Chapter 3 – Kara
Tim and Kara had all but ceased to exist as a couple by then. She sent him texts occasionally over the next couple of weeks, before starting cosmetology school, but he showed no interest in getting together, not even for dinner or a movie. She thought to herself that school and work would take her mind off him. And when she finally started night school, she threw herself into it. She didn’t make friends easily with other women, but she got along well with her classmates.
Classes were Monday through Thursday, 6:00 to 10:00 P.M. Once in awhile, Kara would have a drink afterward with the girls and they would talk about their lives. Kara really didn’t have much to say. She talked a little about the master’s program she was trying to get into and how she was gathering recommendation letters from her command’s executive officer, command master chief petty officer, and the department head at the local university. No way could she ask Dr. Tarpley for another endorsement.
She never mentioned Rob—or Tim for that matter. She would just say she didn’t have time for a relationship right now and that would stop any questioning from the young women she was with, who were all too eager to talk about their own lives, relationships, and children. She imagined that some probably thought she was a lesbian, since it seemed to be a common cover story that those women also didn’t have time for a relationship with a man.
By the early days of February, Kara really began to miss Tim. They rarely communicated, and when they did, he would never let on about what was going on in his life. Kara spent Valentine’s Day night babysitting Jimmy while Cindy and her now-fiancé went out. She really missed the tradition of going out with a boyfriend on that special night, but what could she do?
One chilly day later that month, Kara got a text from her instructor saying that class was cancelled that night because she was ill. It was a Tuesday, the night that Tim often played trivia with some friends at Olive’s. Kara wondered if she should drop in to say hello. With some trepidation, she texted Tim to ask if he was going and to see if he would mind her showing up at one of their former haunts.
“Wouldn’t mind you dropping in some time,” he replied, “but I’m not feeling well. Probably won’t go tonight.”
Kara had no other plans, so she decided to see if he would be there anyway. Even if he didn’t show, she would say hello to some of the regulars and the bartenders over a drink or two. And if Tim didn’t show, maybe she would make a new friend and play a trivia game. She had gotten pretty good at it when she and Tim were dating.
Kara wanted to look her best when she showed up at a place she hadn’t been in several months. Even though it was cold that day, and looked to get even chillier that night, she readied her favorite little black dress and found some heels she hadn’t worn in quite a while to go with it. She thought the jade necklace her mother had given her would look good against the black, clingy fabric, so she decided to wear it as well.
If Tim were actually going to Olive’s, he wouldn’t be there until after 9:00. She decided to show up a little before 10:00. She didn’t eat much for dinner. Her stomach was tying itself in knots over the thought of possibly seeing him again for the first time in several months. Kara fixed herself a cup of tea in the kitchen at Cindy’s to settle her stomach and her nerves before showering and doing her makeup.
I’m going to look so hot that he’ll want me back in an instant, she thought to herself as she let the warm water of the shower caress her skin. “I’m exactly what he wants and needs,” she said aloud.
Kara said goodbye to Cindy as she was heading out. “Wow!” Cindy exclaimed. “Hot date?”
“No, just going to one of my old hangouts.”
“You mean one of Tim’s hangouts?” Cindy asked, her frown showing her disapproval. “Do you think that’s wise?”
“He probably won’t be there. Says he’s not feeling well,” Kara responded. “I’m just going to stop in for a drink.”
“Okay. Well, be safe and have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Kara thought to herself as she walked out to her car, I’m doing something even I wouldn’t normally do.
Kara’s stomach was still bothering her when she arrived at Olive’s. As she entered, John was behind the bar immediately to her right. She knew him from their many visits there. He was a burly redhead with a huge smile and a buzz cut, and he waved her over to the bar right away.
“Can I fix you a whiskey sour, stranger?” he inquired with a grin.
“Yes, I’ll be back to pick it up. I need to use the ladies’ room.” Kara said.
“Okay, I’ll have it ready for you. You haven’t been in for a long time. I was starting to wonder if you and Tim were still friends,” John remarked.
Kara’s eyes widened. “Well, we never really ended things. Be right back.”
She rushed off. The restrooms were just past the bar, before the game room in the back where they played trivia. Kara decided to peek in to see who was there for trivia before stopping off in the restroom. She saw Tim from the back, facing away from her, sitting at a table for two.
Okay, he’s by himself, she thought. That’s good. Maybe it won’t be awkward if I just sit down next to him with a drink and start chatting. Not feeling well, he says. Really? She barely noticed the woman in a blue dress leaving as she entered the restroom.
She used the bathroom and fixed her makeup. She knew she looked pale. It’s probably from nerves. But foundation, blush and lipstick could hide all that. She just had to stay composed when she finally said hello. Kara returned to the bar to collect her drink and took a sip.
