It was ten past eleven and Shelly was totally buzzed already. She swallowed the final mouthful from her bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon, her petite body swaying with the motion required to move the now empty vessel across the table and into the barman's waiting hands.
Her mother would be horrified if she could see her little baby's appearance, but in her mind, Shelly had earned the right to be sloshed, with that D-plus average she was sporting after midterms (up from an F minus last semester!). School was soooo awesome but it was soooo hard and really, who doesn't deserve a break after nearly flunking chemistry 101? She leaned into the shoulder of her sorority sister Tammie-with-an-ie and giggled at the bartender's off-color joke.
"…So, what I'm saying is, don't give a nun a pineapple. You know what I mean?" He laughed broadly, slapping his rag against the bar top and winking at Tammie in a single motion.
Tammie's exaggerated laugh pierced through Shelly's beer-induced haze. "Gosh you're SO funny. Isn't he funny?"
Shelly chuckled along with them. "He's totally funny!" She reached out and grabbed the shoulder of a redheaded waitress who was putting in an order with the bartender. "It must be SOOO much fun to work at Senor Cojones!" Shelly yelled over the Bob Seeger tune blasting from the jukebox.
"A blast." The waitress practically rolled her eyes at the girl's enthusiasm as she leaned against the bar to retrieve her tray, motioning to the bartender. He leaned closer to her and she whispered something in his ear. He smirked, turning toward the rear of the bar while the waitress vacated her space.
Shelly watched the bartender mix up a concoction made of something very red and thick – strawberries? She was too far away to smell or see them, but the final result was as red as the sweater she wore. He poured the finished concoction into a cocktail glass and slid it along the bar top.
"Thanks!" she chirped, taking the glass and sipping a bit of it through the tiny cocktail straw floating in the mixture. A burst of strawberry coated her tongue – a daiquiri! Bitchin'.
"Aww, no one wants to get me drunk," Tammie complained.
"That's cuz everyone at school know about you and the whole Lacrosse team," Shelly said, half-seriously – Tammy took it as a joke and laughed. She took a deep, long drink – mm, strawberry. She asked the bartender, "Who's it from?"
"The guy sitting at table six."
Shelly squeaked. "Is he….cute?"
The bartender shrugged. "He's kinda tall, redhead…bitchin' mullet….looks like he escaped a casting call for 'Roadhouse'…"
Shelly flailed. "I CAN'T TURN AROUND, I'M SO NERVOUS! Tammie, can you see him?"
Tammie "nonchalantly" peeked over her shoulder and slapped her palms against the bar. "Ohmigawd, Shelly! He's SO HOT."
"Omigawd, is he?"
"HE SO IS!"
"OMGIGAWD!" She pulled a compact out of her leopard-print clutch purse. Buffing her face swiftly, she wondered, "Do I have anything stuck in my teeth?"
"No! He's headed this way."
Shelly straightened up, trying to project a veneer of sobriety; she turned her head and bumped nose-first into something warm and firm.
Shelly stared blankly at the red plaid checked shirt for a good second before her eyes tracked up. Following a row of buttons, she found a handsome head bearing glassy blue eyes and slightly shaggy red mullet. Clearly a little tipsy himself as he gave her a crooked smile and leaned heavily against the bar, he asked, "Hey honey – how'd you like to gain two hundred pounds in ten minutes?"
Shelly giggled, swaying toward him. "Keep talking…stud."
Tammie let out another high-pitched cackle, and the man's brows drew together. "You all right with ditching Witchie Poo over there?"
"Well, let me think about it for a second," she mock-pouted.
"Oh, go have fun, honey," Tammie winked. "You have any cute friends where you come from?"
"Only one I've got's had an old lady for a few years." He rolled his eyes. "She's like, Betty Crocker and Snow White smashed into, like, a dumb bitch pie…."
Shelly laughed at the broad joke, and he leered at her. "Take my hand." She glanced over her shoulder at Tammie, who had turned away and struck up another fascinating conversation with the bartender ( "Are you going back to Fresno, really?"). Shrugging, she smiled and took the man's hand.
He led her back to table six, her drink and his crowded in his free hand. Resting the glasses on the table's sticky surface, he seated Shelly, wiped the mug sweat off on his jeans, then slid into the booth beside her.
"Do you like the Lions?" he asked.
