Juliet sighed as she pulled into the parking lot. She loved her best friend Bethany, but going to see Bethany's boyfriend at his bar job every Friday night was beginning to get old. Beth chatted happily away next to her about how excited she was to see Sebastian - despite the fact that she had spent the entire night before talking to him on the phone. The things we do for friendship, Juliet thought. She supposed this probably came with the territory of being 22 - the long nights at the bar. Still, though, she did have one of her last classes at the police academy tomorrow.
As they exited the car, Juliet saw Seb approaching with two guys around their age. Both were attractive, but her eye especially caught on the dark-haired man. "Hi," Seb greeted, leaning down to kiss Beth.
They started to walk toward his car, and Juliet began to gesture wildly. The two guys laughed. "You get used to this after a while," the blond one explained.
The dark-haired man laughed.
"We're Seb's best friends," the blond one continued.
"Which doesn't mean we don't want to kill him sometimes," the other man added with a laugh.
The blond one nodded. "I'm Vincent, but everyone calls me Vinnie."
"Oh, are you Italian?" Juliet asked.
He shook his head, "Not even sort of. My parents are just weird."
The other man shook his head. "It's not as bad as Carlton. My sister named me."
"What's wrong with 'Carlton?'" Juliet asked. "I like that name. I'm Juliet."
"Are you guys coming?" Seb hollered from his Jeep.
"Where are we going?" Carlton yelled back as they walked over.
"We need to go to the store to get soda for the bar," Seb explained.
Juliet, Carlton, and Vinnie hopped into the back of the car.
As they drove to the store, and the entire way throughout, Seb and his friends told stories. All four of them had gone to the same high school, while Juliet didn't move to California until after high school. They had pretty great stories, so Juliet didn't really mind just listening to them reminisce.
When they arrived back at the bar, Seb had to get to work. Juliet went to sit at a table near the karaoke booth, while the other three went over to the bar to order drinks.
A few minutes later, Carlton approached holding a glass of Scotch. "Would you like a drink?"
She shook her head. "I'm not a huge fan of Scotch."
He smiled. "I meant any kind of drink."
"Oh," she laughed. "I could go for a Sprite, I guess."
He nodded and got up to request it. Since Beth and Vinnie had set themselves up at the bar, Juliet decided to find a seat in that area. She plopped down a few seats away, and Carlton sat down on the extra chair in between she and Beth.
"So tell me about yourself," he requested, silencing a constantly-vibrating cell phone.
"Well, I'm 22, I grew up in Miami, I have three brothers, and I'm almost finished at the police academy."
He smiled widely at that. "I just got a job working at the SBPD about a year ago. I'm 24, so I had a few years of a head start."
She nodded. The two continued chatting about anything and everything for the next two hours. Around midnight, he finally admitted why his phone wouldn't stop going off.
"I'm dating this girl, Victoria. She's pretty annoying. She just turned 20, but she still acts like a high schooler. It's been about six months, and I don't really know what to do. There's just so much drama!"
Juliet sighed, a little disappointed. "Well, I would talk to her and just explain that it's bothering you. If she really cares, she will make an effort to leave you out of the drama."
"I don't think that's possible. She's always playing games with my head, and everyone is part of her drama. Right now, she's texted telling me to leave the bar about 15 times."
Juliet shook her head. "I'm sorry; that sucks."
He shrugged. "You seem so great, and I really like talking to you. Man, I wish I didn't have a girlfriend so I could get to know you better."
Right then, Beth tried to chug a huge glass of beer and puked all over the floor.
"Duty calls," Juliet apologized, following her friend to the bathroom.
By the time she got Beth outside, the girl was leaning heavily on Vinnie just to stay upright. Poor Seb had to clean up his girlfriend's puke.
"Let's put her in Seb's car," Juliet suggested.
"Shouldn't we get her home?" Carlton asked.
Juliet shook her head. "She will absolutely throw a fit if I try to take her home. We're talking full-blown temper tantrum. If we get her in the car then I can stay with her for a bit."
They loaded her into the car with Seb's help. Juliet brought over a blanket from her car, then climbed into Seb's Jeep to wait with Beth.
Carlton and Vinnie said their goodbyes, then took off for home.
Juliet just settled in, hoping against hope that she would be able to get up in the morning.
Over the next week, Juliet talked about Carlton constantly. She found a picture of him on Facebook through Seb's profile, and made sure to show it to her other best friend, Keith. Keith agreed that Carlton was totally cute, and the two lamented over their lack of boyfriends. Every time she brought Carlton up in front of Beth, though, she got a cryptic, "For now," in reply. By Wednesday, she'd had enough.
"Why do you keep saying that?"
Beth smiled. "Seb and I have a plan. This Victoria girl should have been gone a long time ago, and we're gonna make that happen."
Beth just shook her head. "Come to Seb's birthday party at the bar this Friday night, okay?"
Juliet just nodded.
"Carlton will be there, and I have it on good authority that he is willing to drive you home if you want to drink."
Friday night rolled around, and Juliet put on her best jeans and her favorite top. She had to go to a school dance after work to be Keith's plus one and see all of the kids she used to watch when she worked a camp there the summer before. When nine o'clock rolled around, though, she was ready to go. She said goodbye to Keith, then excitedly hopped in her car and drove to the bar.
She found Vinnie and Carlton chatting with Beth and another man at a long table. They introduced the other man as their roommate, Xavier, and broke into pleasant conversation. Carlton moved to sit in the seat right next to Juliet, and his friends made all the appropriate noises.
"Do you want a drink?" Carlton asked.
She nodded. "A Jack and Coke?"
He smiled and nodded.
"He and Vic broke up," Vinnie told her with a smile as soon as he left to get her drink.
Juliet smiled back. "Thanks for the intel."
Carlton handed her the Jack and Coke, and she smiled widely at him.
"Think I could get your phone number?"
He nodded as she handed him her phone.
"So I hear you're willing to drive me home if I want to drink?"
Carlton blushed and shrugged.
"You do remember that I live about 45 minutes away, right?"
She smiled. "Thank you. I won't drink more than this one drink, but I do appreciate the sentiment."
A few hours later as the party began to die down, Beth and Seb decided they should all go to Denny's. Carlton had gotten just a little bit drunk, so Juliet offered to drive everyone. Xavier and Vinnie had gone a while back because they needed to get up early, so the only two left to join them were the very wasted Seb and Beth.
The waitress at the Denny's was not at all nice to them. Carlton threatened to shoot her, and Juliet just laughed and told him that wouldn't be necessary. They left her a crappy tip, then went over to the register to pay. Carlton paid for Seb's meal, so Juliet paid for Beth's.
The manager glared them down, then told them they should not have been harassing his waitress. Carlton clenched his fists. "Then maybe you shouldn't hire a waitress that's such a frigid bitch." Juliet patted him on the shoulder. "It's not worth it; let's just go."
They dropped Seb and Beth off at the bar with Seb's parents.
"So what do we do now?" Carlton asked.
"I'm not even sort of tired. Do you want to come to my place?" she queried.
He gestured toward his Dodge Charger. "I don't get the best gas milage."
She laughed. "I'll drive, then, and get you back to your car in time for you to go to work."
He smiled and nodded.
They stayed up the rest of the night talking and laughing at Juliet's house.
When she took him back to his car, neither could stop smiling.
"Just wait 'til the guys hear about this!"
She laughed. And the rest, as they say, is history.