This serial has been extended to six parts, thanks in large part to all the encouragement you have given me. Enjoy!
I've never been on a date before, but dangit if this don't feel like one. Nick's playing at the pub tonight. I convinced myself to clean up and head here looking as slick as oil. I intend to talk to Nick tonight. That is my intention. Yessir. That is, assuming these chattering teeth let me speak.
I looked in the mirror before leaving the house. Sweet Jesus. You ain't never seen someone look as desperate to impress. I got on my tight dark blue Wranglers, my best blue plaid shirt, and my non-shit-kickin' boots. My hair is parted to the left and maybe a bit too gooped. I take my hand and feel it every few minutes just to make certain it's still in place. Yup. Still petrified.
Da and Auntie Bev looked at me like I was a unicorn or something when I emerged from my room. Then Da finally said, "You look real nice, my boy. Real nice." Auntie Bev even made me pose for a photo. From the way Auntie Bev acted, you would have thought I've been walking around naked my whole life and just found out about clothes.
It got even worse when I walked in here. The pub got all quiet. I noticed those smirks on a few dirty faces too before I quickly looked away and found my usual place against the wall. Nobody said anything, though. At least not to me. Thank God for the waitress Lucille. She came up to me and said, "You look real nice. Don't let those filthy buggers bother you. What'll you have tonight, hon?"
So, here I stand, drinking my beer, feeling like there's a circus in my stomach, and hoping Lucille's right and I look nice. But what have I got to compare 'nice' to? Nobody around here looks nice. Except for Nick.
He's playing that guitar, an old thing that I bet has quite a story to tell, and his singing is enough to calm the rowdiest of guys in here. Nobody's even playing pool. His voice is memory and nostalgia and chances not taken, and I bet you everyone in here feels it. I can even hear some sniffles from a few of the old, old-timers. My eyes ain't leaving the stage, not even when Lucille comes back around and asks me if I want another drink. I just nod. She keeps 'em coming. Nick's looking at me and he smiles. It's a real honest-to-Jesus smile and I swear I feel the edge of my own mouth raise a bit, like it's on a curtain hook, half-smiling in return. It's a start, right?
His set is over. It's gone by way too fast. I breathe deep, a cleansing breath. His music, his voice, has washed the rock dust out of my lungs. The pub returns to life as if Nick hadn't just been up there singing. Pool balls are striking each other and dirty jokes are being told. I stay where I am. I order another drink, feel my hair again, and wait for Nick. He packs up his guitar into a case that's older than the mountain, scuffed all to hell, and there's a satisfied look to him. He steps down from the small stage. I stop slouching and stand up as straight as I can. My eyes are as open as if a big ol' truck is heading right at me. But it's Nick and he's standing in front of me. My God, he's beautiful.
"Hey there," he says, his voice as soft and comforting as a blanket.
"H-hi," I stutter. I was really hoping I wouldn't stutter. Dammit. "That was a good performance. I mean, it was nice. I mean...Damn, you got a voice, don't ya?"
Shit. Just take a drink.
He's laughing. I made him laugh. Me.
"You look real nice," he says.
"Th-thank you." What do I say now? How does this conversation proceed? This is the longest moment in the history of the world. I can't just stand here and look into his eyes forever. Do something, you moron!
"Well, I best be going," he says.
What? No. Don't.
"Oh, okay." I let him pass. "Listen, Nick. Do you wanna...?"
He's looking at me, waiting, but I can't finish the damn sentence. Just read my mind, Nick. Please.
He gives me another sweet, sweet grin. "G'night," he says. He's turning around. He's leaving.
I walk in the door and Da's waiting up on me. He's all smiles. Auntie Bev's sleeping on the couch in front of the TV, snoring like a bulldog. "Well," Da says, "How'd it go? Did you invite him for dinner?"
I don't respond. I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed of my cowardice. I just head for my room with my head down.
"Next time," I hear Da say. "You'll get him next time."