Author's Note: This is an attempt to try a little something different, so I'd love feedback on it. Also, you should note that this is PJA (pre Jack and Andie).
He was twenty three now, standing outside of his place of employment for a break. His tan pants were wrinkled, the cuffs hanging over, resting on his sandals. His white polo shirt was rumpled, hanging out in some places, still tucked in other places. He was now sporting a shabby looking goatee, and his hair was a shade of lighter brown from the sun with small curls forming at the ends, looking as if he had done no more than run his fingers through it when he rolled out of bed. His frame had changed a bit in that he was muscular, but still managed to walk with that familiar swagger. The unhappiness he felt showed on his face, to the point where he didn't look like the person from his youth. He was living in the middle of paradise, but he was not enjoying it.
He was lonely as hell. The only hours of the morning he saw were the first ones, usually after he got off work. He took women home with him from time to time, but still woke up to the early afternoon light all alone. He spent hours at a time laying on the beach, usually with a cigarette in one hand, a bottle in the other. Most of the time he was plastered, thinking of drinking as a way to make things easier.
Pacey walked back into the hotel, and went to the bar. It was a bright place, just to the side of the lobby. There was a mirrored wall shelved with liquor behind the bar. Fewer and fewer people were occupying the stools at the bar now that the tourist season was winding down.
He touched the shoulder of a short man who was covering for him during his break, who quickly left. As Pacey threw a towel over his shoulder, he surveyed the people at the bar. There was a couple, cuddling up next to each other at one end, and Brian, the resident drunk parked at the other end. In fact, everyone called him Brian the drunk. "Hey Brian," Pacey said to him, as he walked to his end of the bar.
"Mike," Brian said. "What's going on today?"
"Not much," Pacey said. "Still just trying to pay the bills until that rich heiress comes in to whisk me away."
"Same here, Mike. Same here," Brian laughed.
That was who he was now. Michael Witter, bartender. He elected to start going by his middle name the first day he arrived in Puerto Rico, about three years ago. Desperate to leave Pacey behind, he wanted to have a new name for his new life.
Pacey looked up to see a tall brunette approaching. It didn't take him seconds to figure out who it was. Of all the countries she could've gone to . . . he silently thought as he watched her. Her dark hair was gently flowing down her back: She was wearing it much longer than he remembered. Her skin was a dark shade of olive, her long legs covered by a flowing floral skirt. One of her arms hung at her side holding a pair of sunglasses, while the other's fingers were combing through her hair. She walked sturdily in a pair of heeled sandals, and finally sat on one of the stools at the bar.
He looked into her eyes as she sat, but he could tell she didn't recognize him. He figured that was best. "What can I get you?" he asked.
"Gin and tonic," she sighed, "and don't be easy with the gin." He nodded, and turned his back to make the drink. He focused his energy on it, just hoping that he wouldn't be flooded with memories of her; memories of "Pacey."
Finally, he sat the drink in front of her, and she gladly took a sip of it. He turned his back, and began drying some glasses that were sitting around. "Hey," he heard her say, trying to ignore it. "Bartender."
"Yeah," he said, turning around.
"Another," she said, as she began to rhythmically tap her light purple fingernails on the bar as a sign of her growing impatience. He looked at her in shock. She had drank that gin so quickly he could tell her only motivation was to get drunk.
"Are you sure that--"
"Just spare me the lecture, and make me the goddamn drink," she said. He did as she said, placing another in front of her, then hastily retreating to speak with Brian the drunk.
She didn't pay any attention to the man who kept placing the glasses in front of her. She could care less about him, because all she wanted to do was let the gin soak up her sorrow. It was so exhausting for her to keep going after all that had happened in the past two days. Her only concern was the ever-lightening glass that sat before her. She thoughtfully ran her index finger around the rim of the glass, ready to keep moving it in the circular motion for hours, hoping it would hypnotize her into some sort of happiness.
Pacey stood back watching her as she mindlessly traced the rim of her glass. It was almost enchanting to him, but he was a bit unsure as to what she was getting out of it. Pacey stood quietly making himself a Margarita. It was almost time for him to get off, and things were slow anyway. As he was taking his first sip, he heard Brian the drunk call him. "Mike," he said.
"What's up, Brian?" Pacey asked.
"Gotta go. Here's your dough," he slurred, laughing at his little rhyme. He laid some bills on the bar. "I'll see ya tomorra, Mike!" he said, staggering off.
Pacey turned to put the money in the cash register. "Mike, eh?" he heard her say from behind him. She was finally so wasted that she didn't care what came out of her mouth.
He turned and leaned on the bar. "Yeah," he said.
"You look like a Mike," she said.
That was ironic, he thought. "What's your name?" he asked.
She snorted at him. "Josephine," she said. "Lovely, ain't it?" she asked, rolling her eyes.
"It's not so bad," he said.
"How long have you been working here, Mike?" she asked, the slurs getting more noticeable.
"Couple years," he said.
"You like it?"
