I rolled my eyes. “Get the f**k out,” I said. My thoughts were foggy. I knew I was drunk. “I’m going to take a shit. Is that f**king okay with you, mom? I'll meet you down there.”
“Fuck, I didn’t need to know that, you stupid ass**le,” he said, and I heard the door slam.
I didn’t head to the bathroom. Instead, I sat down on the bed, leaned my head against the headboard. My leg ached, and I just wanted to take off the f**king prosthetic and stretch out, go to sleep.
I can rally, I told myself. Another drink will perk me up. The guys are right. I should f**king party now, get some lap dances. Get laid. There's not anything f**king waiting for me in West Bend. None of that shit anyhow.
I thought I was out of that place, and now here I was, going back.
I should get good and f**king drunk.
After everything that had happened, why the f**k not?
I pulled myself up to a sitting position. My body felt like it was made of lead, weighed down, tethered to the bed. I was suddenly reminded of why I didn't drink, the feeling of being medicated a painful reminder of then.
Being back in the hospital.
It was like I was immediately transported back there, the smell of disinfectant and the stale hospital smell suddenly invading my nostrils. I could feel the sheets, rough and worn under my fingertips, the sensation of morphine coursing through my veins, making me tipsy and nauseous all at the same time.
And the realization that my leg was gone.
It felt like someone punched me in the gut.
And then I blinked, took a breath, and it passed. I'm here, I reminded myself, in a f**king suite in a hotel room in Vegas.
Fucking lucky was what I was. Fortunate. Not like some of the guys I deployed with, the ones who weren't so lucky.
I had no reason to feel sorry for myself, and I wouldn’t.
I stood up, wobbly on my feet for a moment, and caught myself by putting my hand on the mattress.
So, f**k it. I was going to go down and hang out with the guys, my makeshift family, and thank the man or woman up in the sky that I got home in mostly one piece. I was going to go get ripped and party like a normal twenty-three year old, like someone who didn't have all the worries and dark thoughts that I just couldn’t seem to shake.
I was going to be f**king happy.
I poured liquor into a plastic cup, followed by soda.
Where's the ice? I peered into the ice bucket at a pool of liquid. No matter. I would get some on the way down to the casino.
I walked down the hallway, squinting, looking for an ice machine.
Where the f**k is the ice in this place?
A girl was walking down the hallway ahead of me, her back toward me, wearing fuzzy pajama pants with cartoon characters on them, holding an ice bucket. "Hey!" I called out to her, and she turned slightly toward me, then spun around just as quickly, walking faster in the opposite direction.
Fuck. Seriously? What, she took one look at me and decided I was some kind of threat? Or maybe she just doesn't like f**king gimps like me.
"Hey!" I yelled, this time louder. I was being obnoxious. I didn’t care. "It's f**king rude to walk away when someone's talking to you."
She stopped, and I found myself suddenly a couple of feet behind her. She spun around, and I was face to face with the hottest f**king girl I've ever seen in my life.
She was also pissed off.
And all I could think about was grabbing her and pushing her up against a wall so I could f**k the hell out of her.
She looked up at me with her lips slightly parted, her breath short, and fire in her eyes. "You know what's f**king rude?" she asked, her voice louder than it needed to be for how close I was standing to her. "It's f**king rude to chase down a girl in the hallway of a hotel. Maybe she doesn't want to be chased down by some creep."
I was too distracted by her sweet lips to even register what she was saying. Her tongue flicked over her bottom lip, and in an instant I was hard. Goddamn it. I never wanted to just press my lips down hard against anyone else's lips as bad as I did right then.
I f**king wanted this girl so bad I could taste it. It was instant, some kind of primal thing, like I was a damn caveman.
I had to shake off the image that flashed in my head, the one of me throwing her over my shoulder and taking her to my room.
"Well?" she asked. Her hand was on her hip, the other hand holding the ice bucket. "Are you going to say anything, or are you just going to keep staring at me? Maybe you want a f**king picture? Or my autograph? What the hell is it?"
She seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Her cheeks were flushed, though, and she was unsteady on her feet. She was just as drunk as I was, I realized.
I cleared my throat. "The ice," I said. "Where's the ice machine?"
Her mouth dropped open, like she wasn’t expecting me to ask a simple question like that. I wondered what the hell she thought I was yelling about. Then she laughed. "That's what you want?"
"Why the hell would I want your f**king autograph?" I asked. "I just wanted to know where you filled up the ice bucket."
She laughed, louder this time, the sound melodic. It felt warm, somehow, even though I couldn’t figure out if she was angry or full of herself or just a bitch. She shook her head, then ran her hand through her hair, strands sticking up messily every which way, and looked down at her hand, covered in little pieces of hair.