This couldn’t be happening.
Doug had crawled out from under his slimy rock somewhere. I thought I had scraped him off many years ago and had clung to the idea that I’d never have to see his smug face again.
After Chris and I had broken up, I was feeling pretty bad about myself. I turned to my work friends more often – Doug being one of them – and he fit in with everyone pretty well. We had worked together for nearly a year, but it wasn’t until my breakup that we became good friends. We hung out with our work crowd and talked on the phone almost every night. He was a lot of fun and very attentive and, after my devastating heartbreak, was a willing shoulder for me to cry on.
Then things started to change. It was subtle at first; suggesting we go see a movie or that I should come over to hang out. I would always offer to call the rest of our friends to join us, at which point he’d suddenly remember something else he had to do.
One night he confessed that he was in love with me. I laughed it off – he was younger than me, and kind of goofy, even if he was cute and charming. He tried multiple times to convince me we’d make a great couple; we were already close friends, we got along so well, we had fun together – why shouldn’t we take it to the next level? I turned him down over and over. I explained that I valued him as a friend and didn’t want to ruin that. That’s not what he wanted to hear, so he started to withdraw. He wouldn’t take my calls or was monosyllabic when he did.
Soon, he laid down an ultimatum. He wanted to be a couple. If I couldn’t do that, he couldn’t be friends with me. It was too painful for him. At that point, I had been leaning on him a lot for distraction from the sadness of my breakup with Chris, and I didn’t want to lose him. I hemmed and hawed for the weekend and finally agreed to go out on a date.
I cringe every time I think about it. What an idiot I was.
“Alexis, babe, you look pretty good! You’ve definitely aged well…” He sneered at me. “Are you surprised to see me?”
Trying to pass off a grimace as a smile, I hoped the lighting was dim enough he couldn’t tell.
“Doug, if I had a list of the people I least expected to see here tonight, you would be at the top of that list.”
He puffed out his chest and smirked. “Damn straight, I would!”
He would take that as a compliment.
“What have you been up to while I’ve been gone? Hanging around, missing me?” He leaned back and let his eyes wander all over me. I immediately wanted to vomit. “I don’t see a wedding ring…”
“Nope. But I see you have one. Congratulations.”
Like he had just remembered that he was married, he frowned at his hand.
“Oh yeah, that. No big deal. I hung out with Jill for a few months and then she got knocked up when I was home on leave. There was no way I was going to let her raise my kid without me. Marrying her seemed the best way to keep control of the situation and make sure she wasn’t out whoring around.”
My jaw dropped. There was absolutely nothing I could think of to say to that.
The bartender set two shots down in front of Doug and he slid one over to me.
“Come on, let’s celebrate!”
“Celebrate what, exactly?”
He leaned in close so I could smell his cheap cologne and the waves of alcohol on his breath.
“Us running into each other like this, baby. It’s great to see you, but I’d love to see even more of you, if you catch my drift.” He pulled away and winked.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
“Thanks Doug, but my shot days are well behind me. Please, help yourself.”
With that, he shrugged and downed them both, shaking his arms with a loud, “Whoo!”
“You’re married, huh? And with a baby. Is your wife here?”
He smirked and shook his head slowly.
“Nope. I am free as a bird tonight. When I go out, I don’t want the old ball and chain hanging on me. Jill takes care of the kid and I send her money while I’m out on deployment. When I’m home, she does whatever I want, whenever I want it. Other than that, she doesn’t get into my business.”
I didn’t think it was possible, but Doug had become an even bigger misogynist douche.