just happened to be in the right area when he shifted his glance. "Alright everyone, I hope you're all having a good time! We're going to take a short break and then we'll be right back.
Don't run off!" Both stood up from the piano as Kairi made her way to the bar counter, carrying a tray of empty glasses, not knowing that a pair of eyes were following her with innocent interest.
"Hey, Kairi," the bar manager called to her over the recorded filler music that began to play. "What to you think of the music?" "Great choice, Mark. I think the crowd is really loving it! Where'd you find them?" "YouTube." He answered with a satisfied grin. "All of their videos have over a million views, I figured that made them a good choice." Kairi chuckled as she started emptying her tray into the bus bin, doing what she could to avoid getting any of the alcohol on her hands.
"Those girls are going crazy for them too, aren't they, so they much be a great choice?" He chuckled himself, pointing out a table of giggly girls who continually looked up at the vacated stage. She rolled her eyes at the thought of such shameless and 'girly' behavior.
"Some girls have no self-respect. All they know about those guys is that they sing and play well, are mildly attractive and somewhat famous. The last part is more than enough for some of those girls to throw themselves into bed with someone." Although she was far from the star-struck type, she was still human and still a twenty year old girl who enjoyed looking at and thinking about certain kinds of guys. Catching Jasen's eye the few times that she had, mixed with his great voice and intoxicating smile, was enough to get her thoughts going, but she would never act upon them the way she knew some of those girls had done and would do countless times.
"You can't tell me that those guys aren't insanely hot!" Another waitress came up with her own tray of glasses, entering the conversation. "Regardless, Julie, 'insanely hot' or 'famous' shouldn't be the only criterion for sleeping with someone." "Oh, come on. Why not?" "Because, Kairi has too much passion inside of her to have meaningless sex like some people," Mark shot, giving a playful grin.
"Do me a favor, hon," he turned to Kairi, "Since you're not quite as ready as Miss Eager over here to get in those boys' pants, go see if they want anything to drink." She nodded, always more than willing to do the things that were asked of her. It was only too true, and lately painfully true. When you're broke, you have to work hard or you'll stay broke.
"Oh, Julie! Are you still able to give me a ride home tonight?" "Of course. Couldn't expect our innocent Kairi to find a guy to take her home, now could we?" Her words held an edge of good humor, showing that she did not mean to be offensive. Kairi responded only by shaking my head at this shameless waitress before going around the bar to the back portion of the stage, hidden behind flats to stay out of the audience's sight.
Both Jasen and Hank sat on wooden chairs, chatting and sipping on water. Hank wiped beads of sweat from his forehead with a gray bar rag, obviously heated from the lights above the stage. Midsentence, Jasen glanced over his friend's shoulder and saw Kairi standing there. His words stuttered to a halt as he forgot what he had even been saying. The girl was smiling. "Can I get you boys anything to drink?" Hank drained the rest of his water and handed her the empty glass, "some more water would be great." His smile was polite and undemanding.
"Thanks, hon." Picking up the glass with a smile, she turned to the second of the duo. "Anything for you?" Even when he didn't respond right away, her smile did not falter.
There was the tiniest pause during which he only stared. "Is that a no?" She asked with a humored laugh. "Oh, uh. no, yeah. water is great. Thank you." Jasen gave a weary, nervous smile of his own. She decided to not give much weight to his behavior, having no idea how he normally acted and being very used to random antics from guys in the bar. Instead, she nodded and walked back toward the counter. Just as she started pouring the waters from the tap, a rippling tingle worked its way up her spine.
Someone was looking at her; it was the only thing that could explain the feeling. Not only looking, looking intently. Turning around, she glanced at the table in the center of the room, assuming it was they were the ones looking at her, as a weekend hardly passed without their comments.
She was wrong. They were all absorbed in their drinks and talking and looking at other girls. Instead, Kairi looked the other way. Jasen stood with his back was to her, Hank in front of him, laughing. "Who would have ever imagined you would break the rules, man.