“Excellent as always, John,” she said.
“Thanks, Kara. Did you see Tim and his friends back there?” John asked.
“Just him. He wasn’t sitting with anyone else, so I’ll stop in and say hello,” she replied.
John’s smile faded, but he didn’t say anything else. Kara took another sip to calm her nerves and headed back to face Tim.
She entered the game room in time to see her boyfriend leaning over to kiss the woman she had passed on her way to the restroom. Time froze for Kara as she stopped ten feet from their table and stared wide-eyed at the kissing couple. The woman was blonde and busty, and apparently a few years older than Tim. How old exactly, Kara couldn’t say. She really didn’t seem like Tim’s type though. Not exactly thin, with far more curves than Kara.
As the two ended their kiss, the blonde in the blue dress noticed Kara staring at them. She whispered something quickly in Tim’s ear and he turned to see Kara standing there, gawking. Tim hurriedly got up to come say hello, but Kara had already turned heel and headed back to the front bar.
“Honey, don’t follow her,” she heard the blonde call out to Tim.
And he didn’t.
When Kara reached the bar, she finished her drink in two gulps, said a fast goodbye to John, and headed out the door to her car. She had no sooner unlocked the door than she felt the drink and the meager contents of her stomach rising up. She heaved it all up at once and felt instantly better.
What the hell was I thinking? She was shaking but managed to get behind the wheel of her car. She drove one block down the street before her phone sounded off that she had a text message. Kara pulled into the nearest parking lot to read it.
“Sorry about that, but I’ve moved on,” the message read. “Hoped to spare you this.”
“How long ago? Who is that whore?!!!” Kara angrily messaged back.
“Not a whore, new girlfriend, Melanie. Met her New Year’s Eve. You know the old saying about spending the year with the one you spend New Year’s with?” Tim responded.
Kara took a few deep breaths before replying. “Okay, good for you. Guess we are done for good then,” was all she could think to say. The truth, she realized, was that they had been done a few months before. It just hadn’t truly sunk in until this moment. She cursed her wishful thinking about perhaps reestablishing a relationship with her estranged lover as she drove home.
Kara managed to go to work the next day, but her stomach was still a gurgling mess and she had a tension headache all day. She needed to talk to someone before she headed off to night school, but really didn’t want to speak to Cindy about how she felt. She needed to talk to her friend Amelia back in Florida. She decided to call her during the drive home that afternoon.
Amelia St. Ives immediately answered the phone. Since graduating from college, she had become a buyer for a chain of trendy women’s clothing stores in the southeast. She was doing very well for a young woman in her mid-twenties, but claimed she was far too busy for any heavy, committed relationship.
“Kara, how are you?” Amelia said as she accepted the call. “Far too long since I’ve heard from you, honey.”
“I’m not doing so well,” Kara replied, a twinge of sadness in her voice.
“School? Work? Boyfriend?”
“School and work are fine. I think I told you the last time we spoke that Tim and I weren’t communicating much.”
“That’s a problem when you’re a busy gal,” Amelia said, a note of concern in her voice. “Which is why I just play the field. What’s going on? Does he want to give it another try?”
“No, Amelia, he doesn’t. I thought I did though,” Kara said, her voice turning shakier. “I had the night off from school last night, so I thought I’d try to rekindle things. It was a disaster and a huge mistake. He already has a new girlfriend. I saw them together at the bar. Some blonde. She’s a few years older than me with big breasts. Ugh!”
“Ah, a puma!” Amelia exclaimed.
“Don’t you mean cougar?” Kara replied angrily.
“A puma is a younger version, late twenties. I’m really sorry, sweetheart. You sound like you need a friend. With my job, I can wrangle some time off and come visit. I can claim it’s a business trip if I set up a meeting or two. But you and I need to find a couple of hot young men to party with. You know what they say, honey?” Amelia asked slyly.
“No, what?” The last thing on Kara’s mind was hooking up with some random guy, hot or not. But she really needed to spend some time with her closest friend.
“The best way to get over one guy,” Amelia laughed, “is to get under another!”
Kara chuckled in spite of herself. She told Amelia that she had a “spring break” from school coming up in early March, and she could manage to take a few days off from work if Amelia were to come to Texas. They could talk, shop, and spend quality time together.
“Spring break before spring even starts?” Amelia quipped. “That’s crazy. I could never get you to go when we were in Florida.”
“Yeah, not my style,” Kara replied. “I don’t want to go to some drunk-fest on South Padre Island or anything. I just need to see you.”
“You’ve got it, girl. Just text me dates and I’ll make arrangements.”
