I found Casey at the State Street Bar, serving up some beers and a couple shots of whiskeys. For a while, I just stood there watching him from the doorway, and I studied his every feature. The last time I saw him, he was caked in mud. But now, I could truly see his soft, dreamy face and that friendly smile…almost as if it were for the first time again. I realized he had strong forearms…the kind that you feel safe when embraced in. And he moved gracefully…like a saint or something. He was swift and careful as to not make a mistake…and I felt as thought he had never made a single mistake in his life because he seemed so perfect, so humble…so down to earth.

He moved smoothy…almost secretively, like he was but a courageous stranger in the midst of a ruthless crowd.

Then our eyes met. I could feel my entire body jolt with excitement…and fear…and happiness, too. He smiled and to my amazement, I worked up enough courage to smile back. At first neither of us moved, but just as he lifted his hand to wave, a man came rumbling in.

"Hey, Lankford!" he called. Casey's gaze shifted almost reluctantly to the man in the doorway, and his hand dropped to his side. "How's it going?"

"Oh, it's going," Casey replied. "What about you?"

"You will never believe it, but I got me a new baby cakes!"

"Cool."

The man turned around to hang up his coat and Casey motioned for me to come and sit down at the bar. I nodded a little, almost unenthusiastic that this man had come in at that very moment. Casey seemed a little frustrated, too.

"Go ahead! Ask me her name," the man said, walking up to the bar.

Casey was drying off a glass with a white towel. He smiled and enthusiastically said, "What's her name?"

"Scarlet Duprey! Man, she is a fox!"

For some reason, Casey seemed annoyed at that.

"If only you could have seen her last night! She was wearing a cute little leather number…she was looking mighty fine! Boy, and does she have some nice sized jugs!"

I had never seen a man blush a deeper red in my entire life. I swear Casey was as red as red comes!

"So what about you…you got a girl yet?"

"I don't know, Dan. I've only seen her once…twice so far."

"Is she hot?"

I was surprised to see his face glow proudly. "She's beautiful! She has the most amazing smile, and her eyes…"

"What about her tits?"

Casey snapped angrily at him. "Hell, can't you be serious for once?"

"Well does she?"

He rolled his eyes at him a little looked at me with an apologetic smile.

Dan followed his gaze. "Hey, baby! What's your name."

I was scared to answer. I just smiled and looked away. What was I supposed to do? Here I was, wearing a long sleeved t-shirt, some worn out blue jeans and my old tennis shoes, with my hair was thrown up into a messy bun, looking about as innocent as the girl next door. But I wasn't so comfortable anymore.

"Hello! I spoke to you!" Dan said sarcastically. He turned to Casey and laughed.

Casey glared at him. "Oh, Dan, would you leave her alone?"

"What? You got dibs on her?"

Casey looked at me, searching for an answer. I just looked away, like I wanted to hide forever. I was so embarrassed that I had embarrassed him, but I didn't know what to say. He didn't either, so he just put the cup down and turned to get his friend a beer. They both were silent for a moment.

"Well do you?" Dan said after a moment.

Casey slid the beer in front of him, careful not to spill a drop. "What does it matter?"

"Well, shit, if she's single…" Dan turned to look at me. "You ain't half bad, babe! I mean you could use a little more make up, but…"

"She's perfect just as she is." I looked to Casey. He was folding up the towel. He smiled, "I wouldn't change a thing."

I felt my hands tingle for a moment. What a sweetie!

Dan looked back and forth between the both of us and pasted a look of disbelief on his face. "What the…are you banging two chicks?!"

"Damn it, Dan! Would you grow up?"

Dan fell silent as he scratched his head and finished his beer without a word.

After Dan left and the bar slowly emptied, Casey and I exchanged many sincere smiles, and silent jokes. We hadn't spoken a word to one another since I came, but it didn't bother either of us the least bit. It was sort of a comfortable silence. I watched him finish wiping off the tables and turn the sign from "open" to "closed". He swept off the floor and cleaned off the mirror with Windex…twice. He took a lot pride in this.

"What made you want to be a bartender?" I asked suddenly. We both were sort of shocked that I had spoken. He paused his cleaning for a moment to look at me, and then his gaze fell downcast to the floor. I knew I had said the wrong thing. He sort of turned back to washing up the mirror in silence. I wanted to bury myself into a hole and never come out. What was I thinking? What possessed me to ask such a thing? Why…

Casey put the Windex back into the cleaning cabinet carefully. Then he turned to face me. Neither of us said anything. He just walked over to me and sat down there on the floor.

"I don't know," he said softly. "I never really thought about it. I guess it just worked out that way."

"What do you mean?"

He shrugged, but said nothing. I knew there was more to it than just the shrug, but I didn't pry. I slipped down off of the stool beside him and as I settled in beside him, I our elbows were brush. He was so warm and the nearness of his skin next to mine made my whole arm tingle nervously.

"So how do you know…Dan?" I asked.

He flushed again, covering his eyes with his palm. "Oh, Jen, I am so sorry!"

"It's okay! Some men are like that!"

"He's a regular. He's got a new girl every week. Last week it was Lucy Harris…the week before it was Dianna Mc…Mc-something."

I giggled, and we sat in silence for a moment. I knew he was dying to say something, so I remained still so he could just spit it out. It took a few moments of silence to coax it out of him, but finally it came.

"Thank you for coming back," he said.

I nodded, trying to contain my enthusiasm. "I'm glad I came back."

"Did you have a good day?"

"Me?"

"Yeah…"

I could feel a smile spread across my face. "Yeah. It was really nice."

"I'm glad to hear that," he said. I stared at him, grinning. After a moment, he laughed at my rosy cheeks and said, "Huh?"

"Nobody's asked me that in a long time."

He seemed surprised. "You're kidding."

I shook my head. "I'm not." And then I giggled, covering my mouth with my fingers. "That just made my day."

He grinned confidently and brushed the back of his hand over his slacks. I was itching to say something really cute or funny to make us feel more at ease, but nothing was coming to mind. I think he sensed my apprehension, because after a while, I felt him take my hand carefully as he asked me to dance.

"I'd like that," I told him. But then I hesitated. "Casey…I don't know how to dance."

He smiled and told me that was okay. He'd teach me.

We danced for a whole half hour, the radio softly tinkling music behind the bar! It was incredible. The feeling of his arms surrounding me was so wonderful! My cheek touched his neck a little and I messed up over and over again, but he didn't yell or say anything negative to me. He just told me "That's okay," and we went on dancing.

I didn't climb into my car until about midnight. He walked me to my car and asked me out to dinner on Saturday. Gladly, I accepted and he kissed my cheek. I'd never been more excited in my life.


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