44. Timing Is Everything
Have you ever experienced moments that seem to occur in slow motion? As if time actually slowed down, stretched, so you can process the significance of what’s about to transpire? That a whole system of events could be ready to unveil itself, pieces lining up in such a way, showing you that truly nothing is in your control?
It was like a movie scene, one that dragged along to show the impact of what was to come. Time slowed for me when I walked into 9-5 Slide tonight.
As I was running up to the door to let Andrew, our day shift worker off for the evening, I was met with a familiar face at the entrance.
Walking past, I couldn’t help but to take in the man who was leaving at the same time I was arriving.
His presence sent an icy chill over me like a blanket of discomfort. I’d seen him here before. I remember, specifically because he was dressed like didn’t he fit in with the typical crowd at 9-5. Pretty sure I called him “suitman”. I also remembered him because he was the dick that physically grabbed me and hit on me while I was working that night.
I awkwardly sneak under his arm, looking back as his eyes catch mine, replaying the memory in my mind. The button up dress shirt, five o’clock shadow, and the peculiar look on his face.
Feeling a tad uneasy at the sight of him, I try my best to brush it off, seeing as he’s clearly leaving the bar. I have enough anxiety as it is with current events.
I talk to Andrew for a few minutes, chatting about nothing in particular, until I eventually take over and start the night shift for John.
I can’t help but to worry about everything and everyone around me at the moment. So much is happening. I anxiously check my phone for a message back from Kid. He told me after he called and left message after message for Julie, his parole office, that we’d just need to wait it out. I told him that wasn’t enough and to keep calling.
More than likely, Hawke would be charged with something, possibly battery. Who knows what they’d make up after Patrick’s call. His ridiculous ass couldn’t even take a hit from a woman and own up to it. I’d rather I got charged with the crime and take this burden from Cameron, the innocent man of the century.
It’s alarming how easy it was for them to assume he’d caused trouble again. The poor guy had been a scapegoat for their family before, but to add to it because of me was preposterous.
The thought of Hawke in a cell right now, contemplating in his head if he’ll be released makes my blood boil. I need to find a way to get him out. It’s time I save him for saving me from a lifetime of my own imprisonment.
I text Kid to try Julie, again, wondering if he’d be coming in soon to “watch” over me. I hadn’t seen him or his normal crew of guys here yet. Just me, a few regulars, and old Leonard, holding down the fort at the moment.
Luckily, it’s filled with mostly regulars. Leonard is saddled up at the bar, reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a far cry from the classic literature he’s been reading, but such is life. Sometimes you need to dive into the crazy.
I text John, asking how everything is going with him and Anna and the baby, when the bar receives a call.
“9-5 Slide, this is Cole, how can I help you?” I answer.
“Cole? That’s a new one, here I thought Nic filled in for me,” John chuckles, knowing it’s me.
I’m immediately relieved to hear his happy tone and uplifting energy.
“New nickname, kinda stuck,” I grin into the receiver, stacking some clean glasses while we talk.
“I like it. But hey, Cole,” he starts, using the new nickname like he’s been using it for years. “I just wanted to call and let you know everything is fine with Anna and the baby.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief.
“Turns out she was having some Braxton Hick contractions. Everything is good, just starting to actively move along.”
“Oh, God, I’m so happy to hear that. I got nervous.”
“Trust me, I did too. But everything is great, she’s resting at home now, more comfortable, eating some of my homemade chicken noodle soup.”
My lip pulls into a grin at the thought. He’s going to be a great dad. He’s already such an amazing boyfriend. So kind and always caring.
“I can come in, finish the night if you’d like,” he starts offering.
“God, no.” I stop him immediately. “You stay home with her and relax, I’ve got everything covered.”
As soon as I say it, I hear the door open and see Patrick walking in. My heart stops. I really feel like someone placed a ton of bricks on my chest. The tightness is starting to feel like I’m being choked on the air around me.
“Cole...girl, you’re the best,” John continues talking. “Hey, did you ever break up with that guy? Patrick, I think his name was? The one with the family who practically owns the town? I was worried and never found out what happened between you two.”
“I, uh...” I mutter as Patrick approaches the bar, the look in his eyes confident and intimidating as he takes a seat.
“Are you alright? Like are you safe? Can you at least tell me that?” John asks, seemingly worried at my inability to answer.
I can’t say anything because the man is literally standing there, staring at me with blank eyes. Eyes that scream authority and entitlement. Eyes that tell me any tiny kindness he used to have within him is gone at the infidelities I’ve burnt him with.
I sigh into the phone, clearly making John even more worried.
“Cole, say something, you’re making me nervous,” John continues on the other end. “Just promise me you’ll tell me if there’s something wrong.”
“Okay, yeah,” I say quickly, sounding as calm as possible.
John hangs up after I’ve unconvincingly reassured him I’m fine and to go back to helping Anna. Hanging up the receiver, I pause, facing the wall, realizing just how ridiculous this is. I turn and walk up to where Patrick is seated on the other side of the counter.
“What can I get for you?” I ask with sarcasm.
I’m not about to wither away beneath his scare tactics.
He tilts his head and smiles eerily. “Well, now that the problem is out of the way, I think it’s best if you came back home.”
My eyes narrow at him, my back teeth clenching together tightly at the way he just called Hawke the problem. It’s never been more clear what the intention was when those police came to find us. I should’ve never hit Patrick and given him the opportunity to use that against Hawke. He’s the real problem.
“No. Never gonna happen,” I reply, turning to put some dirty glasses into the sink.
“Nic, c’mon...I get it,” he says in a calmer tone. “You had a moment, got caught up in his ways. He’s very manipulative. Finding someone soft like you, it was easy for him to mold you and use you to get back at me.”
