The stripper slides her greased up body around the pole and makes eye contact with Evan. She knows exactly who to butter up to get the best tips. He was drunk a few hours ago and now it’s just getting old to watch him toss money onto the stage in a very demeaning manner. A few of the other guys have joined me in a booth towards the back of the club and we’re sipping on our drinks waiting anxiously for Evan to tell us he’s done for the night or pass out.
I pull my phone out of my pocket and check for new messages from Sophie. I haven’t heard from her in over two hours and I’m starting to wonder if she drank a little too much and is going to cancel our plans to meet up tonight. I shouldn’t feel as disappointed as I do, but that doesn’t seem to matter as I tap the fingers of my free hand on the table and pray this night is almost over. She never answered my last text and I’m trying hard not to be that needy guy who sits around waiting on texts from a girl he isn’t even in a relationship with.
Finally, as the waitress brings another round to the table with an empathetic smile, I decide I lost the battle and pull my phone from my pocket for the sole purpose of connecting with Sophie.
Andrew: Hey sweetheart. Everything ok?
I watch the screen for the small dotted bubble that would let me know she is typing a message back, but instead my phone screen dims and then goes dark all together. I toss it onto the table in front of me and run my hand down my face and over the stubble of my chin.
A few more of the guys wander back to our table and scoot into the booth, watching Evan continue to make an ass out of himself. Soon he’s alone, sitting back in his chair nursing his whiskey. I figure he’s probably going to be out of cash soon and we can get out of this place before the light of the morning creeps through the dark blinds shaming all of us for having wasted this entire evening in such a shady place.
Andrew: I think we are going to leave soon. How about you?
Once again there is no sign of her and I feel my heart pick up its pace and my stomach knot with the helpless feeling of being stuck here instead of finding Sophie and making sure she made it home safe. What if she drank too much? Would anyone be looking out for her? I let my head fall back against the booth and close my eyes, fighting off the frustration and growing need to beat the shit out of my friend. I’m clearly not the only one; a few other guys keep checking their phones either for the time or texts from late night booty calls.
The bartender shouts, “Last call!” and I sit up straight, suddenly feeling excited again. We make our way over to Evan and pull him from the chair. I have no idea how he’s going to get up and look anywhere near presentable for his wedding tomorrow, but I don’t give a shit. I want to get out of here and find Sophie. We push through the doors of the club and climb into a few taxi vans, heading back to the hotel. My phone is running out of battery, no doubt from all the times I’ve unlocked the screen hoping to have missed a text from her.
Andrew: On our way back. Where are you?
This time my text shows that she saw it and I feel a small window of relief until ten minutes pass and she doesn’t respond. Now I’m starting to freak out. What the hell? Maybe she found a guy at the bar? Maybe she passed out in her room? All the possibilities are making me feel nauseous. I hate not knowing if she’s OK and my curiosity is putting me on edge.
As soon as we step out of the taxi, I bring up her name in my contacts and click send. The phone rings in my ear just once before her voicemail connects. Did she just deny my call? Maybe she’s just in a bad patch for cell service. I call again and immediately her voice mail picks up. Now I’m in a full panic. The guys are making their way to the front doors of the hotel and I run a few steps to catch up with them.
My plan is to find Rachel and ask where she is, but as the doors slide open I can see that the bride-to-be is sobbing in the lobby, sinking down on a chair and getting lost in a pile of tissue. This is not good. “Where’s Sophie?” I practically yell, startling all of the girls. A few of them look down to the ground while one forms a small “O” with her mouth. She’s my new target. I know she can sense my intensity as I stare her down. “Where the hell is she?”
Rachel sobs and blows her nose noisily into a tissue as Evan finally realizes his fiancé is upset. He bends down and gives her an irritated look. “What’s the matter now, Rachel? Florist doesn’t have the perfect shade of orange?” His words are slurred and he stands back up to wave his arms around. “Can’t be apricot, sherbert, monarch, goldfish, carrot, pumpkin or tangerine. NOOOO it has to be fucking burnt orange.” He says the last name in a high-pitched girl voice that would have had me laughing if I wasn’t so fucking worried about what happened to Sophie.