One girl, not only for a whole song, but every single second since you spotted her." "I don't know what you're talking about. Stop looking at her!" This made Hank laugh even more. "Looking at who? I thought you didn't know what I was talking about." Kairi watched Hank laugh, thinking that it was probably his occasional gaze over his friend's shoulder that gave her the feeling.
Just as she was about to go back to her work, Jasen turned. His eyes came straight to her. Before she could look again to the drinks, already starting to feel embarrassed for staring, his eyes widened infintissmially and he spun back toward Hank, who doubled over in laughter.
"She's cute, man.
Really. Amazing smile. And you know what they say about blondes." "Shut up. I'm not looking to get laid. Sleeping with random girls is your thing, not mine." Hank shoot his head, the good natured smile never leaving his face.
"Don't knock it 'til you try it. And while you're at it, explain to this to me, if you are not interested in. getting to know. that cute blonde waitress a little bit better, then why are you spending so much time staring at her that you almost flub up the words to songs you could sing in your sleep?" Filling their glasses the rest of the way with ice water, Kairi picked them up and began her way back toward the gossiping boys. "I'm just tired, alright." Jasen responded to a question she hadn't heard.
"Stop making a big deal out of everything. You'll give yourself an ulcer." Playfully, Jasen socked his friend in the arm and pushed him back toward the stage. "Don't we have a show to finish or something?" Hank hit him in the arm in return, but moved back up to the stage just the same. "I'll remember you said you weren't interested." "Here are your drinks." Kairi appeared behind Jasen as he watched his friend walk away, holding two new glasses of water, another smile strung across her lips.
"Oh, thanks." Grabbing the glasses from her, his fingers brushed her skin very lightly. Having felt countless other guys do the same thing, she tried not think much of it, but couldn't help the bit of a shiver than slid down her spine. It was a very different kind of shiver. "I uh." "Jasen, we have songs to play and sing and whatnot." Hank stuck his head out from behind the curtain of the small stage.
"I think that's why we're here, anyway. Right? That's right, isn't it? Long story short, get up here." There was clear humor in his eyes when he spoke, and he gave a wink to Kairi before returning to the stage. She needed to get back to work herself and shake the strange thoughts from her head.
"I hope you have a good rest of your show. It's great so far." Without anything else, she turned and walked away. "How about some more drinks, girly?" There was a familiar slur in the boys' words as she approached the middle table. "And maybe after this round I can take you back to my place and find out if blondes really are more fun." Once again, his hand rose to her upper thigh as she pulled empty glasses from the table.
Her spine stiffened, but she chose not to push him off, continuing instead with her friendly smile. Still, the glow was completely lacking from her eyes. "We wouldn't want to make the other boys too jealous, now would we?" She whispered in his direction before turning back to the others. "Everyone sticking with the same drinks?" The hand moved to her lower back, completely skipping over the area in between.
"I'll show you a good time." "I sure hope you mean you'll treat her like the respectable lady she most certainly is." Mark's nephew appeared behind her, his hand falling on her shoulder.
"Sorry to tell you boys, but I need to steal Kairi here for some help at the bar. Hope you don't mind." Without another word, he pulled her away, almost causing the filled tray to clutter to the floor. Once they put a sufficient distance between themselves and the table, Kairi wiggled herself from his grip. "Thanks but no thanks.
I don't want your help." Annoyed, she walked away from him quickly and spent the rest of her shift cleaning up behind the bar. "Hey there." She turned and, seeing who was talking to her, gave a smile. "Hi." There was almost a question mark with her greeting, as she was confused by being approached by him. "So, d-did you enjoy the show?" He mentally kicked himself for the stutter and wished he didn't feel so nervous.
That smile, though, was clouding his mind. "Absolutely. You all looked like you were having a lot of fun up there." Lowering her eyes from his, she went back to wiping down the nearest table. "It's always more enjoyable for the audience if the performers look like they're having a good time." Jasen nodded.
Singing and playing, especially with Hank, was the best part of his days, hearing the appreciation of everyone else came in a close second, but it was second. For a moment, he watched her clean, the ease of her motions showing that she had done this hundreds of times. "Oh, I'm Jasen, by the way." Taking a step forward, he held out his hand. She glanced down at it, her own hands occupied with the spray bottle and dish rag.