I laugh. I actually laugh a hearty belly laugh causing Leonard to peek over at us from his book.
“But you can’t seriously believe the lies he spews. I mean, look at the guy and look at you. What would a guy like Hawke actually want with a girl like you? You need to come back to what’s safe. Come home.”
“You’re insane Patrick, clinically insane,” I say, scoffing. “You seriously think after everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve heard, and with how you’ve treated me, that I’d honestly ever take you back?”
He just sits there, not knowing what to do, not knowing what to say, because there is nothing he can say. He has no control over me anymore and he's starting to realize that.
“You need to leave,” I say definitively, placing both hands on the counter and nodding towards the door.
“I’m not leaving.”
“Nic, enough of this shit,” he growls, standing up and gripping the edge of the wooden bar between his hands.
Leonard drops his book, turning his body to face us, watching the interaction curiously.
I stand behind the bar, watching as he starts to slowly come undone by not getting his way. My mind starts racing with ideas.
“You know what’s funny?” I ask quietly, leaning against the edge with an easy smile. “I was with you for years. Years. And I didn’t know what an orgasm was until I met Hawke.”
His face drops. It’s clear he can’t breathe with the truths I’ve released into his air.
“Like I legitimately had no idea what it was. Never had enough time to have the chance to find out with you. Two minutes is a long time when you're holding a plank, not when having sex with your significant other.”
His mouth drops open as he stares at me, so I continue whispering.
“It wasn’t until Hawke fucked me in his bed, on the couch, on the kitchen table, all over that damn house, while you were out of town on business, did I finally realize how phenomenal sex can be.”
The conversation is creating a fire inside of him. I feel it building. I lean forward, closer to his ear, ready to really piss him off.
“He fucked me so good, I even let him cum in me,” I whisper in his ear, before leaning back with an angelic grin.
That’s the breaking point for him. He loses control. He kicks the stool, causing it to topple over behind him, creating a scene as the other patrons turn to face us. He grabs my t-shirt near the neck, pulling me across the bar towards him. I’m not even fighting it, if he hits me here in front of everyone, I’ll gladly take it for Hawke.
His fist curls into itself as he holds it up behind him, acting as if he wants to hit me.
“You evil bitch,” he grimaces between clenched teeth.
Leonard barges over out of nowhere, gripping him by the chest, pulling him off me.
He says the word with such authority that it startles me. Patrick tries to brush him off of him to no avail, Leonard has a firm hold on his sweater.
“You should’ve left this alone! Digging up old graves isn’t going to be good for you,” he warns as Leonard throws him out of the door.
He dusts his hands off, closing it behind him, as he walks back over to me at my position behind the bar.
“You need to be more careful. He could’ve really hurt you,” he says in a deep, serious tone.
I start to feel a tad foolish for driving him to the point of potentially hitting me just to prove a point.
“I know.” I sigh, blinking profusely, trying to think straight.
My hands are still shaking and my heart is racing at the exchange. He was seriously close to punching me.
“They weren’t kidding about him,” Leonard scoffs.
Wait, I’m confused. Who told Leonard about Patrick? And who's they?
“You didn’t really believe they’d let you be here alone, did you?” he continues with a half grin pulling at the lips hidden beneath his overgrown beard.
“What?” I ask breathlessly. “So you know Hawke and Kid?”
I know they frequent the same bar, but I’ve never seen them interact. It leaves me to wonder how much Leonard actually knows about this place and the people around here.
“I’m a big city dog living a small town life. I hear things, see things, know things. He’s a good boy who’s struggled with situations out of his control. But, oaks grow strong in contrary winds,” he says with a hint of hope in his eyes.
His statement gives me pause. Even in small towns where the rich and entitled attempt to rule, you find genuine souls, ones with hearts so real. They grow through the cracks, watching, waiting, ready to stand up for what’s right, stand up for the ones who need it, deserve it. That’s the good side of people knowing everything about you in these sheltered towns. The only side that counts.
"That they do,” I whisper in response, loving that Leonard has a seemingly deep rooted respect for Hawke.
He finds his seat again, sipping on his whisky neat while turning back to his page in Fear and Loathing as if the moment never happened.
Sudden panic hits me again as I check my phone to see if Kid has gotten anywhere with Julie. Sure enough there’s a message from him.
Kid: Julie’s at the station. I’m not sure what that means, but she’s there now. I’m heading over in case they release him. I’ll get at you when I hear more.
Dammit. I need answers.
I continue on with the night, working the next few hours in total limbo, seeing some of Hawke’s guys filtering in and out at different times, making my heart warm with a sense of security. The bar finally begins fizzling out. People are leaving and it’s about time to wrap up for the evening.
Leonard walks me out, waiting for me while I shut down the register and go to close up.
“Take care of yourself young lady, and if you got any sense, you’ll leave this shit-hole town on the next train out.”
There’s a hidden seriousness in his joke. One that tells me with confidence, there’s nothing left for us here. The place has all but dried up with the secrets and lies blowing like sand in a barren desert. Not a sustainable environment for a newly grown love.
Leonard leaves beside me in his black Bronco as I start up my car to head back to the motel, with the plan to call Kid back on the way. I sit there for a moment, head back against the headrest, trying to remember if I locked the front door.
I was so focused on my conversation with Leonard, that I can’t remember for the life of me if I locked it. I was working on autopilot, not even thinking while I closed up.
I look around me, seeing an empty lot, void of anyone. Running to the door with my keys in hand, I give it a quick pull, to ensure I’m not crazy. Seeing it’s locked, I breathe a quick sigh, feeling stupid for not paying attention and turn to race back to my vehicle.
I reach to open my door when the front of my chest gets pushed up against my car door by a firm body holding me to it.
I gasp, dropping my keys to the ground at the forceful push.
Timing is everything.