Worst Best Man
Part Five, Executed
"Are you ready for tonight?" my girlfriend asked as I hung up the phone in the kitchen.
"Not really." I paced from the kitchen to the hallway. Adam had called me with details about the limousine. I had expected Tucker to do it.
The details were turning out to be different than I'd hoped. All of the women who I had arranged to meet us two weeks before had cancelled. We had gotten a different set of Tucker's old and new friends coming with us. I didn't know some of the newer ones but Tucker seemed happy for their presence. He'd made promises to visit some of his buddies in different bars at different times, so that put us on a schedule. I hadn't wanted to have a set list of bars to visit, really. I'd wanted the freedom to stay a long time in one nightclub if we were getting lots of dances. I'd hoped to get Tucker home before midnight, too, the way his fiance wanted.
"Don't let him get too drunk," Andrea warned me.
"Yeah." I'd heard it before. Tucker seemed set on having a few beers, though. His friends were backing him up. "A few of the guys are set on cutting loose and doing typical bachelor stuff, though. Tucker seems good with it."
"Maybe that will end the evening early."
"It might." I had shared with her one aspect of Tucker that gave me hope for his natural restraint. He had a history of passing out at around eleven in the evening wherever he was, whatever he was doing. He could fall asleep on his feet. He had almost never stayed up to midnight.
"Didn't you say the limousine will be here at six? You've got less than an hour."
"I guess I should shower."
The first nightclub I'd chosen was the hottest place in Gaithersburg. It was my plan to move south as we danced our way through the night. After the Gaithersburg club, I'd steer us to one in Rockville, another in Rockville, Bethesda, then a series of DC clubs. As usual, I had a planning tree in my mind, with branches off branches holding secret branches as backups. That was the way I worked.
We arrived to the first place in the daylight, though. That's not the best time.
"No, I'm not interested in dancing," a young woman told me. She was short, with long brown hair, and an extremely pretty face. She was the second one to turn me down. Although it was early, my plan seemed to be off to a rough start.
The first rejection had resulted in laughter from the guys. The second had gotten eye rolls and a flash of concern.
I surveyed the room and tried to figure out who would respond well. Oddly, I found myself drawn back to the first woman who had rejected me. She was taller, almost Tucker's height, and wore conservative, shoulder length hair. Her posture looked razor straight and her expression seemed prim. Her sleeves, I noticed, were buttoned despite the heat. But I still felt she was just right to say yes.
I approached her again and her gaze met mine. After I gave her a nod, she leaned toward me.
"Is he the groom?" she gestured to a group of men and, at the back of them, Tucker.
"Right." She studied him for a moment as he drank half a beer. "He's kind of cute. You know, I hate to be the first out on the dance floor but it's a special occasion. Tell him to come over here and ask me himself."
"Sure." I had to chuckle.
"He's not going to hit on me, is he?" She caught my elbow before I could leave. Her brow furrowed. Her arm shook a little and I noticed how her other hand gripped the edge of her table. It looked like she needed more reassurance.
"We will give him so much shit if he does."
Something in the way I said it seemed to help. She barked a laugh. The plan had launched.
We followed the first dance with another, then another. I wandered from table to table begging more dances and, as a result, I got out onto the floor with a few women myself. I suppose we could have stayed in Gaithersburg but the night was young, hardly even started, and we had places to be. When we threw money on the table and headed for the limousine, the woman who had danced first with Tucker grabbed him again. She demanded one more time.
"This is really working." Tucker smiled in calm amazement as he left the dance floor.
"Nope. Nope. This isn't good," Adam announced as our limousine pulled up next to a white plaza building.
"No way, man," said another of Tucker's friends from the opposite seat.
I leaned forward. Outside, I saw a eggshell-white building. On its sides, I looked into dark restaurant windows. The setting sun reflected in them. This was the next stop on our itinerary. Between us and the destination lay thirty feet of asphalt with a few white lines painted on it.
There were not many cars in view. Not many people, either.
On the left side of the building, the south, the windows were transparent. They didn't catch the sun. I could see through to the front of the restaurant. The lobby was empty except for a doorman in a blue, button-up shirt. No one sat at the seats of the bar behind him. I could see the edge of the dance floor. It was white and clean. The whole place looked neat.
"Isn't anyone in there?" Tucker asked. He leaned forward and blocked my view.
"Nope," said Adam.
"Sorry," I said. "This place has a good reputation. I guess it doesn't start filling up until later."
"Too late," said Adam. He knew our schedule.
"The next place is two blocks south," I volunteered.
"Driver!" Tucker shouted. "Take us two blocks south!" He leaned back and chuckled as if he'd been waiting to say something like that.
"Wintergreen Plaza," I murmured to the driver.
We arrived at our Rockville dance bar just after the sun disappeared below the horizon. The clouds to our west burned red and purple. I burped as we were parking. Tucker kept telling me to drink. He and Adam talked about how much we used to have as teenagers at Shakey's. Both of them seemed to feel that getting drunk was part of the traditional bachelor party experience. And Tucker wanted that.
"Have more beer," Adam told me.
"I already had half a glass," I replied. "At the last place. And half a bottle in the car."
"Tucker had to finish those."
Of course, he hadn't needed to do it. I started an irrelevant argument about that for a minute and finished with, "I don't really like beer."
"So have something you do like." Adam grinned and made an arm twisting motion in the air. "They have whiskey here. Anyway, Tucker thinks you should drink with us."
I glanced at Tucker. "Is that true?"
"Hell yeah." Tucker hadn't stopped smiling for half an hour. He seemed like a different person than he'd been for most of the summer. "Relax. Have a few."
"We're not driving tonight," Adam said. "You don't have to be responsible. You can tie one on. That's the whole point of renting a limo."
Tucker nodded. For him, clearly, it was the point. His line about supporting his buddy's limo service had been a justification for what he wanted from his bachelor party. It weighed on my mind for a moment that we were doing exactly what his fiance said she didn't want from us. Of course, if Laura had wanted to put us on her side, she would have needed to talk with us. She didn't seem to have spoken with any of Tucker's friends for a few months. It meant no one in our group was interested in her point of view.
Apparently, that included Tucker.
Inside, Adam and Tucker each ordered me a whiskey sour. I had one in my hand as I made the rounds. Fortunately for me, the dance floor had a few couples on it. I didn't have to be the first one out there or to persuade women to be brave. The overhead lights had dimmed. The disco lights swirled around us.
"You're not asking me to dance?" the young woman said, slightly shocked. She was tall and naturally blonde with a willowy body type Tucker seemed to like.
"Nope. I'm with a bachelor party." I leaned in closer and pointed to our group off to the right. "I'm getting dances for the groom. He's over there."
"Why isn't he asking?" She didn't seem offended. Her mouth hung open after she spoke as if she were puzzled.
"He's shy. But I want to get him dances. They're his last ones with single ladies." That had been a big selling point at the last place. I was pretty sure it was going to work here, too. "Will you give him a dance?"
Her eyes narrowed on me for a minute. "Are you really with a bachelor party?"
"Are you the best man?"
"Um." I glanced around at her friends for a moment, three of them around a squarish table. From their mischievous smiles, they seemed to have figured out the situation, They nodded to me. They probably could have answered in my place. "Yeah, I am."
"Okay." She rose and strode toward the bachelor party. I took a deep breath.
Before I could say goodbye to the table, one of her friends got up. She was a cute, dark-haired woman and she took my hand. Her grip was smooth and warm.
"Come on," she said. "You dance too, right?"
"Sure." It almost came out as a question, I felt so surprised.
"Your best friend can't have all the fun." She shook her head to the side. A strand of long hair crossed over her smile.