Brent called me a few times, just to chat. We occasionally bumped into each other at school, but we didn't set any time up to meet again. Finals came and went. Once school let out, I began putting in more hours at work to make money.
On a nice night in May, Marilyn, her friend, Kali, and I decided to go to a local club. Marilyn and I loved just getting together, whether we went anywhere or not. The three of us had gone out together before for a Girl's Night Out. We always had fun, even though Kali and I had serious boyfriends. I had gone out with them before I started dating Tristan. I had my flings with other guys, but now, I just needed to let loose every once in a while. Tristan understood that and trusted me enough to know that I wouldn't cheat on him. And I trusted him. When I went out with the girls, he went out with the guys.
I was out on the dance floor, dancing with Kali and whoever else was around. Marilyn was a little further away dancing with a guy. I looked across the floor and my eyes found Brent. I nodded to Kali and went over to him. "Brent?"
"Colleen!" he jumped.
We practically had to shout to be heard over the thumping R&B.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I came with a couple of guys."
"Trying to pick up chicks, huh?" I asked coyly.
"Just having fun. Where's Tristan?"
"Out with the guys."
"And he lets you come to a place like this?"
"He trusts me."
The music started getting to me, and I started dancing again.
Brent looked at me and said, "You look hot."
I knew I did. Marilyn and Kali had curled my shoulder length blondish hair into tight ringlets and did my eye shadow. I was also wearing a black shirt that had sparkles. It was low cut, fitting tightly across my breasts and stomach. A large portion of my stomach was exposed as I was wearing tight black hip-huggers. My belly button ring shimmered in the glow of the neon lights. I was wearing a pair of comfortable black platforms.
Brent started dancing as well. When the song ended, he leaned over to me and asked, "You want to go over to the bar?"
"Sure. One minute." I weaved my way back through the crowd and caught eyes with both Marilyn and Kali. I motioned to Brent and the bar. They looked at each other and nodded. They would keep an eye on each other. They knew I would be okay.
Brent took my hand and led me through the crowd to the bar. We found two stools near the end, as far away from the music as possible. While it was still loud, it was much easier to talk. "Come here often?" he asked.
"This is the third time we've been here. I've been to other places, but we like this one because it's closer to home. What about you?"
"First time for everything. So did you really come here to pick up chicks?" I asked.
"Kind of," he grinned sheepishly. "Just a Guy's Night Out, see what we could do."
"Who'd you come with?"
"Two other guys, friends of mine. They are around here somewhere. Probably making out with some girls, trying to score."
"And why aren't you?"
"I like looking at beautiful women, and this place is full of them," he said, looking at me, "but I'm not really into the whole one-night stand thing. And why are you here?"
"Girl's Night Out. We just like getting all dressed up, getting out on the dance floor, busting a move, having guys fall all over us, and in the case of Kali and I, turning them away."
"Shouldn't be too hard."
"It isn't. Although, the first time I came here I wasn't dating Tristan yet. I did have fun that night. With one guy."
"Did you," he paused, "you know?"
"No, of course not," I said, laughing. "That isn't my style. I could have, if I had wanted to, but I just made out with him and stuff."
"And stuff. I'll leave it at that."
"Okay," Brent shrugged. "Listen, you want something to drink?"
"Really? I'll get you anything."
"Well, are you going to have anything?"
"A beer. I'm not driving tonight."
"Okay, get me one, too."
"Kali is. I'm crashing at Marilyn's."
"Okay." Brent signaled the bartender and ordered two beers, the second of which he handed me. He handed the bartender a few bills and told him to keep the change.
I held my beer up to Brent. "Here's to having friends that are old enough to legally drink."
Brent clinked his bottle against mine. "Here's to having friends."
I smiled in agreement and drank deeply.
"So am I your friend again?"
"I guess so."
"So you trust me again?"
"No, not completely. I guess you are more of an acquaintance than a friend." I paused, took a swallow of beer, and looked up at him, meeting his gaze. "An acquaintance I'd like to know better."
He smiled his relief back at me. "Thanks."
"For giving me another chance." He paused while he drank some of his beer. "So, how come you never danced like this when we were going out?"
"I don't know. Not confident enough."
I looked away from him and out to the dance floor. Kali and Marilyn were dancing together, talking to each other. I looked back to Brent. "Did you ever do this sort of thing with Leslie?"
"No. She wasn't into it."
