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  • The music playing in the bar was so loud that it replaced her heartbeat; there were so many people in there breathing in unison that it replaced her own breath. She couldn’t hear a single syllable spoken by the man directly next to her, until he leaned down to her ear and murmured, “I’m really glad you decided to come out with me tonight.”
    She smiled back up at him, and tucked a stray, flyaway hair behind her ear. “Me, too. I almost backed out at the last minute.”
    “I’m happy you didn’t.” He cleared his throat awkwardly, and fiddled with the label that was peeling up from the condensation on his bottle. “I wasn’t sure that your friends wouldn’t try to talk you out of coming tonight. Because of everything that happened.”
    She didn’t want to tell him that all of her friends had already tried to talk her out of this, and out of ever talking to him again, claiming the solidarity that apparently existed between friends regarding ex-boyfriends. “Oh no,” she lied, “it’s fine. No one blames you for the break-up.” Which was true. They all knew exactly who had broken up with whom and the tall, dark and handsome reason why.
    “Good,” he said, nodding in tune with the fast-paced techno music, even though she knew he hated everything electronic.
    “Do you, you know, want to talk about it?”
    He glanced at her quickly, and then back to the dance floor, where she could see the couples, or maybe just drunk strangers, dancing close to one another.
    “Do you think that is why I asked you out tonight?” He said so quietly she almost missed it over the background noise. “To talk about how Janet broke my heart?”
    She shrugged. “I didn’t know. I still don’t. But I am here. If you do.”
    “The only reason I ever liked her to begin with was because she was your friend. And you liked her so much, so I figured there must be something there, beneath the surface. But now that I know what type of person she is, and what type of person you’re not...” He trailed off, before shaking his head. “No. I’ve started saying this all wrong. You know, I’ve been working up the nerve to ask you out for a really long time. Before I even met her. I got distracted by her because I never thought you would give me the time of day.”
    She could feel the blush rising up her face, and was instantly thankful for the dimmed houselights in the bar. “I, uh, didn’t know that, actually. Why?”
    “Why did I want to ask you out?”
    “Well, yeah. And also, why didn’t you think that I wanted you this whole time?”
    He took a step closer to her and slid one hand around her hip, pulling her closer to him and away from all the strangers who were crowding in, jostling them in a frivolous attempt to get the bartender’s attention. His simple touch alone made her stomach drop and her heart start to pound heavier than the bass in the song playing, and for the first time since they walked in the door, out of tune. Finally, he responded, “I didn’t think you would ever say yes. I’m still not sure that you’re saying yes.”
    She turned from watching the sweaty crowd and faced him now, turning her shoulders into his and touched his face. “Yes.”
    He grabbed her hand and kissed her fingers, before silently leaving crumpled bills on the bar to cover their drinks and led her out the door.
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