"It's not bad."
"I bet this is the kind of place where people come to run away from life's problems all the time," she mused.
He just nodded, and walked to the couple at the other end of the bar. They were nuzzling each other with their noses. "Go the hell to your room!" Joey yelled at them.
They looked back at her like she was just some poor, pathetic, drunk woman. Their sympathetic looks were short-lived, and they too decided to leave. "You should give them a break, you know," Pacey said. "They're just some happy couple on their honeymoon."
"Isn't that one helluva coincidence," she scoffed. "I'm on my honeymoon too."
Pacey rolled his eyes, because he knew very well she must be lying. He'd never seen a woman come to the bar by herself to get drunk on her honeymoon. "So where's your husband?"
"Don't got one," she said, matter-of-factly. He looked at her skeptically. "Didn't get married."
"That bastard left me at the altar. There I was in my damned white dress, standing in front of a room full of people. Had everything I needed for the wedding . . . 'cept the groom," she laughed.
"Why did he do it?" Pacey asked.
"Found out I screwed his best friend," she said bluntly, while nervously rubbing the back of her neck with her right hand. She looked back at Pacey disappointed. "No reaction?" she asked, exasperated. "Most people don't think I'm the type who'd do something like that."
"People make mistakes sometimes," he said.
She looked at him seriously, but chuckled. "You sound like you speak from experience. You have a woman do it to you?"
"No," he said, "but I've been the other man a few times."
"You don't look like the type either," she said.
"I don't think there is a type," he said. "Things just happen sometimes."
She looked up at him questioningly. There was something too familiar about his voice. At close examination of his face, she was sure that she recognized it. But she quickly shook it off, blaming it on the alcohol. She watched as he took another sip of his drink, and began to clean up around the bar a bit. "Why'd you do it?" she asked.
"What?" he asked.
"Decide to be the other man?"
"It's just become a lot easier."
"So what about the first time?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't want to talk about that." He went back to straightening up.
"It wasn't even like it just happened," she continued to talk. "It was when I was in high school." She examined the back of his head. She'd always thought that bartenders were supposed to be some kinds of amateur therapists, but this guy didn't seem to be much of a conversationalist.
"Why'd you tell him?" Pacey asked.
She sighed, pushing her hair behind her ears. "I suppose it was under that false assumption that we wouldn't start a marriage with any lies. Hell, I'd kept it from him for six years, though."
"So what was the real reason?" he asked.
"Didn't love him, and that was the easiest way to get rid of him." she said. "That's probably the reason I cheated in the first place. He wasn't what I wanted, but he was what I was supposed to want." She looked at the bartender, and was frustrated because she couldn't read him. "He was dense as hell, anyway," she said. "To not have known that I was sleeping with someone else."
"So what about him?" he asked.
"The someone else."
"He left," she said simply. Things were quiet as Pacey made himself another drink -- straight bourbon. He took a large swig, unaffected. He felt a bit guilty, listening to her bear her soul, when she wasn't fully aware of who he was. Somehow he just needed to hear her words, to hear her voice. It was something familiar. "I don't know where he is now," she continued. "Didn't tell me where he was going."
"Do you wish you did?" he asked. He took another drink, hoping to get drunk as quickly as possible.
"Yeah," she said softly. "I wish he would have taken me with him."
He looked at her for a minute, and he somehow knew that she was telling the truth. But why? She had never seemed remotely interested in him as a person, but more as a . . . warm body.
"What?" she asked. He snapped out of his thoughts, realizing he had been staring at her. He saw a drunk woman shooting her mouth off at some unknown bartender. He saw that almost every night. Those women always said plenty of things they didn't mean. He turned away, and began to pour the contents from the glass back into the bottle of bourbon.
He gently waved at an approaching man. "Guess I'll see you around," he said softly, before leaving the bar with the bourbon in hand.
Something about that man mystified her. She tried to get down off the stool gently, but she was still unbalanced. Finally, she made her way to the lobby, resting in a big arm chair, not ready to tackle the elevator. She quietly observed as he made his way to a door in the back, and stepped outside.
She watched as he squatted to the ground, placing the bottle carefully at his side. He lit a cigarette, and stood. When he turned his head to the side to exhale a cloud of smoke, she had the strangest feeling of deja vu. Looking at his profile in the moonlight, she could've sworn it was Pacey. But Pacey wouldn't have just let her talk about him all that time without saying anything. And why would Pacey be in Puerto Rico?
She watched for a long time as he sipped his bourbon, and took drags from his cigarette. There was something intriguing about him. She was definitely impressed by his body. As scruffy as he appeared, she still found him very attractive. Suddenly she was reminded of all the trashy romance novels she'd read, where the woman had been swept up in a moment of passion with the handsome, rugged, nameless stranger. That was something she grew anxious to have as she watched him, but something held her back from approaching him. There was too much familiarity present. Finally, she elected to go to her room, and prayed that some clarity would enter when the pounding headache she had diminished.
To Be Continued . . .
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