"Sometimes Tristan and I go out and do this sort of thing. It's fun. But I don't think I would have ever done this with you. Even if you wanted to. I don't think I felt confident enough with myself."
"I think Leslie was the same way. The more I got to know her, the more she reminded me of you."
"I thought it was, too."
I looked out across the dance floor again and met Marilyn's gaze. She held up three fingers. I rose from the stool, took a last sip of my beer and said, "Thanks for the drink. I have to go now."
Brent rose also. "Hey, I'm tired of this. You think I could hitch a ride home?"
"Let me ask Kali. I'm sure it'll be okay." I led Brent over to Kali, leaned over and asked her, "Can we give him a ride home? It's on the way."
Kali looked at Marilyn, and Marilyn nodded. "Sure," Kali agreed.
"Cool, thanks," said Brent. "I'll be right back." He walked through the crowd and out of sight. He returned a minute later and nodded. The four of us formed a chain and wound our way through the crowd to the exit. Once outside, Brent said, "Thanks for the ride. I'm Brent, by the way."
Kali took his hand, and they shook on it. "Kali."
"Nice to meet you. Nice seeing you again, Marilyn."
"You, too, Brent."
Kali looked at me.
"Kali, I wouldn't ask you to give rides home to strange guys."
"I know that. How do you know each other?"
"He's my ex-boyfriend."
The four of us walked to Kali's car. "You said his house was on the way home?"
"You know Route 244, which runs through town?"
"Well, he lives off of that."
"Okay. Just tell me when we get there."
Brent piped up, "Will do."
We got to Kali's car and Brent and I climbed into the backseat. I yawned. Kali and Marilyn climbed into the front and Kali started the car up. I leaned over and put my head on Brent's shoulder, using it as a pillow. Marilyn and Kali chatted as Kali drove home, Brent and I silent in the backseat. I dozed off.
Once at Brent's house, I got out of the car with him and walked him to the front porch. "Thanks, again, for the ride."
"Don't thank me, thank Kali."
"Thanks for the beer."
"Anytime." He looked down at his feet for a moment. When he looked back up, a nervous smile sat on his lips. "I should go in."
"Yeah," I yawned again.
"It was nice running in to you."
"Yeah, you, too." I meant it. "Call me."
Brent smiled again. "I will." He hugged me close.
When we broke, I turned and returned to Kali's car. Once I was seated in the back, Kali started to pull away from the curb. Brent waved to her as he stepped inside. She returned the wave.
"He said thanks," I told Kali.
"Well, he's welcome."
I smiled to myself.
At Marilyn's, Kali dropped us off. I went inside with Marilyn. "You mind if I use your phone to call Tris? I just want him to know I made it home."
I picked up the phone and called Tris's cell phone. "Hey."
"Hey. Have fun?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "What about you? Are you having fun?"
"I am." I could hear dense noise in the background.
"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'm at Marilyn's."
"So, I'll talk to you tomorrow, then."
"Okay. Hey, Colleen."
"I love you."
"I love you, too," I responded.
"'Night. Sleep good."
"You, too." On that note, we hung up. Only then, did I realize that he had said that he loved me for the first time. And I had responded by habit, but I meant it. I smiled. He had said it in front of his friends, making it all the more special.
Marilyn raised her eyebrows at me.
I nodded at her, smiling sheepishly.
"You find them all," she said.
"If you say so."
"He's good to you, though."
"Brent was, too, in the beginning."
"What is going on between the two of you, anyway?"
"Nothing. Just friends, or something."
"Sure…" Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
"I love Tristan. I wouldn't hurt him."
"I know. I just think…"
"I think he wants you back."
"And you don't know about him." Marilyn was looking me in the eyes. She was dead serious.
"But," I said, "the thing here is that I won't do anything. I have Tristan now, and I won't let Brent get to me like that again."
"Yeah, I know. It is just weird, this thing between you and him. Whatever."
"Enough about me, though. What was going on between you and that guy tonight?"
"You know, the usual."
"Making out and some petting?"
"You, Marilyn, are a serial make-out artist. You know that, right?"
"Could be worse."
"Could be. Was he any good this time?"
"Better than the last one. The last one was a sloppy kisser."
"Yeah, I remember that one."
"I don't care what they say. It has been my experience that French men can't kiss well."
"So, does this new guy have a name?"
I smiled to her. "At least you got the name this time. That's something."
"He wasn't too bad. He was a pretty nice guy. And hot, too."
"That's always a plus." I yawned. "I'm really tired."
"Me too. Let's call it a night."