So Kara arranged for a few days off from work and Amelia booked a meeting with a jewelry designer in the Austin area. The day Amelia arrived, she took her meeting during the day and Kara drove up to meet her in the late afternoon. Kara brought a dress to wear that night and jeans and a casual top to wear during the drive back to San Antonio the next day. It was a Tuesday, but Kara knew that with school out, there would still be plenty going on in Austin. Not everyone could afford a week of drunken debauchery at the beach. She told Amelia she would be spending the night at her hotel, so her friend booked a room with two double beds. It would be nice not to have to drive anywhere that night.
When Kara met her at the hotel, Amelia apologized for only being able to stay a few days. “Sorry, honey,” she said, “but I have a trade show and a very fly guy to do in Atlanta this weekend.”
Kara laughed. As they got ready for the night’s revelries, she talked about school, her hopes of getting into the Navy officer program, and her concern about leaving the enlisted ranks in a few months. Amelia listened attentively and told Kara about her own life. Work kept her very busy and she didn’t feel like settling down just yet. She talked about a couple of guys she’d met, including one she had recently gotten to know online.
Showing Kara a picture on her phone, Amelia said, “That’s Drew, the guy I’m meeting up with in Atlanta. He’s super hot and lots of fun to hang out with. My plan is to spend at least one weekend every month with him.” Amelia caught herself sounding wistful over a man, and paused a beat before suggesting, “Maybe you should try online dating, Kara.”
“I don’t have the time or the inclination,” Kara replied. “I think I’m going to forget about men for a while after the thing with Tim and that puma. The right guy will come along someday and sweep me off my feet.”
“Just like in the movies!” Amelia laughed. “I hope so, baby. You deserve something good. I won’t pressure you to dance or anything tonight, but I do want you to have a good time. And if we get drunk, so be it!”
Kara wore a clingy, short red dress and heels that she thought transformed her into a stunner. Amelia did her makeup, with the lipstick matching the dress fairly well. Amelia was also a knockout in a short, periwinkle blue dress that accentuated her curves and her caramel skin.
They had no trouble finding bars on Sixth Street with live music and dancing. There was also no lack of eager young men willing to dance with them and buy them drinks. Kara loosened up some as the night’s revelries progressed. The two women didn’t stay long enough in the first two clubs for the men to make a move, but they really liked the atmosphere of the third spot they hit, so they decided to stay for a while. This particular club had a DJ playing great dance tracks.
Kara and Amelia danced together for a bit before two handsome young men approached their table. They introduced themselves as Alex and Mark, two second-year law students. The two bought a round of drinks and Amelia invited them to stay and talk. Alex, a 23-year-old Latino, hit it off with Kara and had her smiling in no time. Mark was 24, tall and athletically built, with wavy blond hair. He and Amelia seemed to become quickly enamored with each other. When a song played that Amelia really liked, she suggested they dance. All four liked the idea and enjoyed moving to the music on the club’s big dance floor.
After a couple of songs, they returned to the table for another round of drinks. Amelia and Kara excused themselves to visit the ladies’ room. As the two young women fixed their makeup, Amelia said, “You know, Kara, these guys have an apartment nearby. We could definitely hook up with them if you like.”
“You’re right, we could,” Kara replied. Thinking aloud, she said, “I can see you like Mark, and I’m certainly attracted to Alex. I just don’t know about jumping into bed with someone I just met. Would you be mad if I just gave Alex my number? I mean you could go with Mark if you want. I have a key to the hotel room...”
“Baby, I’m not leaving you. Besides, I have my man Drew to look forward to. With him, I know what I’m getting...and it’s fantastic!” Amelia beamed.
After another round of drinks and a few more dances, the girls took their leave. Alex and Mark seemed a bit disappointed that they were leaving without them, but Kara gave her number to Alex and promised they could get together again soon.
Amelia and Kara were giggling like schoolgirls when they got back to the hotel. They relived the night’s adventures as they got ready for bed and set an alarm so they wouldn’t sleep through checkout time. Kara’s mood had greatly improved since her best friend arrived.
The next day, they made the short drive to San Antonio and checked Amelia into the same hotel on the River Walk that Kara’s mother had stayed in just a few months prior. Again, Amelia had booked a room with two beds so Kara could stay over, but Kara had to return to her place sometime that day for a change of clothes.
They spent the day shopping, talking, and seeing the sights. Alex even sent Kara a text message to see how the two girls’ day was going. Kara liked the fact he was showing a continued interest, even when they had not gone back to the guys’ apartment. Amelia remarked that it was rare for a young man to text after being blown off the night before.
“I think he understands that I wanted to spend time with you, Amelia,” Kara said.
“Aw, that’s sweet!” Amelia giggled. “Maybe you will see him again. Still, it would have been nice to have me some of that tall blond boy as a prelude to the weekend.”
