This story is not about me. It’s about Marco and Nina.
I wasn’t even there when it started.
Don’t get me wrong. I lead a superbly fantastic life. I’m even somewhat of a legend in some circles. Alex Keaton – tall, dark, handsome, always impeccably dressed - suit and tie, built like your typical Greek god.
You’ve probably already heard of me. A different girl every night, over a hundred very satisfied customers served, and a self-proclaimed, but generally acknowledged “Player King” in the city, perhaps even the state. I live a life of “single servings”. No hooks. No strings. My phone is full of booty-call contacts. In fact, I have a weekly roster of girls that if I’m any more pedantic about, I would make some kind of “chore” wheel. That’s me in a nutshell though: freewheeling and blissfully happy with my awesomely excellent bachelor life.
But I digress.
Or perhaps not, if I can segue back to what happened eight months ago. Since what happened with Marco and Nina was like the direct opposite of my whole entire life’s endeavors thus far.
When I arrived at our usual bar, The Irish, the two of them were just stepping out.
I high-fived Marco as he went on his way out.
“See you later, man,” he bid me.
Marco Welling was one of my closest friends from college, and we hung out most nights with the same group of people since business school – for four, maybe five years by then.
On the other hand, Nina Simons was new. She had just moved to the city the month before. She was definitely gorgeous – tall, blonde, think Scarlet Johansson before she got her boobs reduced. But naturally, in deference to my friend, I never went there. Though I did crane my neck to check out her ass as she walked out the door. Marco’s arm was slung comfortably around her shoulders. I blew out my breath, shaking my head to myself in respect.
“Hey Alex,” Tyler Mitchell called out as I neared our usual booth.
I was going to nod in greeting at him but then I heard another sweet little “Hey Alex” from this redhead hottie at the bar, so…
Twenty-minutes later, I swung back around to our booth.
“Hey dude,” I responded to Tyler, straightening out my suit jacket and quickly nodding to the rest of the group in greeting, before sitting myself down in the empty seat beside Claire Hale. Tyler and Janice were sitting across from us.
Tyler had been Marco’s best friend since high school and Janice Coleman, who used to be Tyler’s long-time girlfriend, was now Janice Coleman-Mitchell, his wife of three years. Tyler and Janice were both entrepreneurs. They had started this “eco-friendly food wrap” business together a few years ago, and somehow it had taken off. Claire was Janice’s best friend and the group’s resident lawyer. We’d all just been at that same bar celebrating a few weeks ago when she had made associate at her firm.
This was the group. Suffice it to say, I’d met the three of them through Marco.
“You just missed it,” Janice told me as I poured myself one from the pitcher on the table.
“What?” I prompted, not looking at her.
“Marco and Nina officially just got their exclusive on,” Tyler informed me.
“And after only a month,” Claire interjected.
I instantly made a face. “No!” I exclaimed in disapproval. “What have I been telling him over and over? Monogamy is for dorks.” I gestured my pint across the table. “You know, like you, Ty.”
Claire snickered. Tyler just gave me a suffering look. And Janice made a face. “Thanks a lot, Alex,” she quipped. “Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
I frowned. I was still a bit disturbed by the news. “Seriously?” I shook my head. “In this day and age?” I prompted, my eyes distracting towards the bar where a flock of quite young hot things were converged.
Janice reached across the table and smacked the side of my head. “That would be under-age to be specific,” she pointed out.
I put up my hands in resignation. “Hey, hey, there’s no harm in looking, is there? Back me up, Ty,” I prompted.
Tyler eyes darted up to me and then to Janice, looking flustered. “Whoa, hey,” he put up his own hands, “I was absolutely not looking. Damn man, are you trying to get me in trouble?” he asked me, betraying his size with the look of fear in his eyes.
But the rest of us just laughed. Tyler was like the most faithful guy ever. He had only ever had eyes for Janice. But it was always hilarious to poke fun at him about it. Especially hilarious for me, since I couldn’t imagine for a second being content with just the one girl, or having been in a relationship for as long as they’ve been. Needless to say, I had never once looked at Janice that way. Although in my opinion, Tyler had lucked out. Janice was also pretty hot.
“Whatever, this seriously sucks,” I rolled my eyes, smoothing my hair back. “I mean, Marco was my wingman. Who am I going to hit on chicks with now?” I went on to complain.
Claire gave me a withering look. “Oh please, since when did the great Alex Keaton need help hitting on chicks?” she mused. “This is the guy who has booty-calls on speed dial. The guy who needed only to walk into the bar earlier tonight before instantly managing to grab that unassuming redhead’s attention—yes, we all saw you,” she gave me a pointed nod, gesturing to the girl at the bar, “The guy who always says ‘a handmade Italian suit picks up girls by itself’?”
I gave her an authoritative look. “If you do recall, as I’ve mentioned before, the most successful pick-ups involve two players: one to set up the game and the other to close the deal.” I raised my eyebrows in a prompt. “Don’t you remember, that time when Marco went to L.A. for two days, and we were at the bar—?”
“You mean last week?” Janice quirked her eyebrow, amused.
I ignored her and went on, “And my man Tyler here was too chicken to talk to these two hot Australian tourists with me? And what happened, Ty?”
“You went home with both of them,” Tyler replied resignedly.
“That’s absolutely right,” I shrugged. “I had to go home with both of them. Imagine if I only had some help,” I paused facetiously. “Granted, by the end of the night, I didn’t actually need any help, but—I’m a sharer. That’s just the kind of guy I am.”
Tyler laughed while both Claire and Janice shook their heads in disapproval.
“It’s amazing. Just when I think I’ve heard the crassest thing come out of his mouth, he just keeps right on talking,” Claire remarked to them and Janice laughed.
