The Birthday Curse
Kicking my heels up on the ottoman, I sipped at the big mug of mocha tinted with Irish Cream. Coffee, chocolate, Irish Cream. It doesn’t get better than that.
I don’t celebrate my birthday. I refuse. Every year it’s something else. Something happens to make me wish I hadn’t tried. So I don’t. What was I supposed to do, though, when my favorite cousin came from out of state and insisted we go out? With friends. To a sports bar. Not for my birthday, just on my birthday.
So, it’s not so bad. At least it’s baseball season so there isn’t a football game blaring overhead. I like baseball. You can see the player’s faces instead of only their shoulder-emphasized bodies and butts. And they don’t try to kill each other. They’re manly and gentlemanly, for the most part.
A glance at the bar, and I pull my eyes away again. Did he smile at me? He’s cute. Another glance. Yep, definite eye contact. And definite cute. I guess I can risk a light grin in return. I haven’t dated since … since my ungentlemanly ex became my ex.
Oops, he probably thought that shiver was from his stare. Not hardly. I’m well past that point. Yeah, they look cute and friendly and innocent … and then you marry them and they’re Mr. Hyde. No fooling this gal again.
Purposely turning my attention back to my inner group and trying to join the conversation, I’m caught by movement at the door. No. Are you kidding me? Today? I haven’t seen the jerk in months and he has to be here today, of all days. Maybe he’s always here. He was always out and about. And he’s coming toward me. Great. So much for breaking the exception of bad birthdays.
“Colleen.” The ex with a pretty thing on his arm throws a half grin. “I never expected you here. Thought you didn’t like bars. Never did before.”
“I was always with you before. They aren’t so bad now.”
“Hm. Nice to see you, too.”
“Is it?” I hint toward the girl he hasn’t introduced.
“Not really.” He at least thought to say hello to my cousin he barely recognized. He’d never wanted anything to do with my family. “Don’t worry, we’ll go to the far side.”
“Doesn’t matter to me where you go.” Okay, that was maybe too rude.
Swiveling away, he … stops beside the guy who smiled at me, talking. Great. A friend of the ex was hitting on me. Lovely. No chance.
Trying to ignore the scene, I sip more mocha and assure my group I’m fine and it doesn’t matter … and look up at the smiling man.
“So we have a mutual acquaintance, it seems.”
“Ah. He didn’t say that.”
“No, I’m sure he wouldn’t. Probably told that girl I was an old friend.”
“That girl? She’s … uh, my sister. Should I be worried?”
“Oh, definitely. Unless she likes obnoxious and bossy and small-minded.”
He glanced over at them, more worried than necessary.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly, though. Seriously. I couldn’t even get him to swat a fly. He insisted on catching them and taking them outside. Drove me crazy.”
He chuckled. “Well, she’ll like that aspect.”
I nodded, knowing no other way to answer.
“Drives me crazy, too. Mind if I join you? Without waiting for an answer, he pulled up a chair from a nearby table, largely ignoring me and talking with my cousin and group, smiling, laughing, fully at ease. My cousin liked him already. Good sign. He couldn’t stand my ex.
“Maybe we should join the party?” The ex. And the sister.
I couldn’t say no since it was the guy’s sister, and shrugged like it didn’t matter. Why spoil the record? Why should this year be different?
Except it was. Around her, he was different. If he started getting mouthy, she gave it right back to him, teasing. He didn’t get mad. He thought it was cute. Teasing. I always … got mad. And stayed that way. Never thought about teasing.
Watching him, I started to unwind. He wasn’t all that bad. Maybe I wasn’t a complete idiot for marrying him. There were good points. And Randy, the brother, drew me in, getting me a refill, showing interest, but in a gentlemanly fashion.
Maybe it was the Irish Crème. Who knows? But I couldn’t quite refuse when Randy asked to meet me at the same place the following week. I agreed. In front of the ex.
He looked surprised, and looked at Randy, a hand on his shoulder. “Be good to her. She’s a great lady, and I realized that too late.” And he looked at me, raising his glass of beer. “Happy Birthday. I hope this year is really a very good one for you.”
“Thank you. I think it might be.” I returned the salute, touching his glass with my mug. “I hope yours is, also.” Broken. The birthday curse … was broken. It would be a good year.
(Sep 7: 846 words)