He wasn’t the kind of guy a woman wanted to pin her hopes and dreams on.
Not that May knew the man sitting all the way down at the other end of the bar. She didn’t. But she didn’t have to know him to understand that he was a bad bet. He’d walked in with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his black hoodie, taken one look at her, and planted himself on a stool as far away from her as possible.
Not very friendly.
And there were other clues. The scowl, for one. He couldn’t be out of his thirties, but his full lips turned down decisively at the corners, the lines bracketing his mouth so deeply grooved that it seemed obvious he made a habit of disapproval. His three-day stubble said he didn’t care how he looked because he’d prefer it if no one was looking.
Or maybe his stubble didn’t carry secret messages. Some guys hated to shave. He could be too busy. It was possible he had a beautiful heart, and he would light up and beam as soon as someone gave him a reason to. She’d known people like that.
May doubted it, though. When she’d tried to catch his eye, venturing a friendly smile in his direction, he’d pulled a paperback book out of his back pocket and propped an elbow on the bar between them.
Do not disturb, that elbow said.
And also, just possibly, I am a dick.
He’d ordered two beers. He was probably here to meet someone, and she was probably being oversensitive and judgmental because she was tired and mixed up, her craving for companionship outweighing her common sense.
So, fine. She’d give him his space. She wasn’t the type to impose. Well-behaved girls from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, didn’t approach men in New York City bars and ask them for help anyway—not if they had better options. If she’d somehow randomly lost half her leg on her way to the bar, she would be justified in penetrating his bubble of isolation. I’m not sure if you noticed, she would say, but I seem to have a problem with my leg.
Short of that … well, short of that, she sat here trying to be invisible. Which was difficult when you were five foot, eleven-and-three-quarters inches and had some meat on your bones. Difficult, but necessary.
She nursed the last inch of warm lager in her pint glass and avoided looking at the bartender. If she looked at him he might ask if she wanted another drink, and if he did that, she would have to say no.
Which would make it perfectly obvious to all three of the people in the bar that she should be moving along.
The bartender might even ask her to go, because they did that if you hung around too long in New York. In Manhattan, loitering was a real thing, as opposed to just an accusation leveled against teenagers who looked like they might be thinking about ripping off junk food and porno from the Quik Stop.
May was loitering.
She had no money.
She had nowhere else to go.
It was true that she could retrace her path, rewalk the blocks she’d journeyed in a daze, and ask the front desk to buzz her back into Dan’s apartment. Sorry, she’d tell them. I lost my keys. But you know me, right? You’ve seen me with my boyfriend. Can you let me in?
A totally manageable series of white lies. In fact, she hadn’t lost her keys, but it was true that she didn’t have them. They’d been stolen, along with her purse and the rest of its contents.
And really Dan wasn’t her boyfriend anymore, but even Dan didn’t seem to accept that yet—although he might change his mind when he came home from his emergency strategy session and found her gone.
It wasn’t too late to take back the note she’d left. She could walk into his empty apartment and pull the paper off the fridge, stuff it in the garbage can under the sink. She could pretend when Dan returned that none of this had happened, and she could talk to him tonight—really talk to him—about what she’d done at the luncheon yesterday.
She could find something to say to him other than I don’t think this is working and I don’t want to be with you anymore and I want to go home.
Not home to Dan’s apartment nearby or his Mansion of Ostentatiousness in New Jersey, where she’d been living with him for the past six weeks. Home to Wisconsin. Home.
Dan had made it clear that he didn’t want her to leave. He believed they could still fix their relationship. The You Tube video documenting the entire public embarrassment had already drawn more than a million views, but even though his agent and his coaches and a good chunk of the sports fans in the greater New York metropolitan area hated her, Dan was willing to put it all behind them.
All May had to do was tell him what he’d done wrong and how he could fix it.
But she didn’t want to have to tell him. He should know. And the fact that he didn’t meant there was no way he could fix it.