He was aware he stood out. It wasn’t just his long hair and partially shaved head, or the way he stood motionless, it wasn’t his tattoos and his all black wardrobe. Not that any of these things weren’t true, nor did they help him blend in any, but he had known from a very young age that he always had stood out. The only difference between tonight and every other night this week was the drunken group of idiots at the bar making fun of him for his appearance and overall affect.
“It’s a mannequin,” the drunkest one shouted.
“No, he’s a person,” the biggest one argued, “I saw him move.”
“You did not,” the drunkest one retorted.
“Yes, I did,” the linebacker-lookalike protested! “He went like this,” he persisted as he unhinged his jaw in a goofy, exaggerated manner.
“Leiah,” the drunk said standing up off the stool and turning his attention from the linebacker to the short girl on his right, “did you see that guy over there walk in? He doesn’t move.”
The little girl looked up between both the drunk one and the linebacker.
“I saw him walk in like ten minutes ago,” she said flatly, “he hasn’t moved since.”
The debate between the drunk one and the linebacker continued increasing in volume about whether or not he had moved at all, apparently drinking makes everyone incapable of tack or whispering.
He scanned the short one with through his peripheral vision. She was the shortest person in the group by six inches, easily. All the men cleared six feet, the two other women were about 5’8” and 5’10”. Her long black hair was pin straight. She had light gray eyes, similar in color but not in capability to his own. She wore silver flip flops, dark skinny jeans, and an airy, creamy white blouse. He couldn’t have dressed her any better himself, even if he had gotten the memo with enough time to do so. She was also the reason he was here tonight. Rather, she was a sublet, subsection, byproduct – he could never remember the word – but she was a very important piece to him being at this very shitty dive bar.
“He just swallowed in case you missed it,” Leiah said seriously while a smile took over her face. The guys burst out laughing. The man across the bar didn’t bother her, and while she didn’t agree with making fun of others, every joke the guys made was funny because they were all true. Other than swallowing, breathing, and cracking his jaw, he hadn’t moved once the entire time he was at the bar.
“He’s walking,” William, the linebacker said.
“WHAT,” Fitz, the drunk one, shouted, “HE’S MOVING?”
The entire group simultaneously shushed William as the best the could.
“Fitz, when he comes over here to kick your ass, you’re on your own,” Aiden said kidding around.
“But he moved,” William half whispered, taking the piss out of both Fitz and the man in black.
Suddenly the raging sounds of metal blared through the bar’s speakers.
“Common Leiah,” William said, “we’re going outside, you coming?”
Leiah looked up at William and smiled.
“Hey Monica,” Leiah said tapping her drinking partner on the shoulder, “I’m going out. I’m gonna leave my drink with you, okay?”
“Of course,” Monica said, “have fun, Le” she added with a wink.
Leiah rolled her eyes and sassily walked toward the exit.
Outside the conversation resumed about the man in all black.
“Did you see him move?” Fitz said lighting his cigarette.
“Yeah, it was like a robot,” James added.
Fitz and William began their imitations, this time not so overly exaggerated, as Leiah lit her cigarette. It was bizarre, the man didn’t flinch, twitch, or spasm, but when he moved, he moved sharply and at all 90 degree angles. He walked in straight lines as if on a track, and kept impossibly still – even when walking. If anyone needed “living proof” that sci-fi robots were real, this guy would be as close as they would be able to come.
“Jamie said the last time he was a week ago and he played nothing but death metal,” James added.
“That’s why I came out,” added Fitz.
“When I go back in, I’m going to play the shit my little sister listened to growing up,” Aiden added, throwing out the last bit of his cigarette. “See you guys inside,” he said as he turned and walked back through the doors.
Fitz, glanced at the end of his cigarette and tossed it in the ashtray, “I’m going to hit the bathroom and then order us a pizza.”
James acknowledged Fitz, “yeah, man. I’m right behind you,” and followed him inside.
“The downside to smoking 100’s,” Leiah said to William with a smile.
“It happens. I’ll wait with you,” he answered.
“You sure? You look like you’re sweating,” Leiah said ashing her cigarette.
“I’m alright,” William said running the back of his arm across his forehead. “What about you?”
