Roomies - Part 9

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“Another Skyy and redbull for Laura Ingalls here.” Lauren commanded the bartender cocking a thumb at me. “....Only.....” she hesitated while he hung on her sentence. She regarded me with a slight scowl and furrowed brow, which quickly relaxed to a bitchy grin “....make it a vanilla skyy....” and she shot me her queen-bee contempt-i-stare “definitely vanilla.” she smirked.

I drew back reflexively and felt my posture change. I instantly understood the expression 'get your back up'. My shoulders drew back, tensed, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just been verbally bitch-slapped, but couldn't figure what to do about it except to stare daggers at Tina's friend. Which only seemed to feed her evil glee.

Fortunately we were quickly distracted, because I had no idea how to respond.

“Good evening ladies...” said dapper guy number one, leading the pack of expensive suits descending on our tables. He turned to address me “Miss Ingalls was it?”

I heard Tina snork. I tried to retain my composure. I managed a courteous smile and nod. “Just call me Laura.” By this time even Lauren was fighting to suppress a snicker.

“And who are your lovely friends Laura?” Another suit asked?

I glanced at my companions and they all stared back at me. I could tell they were trying to send psychic shouts 'No Names! ….at least not yet!'

I acted oblivious.

“Oh, how rude of me. Let me introduce my friends.” I smiled inside when I felt them flinch.

I turned to my group who had plastered polite smiles on their faces but were trying to kill me with their eyes.

“This is Elizabeth....” I said gesturing to Becca. “....but we all call her 'Liz'.... Bennet.”

Becca smiled and nodded. I caught her confusion. And Tina's smirk.

“My good friend Anne Shirley.” I motioned to Tina who made no attempt to hide her smile.

“Beth... Elizabeth... March” I motioned to Suzie, who plastered on a pleasant smile yet still could not completely hide her bewilderment.

“Now you understand why they're Beth and Liz.” I smiled to the gentlemen while gesturing to the slightly confused Becca and Suzie.

I felt Lauren's glare boring into me, I had better make this one good. When the 'lightbulb moment' hit me I'm sure the glow shone on my face.

“And this...” I beamed to our gaggle of suit-ors “is Cathy Gale.”

Lauren shot me a glance of disapproval and surprise. She was not happy at being a 'Cathy'. She quickly regained her composure and plastered on the beauty queen smile. I looked forward to our inevitable confrontation over this later.

“Beth, Liz, Anne, Laura, Cathy” alpha suit repeated, pointing at each of us as we nodded. Not only did it help him and his group remember our 'names'.... it was a quick refresher for us as well.

“I'm Chip. Chip Stevenson.” he quickly volunteered. “And this is Alan, Blake, Reg and Geo.”

“Like the car?” I asked deadpan. The guys all grimaced and looked at each other, but Geo smiled and shook his head.

“Sorry no. It's short for Giovanni. My mom Mercedes and my father Tiguan were adamant that I would not be named for a car. Although my sister Porcia used to call me Thing.”

I couldn't help but smile. “Name dropper.”

Tina tittered, but her friends just stared at us as if we began flirting in Esperanto.

“So what brings you girls to town? We've never seen you here before.” Blake asked our group.

“So, you troll for girls here regularly?” Tina asked, the innocence on her face contrasting her sharp vocal barbs.

The guys shuffled nervously, glancing at each other. Their suave act was crumbling quickly. I was about to toss them a lifeline when Geo stepped in.

“We work nearby and come here to celebrate when we've had an exceptionally good day. So....” he turned to grin at his companions. “I guess we DO come here fairly often. And if you ladies had ever been here, we definitely would remember. So, is it your first time?”

This guy was slick and I couldn't hide my smile at how smoothly he saved his friends.

Suzie and Becca shook their heads. Lauren ….I mean 'Cathy' cut in.

“We only come here for special occasions. Our friend is getting married in a few days, so we wanted one last girls night out.” She turned to me. “Last chance to get wild before happily ever after Laura. You already bought the white dress, you are NOT walking down that aisle still a virgin if it's the last thing I do!” she grinned wickedly.

I felt my face, no, my whole body burn as I'm sure I turned redder than a boiled lobster. I fumbled for words, yet again before I could respond, Geo stepped in and saved the day.

He reached out and took my hands, turning me to him. “No? Really? Wow. That's amazing!” he said with admiration as he looked me in the eyes with what I could only read as wonder and respect.

I felt my blush begin to fade as I shot him a shy, embarrassed smile. He had turned the tables and made me the object of sympathy instead of ridicule, and he made Lauren look like a mean bitch. I nodded ever so slightly, still quite embarrassed that the topic of conversation was my alleged virginity. I was in fact still a virgin, for reasons far more complicated than anyone, save possibly Tina, could possibly imagine. Still, Lauren's snarky barb hit a bullseye she couldn't know existed, and my mortification was genuine.

Geo was gracious and gentlemanly. “I am impressed and amazed especially since you're.....” and he faltered, realizing he had walked right into the middle of a minefield.

I smiled as my own mind finished his sentence 'since you're dressed like a hooker from the future'. What I actually mumbled out was an embarrassed “...this isn't actually my dress...”

“Actually it's mine...” Tina interrupted “...but no one wears it better than... Laura... so I insisted.” She smiled.

I cracked a shy smile, still acutely embarrassed at being the center of attention.

“Well, I can't imagine anyone looking as stunning as you.” Geo smiled. “Still, you would light up the room in a burlap sack.”

“That's pretty much what she was wearing when we found her” Lauren sneered.

“Hey!” I reflexively exclaimed. Then I quickly realized she just kept digging herself deeper.

Lauren was unfazed. “So, are you going to stand here all night trying to get up the nerve, or are you going to ask us to dance?”

Blake broke into a grin. “Absolutely.” He reached out his hand to her. “Shall we?”

She took his hand with an 'about time' look, a quick hair toss and began striding to the dance floor Blake behind her as if she were leading a horse. She turned to flash us an over-the-shoulder '….well?' glare, and quickly our crowd scrambled to catch up. Geo immediately grasped my hand with a chivalrous nod and a smile, while our six other companions quickly paired off to join us.

Tina caught my panicked look. I had danced publicly a few times, but it was always with friends, and usually in the comfort of familiar night spots. There was no tension, social or sexual. It was just dancing with friends... as carefree and innocent as a childhood sleepover. This was different and I was struggling to remain calm. I held up a finger to Geo as our drinks arrived just before we headed to the dance floor. I smelled the vanilla and knew it was my Skyy Redbull... I tossed it back like cough medicine and remembered my grandfather calling it 'liquid courage'. I hoped it was. And for good measure, I quaffed Lauren's strawberry Skyy Redbull too. Bitch owed me.

The dance floor was pretty crowded, so there wasn't much room for my small and awkward movements to betray my self consciousness. Geo was a real gentleman. The comfort he projected with my awkward attempts at dancing counterbalanced my extreme social anxiety. I don't know whether it was the exertion of dancing or the fact that I only had a breadstick and a cup of coffee all day, but quickly I could feel the vodka wash over me like a warm mist, dulling the sharp edges of my self-conciousness. Geo seemed to notice it as well. I felt him relax as I relaxed and my dance moves felt more ….fluid.

I took his grin as relief that I was finally relaxing and getting into my groove, letting the music take me, and enjoying my gracious dancing companion.

I had no idea where this would lead. And at the moment, I didn't care.

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