~The Halo Effect~ 8
Allistor heard the first customer of the night coming through the stained glass door. He expected it to be someone fresh out of work ready to drown his troubles in alcohol or get a little buzzed before heading on back home. This time, however, he couldn’t be sure what to make of this person taking a seat in his usual stool right in front of him.
“How’s it going, Allistor?” Mathias greeted his old friend with a usual, tired smile.
The bartender gave him a look of disapproval.
What business does he still have here? he wondered. Then, he thought about it. It didn’t take a genius to remember that ____________ had stayed over at his apartment. Even Mathias would have remembered that. He must have been here to clear things up if ______________ didn’t get around to it.
“What’ll it be, Mathias?” Allistor asked in his usual bartender-to-customer tone.
“Nothing,” Mathias said. “I’m just here to talk.”
“I figured as much,” Allistor muttered.
“It’s about ______________.”
“Aye, I know.”
Mathias didn’t say anything for a while. He just leaned his arm over the polished counter staring at his own reflection and his friend’s from the other side.
“How long have you been in love with her?” he suddenly asked.
Allistor chuckled. “Long before you even knew who she was.”
“Then why didn’t you say anything?”
“Do you want some water?”
“I— ” Mathias caught himself. “Yes.”
After Allistor handed his friend a clear glass of ice-cold water, he resumed where he had left off with his question.
“She deserves better.”
Mathias raised an eyebrow. “Better than what I can offer her?”
Allistor gave his friend a disapproving frown. “After what I’ve seen you do to her, I know she does.”
“That doesn’t give you a right to tell her what to think of me,” Mathias growled. “You know I love her, too, and no matter what she really thinks, I’ll always be the better choice.”
“I know,” his redheaded friend said. “I used to think that your level of ‘better’ was good enough.” Then he tapped a spot just above his collarbone in the exact same place where Mathias had bitten _____________. “But it wasn’t necessary to hurt her. It’s done more than leaving a mark on her skin, it’s hurt her heart.”
Mathias cursed under his breath. “That’s in the past.”
“Really?” Allistor smirked. “And you expect things to stay the same? People change, Mathias. They move on. I suggest you do the same.”
“And once I do, is that when you’ll make your move?” Mathias assumed.
“I’m fine just being her friend.”
All of a sudden, there was a sharp noise of metal scraping against cloth as Mathias scooted out of his seat and seized his friend’s collar.
“Bullshit,” he hissed. “If you were just happy being her friend, then you wouldn’t have tried to drive her out. You wouldn't have fed her those lies about me and driven the wedge between us. ______________’s wrong: I’m not the problem here; you are.”
“Heh,” Allistor sneered. “What are you going to do? Apologize to her over and over again? It hasn’t been working, I’m guessing. She’s better than that.”
“No, we’re fine.”
This caught Allistor’s attention. He was sure that he had planned it carefully. Unless she was stupider than he had thought, ______________ had no reason to take Mathias back. No amount of promises should have been able to sway her the other way. Perhaps, however, he had forgotten to keep the halo effect in check. He was a guy, after all.
“She took you back?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Mathias smirked, though by his tone, it was hard to tell whether he was telling the truth or not. “She forgave me. I’ve got one last chance, and I’m not going to screw that up.” He let go of his collar. “I said I came here to talk, but I’ve got some parting things I need to say to you before leaving.”
His friend grumbled and straightened out his collar. “And what would those be?”
Mathias leaned over the counter and crossed his arms. “The first is that I came to say goodbye. I can’t afford to mix myself with a bad crowd, and neither can _____________. Once I go out that door, we won’t be friends anymore.”
“Fine with me,” Allistor snorted. “I’m sick of seeing your face, and I’m sick of seeing you with _______________.”
“Which leads me to the last bit,” Mathias continued. He took his water and drank the last of its contents. When he finished, he opened his mouth again. “It’s going to take some time, but when the time is right—and I’ll know when it’s right—I’m going to propose to _______________.”