LUKE Foster, Luke Hang Out? To: Bardot, Falen Hi Falen, we met at the company Halloween party last weekend. I was the wolf. I’m in Charlotte now for the conference. I was wondering if you’d like to get together sometime? I’ll be back in town day after tomorrow. Bardot, Falen RE: Hang Out? To: Foster, Luke Hey Luke, I’d like that. I’m available Friday night. Text me: 312-123-4567
When the doorbell rang, Luke checked the time: eight o’clock like they decided at his place. Two new friends hanging out. That’s it. Assuming he didn’t do anything stupid to mess things up with another beautiful woman.
“Hey, hey. Bienvenida a mi casa. And that’s about it for my Spanish,” Luke says, smiling. Falen’s hands shake when he takes her jacket. She’s wearing a short skirt and a tight sweater bright as fresh snow. “You look great. Take a seat, make yourself at home. How are you?” He takes a deep breath, quietly trying to settle his nerves.
“I’m okay.” Falen says, a shy smile follows when he hugs her. “How are you?”
“Doing great now. Want a drink?”
“What’s your poison?”
“Um, how about jack and coke?”
“Ah, good taste. Me too, the weather’s right for it, huh?” he points a remote at the fireplace. It roars to life with one click. “I’ll be right back.”
In the kitchen, Luke looks back… making eye contact with Falen, who stares at him. He turns, feeling her eyes pressed against his back. “I have plenty to eat if you’re hungry. Or we can go out, order in…”
She chuckles, he thinks, trying to hear her over the classic rock playing. He wraps up the drinks, joins her on the couch and clinks glasses.
“Thanks for coming tonight.” Luke says, turning the music down some.
“Sure, yeah. Good to see you again.” Falen says after her own sip, a hearty one, he notices. She twirls her straw a little too fast because she spills on her sweater. “Oh shit. Sorry! I’m just so nervous. I didn’t get it on your couch, did I?”
“Don’t be. It’s all good, but it got your sweater. I have one of those magic pen things that gets those stains out.” Luke says already walking away. “I can go get it.”
After a moment Luke returns with the tool and leans forward to put it on her sweater. Falen flinched.
“Oh, I uh, I can–” she says.
“I’m sorry, I’ll let you do it.” The stain was right over her heart. Luke shook his head, unsure what he was thinking, reaching for her like that.
“Oh, it’s okay don’t apolo—”
“I—I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Falen’s smile is big and reassuring. Once the pen does its wonders, they both sigh.
Luke asks if she’s hungry. Falen says no. He suggests a game. Scrabble Slam. They play for a straight hour. Falen dominates him at the spelling game three rounds out of four.
“Remind me to never play against you again.” Luke chuckles. “You’re great at that.”
“You weren’t so bad.”
Falen pats his hand. Luke follows her eyes to the stereo.
“What’s that? The green thing on top of that box?”
“Oh, that’s my old roommate’s game. He moved out recently and left a few things behind. He was kind of party animal. I gotta text him and see when he’s gonna come pick this up. It’s an eyesore here. I’m sorry. Uh, you wanna?” Luke pauses, Falen nods. “It’s not like Scrabble I—you wanna play?” He shuts up and grabs it.
“How do you play?”
“Well, you roll the dice and have to do what it says, depending what it lands on. I’m not sure. Um… We don’t have to… play this. It’s a, you know,” he makes a bed squeaking sound. “That kind of game.”
“I want to,” Falen says, finishing the last of her drink. “Oof.”
Luke catches her lean. “Whoa… You okay? Want another?”
Falen shakes her head no, mentions head pain then laughs—uncontrollably. It rubs off on Luke, triggering a happiness he hadn’t felt in a while. “Let me get you some water. And I’m gonna get another drink. Be right back.”
Initially nervous over Falen’s arrival, Luke remembers the confidence boost of extra whiskey he put in his first drink and feels he doesn’t need it for the second. He looks back at Falen on the couch vibing to Pink Floyd with closed eyes. Brain Damage starts. Eclipse would follow before the Beatles crawled into the rotation. He finishes up and joins her. She drinks the water and rolls the dice, landing on KISS, of course…
Luke catches Falen blushing, and the grin she tries to hide by looking down. He leans forward as she hops down. They fall backwards. Luke hits the back of his head hard on the floor. It’s okay because they laugh about it, or maybe it was the irony of the song playing.
