Intro/Prologue

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And so it begins....

His Game

With a somber look he tries to hide, the bartender slides me another beer with intentions to put it on my already building tab. Though I may be some of his best business, I know he'd much prefer never to see me again.

I've become too much of a regular; too many fun nights out with all of my friends. I'm not the only one, though. Every guy in his early twenties frequents this bar often enough to know Rick, the bartender, by his first name and know every story he has to tell.

I reach for my beer, cold enough to numb my fingertips, and a part of me relaxes into the painful chill. I've gotten used to it, to the bubbling freeze going down my throat with a slightly bitter taste.

"Rhett, come on man, help us find some girls!" Roger insists.

He has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. Ever since primary school I've had him by my side.

Dino, another lifelong friend, nods along and I start to chuckle, setting my beer down to answer. This happens every weekend. We all go out to find some girls, the guys end up chickening out, and I end up going with them as a sort of wing-man.

"You guys need to learn how to do this on your own," I laugh as Roger and Dino throw their arms around my shoulders.

Roger smirks and smacks my chest, "Maybe, but you make it easy my friend."

I snort and shove them off of me, eyeing all of the girls in the bar. There are countless beautiful women that I and any other guy would be lucky to dance with. A few of them catch my eye and flirtatious smiles are sent my way.

"Every girl in here is eyeing you up, man. Come on," Dino says in agreement with Roger, causing me to chuckle slightly and start to move forward.

But my eyes keep wandering around, subconsciously looking for someone I know I'm not going to find. I haven't seen her in six years and eventually I gave up looking, but I guess I always subconsciously try to seek her out in a crowd.

It never works. The last time I saw her was unexpectedly the absolute last time I will have ever seen her. She's not dead, she's still living her life somewhere far away from me, but I may as well be dead to her.

I've stopped thinking of her every day. I've stopped going through the pictures of us in an attempt to live in the past. I've moved on, dated other girls. But I haven't stopped comparing every girl I meet to her and I haven't stopped realizing no one else is going to be able to make me feel quite the way she once did.

But, as always, I push her memory down and wade into the crowd with the boys to find some fun. I find a pretty blonde dancing on her own and set my sights on her, weaving through the crowd of drunk young adults who have liquid courage forcing them to think they can actually dance.

But just as I reach the girl who caught my eye, I feel Dino grab my arm to get my attention. I twist my head to give him a look and smack him away, but I stop when I see his absolutely mesmerized gaze focused near the entrance. My heart drops and then starts pounding painfully hard at his reaction.

Only one girl can have a guy looking like that.

I hesitantly follow his gaze, trying to keep my hopes down but knowing that for the first time in six years my hopes may be filled.

Then I see her.

She's there. She's here. At the entrance to the bar. And suddenly everything I've pushed down through the years comes rushing back.

My hand subconsciously goes to my pocket, fingering an old Polaroid picture that is somehow still in tact after all these years. A picture I should have thrown away long ago, but never found the strength to do.

I never used to think about only one girl. Never used to get hung up over someone I was only with for one month. Never used to think about anything more than a fling. But she changed everything, only to leave me behind just like I had done to countless others.

The game was meant to be harmless. Just meant for me to have a little fun. I wasn't supposed to lose.

But she changed all of that.

"Joey?"

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