Katie, part 3

07 Sep

“You’re giving secret kisses. That’s not fair.” Katie spoke indignantly, but she didn’t finish the sentence before pulling away and thrusting her face back towards Kevin. As far as I knew, she did not yet know my name, but as someone who did not know where his next kiss was coming from, I’d decided to make each kiss worth my time. Kevin turned away from her, giving Katie a face full of unaffectionate beard and happening to look up the steps. Anna stood at the top of them.

“Kevin. I need you.” She pivoted on a vintage-booted heel and stalked, all rage and fluttering scarf, back inside the bar. Kevin shoved his chair awkwardly backward. “I’ll be right back.” Here is another rule of internet dating: whenever a person says “I’ll be right back” immediately before going to follow an angry girlfriend, that person lies.

Immediately my palms began to sweat. Not only was Kevin the only person I knew at the table, for the evening he was the Fountain of Long Island Iced Tea. No one paid any attention to Kevin’s clumsy departure. Probably things like that happened a lot. I looked around the table, trying to assess the interest of the other women present, but Katie’s apparent pursuit of me as an ersatz Kevin had the same effect as a colonial flag. Wrongfully, I assumed Katie had such prestige that her claim on me would discourage competitors. In the actual world I lived in, her touch worked like a quarantine marker.

Anna returned towing Kevin; the two held hands aggressively. They each consciously faced us, not looking at one another. Anna wore a shuttered and predatory expression. Kevin looked at me, noticing Katie’s new seat next to mine. His expression became one of calculated gratitude, the sort of expression you wear when you pick someone to take a bullet for you. Deliberately, they both remained standing. Even the possibility of the bottle picking one of them out would have been enough to explode their fragile truce and shove the loud and abusive disagreement that undoubtedly lay in their future forward into the present. For the moment, they preserved decorum.

Anna coughed loudly. “Hey Dan,” she said tightly. “We’re pretty tired and I think we’re leaving now. Are you coming with us?” Coming with them was assumed. All my things lived at their apartment and I didn’t know anyone else there well enough to ask for a ride, let alone a place to sleep. I smiled and began to unsteadily stand, intending to make my goodbyes. Drunkenly, I lost my balance and sat down hard. Katie put her hand on my arm.

She spun the bottle, stopping it with her fingers so it pointed toward me. She kissed me again. “You’re a good kisser.” At this point, etiquette suggests that you return the compliment. Annoyance suggested otherwise. She hadn’t yet asked my name. “Yes, I am,” I replied. Another kiss. Katie took my hand, forcing her fingers between mine. “You should come over tonight. We’re having an after-party.” I decided that it probably didn’t matter whether she knew my name. She’d heard it, at least. Eventually, she’d have to learn it.

I turned back to Anna. “Actually, I’ll catch up with you guys tomorrow, if that’s all right.”

Katie squeezed my fingers, smiling placidly at Anna. Anna turned away, tugging Kevin behind her.


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