“Look at her flirting. She’s rubbing my face in it.”
Rob looked across the barroom at Jim’s ex, Denise. She was talking to a customer at another table. He turned back to Jim. “How do you know she’s flirting?”
“I can tell. That little smile on her face. She’s trying to make me jealous.”
“I’d say it’s working.”
“Yeah.” Jim took a drink of his beer. It tasted awful. He drank it anyway.
“Why do you still come here if seeing her makes you so miserable?”
“Why should I have to quit coming around? I have friends here. You, for example. Why can’t she go somewhere else?”
Rob chuckled. “Well, she does work here.”
Jim gave him a very unamused look.
“I’m sorry. It’s not funny. But she does. Why torture yourself like this? There are other bars you could go to. Heck, I’ll even meet you somewhere else for a beer. Just tell me when and where.”
“You’d actually go to another bar?”
“Ha, ha. I don’t live here, you know.”
Another regular, Amanda, walked up to their table and put her hands on Jim’s shoulders as she looked at Rob. “Is he still pining?”
Annoyed, Jim shook her off. “I am not pining. We were just talking about checking out other places.”
Amanda pulled out an empty chair and sat down, her eyes still fixed on Rob, who merely shrugged in response.
“Okay. So you’re not pining,” she said, turning to Jim, “but you want to go somewhere else. Where should we go?”
Her intrusion irritated Jim. Amanda was always pushing herself into his business. With Denise leaving him, it had gotten worse. He wished she would just leave him alone.
“Right now, we’re not going anywhere. We’re just talking. Privately.”
Amanda looked hurt, but he knew it was just an act. “Okay. I can take a hint.” She stood up and walked back to the bar.
“That was a little mean, Jim.”
“Ugh. I don’t care. She was getting on my nerves.”
“One more reason to try out somewhere new.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Jim looked around for Denise. She was at the bar talking to Maurice. He was the owner of the bar as well as a bartender. He was sort of a father figure to Denise and took her side, but he was a good guy. He wasn’t going to stop Jim from coming in. As long as he didn’t make a scene.
Jim took another swallow and drained his glass. Their waitress, Wendy, came over. “You guys doing okay?”
Rob pointed to their empty mugs. “Looks like we need another round. Thanks.”
Wendy nodded and began to turn away when Jim stopped her.
“Not for me. I think I’m going to call it an early night. What do I owe you?”
Before she could start going through her tabs, Rob spoke up.
“I got these, Jim. You go on. You can get me back next time.”
“I’ll go broke. But thanks.”
Rob smiled at the jab. “No problem. Have a good night.”
Jim headed for the door, nearly bumping into someone coming in at the same time. As he got outside, he felt a mix of relief and loneliness. He didn’t want to see her anymore, but he didn’t want to lose touch with her either. And being alone right now wasn’t very appealing. But it was better than getting kicked out for doing something stupid.