That Friday, Briana and Lisa spent most of the day planning a night out. They swapped ideas on which bars to go to and what to wear in between lessons. At one point, they had had the conversation in front of a class, and Jason Turner, a particularly knowing 14 year old had heard Briana say 'Margaritas,' and cheekily asked if that was a scientific term.
They had told Grace this in the Teacher's lounge, and she had actually been quite shocked by their cavalier attitude, especially when Lisa loudly declared that if she didn't get laid tonight she would start putting the moves on the Principal.
"Lisa!" she had cried.
But Lisa had just laughed and said, "well he is a man, and I am desperate."
"You are coming with us, aren't you Grace?" Briana had asked.
Not likely, thought Grace. Look what had happened the last time she had gone out with hard drinking women. But Lisa and Briana could be good company, and could she really stand another Friday night sitting at home ignoring Brandon's calls?
"OK, but I'm not staying out late. I have errands to run tomorrow."
The bar they had arranged to meet turned out to be a laid-back neighborhood place, to Grace's surprise. The music wasn't too loud and people were chatting quietly while a subdued game of pool took place in a corner. Briana and Lisa were sitting at the bar, sharing a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea, which Grace politely declined and ordered a beer instead.
"You look - nice," Lisa said, taking in Grace's low heeled boots, skinny jeans and buttoned up blouse. Lisa was dressed in an extremely low cut top that showed her black lacy bra. It was already gaining the attention of the barman, who barely looked legal.
"You ladies want another pitcher?" he asked hopefully.
"Hold your horses," Lisa grinned at him. "We're only half way down this one!"
"He's cute," she said as she turned back to Briana and Grace.
"If you like teenagers," said Briana. "Which you don't, I hope!"
It wasn't long before they were approached by two of the guys who had been playing pool. Briana knew them. One was an electrical engineer named Dave. He had a slight paunch and a sweaty upper lip, but his friend, Greg, was quite good looking, broad and blonde with a nice smile. He looked nothing like Brandon, who was dark and fine featured, which made Grace order a second beer. He seemed interested in the fact that she had only just recently moved here. He ran his own construction firm and they got talking about her townhouse, which was badly in need of renovation.
"Hello? Look who just walked in," Lisa whispered to her, interrupting the conversation. Grace glanced over to the door and saw Sam Anderson who was looking straight at her with his dark eyes. He was wearing worn jeans and a tight grey T-shirt and he looked gorgeous, as usual. Great, she thought, just what I need.
"Sam!" Lisa called before Grace could stop her.
"Hey Lisa," he slurred, walking towards them with cat-like ease, hands in his pockets.
"You out for a big night?" she asked, almost purring and wrapping her hair round her finger. God, she was embarrassingly obvious.
"No, just here to meet a friend," he said calmly, clearly used to the kind of attention he was getting.
"Bring him over here!" she said. "More the merrier."
"It's a girl, actually," he said apologetically, glancing towards a skinny blonde sitting in the corner, glaring at them.
Lisa choked slightly, but recovered bravely and said, "OK, have a great night!"
"Shit," she said to Grace. "Win some, lose some."
Grace couldn't help smiling at her attitude, she wished she could be so casual.
Much later, Briana and Lisa had finished off a second pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea and were all ready to hit a club. Dave and Greg seemed very keen to go with them, but Grace declined. She was determined to keep her promise to herself and Greg said he would stay with her while she called a cab.
He stood outside in the warm air with her while she waited. She really wanted to walk home, it wasn't far and she was looking forward to some peace and quiet. She knew he would want to walk with her though, and probably try and kiss her when they said goodbye. She couldn't face that so she was pretending to wait for a cab. She eventually persuaded him to leave, only by agreeing to swap numbers and calling if the cab didn't arrive.
The minute he walked away two people came bursting out of the bar. One was the skinny blonde shouting in a whiny voice. Grace stepped back into the shadows.
"You son of a bitch!" she yelled, her big boobs wobbling in her vest top.
"Don't be like that Cindy," Sam's smooth voice pleaded.
"Like what, you fucker?" she screamed, pointing at him aggressively. "You think you can screw around with me, don't you. You think you can get away with anything, just 'cos you're hot!"
"Hey, babe, don't be like that!"
"Well you 'aint all that!" she continued to shout as she yanked her car door open and got inside. She wound the window down and yelled out of it as she drove off, "Go get some pussy some place else!"
Classy, thought Grace, really classy.
Sam was standing in the dark, silhouetted against the glow of the bar. She saw him pull out his cigarettes and light one. He didn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. What was she going to do? Stay here half the night? Or risk him seeing her? But before she could make a decision he turned round.
"Hello," he said.
"Hi." She said sheepishly, stepping out of the shadows and shuffling towards him.
"You spying on me?"
"Not intentionally," she said.
"Want one?" he asked, holding the cigarettes out to her.
"I don't smoke," she said and then remembered their previous encounter and blushed.
All he did was raise an eyebrow.
"Um - I was about to walk home," she mumbled through her embarrassment.
"I'll walk with you," he said. "I could do with some fresh air."
There was something about the sad tone in his voice that stopped her from refusing the offer. His usual cockiness seemed to have deserted him.
They walked down the quiet street in silence for a while and eventually he said, "Sorry about Cindy."
She laughed. "That's OK. She seemed pissed."
"Yeh, she can be a little hot-headed."
Grace had a sudden vision of Cindy bouncing energetically on Sam's hard naked body and immediately quashed the thought.
"Do you live round here?" she asked.
"No, I work in a surf shop just round the corner. It's on the beach road."
That figures, she thought. He probably spent his days hanging out with beach bunnies like Cindy.
"Where's JD tonight?"
"At home playing violent video games and surfing for porn," he said.
She looked at him horrified, but he was grinning.
"Got you!" he smiled, dimple appearing. His cockiness had momentarily returned and she found it strangely comforting. "He spends most weekends at his grandparents," he added, serious again.
"Oh," she said. "I presumed it was just you and him."
"When our parents died he wanted to stay in his own house," he explained. "He actually chose to have me move in, believe it or not."
"It must have been difficult," she said.
"We get by. Just getting through one day at a time," he shrugged. "I wasn't around that much before the accident. We've both had to make some adjustments."
They had reached her house. She stood by the gate, nervously fishing in her bag for her keys.
"Nice house," he said. "Are you going to get Greg to do some work on it?"
"You know Greg?" she asked, surprised that he had even noticed her talking to him.
"Yeh, he was in the year above me at school. Good football player," he said.
Suddenly, she felt lost for words as they stood together in the gloom. She could make out his long lashes framing his dark eyes. She was staring at him, she realised with horror, and couldn't think of a thing to say.
"Well," he said, smiling shyly. " I'll be seeing you," and he walked away, appearing and reappearing in the streetlights.
He hadn't tried to kiss her, she thought. She hated herself for feeling so disappointed.