Page 24

We wash our hands in silence. She pulls two paper towels out and hands one to me. “Dry your hands, Owen.”

I take the paper towels from her and do as she says. She’s confident and in charge right now and I think it’s best to leave it that way. Until I figure out her level of sobriety, I don’t want to do anything to trigger any type of reaction from her other than what I’m getting right now.

I walk to the door and open it. She steps away from the sink and I watch her stumble slightly, but she catches herself on the wall. She immediately looks down at her shoes and glares at them.

“Fucking heels,” she mumbles. Only she isn’t wearing heels. She’s wearing black flats, but she blames them, anyway.

We make our way back out into the bar and Harrison has already closed up and shut off some of the lights. He raises a brow as we pass by him.

“Harrison?” she says to him, pointing a finger in his direction.

“Auburn,” he says flatly.

She wags her finger and I can tell Harrison wants to laugh, but he keeps it in check. “You put those wonderful drinks on my tab, okay?”

He shakes his head. “We close out all tabs at the end of the night.”

She places her hands on her hips and pouts. “But I don’t have any money. I lost my purse.”

Harrison leans over and grabs a purse from behind the bar. “You didn’t lose it.” He shoves it across the bar and she stares at the purse like she’s upset she didn’t lose it.

“Well, shit. Now I have to pay you.” She steps forward and opens her purse. “I’m only paying you for one drink because I don’t even think you put alcohol in that second one.”

Harrison looks at me and rolls his eyes, then pushes her money away. “It’s on the house. Happy birthday,” he says. “And for the record, you had three drinks. All with alcohol.”

She throws her purse over her shoulder. “Thank you. You’re the only person in the entire state of Texas to tell me happy birthday today.”

Is it possible to hate myself more than I did three weeks ago? Yes, it absolutely is.

She turns to me and tucks her chin in when she sees the look on my face. “Why do you look so sad, Owen? We’re going to fix your shit, remember?” She takes a step toward me and grabs my hand. “Bye, Harrison. I hate you for calling Owen.”

Harrison smiles and gives me a nervous look as if he’s silently saying, “Good luck.” I shrug and allow her to pull me behind her as we walk toward the exit.

“I got presents from Portland today,” she says as we near the exit. “People love me in Portland. My mom and dad. My brother and sisters.”

I push the door open and wait for her to walk outside first. It’s the first day of September—happy birthday—and the night has an unseasonable chill to it for Texas.

“But how many people who claim to love me from Texas got me a present? Take a wild guess.”

I really don’t want to guess. The answer is obvious, and I want to rectify the fact that no one from Texas got her a present today. I would say we should go get one right now, but not while she’s drunk and angry.

I watch her rub her hands up the bare skin of her arms and look up at the sky. “I hate your Texas weather, Owen. It’s dumb. It’s hot during the day and cold at night and unreliable the rest of the time.”

I want to point out that the inclusion of both day and night leaves little room for a “rest of the time.” But I don’t think now is a good time to get into specifics. She continues to pull me in a direction that isn’t across the street to my studio, nor is it in the direction of her apartment.

“Where are we going?”

She drops my hand and slows down until we’re walking next to each other. I want to put my arm around her so that she doesn’t trip over her “heels,” but I also know that she’s probably slowly sobering up, so I highly anticipate her coming to her senses soon. I doubt she wants me near her, much less with my arm around her.

“We’re almost there,” she says, rummaging through her purse. She stumbles a few times and each time, my hands fly up, preparing to break her fall, but somehow she always recovers.

She pulls her hand out of her purse and holds it up, jiggling a set of keys so close to my face they touch my nose. “Keys,” she says. “Found ’em.”

She smiles like she’s proud of herself, so I smile with her. She swings her arm against my chest so that I stop walking. She points to the salon we’re now standing in front of, and my hand immediately flies up to my hair in a protective response.

She inserts the key in the lock and sadly, the door opens with ease. She pushes it and motions for me to walk in first. “Lights are on the left by the door,” she says. I turn to my left and she says, “No, O-wen. The other left.”

I keep my smile in check and reach to the right and flip the lights on. I watch her walk with purpose toward one of the stations. She drops her purse on the counter and then grips the back of the salon chair and spins it around to face me. “Sit.”

This is so bad. What guy would allow an inebriated girl to come near him with a pair of scissors?

A guy who stood up said inebriated girl and feels really guilty about it.

I inhale a nervous breath as I take a seat. She spins me around until I’m facing the mirror. Her hand lingers over a selection of combs and scissors as if she’s a surgeon attempting to decide what tool she wants to slice me open with.

“You’ve really let yourself go,” she says as she grabs a comb. She stands in front of me and concentrates on my hair as she begins to comb through it. “Are you at least showering?”

I shrug. “Occasionally.”

She shakes her head, disappointed, as she reaches behind her for the scissors. When she faces me again, her expression is focused. As soon as the scissors begin to come at me, I panic and try to stand up.

“Owen, stop,” she says, pushing my shoulders back against the chair. I try to gently brush her aside with my arm so I can stand, but she shoves me back in the chair again. The scissors are still in her left hand, and I know it’s not intentional, but they’re a little too close to my throat for comfort. Her hands are on my chest and I can tell I just made her angry with my failed attempt at escaping.

“You need a haircut, Owen,” she says. “It’s okay. I won’t charge you, I need the practice.” She brings one of her legs up and presses her knee onto my thigh, then brings the other leg up and does the same. “Be still.” Now that she physically has me locked to my chair, she lifts herself up and begins messing with my hair.