Kara laughed at her friend’s naughtiness. They were completely different. Kara, born in June, was a Gemini, with two distinct sides to her personality. One side—the side she had shown to Rob and Tim—was outgoing, flirtatious, and fun. The other side, her “school side,” was contemplative and serious, bordering on introverted.
Amelia St. Ives, on the other hand, was an Aries, born in early April. She had an eager and dynamic personality and was quick to get things started in any situation. It was Amelia who had introduced Kara to the zodiac signs and their meaning during their college days, and Kara now believed strongly in astrology. She knew that her perfect mate would be a very bold Leo or a compatible Libra. Tim was a Sagittarius, only moderately compatible with Gemini. But the sexual chemistry between them had been electric. She would have to ask Alex soon what his zodiac sign was.
After a quick visit home to collect some clothes, Kara returned to Amelia’s hotel. Kara had planned for them to visit a cafe with a rainforest theme, after which they would hit one of the hot nightspots along St. Mary’s. It was a dance club frequented mostly by gay men that she had heard about, but never gone to. Some of the young women at her Navy command raved about the place because you could dance with anyone you wanted, with no pressure to go home with anyone or have sex. Amelia liked the idea, so they had an enjoyable evening dancing and drinking with extremely friendly total strangers. Kara did tequila shots for the first time and really liked the way they loosened her up. Amelia remarked that they should have been drinking tequila the whole time she had been in Texas.
When they woke up in the hotel room the next day, Amelia told Kara she would buy her an expensive bottle of tequila—on one condition. Kara had to promise to drink it with someone special once she had been accepted into the officer program.
Kara laughed at that. “Someone special, huh? Do you think I’ll meet my Prince Charming in the next six months?”
“Who knows?” Amelia replied. “Maybe it’s going to be Alex, maybe someone else. You’ll know he’s the right one when you meet.”
They took it easy that day, Amelia’s last full day in San Antonio. They did more sightseeing, a little more shopping, and had a leisurely brunch. Amelia made good on her promise of the night before and bought an expensive bottle of tequila. Kara took it home when she left Amelia to nap in the hotel room.
That night they were only planning on a movie and a late dinner. It had been a long time since Kara had seen a new release in one of San Antonio’s multiplex cinemas. She just wanted to see a simple romantic comedy, so she picked one with actors she liked at a theater complex west of town, in her stomping grounds. There was a Flannery’s Bar and Grill in the same shopping center as the theater. Flannery’s was a pub that purported to be like a neighborhood bar, even though it was a fairly large chain. They could get something light to eat and a few drinks there after the movie. Both young women wore jeans and sweaters to the movie theater. They weren’t nearly as dressed up as the past few nights.
They enjoyed the movie. It was formulaic, to say the least, but the acting was good. The story was a typical romantic comedy: a man and woman from different worlds meet under unusual circumstances and click immediately; there are various obstacles to overcome, but with the help of friends, the romance works for a time; then the male lead makes a huge mistake that puts the romance in jeopardy; the young woman ends it for a time, but eventually takes the handsome man back for good after friends intervene once again to set him on the right path back to his one true love.
It wasn’t particularly artful, and it didn’t make Kara think much. She laughed at the funny parts, and a tear came to her eye during the sad bits. Of course, she couldn’t help but think of her relationship with Tim as she watched the movie. She knew it wasn’t the right thing to do though. She really needed to move on. Maybe Alex would be the answer, but it was much too early to tell.
Kara had parked her car halfway between the movie theater and Flannery’s, and she and Amelia walked to the pub after the movie. It was a cool evening, but not too cold for just their sweaters. They walked in a little after 9:00.
The restaurant was set up mostly like a pub, with about two-thirds a rectangular bar area with high tables and chairs. The other third was a regular restaurant dining area that surrounded the bar, set off with a four-foot-high half wall.
They were greeted by a young hostess and asked if they wanted to sit in the dining area or in the pub. Kara chose the pub and they were seated at one of the tables for four. Kara noticed there were television monitors with several sporting events playing high up on the walls on all sides.
She was facing a wall where it looked like a DJ was setting up his equipment on one of the tables. He was older, perhaps her mother’s age, with gray hair. The DJ was thin and wore western style jeans, cowboy boots, and a plaid, button-up shirt. A white cowboy hat sat on the tabletop where he was setting up his gear. He had speakers on metal tripods on each end of the wall.
A somewhat younger man with dark brown hair sat at the table for four in front of the DJ’s table. He was chatting with the man in western attire as the DJ hooked up cables.
When the waitress came to take their drink order, Kara asked what was going on. “Karaoke night. Every Thursday from 9:30 to 1:30,” said the thin, smiling young blonde, whose nametag read “Olivia.”
“Ooh, that sounds like fun!” Amelia beamed as they ordered diet sodas.