"He always was a cocksucker," announced Jason, pouring the last of the beer from the pitcher into his thick plastic mug. His spiky blond hair glowed orange in the dark parlor lights around us. "I'm sorry I ever introduced you to him, Jen."
"Yeah." Bart sat up straight, raised two fingers to his lips, and whistled. When the bartender looked our way, he pointed at the empty pitcher, then held up two fingers. He reached out with one long arm and snatched up the last slice of sausage and olives. "Pussy too. Throws like a girl."
That got a chuckle from me. "Alex is not the athletic type," I explained with exaggerated patience, picking apart the wet cardboard coaster that had been soaked under my latest drink. "He's the workout type." And, boy, was he! Nice, tight abs; firm, strong arms; a chest that just had to be admired; and a butt so round and perfect that it didn't look real sometimes. But all from working out at the gym. I think a bit too much on the upper body work had caused his arms to do the thing where he just couldn't throw a softball right. Wasn't true of all men, I knew, but it was true of Alex. Sad, really. To see such a marvelous specimen of manhood look so ridiculous on the playing field.
"Muscle-bound pretty boy." Bart lowered sculpted black brows at me, his look as serious as it could be after we'd finished about a pitcher each. "Truth, Jen. He was a lousy lay, wasn't he?"
I glared at him. "He did just fine."
"Do tell!" Bart waggled those same brows. Grinning, he reached up to turn his cap so that the bill covered the back of his neck, and leaned toward me. "Did you test to see if you could bounce on his abs like a quarter? C'mon, spill. He was built like a hamster, right?" His teeth were surprisingly white against the dark background his skin presented. A big, tawny black man with a deep voice and soulful brown eyes, Bart got more chances for sex than any of the rest of us at the table, but he never passed up an opportunity to hear about it.
Ken kicked him underneath the table. "Yeah, jackass, that's just what she wants to talk about after the asshole dumped her."
"Oh, fuck you." Bart threw a wadded-up napkin at him. "I'm just trying to lighten the mood." He raised his mug over his head. "Good riddance to him anyway."
Jason, Ken, and quiet, amused Davey all raised their mugs over my head, saluting Bart's words.
I twisted my mouth into a weak parody of a smile. Actually, I did wish that Bart hadn't mentioned it. Sex with Alex had been fabulous, to say the least. Alex had been into long, slow fucking with lots of foreplay. Long, slow fucking and foreplay that I would now not get to experience again. It had taken me twenty-five years to find a man to have sex with in the first place--now what was I going to do?
Ken poked my arm. "Quit it," he said when I glared at him.
I wrinkled my nose at him, but he just rolled his eyes. Ken knew me better than anyone, and he knew I was remembering. My best friend through college and beyond, Ken had heard all of my bitching and whining for the past week since Alex had lowered the boom. He might have been more anxious for me to get over it than I was.
"Now, now, kiddies." Bart spread his big hands on the pockmarked table before him. He paused while the waitress leaned over him to set down the two new pitchers of beer, admiring the cleavage she displayed for him with a smile. He didn't go looking for women--they fell at his feet. Which was one of the reasons he and I got along. He saw me as one of the guys, despite the fact that I had tits. It had been that way since we'd met, and we were both very happy with the arrangement. Giving the waitress--who had to be new, since I, a regular, hadn't ever seen her before--an encouraging smile just before she left, he picked up my mug in one hand and the fresh, frothing pitcher in the other. "Let's not fight. Let's just get drunk." He poured.
Drunk. Yeah. That's what I needed. I was already on my way, as were we all. Still in our uniforms from the softball game we'd won a few hours ago, we knew we were safe to drink since Bart would send us all home in taxis in a little while anyway. Discussion of the baseball game playing on one of the televisions mounted overhead replaced the dissection of my now nonexistent love life.
Unfortunately, my thoughts would not stray far from Alex. He was the first real boyfriend I'd had in my life, even if the relationship had only been for three months, with him out of town a few weeks during that. The fact that it had ended so abruptly stuck in my craw. I hadn't done anything wrong. I hadn't smothered him. I hadn't done the typical girl things. I'd given him freedom. I'd never denied sex. In my own humble opinion, I'd been a damn fine girlfriend. Discussions with Ken and Bart had both backed me up on this fact. So why...?
"Okay, damn it!" I slapped the table to get their attention. "What's wrong with me?"
Four pairs of eyes in varying degrees of bleariness looked to me. I'd interrupted some heated conversation that I hadn't been following.
