"It's just gonna suck, I've been dreading this-" I stopped mid-way through my sentence as a familiar flash of blonde hair caught my eye. James Hammond was coming up the stairs of Noodles and Co.
I felt an unwilling flush creep onto my cheeks and hoped the layers of high-coverage foundation and concealer kept it from being too apparent, "Just my luck," I muttered to my friend Sarah who was visiting me from MSU.
"Who is it?" Sarah asked, spinning in her chair.
"James," I muttered through my smile as James returned my wave, "I actually haven't seen him in ages."
A hug and a kiss on the cheek later, we were briefly catching up before James went back to his table across the restaurant. I felt uncharacteristically flustered: my pulse was racing, I shoved the sleeves of my beaded sweatshirt up because the temperature in the room seemed to go up ten degrees. Something about that guy just threw me for a loop every time.
The buzz from my spiked Slurpee was still going strong as Sarah, my roommates, and I made our way to the bars. We were rounding the corner when a grey peacoat in a group of guys caught my eye.
"Hold on," I told my group as I split off and paused at the street corner. In addition to Alex's grey jacket, I was surprising to see a familiar green ski coat next to him.
A smile split Alex's face when he saw me waiting for him. It had been ages since we'd seen each other, since Alex had left for his cruise as soon as I got back to Ann Arbor. He picked me up and we hugged tightly with excited, "Hellos." When Alex put me down and went to say hi to my roommates, CJ Anslow threw his arm around my shoulder.
"What are you doing?" I was genuinely perplexed, "you left your house?"
"It's crazy, I know," CJ's arm was locked around my shoulder, and I wrapped my arm easily around his waist. We walked down the block with our arms around each other, chatting until we split off. My group was going to one other bar before meeting Alex and his friends at our favorite bar.
"I'm going to punch CJ in the face," Sarah said.
"Me too," chimed Elizabeth and Lindsey, my roommates had heard me rant about his deceit too much to have any other reaction.
"Can we please? Last time we drank together, I hit him a lot."
A free shot later, we dropped into the Blue Leprechaun and found Alex, CJ, and Alex's friends by the downstairs bar.
"Come on, I'll buy you a drink," CJ touched my arm after a few minutes of me and Alex jabbering on about our Ohio State friends.
"Ok," I smiled, following him to the bar, "You do owe me quite a few drinks."
"I owe you drinks?" CJ smirked.
"For not talking to me all summer, duh," I raised my eyebrows, "Gin and tonic, please."
"That's such a girly drink."
"I am a girl!"
"I forget that sometimes," CJ winked at me.
"You are awful," I punched him lightly in the arm, and watched a familiar grin spread across his face as he leaned over to order our drinks, "You do realize that in the entire history of our friendship, this is the second time we've been to a bar, right?"
"You're right," CJ said, after a moment's thought, "Because your birthday I didn't go out to the bars-"
"You stayed up the night before dealing with Sarah and were too tired to go out for your best friends 21st," I said icily.
"We went out to Mash that one time-"
"It was when Danny visited-"
"You wore those stupid PJ pants-"
"That was actually fun though."
"Yeah it was," CJ and I shared a rare smile as the bartender placed 2 tequila shots, a gin and tonic, and a jack and coke in front of us. CJ handed over a 20, and picked up a salt shaker. I liked the back of my hand CJ poured me salt. CJ had been the first to teach me how to do a tequila shot, I did them for the first time when we were pregaming my 21st.
"Cheers," we licked our salt, threw back the shots, and sucked the juice from our limes. At the same time, we leaned into put our glasses back on the bar, but CJ leaned in just a bit to close, "AH!" we butted heads.
"Oh God, I'm sorry! Are you ok?" CJ spluttered instantly.
"You're an idiot CJ!" I laughed.
"I'm sorry!" CJ ran his hands over my hair and leaned his head gently in toward mine, our foreheads and the tips of our noses touching, "You're ok?"
"I'm fine CJ," I assured him, in a voice only only a decibel over a whisper. CJ was close enough that I didn't even have to raise my voice in the crowded bar.
"Good," CJ's face split into a smile again, and I felt the tingles of familiarity, of our old friendship returning. This was the nicest we had been to each other in months, and not to mention the physically closest we had been in longer than I could remember.
Halfway through my gin and tonic, I accompanied Sarah to the bathroom, "Get in here!" Sarah pulled me into her stall, "CJ and Sarah are fighting, and it's really bad."
"What?" I gasped.
"CJ told Alex and Alex told me: 'I'm fighting with Sarah and it's worse than ever. Make sure nothing happens with Kaitlyn tonight.'"
"He said that?" My jaw hit the floor.
"Oh God! 'Make sure nothing happens with Kaitlyn tonight?' Sarah this is so bad!"
"Ok, don't freak out-"
"Telling Alex and using my name like that? In that context? This is new uncharted territory!"
"Oh come on, you guys are up at the bar and he's touching your hair and buying you drinks. Standing back and seeing you guys, it looks like you're a couple."
"This is bad, this is bad," I bit my lip.
"He needs to break up with Sarah and date you, I've been saying it for a year now!" Sarah sighed exasperatedly and we excused ourselves from our stall.
"This is bad, I'm freaking out."
More drinks and some dancing later, CJ and Alex and Alex's friends got ready to leave for food. I hugged Alex and kissed him on the cheek, as per usual for us. When CJ hugged me, he also kissed me on the cheek. This was not per usual for us, especially for the past eight months.
An hour later, when my roommates and I left the bar, an event happened that hadn't happened in eight months: my phone buzzed with a text from CJ Anslow. After an hour of drunk texting, I took a moment to scroll up through our thread of text messages: after the ones from tonight, the most recent was from October, in the wake of Purdue's competition when I thanked him for helping us with dance stuff. His response to that was slightly nice. I scrolled up a bit more and the two texts that I had sent him over the summer that went without a response looked glaringly out of place.
I remembered that I still hated him. Buying me drinks couldn't change that.