Home > Birthday Girl(2)

Birthday Girl(2)
Author: Penelope Douglas

I groan. Great.

A light layer of sweat cools my forehead, and I stand up, yanking my scarf out of my bag to dry off my fingers. I hate to ruin it, but I don’t have any napkins.

What a mess.

So much for escaping for two hours.

I look around for an usher with a light, pretty positive this theater doesn’t employ them, especially at this time of night, but the only flashlight I have is on my phone, and the floors are dark.

Seeing no one, I take my scarf and bag and travel up to the next row, bending down and peering under the seats to see if I can see my cell. When I find nothing, I move up to the next row and then to the next, pretty sure I heard it slide a ways. Since the rows of seats are on a decline, it could’ve gone far, too. Dammit.

Moving up to the next row, I set my stuff down and drop to my hands and knees, peering under the rows to my left and right, feeling with my hands. A pair of long, jean-clad legs sit ahead, and I look up, seeing a man sitting in the seat with fingers full of popcorn halfway to his mouth. He stares down at me with raised eyebrows.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, tucking my hair behind my ear. “I dropped my drink and my phone went sliding down here somewhere. Do you mind…?”

He hesitates a moment and then blinks, sitting up. “Yeah, sure.” He moves his tray aside and stands up, digging something out of his pocket. “Here.”

He turns on the flashlight on his phone and squats down, shining it under the seats.

Immediately, I spot my phone under the seat next to his and snatch it up. Thank goodness. We both stand up, and my shoulders relax. I can’t afford a replacement right now. I smooth my fingers over the screen, making sure I don’t feel any cracks.

“Got it?” he asks.

“Yeah, thank you.”

He kills his flashlight but reaches over, swiping his fingers over the bottom of my phone, and brings them to his nose, smelling.

“Is that…” he winces, “wine?”

I glance down at the floor, seeing he’s standing in the drink I spilled three rows up.

“Oh, geez.” I look up at him. “I’m so sorry. Is it everywhere?”

“No, no, it’s fine.” He lets out a chuckle, his lips curving more to one side with his smile as he steps out of the mess. “I didn’t realize they sold alcohol here.”

I grab my scarf and wipe off my phone. “Oh, they don’t,” I tell him quietly so I don’t disturb others in the theater. “I just got off work. My boss gave it to me for a… um,” I shake my head, searching for words, “to, uh… celebrate.”

“Celebrate?”

“Shhh,” someone hisses.

We both look to the guy one row back and far to the right who’s shooting us a glare out of the corner of his eye. Neither the trailers nor movie have started yet, and we’re not in his line of sight, but I guess we’re disturbing him. I move away, back toward my bag.

The man helping me picks up his drink and popcorn and follows, the faint scent of his body wash hitting me. “I’m just going to scooch over, out of the mess,” he says.

He sits a few chairs down and glances up at me and then back to where I was sitting when my phone and wine fell. “You’re welcome to sit.” He gestures to the seat next to him, probably figuring out I’m on my own tonight, too.

“Thanks,” I tell him. “I’ll just go…”

I don’t finish. I back away and pick up my bag, turning to head to my own seat when I see a guy and girl enter the theater. I freeze, watching them veer left for the back row on the other side of the room and plop down in the seats.

Shit.

Jay McCabe. The only other boyfriend I’ve had other than Cole, and he makes Cole look like a prince. Unfortunately, he still loves to take a bite out of me any chance he gets, and there’s no way in hell I’m dealing with him tonight.

“You okay?” the guy with the phone light asks when I don’t move. “I promise I’m not making a pass at you. You’re too old for me.”

I shoot him a look, forgetting about Jay and the girl for a moment. Too old for him? What? I take in his more than six feet of height, the outline of muscles visible through his T-shirt, and his corded right forearm with a full sleeve of tattoos disappearing up his shirt. I’ve seen plenty of guys in the bar, and he doesn’t look like any nineteen year old I’ve ever seen. He’s got to be at least what? Thirty?

He snorts. “I’m kidding,” he says, his mouth spreading in a wide smile that makes my face fall a little. “If you don’t want to watch the movie alone, you’re welcome to sit. That’s all I meant.”

I dart my gaze to Jay and whomever he’s with, but then a group of guys suddenly push through the double doors, making a lot of noise as they enter the theater. I see Jay look away from the girl and toward the commotion, and I drop down in the seat next to the guy on instinct, not wanting Jay to see me.