“I’m actually chilly,” Leiah said begrudgingly.
“I would’ve said you’re hot,” William said as his cheeks flashed the same shade of red as the lip marks imprinted on Leiah’s cigarette.
The two laughed. Leiah flicked her cigarette and made her way toward the door. William stepped beside her and opened the old door with chipping green paint for her.
“Here you go, Miss,” he said softly.
“Thank you, Sir,” she replied.
The man in black was vaguely aware that upon his return two men had sat down on both sides of the seat he had previously been standing in front of when he returned from the jukebox. Regardless, he couldn’t just move his view was critical to the plan, so he walked in between them and resumed his post. He scanned the room for Aiden, his biggest concern at the moment. There he stood next to Leiah. Aiden, the tallest in the group, lean with a manly beard, intense eyes, and a smile that while rare, was worth the wait for it. He knew Aiden might be a fucking problem.
“Really? That’s so cool,” Leiah said pulling her hair over her shoulder, and wrapping it twice around her hand before letting it fall.
“Thanks,” Aiden said flashing his smile.
The bartender brought over pizza and William, sitting on the chair next to Leiah, leaned around her back announce its arrival.
“Thanks,” Leiah added, “Did Monica leave?”
“Yeah, she had to run,” Fitz said leaning over her to grab a slice, “she gave me your drink. I gave it to William.”
William turned the same pink from outside, while attempting to chew down his mouthful of cheesy goodness and sauce, and slide Leiah her drink. “Sorry, Leiah, I forgot I had it once I saw the food.”
“No problem,” she said smiling picking up her drink and sipping from it.
Fitz offered a slice to Aiden and the two walked to the other end of their section of the bar to sit, eat, and attempt to jam up the juke box with crap. While William ate he talked to Leiah. Three slices of pizza, two beers, and an extra whiskey and ginger ale, most of their group had trickled out.
“Hey, Will,” Fitz shouted down the bar, “we’re going out to smoke and then Aiden and I are out. You coming?”
“Yeah, I’ll come out for a smoke,” William looked between James and Leiah.
They both started to speak at the same time, which left Leiah in a fit of laughter.
“You go, Le, I’ll stay and watch the drinks,” James said winking at her.
Aiden and Fitz were already outside. On their way to the exit, Leiah and William passed the same man in black standing as still as ever. Leiah almost reached out to touch him, just to see if he wasn’t really a robot after all, but William took her hand and passed her through the door as he opened it for her.
“Thank you, Sir,” she said.
“You’re quite welcome, Miss,” William said handing Leiah a cigarette as she handed him her lighter.
“I still can’t believe you always have cigarettes and no lighter, man,” Fitz said playfully shoving William over.
“Le’s not much better tonight,” Aiden added, “she’s out of cigarettes, but still has a lighter on her.”
“How fitting,” Fitz said with a chuckle.
The conversation turned to movies and once again about the mysterious man in black.
“Just remember, Will, when he starts shooting up the place, stand in front of Le. You’re already statistically more likely to get hit than she is so you might as well look like a hero,” Fitz said as he broke into a bellow of laughter.
“On that note, let me get this drunken bastard home,” Aiden said deadpan, “have a good night guys. Happy birthday, Will.”
He knew his time was almost up. Everyone else had left except James, William, and Leiah. He wasn’t sure if his timing was perfect or running out. He hated getting the memo so late. Not that he felt James would be a problem, but not being prepared left him feeling vulnerable. He scanned Leiah. She was still presentable, but having fun. William was clearly drunk, but not disparagingly so. To his relief and amusement, James patted William on the back and hugged Leiah goodbye, and was on his way to the exit. He breathed a sigh a of relief as he heard William ordering them each another drink and a shot. William turned and looked at Leiah. A smile spread across William’s face, happy birthday to me, indeed.
Reaching into his pocket the man in black pulled out exactly what he owed, including tax and a tip down to the last penny, without moving anything other than his arm. As William took Leiah’s hand, they leaned closer to each other, knees and foreheads touching, tuning everyone else in the dingy bar out, the man in black disappeared from the bar, almost in the blink of an eye.