Shelly couldn't, on reflection, recall much of what he'd said to her over the following hour, only that there had been Jager Bombs and at some point he had done a tequila body shot out of her navel. She spoke in comma-free sentences about her professors ("Omigod they're SO mean and SO unfair!"), and her living situation ("All the Kappa Omegas have been SO cool!") and her ultimate goal – cosmetology school ("I'm going to specialize in highlighting"). She knew for a fact that he told her about his Stingray ("It's got fifty mag wheels and forty horses under the engine – too bad it's in the shop right now"), and about his friend, Ash, ("he's okay, for a total spazz.") and his friend Ash's girlfriend, Linda ("a bitch"), and about his feelings for the Red Wings ("totally rule") and Bruce Springsteen ("a god"). By the end of the night she understood him on some totally, truly deep level – only she couldn't remember his name. Was it Stephen? Shawn?
When last round was called, he leaned over the table, "So, Sheila…"
"Shelly," she corrected, her vision blurred by all of the alcohol she'd slammed down in two hours' time.
He waved away her correction. "D'you have somewhere we can go?"
She scanned the room quickly for her friend, but she had disappeared. "Oh nooooo!! Tammie was my way home!"
He wrapped a friendly arm around her shoulder. "Sweetheart, let me introduce you to the world's smoothest ride…"
"Oh, Scotty," she panted, hoisting herself into a sitting position with the assistance of her seatbelt and yanking the straps of her hot pink tank top back into place. "You're the greatest!"
He smiled as he combed back his hair in the rear-view mirror. "You're not too bad either, Sherri."
"Shelly," she said, adjusting her Dr. Pepper-flavored lip gloss via her Hello Kitty pocket mirror. "And I didn't just mean, yanno, this," she grinned. "It was SO sweet of you to hold back my hair when I tossed my cookies."
"No sweat. Strawberry washes out, right?"
"I guess." She sighed and fluffed her hair back into place in the light of the neon sign mounted over their heads. Omigod I just did it in the parking lot at the S-Mart, she squeaked to herself, pleased with her own naughtiness. Her smile grew broad. The great sex wasn't the only reason she felt so happy. "I know this is gonna sound pretty far-out, but I really like you. In fact…it kinda feels like I've known you forever."
He started buttoning his shirt. "Sure feels like it over here."
His sarcasm sailed right over her head. "Ohmigod, this is SO cosmic!" She clasped her hands and gave an enthusiastic bounce.
Her jiggling seemed to do the trick; Scott turned around and swept her up in his arm, pulling her onto his lap and kissing her nose. "So, SHELLY, how do you feel about creepy, isolated cabins?" She frowned at the mental image that conjured up. "And," he added quickly, "free booze and non-stop sex with yours truly?"
Shelly giggled, batting weakly at his shoulder. Well, he had driven them somewhere semi-secluded; that made him more gentlemanly than the last guy she'd been with. "I don't know– where's this place?"
"Someplace in the mountains," he shrugged. "I'm renting it for the weekend."
"This is all so sudden…" Her tone of voice let him know that she didn't mind it.
He cocked his head to the side. "I don't have time to mess around, doll. Are you in or are you out?"
She tossed her arms around his neck. "Oh, yes, yes, yes…"
The sound of a palm smacking against the driver's side window set them scrambling in separate directions, Shelly throwing herself into the relative safety of the darkened back seat and grabbed her red sweater, raking it quickly over her head.
A pair of angry brown eyes glared down at them as Scott rolled down his window. "Damn it, Scott, I toldja not to pick up girls in The Classic!"
"Ash, gimmie a break, my Charger's in the shop!" Scott responded.
Ash glowered, and a brief argument ensued. Shelly couldn't quite make out what was being said, though snatches of syllables floated to her through the breeze. She briefly considered making a run for it before she heard a sigh, and an 'all right.' The sound of shoes clicking against the pavement followed.
She finally sat up, and met Scott's gaze.
He gave her a smile. "You're in, babe."
Two days later she found herself sitting beside Scott in the front seat of his best friend's crowded Oldsmobile, on that promised trip into the woods. Her companions made slim impressions on her – Ash seemed like a nice enough guy, if a bit of a discount-store Dudley Do-Right; Linda was totally sweet; and Cheryl…she should try to get Cheryl a makeover. There was a girl she knew at the Galleria who would do a great job with her.
Scott looped his arm around her shoulders as they made a left off of Michigan and pulled onto the highway. And Shelly opened her throat to sing, her palm resting against his thigh.
This was going to be the best vacation ever!