~The Halo Effect~ 2
Thank goodness your job had such flexible hours. Had your job been anything else, you would have had to run around in circles calling up what’s-her-face or who’s-his-name to give you a ride to the main city. Today, however, was a leisure day. You had the entire day to yourself; you could do whatever you so pleased.
It wasn’t like hanging around Mathias’ apartment was interesting. There wasn’t anything for you to do since he was usually gone, and everything was already so clean. At least you wouldn’t have to worry about picking up after him like an official housewife—not that the two of you were married, of course.
I guess I should go grab his car, then, you thought and went to put on your shoes.
The route to Allistor’s bar was about a thirty-minute walk; it wasn’t far to get to, but if someone was drunk, there was no guarantee that he—or she—would be able to get home safely. As a result, you always acted as Mathias’ chauffer when he took his drinking too far. Allistor was always on standby to notify you if it happened.
“Those two are something else,” you chuckled.
Mathias had been introduced to you through Allistor, your old friend. Everything about your boyfriend oozed charisma. He had an aura of natural magnetism about him that drew everyone’s attention. They wanted to look at him. They wanted to be with him.
You had to be grateful that you were introduced to Mathias outside of his workspace. If you hadn't been, you would have looked over several aspects of his character that others had failed to see. While Mathias was overly enthusiastic, he wasn’t close to anyone—he was everyone’s friend, and he was no one’s friend: a fair-weathered friend.
The lack of a real intimate relationship with another person is what compelled to you be there for Mathias. He needed you, and in time, you felt that you needed him.
Allistor begged to differ though. Unlike Mathias, he was able to read the mood. He knew the way you worked, and he had a tendency to pick up problems when they were starting to arise. It must’ve been something that came with being a bartender. They were always around to listen to people drown out their woes in alcohol. Perhaps you would stop by his bar to say hi.
When you arrived at the bar, the entire front parking lot was empty except for Mathias’ car right where he had left it from last night like an abandoned stray cat you decided you wanted to take back. Just about all of the lights inside the bar were turned off; only the ones in the very front from behind the counter were dimly lit as seen through the stained windows.
You checked your watch. It wasn’t even nine yet. Knowing Mathias, he would try to make up for the lost time with his client by treating him out to lunch or talking a walk with him or her around the city complex. That would mean you wouldn’t have to meet up with him for lunch today. That would also mean you had at least another nine hours or so to go before you would see him again.
It’s been a while since I’ve really talked to Allistor, too, you thought and walked past Mathias’ car. Sure enough, when you pushed open the door to the dim bar, Allistor was already behind the counter polishing shot glasses for the night hours ahead.
“Morning, ____________,” he greeted you with a slightly high note that made him sound as though he was surprised to see you.
“Hi, Allistor,” you returned his greeting with a smile.
The bartender raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see you coming over here by yourself that much anymore,” he said, “especially after you hooked up with Mathias.”
You shrugged and sat on your usual barstool. Allistor knew you never drank, but you often came to visit him like a client would visit a therapist for free counseling sessions. It was a strange relationship.
“Mathias left his car here so I came to pick it up,” you explained.
Allistor returned to cleaning the glasses. “So what brings you inside? You didn’t have to come inside to get his car.”
Your gaze fell to the shiny counter. If you looked closely, you could even see Allistor’s reflection looking straight at you from the other side. It was hard to hide your thoughts from him when you looked directly into his forest green eyes.
“I don’t have anything to do today so I thought it would be nice to just say hello like old time’s sake.”
Allistor scoffed and set his rag down. “Don’t give me that bullshit, ____________,” he smirked. “What’s going on between you and Mathias? And have you gotten that mark checked out? It looks pretty bad.”
Your hand immediately went for your neck as if covering the mark would also cover your underlying feelings.
“Nothing’s going on between Mathias and me,” you insisted. “Everything’s fine.”
Allistor rolled his eyes. “You only say that when something’s wrong.”
He’s got me, you thought, defeated.
“Okay, Allistor,” you sighed. “You win.”
“Terrific,” your old friend sarcastically answered. “So what’s up?”
You scrunched your face into a troubled expression. “It’s not there’s something wrong, it’s that something’s missing?”
Allistor leaned his elbow on the counter. “What do you reckon that is?”
“I thought that I had something special going on with Mathias, and I still believe it’s real, but I don’t think he feels the same way with me.”
“I feel like he’s not as into our relationship as it was in the beginning. The things that used to make me happy around him aren’t there anymore. I don’t know what it is, but I still want to be around with him. It’s just not that interesting.”
“So you’re bored?”
You furrowed your eyebrows. “I don’t want to think of it like that.”
“Well, if you’re not bored, then Mathias is lacking excitement,” Allistor said. “There’s only so much that guy can offer you, __________. I know that just as much as his old friends do. That’s why we aren’t as close as you’d want us to be.”
“But I still want to be with him.”
