The man standing on the stage with the microphone sounded like a persn who was barely awake trying to sing Shania Twain's That Don't Impress Me Much. Though Clifton would normally laugh, he wished someone would go up and tell the bad singer that don't impress us much. But Swain's the bar was an all inclusive kind of place--especially their open mic nights. Still he stared at the man on the stage with raging contempt.
“Why do you insist and come here on open nights?” Clifton questioned.
“What else were you going to stay home and do? Be bored to tears?” Melvin Jennings questioned. "Admit it, this is so much better than re-runs of Criminal Minds."
Clifton turned to eye his friend. “Ugh. I think my ears are going to bleed."
Melvin laughed. "You're being overly dramatic."
"Tell that to my ears when they start bleeding."
“What did your mother say when you told her about the job?”
Clifton lifted his beer to his lips and took a long swing. Melvin was changing the subject. He didn’t reply until after he put the bottle down, glanced over his shoulder at the cowboy singing quite off key on the stage then leaned over to reply. “She wasn’t happy.”
“But you’re still doing it.”
“Of course I’m still doing it. I'm an adult. Do you know how much my mortgage is? My mother is a lot of things but open minded about the Roddicks is not one of them. Just because she dislikes them doesn’t mean I can’t take a job there. Its not like am falling into bed with anyone of them.”
Melvin laughed. “True. Though Kenneth like his men thick, muscular and sexy as sin.”
“And I don’t fit any of those.”
“You fit thick, muscular and sexy as sin.”
Clifton laughed. “Right. And I’m the Easter Bunny.”
“Well, Mr. Easter Bunny, you’re right. The bills have to be paid or they come take the house and the car. I just don’t know why she don’t like them. In this town rumors travel and no one knows.”
Clifton sighed and the cowboy came off the stage. No one applauded but he wanted to. Bad singing was bad singing and that cowboy was horrid. Shaking his head he returned his gaze to his friend and took another drink. “I try not to think about it. And I thought tonight was for some fun. Stop talking about my mother hating my boss.”
“Okay. Then can we talk about why Kenneth Roddick stares at you like he thought you were going to be his next meal?”
“What are you talking about?” Clifton arched a brow. He drank from his bottle until he tasted foam then placed it on the table.
Melvin motioned with his head and Clifton turned. Instantly his mood changed. He reached out for the waiter now walking by him.
“Can I get another beer?” he asked.
“Thank you.” Clifton let him go and shook his head. “I don’t even know why he’s here. Isn’t he afraid to be amongst the common people?”
“Well, you can ask him. I have to go to the bathroom.”
Melvin stood and almost ran the other way. Before Clifton could catch his breath from the speed of his friend’s departure, Kenneth fell into the seat he vacated. Clifton eyed him with contempt.
“What? What can you possibly want?” He questioned.
He arched a brow. “I’m off duty right now.”
“That’s why I wanted to talk to you now and not when you’re on duty. I want to know why you hate me so much. I see it every time you look at me. Like right now.”
“Right now? This look? Before I didn’t hate you, Mr. Roddick...”
Clifton’s frown deepened. “Mr. Roddick. I didn’t hate you until you had to disrupt my night out with my best friend. Before I just disliked you—trust me, there is a difference.”
“Very well. Can I buy you a drink? Make up for disrupting your night with the best friend?”
“If I agree, will you go away?”
Kenneth laughed. “Not likely.”
“Right. Didn’t think so. No you can’t buy me a drink.”
Melvin returned then and flopped in the seat beside Kenneth. The two began talking as if they were long time friends which made Clifton want to scream. He wasn’t sure why he would carry on his mother’s hate but he just couldn’t help himself. The beer hadn’t arrived yet but when Melvin burst out laughing at something Kenneth said, that was the last straw. Standing, Clifton dumped money on the table to pay for the drinks, a little extra for tip and grabbed his coat.
“Cliff...” Melvin called.
He stalked from the table. “Clifton!”
But he didn’t stop. He walked outside and climbed into the back of one of the always waiting taxies parked there. He gave the address and slumped to the seat. If the two of them want talk like he wasn’t there, let them.
His cell phone began ringing and he didn’t have to look at the screen to know who was calling. He just wasn’t interested in anything Melvin had to say at that moment. The fact was Melvin knew the battle he was waging in himself with the Roddicks and still, Kenneth came along, flashed those pearly whites and had his best friend eating out of his palms.
Son of a bitch.