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The Pact(3)

By:Karina Halle

I find my voice. “Agree.”

He then pulls my hand toward his mouth and kisses the top of it. Even more air is taken from my lungs.

“I think I just made the best back-up plan ever,” he says, his lips moving against my skin before he lets go of my hand and picks up his beer instead, clinking it against mine. “To us.”

I mouth the words but they don’t come out.

“Damn, it took them forever to leave,” James says as he comes over to us. “How many times can I say ‘we’re closing soon’ before they get the hint.”

“Maybe you oughta start pulling a gun out,” Linden says. “Or better yet, start singing.”

“Shut up,” James tells him. “I sing back-up once and I never live it down.” Linden and James used to be in a local band together, with Linden on vocals and lead guitar and James on bass but although they were good, they weren’t really good enough to keep going. San Francisco has a pretty competitive indie scene.

“Oh guess what?” Linden says, his eyes sparkling.

“Do I dare?” James asks with a sigh as he moves behind the bar to start wiping down the counter for the millionth time.

“Steph and I are getting married,” he says brightly.

James pauses and looks up at me to gauge Linden’s validity. “It’s true,” I say, though it doesn’t sound sincere.

“What?” he asks, now looking at the both of us. I want to say there isn’t a hint of hurt threading his brow but I can’t be sure. Sometimes I forget that we used to be lovers, which is kind of ridiculous. It was only a few days after I started working at The Burgundy Lion, when James and I hit it off and ended up dating for a year. Linden was his best friend and that’s how I got to know him.

Obviously the break-up was fairly amicable because James and I are still good friends, but when it came down to it, I broke up with him and though he acted like it was more or less mutual, I always wondered if I’d hurt him more than I thought.

“You know I like my back-up plans,” Linden goes on. “So we made a pact. If neither one of us are in a serious relationship when we hit thirty, we get married.”

James blinks at us before tucking a strand of his shaggy black hair behind his ears. “This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

Linden raises his chin. “Aw, don’t be jealous, man.”

James scoffs. “I’m not jealous. The two of you in a marriage? World’s pickiest woman with the world’s biggest manwhore? Yeah, have fun with that.”

“Hey,” I say indignantly. I’m not that picky.

But Linden takes no offense. “Oh we will. So why don’t you pop open some champagne to celebrate with us?”

James gives him a pointed look. “Are you the one buying?”

He shrugs. “It’s our pre-engagement present from you.”

James sighs heavily, like he has some weight on his shoulders, but concedes. He always concedes to Linden. “Fine,” he says, and brings out a bottle of sparkling wine from the fridge. It pops open with a flourish and he pours it into Mason jar glasses.

We cheers to the pact once again and then lapse into our normal conversation about the latest bands, movies, TV shows, hockey (James and Linden are huge fans of the San Jose Sharks).

I sip my drink and can’t help but feel the slightest bit relieved. In five years, all the dating and the strife could be over. In five years, there’s the tiniest possibility that I could marry my best friend.

I wonder if five years is long enough to change my mind.



The sun is streaming through my bedroom window, highlighting the dark hair on the arms and legs of the man next to me. I’m all for hair on a man, but he didn’t seem like that much of a gorilla in the bar last night. Then again, I was pretty drunk. I think I had been doing the robot until monkey man grabbed me and kissed the dance away.

I groan and roll over away from him. He doesn’t move an inch and I’m having a hard time remembering his name. I’m not even sure we had sex, until I spy a discarded condom halfway between the bed and the trashcan. Gross. Responsible, but gross.

It had been my birthday party last night at the Tiki Lounge downtown, which explains not only my one-night stand and raging headache but the flower leis tossed over the edges of the bed. I feel a pang of disappointment – I had wanted to usher in the new age with some new rules (aka, stop drinking so much on the weekends, stop sleeping with random guys) and it seems my first day of twenty-six was a total failure.

I slowly make my way out of the bed and grab a nightshirt from the drawer, throwing it on and then cinching it with a robe. The hairy dude continues to sleep and for a moment I fear that maybe he’s actually dead until I see his back rise up and down.