The glide of the cue ball is smooth as it rolls across the pool table, the clink loud as it makes contact with the eight ball before sinking it into the corner pocket.
“And that’s how it’s done, fellas,” I cheer, tossing the pool cue onto the table and turning to my two best friends. They groan as I hold my palm out for their money.
“Screw off, Miller, you cheating bastard,” Casey Meyers scoffs, dropping a couple twenties into my hand. He shakes his head, but the smile on his face tells me he isn’t actually angry with me.
“When will we learn?” Bryan Wheeler digs in his pockets for his share, and I just shrug at him.
“Hopefully never,” I joke, and Casey reaches out to pull me into a headlock, rubbing his fist against my skull. When I jam my elbow into his stomach, he lets me go, and we all laugh at ourselves.
The three of us have been best friends since kindergarten. Casey stole my chocolate milk, and I socked him in the nose. We met Bryan outside on the playground when he invited us to play kickball. We’re been inseparable since. The three amigos. Now we’re all seniors at the University of Tennessee, only a couple weeks away from spring break.
We’ve spent the last week making plans for when we go home, and we’re all anxious to be back. Casey has plans with his longtime girlfriend, and I’m gonna catch a Preds game with Bryan and my younger brother Drew. He’s in his freshman year at the University of Memphis, and I haven’t seen him since Christmas break. It’s gonna be a good week.
“One more round?” I ask, reaching over to pick up a piece of chalk. Bryan and Casey narrow their eyes at me, but fifteen minutes later, they’re laughing when I accidentally sink the eight ball while aiming for a striped.
“Finally, Miller. I finally kicked your sorry ass!” Casey cheers, tossing his arm around Bryan, who just finishes his beer with a smirk.
“I concede to the greatness that is Casey Meyer. All hail the mighty Casey,” I say while I clap my hands, leaning down to bow before him. Bryan is cracking up, and he pretends to curtsy, batting his eyelashes at Casey.
“Fuck the both of you.” Casey groans, tossing his pool stick onto the table. Bry and I follow suit. “Wanna grab a pizza on the way home?” he asks, reaching for his jacket slung over our booth.
“Sure,” I say, pulling on my own jacket. “And I’ll pay.”
“You mean we’ll pay,” Bryan says, pointing between himself and Casey.
Laughing and shoving each other around, we head out of our favorite bar and toward my old Blazer. Climbing behind the wheel, I crank the engine and pull out of the parking lot. Our favorite pizza dive is only a couple miles away, so it doesn’t take long before we swing into the parking lot. I find a spot and kill the engine.
We’re here so often that the owner, Jimmy, gives us a wave when we walk in and make our way to our usual booth toward the back. Sliding in, I don’t bother reaching for a menu, knowing we’re gonna order the same thing we usually do. A large Hawaiian with Cokes and a large side of fries. And when our waitress comes over a minute later, that’s exactly what we order.
“Lucy is wanting to do a group night next week, so what day are you guys free?” Casey asks, taking a sip of his drink.
“We have the game on Tuesday, but I don’t have anything set in stone the rest of the week,” I tell him, reaching for my own drink.
“I’m going to be working with my dad on the basement Thursday most of the day, and then Nana is coming over for dinner. But same here. We left our plans somewhat open knowing y’all would want to do something.” Bryan spins his ball cap backward and rests his arms on top of the booth.
“Okay, I’ll let her know. Some of her girlfriends from Boston are coming with her, and they want to meet you two jackasses.” Casey smirks. “Why, I’ll never know.”
“Hell yes!” Bryan cheers, and we laugh, Casey tossing a salt packet at him.
Our antics continue until our food arrives and we dig in, laughter still loud. Something about being with your two best friends the week before spring break of your senior year will do that.
Life is pretty fucking sweet at the moment, and I’m not sure much could change that.
Forty minutes later, we pay our bill, and after leaving behind a hefty tip, we head out to my car, waving goodbye to Jimmy. I climb behind the wheel as Bryan and Casey argue for dibs over shotgun before Casey finally gets in next to me, Bryan huffing in the back seat.
Rifling through my CD case hanging over my visor, I settle on a Red Hot Chili Peppers one and pop it into my stereo. Turning it up, I pull out onto the road to our apartment. I have an early class in the morning followed by a six-hour shift downtown at the mall. Working at the little photo studio pays decent, but usually there aren’t many people who come in.
But it’s my dream to have my own studio. I want to photograph weddings and families and high school seniors and anything else. It’s my passion.
We’re about two miles from home when Casey’s cell phone starts chirping from his pocket. I glance over at him and catch his annoyed look when, out of nowhere, we’re hit head-on.
My head is whipped against my window.
Through blurry vision, I see the ground and sky tumbling over one another.