Falen: Heyoo. You get the email?
Jenelle: omg girl. Luke? American Psycho of the executive floor?
“Oh no,” Falen whispers. Fearing the worst, she continued texting.
Falen: What’s wrong with him?
Jenelle: JK. Sara R in accounting went out with him once last year and said she ‘regretted it’.
Falen: I wonder what happened. Size issue? He’s so good looking though.
Jenelle: She didn’t go into detail. Sara R sucks though. Go have fun!
Falen pulls into Luke Foster’s driveway. Right on time. Eight o’clock. The one-story navy-blue and white craftsman house is a beauty, as are all the homes in the area. Considering the drop in temp, Luke’s lawn is jade and freshly landscaped. Fancy black lights with gold hues poke out of it. They’re spaced evenly apart, lining the edge of the stone pathway leading to the red front door. Falen rings the bell, staring down at the black welcome mat.
“Benvenuta!” He swings the door open, almost too happy. “And that’s about it for my Italian.” Luke gives a handsome smile, gentle enough to ease her anxiety and the reminder of Sara R’s unspoken regrets. For a moment. “You look beautiful. How are you?” He helps Falen out of her jacket, hanging it on the coat rack by the door.
“I’m good. How are you?”
“Incredible. Would you like something to eat? Or a drink?”
“Yes,” Falen says, probably too fast, she thinks, but wants anything to calm her nerves. “Please, a drink.”
“What would you like?”
“Coke and whiskey.”
“Sweet. I’ll have the same.”
“Sounds great. Thanks, Luke.”
He goes to the kitchen and gets the drinks ready. Falen studies the back of Luke’s head. Everything is perfect. His hair. His smile. His clothes. His cologne. Luke turns around. They make eye contact. Now he’s gonna think I don’t trust him or something.
“Don’t worry, I won’t put anything in your drink.”
Falen thinks he says. She laughs, unsure, then decides she trusts him. Her stomach growls, disguised by the music. Nervous about their date, she forgot to eat since lunch and was too shy to eat in front of a new guy. Even the fire looks tasty.
Luke returns with the drinks. They clink their glasses and talk for a while. He makes her laugh again, just like the night they met. She laughs so much she spills on her sweater. “Sorry!” she laughs. “I’m just so nervous. Whew…”
“Don’t be. Let me get that stain pen remover thing.”
He’s back in a few moments and leans forward. Falen backs away.
“I—I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she takes the pen, it disappears like magic.
They continue their drinks over music and Scrabble Slam. Luke is cute, even when he’s losing.
“I’m never playing that with you again! Dang… you’re a pro.”
“Thanks. You weren’t that bad though.” She laughs and looks around. “What’s that green thing? Fuzzy squares?”
“My roommate’s stuff. It’s a weird game. He always said it helped him ‘get lucky’. He was a party animal type, you know? He should’ve already picked this stuff up. I’m sorry. You wanna play? I mean, you just roll the dice and do what it says. It’s a, you know,” he makes a bed squeaking sound. “That kind of game.”
“I want to… Oof.”
“Whoa… you okay? Want another?”
Falen shakes her head no, mentions head pain then laughs—uncontrollably.
“Let me get you some water, and something to eat.”
The hardwood floor drops beneath her. She’s in freefall until she crashes—back on the couch she never left… It felt like years passed when Luke returns. She eats something hot and gooey and drinks the water, spilling on herself again, this time her skirt. She laughs, insisting she’s okay, and rolls the dice. It lands on KISS, she blushes and hops down, unsure how they tumbled to the floor…
They wake up on the floor. They’re confused, sore everywhere. Luke’s jeans and boxer briefs are at his ankles, Falen’s skirt is roped around her belly. She gasps and tugs it down. Luke wiggles back into his jeans.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“What happened? Did we…?” she asks.
The suggestive dice sit between them. Falen remembers she rolled a kiss. “Did you put something in my drink?”
“What? No! NO way.”