I flick my eyes back to the woman who is trying to comfort Rachel. “Where is she?”
“Well, um, she got a little upset tonight.” She waves her hand as if it’s nothing, but I take a step closer and her eyes go wide. “She took off about two hours ago. I haven’t been able to get Rachel to calm down. She wanted to wait for Evan.” From behind me I hear Evan let out an exasperated breath, “What the fuck am I supposed to do? She’s always crying about something.” His eyes meet his future bride’s, “You need to get your shit together. You’re a grown woman making a fucking scene in the lobby of a hotel that’s filled with your guests!” He spins around and waves his arms to show her the lobby.
“She knows,” Rachel wails and the girls around her suddenly seem even more interested in the tile floor.
“What does she know?” I ask, unable to put all the pieces together in this fucked up aftermath of their last night before marriage. I feel like slamming my fist through something. If I don’t get answers soon I’m going to lose my shit.
The girl draped over the edge of the large chair Rachel is slouched in finally makes eye contact with me. “She knows that Evan was having sex with Rachel while they were still together. It sort of just slipped out during one of the games.”
I see red immediately. The lobby around me becomes blurry at the edges as a rage so fierce it could shatter the walls flashes through me. I turn to look at my best friend who only shrugs a shoulder like it doesn’t make him the biggest asshole in the world to have slept with his girlfriend’s best friend while they were still dating.
It’s like an out of body experience. It seems like I’m watching a movie play out in front of me instead of the reality taking place in the lobby of a fancy hotel. “You fucking cheated on her? Are you serious?” I want him to tell me it’s a misunderstanding, but as far as miracles go, I’m pretty sure God is too busy with real issues to grant me this small favor. I shove Evan back so hard he falls, his ass sliding along the shiny slick surface of the lobby tile.
“It was a long time ago!” Evan answers, trying hard to right himself and brush off his jeans. “I’m not the one that spilled the beans. You want to blame someone, blame my chatty fiancé over there.” He points to Rachel but I don’t let my eyes stray from his for one second.
“You’re such a selfish prick! Why the fuck would you sleep with Rachel when you had Sophie?” This leads to another wail from the soggy bride-to-be. “Are you that fucking stupid? You’re a liar! How could you let her come here when you’ve done such a horrible thing to her?” My shouting has alerted the hotel staff of an impending fight and I watch as security begins to make their way over to us.
“You know me,” Evan says with another shrug, “I’m not gonna turn down a girl that’s throwing it at me. Sophie was hot, but totally inexperienced. You can’t be pissed I looked for it other places. I’m a guy. That’s what we do.” Now Rachel screams and lunges from the chair, but I beat her to him. My fist slams into his face, fueled by hate and vehemence.
One after another I rain down my knuckles into the reddened skin of his face, feeling the give of bone beneath my fists. It’s been a long time coming so if security wants to save this asshole’s life they better move a little quicker. As if this wasn’t already the most shameful display of adult behavior that has ever taken place in the lobby of this five star hotel, I hear a battle cry from Rachel as she lurches towards us, a trail of used tissues littering her path. I brace for her impact, but she passes me and dishes out her own punishment to Evans face. When the security guard pulls me off of him, she moves right in trying hard to clamp her little hands around his neck and slam his unconscious head onto the tile below them.
Now cops begin to rush into the lobby and I’m pushed aside as they tackle Rachel and smash her face into the floor beside Evan. Her friends watch in horror as she resists arrest and is once again slammed into the hard floor with a sharp cry. I expect that the next person to enter this lobby might be Jerry Springer, but within minutes the whole thing is over and security is questioning everyone.
Evan comes to in the back of the ambulance just before they are about to take him in. He quickly refuses medical attention and gives me an apologetic look as he tries hard to tell the cops the whole thing was his fault. He explains that tomorrow is the wedding and if everyone gets arrested there would be a lot of disappointed people and a ton of money down the drain. The older cop who appears to be in charge gives him a warning and a few tickets, but ultimately releases all of us with the stern threat that he will be arresting everyone if he gets called back here.
I don’t wait for the elevator. I take the stairs two at a time until I fling open the door that leads to her hallway.