“Thanks,” I tell the guy next to me.

I feel my ex’s presence in the theater, and the old memories surface, reminding me of how helpless I let him make me feel at one time. I just want one night where I’m not thinking about everything.

I sit back and try to relax, but then I peer out of the corner of my eye, the close proximity of a guy I don’t know sitting next to me suddenly like a blazing bonfire and impossible to ignore.

I turn my head, eyeing him with apprehension. “You’re not a serial killer, are you?”

He pinches his eyebrows and looks at me. “Are you?”

“They’re usually anti-social, Caucasian men.”

Good-looking male here all alone? Hmmm…

He arches a sharp brow. “And they look just like everyone else,” he adds, suspicion in his voice as he looks me up and down.

The light from the ads on the screen play in his eyes, neither of us flinch, but I can’t take it anymore. I break into a quiet chuckle.

I finally hold out my hand to him. “I’m Jordan. Sorry about the wine.”

“Jordan?” he repeats, taking my hand and shaking it. “Unusual name for a girl.”

“No, not really.” I relax into the seat and fold my arms over my chest, lifting my knees and planting my shoes into the crevice between the two empty seats ahead of me. “It was the name of Tom Cruise’s love interest in Cocktail, remember?”

His eyebrows raise in question.

“Cocktail?” I repeat. “1988 movie about flair bartending?”

“Oh, right.” But he has this unsure look in his eyes, and I’m not sure he knows what the hell I’m taking about.

“Do you like 80’s movies?” I ask, gesturing to the film that we’re about to watch on the screen.

“I like scary movies,” he clarifies and holds the popcorn over to me. “This one’s a classic. You?”

“I love the 80s.” I take a small handful and put a piece in my mouth. “My boyfriend hates my taste in movies and music, but I can’t resist. I’m here whenever they show something from the decade.”

I feel awkward slipping in a random mention of a boyfriend, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. I quickly glance down at his left hand, thankfully not seeing a wedding ring. It would be wrong to sit here with a married guy.

But he just looks at me knowingly. “Breakfast Club is your favorite, right?” he says. “And every other John Hughes creation?”

“You have something against The Breakfast Club?”

“Not the first ten times I saw it, no.”

A smile pulls at my lips. It is on TV a lot, I guess.

He leans in. “The 80s was the age of the action hero,” he points out, his deep voice close and hushed. “People forget that. Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Terminator, Rambo…”

“Jean-Claude Van Damme,” I add.

“Exactly.”

I bite the corner of my mouth, so I don’t laugh, but my stomach shakes anyway, and I let out a snort.

He frowns. “What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing,” I reply quickly, nodding. “Van Damme. Great actor. Very relevant films.”

I can’t keep the laughter off my face, though, and he furrows his brow knowing I’m full of shit.

Just then I hear a giggle somewhere behind me, and I turn my head over my shoulder, seeing Jay turned away from the screen and leaning into the girl, both of them full-on making out now.

“You know them?” the man next to me asks.

I shake my head. He doesn’t need to know my business.

We fall silent, and I finish the popcorn in my hand, letting my head fall back as I look up to the high ceiling and the antique gold arches overhead. He sits next to me, and I breathe in and out slowly, despite the hammering in my chest.

Why am I nervous? Is it Jay?

No, I’m not even thinking about him at the moment.

People chat around us, waiting for the movie to start, but I can’t hear what they’re saying, and I don’t really care. My skin feels warm.

“So, what are studying at Doral State?” he asks.

I shoot him a surprised look. How does he know where I go to school?

Serial killer.

But then he gestures to my bag on the floor, and I see the keychain hanging off it with the university emblem emblazoned on the face.

Oh, duh.

I sit up. “Landscape Design,” I tell him. “I want to make outside spaces pretty.”

“That’s nice. I work in construction.”

I flash him a half-smile. “So, you make inside spaces pretty then.”

“No, not really.”

I laugh at his forlorn tone like he’s so bored with what he does.

“I make them functional,” he corrects me.

He turns hazel eyes on me, warm and piercing, but then his gaze drops to my mouth for a split moment, and a flutter hits my stomach. He quickly looks away, and I drop my eyes, having a hard time catching my breath.

Clearing my throat, I bend down and pull out the box of donuts from my bag and place them on the tray, swinging the little table in front of me and lifting the lid.

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