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STALE AIR HUNG stagnant in the Cat Shack. The beer-soaked carpet stuck to my feet like Velcro as I navigated my way around the tables and chairs abandoned at various inconvenient locations throughout the room. The place wasn't crowded, but the dim lighting and poor acoustics made it uncomfortably crammed. The name "Cat Shack" was fitting—I always felt like a cat underfoot when I was in there, like if I didn't stay on my toes my tail would get stepped on.

My hands had gone numb halfway through the walk down Jefferson Road. My ears and cheeks burned from the windchill. I shivered as my blood thawed and circulation slowly returned to my body. My arms and legs itched and burned painfully. As warm air entered my lungs, my head spun, and I wiped dried blood from my brow. I needed to sit down.

I took a seat at the bar and placed my head in my hands. I knew I needed to find someone to help me with my car, but my mind couldn't begin to fathom going back outside into the wind. A fog clouded my thoughts.

"Can I get you something to drink?" a man's voice suddenly asked.

I looked up, startled. The bartender stared at me impatiently.

"Uh, water would be good."

He nodded and picked up a glass from behind the bar. "Are you all right there, man?" He asked me as he poured water from the tap.


"Your face." He set the glass in front of me. "You look like you're bleeding or something."

"Oh." I felt my head. It was still damp and warm with blood. "It's fine, just a scratch."

The bartender nodded and handed me a few napkins. I wiped my forehead as I watched a drip of condensation run down the side of the glass of water. My head throbbed in pain like it was swollen. Maybe drinking something would help. After taking a small sip, I stared down at my hands, making my best attempt at becoming invisible. I just needed to warm up. If I could relax and be left alone for a few minutes, I'd be okay.

The night had other things in mind for me.


Kate Kramer's grinning face greeted me when I turned around.

"I thought that was you!" She leaned in and hugged me awkwardly like we were friends. I knew her from high school, but damn, I hadn't spoken to the girl since graduation. Even back then, I wouldn't have called us friends.

She finally let me go from the hug, but she kept her hand on my arm. Her eyes drifted over me. "Hey, are you all right? You look like you're bleeding."

"Oh, it's nothing." I quickly whipped my head with the back of my hand. A small trail of blood stained my skin.

"Oh, okay." She paused for a second. "It's been ages since I've seen you, how have you been? You look good."

"Wow..." I said. It was a dumb thing to say, but unfortunately that was what happened to fall out of my mouth.

Kate ignored it and kept smiling eagerly, waiting for me to say something else.

"You look good too, Kate," I finally said, trying to recover from the "wow."

She beamed. "Thanks!" Kate had always been heavy-set in high school. She was far from thin now, but she looked like she had lost a decent bit of weight.

"So how have you been?" I asked.

"Great! College has been great! I love living in New York. I'm graduating this year, you know? I've already got a job lined up in Brooklyn and everything."

My heart pounded against my chest after a skipped beat. Of course she would be living in New York. I reached for my glass, taking a drink and trying to calm my nerves. "That's awesome, Kate, congrats," I finally responded after setting the glass down.

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