1. Yoü and I

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"Okay...there's no doubt about it. I'm definitely drunk. I thought I just saw Luca Knight walk in the door," Leslie slurred in my ear, her attempt at whispering.

While Leslie is most definitely drunk, she isn't hallucinating. I confirm that fact when I raise my eyes to scan the bar and immediately met his.

My stomach hits the floor, and I'm not really sure why. There's no bad blood between us, no huge falling out or a case of unrequited love. It was just a case of childhood friends growing up and growing apart.

"Heeeey, Shelley!" He yells across the bar. I smiled and shook my head. He always thought it was hilarious when he embarrassed me.

He starts making his way toward me but gets stopped by someone from our high school class. As I see him engaging in conversation, I turn around to look at Leslie. She's still staring at Luca with her mouth hanging open. "I'm sorry? Do you know him? And when did he get out of prison?"

"That was at least three years ago," I say. The only reason I know this is through Facebook. It was approximately three years ago when I received his surprising friend request. "And we used to be neighbors when we were kids." Leslie looks at me with a confused expression. "Before I moved to Hurst street...remember? I lived on Oak? He was my neighbor."

Leslie is still looking confused--I'll need to go over this again when she's sober.

"Is that my little Shelley Belly?" I hear from behind me; I turn around to see Luca standing with his arms outstretched, a goofy smile on his face.

"Hey, Luca," I step into his arms and return the hug. "What are you doing here?"

"My mom decided her and Steve were done with cold Illinois winters, so they headed down to Florida for the whole month of January. I'm house sitting for them." He shrugs and begins looking around. "After a few drinks, Chris convinced me to come out and take in the locals."

"I hate to break this to you, Luca, but you grew up here too." I say, laughing. "You are a local."

"That's simply a technicality." He turns to the bar. "Let me buy you a drink. I don't think I've ever been able to buy you a drink...legally. And you too..ah...Leslie? Right?"

"Right. However, the guy at the end of the bar has been buying me drinks all night. I wouldn't want him getting jealous," Leslie giggles—an obviously fake laugh—why does she look so uncomfortable? "In fact, I think I better go thank him right now." She can't move fast enough. I look back at Luca, but he doesn't seem to notice—or care.

After we get our drinks, we sit down on some bar stools without saying a word--like that was the plan all along. "So how has my little Shelley been lately?"

"Same ole, same ole. Obviously still living in this grand city," I reply, waving my arms around the room dramatically. "I think you have far more interesting stories to tell."

"If we're just referring to the more recent years, I doubt it. I get up, go to work, go home and go to bed. That's why I was able to stay at my mom's for so long. I have so much time-off built up at work because I never go anywhere!" I nod in agreement. It sounds eerily similar to my life.

We continue talking...and drinking. We don't discuss anything too serious, and he has me laughing until my stomach hurts. It's like no time has passed between us. I haven't seen him in ten years, but it feels like it was last week.

Around midnight, Leslie finds me. "Hey, I think I'm headed out. You coming? I already called Uber."

Without hesitating I reply, " Actually, I think I'm going to stay. Are you sure you want to go? It's so fun here tonight!" I try to stand up and lose my footing. Luca grabs my arm to keep me from falling over. Okay, I may be more than a little tipsy.

Leslie eyes me suspiciously. "Can you walk with me for a second?"

I stand up straight, trying to act as composed as possible, and loop my arm through hers. "Shelley, what is going on? I dragged you out with me tonight and now you want to stay with him? I know I told you to let loose, but this may be pushing it. Her eyes flash wide, and she turns to me, "You don't think he put something in your drinks, do you?"

"What?!? No! I was sitting right next to him every time we got our drinks, and the bartender handed me mine. I'm just having a really good time."

She looks back at Luca. "Call me when you get home tonight, okay? And I'll see you at work Monday?" I feel like she's stealing my lines. I'm usually the one fighting off suspicious characters from taking advantage of her.

"Of course. I probably will head out in the next twenty minutes or so." She gives me a kiss on the cheek and heads out to the street. I see her car pull up, and she gets in the back seat.

As I turn back to Luca, he's smiling. He smiles a lot. I like his smile. I sit back down next to him, and the conversation starts up like we were never interrupted.

After another hour, the bartender shouts last call, and Luca and I look at each other, questioningly. I don't want this conversation to be over, but what should I do? Invite him to my apartment? Would that be too forward?

I'm going through all these questions in my brain when I subconsciously shake my head, turning toward the bar, away from Luca. A strand of my hair falls in my face, covering my left eye. Before I can pull it back, I feel Luca's hand brush it away and behind my ear. His hand lingers, barely touching the side of my face, and I turn to look at him. "You always were so beautiful," he says, so quietly I can barely hear him.

I can't deny the rush that courses through my body. "Do you want to come to my place?" I blurt out.

"I can't," he says, removing his hand. "Buster, my mom's dog, needs let out. In fact, he's probably worried sick, wondering why I'm out so late."

I laugh softly at his joke, trying to hide my disappointment.

"But," he continues, "why don't you come with me?"

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