Sorry sorry, camera crew was in my face, some strangers rescued me, getting a ride back to the eastside from them right now, long story. Meet me at the bar within the hour.
She scrolled to her other new messages. Two were work related, she would deal with those after she’d recovered from the hangover she had every intention of having tomorrow morning. Oh my God, three were from people she knew who had been at Dodger Stadium that afternoon and had seen her on the JumboTron. There were more than eighteen million people in the greater Los Angeles area, she knew no more than a few hundred of them, max, and three of those had just HAPPENED to be at Dodger Stadium the one time in her life she was there, just so they could see the craziest thing that had ever happened to her? This was like some sort of sick joke.
And the other five texts were from Fisher.
You fucking bitch, I can’t believe
She turned the phone off and dropped it in her pocket. So Fisher wasn’t a perfectly nice guy after all. She wasn’t even going to think about looking at those texts until she had at least two or three shots of bourbon in her.
“Everything okay?” Carlos asked, glancing over from the driver’s seat.
She laughed, even though none of this was really funny. Now she understood what hysterical laughter really meant.
“As okay as anything can get today, I guess. Sorry for zoning out like that, I had a bunch of texts. My friends are very relieved that I got out of there in one piece.”
“God, me, too,” Carlos said. “When we saw that camera crew coming for you, I was worried that you’d either punch them all and run or burst into tears.”
“Believe me, I was contemplating both,” Nik said. “Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know how to land a punch, and I didn’t really want to get filmed crying on top of everything else.”
He grinned at her, and she grinned back. It was refreshing to be around a guy who would joke with her like this after months of Fisher, who would only look at her blankly.
“Where to?” Carlos asked. “Do you want us to drop you at home, or at a friend’s house, or . . . ?”
She was glad that she’d already made plans to meet Courtney and Dana at the bar, otherwise Dazed-by-the-JumboTron Nik probably would have given the first guy she’d met in forever who had a sense of humor her home address.
“There’s a bar on Sunset that has a bottle of bourbon with my name all over it. My friends are meeting me there to hopefully get me drunk enough so that I forget this day ever happened.”
“I cannot believe he spelled your name wrong,” Angela muttered from the back seat.
“To be fair to him, we’d only been dating for five months, maybe he just hadn’t absorbed that bit of knowledge about me yet.”
“Wait, WHAT?” She’d thought that Angela was the loud one, but Carlos nearly shouted that. “You’d only been dating for five months, and he proposed? In public?”
If she had to pick a strange man to rescue her, at least it was one who was outraged by the right things.
“Exactly! We’d only been dating for five months, he proposed, in public. And I’m the bad guy for rejecting him on his birthday?”
“You are not the bad guy,” Carlos said. “Trust me on this.”
She was tempted to text Fisher back, curse him out from here to oblivion, and tell him what she really thought of his acting, but she restrained herself. Barely.
Angela piped up from the back seat. “So, how long have you lived in L.A., Nik?”
She was grateful for the opportunity to talk about something else.
“For about six years, but I’ve lived in California most of my life. What about you guys?”
“Born and raised on the Eastside,” Carlos said.
“Don’t let my big brother over here act like he’s got Eastside cred; he’s been living on the Westside for years and just moved back, thank goodness.”
“Thank goodness?” Carlos said. “This is the first I’ve heard of my little sister being thankful that I’m back on the Eastside. Thank goodness for what, so you can have someone to come over to your house and kill spiders for you in the middle of the night?”
“Exactly!” Angela said. “That, and someone to build my IKEA furniture for me, and to dog sit for me when I go out of town.”
Carlos somehow managed to roll his eyes while keeping both eyes on the road.
“You don’t even have a dog!”
“But I might! Someday!”
The siblings’ friendly bickering kept her entertained for the rest of the ride to the bar. And more importantly, it kept her distracted enough so she didn’t text Fisher back.
By the time they pulled up to the Sanctuary, the bar that she and her girlfriends had been coming to for almost as long as she’d lived in L.A., she’d even managed to laugh a few times at the stories that Carlos and Angela told about each other.
“You guys are going to come in, right?” she asked them. “I owe you far more than a drink for what you did for me today, but we can start with that.”
Carlos and Angela exchanged a quick glance. It was a look full of wordless communication, but she couldn’t tell whether it was “This woman seems crazy, let’s get the fuck out of here” or just “I was getting carsick in the back seat, let’s get a drink.”
“Sure,” Carlos said. “I was about to get another beer anyway right when all the action started at the game.”
She felt her shoulders relax as soon as the three of them walked inside the bar. The dark, cool interior was such a relief after the unrelenting bright sunlight that she’d been enduring all day. She pushed her sunglasses up to the top of her head, where they would undoubtedly get caught in her hair within minutes, and glanced toward the corner of the room. Her friends Courtney and Dana were right there, waiting for her in their favorite booth.
“I made it,” she said as she walked up to them. “Where’s my drink?”
“There.” Dana pointed behind her. She turned around, and the bartender, who had been pouring them drinks at least twice a week for the past four years, handed her a glass of bourbon with one big ice cube. That was fast. Granted, they were regulars there, but this was a record. Courtney and Dana must have told Pete that something was up.
“Thanks, Pete. Get my friends here whatever they want, please? On me.”
As Pete took their orders, she slid into the curved booth next to Courtney.
“Hey,” Courtney said. “You okay?”
She leaned her head against Courtney’s shoulder for the briefest of moments.
“I’m fine. Just kind of shell-shocked at what just happened, I think.” She motioned for Carlos and Angela to join her in the booth.
“Dana and Courtney, meet Carlos and Angela. They saved me in about a dozen different ways this afternoon, and I will owe them far more than my firstborn child. Carlos and Angela, these are my friends Dana and Courtney, who were about to come to Dodger Stadium and carry me away from that godforsaken place, so it turns out you saved them, too.”
Just then, the bartender brought two more drinks to the table.
“A toast!” Nik said when the drinks were on the table. “To friendship, both real and feigned.”
They all clinked glasses, and Nik took a deep gulp of her bourbon.
“Okay,” Courtney said. “We need details. What did that toast mean? He seriously proposed? For the record, I never liked Fisher. He was never nice to me—I don’t think fat Korean women were in his target demographic. Where is he now? Did he cry? Tell us everything.”
Nik took a deep breath. She still couldn’t believe this had actually happened to her.
Dana patted her on the shoulder and shook her head at Courtney.
“Let her finish her drink first! You don’t have to tell us the story right now. Are you hungry? Should we get pizza? What kind should we get?”
She definitely wasn’t drunk yet, but pizza sounded incredible right now.
“Absolutely. Fisher hasn’t eaten carbs in like two years, so pizza sounds fantastic. I don’t care what’s on it as long as it includes pepperoni and lots of cheese.”
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