“It’s not crass if it’s true,” I claimed with a sigh. “Anyway, Claire, can you please stop changing the subject? I know I am amazing but we’re not talking about me right now, god,” I feigned an embarrassed complaint and they all laughed again. “Tonight’s surprise plot twist is about Marco and Nina,” I reverted back to the topic at hand.
“So, was anyone surprised?” Tyler asked, looking at the rest of us, once we’d all settled.
“I was,” Janice put her hand up. “I’d always hoped that Marco would get his head out of his ass and fix the biggest mistake of his life.”
“Oh please, not that again,” Claire groaned out loud, waving dismissively across the table, as if the topic was a fly she could shoo away.
“Oh that’s right,” I shot her a sideways look in recall. “You guys used to date. Like a billion years ago.”
“Oh come on, girl,” Janice spoke up cattily, “even if you weren’t my best friend in the entire world, surely I would think that you have way more to offer than that dolt, Nina—,” she put up her hands, “granted, she’s nice and all, but what about her is so winningly spectacular?”
“Probably her cup size,” I muttered, not at all kidding.
That earned me a crude look from Janice. Tyler almost spurted out his drink. Claire laughed.
“Oh come on,” Janice sighed haggardly. “Surely, sophisticated guys such as yourselves—,” she stopped short upon meeting Tyler’s gaze, making a face, before she focused her gaze on me. “Alex,” she piped up expectantly, “wouldn’t you say that Claire here is just as hot as, if not more than…say, those girls there at the bar?” she gestured towards the bar.
“Ew Janice!” Claire’s eyes widened in horror. “Alex,” she started to me with a firm warning tone, “I don’t want you to even begin to answer that question.”
Tyler and I laughed.
“Oh,” Janice shifted in her seat restlessly, “but this is so unfair!” She gave Tyler and I brief glances. “I need an impartial guy’s opinion and all I have is…this useless lump,” she elbowed Tyler, “and Alex friggin’ Keaton.” She sighed, sounding defeated.
“Janice,” Claire started calmly, “Marco and I…that’s ancient history. That was like—a million years ago.”
Claire gave Janice’s quip a narrow-eyed look. “Either way, nothing has changed since then. We’re just friends now. We’ve moved on. So should you. This whole tangent is absolutely pointless,” she threw up her hands.
“Either way,” Tyler repeated loudly, as if authoritatively, “Marco and Nina are our friends. If they want to enter into some form of disastrous, consequence-ridden, whirlwind, monogamous relationship, it’s exclusively their problem, isn’t it, babe?” he prompted Janice then.
“Exactly,” Claire told Janice pointedly.
Janice just rolled her eyes.
And I just shook my head, having gulped down my beer. “And on that note,” I started to stand, “I’m going to go see if any of those girls,” I gestured back to the bar, “—or a combination of them—are willing to enter into some form of disastrous, consequence-ridden whirlwind with yours truly,” I finished with a grin as I walked away.
When I came back to the table, Tyler and Janice had gone to get the next round. Claire was just sitting there, chipping off the beer bottle label with her thumb distractedly. She barely looked up when I sat back down across from her.
I narrowed my eyes. I should say I had a gift for sensing when women were particularly emotionally vulnerable, a talent which comes quite handy during the proverbial “happy hour”. And I could even say quite a few notches on my belt had been gained by being particularly sensitive to those sorts of vibes. Though I had to say I’d never sensed them from Claire before.
“I volunteer,” I spoke up, leaning forward slightly.
“I volunteer,” I repeated.
“What are you talking about?” she gave me a strange look.
“To be your rebound guy,” I shrugged with a presumptuous conceited grin. “I’d be happy to offer my services.”
She gave me a distasteful look back. “Ugh, Alex?!” she balked, aghast.
“Thanks, but I’m not quite that desperate,” she had an expression of revulsion in her eyes.
“Hey, I’m offended by that. What are you even talking about?” I chuckled airily, not at all offended. “Check this out,” I coaxed, doing some exaggerated posturing in front of her.
She narrowed her eyes at me for a few seconds. “You are disgusting,” she said, then after a pause, “And you still have that sleazy blonde’s lipstick on your chin.”
“Oh, oops,” my eyes widened, with only a half-embarrassed grin, as I got a napkin from the table dispenser to wipe my chin, using the metal napkin dispenser as a mirror. As it turned out, one of the recently turned 21-year old blondes from the group of girls before had been more than eager to make out in the bathroom with the older guy she’d just met. Maybe a little too eager.
Trust Claire to be neither too polite nor too shy to point it out. She always was the one with her head firmly on her shoulders. The no-nonsense no-B.S. arm of the group. The checks and balances. In the past, I had always found that dull. That day, I was a little bit challenged.
I gave her a disarming smile, studying her clear blue eyes. “Just saying,” I shrugged again, trying to sound conniving, “if you ever need to get back at that jerk Marco, I’ll gladly toss you one.”
But Claire just rolled her eyes, starting to get up. “I gotta go,” she said. “I’m gonna go say bye-bye to Tyler and Janice.”
“Hey, come on,” I coaxed, stretching my arms across the backrest of the then empty booth, “you’re giving up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here,” I called out as she walked away, but she didn’t even so much as glance backwards. Though I craned my neck to check out her ass as she left—something I had honestly never thought to do before, and I blinked, surprised—impressed. “Tsk,” I shrugged at the potential missed opportunity.
Aside from Janice, Claire was probably the only other female in the city that I wouldn’t even have dreamed of hitting on. I had never once considered it because of the history with Marco - “bros before hoes” and all that. But right then, I stopped to think. Since Marco had already moved on, perhaps it was also time for me to reconsider.
I mean, Claire was also pretty cute. And it seemed like a thing to do to pass the time.
Like, at least once anyway.