It Monday night, and it was supposed to be quiet because this was a God fearing town with decent morals.
At least that’s what Natalie, the cute bartender, had told Justin with a wink when she’d brought him his drink.
“So what’s this grand plan to finally find you a date?” Ryan asked with a genuine sincerity amped up just a notch by the half bottle of beer he’d already consumed.
Ryan was a handsome twenty-something, who carried himself with the confidence of a man who’d never had to hatch a grand plan to find female companionship.
“I was thinking about offering a reward to the person who introduces me to my special someone,” Justin replied with an awkward smile that betrayed he might not be as confident in his plan now that he’d said it aloud.
Justin was nerdy handsome, but where his best friend exuded extreme confidence, Justin seemed to have the scarlet A of “Awkward” fused into every fiber of his being.
“Like paying for an escort?” Ryan asked in genuine confusion as he sipped his beer.
Justin turned a bright shade of red as he picked nervously at the label on his bottle.
“Dude, get over Amanda already,” Ryan ordered as he signaled for another round. “Also, that idea wreaks of desperation and more than just a hint of pathetic.”
Natalie approached with two more beers. She really was quite easy on the eyes with long dark hair and big green eyes further accentuated by her fashionable, yet slightly nerdy glasses. She smiled at them both as she cleared away Ryan’s empty, but focused on Justin and his barely touched beer.
“Just so you know, I’ve conducted many a test on a slow, boring night much like this one, and I can tell you with utmost certainty that beer does not taste any better if you let it breathe and get warm,” she informed him with a chuckle.
She walked away to give the guys their privacy, and Justin some time to ponder her words.
“If you’re going to pay someone to set you up, why not just use a dating service or a matchmaker?” Ryan suggested.
“Because they’re scams,” Justin shot back defensively. “You pay them whether or not they produce results.
Ryan shrugged as his sipped his fresh beer. “So what would you consider a successful set up? She agrees to go steady and be your date to the prom? Does she have to put out?”
Justin rolled his eyes at his friend, but secretly wished he could talk with that kind of cockiness when it came to relationships.
“I don’t know,” Justin mumbled. “I guess if we decide to see each other exclusively. That should be enough to earn the reward.”
“Maybe $250,” he replied.
“For that much money you could get a decent escort, or a year on one of those dating sites,” Ryan pointed out smugly.
“But I’m not looking for one night of debauchery,” Justin snapped with a little venom in his voice. “And I don’t want to waste six months going on a string of progressively worse first dates that never lead to second ones.”
Ryan reached out and patted Justin’s shoulder reassuringly.
“Justin, you’re my best friend and I’m just looking out for you,” Ryan assured him. “You are an amazing guy and you will find the love you deserve. I don’t think you need to resort to wacky game show tactics, though, in the meantime.”
“I’m tired of being alone,” Justin confessed sadly and then downed half his beer.
Ryan snickered at his pal’s act of bravado, and then passed him a napkin to wipe the beer off his upper lip.
“You could save yourself the money and just ask out the adorable bartender, who flirts with you every time we come here,” Ryan offered a little reason to the discussion. “Think about that while I hit the head.”
He patted Justin on the shoulder again, and then headed off towards the bathrooms in the back of the bar. Along the way, he made a quick detour to say something to Natalie.
Justin assumed he had asked for the check, so he checked his watch. It was getting late and he did have to get up for work in the morning.
A moment later, Natalie wandered down to him with the bill.
“My phone number is on the back,” she told him with an awkward smile. “I don’t usually date customers, but your buddy assured me you should be the exception to the random rule I came up with my first night on the job.”
“Call you tomorrow?” he asked as his voice cracked like that of a twelve year old hitting puberty face first and at high speed.
“I’d really like that,” Natalie answered and then smiled like a school girl with a crush.
Their eyes locked for a brief, heart swooning moment, and then she offered a little wave and walked off before it all became awkward.
A split second later, Justin’s cell phone buzzed to inform him he had a text. He flipped over his phone on the bar to read the message Ryan had sent from the men’s room.
You owe me $250!!!
Justin laughed so hard that he almost fell off his stool, but he quickly caught himself so he wouldn’t look like a klutz in front of the woman he hoped would soon be his girlfriend.