Only a second later, she set down the rag and rubbed her hand against the apron, attempting to get the excess bleach water off. "Kairi." His hand was warm against the cool of hers, and very firm, the grip lingering for a fraction of a moment longer than necessary. Kairi. It was a different name, one he had never heard before, but he enjoyed the way it sounded sliding off her tongue.
His heart sped up a notch, increasing his nervousness. "Can I, maybe, buy you." "Jasen!" The far too familiar sound of squealing girls approached behind him. "Oh my God, he is so hot! Hey, Jasen." Reluctantly, he turned his attention away from Kairi.
"Hi." There were five of them, two of them beyond blonde and all with obnoxiously straight hair and short skirts. This was his least favorite part of what he did. Kairi looked at the girls, noting how pretty they all were with perfect hair, make up and clothes.
They were spunky and energetic.
Her hair was a pleasant honey blonde, but never did what she wanted it to. She was too skinny, causing her ribs to show through her skin. Though her eyes were a pretty and lively hazel, too often they were hidden behind the lenses of her glasses.
Still unsure of why Jasen had come up to her in the first place, she was easily able to understand that these girls had taken his attention away effortlessly. Just as effortlessly, she acknowledged that she had been rubbing the same table the entire time he was there, and decided it was time to clock out and leave.
A second too late, she turned to see Julie exit through the front door, the arms of an unknown guy wrapped tightly around her. While the crowd of giggling girls asked for Jasen to sign various objects and attempted to convince him to hang out with them, she made her way to the bar counter and into the back room, hanging up her apron and tossing the cleaning rag toward the washer.
"Hey, Mark," she called into the manager's office, "do you think I could get a ride home? Julie said she'd give me one, but I guess she forgot.
Looks like she took off already." He looked up from a stack of receipts he had been riffling through. "Sorry, kiddo. My wife's been a real pain lately. You're place is on the opposite side of town, and she's been checking my odometer." The annoyed expression on his face softened a bit. "I'm really sorry. Anyone who knows you knows that you would never be the type to give a wife anything to worry about, but that won't stop her from putting me on the couch." "It's alright.
I can spare some tips tonight for a cab. Goodnight, Mark. Good luck with the wife." "Thanks, hon. 'Night." It was a compliment, the fact that she would never give a wife anything to worry about. It didn't mean that she wasn't attractive or that no guy would ever consider cheating to be with her; it meant that she was too good to allow something like that to happen. She was too sweet, too innocent, too considerate of other people. Too virginal. "I can give you a ride." Mark's nephew stood just beyond the office door, giving her a look that quickly made her uncomfortable.
Pushing the thoughts and memories which rushed to her as far away as she could, she looked him square in the eye. "I'd rather crawl home." Pushing open the back door, she slipped out into the cool night air. The truth, she thought, was that she could not spare any money that she had made. She never had money to spare.
The truth was that no guy would ever consider cheating to be with her, not that she would ever want to be 'the other woman', but it was still nice to be wanted. The truth was that she didn't feel good or innocent anymore. She didn't feel virginal. Leaning against the building, she lowered herself to the ground, pulling her sweatshirt tighter around his chest and a wad of singles from her pocket. Flipping through them, she counted once and then again.
While it was more than she made in a normal night, she still didn't think she could afford to give away the cost of a cab ride. Even so, it was after two in the morning and walking the mile and a half back to her apartment seemed like a bad idea. The thought of no longer feeling innocent flashed across her mind and was all she needed to convince her to pull the cheap cell phone from her pocket.
"Hey!" Before she could hit a single button, the back door opened and Jasen walked out. He was smiling, as if thoroughly relieved though a bit embarrassed. "Hi." Again, there was almost a question behind her greeting.
"I'm sorry about that" He gestured back inside. "Wild packs of girls tend to get a little more crazy and life-threatening if you ignore them." He ran his fingers through the hair at the back of his head, trying not to feel quite as embarrassed by what had happened as he actually was. "It was incredibly rude of me; I'm very sorry." "Oh, it's fine. Don't worry about it." Her feelings had been hurt, but the fact that he was in front of her again by his own choosing made up for that a bit.