Allistor made a face. “Why? So he can drag you down with him? As far as I’ve known him, he’s never bitten anyone before.”
Your hands balled into defensive fists. “That’s because I’m the closest thing he’s got to a real relationship. You’ve said it yourself: he’s never expressed these sides of him to other women before.”
“Did you ever think that it was because he’s starting to lose control of himself? I mean that in a bad way.”
“No, I’d never think of it like that,” you huffed. “Mathias is just opening up to me. He’s not a bad person.”
Your friend sighed. “I can’t deny that, but maybe you should check out your priorities before adjusting them. Do you really like having to pick him up all of the time and putting up with his weird time schedules?”
“Among other things, I can put up with him,” you replied.
You blinked. “Why?”
“Aye, you heard me. Why?”
“B-Because…” Your hand went back to your neck again. The pain was still throbbing in a ring that matched Mathias’ teeth marks.
Allistor narrowed his eyes. “Because…”
You threw him a defiant look and stared straight into his eyes.
“Because I love him. That’s why.”
This made Allistor look upset.
“Now what is it?”
The bartender grabbed his rag and returned to cleaning again. “Listen, I’m not saying this implies to you and Mathias or not, but have you ever heard of something called the ‘halo effect?’”
After searching through your memories, you shook your head. “I can’t say I have, no.”
You waited for Allistor to finish setting the shot glasses below the counter before going back to your attention.
“I picked it up from one of my brothers and his friend,” he said. “Basically what it’s like is when we see someone of extreme physical qualities—tall, good-looking, likeable attitude, sociable, something interesting always happening around him or her—we feel obliged to be drawn towards these people. It’s just in the head and how we’ve been brought up, but we feel that if we are around these people, we might be able to become better people ourselves. It’s seen everywhere: politics, the media, the work force…
“Someone could be the biggest asshole in the world, but if he or she knows how to pull the strings, knows how to keep up with the times, and says the things people want to hear, that person will go places, and more people will want to follow like flies drawn to honey.
“It’s their charisma. There’s just something about them that makes people believe they are more likely to succeed, and when that happens, they want to be there to see it—they even help them if they can. There are very few who will be able to make them fall. By cultural upbringing and conditioning, they are above us like angels with a halo shining on their heads. That, in a nutshell, is the halo effect.”
“You didn’t just make all of that up to make me feel guilty did you?”
“I never said I was talking about you and Mathias.”
You slammed your hands down on the counter. Allistor cursed. You forgot that he had to make sure the counter was spotless.
“If you think I love Mathias because of his looks and attitude, then you’re wrong. I love him for many other reasons than that.”
“Oh, really?” Allistor smirked. “Name a few.”
“He’s clean, he’s a good baker, he trusts me, he makes me laugh and smile, he’s says what I want to hear—”
“Oh, there’s one from the halo effect,” Allistor pointed out before you continued your list.
“Why do you think he loves you? And don’t say it’s because he bites you.”
Again, you covered up your neck. “Why are you so pissed about my neck?! It’s just a bite mark!”
“He shouldn’t have done that to you,” Allistor answered. “The Mathias I know wouldn’t do something as dirty as that.”
“He was drunk.”
“And you’re saying you’re fine with that? You haven’t given me any reasons, by the way.”
“You want his reasons? Fine! His smiles are different around me. He doesn’t look tense and fake. He can act naturally around me without having to put on a show for everyone because he knows I love him for who he really is.”
“How many reasons do you need?!”
Allistor pressed his lips together. “The number’s not what matters, ____________. If you gave me one single, convincing reason, that would be enough.”
“So those reasons weren’t good enough?”
“Not to me. After knowing you for so long, I’d think that you’d deserve more from the man you claim to love.”
You shook your head in frustration. “You’re impossible sometimes, Allistor.”
Your redheaded friend shrugged it off. “I’ve heard worse.”
Just as you were about to make a comeback, your cell phone began to vibrate. When you looked at the caller I.D., it read, “Mathias.” Allistor clamped his mouth and returned to prepping the bar for tonight so you could answer the phone in peace.
“Hello?” you said into the speaker.
“_______________, where are you right now?” Mathias asked on the other line.
“I’m…” Your eyes went to Allistor. He had his back turned to you. “I went back to my apartment. Is something wrong?”
“Yeah, there actually is,” your boyfriend chuckled. “I left an important file in the trunk of my car. Do you think you could do me a small favor and drop it off at my office?”
“When do you need it by?”
“As soon as possible would be good. I’m trying to seal a contract with one of our investors.”
“Alright, I’ll see what I can do,” you quickly said. “Bye, Mathias, I love you.”
“Love you, too, ___________!”
And with that, you hung up and grabbed your jacket. You were going to need it where you were headed.
“Make sure you cover up that neck of yours,” you heard Allistor say right before you dashed out the door.
In response, you turned your nose up. “Goodbye to you, too, Allistor!”