We stepped into the dimly lit Londoner and I scanned the crowd for Phil and his girlfriend. I'd changed into flats in the car so Cayden wouldn't have to be my crutch all night, although I don't think he minded playing the big, strong man role. His hand was still around my waist, and I noticed how aware I was of his touch. It was like I fit right there, at his side. Before Cayden I always found it impossibly awkward to walk side by side with an arm around my waist: If you didn't have the exact right pace you'd bump into each other or accidently pull away.
But with Cayden it was different. I don't know if it was just because his arms were longer, his grip tighter, or if it was because we were both in sync with each other. Either way, I loved it. It didn't hurt that being tucked against someone so big made me feel tiny. At 5'8" with some Cuban curves, tiny wasn't something I felt often.
I saw Phil's sandy blond head at the far end of the bar and his girlfriend's dark auburn head next to him. I stepped out of Cayden's hold and linked fingers with him as I led him toward the bar. I looked back at him and saw him glancing around at the Londoner, summing it up, judging how London it really was.
I punched Phil in the arm and he turned around with a surprised look on his face.
"Oh hey! I didn't think you guys were really coming. Here, grab a seat!" He and Cayden shook hands and then Phil introduced him to his girlfriend Eliza. Eliza is barely 5'2", so Cayden looked enormous and I no longer felt anywhere near tiny. As we sat next to them, I realized we were all overdressed for the pub.
"So, how was the opera?" I asked.
"Well, I didn't kill myself! It wasn't half as bad as you made me think it would be. How was Five Sixty?"
"Heeeeeeeey," I heard from behind me, and I turned to see where it came from. Then I saw Jerry standing there, wearing a somewhat normal outfit for Jerry's standards. Jerry is one of Phil's best friends, and every time I introduce someone new to him, I make sure to prep them first. But I didn't know Jerry would be here, so I hadn't prepped Cayden.
"Hey Jerry, didn't know you were here. Cayden, this is Jerry. Jerry, Cayden," I said as they shook hands in that manly way that men do. I was glad Jerry wasn't wearing his fur-collared leather jacket or a sweater vest with noting under it but a tie, showing off his barbed wire tattoo. His somewhat normal appearance bought me a few minutes to try to prep Cayden.
Jerry stepped up to the other side of Eliza to order another drink. This was my chance to sum up all that is Jerry in less than one minute. Out of the side of my mouth, I quickly explained.
"Didn't know he was here. He's kind of crazy, and at some point in the night he might even offend you, although young girls and old women are usually his target. He likes to make up a lot of theories, but just go with it. He's a little off-the-wall, but he's actually a really good guy."
Cayden was focused on my mouth, trying to read my lips over the loud music. He nodded at the end, signaling he now understood Jerry. Then he leaned in and kissed me and I quickly forgot all about Jerry and his fur-collared coat. With his warm lips on mine and his hand on the small of my back, I felt like I was back at Gaslight Lounge in New York City on the night we met. All I needed was the camera flash to bring me back to reality.
We both pulled away at the same time, making sure we weren't crossing that fine line between cute couple and obscene groping PDA couple. More than anything, I wanted to be back in my bed with Cayden.
"We'll stay for one drink, and then we can go," I said into his ear, kissing his neck lightly at the end so he knew where we were headed.
"So I guess Daniel is on his way with this girl he's dating," Phil said. Daniel was another one of Phil's good friends. You might remember him from Ch. 52: Shower Scene.
"Oh, he's seeing someone?" I asked, realizing I hadn't really heard from him since our softball season had ended a month before.
"Isn't he always?" Phil answered with a shrug.
A large wooden table opened up in the back so Cayden and I ordered a Chimay at the bar while everyone else left to claim the table. (They don't serve Leffe there. Not cool.)
By the time we got to the table, Daniel and the girl he was dating were there, along with Tony (also from the Shower Scene) and a girl he was dating. After a round of introductions, Cayden and I squeezed into the wooden wrap-around bench.
"Weird," Daniel said. "It's like we all represent a different stage of a relationship. Jerry, you're married. Whitney, you guys have been talking for more than a year now, right? Phil, what are you guys on, like four months? We've been dating a couple weeks, and Tony, you're on your second date, right?"
We all looked around the table, nodding. Daniel's a lot more insightful than I gave him credit for. Usually I just assume he likes to use big words so he sounds intelligent. One of his favorite phrases: "that in which." But looking around the table at everyone, he'd brought of an interesting observation. It made me wonder, did all the girls at the table feel the same way about their men that I felt about Cayden? Was Tony's girl head over heels by the second date the way I was after five minutes with Cayden? When Jerry put his arm around his wife's waist, did she still think about sex? Were Daniel and his girl going to go home and tear each other's clothes off and have hot, crazy sex? Or had they even gotten to that point yet?
Thinking about hot, crazy sex, I realized I couldn't sit there for one more minute. I needed to be at home, in my bed, with Cayden on top of me. I nudged his arm and chugged my beer, hoping he'd pick up on the hint. He understood, and finished his just as quickly. I slammed my glass down on the table and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. I felt a burp rising in my throat. No. Lock it up. Don't belch. Not while Cayden's hand his creeping up my thigh.
Somehow I managed to dissolve the burp before it surfaced. Sometimes you need to celebrate the small victories.
"Well, we're going to slip out now, but yall have a good night!" I said, pushing Cayden across the bench. We said our goodbyes and ducked out of the crowded, dark bar.
Phil gave me a knowing look on our way out. It was a look that said, "Getcha some." He knew damn well that's what was about to happen. Earlier that week he'd messaged me and said, "Hey, if you and Cayden ever come out of your sex coma, you should meet us for a drink!"
Well, we had that drink, now it was time to go sex comatose. Happy freakin birthday, Cayden.