North of Light(9)

By: J.M. Paul

“Uh-uh. I don’t football.” She downs the rest of my beverage.

Now, we’re both left thirsty.

“But you drink, and there’s going to be plenty of that at the tailgate.” Trey bobs his eyebrows.

“No,” I say in a firm tone.

“So, it’s settled then.” Connor slaps the bar before he walks away.

Thanksgiving Curse

I’m still not sure how it happened, but I find myself in Detroit on Thanksgiving morning, tailgating before the Lions traditional football game. A band marching down Woodward, playing “Holly Jolly Christmas,” is the backdrop as I watch Connor and Trey play a game of beer pong with two guys I don’t know. I’m not friends with any of these people, except Cami.

The atmosphere is loud, rowdy, and excited. People are milling about everywhere, decked out in Lions gear, Christmas sweaters, or pilgrim costumes. A mass amount of bodies are crowded around the streets, trying to catch a glimpse of America’s Thanksgiving Parade. The parents look tired but happy; the children look overjoyed and overly energized by the prospect of seeing Santa on his sleigh.

The group I’m with is in a fenced-in parking lot, trying to ignore the family festivities taking part elsewhere by partying with hoots and hollers. The air is crisp but unseasonably warm for late November, the scent of hot dogs, peanuts, and beer heavy around us.

“So, what’s your story, Lunar?” Trey asks when he stops next to me after he and Connor lose the game.

“Lunar?” I raise my brows. “Wrong chick, dude. The name’s Noel.”

My attention roams the unruly group of twenty-somethings until it lands on Connor. He’s laughing while surrounded by three girls. One of them is Cami. She ditched me almost as soon as we got here. Connor’s wearing that stupid stuffed turkey hat again. His expression is loose and happy, as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. And why should he? He’s hot, he’s young, and he has every girl eating out of his hands, except for me.

Ha! At least I have that.

“I know your name, but I like Lunar better.” Trey gives me what I assume is his panty-dropping grin, and his eyes dive south of my neck.

“Then, become a selenologist and study the moon, hotshot, not my girls.” I sip my lukewarm coffee.

“Girls?” He peers around me with a smirk. “I only see one of you. Or are we talking about your multiple personalities?”

I shoot daggers out of my eyes at him but can’t stop the corner of my lip from quirking upward. “The man’s got jokes, people.”

“Oh, Lunar, we’re just getting started.” He tugs on a lock of my hair that isn’t covered by my beanie.

Trey and I shoot the shit, laughing and zinging one-liners at each other for quite a while. I realize he’s a pretty cool guy.

Thirty minutes later, and I think we’re best friends. Or maybe that line of thinking has something to do with the hard seltzer water Trey shoved in my hand. Whatever it is, I’m going with it because I’m actually enjoying myself.

“Noles! Get your ass over here,” Cami calls to me from a few feet away.

Trey and I are laughing hysterically at our commentary of the people walking by on their way into the game. We’re not being overly mean, but we’re definitely being inappropriate, which is probably why we can’t stop cackling like two adolescents.

“My ass is fine where it’s at,” I yell back.

“Your ass is more than fine, Journal Girl,” Connor growls in my ear when he steps next to me.

I ignore him and the tingling feeling his murmured words ignite in my nether regions. I nudge my chin toward two severely drunken girls staggering down the street, arm in arm.

“Who do you think will face-plant first?” I ask Trey.

Before he can answer, Connor steps between us. He hands Trey a beer and switches out my almost-gone hard seltzer for a fresh one.

Accommodating he is.

“We’re chugging before we head to the game. You down?” Connor asks us.

“Hell yeah.” Trey gulps the rest of the beer he was nursing and throws the empty in the back of the SUV we’re standing by.

“I don’t chug,” I say.

“No wonder you’re still single.” Trey flashes me a salacious grin.

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