“I felt different. I still do… There was this pressure on the back of my head, and I couldn’t feel my face. I’ve never felt that before.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“I heard you say, ‘I won’t put anything in your drink’ when you were in the kitchen making them, I think…”
“What? Did I? Why would I… I don’t remember saying—no, no, I said I have food to eat if you’re hungry.” He sighs, rubbing the back of his head. “I think I made the drinks too strong. Both of ours. I was so nervous… I’m sorry.”
“I should go, it’s kinda late.” She gets up, freezes, and runs to the bathroom instead, slamming the door behind her.
Luke slumps down on the couch, staring at the floor they woke up on. He thinks she’ll go to the police after this. File a report. He’ll lose his job at the firm; his parents will disown him, no one will want to date a rapist. Or Falen won’t say anything for years and come out against him just as he announces his run for Congress, threats to his reputation for something he didn’t do—until his people handed the right dollar amount over. I put nothing in her drink. Just too much whiskey… but I didn’t drug her. I wouldn’t do that.
In the bathroom, Falen’s confused. She doesn’t know how to feel. A reminder of Luke’s release haunts her from the toilet. She thinks she’ll get pregnant. She’ll have to stay home and take care of it. Luke will deny everything and not help; It will upset her parents. No one will want to date a mom with an infant. You should’ve eaten more. You didn’t eat like you usually do before you drink. What happened with him and Sara R? I need to get to the store.
Moments later, Falen comes out. Luke rises from the couch. He wants to hug her, but he’s too nervous. He keeps distance, asking if she’s alright. Falen says she is.
“I’m sor… Uh, there’s a, uh, place down the street that’s open all night. I can get that… that special pill for you, just in case.”
“It’s okay, I can. I’ll just go now.” She grabs her purse from the couch wondering how he read her mind. “I think the sooner it’s taken, the better.”
“Let me go with you, at least. It’s like four in the morning. I can go for you; you can stay here—”
“No,” Falen says bluntly.
Luke nods and backs off, quietly walking her to the door with a great distance between them. “Falen.” She turns, her eyes are red and solemn, his are watery. “Please, let me go with you. I want to.”
She sighs and nods. He runs back to get his keys. Falen stands by the couch, waiting, staring at the spot on the floor where they passed out. Luke is running all around patting his pockets repeatedly asking himself where he put the keys. Falen closes her eyes. The night returns in fragments. Luke’s lips on her neck, a hand clutching her ponytail. When she opens, she sees Luke trip over the ottoman and can’t help but laugh. He’s a nerd, she concludes. A nerd she likes…
“Here they are!” Triumphant, Luke raises his hand in the air, keys in hand. He rises, embarrassed, nervous, still wobbly from drink. “…under the ottoman, had to bend over for them.”
They head out. Luke drives. Around them, the world is still dark, isolated and cold. Falen presses her finger on the window. It leaves a mark, briefly, fading under a sliver of frost again. She feels stupid for wearing a skirt in this weather, trying to be cute. Luke must’ve read her mind because he turns on the heat.
The store isn’t too far from Luke’s home. Falen goes in and buys it; Luke couldn’t convince her to let him. After a quiet ride back, they’re at his place again. Falen takes the pill with an enormous glass of water she gets from the fridge.
Luke grabs her coat and enjoys helping her in it, even though it meant she was leaving and the joy between them had fizzled away. He walked Falen out to her car, thinking he likes the way it looks parked there, but figures he’ll never see it again.
“Bye Falen. Drive safe.”
Luke’s hands slump into his pockets, watching Falen back out of his driveway.
TWO Days Later
Falen: Hey Luke, how’s everything?
Her text broke his glance from the rain drenched high-rise window. He re-reads it, shocked. His read receipt was on, so he had no choice but to respond now. He’s nervous. He needs time to put his response through a grammar corrector first.
Luke: I’m hangover free now, ha. How are you?
He cringes. It was the best he could do.
Falen: Hangover free here too. 🙂
Falen: I was wondering if you’d like to get back together sometime?
“YES!” Luke shouts, surrounded by his colleagues. Everyone in the meeting looks at him perplexed. He apologizes for the outburst and smiles, just as the sun replaced the rain outside. Taking that for a sign, he texts back.
Luke: I’d love that.