"Wrong?" Jason blinked half-focused blue eyes at me, perplexed.
"I know, I'm too fucking butch, right? Or am I too plain?" I scraped a hand through the bangs falling in my face. At the moment the hair was certainly a mess, the length of it drawn into a sweaty ponytail down my back, but when it was clean, it fell in gentle waves halfway to my waist. Alex had loved my hair. Or at least, that's what he'd told me when we'd been sleeping together. I'd never thought the rest of me was all that impressive, but he'd seemed to enjoy me for a time. "What'd I do?"
"Jeez, Jen, give it a rest," Davey grumbled, attention fixed on the television above.
Jason gave me a commiserating smile. "Yeah, you just forget about him. Ain't nothing wrong with you."
"No, Jason." I jabbed my finger on the table. "Alex left me, and all he'd say was, 'It wasn't working out.' That's bullshit. I wanna know why. I don't wear dresses and shit. Is that it? I'm not all that 'feminine'? Should I start wearing makeup and high heels?"
Ken slapped the back of my head, almost making me knock my forehead on the mug sitting in front of me. "Now you're being stupid."
Scowling, I backhanded his shoulder. "Then what?"
Ken fixed big brown eyes on me. He was drunk, but he handled it well. "Alex was a first-class idiot. I told you that when you started dating him."
"He couldn't handle a woman like you." I turned to blink at Davey, thrown for a second by the light sheening his glasses so he looked like one of those cartoon characters with no eyes. "Not a lot of men can."
"And most of us know it." Bart picked up a cold slice of pepperoni, then shook his head and put it down carefully. "Some of us'll try, then run for the hills."
"Bastards, all of you," I grumbled.
"No doubt, no doubt."
"Why don't you sleep with one of us?" The table went silent as the weight of Davey's soft-spoken words hit us. I wasn't the only one staring at him with my mouth open.
He rolled his eyes and looked at us all. "What? Am I the only one who thought about it?"
I said, "Yeah," but I heard the noes, which just made me turn my unhinged-jaw stare around the table. "What?!"
More rolled eyes from different heads.
"Oh, come on, Jen," Bart scoffed. "You didn't think we hadn't thought about sleeping with you?"
He had? Mr. Snap-my-fingers-and-pussy-comes-running? "No."
The back of my head got slapped again, Ken muttering, "Stupid."
"You too?" I cried, too stunned to even grumble about being hit. Ken and I were friends. I'd heard him talk about his various girlfriends. We weren't like that.
Because his black hair was cut short around the ears and neck, I clearly saw the flush that turned his skin a few shades darker, even if he tried to ignore it. "Jesus, Jen, how blind are you?"
"But..." I spread my hands on the table before me, looking around at them. Mostly I looked at necks and chests because, all of a sudden, I wasn't comfortable looking at their faces.
Jason laughed. "Don't worry, Jen. It's not like any of us were going to do it." He scowled. "Wait, that came out bad."
Bart chuckled. "Jen, we're all very aware that you don't look at us that way." He gave my hand a brotherly pat. "We're your friends. That's okay."
"Although"--Davey held up a long finger--"if you really wanted casual sex, you've got four outlets right here."
Ken's blow to Davey's upper arm was harder than what he'd dealt me. "Shut up, asshole. You're making her uncomfortable."
"I'm just saying..."
"She heard what you said." Ken picked up his mug, and I barely heard the next mumble. "And hopefully she'll be too drunk to remember this conversation."
But it was out there, and I'd had way too much beer to censor myself. "I can't sleep with any of you!" Judging from the nervous glances at the mostly empty tables around us, my voice was just a touch high. I tried to tone it down. "You're my friends. I can't..."
Bart patted my back. "Don't think about it, honey. Just write it off as Davey being an asshole."
"He is an asshole." Jason glared at Davey.
Davey glared back. "Bite me, redneck."
"You know what, when was the last time you even had a girlfriend?" Jason bristled, puffing his chest out toward Davey.
Who was not impressed. He tipped his head, scoffing. "I am not going to justify myself to you."
"That hard up, are you? The porn you look at all day getting to you?"
"Yeah, keep it up. You wish you had the brains to do my job."
"Brains? It doesn't take brains..."
The conversation, such as it was, deteriorated. I tuned it out, glancing surreptitiously at the others, only to find them quite studiously not looking my way. We were going to let Davey's unexpected offer go, then, were we? Okay, that was good. Fine by me.