Jasen was worried about it, and even felt a small amount of panic when the girls had left and he turned to find that Kairi had done the same. "What are you doing sitting out here? It's a bit chilly." There were goosebumps up and down her arms and the wind easily swept through the cotton of her shirt. "It's not so bad." She lied. "And I was just about to call a cab. One of the other girls was supposed to give me a ride home, but she left already, and the manager isn't able to so." She held up her cell phone as if that completed the sentence.
"You couldn't get one of your friends who was here earlier to give you a ride?" Moving closer to her, he lowered himself down as well, sitting in just a way that he blocked the wind from reaching her.
She was very thankful, but made herself look away from him to tame the butterflies that were starting to form in her stomach. Even so, her face drew into a confused expression. "Friends? Which friends?" "Those guys at that one table near the center." Mentally, she traced the layout of the bar.
"Oh," she chuckled softly under her breath, "those guys. They're not friends. They come in quite a bit, but I don't really know them at all." "They seemed friendly enough with you." Too late, he realized the words came out with a bitter edge. There was more than jealousy behind his words, which didn't make sense since he had seen this girl for the first time only a few hours earlier, but also a degree of protectiveness. The look of discomfort she had had stayed with him.
Kairi, however, was too embarrassed to noticed any of the edge that crept into his voice. "Yeah, they uh. I honestly hate myself for saying this. well, there are certain guys who will tip better if you let them get flirty." "You looked really uncomfortable, if I can be honest." Her eyes turned to him then. "Some girls may be perfectly content with having random guys grope at them and reduce them to little more than a piece of meat, but I'm not one of them.
I still have bills to pay, though, and. I guess there are some things I'm willing to compromise to stay in school and in my apartment." It was never easy for her to talk to people or open up, she wasn't one for close friends, but explaining this to him took less effort than she would have thought.
"You never worry about guys getting the wrong idea or thinking they can try for more?" Again, that thought of innocence came to her, and she looked away from him, picking a pebble from the ground and rolling it between her fingers. "Sorry," he quickly amended. "I'm sorry. It's none of my business, and I didn't mean to insult you.
You just. like you said. you don't seem like the type of girl who is willing to be a piece of meat, which is a good thing, a very very good thing. Slutty girls can act slutty, whatever, but girls who aren't shouldn't be reduced to thinking they need to be." He couldn't believe he was still talking. "I'm just rambling now. Ignore me. I'm so sorry." To his relief, she smiled. "Don't worry, you haven't offended me or anything." The words were genuine. "You're right.
I mean, of course I worry about that stuff. I think it's genetically programed in every female to worry about that stuff.even the slutty ones. Hence why I was going to call a cab and not walk home. There are certain tricks to being careful." With her final words, she looked up from the pebble she held and met his eye.
A small trace of sadness worked its way into her voice, though it was almost masked by the nonchalant shrug that punctuated the end of her sentence. There was something about her. Something intriguing yet confusing. "Can I offer you a ride home?" Without warning, he felt the strong desire to help this girl.
"I know I'm just some random guy, and you don't know me at all, but." "I don't want to inconvenience you at all." Before her sentence was even fully from her lips, he was shaking his head. "No inconvenience. And I promise to keep my hands left of the center counsel." Regardless of how nice and trustworthy he seemed, she should have said no. She should have thanked him, but refused and called a cab. "I'll even let you hold on to my drivers license, that way if I do anything you don't like, you'll know exactly where I live, so you could exact your revenge at your convenience." "That won't matter much if you drop me in a ditch and leave me for dead." A good natured smile came to his lips.
"However did you discover my plan?!" The words were more than melodramatic. "But seriously, if it makes you uncomfortable, I understand. I would appreciate it, though, if you let me wait with you until your cab comes." Her heart gave a flutter. "Actually." The sparse money in her pocket. The lack of innocence.
His amazing voice. That smile. ".a ride home would be great."