I remember the first night he spoke to me. It was a usual Friday night at the Rodeo. For months I had been frequenting the country bar on a weekly basis. It had become my secondary home, a place where the bouncers and the bartenders knew me by name. My friend, Jennifer and I were making our rounds when I spotted him again. I’d noticed him weeks before but had never worked up the nerve to talk to him directly. For us regulars, it was like high school all over again. Cliques existed. But instead of touchdowns and toe touches it was mechanical bulls and line dancing. Everything was a competition and he was the Quarterback. I didn’t have the guts or the glory.
From the swarm of ladies near the back corner it was obvious he was on the bull again. As much as I pretended not to notice, I couldn’t help but watch as I waited for Jennifer beneath the deejay booth. He was smooth, I’d give him that. How he managed to make bucking wildly on an inanimate object look so graceful I’ll never know, but he did just that. For those 8 seconds every female in sight kept their eyes glued to him.
His ride was ending when Jennifer walked up beside me. He was jumping down from the platform and to my surprise walked directly to Jenn and gave her a hug.
“Hey cowboy,” she said, wrapping her arms around him in acknowledgement. “Nice ride.”
“Yeah. I think I pulled a muscle in my stomach,” he said, wincing as he drew back. Up close he was even better looking. Everything about him screamed pure country, from the Wranglers to the Justin boots and straw hat. That night he had on a yellow and blue plaid long sleeve button up shirt and believe me when I say it fit him well.
“I’ll nurse your wounds any day,” I blurted. Holy shit, I remember thinking. Had I actually just said that out loud? I had never said anything like that in my life. At least not in front of people. I wasn’t that girl. You know, the one who could pull of sexy double entendres with a guy she’d never met. Or anyone for that matter.
Jennifer shot me a what-the-hell look as she introduced us.
“James, this is Bree,” she said.
“And obviously I’ve had one too many lemon drops,” I tried to play it cool, giggling nervously instead.
“Ma’am,” was all he said, tipping his hat in my direction with the hint of a smile. I was sure he would never talk to me again.
Before I could do or say anything else, Mike, the deejay’s, voice shot out and they centered the lights on the dance floor.
“It’s that time again, people. Line up under the bartender for your free shots during this song only…! ” His voice drifted off as the music got louder and everyone on the outskirts started to whistle and cheer at anyone dancing in the line.
The rest of the night went by in a blur. I drank more. I line-danced. Before I knew it, it was almost closing time and the lights began to dim as they did at the same time every night. Everyone cleared the floor except for couples as the first in a line of slow songs played over the speakers. Standing by the foot of the stage, the last thing I expected was to hear a newly familiar voice.
“Hey girl. Wanna dance?” James asked as he offered me his hand. He’d taken off his long sleeved button-up, revealing not only the orange Abercrombie & Fitch tee shirt he wore but muscular arms that had been hiding underneath.
“Sure,” I shrugged, although I was freaking out inside. I was fun. I was outgoing. I had a great personality. And yeah, I dressed really cute. But I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t the girl who got the guy. So although I was cool as a cucumber on the outside, the fact that he asked me to dance had my little heart fluttering a hundred miles an hour.
Then the song was over. And the moment was gone. The lights eventually flicked on throughout the entire bar and everyone started trudging to the front door. I found Jennifer and we walked out into the parking lot. It was 2am but that night instead of going our separate ways, we waited for all the shot girls, bartenders and bouncers to close up shop and followed them along with a few of the other regulars to Denny’s. It was the start of something new.
I don’t know why, maybe because it was the first night we spoke, but I’ll never forget that stupid orange shirt. I was already in love.