I didn’t expect to see her, not on this night, not at this party. She normally went out of her way to avoid parties. When we first met she said, “Why doesn’t anyone try to pick me up at a bookstore? ‘Can I buy you a book?’ ‘I see you’re into fiction, have you read Tom Clancy’s latest?’ I’d be much more impressed and you would learn a lot more about me than ‘Can I buy you a drink?’” She said that in response to my asking, “Can I buy you a drink?” So to see her at a party was certainly a surprise.
I saw Kate from across the room. She had a red cup in her hand – no doubt filled with water – and was pretending to be interested in whatever story the guy in front of her was telling. I looked around trying to spot who she was with, when I saw her sister, Lila, just within eyeshot of Kate. Lila and I never got along. It wasn’t for lack of trying, believe me I tried and I tried, but Lila just hated me, and I never knew why, even at the end.
I try to make my way over to Kate when Lila comes running to her, flailing around, drunkenly yelling, “Sister!” I quickly turn around and pretend to be on my phone. When I hear Kate’s voice, I’m right back in the past.
“Hey Lila, are you ready to go?”
“Um no! But you can go home, I’m going to stay with my new friend Danny!” she says as she drags a tall man over towards her sister.
“Does Danny have a last name?” Kate asked. I can’t help but chuckle as I realize that not much has changed in that regard.
“Ugh! Kate! Why do you always do this?!” Lila asked.
“I just think it completes the name. And besides, you know my rule.” She tried to whisper, but the party was loud and Lila was barely listening as it was.
“Come on sis, let her go.” I heard Danny say. Things were going downhill fast. Kate can handle these things for a little while, and then she just looks cool, but starts to lose her nerve on the inside.
“I’m sorry, Danny, is it? First of all, I’m not your sis. Second of all, why should I let her go with you? You barely know each other, obviously, since apparently you don’t even have a last name.”
“Come on Lila, let’s go.” She grabbed her arm, and Lila pulled back, just in time for Danny to grab her other arm.
“You’re not her mommy, if she wants to come home with me, she can.” He said.
“So I assume you’re going to hold her hair back when she’s puking in half an hour? Or make sure she’s drinking plenty of water the rest of the night? And I’m sure you’ll make sure she gets to her apartment okay in the morning? Oh wait, you don’t even know where she lives. I’ll take it from here Dan.”
Danny tightened his grip around Lila’s arm enough for Lila to say, “Actually I forgot, I do have this thing tomorrow, so I probably should go with her.”
“Really? You think that you can just talk to me, dance with me, lead me on all night and then go home with your bitchy sister? Oh no you’re coming with me.”
Some may say, that I have a hero complex, others may just say I have a soft spot for Kate, but whatever the case may be, this had gone on long enough.
“Lila! Kate! I’m so glad I found you! Mom’s been trying to call you. Grandma is in the hospital, she’s not doing well and we need to get over there quickly!”
I could see Lila’s internal struggle. She obviously didn’t like that I was there, getting involved in their battle, but she didn’t want to be in Danny’s grip anymore so she kept her mouth shut.
“Oh my God.” Kate said. She clearly didn’t expect to see me here tonight either. “Um. Grandma. Right. Oh wow, she’s not doing well? Well then yeah, Lila we have to get going!”
“Who’s this?” Danny asked, clearly agitated. “You think that just because some dude comes in and tells some lame story about your grandma, I’m going to just back down? Well he’s going to have to go through me first.”
“I’m really close to my grandma.” Lila said, trying to deescalate the situation, but was too drunk to help substantially.
At that, Danny forced Lila to the chair next to them, and stepped up to me. Kate ran over to her sister and sat with her, then just looked at me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Her eyes were scared, surprised, confused, and maybe a little bit relieved?
“Danny, you don’t want to fight me. Now that the girls are good to go, I’ll make sure they get to their homes okay, and you can go flirt with some other girl. Or better yet, you could go home too. Or go to a well-lit bar to do your flirting.”
“Oh yeah pretty boy?” he was rolling his sleeves up. That’s the thing, when drunk people try to fight sober people, it’s already not fair, but to try and fight me, well that just wasn’t a good call to ever make.
Before he could even bring his arm back from behind him, I broke his nose with one punch – something I learned long before combat training.
“Goodnight Danny.” I motioned to Kate to get out of here, as I was leading them to the door, Danny was back at me and even angrier.
“Come back here you piece of shit!” I kept walking and then felt him grab my shoulder to turn me around.
“I didn’t want to do this Danny!” I said before I knocked him out.
I followed the girls outside, and helped Kate get Lila in the car.
“Thanks DREWL!” Lila said from the passenger seat.
“Sure thing Lila. Drink some water.” I said as I closed the door.
“Thanks a lot Drew. That was really nice of you.” Kate said before walking around to the other side of the car.
“You know I’d do that for you anytime.” I said.
“Drew, just so you know, you may have coincidentally been in the right place at the right time, with your superhero complex tonight, but this doesn’t change things with us. I appreciate what you did. Tonight. But you and I are still ancient history.” She slammed the car door shut.
“You and I.” Those words in her voice, they gave me hope to this day. I knew I would win her back. Maybe not tonight, but I would win her back some day.